Hanayashiki Amusement Park5th September 2005
It was a relief to finally join up with the group from the European Coaster Club this morning. While we would now be subjected to group arrival and departure times, this was an acceptable trade for letting someone else worry about getting me to and from the various parks. The group arrived at Hanayashiki about three quarters of an hour prior to opening, which allowed us time to explore the large temple complex nearby. It was highly amusing to be part of a reverse stereotype; one hundred and seventeen gaijin taking photographs of Japan.
As can probably be predicted at this point we began our morning with a ride on the Roller Coaster (#602), which happens to be the oldest in Japan. My first circuit resulted in my first serious coaster injury of the trip, a particularly nasty knock to my left knee that left me sore for much of the rest of the day. It turned out that almost everyone had the same problem with a ride that was later rechristened as the Knee Coaster.
I limped over to the Bee Tower. From its appearance I assumed this to be a parachute drop ride, but in fact it wasn't; the cars spun slowly at a speed not unlike a ferris wheel, and the descent was as sluggish as the ascent. This might have been good for photographs, but unfortunately the windows only had a small gap at the base, which made it impossible to focus.
The Haunted Swing was a truly unique experience, completely unlike the more refined models seen in Western parks. In this installation the main room rotated at a truly alarming rate, causing everyone to come off slightly dizzy. Fortunately the duration was no more than twenty seconds; a relief in itself, as it was a challenge to walk in a straight line on disembarking.
There were two slow moving cycle railway type rides. The first required pedal power and was surprisingly hard work, mostly due to the hot and humid conditions. The second was motorized with suspended cars. Neither gave me particularly good opportunities for photography, though I did my best.
After a quick ride on the Space Shot I broke away from the group and went over to three walkthroughs located in the upper section of the park. The first one felt like Crystal Maze, with small obstacles to be overcome. One of these involved getting through some pretty narrow gaps, which caught out a few of the Americans in the group!
The second was a very strange dark ride, featuring animatronic decapitations and a few scenes that wouldn't have been out of place in a dutch movie. The last of these involved an animatronic child urinating on the glass screen we were looking through. I did make a point of filming this (nobody would believe me otherwise) but due to the family nature of this site I feel that it should probably not be uploaded here.
The third was truly unique, and something that I've never seen anywhere else. Sound Fusion consisted of a large dining room table, with headphones for each guest. Once we were all seated, the lights went out and we were treated to various special effects, with people whispering in our ears, someone apparently cutting our hair, and various other sounds, all of which were entirely convincing. The stereo effect was used to the fullest to provide a truly immersive attraction that other parks would do well to emulate. On the other hand, in any country other than Japan someone would probably vandalise the headphones.
Toshimaen5th September 2005
Our second park of the day nominally featured three coasters and a powered, but due to weather conditions everything unsheltered was closed. The rain at the end of our visit was not heavy by any means, but the park management considered it too wet to run any of the coasters for safety reasons. An inquiry with park management turned up the information that an hour of dry weather was a prerequisite for attractions to be reopened. Why something can be safe everywhere else in the world but unsafe in Japan is anybody's guess.
It was probably for this reason that the entire group descended on the only immediately obvious operational ride, the Carousel. This model was pretty large, and we were all able to fit without problems. It had an unusual design with three separate levels, all of which rotated independently. The people on the inside track moved at a substantial rate, overtaking the other two outside every thirty seconds or so.
The Mystery Zone dark ride was operational too, though it looked to be utterly missable. With not many options to choose from, though, we ended up riding it anyway despite our misgivings. Our first impressions, as it turned out, had been quite correct. The Haunted House walkthrough was somewhat better, thanks to some rather good scenes. There were small arrow lights at floor level indicating the direction of motion, extremely helpful for those with less than twenty twenty vision, such as myself. I have lost count of the number of times I've been unable to see in similar walkthroughs thanks to my reactive lenses still being darkened due to sunlight.
The only other ride I was able to try was the Dodgems. The ride operator insisted I put the restraint round my neck, something dangerous at best, though fortunately I managed to avoid decapitation. This was somewhat different to the usual dodgems experience, as just about everyone (myself included) was fliming or shooting photographs on ride. My video would induce nausea in anyone watching it, although some of the stills came out just fine!
Tokyo Dome City5th September 2005
Following the washout at Toshimaen it was almost inevitable that we'd have the same problem at Tokyo Dome City, and true to form, we did. Two out of the four coasters at the park were out of commission due to weather conditions, and they were the truly interesting ones, namely Thunder Dolphin and Linear Gale. Toshimaen had been disappointing, but missing out on what is arguably the most interesting looking coaster in the world was heartbreaking.
Rather than wallow in our misery, we quickly headed towards the two credits that were under cover (and thus operational). First of these was Spinning Coaster Maihime (#603), the first spinning coaster built by Maurer. Based on our ride I have come to the conclusion that this must have been built before any mechanism to limit car spinning to a sensible rate was developed, as we spun more than any other coaster I have ever ridden. Geopanic (#604) was also a good ride in its own way. It featured an unusual restraint design; over the shoulder restraints which were attatched to a lap bar, rather than pulled down from behind the head. There were several tire drive lift hills on course, including a final one which provided a good speed boost in the latter section of the ride.
Beside the coaster was the Bikkirhouse walkthrough. It turned out to be a crooked house style attraction, with angled floors and walls, and a spinning tunnel effect at the end which was one of the best I have ever seen. The Zombie Paradise dark ride was very good also, although the painfully slow loading was a bit strange to me; after all, dark rides are usually capacity machines, especially the higher budget ones (of which this definitely was).
The only other major attraction that was open was the 13 Doors walkthrough. This was a genuinely scary horror attraction, with live actors ready to jump out and startle the guests. The outside of the ride had a small window where park guests could scare those still within. One of the locals coming out of the ride chose to open the curtain while I was standing in there. I jumped out, and her scream (and resulting hysterics) were positively hilarious.
One of the bright spots in an otherwise depressing evening was seeing Martin and George attempting to get out of a lift, which they had chosen, fitness fanatics that they are, instead of walking up two floors. Big as he is, Martin is still nevertheless able to get through a lift door without turning sideways (for the moment) but George decided he wanted to get out first. The net result? Both of them stuck, much to the amusement of two local onlookers.
After a lunch break, I went off on my own for a bit to see if there was any hope of the big coasters opening. While over in that direction I rode the Big O ferris wheel, which proved to be a depressing experience; it gave me a birds eye view of a fantastic looking coaster, which I was not able to ride. I tried mentally to put it out of my mind, but failed completely. In the end, I joined a group of other people to pass the rest of the day. We all rode the Carousel, followed by rerides on Spinning Coaster Maihime and Big O. There was nothing else we particularly felt like doing, so we blew the last hour and a half of park time by sitting in Starbucks enjoying a coffee.