DAVID'S MEGA TR-2005 PART 7: JAPAN PART 4 AND CONCLUSION

DAVID'S MEGA TR-2005 PART 7: JAPAN PART 4 AND CONCLUSION

Post by David » Tue, 31 Jan 2006 12:12:51

DAVID'S MEGA TR-2005 PART 7:  JAPAN PART 4 AND CONCLUSION

DAY 14:

        This day was FUBAR.

        If you study the amu***t parks of Japan, you realize that
Fuji-Q Highlands is a must do for a first time visitor.  The park is
problematic in that it perpetually has crowds and long lines.  It is
also known for not having the greatest operations, slowing things
down.  That means you give yourself time and don't shortchange the
place.

        The original itinerary had the last day of the tour entirely
dedicated to Fuji-Q Highland.  This day, the next to last, on the
itinerary was confusingly blank.

        Then the organizers got creative.  They wanted to find a park
on the way between Nagashima Spaland and Fuji-Q Highland for this day,
which was a good idea.  However they also got ambitious for the last
day, squeezing in two parks in Yokohama.  These two parks many people
had already intended on doing the day before the tour started, forcing
a rearrangement of plans, which also on the face of things, was OK.

        To do this the decision was made to take the day away from
Fuji-Q Highlands and split it for a total of 5 hours, 2 ? in the
afternoon this day, and 2 ? in the morning of the next.  This would
prove not to be the best idea.

PARK 60: HIGASHIYAMA ZOO

        This was the second multi-use park, with zoo, botanical
gardens and amu***t park sections.  Looking at the map, the place is
huge, with a large tower dominating everything.  We were told that
this was a must see because of one particular ride.

        The amu***t section was compact compared to everything else.
We got ride tickets rather than a ridepass.  First stop was Kuma San.
It's long but it's powered and it's dull.

        Jet Coaster is a Meisho nonlooper, also dull and uneventful.
If I haven't mentioned it before, Jet coaster is a generic term for
roller coaster.

        Then came Slope Shooter, the unique talked up ride.
Basically, you climb into an individual car, a kind-of metallic
go-cart contraption.  It seats two, if you sit in each others lap.
Everyone rode solo.  The car is pulled up a lift hill and guided into
a trough.  You then proceed to zigzag downhill through a series of
cement troughs, with some free movement at the turns, guided by
bumpers.  Was it unique?  Yes.  Am I happy to have the experience?
Yes, with qualifications.  Was it worth the stop?  Only if it didn't
mess up Fuji-Q.  Was it more hype then buzz?  Well, yes.  The only
remaining question is:  How do you classify this with regards to steel
vs. wood?  It's clearly not a wooden coaster, but it's not a steel one
in the usual sense.  Do we need a unique cement coaster category?

        Well, plenty of the allotted time was left over, so we started
to look at the animal exhibits.  Then we came to a park exit with the
tower beyond it.  Sky Tower might be in the middle of the park, but
it's not part of the park.  We had to get re-entry passes and pay for
the tower.

        Sky Tower is made taller by its being on a hill in the middle
of the park.  You need to take an escalator up to the before mentioned
park exit.  The observation deck offered great views of the park and
surrounding city of Nagoya.  With zoom, perfect shots could be taken
of the entire Slope Shooter from above.  I purchased yet another
keychain, this one of the tower.

        On re-entering the zoo, a decision was made to skip the
botanical gardens.  We went back through the zoo to the amu***t
area.  There was a walkthrough funhouse with scenes appropriate for
the Japanese:   a priest among cherry blossoms, a volcano, an
earthquake, a T-rex leading into a tilt room, an enchanted forest with
a pepper ghost of a fairy queen with an axe.

        I bought one extra 100 yen ticket to use up what I had left on
one more run on the Slope Shooter.

Coasters: 202
New credits: 136
Controversial credits: 7
Japanese trip coasters: 67
States: 31 (Aichi prefecture)

Return:  Well, the novelty, Slope Shooter, is done.  I don't really
see a reason to go there again.

PARK 61: FUJI-Q HIGHLANDS
DAY 14 AND DAY 15

        This is what the trip from Nagoya to Fuji-Q entailed.

        First up, an emergency bathroom stop.

        Then, there was a long lunch stop.  This was in one of the
elaborate Japanese highway rest stops.  It had multiple food
concessions.  There was a self-serve bakery. There was a bento box
place.  Squid on a stick and been paste buns were being grilled in
stalls outside.  There was a large convenience store selling souvenirs
and pre-packaged foods, including the ubiquitous boxed cakes and
candies.  There were large banks of the ubiquitous vending machines,
including the one with a video showing how your cup of coffee is
prepared within the machine to a can't get out of your head tune
(another mp3 I wish I could find).

        After checking out the options, I felt the yakatori stand was
the most promising.  Here my preparation fell short.  I showed the
counter person my page about no pork and no shellfish.  He showed
something that was three balls which he indicated were potato.  Not
the best for me, but it was the best option.  However, In the middle
of the middle ball was an unidentifiable surprise.

        There was another bathroom break.  We hit traffic and bad
weather.

        Suddenly the 2 ? hours was 90 minutes and we still had to
check into the park hotel.  Thus we didn't get a free pass (ride
pass), just a park admission.  The advise was given to try to get one
of the two headliner coasters (Dodonopa or Fujiyama) in.
Alternatively, we were told about this elaborate Haunted Hospital and
how it would be a good idea to get this in with the limited time.

        On the way into the park, we noted the photo booths to get
your picture onto your free pass.  That created a worry about the
limited time the next day.  Getting 118 people through four machines
would have killed the day.  Fortunately, we were told our free passes
wouldn't require the photos as we were hotel guests.

        To enter the park, you are fed through the main gift shop aka
the Fuji-Q House of Crap.

        This is what we found on entering.  Dodonpa and Fujiyama?
Well, their lines had already been cut off for the day and were at two
hours each.  The Haunted Hospital upcharge was on timed tickets that
were all dispensed for the day.

        There were long lines for everything.  I bought a 500 yen
D-ticket for a coaster that looked to be a slow loader.

        Fuwa Fuwa Osoro no Dai Bouken (Hamster Coaster) has suspended
hamster shaped cars running beneath the track.  Once again, these sit
two, one in the other's lap.  We all preferred to ride alone.  The
course is rather boring.  The ride has a history.  It was one of the
first flyers, with people lying prone in the cars.  There were
injuries and the coaster was rethought into this.  I guess the track
layout would be better if you are prone.

        Anyway, while in line for this coaster, we were behind a
Japanese ***ager who kept feeling up his girlfriend and getting hit.
It was the best part of the 40 minute experience.  At some point while
on line, the line was closed down with other trip members being locked
out.

        There was still half an hour before park closing.  We
discovered that the entire kiddieland was shut down.  At fif***
minutes before closing, all the rides and the furthest gift shops from
the entrance shut down.  Everyone then crammed into the main gift
shop.  The ninety minutes in the park really weren't even that.

        Then we discovered, once back in the hotel, that all the
restaurants were reservation only.  Of course none of us knew what the
restaurant options had been in order to even make reservations before
arrival.

        A group of us took to the commercial strip next to the hotel
and walked blocks debating various restaurant options.  We settled for
a place with a bright neon sign saying, "Chinese Restaurant."  It was
aptly named.  We sat at a low group table with our shoes off and
debated the merits of such menu options as "Smorked Duck" and "Boiled
Rice with Food."  I settled on the "Chicken with Black Bean Paste,"
which sounded safe and was quite good.

DAY 15:

        The FUBAR at Fuji-Q continued.

        The best part of the day was getting up in the morning,
walking out of the front of the hotel and realizing that Mt. Fuji was
right there.  The clouds at the peak parted long enough to get good
photos.

        We were informed that hotel guests get to enter the park at
8:30 and the GP 9:00.  Was this a half hour ERT for hotel guests?  No!
They just let you get a spot in your favorite ride's line and stand
there until 9:00 when the rides open.

        After breakfast, and a good deal of confusion regarding where
to enter the park and whether or not we actually did need a photo on
the free pass, we were off.

        For a very long half hour, we waited by the station entrance
to Dodonpa while a line built behind us.  That just made us more and
more worried about Fujiyama.

        Once ready to board Dodonpa, another issue came up.  They
don't let you ride with eyeglasses, even with a band.  I hate this.
I'm fine first thing in the morning, but after I've had my glasses on
for awhile, taking them off takes a long time for my eyes to adjust
and not be blurry; more time than it would take to get from the
lockers back to the train.  I needed assistance.  

        When will parks learn that the risk of debris in an eye or a
guest tripping and injuring themselves in the station far outweighs
anything that can happen to properly restrained glasses sitting where
they belong, on the guest's face?  I find the policy unconscionable.
But per the code of conduct, what can you do?

        Luckily the launch on Dodonpa was enough for my autonomics to
clear the vision right up.  The ride is like Hypersonic XLC, except it
is better. It has a long launch track and a turnaround before hitting
the tophat.  After exiting, the line to reride was ridiculously long.
While T-shirts for Dodonpa were available, I didn't buy one for a one
ride experience.  I did buy a box of cookies where the box had Dodonpa
on it, and the inside cover had ride stats.

        It was 9:15 and the line for Fujiyama was also ridiculously
long.  What could we do?  We bit the bullet and got on it.  The line
didn't move.  We couldn't see it from our spot on the queue, but we
heard a train was stuck at the top of the lift hill.  Now, I'm quite
familiar with this happening, especially on all the Supermen: the
Rides of Steel.  Wait awhile, and things should move.  Unfortunately,
we spotted the mechanics walking AWAY from the coaster, not towards
it.  This was not a good sign.  Suddenly the line started to move,
ridiculously fast.  At the station timed passes were handed out, and
the guests were guided across the tracks and out the exit.

        Once outside we learned that the first train of the day, full
of people from our tour, had gotten stuck.  Those on it, sat for an
hour and then were escorted down the lift hill with hardhats.  For the
rest of our too short time in the park, furtive glances kept being
made at the lift hill; the train never moved.  Some of those on that
train were interviewed by Japanese TV.  I could see the headlines:
"Large Americans Break Roller Coaster!"

        Needless to say, I never got to ride Fujiyama.

        Next came one of the non-coaster highlights of the trip.  The
Super Labyrinth of Horrors aka the Haunted Hospital was the most
elaborate walkthrough fright experience I have ever encountered.  The
building looked real.  I can't believe they were able to build a
multi-level 1950's decor hospital building from scratch for this.  It
makes one wonder if a real hospital was once next to the park.  For
500 yen you get to explore the darkened facilities with nothing but a
penlight until that is confiscated.  You explore the various areas:
the hallways, wards, patient rooms, Radiology, the OR, the morgue,
Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Receiving, the kitchens, and the store rooms.
The place is a desolate, abandoned ruin except for the zombies who
keep coming after you.  Once chased out of the building, you cross a
courtyard into a gift shop that did have toy stethoscopes for sale.
They were also selling a pharmaceutical labeled Ball All.  There were
boxes of the stuff.  I think it was aspirin.  As a person who knows
hospitals, this experience was very realistic and well done.

        On our way away from the Super Labyrinth of Horrors, someone
on the tour exalted the virtues of the Thomas the Train Engine ride.
We go over to Waku Waku Ride of Thomas and Percy and find a very
cutesy and annoying dark ride of Thomas through different seasons.
Best part was when the car changed tracks on a train turntable.

        Nearby was Rock 'N' Roll Duncan, a short kiddie coaster where
you only get one revolution.  The front car looked like Thomas, but it
was called Duncan.

        Continuing around the park next came Mad Mouse, one
particularly jerky wild mouse.

        Nearby was an empty field that some maps suggested was the
site of the Double Loop.  Our tour materials still listed it as a
credit but indicated it might be SBNO.  It was just gone.  Signs on
the fence suggested a new coaster was coming for 2006, either Episode
3 (After Fujiyama and Dodonpa) or Neo-Fujiyama.

        The final coaster was Zola 7, a hybrid shoot 'em up dark ride
and coaster.  The shoot 'em up part was infuriating due to bad aiming
on the guns.  The coaster part was dark and brutal.  I stubbed my tow
really bad.  I only scored a 13.

        The House of Executions was certainly different.  You were
herded into a cave where a film was shown consisting of Takashi Miike
quality gore.  Then you entered a chamber with rows of erect tall and
short coffins facing a stage.  It was a theater.  After I secured
myself in a tall coffin, the show started.  There were speakers by
your ears giving sounds of ghosts around you while it was dark.  The
best was the sound of a decapitation followed by something slurping on
the neck stump.  There were flashes of light where you can see demons
and things resurrecting on the stage.  If there were instructions
about no photos, I certainly didn't catch it.  While exiting, I tried
to get shots of the coffins only to find a figure in a cloak putting
his hand in front of the camera.  Oh well!

        Now, there was plenty more to see and do.  There were more
dark rides.  There was an interesting mini Mt. Fuji that was climbable
as part of an attraction.  We were out of time and had to return to
the buses for a long bus ride with one stop.

Fuji-Q Highlands:  33 attractions.  Experienced: 8.  

Coasters: 207
New credits: 141
Coasters denied me: 21 (Fujiyama, Double Loop)
Credits thus missed: 20
Hold your head high and climb aboard kiddy coasters: 23
Japan trip coasters: 72

Return?  Necessary!  It's an important park and I haven't really
experienced it yet.  I need the Fujiyama credit and a new coaster is
coming.

PARK 62: HAKKEIJIMA SEA PARADISE
DAY 15 AND DAY 17

        This park was a late addition to the itinerary because of one
particular ride.  The park has the last remaining true water chute
ride anywhere.  This is the ride with the famous leaping ride-ops.
Unfortunately, the ride was supposedly being taken out after the
season.  Therefore, for those on the trip, it was now or never.  Many
had therefore made plans to hit the park on either the weekend before
the tour or after.  That is what I did.  We all changed our plans when
it was included with the tour.  OK, from the reports of this ride,
maybe it would be worth messing up Fuji-Q.

        Well, the last day melt down continued.  The buses parked at
one end of the place.  118 confused sheep walked to the other end
looking for someone to give us our wristbands.

        About the place:  It's not really a gated park.  It's open and
integrated with its surroundings.  The major feature is a pyramidal
shaped aquarium building.  There is a marina, a line of stores and
restaurants, some gardens and animal exhibits.  There is a big
circular arcade.  Rides are around the periphery.

        After getting the wristbands, people scattered.  My group
headed counter-clockwise around the park.  First ride was Dolphin
Coaster.  This is a Top Fun.  I know of two Top Funs, and have ridden
both this season.  The one in Illinois was one of the most brutal
torture devices I ever voluntarily strapped myself into.  This one was
a nice zippy mouse type ride.  It was an absolute delight.

        We continued around and saw the ramp coming up that
represented the very reason we were there.  The big event!  The main
attraction!  The Water Chute!  No one was there.  No line!  No ride
ops!  No boats!  There was a collective "Oh F-ck!"  A very nice lady
at an information booth informed us that in September, they only run
it on the weekends.

        Now, wait a second.  This park was squeezed into the itinerary
at the last moment, at the expense of Fuji-Q, for this particular
Thursday, so that we could all experience a ride that only runs on the
weekends?  No one bothered to check on this beforehand? Boy was I
pissed.  I could have already had experienced the ride before the tour
and had a whole day at Fuji-Q.  Now I would not be able to
logistically return to Fuji-Q and I would have to carve out a return
to Sea Paradise.

        Continuing around the facility, we came to Surf Coaster, a
TOGO nonlooper that kind of looked like a Galaxi on steroids.  It was
built on the water, which was interesting.  The front gave airtime,
which was limited by OTSR's.  It had good speed.  The ride looked like
it had two helices.  There was a surprise, hidden third helix.  It was
a good ride.

        We tried to enter the Aquarium, which had been talked up on
the bus ride over, only to find it wasn't included on the wristband.
The price was steep.

        There was a Drunken Barrel, and I decided to get in a spin 'n
puke.

        Ultra Coaster was one of those store front child amu***ts
that either rock or rotate once you put coins in.  This one was shaped
like a roller coaster going around a mountain.  The whole thing
rotated.  It wasn't a credit.  I didn't ride.

        Blue Fall is the second tallest drop tower in the world.  It
was the tallest I had ever seen.  For that reason alone, I went on it.
The countdown was in English.  It gave a fake out before the big drop.

        The House of Horror was an upcharge walkthrough.  It was 1000
yen without a wristband, 300 yen with one.  We had time, and it was
discounted.  It was short.  You walked through rooms of masks, a
laboratory other scenes with a voice continuously saying in English,
"You have to get out of here!"  Finally, you come upon a cage with a
cloaked figure in a Scream mask.  You come closer and realize it is a
mannequin.  Suddenly another, similarly dressed, figure jumps out from
behind a curtain.  Now, that was good.

        There was a pelican exhibit.  I have never been this close to
pelicans.

        The following Saturday, I returned to the park just for the
Water Chute.  Despite having already paid for the experience with the
tour, I had to shell out an additional 1600 yen for two rides.  I
didn't want to spend 2800 yen for another wristband.  This was a good
decision, as while I was on line for the second run they closed down
the queue.

        The ride is certainly unique.  It is a ramp with two sides for
two boats.  You climb the structure and climb into a boat.  The
ride-op stands on the bow and waits.  While the other boat was pulled
up the ramp, your ride-op presses a button and the boat slides down
the ramp.  It hits the water at the bottom with a splash.  As it does
this, the ride-op leaps up and lands as the boat levels.  He then
punts the boat to an unload dock and then back to the ramp.  The
ride-ops are local celebrities.  There are poster boards with their
stats, photos and caricatures.  No souvenirs for this were available.

        If this was truly the last season, then I'm certainly glad I
got to do this.

Coasters: 209
New credits: 143
Japan trip coasters: 74
States: 32 (Kanagawa prefecture)

Return?  Well, I've done the coasters and the water chute.  I would go
back to see the Aquarium.

PARK 63: COSMOWORLD

        Well, if you're in Yokohama and you do one of the parks, you
might as well do both.  It was a short ride between them.  When we got
there it was already night and the neon was impressive.  The Ferris
wheel doubled as a clock.

        With a minor difficulty with the person doing ticket
distribution, and poor operations that defeated everything that had
worked up to that point, problems ensued with Diving Coaster Vanish!
We couldn't get to the coaster first or body count enough people to
secure front or back.  The ride-ops wouldn't let us stand aside and
wait or allow others to pass us.  When we tried to move to the back,
they forced us to sit in the middle of the train and filled the rest
behind us.  Now, I knew going into Japan to expect this.  However, up
to this point it never came up, all the tricks of the trade worked.
So here, at the last park, virtually the last coaster, we ended up
sitting where we didn't want for the first time.  We weren't the only
ones with problems.  Some of the larger people on the tour, even if
they could fit in the restraints, weren't allowed to ride at all.  The
ride-ops were having a clear passive-aggressive power trip.  This was
the perfect end to the perfect day that saw Fuji-Q Highland messed up
and the water chute at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise messed up.  People were
already irritable.  To make matters worse, the ride itself was
miserable.  The only good part was that the train dived into a tunnel
in a pool of water.  However, it was more effective watching from
above rather than being on the train.

        Diving Coaster Vanish! was in the Wonder Amuse Zone, a multi
level complex that was one of three parts of Cosmoworld.  At the
topmost level was the other coaster, Spinning Coaster.  It was
basically a Reverchon crazy mouse on a roof.

        Afterwards, we worked our way down the complex.  Haunted House
Yureido was a slow moving dark ride.  It was Japanese, not Western,
style with the usual crucifixions, decapitations, female ghosts, heads
jumping off of tables.  The only problem was that the timing was off.
There was great stretches of darkness between scenes.  When the lights
came on to scenes, it was obvious the scene cycles were already almost
completed.  Some were even resetting when the lights came on.

        The Cave of Echidna was another one of the booth shoot 'em
ups.  This one had fast moving targets including a multi headed Hydra.
I kept my streak of scoring well on this model.

        Then we had another rude surprise.  The ride ticket we had
wasn't unlimited but a set number of points and we were running out.
There was another one of the fun houses where you carried an orb and
participated in a game.  Since we didn't have enough points and
couldn't figure out the game at other parks, we skipped it.  There was
a gypsy fortune teller themed dark ride that we could have done except
they wouldn't let us.  If you couldn't ask a question in Japanese, you
couldn't ride.

        We continued down the complex to discover there was nothing of
interest in the gift shops and nothing palatable in the restaurants.
Across the street was a place called World Porters that had a Food
World.  We went in and found others from the tour had had the same
idea.  The French were already in the wine shop.  No one seemed to be
interested in the Japanese interpretation of German food, with various
Wurst, even the Germans.  There was conveyor belt Sushi but we didn't
have time.

        I found a pizza place.  Now, before coming I had read up and
learned that Japanese put things on pizza that westerners would find
bizarre and unpalatable.  I wanted to see this for myself.  Well, the
octopus and eel pizzas weren't appealing.  I tried a slice of corn and
mayonnaise pizza.  Never again!  I also tried a multi-cheese slice.
The cheeses were strange tasting.

        As time was running out, we discovered that we had only
explored one of the three parts of Cosmoworld, Wonder Amuse Zone,
albeit the largest.  We totally missed Burano Street Zone and Kids
Carnival Zone.  They were a distance away.  Per the map, there were
other dark rides and funhouses, that we thus missed.  However, we
wouldn't have had points for them anyway.

        The buses took us back to the hotel we first stayed at, the
Miyako Hotel Tokyo, where our luggage, which had been trucked out from
Parque Espana, was waiting for us.

        Thus ended the tour, and not on a good note.

Coasters: 211
New credits: 145
Japan trip coasters: 76

Return?  The way we were treated, why would I want to.  The coasters
weren't anything to talk about.  However, I missed two parts of the
park and didn't get to see any of it in the daylight.  I would also
consider being fair and giving them another chance when I am in a
better mood.

DAY 16:

        This was my return to Disneyland day.  I got up early, had my
final breakfast at the Miyako buffet, said my good-bye's, and checked
out.  As I was too early for the shuttle to Shinegawa station, I took
a cab.  The fare was 980 yen and you don't tip.  I checked back into
the Shinegawa Prince Hotel and as I was early, checked my luggage with
the staff.

        The train fare to Tokyo Disneyland was only 290 yen.  It was a
short ride, except for a very long walk through Tokyo Station to
change trains.  The Disneyland station is walking distance to the
Disneyland Park, monorail needed for DisneySea.  Outside the station
is a mall, Ikspiari, their version of Downtown Disney.  On the way to
Disneyland is Bon Voyage, a large shop with souvenirs from both parks.

        I have already outlined my experience at Tokyo Disneyland.

        That evening, when I returned to the hotel, the place was
packed with people checking in.  It was the Friday night of a holiday
weekend.

DAY 17:

        The weather was nice and it was ideal for catch up.  I started
the day at Toshimaen, as I have already described.  The park was easy
to get to from Shinegawa.

        After that, I took a long, complicated, multi-transfer train
ride to Hakkeijima Sea Paradise.  This is why I just had time for two
runs on the water chute before closing, as I have already described.

        I returned to the Shinegawa Prince for some Vegetable Curry
and a crepe at the food court and spent the rest of the evening online
at the Yahoo Internet Caf.  Unlimited access for the price of one
expensive ? filled glass of soda.

DAY 18:

        There were still more parks to go.

PARK 64: ARAKAWA YUEN

        I was informed about a true trolley park.  Tokyo has one
remaining trolley line.  I took the train out to the trolley.  Knowing
it needed exact change, I was prepared.  I was not prepared about the
difficulty in figuring out which direction to take.  Once sorted out,
I knew how many stops till the destination.  A short walk past a
school and a playground later, I was at Arakawa Yuen.

        The place is a trolley park.  It had a trolley car outside the
gate for kids to climb around.  The local trolley society was selling
trolley related crafts in a fundraiser.

        I had to figure out how to pay for the park.  There were no
ticket vendors, just machines.  The instructions were all in Japanese.
There was a booth, and the lady dug around and found a piece of
cardboard with English directions taped to it.  First, you had to buy
a 200 yen entrance ticket.  Then you had to buy individual ride
tickets from under the Ferris wheel.

        The park was a small kiddie park.  It had a small zoo/petting
zoo, a train, a Ferris wheel, and a few flat rides.

        On a raised platform was Family Coaster, a Wacky Worm.  This
one noticeably had the trick track muted, for whatever reason.  

        It should be noted that I was expecting to find Mini Coaster,
something more interesting then a Wacky Worm, per the photos and data
on rcdb and per the ACE census.  Apparently they switched out the
coaster.

        There was nothing interesting to buy or eat.

Coasters: 212
New credits: 146
Coasters denied me: 22 (Mini Coaster)
Credits thus missed: 21
Hold your head high and climb aboard kiddy coasters: 24
Japan trip coasters: 77

Return?  No real reason.

        Then it was back to sightseeing mode.  I took the trains over
to the Ryokan area, where the Sumo matches were in progress.  At the
station I saw a lot of smiling Sumo wrestlers in their robes and
slippers heading from the train to the stadium.  I saw a lot of dour
looking ones, heading away from the stadium and back to the train.  I
didn't need anyone to explain what was going on.

        My target for the day wasn't the Sumo but the museum behind
the stadium.

        The Tokyo Edo Museum is fantastic.  It is a big modernistic
structure high up in the air on pylons.  Inside it gives the history,
with English captions and signage, from Edo's origins under the
Shogunate to post-WWII Tokyo.  Edo was the precursor to Tokyo on the
same site, if you didn't know.  It was well done.

        I finally got over to Akihabara and walked around.  I didn't
need any electronics, so I wasn't seriously shopping.

        The next stop was Shinjuku.  I walked over to the Tokyo
Metropolitan Government Building, which most guidebooks said had the
best views.  It has two towers, each with a public observatory deck.
I went up first to the North Observatory, walked around the windows
and checked out the caf and toy shop.  Then I went up the South
Observatory, walked around the windows and checked out the restaurant
and gift shop.

        I walked by the Park Hyatt where lost in translation was
filmed and took photos.

        Next was the NS building for its architecturally distinctive
atrium.

        Despite what the guidebooks said, there was no trace of a
museum in the Isetan department store.

        While continuing around Shinjuku, I had to stop for several
processions.  Each was dressed in uniform, but different, robes.  Each
was carrying a portable shrine.  I found no one who could or would
tell me what was going on.

        Eventually I came upon Konikuniya Book Store.  I do not know
if it is any relationship to the one at Rockefeller Center in New
York.   This one did not seem to have anything on amu***t parks, in
either language.  None of the Disney materials were there.  I did find
the New Season Preview issue of TV Guide in the English magazine
section.  I wasn't going to pay 1000 yen for it as one was waiting for
me at my post office.  It was still a good break to sit there and read
it.

        I got to the Tokyo Tower area in the late afternoon.  On my
way to the tower, I passed another Toshogu Shrine.  This one had
cement statues of babies decorated with bibs, bonnets and windmills
left by people who suffered a miscarriage.

        Tokyo Tower is one large tourist trap.  The line to go up to
the observatory deck was huge.  It was Eiffel Tower in season huge or
Empire State Building on a holiday weekend huge.  This was with the
highest level not being open.  As I had already done the observation
decks with the better views, per the tour books, I explored the
building at the base instead.

PARK 65: TOKYO TOWER AMU***T PARK

        Checking out the Base Building directory, I spotted something
immediately.  The roof said "amu***t park."  I made my way up there
to find some portable kiddie rides, some inflatable slides, arcade
machines, those rideable mechanical animals, but no coaster or dark
ride.

Return?  Why?

        Descending the building, there was a Trick Art Museum (optical
illusions), a wax museum, a holography exhibit, an experience
dedicated to the Japanese equivalent of Barbie, a Guinness Book of
World Records Museum, an aquarium, a food court and multiple souvenir
shops.  Everything was overpriced, and I didn't bother with any of it.

        I returned to Omotesando-dori and picked up some gifts at the
Oriental Bazaar and ***ania.

        Nearby was a conveyor belt Sushi restaurant.  I found the last
thing on my must do list.  The place was busy, and I had to wait for a
seat.  Conveyor belt Sushi is where you sit there and plates pass you
by on a belt.  You take what interests you.  The plates are color
coded by price.  When you are done, the server counts up your plates
and gives you your bill.  I had twelve plates of excellent, tasty, top
quality Sushi for 2116 yen.  In the USA, that would be good for only
four or five plates' worth.  Of note, if you don't see what you want,
you can ask a Sushi chef for it and they will make it up for you.
Traditionally, I always eat Ikura (salmon roe).  None was on the belt,
so I grab a chef's attention with a, "Semimasen, Ikura?"  Suddenly all
five chefs scream in unison, "Ikura," and a few moments later, a plate
was handed to me.  Next thing I knew, plates of Ikura were on the
belt.  When I was done, I gave the crossed arm gesture and the server
counted my plates.

        I took a post-parandial stroll down Takeshita-dori in Harejuko
with the local youth culture before returning to the hotel.

        Unfortunately, I developed a Migraine aura in the train
station.  Fortunately, I had some doses of my Migraine med in a pill
holder in my pocket; a med that has a stimulant in it and thus is not
allowed in Japan.  If I didn't bring  in anyway, I would have had a
big problem on my hands.  The med, as usual, did work, and no headache
ensued.

DAY 19:

        This was my last full day in Japan.  It was also Respect for
the Elderly Day, a national holiday.  This had messed up my plans,
forcing me to move Disneyland from this day to the preceding Friday.
If I had known about this holiday, which none of my research had
disclosed, I probably would have flown home on this day.

        Instead, I returned to Asaksa and bought some Daruma (the make
a wish figure) as gifts.  The temple area became increasingly crowded.

        I returned to Hanayashiki, as I already have described.  I
wanted to do a photo essay on the funhouse with the big busted large
*** figure. ;-)

        From there, I walked back to the kitchen goods and fake food
stores of Kappabashi.  I relented and splurged on an Ikura
refrigerator magnet.

        Next was a return to Ryogoku.  The original intent was to go
to the Sumo matches.  However, the only tickets were 3800 yen SRO in
the nosebleed section.  The English pamphlet advised taking breaks in
the garden to cool off.  This suggested the Arena was hot.  Also I
would be alone in there.  Instead I walked the area and took some
photos of Sumo wrestlers.

        After that, I decided to return to Tokyo Dome City and try for
some more rides on Thunder Dolphin.  I already described what I found.
All of Tokyo was there.  I'll say it again:  the adolescents and young
families of Tokyo show their respect for the elderly on Respect for
the Elderly Day by ditching them and going to amu***t parks!  The
place was packed.  I took some photos and decided that since my flight
was late the next day, I would try again before I left for the
airport.

        I finally gave myself an opportunity to really explore
Shinegawa Station before returning to the hotel and the internet caf.
I had another Migraine aura while there.  Again, it was a good thing I
brought the Migraine med with me, although not allowed.  Otherwise, I
would really have been in big trouble at this point.

        Once I recovered, I returned to the food court and had
spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner, octopus declined.

        I was feeling fine and there was one thing I realized I hadn't
done yet.  I spent my last evening strolling along the Ginza with all
the lights.  I explored the Mitsokoshi department store and its food
halls.

        Then I returned to the hotel for the labor of packing.

DAY 20:

        It was the final day in Japan.  I got up, checked my luggage
at the desk and checked out of the hotel.  I crossed the street to
Shinegawa Station and bought my ticket for an afternoon ride on the
Narita Express.

        I then returned to Tokyo Dome City, as I previously described.
Using tickets I got rides on Thunder Dolphin, Bikkiri House and Zombie
Paradise.  I could do a photo essay of Bikkiri House but not Zombie
Paradise, no photos allowed.

        When I reclaimed my luggage, I now had two checked bags and
two carry-ons.  I had to lug this load across the street, up an
escalator, through a station gate, onto an elevator to the track, and
onto the train.

        The train ride was uneventful.  At the airport station, Thank
G-d, there were free hand carts.

        At the airport, all four bags had to be X-rayed before even
getting to the check-in desk.  One of my checked bags had a dense mass
of park maps and pamphlets that led to security looking in.  As the
Tokyo Disneyland stuff was on top, the officer just wanted to know my
impressions of the place.

        Then with just my carry-ons, I explored the airport stores and
restaurants.  I found another conveyor belt Sushi and had six plates
to keep things under 1000 yen.  I wanted to exchange my remaining 5000
yen note.

        I then almost messed up.  I thought I was getting to the gate
an hour before departure only to find after going through security and
down a flight a stairs, there was a long line for Immigration Control.
Thankfully, it was efficient. I got to the gate while they were
Loading Zone 2.   I was Zone 4.

        I put my larger carry-on in the compartment overhead and the
smaller under the seat in front.  Then my seatmate shows up with his
carry-on.  This guy did not speak English.  He looked perplexed at how
to fit his bag into the compartment with mine, as there clearly was no
room.  It looked like he was about to force things, breaking the
fragiles in my bag.  In a panic, I had to call a stewardess to show
him to put it elsewhere.  The guy really acted as if he had never
flown before.

        The flight was long.  The movies sucked.  The best option was
Herbie Rides Again! :-(  Dinner was bad, a choice of Beef or Pork on
Noodles.  There was a snack and breakfast.

        Flying from Japan is interesting because of the International
Dateline.  My flight left 5:55 PM and arrived at 5:30 PM the same day.
I arrived before I left.  Unfortunately, the on-flight monitors kept
saying we were arriving at 4:20 PM and JFK kept us in two 20 minute
holding patterns to keep us from landing early.

        Passport control was no problem.  Once in baggage claim,
however, I knew I was back in America.  Multiple flights had unloaded
in the area.  There were multiple baggage carousels.  There was no
indication of which flight's luggage was going where.  Thankfully,
nothing was lost.  Customs was another breeze through.

        The Japan trip was over.

IN CONCLUSION:

JAPAN:

        I am extremely happy I gave myself this opportunity.  Was it
perfect? No.  Nothing can be.  Were there some major frustrations?
Certainly!  Was it overall worthwhile?  Definitely!

        The good:

        I got to go to the Far East for the first time.
        I got to see Tokyo, a city I only read about.
        I finally got to see Tokyo Disneyland.
        77 credits in 25 parks with plenty of dark rides!
        I got to meet and spend time with some nice people.
        The Japanese people:  Apart from some passive-aggressive
behavior, I encountered no overt hostility or xenophobia.  Just smile,
bow appropriately, use some basic Japanese and try not act like an
ugly American.
        Japan, with its thousand years of domestic tourism
infrastructure in place, and a slow opening to foreign visitors, makes
things easy.  This was especially true for the English used in the
transportation.
        Some of these coasters were excellent, especially Aska, BMR-X
and Pyrenees.
        Some of these coasters were quite good, especially Thunder
Dolphin and Regina.

        The bad:

        Considering that it is a safe assumption that most of these
parks never had a large tour group of westerners before, and never had
such a crowd as the only people in their facilities, better
arrangements could have been made.
        There should have been better communication with some of these
parks before the trip, especially Toshimaen, Parque Espana and
Hakkeijima Sea Paradise.  
        Considering that American and European manners and ways of
riding coasters can considerably differ from what happens with the
usual patrons at these parks, some of these parks might have done with
prior warning so as either to let us know what they expect from us, or
warn their ride-ops what to expect from us.  Someone brought up the
idea of sending park administration a VHS tape of coaster event
footage so they could understand what we were about.  It might have
helped.  On the other hand, we might have been disinvited. ;-(
        The local culture did sometimes block and render useless well
honed theme park commando skills.  Also bad, was the frequent need for
them.
        Being on a tour, you're stuck to the schedule, and dependent
on the buses with all the delays and problems that can ensue.
        Also, most of the coasters were quite mediocre, with some
being abysmal.

        The ugly:

        This was my first group tour like this.  Eleven straight days
with the same people, on such a fast pace, can be fatiguing and make
some quite punchy at the end.
        Great care needs to be had with the mixing of certain
Europeans and Americans.  This is especially true if you have drunken,
obnoxious German louts who quite likely are racist and anti-Semitic
svinehundts on the trip.  The less said, the better.  I haven't had
the urge to slug someone in over twenty years.  

THE SEASON AS A WHOLE:

        The good:

        212 roller coasters! 146 new credits!  Only 24 being kiddie
coasters! 65 parks!
        In one season I not only hit coaster #300 but #400.
        All those dark rides.
        I got into Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin for the first
time.
        I finally got on some coasters I have been struggling to get
to such as Legend and Shivering Timbers.
        I rode every single coaster in Indiana.
        I likely did make a farewell trip to William's Grove this
year.
        The Japan trip!

        The bad:

        21 missed credits because of breakdowns, closures and other
unavailabilities.
        I had a Six Flags America season pass and never stepped foot
in the park.
        I underutilized a Hersheypark season pass.
        I thought I could have my cake and eat it too by going on the
Coaster Zombie tour of the Northwest right before Japan.  That was not
possible and I had to drop out.
        This is another year I couldn't get myself south of the
Washington Beltway to BGW or PKD.  I missed the new dark ride.
        I missed the Conneaut Lake events this year.
        I missed the Zombie event at William's Grove this year.
        I only got one ride on Kingda Ka
        I shorted my time at Expoland.
        I didn't give myself enough time at Kobe Portopialand, and I
can never go back.
        I only got a tantalizing taste of Universal Studios Japan.
        My time at Fuji-Q Highlands was insufficient.

        The ugly:

        My G-d, the cost!
        My G-d. the mileage!

NEXT YEAR:

        Who knows?
        I would like to hit coaster #500.
        I intend to hit three new woodies in Indiana, Kentucky and New
Jersey.
        I don't want to miss Disneyland's 50th.
        Maybe the Coaster Con?
        There are still two Disney parks I haven't seen:  one in
Paris, one in Hong Kong.
        I still have the parks of New England to hit.
        Maybe I can start exploring European parks?

        Well, I already have my Six Flags America pass.

Until next year!  Thanks for reading.

Remove NOSPAM to contact me.

Proud to be an Attraction Traveller:
Amu***t and Theme Parks
Zoos and Aquaria
Historic Sights
Museums
Urban Centers and Urban Hiking
Unique Commercial Sights
Americana and Kitsch

I know, its a euphemism for "tourist" but I don't care!