Japan 2004 Trip Reports!
The following trip reports were originally posted on Westcoaster.net.  We originally wrote these as a 'daily diary' log of our trip.
After many requests, I have put them all in one place!  If you have any other questions about Japan parks, please email me!

Wednesday - Parque Espana - 1st Visit (Typhoon day!)  =)
Click HERE to see our complete Parque Espana Photo Update

Well, today the weather was not our friend. We knew a few days ago that today could be bad because there was a Typhoon heading our way! While this storm wasn’t THAT bad, it was still on par with a Cat. 2 hurricane, so it certainly closed rides….unfortunately, it closed Pyranees. =( And even know we all knew it would probably happen, we set off for Parque Espana anyway today. We figured why not, because there wasn’t anything else we could do in it’s place!

We’re glad we did because we found what is probably the best park we’ve been to outside of Disney and Universal. Parque Espana kind of reminds me of a “Efteling that doesn’t suck.” Both parks are VERY similar. Both well themed, both have good dark rides that no one seems to understand, and both have a small collection of coasters, which Parque Espana appearing to have the edge on Efteling in that department. The other nice touch that Parque Espana has is that it’s only 10 years old and it still looks brand spakin’ new! Efteling was an old park, and it looked it, and smelled it! Espana was still very nice looking!

We did manage to get in one credit today, the Bullfighting coaster, and this ride now takes the award for the most f**ked up ride of the trip! It also takes away the award from X:\No Way Out as the most f**ked up coaster I’ve been on!

This ride is very much like X:\No Way Out, as it’s indoor and has some theming to it. The theming on this ride is much better as you pass a lot of black lit signs of matador’s and Spanish theming on the lift and throughout the ride.

The suddenly, half way through the trains comes to a crawl on a mid-course, and it’s pitch black around you. You can’t see ANYTHING! The train stops and suddenly you hear the sound of a cheering crowd. Then comes trumpets blaring, then suddenly, the entire room lights up and you’re inside a stadium!!! WTF?!?! The crowd is cheering around you, and the train starts to shake as if you were the bull and you were getting ready to charge! And charge you do as the tire drive system pushes you out of the stadium to the crowd cheering! Then the rest of the coaster was pretty much in the dark.

Wow! This one takes the cake! It doesn’t really make up for Pyranees being closed, but it was pretty damn close!

So about the Typhoon. It was pretty damn funny wandering around the park being three out of about twenty-five people in the park. I give them credit for opening, especially during a heavy storm and especially since no one showed up! This could have easily been a complete wash for us, but instead it ended up being a pretty good park day! The rain and wind went from being intense at about 30MPH to a slight drizzle then back to gusts again.

We decided to head out after a couple of hours because the storm was getting worse and we wanted to make sure we could get back to Nagoya. This was a challenge because the storm DID shut down most of the train service in Japan and we ended up having to take some scary local trains and taxi’s to get back! It was a cool adventure though. Luckily, looking at our itinerary, it looks like we’ll have some time to go back on Friday and get on Pyranees and the other coaster they have there. It means we’ll loose a couple hours at Nara Dreamland, but we had budgeted like 6 hours there anyway, and from what I’m told we won’t need more than 45 minutes there! =)

Click HERE for our "Parque Espana Trip Report - Part Two"

Anyway, on to today’s pics!

On the train to Parque Espana, Dan finally slept with a Japanese chick!!!

This park ended up being one of the nicer parks on the trip!

Ok, yes...the Typhoon sucked ass, but how often can you say you went to a park where there were less than 25 people 
and a crazy Typhoon was going on...

Here we are in the "Stadium" scene on the bull fighting coaster. See the look of WTF?!?! on Dan's face?

Thursday - Expoland, Hirakata Park, Festival Gate (This was an insane day!)
Click HERE to see our complete Expoland Photo Update
Click HERE to see our complete Hirakata Park Photo Update
Click HERE to see our complete Festival Gate Photo Update

Today's update is going to be a little longer because we actually made it to THREE freaking parks today!!!

The weather was certainly on our side, a little drizzly when we woke up, but blue skies by the time we made it to Expoland.

First off, I just want to say that the train system here rules! Almost everyone I know that has been to Japan has told me horror stories of how hard it is to get around outside of Tokyo and I don't know if they are smoking crack or just can't read a map, but this country is much easier to navigate than even Europe! Or at least for us it has been! I'm starting to think it's one of those things where people made it out to be harder than it really was to discourage people from going so they can be one of those few to get those 'treasured credits'. It's easier than traveling around the US! Seriously!

And the ease of travel made it possible for us to hit all the parks we needed to in plenty of time today. Here's a brief rundown:

- 6:56: We get on the bullet train from Nagoya to Osaka.
- 8:15ish: we arrive in Osaka and change trains to the subway system.
- 8:30ish: we change trains to the Osaka monorail
- 8:45: Arrive at Expoland.

Now upon arrival to Expoland everything looked great! Sun was blazing hot, blue skies and some scattered clouds. We found out that Expoland does in fact have a "Free Pass" (pay-one-price) and it's the cheapest of the trip so far! ($38) Then this employee came out and put all these 'closed' signs next to rides on the board. Orochi, Daidarasaurus, Wild Mouse, etc.... We were like "Um...WTF?" (Ok so we didn't REALLY say WTF, but we asked what that meant) and she basically said all those rides were closed because of the Typhoon. And we look up at the beautiful blue sky and think "Um...the typhoon was YESTERDAY!!!"

But then we see Orochi testing and we think "Screw it, we'll by our ticket anyway". Sure enough, the park opened right on time at 9:45 and we were off! We checked out the closed rides on the board and sure enough...they were closed. =( We saw some other coasters going and we thought "lets get the credits that we can!" So off to the Togo Death Machine!

"Fujin Raijin II" was the name of their stand up. I don't know what this translates into other than "Togo Ass Kicking Coaster II" And this ride KICKED OUR ASSES....GOOD! I think it's actually the roughest Togo I've been on...yes, worse than Manhattan Express! The main reason is the ball-buster-bar. If you've been on a Togo standup, you know what I mean. Normally, the ball-buster-bar isn't that big of a deal, but this coaster was ROUGH AS HELL! I sacrificed my balls to get POV for all you guys!

We ran over to the Arrow corkscrew once we saw that going, got the credit...nothing special and it wasn't too bad. We all thought this could have been the smoothest Arrow corkscrew we've been on, but then again did it just seem smooth because we got our ASSES HANDED TO US on the Togo Death Machine!!!

We went over to the kiddie area, where you had to find a ride op to run a ride (this place didn't have the best operations in case you haven't noticed!) and we got the kiddie credit in. At this point both "Raptor" (Orochi) and the messed up Dinosaur thing (Daidarasaurus) were testing.

As perfect timing would have it, Raptor opened up right as we got there and we were the first in line, so naturally we took the front seat! What can we say? It's Raptor....no mid course, and no final "Head Bash" into the brake run, so I guess this one was slightly better....but it's still Raptor. Except all white...as are ALL of their coasters! (which actually made it hard to tell which one was which!)

Coming off Raptor, we noticed the Dinosaur coaster opening, so we headed right to that. Now, for those of you who don't know, this used to be TWO racing coasters that opened in 1970, that the park recently combined sides to create the longest ride in the world. What they created was the most boring ride in the world! Seriously, this ride is so boring. It's worse than any Scenic Railway I've been on, worse than any bad mine train...and the damn thing is like 6 minutes long!!! The lifts were ridiculous! The were so bad that The Ultimate is all "Damn, that ride has long lift hills!!!" It was a pretty messed up ride, and Japan seems to have a lot of screwed up weird coasters here! I guess that's kind of a good thing..it at least keeps the trip entertaining! =)

We finally made our way around the rest of the park, got in all the credits but the Mouse as they were tearing apart the station, and we even rode the splashdown boat with a cover over it! Talk about screwed up rides!!! I'm not so sure what the point of having a covered splash down boat so you don't get wet is, but it was actually a lot of fun!

This park had a couple of bizarre Moser flat rides, some dark rides, and even a Subway sandwich stand! We got all this done in less than 3 hours. The place was empty! So we were right on schedule to make it to Hirakata!

Hirakata is a smaller more 'local' park..it kind of reminded us of a slightly larger "Castle Park" but with more coasters and a little more charm. They have a fairly new Intamin Junior woodie that actually proved to be the 2nd best woodie on the trip (Elissa actually thought it was her favorite since we got a bit more beaten up on Regina than Dan and I did) and there was actually some decent airtime on this junior ride! It appears to look almost exactly like Pegasus at Efteling, but this ride is much different!

The rest of the park was a credit run, but there were some interesting things, like a Reverchon Crazy Mouse that doesn't spin! I've never seen this before...but there was no spinning mechanism at all! They had an interesting dark ride where you put on headphones and it gives you a 'sense-a-round' feeling. It didn't work very well and it was pretty stupid...other than the 'decapitation' scene! Yes! Someone gets decapitated and the head goes flying off "Kill Bill" style!

We found something there that I haven't seen in a very long time! They had those human powered cage thingy's! Ok, ok, poor description, but I don't know what they are actually called. They are those things where you get in a cage, and using your body power you get them to do a full circle. It looks just like a magic carpet ride, but smaller, and YOU power it!

We did their HUGE Ferris wheel (every park in Japan seems to have one of these!) rode their Intamin Giant Drop, and then it was onto Festival Gate!

This park was a total bonus and wasn't an official part of our trip, but we felt positive that we would wind up here since the place is kind of like a bill mall with a few rides. They have a coaster that people told us wasn't good, but we actually thought it was pretty fun, a couple of flats and a sky ride that looks like an Intamin parachute tower, but it's not. It just takes you up and brings you back down 'elevator style'.

The park isn't in the best area but the park itself is nice. We rode the coaster and the "high roller" (psycho flat ride!) and noticed that they also had squirrel cages, but decided not to ride them.

So overall we got TWELVE credits today! I'm closing in on 700 coasters total, however I think I'll end up missing it by less than 5 on this trip! Oh, well...there's always next year!

Anyway, we're off to Nara Dreamland tomorrow, and that should be a REALLY screwed up park, and then we're going to try and get back out to Parque Espana for another go at Pyrenees.

Onto today's pics (and there are quite a few of them....)

Upon arriving at Expoland we see this statue. We couldn't figure out what it was, but we instantly nicknamed it the 
"Grrr...I'm Angry Statue!!!" We could see it from all over the park and whenever it came into view one of us would say 
"Grrr...I'm angry...." Ok, I guess you had to be there!   

Translated into English this says "Togo Ball Squashing Death Machine......II"  

WTF is this?!? Does anyone else think this looks like Mr. Garrison's contraption from South Park???

Expoland had a bizarre walkthrough attraction called "The Ice House" which was a big freezer filled with snow and fake penguins...
I found a baby seal and tried to club it!   

Hirakata was a really nice looking park....you can see they used the terrain to put Elf and the Ferris wheel up on the hill.

Here are the 'human powered swing cage thingys'. Anyone know what these are really called and where you can find them? 
I remember there used to be some outside Cedar Point at a go kart track a few years ago, 
but does anyone know where else they are in the US?

Here's the coaster at Festival Gate. We all thought it was a really fun ride!

Friday - Nara Dreamland and back to Parque Espana!
Click HERE to see our complete Parque Espana Photo Update
Click HERE to see our complete Nara Dreamland Photo Update

The awesomeness of today can by summed up by these two pictures:

Pyrenees at Parque Espana

Aska at Nara Dreamland

Our days seem like they keep getting more and more insane. We did three parks in a day yesterday, but they were all at least within 15-20 miles of each other…today was a bit different.

Because of the typhoon that came through on Wednesday, we got rained out of riding Pyrenees and Parque Espana’s mine train, but we had built in some contingency into our planning just in case this happens. I mean, it rains like 300 days out of the year in this country, so the possibility of having a rainy day was high. In order to hit Parque Espana a second time on this trip, it took a bit of effort.

Here is how our crazy day of travel went:

- Started out in Nagoya with a 20 minute walk to the train station at 7am.
- We then took a 1 hour bullet train ride to Kyoto.
- Changed trains there and took a 1 hour train to Nara station.
- Got on a bus and took a 10 minute bus ride to Nara Dreamland.
- Spent a little over two hours at Nara Dreamland.
- From Nara Dreamland we took a 20 minute taxi ride to a different station (Kintetsu Koriyama)
- Got on a 15 minute train bound for Yamato-Toyagi
- Changed trains there and took a 2 hour train to Shima-Isobe.
- Hopped in a taxi and took a 10 minute ride to Parque Espana
- Spent about an hour and a half at Parque Espana
- After the park, took another taxi back to Shima-Isobe station.
- Took a 2 hour train ride back to Nagoya station.
- And a 20 minute walk back to the hotel!

Does that sound like something out of Amazing Race or what? =) For comparison, that was like going from SFA to Hersheypark, but starting and ending at PKD, and having to do it all by public transportation!

Seriously, though…it was all worth it! Both Pyrenees and Aska were GREAT! So let me elaborate a little on both….

Nara Dreamland is an awful park. Plain and simple. It’s the worst park on our trip so far. It’s so ghetto and run down you are amazed this place is even still operating. It’s about on par with Rotunda, which finally closed last year.

Which is weird that Aska is at this park because it does not fit at all! Now some other bizarre history about this place is that it was built at some point just after Disneyland opened in California. By looking at the picture below you’ll see some immediate similarities. But beyond the train station at the front, the main street with a castle at the end, and the Matterhorn with the skyway and monorail, that’s where the similarities end.

The unfortunate thing is that, and you can see by looking at the photos, is this park DOES have some nice areas to it, and upon entering you think “Wow, this is going to be really nice.” Wrong. The 3 or 4 pictures of nice stuff is it. Everything else run down and literally looks like the buildings and rides are about to fall over from being so decrepit. It really is that bad.

At least everything…but Aska! While this is a great coaster, it’s also pretty much the exact same coaster as Viper at SFGAm. I’m not exactly sure who built it, but it looks and feels just like Viper, except for being a mirror image.

The ride probably is top ten caliber, certainly top 20 for me and I’ve been on at least 150 different woodies. Viper at SFGam is one of my favorite coasters and also my favorite of the Cyclone clones. The rides are pretty much equal. We thought the front seat ride of Aska was a bit better than Viper, but the back seat of Viper was better than Aska…so they balance each other out.

Bottom line, it’s a GREAT woodie…but you don’t really need to go to Japan to ride it…just go to Gurnee, IL! =)

As for the rest of the park, we got screwed by the “Screw Coaster” – your typical Arrow looper that actually wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The Bobsleds, where they were running one sled was pretty crappy. Weird coaster, but crappy. Nothing really at all like the Matterhorn other than there is a large mountain with the coaster track surrounding it. The coaster doesn’t go inside the mountain much, other than the lift hill, which you just see the bare bones inside of the mountain and a strand of xmas lights. It’s crap.

The park was completely flat, and looked more like an old kids area from a local county fair with beat up kids rides, fences knocked over, buildings that look like they haven’t been painted in years, and the entire park made William’s Grove look like a resort destination. It really was that bad. Most of the rides were closed, or rotating ride operators. The monorail was closed, the sky buckets were running like 4 buckets, they had a Jungle Cruise-like boat ride, but that was closed, but it was more like the “Cruise around a rotting river with mosquito larva” than anything you’d see at the Disney parks. The monorail had streaks of dirt and grease down the sides of it and it literally looked like the monorails had been “dipped in s**t.” That is exactly what I thought when I saw them!

We had about two hours at this park and that was more than enough! We had all the open credits in but Aska within the first 30 minutes of the park opening, but they weren’t going to open Aska until noon because of the ride rotation. Since there was seriously only about 10 people in the park, we asked some of the ride ops if they could open it sooner because we had to leave by noon to make our taxi and train. They were more than happy to do this, and I think they were more thrilled to have something to do since no one was there and all the ops looked bored.

Anyway, I’ll post a bunch of pics when we do our photo update after we get back.

On to Parque Espana....

We liked this park on Wednesday and it was even better without a typhoon going on! Behind Disney and Universal this is the nicest park we’ve visited on the trip. It was such a contrast from going to one of the worst parks to one of the nicest!

We got to the park with about 90 minutes to spare before the park closed, which was plenty of time to get several rides on Pyrenees, their mine train, ride the flying island, take pics, and go up the musical escalator again! (More on that later!)

Pyrenees was really good. You can tell this ride is “old school” B&M, because the first five inversions just kick your ass! And not in a bad way at all. It’s not very rough, although we did notice it being slightly rougher than newer B&Ms, it was just VERY intense! We all agreed it was like a “Super Batman”. The drop and the first three inversions are exactly like Batman, but bigger, faster and more intense! The Cobra Roll is also decent and you get than same “snap” around it that you do on Ice Dragon and Raptor. The helix around the loop was cool and the mid course was barely on. In fact, we actually couldn’t tell if it was actually on, or if we were just hearing the brakes reset after we went through it. The rest of the ride consists of a bunny hill, a flat spin, and some non-inverting flying time getting back to the station, which I personally really like. I’m sick of the B&M inverts that are either one inversion after the other, or full of boring non-inverting parts (see Great Bear!). This section was neither. It was fast, interesting, and had some floater air over the bunny hill! Great stuff!

So how would we rank this one? Behind Dragons, Nemesis, and Montu, but ahead of Batman, Raptor, and the Top Guns. So it ranks pretty highly in all of our opinions!

On a side note, we were originally told that the park is kind of difficult to get to. It’s actually not! It’s VERY easy. From Nagoya, the “Kintetsu line” runs a direct train to Shima-Isobe every hour. And from there you can either take a taxi or there is a Parque Espana shuttle bus that runs about every 30 minutes. It’s really easy! If you’re interested in going to the park and need some advice, just email us and we’ll be more than happy to help more enthusiasts get out to this great park and coaster! You all need to live it for yourself, not just through our POV!

Now for the surprise of the day…the park’s Mine Train called “Gran Montserrat.” This ride SHOCKED us! OMG, this may very well be the fastest most intense mine train ever! RCDB shows it being made by Mack, but it didn’t look anything like any Mack mine train. Although I’ve never been on a non-powered Mack mine train, but damn, I hope they make more of these because it was insane! In the back seat we were graying out around the turns!

Next we did a picture run and tried to make it down to their “Pirates” ride before the park closed, but they shut the line early. Oh well…no biggie, the real point of going back was to get on the two coasters, and we were satisfied. But we got to ride the “Escalator” again!!!! This thing rocks! A good part of the park is on a lower section, similar to USH, but not quite a low. About two escalators worth, but the park enclosed the escalators in this building, which TONS of “Main Street Electrical Parade” lights all over the place, but Spanish style, and this wacky music playing the entire time which beats itself into your head worse than “It’s a Small World!” It’s awesome….we all came away thinking the Escalator was better than Pyrenees, the Mine Train, or that really messed up Bullfighting coaster we rode the other day! Ok, well, maybe not quite better than all those, but it was our favorite ‘attraction’ in the park after the coasters. It was just too cool!

We totally conquered Parque Espana, conquered Pyrenees, and we were all VERY pleased that our planning allowed us time to get back to parks if we needed to. Again, I’ll stress this is another advantage of planning a trip on your own. You have total control of what you do and everything is flexible. If you want to do a similar trip like we did, email us and we’ll help you plan! It’s not as difficult as it might seem!

So tomorrow is our last park day, then we fly home on Sunday. It’s going to be another crazy day tomorrow as we need to get back to LaQua to get on Thunder Dolphin again as well as Linear Gale. Weather looks perfect tomorrow, so other than ride problems, we should be able to get this done fairly early. Then we’re off to two Yokohama parks, one of which has the 351 foot Intamin Giant Drop! That should kick ass!

Anyway, on to some more photos for today:

From here Nara Dreamland looks like it's going to be a really nice park with a weird resemblance to Disneyland in California.

Unfortunately, most of the park looks like this...decrepit and run down. 
The buildings on "main street" all looked like they were about to fall down.

But then from here it looks as though the park might be quite nice and 'charming'. It's not. 
The monorail looks like it hasn't run in years, and if it did I don't think I'd trust it, the *cough* Matterhorn *cough* 
was running one bobsled and was in slightly worse condition than the William's Grove Wildcat. The place is just awful.

There were dirty trucks parked all over the place, most of the shops were closed, locked and boarded up and had you not seen 
a ride run every 10 or 20 minutes, you would actually think you were walking around an abandoned park that closed 10 years ago....

And then there is Aska. This awesome woodie just doesn't fit in at this park at ALL! The ride is great, and appears to be a 
mirror image of Viper at SFGam. It's too bad the park is so terrible because I would recommend people to come visit this park 
and ride it. Instead, I suggest just going to SFGam and riding Viper. It's the same ride. Hopefully this park will close and the ride will go to a much happier place!

Elissa says "We might have gotten our asses kicked by the Typhoon, but we came back and totally conquered Pyrenees!"

This really is one of the best B&M Inverts! Fast, intense, and you have to catch your breath when the ride comes to a stop. 
It's too bad they don't make them like this anymore!

Click HERE for Page Five of Japan 2004 Trip Reports

Click HERE to see our complete Japan Photo Update

Click HERE to read our "Japan Travel Guide"

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