We decided to base ourselves at a hotel next to Narita Airport for the end of our trip, giving us easy access both to our onward flights and to three parks on the eastern side of Tokyo Bay. Under normal circumstances I'd have chosen an IHG-branded hotel, but on this occasion I selected the Hotel Nikko as there was a conveniently located branch of Nissan Rent a Car directly across the road which I figured would save a lot of time. The hotel room was fine and even spacious by Japanese standards, but I cannot in good conscience recommend the place to other travellers because they chose to fleece me in my hour of need. My booking was recorded in their computer as a one night stay rather than two, and though there was availability for a second night (an enormous relief) I was less impressed when they charged me a room-only rate that was two and a half times what I'd been quoted for the first night (which had included breakfast for two people). I asked whether there was any flexibility in this pricing and was told that there wasn't. Fortunately there are lots of other nearby hotels that I can use for future trips.
Tokyo German Village
16th September 2017
It took us almost two hours to cover the seventy kilometres to Tokyo German Village, almost double the prediction by our trusty Garmin, and a reflection of the fact that heavy traffic is a fact of life in urban areas of Japan regardless of the day of the week. The on-board navigation unit in our car was configured to announce jams, and every few minutes piped up with news of another one ahead. Though frustrating there was absolutely nothing we could do except observe that the coaster would almost certainly be closed anyway due to the light rain that was falling.
The park occupies an enormous block of land that is vastly disproportionate to the number of attractions therein. As such, there is a roadway around the edge lined with parking spaces that allows guests to drive to their targets. There is also a dedicated car park for the Marktplatz, a collection of themed shops and restaurants at the highest point in the park selling imported products as well as local cuisine. We pulled into a space less than a hundred feet away from the coaster, expecting to be disappointed, but to our surprise and delight we saw people on the boarding platform.
Butaten Kids Coaster (#2385), loosely translated as Pig Rain Kids Coaster, is a production model design from Hoei Sangyo that can also be found at Tojoko Toy Kingdom and Yomiuriland. The layout occupies a footprint roughly twice that of a standard Wacky Worm, and includes an eighteen foot high lift hill followed by a descending right turn, a climbing left turn, an airtime hill, and a flat turnaround back to the station. The lone operator was making a special effort to dry off the seats before each ride, which we very much appreciated; it was a rare treat to be able to tick off a slightly embarrassing credit in the rain without having to sit in a puddle. We decided to ride both front and back for comparison, though there was no perceptible difference between them.
16th September 2017
Kisarazu Ferris Wheel Park is an amusement park that premiered in 2016 on a plot of land beside the enormous Mitsui Outlet Mall, the largest in Japan with over two hundred shops and a parking lot that stretches over a kilometre from end to end. The place is very small, with just eight attractions backed up by a handful of carnival games. That being said, the roster includes both a sixty metre ferris wheel and a custom layout family coaster, making it a worthwhile stop for enthusiasts in the vicinity.
Tomorrow Coaster (#2386) is an unusual ride, insofar as the layout has only one real drop, a descent of about five feet from the top of the lift hill that is partially cancelled almost immedately by a shallow climb. The rest of the course is for the most part a continuous descent back to the station that forms a nearly perfect treble clef on satellite overheads. One can only speculate as to whether this was a curious accident or something the designers deliberately intended. I had no problems fitting in the train, though more corpulent readers will need to sit in the right hand side of each car as the left has an oversized cushion attached to the lap bar. As with the earlier coaster there was no obvious difference between front and back seat.
We decided that we might as well try the wheel for some overhead photography, and duly lined up at the dedicated entrance for the small number of glass bottomed cars. Our ride was supplemented by a tablet computer that provided a running commentary lasting the full twelve minutes it took for one rotation. The text alternated between Japanese and English, the latter evidently recorded by a British voiceover artist. Much of what was said went in one ear and out the other, but it was interesting to learn that the ride is the smallest of the three giant wheels in the greater Tokyo area built by Senyo Kogyo Corporation, the others being at Kasai Rinkai Park (next to the Disney resort) and Yokohama Cosmoworld.
16th September 2017
It was tempting to abort our planned stop at Mother Farm, as the rain had become heavier and we were both tired. Nevertheless we decided to soldier on as Megan needed the credit and fitting the park into a future trip would be a lot more challenging than continuing while we were in the area. The drive wasn't a particularly enjoyable one, what with bad weather and narrow twisty roads, but in due course we arrived one of the four enormous car parks and handed over ¥950 for parking. It was only later on that we realised that we had chosen the one furthest from the amusement rides, though on the positive side the half kilometre walk uphill helped wake us up again.
We hadn't expected to find Family Coaster open, but there was an operator sitting in the control box who sprung into action as we approached and began to wipe down two seats with a towel. This was never going to be entirely successful given the conditions, but it did at least remove the large puddles that we otherwise would have had to sit in. Each car had a supplemental seatbelt in addition to the standard Zamperla lap bar, but these were imperceptible when riding as they were held in place by soft plastic clasps rather than metal buckles. The ride was every bit as clunky as expected for a fourteen year old 80STD, and we were just as glad to disembark as we had been to ride.
Our second stop was at Ice World, a walkthrough chilled to -30°C filled with models of penguins, deer, and polar bears lit in bright colours. As ever with such attractions my glasses fogged over on walking back outside, and despite my best efforts remained obscured for the better part of a minute. Once I could see again we headed towards the target shooter I remembered, only to find that it had been transformed into Game Ride Smog Kingdom Adventure. The original scenery was still in place, but the guns and targets were gone, replaced by hand-held augmented reality displays. As the ride progressed assorted monsters appeared overlaid over the background, and it was necessary to tap them repeatedly to score points. Though an interesting novelty it seems unlikely that this revised concept will catch on, as there's precious little point in having detailed dark ride scenery that can only be admired through a screen the size of a mobile phone.