4th September 2017

My first visit to Benyland took place back in 2005, when the best access method was via a somewhat haphazard bus route from nearby Sendai station. This option is still available for the adventurous, but the average reader will find it far simpler to use the newly built Tōzai Line which terminates at Yagigama Zoological Park just five hundred metres from the park gate. The journey time from the Shinkansen tracks takes a predictable twenty minutes including walking time, making life easy for those attempting to cram multiple locations in the same day. Our routing that gave us a little under two hours at the park, which we assumed would be ample on a Monday morning in school term. Sure enough there were no more than a dozen other guests in the park during our visit, granting us walk-on access to everything.


The first tick of the morning ended up being Jet Coaster, a locally built ride that premiered with the park in 1968. The layout was typically Japanese, being for the most part flat with only a token drop from the top of the short lift hill. The one exciting feature of the routing was the way the ride track threaded the second inversion on the Corkscrew, providing an interesting visual effect. In an ideal world there would have been synchronisation between the two rides to ensure a near miss every time, though sadly that type of thing seems confined to the history books now. We went for a second lap at the opposite end of the train, and found the ride experience there to be identical.

Our second stop was at Aero 5 (#2369), a standard layout Zamperla Air Force family coaster added two years ago on the site of a former karting track. The ride clattered a lot, but despite that Megan seemed remarkably taken with it, insisting that we go back for a second lap. The operators were not even remotely surprised at the sight of two adults riding without children in tow, and in fact they seemed actively pleased to see two westerners enjoying themselves. The contrast with the experience of the identical installation in Spain (where adults are not allowed to ride) could not have been more pronounced.

From there we went to the Giant Wheel for our usual photograph run. It was hotter on board than we'd have liked, but we had our water bottles with us which saved the day. During our ride we heard an intermittent recorded scream, and once back at ground level we determined that it was coming from a nearby Haunted House. As with last night admission required an additional payment, though in this case it felt considerably less obnoxious as the gate price had been lower and there was a great deal more to see. The various scenes featured elaborate detailing, and these were supplemented both by a short maze section and an interesting interior with a raised floor and artificial rock work lit in bright colours.

The unexpected highlight of the morning ended up being the Yagiyama Cyclone, a non-looping Arrow ride officially classified as a mine train despite the lack of any theming. The front seat was pleasantly wild, but the real surprise came when we decided to ride in the back. The descent from the top of the lift hill was marked with ejector airtime that lifted us completely out of our seats, followed by a terrific thump as the train began to climb again. This moment was as startling as it was brilliant, and as there was no queue the operator was happy to let us stay on for a third lap. The layout also featured a station fly-through built many years before such things became popular.

I was content to watch while Megan took a quick ride on Megadance, an antiquated Huss-built ride that looked slow from the ground, and sure enough she informed me that it really didn't do very much. With that out of the way, we made our way over to the final credit, a vintage Arrow Corkscrew. The track looked to be half way through a repainting exercise, as some portions of the track were decidedly shabby while others looked shiny and new. Appearances aside however I can report that the ride quality was uniformly dreadful, with the most memorable feature being the collection of newly minted bruises provided to all passengers at no extra charge.


We'd come close to the end of our allocated window by this point, but decided that there was just enough time left for a quick stop at gasoline-powered monorail round the front section of the park. There was no way for me to fit in the individual seats which were designed with Japanese visitors in mind, but the operator was happy for me to sit across the middle of two. This had the twin virtues of being very comfortable while also allowing ample flexibility for photography. Shots from on board were tricky in places, as the entire layout had handrails and a walkway fitted on both sides, but we managed a few good ones.



4th September 2017

AniPa is a small collection of children's rides attached to Akita Omoriyama Zoo, a brisk fifteen minute walk (most of it uphill!) from JR Araya station in the north-western corner of Honshu. Today it wasn't possible to enter the ride area without buying admission the animal exhibits, but that wasn't a huge issue as the tickets were cheap by local standards, coming in at just ¥720 (~€5) per person. The place was almost completely deserted today, making the low price a bargain; we saw only a handful of other guests during our visit despite a gloriously sunny afternoon.

Kirintaiyo-kun (#2370), roughly translated as Giraffe Coaster, is a small family coaster from Hoei Sangyo that was clearly not designed with western adults in mind. The lone operator insisted that I should sit facing forward on one side of the car, and though it was just about possible to do this the experience did my knees no favours as the train clattered its way around the short layout. We were given two laps, and I elected to brace the second time round which made things a little more comfortable, though that really should not have been necessary on a ride with a height differential of no more than twenty five feet. With the credit complete we did the obligatory lap on the Giant Wheel for photographs, and ended up with some fairly good ones as the windows in the enclosed car opened far enough to reach out with a camera. Our vantage point also allowed us to confirm that none of the other rides were of interest.

We'd booked ourselves on a late Shinkansen back to Tokyo so that we'd have enough time to explore the various animal exhibits, but upon reflection decided to abort them in favour of an earlier night. HyperDia recommended a four minute connection at Akita Station that would have been difficult to catch even if the local train hadn't been running late, but fortunately there was a workable second option that gave us just long enough to wolf down a quick dinner while still getting us back to base an hour sooner than planned.