The final day of our Japan trip began with a ridiculously early alarm followed by two hours on a train and a further ninety minutes in a rental car, just so that we could have the privilege of spending ¥3800 (~€28) between us for one ride on a Wacky Worm. Those who haven't been bitten by the coaster counting bug may wonder why on earth anyone would do something so inordinately stupid. It's a fair question, and the only thing I can offer in reply is that some of my favourite trip memories have been from plans that the average person would consider to be bonkers, such as a weekend in South Africa and a day of kiddie parks in Rome. Years ago I was asked about my theme park hobby, and I answered then, as now: as long as I'm having fun I see no reason to stop.
Izu Granpal Park can be thought of as a children's playground blended into a landscaped garden. There are a total of five mechanical rides located on one side of the facility, including a coaster, a train, a children's flume, a swinging gym, and a cycle monorail. At the opposite end stands a large climbing structure in the shape of a castle, complete with an artificial moat filled with water walkers and paddle boats. There are also several zip lines, a long twisting slide with a helix, and a variety of inflatable attractions.
The history of Kids Coaster (#2189) is unknown as of this writing, though it may have been bought from Yokohama Dreamland, a three coaster park that closed in February 2002. The ride looked somewhat different to the norm; its colourful flower lamps faced out over the midway rather than over the track, the train had four cars instead of the usual six, and the seats were upholstered with yellow and white plaid cushions that looked like early twentieth century curtains. Appearances aside, however, the ride experience was entirely normal, and we were given two laps to take exactly the same photographs we'd captured at least a hundred times before.
Japan Cycle Sports Center
25th October 2015
Japan has a number of amusement parks aimed at cyclists, and three of them are known to have roller coasters. The credits at Gunma Cycle Sports Center and Kansai Cycle Sports Center are tiny, with a maximum height differential of about ten feet. Photographs of the cars they operate with are available online, and the images would tend to suggest that riding would be challenging if not impossible for tall foreigners. As of this writing neither has any listed riders on Coaster-Count, and the locations are sufficiently off the beaten track that I'm not intending to be the first.
Japan Cycle Sports Center is located in the mountains roughly fifteen kilometres south-east of Mishima. The facility is surrounded on three sides by a challenging five kilometre bicycle track that follows a twisted course around the mountain, dropping seventy meters of altitude at its lowest point. A substantial grandstand can be seen at one end of the main straight, though its general appearance suggested that it had been out of use for years. The park has a carousel, water walkers, a maze, a collection of bizarre bicycles, and four tracked rides – a regular monorail with huge circular cars, a cycle monorail with a chain lift to get it started (definitely not a credit), a roller bar slide with several directional changes, and a Senyo-built oddity.
In a break with usual practice Cycle Coaster (#2190) has one rail above the train and one below, with spacing maintained by a series of circular supports positioned every metre along the length of the track. The result bears more than a passing resemblance to an Ultratwister, though the ride experience is totally different (and, it should be said, vastly superior). The short layout begins with a sixteen metre lift hill driven by two chains that leads to a sharp left turn and a drop that goes all the way to ground level. Following that, the car climbs back to station height, turns briefly to the right, then makes a left back to the station.
The total duration from the top of lift to brakes is of the order of fifteen seconds, but despite its brevity the experience is surprisingly fun for what it is. We tried both front and back seats, and there was no real difference between them; in either location the three car train negotiated the track without any jarring. The restraint was a lap bar backed up by seat belt, and it didn't impinge on the experience in any way, and there was more than enough room for a tall foreigner. The only slight embuggerance was a low roof, but if I'd been paying attention to where I was going that would have presented less of a problem!
25th October 2015
GrinPa is located on the south-eastern slope of Mount Fuji, a short distance away from the much better known Fuji-Q Highland. Its relative obscurity among western enthusiasts comes at least in part from the fact that both of its roller coasters had been retired before the first large scale club trip to Japan run by the European Coaster Club in 2005. Though a powered coaster has been added since, the location is quite difficult to reach without a rental car, dropping it down the priority list for all but the terminally foolish.
The drive to get there was fun, but time consuming; much of the winding road was very narrow with a steep slope and a painfully low speed limit that made a mockery of both the Garmin and the Google Earth predictions. The last half kilometre was much better, though it quickly became apparent why; there was a toll booth that relieved us of ¥500 just seconds before the turn off for the park. We thought that we were going to be stung a second time for parking, but we got away with it thanks to our late arrival, as the barrier at the gate had been raised and there was nobody there to pay.
It was surprisingly cold when we got out of the car, with an outside temperature of just 12°C (54°F), in sharp contrast to the 24°C (75°F) that we'd encountered at our previous stop. Most of the difference was explained by the lapse rate from climbing almost a thousand metres, and the balance was courtesy of a grey sky that threatened a torrential downpour at any minute. We deployed the heavy sweaters that we'd not planned to use until our arrival back home in Ireland, and raincoats in hand, headed into the park.
It was immediately apparent that we'd arrived at a park with very little to offer to anyone over the age of eight. The vast majority of rides were quite clearly suitable only for children, with only a handful buried at the back that could take adults. Among those stood the improbably named Ultra Seven Coaster Mach 7, and we used a convenient vending machine to pick up our ¥500 tickets. Regular readers will be well aware that my preference is to describe coasters using words rather than pictures, but on this occasion an exception is necessary; embedded below is a short video that captures the positively terrifying top speed achieved by the ten car train.
Two laps of the course lasted an incredible two minutes and thirty five seconds, which equates to about eleven kilometres per hour based on rudimentary Google Earth measurements of the track, or somewhat less than half the speed achieved by a standard model Zamperla Dragon which has a much smaller footprint. Regular readers will be well aware that I like to make fun of people who count powered coasters, and it'd be remiss of me not to use this ride as ammunition; I don't understand how anyone can consider this a "credit" when they disregard much faster monorail rides.
The final ride of our trip was taken on a thirty-two car BFOFW, a completely sealed unit that on this occasion could have done with heating rather than air conditioning. It was tricky to take good photographs through windows that hadn't been cleaned in the recent past, but with patience we got what we wanted.