The best known areas of Japan are, for the most part, full of buildings (and rice fields) crammed into every available space. Hokkaido is the other extreme; large areas of unspoilt forestry, punctuated by superb vistas of lakes and mountains. The two hour drive to Rusutsu Resort reminded me of travelling through the west of Ireland, particularly around the ring of Kerry; we saw only the occasional house every few miles. The trip itself was pretty surreal; there were just three passengers on a fifty seater coach. The money we paid for the round trip could not have covered the fuel burnt by the vehicle, let alone the cost of the driver.
The resort itself is centered around a massive hotel, built as a skyscraper which stands out for miles in all directions. It features indoor and outdoor water parks, an amusement park with eight roller coasters, ski slopes in the winter, and numerous shops and restaurants. It is the only major facility for miles in any direction.
Of the eight coasters, only one was out of action; Loop the Loop was unfortunately HNFT. We worked our way through the remainder: Corkscrew (#958), Hurricane (#959), Go Go Sneaker (#960), Standing Coaster (#961), Mountain Coaster (#962), Mad Mouse (#963), and Ultra Twister (#964) in less than an hour. None of them was particularly memorable, though the dive loop on the Ultra Twister left a nasty bruise on my shoulders that will probably take a few days to heal. With the geek hat on, I can now proudly report that I've completed all surviving heartline coasters, and all currently operational stand-up coasters, with the caveat that the one at Brazilian Park Washuzan Highland will probably reopen in the future.
With lots of time to spare, we tried out everything that looked remotely interesting in the rest of the park:
- A fairly decent Space Shot, which proudly suggested that riders should "feel the American power", an interesting choice of wording given what happened in the south of the country during World War Two.
- A rather odd Haunted House, in this case a walkthrough filled with dismembered farm animals.
- The ubiquitous Ferris Wheel, which had a window to take photos through which had been strategically placed on the wrong side of the cabin for people to take overview shots of the park.
- The Log Flume, built in Japanese style; in other words, riders didn't even get sprayed on the big drop. Oddly, though, I got mildly wet from the two foot splash as the boat disengages the lift.
- The Go Karts, more powerful than usual for theme parks but too underpowered to be really exciting. Having said that, the lengthy track provided several vantage points for photographing the Mountain Coaster, which made it worth a second go.
- Last but by no means least, the Safari attraction, a target shooting ride by Hoei Sangyo that had two special features; first, it was outdoors, and second, the guns were completely incapable of hitting the targets.
The only thing we skipped was the first generation Free Fall. Though this might have been fun, I have memories of what the last one did to my back upon landing!
The fifty seater coach was replaced by an eight seater taxi for the return trip to the hotel, and the driver probably wanted his dinner as much as we did given that he made the trip in an hour and a quarter. Amazingly, as we came out of the mountains the glorious sunshine vanished to be replaced with murky cloud and fifty metre visibility. It seems that we were lucky with the weather today.