Benyland3rd September 2005
Benyland is not home to any particularly spectacular coasters, and in all honesty it is probably not a particularly worthy stop for coaster enthusiasts unless they are obsessed with increasing their coaster counts. It can, however, be easily combined with Sendai Highland for a day trip, and as we had unlimited JR passes it seemed like we might as well make a visit.
The park can be reached easily via a bus from Sendai train station. There are a bucket load of routes that go past the park, so we selected the one that was just departing as we arrived, namely route W-2. It is important for people retracing this trip to listen carefully for the stop for the local zoo; it is announced in both English and Japanese when the bus is moving through what appears to be a small village. The park itself only comes into view about ten seconds before the bus stop, and you will miss it if you are not paying careful attention. We had had good information ahead of time and nevertheless came very close to missing the stop ourselves!
The junior coaster at Benyland is Jet Coaster (#595). This occupied quite a bit of ground area, and the relatively small lift hill meant that practically the whole journey was a slight sloping descent back towards the station. Any hills would probably have led to a rollback; there would be no way the train would have enough energy to get back otherwise. On one level this made the ride interesting; it may well be the longest kiddie coaster in the world by track length. On the other hand, the experience bordered on the pointless, given that the ride could not have exceeded five miles per hour.
The star coaster in the park turned out to be the Yagiyama Cyclone (#596). This was a steel coaster and bore no resemblance to the famous Cyclone at Coney Island, but other than the misutilised name it was a good ride. It was certainly a great deal better than Cork Screw (#597), a bog standard Arrow corkscrew coaster which felt like it was still running with its original wheels as delivered twenty four years ago. The only really positive thing was the amusement value of the instructions for riders in the station; the first picture could easily be captioned along the lines of Please take large pole and insert into head. Caricatures in ride instruction sheets are not unusual in this country, but this one could not be described as such; it was just a poor drawing open to misinterpretation by those who are easily amused.
As we left the park, the heavens opened in style. The bus shelter had seats, though if we utilised them our knees got splashed by the rain. We were close enough to some of the lightning flashes that we could hear and see them in addition to the thunder claps. It was a relief to board a bus back to Sendai station.
Sendai Highland3rd September 2005
The local train station for Sendai Highland, Sakunami, redefined the very meaning of middle of nowhere. Instructions on the wall gave a phone number we should call for a free shuttle service to the park. While waiting for the bus to arrive, I attempted to fill my water bottle from the water fountain nearby. Much to my surprise, on pressing the button I was treated to a water jet that shot ten feet into the air, hosing down the power cable overhead. It would have utterly soaked me had I not jumped out of the way. This was the funniest thing I had seen in a long time, and I was just glad I had not put my head over the fountain before turning the water on.
Martin described this park in quite memorable terms, which i feel compelled to reproduce. Its as if someone took all the worst coasters in Japan and dragged them up into a hill in the middle of nowhere for a bet. He had, however, based his assessment on just two of them, as inclement weather had prevented him from riding the powered coaster and the wild mouse. The reader should not underestimate how important it was to both George and I that we ride the coasters Martin missed, no matter how awful they might be, purely because he had failed to do so. As one may gather, there are very few adults involved in coaster clubs.
Sometimes it is impossible to know when Martin is telling the truth; he has said positive things about back rows of certain coasters that have, on riding, proved to be malicious falsehoods. Nevertheless, after riding Loop the Loop (#598) we both came to the same conclusion; in this case, at least, Martin had been entirely truthful. The ride was a complete failure of a shuttle loop, one which deserves to be melted down at the first available opportunity. To refer to the wheels as square does them an injustice; rectangular would be a better word. The best bit was the lift hill, a two and a half minute opportunity to stare at the sky.
Old wheels from this ride were probably recycled on Mad Mouse (#599), which was probably the roughest such ride I have ever experienced. Amazingly, this was the ride that *hadn't been included in the worst coasters in Japan assessment. Once was without question enough. We also did a single ride on the powered Dragon, our fourth Zamperla Dragon in a week. This particular model seems to be extremely popular in Japan for some reason. Goodness only knows why.
In light of these two experiences it was a real surprise to discover that Hurricane Coaster (#600) was smooth as butter. The layout could best be described as dull, but the comfortable tracking, especially after the previous two simulated car crashes, made for a highly enjoyable ride. It would have been missable in the context of better coasters, but in this park it was the best possible choice for my six hundredth coaster.
We managed to squeeze in one more circuit on the Hurricane Coaster before the weather closed in. For the second time in one day the weather had let go just after we had completed the coasters. We decided not to sit things out, instead electing to leave early. It was two thirty in the afternoon. An early night would not be a bad thing.