Here's my first attempt at a photo trip report for Theme Park Review (or anywhere, for that matter!) But first a little info about me and the origins of this trip, since I don't post here all that often. I also tend to write a LOT. This won't be a trip report of only pics and snappy one-line jokes. But I promise there will be plenty of those, too, so feel free to skip all the verbiage if that's not your thing and scroll down to the pics!
For those who don't know me, I'm David Hamburger. I've been a coaster and theme park enthusiast for many years, something like 15-20. I joined the enthusiast community on the internet with the usenet group rec.roller-coaster, and joined ACE shortly thereafter. (Yes, that means I'm fat. Get a new joke!) I've gone on overseas trips with ACE, the European Coaster Club and now TPR. I kind of burnt out on coasters in the mid 00's, just as TPR was getting big, and took some time off of the hobby to pay off the massive credit card debt I'd acquired and to refresh the batteries, so I spent a lot less time online talking about coasters. Even now, I pretty much take one or two big coaster trips a year, and don't even really visit my local parks much. I kind of joke that I'm a coaster bulimic, binging and purging on coasters! But I'm a pretty well-traveled enthusiast. After this trip, my count is right about at 1000, depending on how I ultimately decide to count everything. But I don't count powered coasters or many water coasters, so by many accounts, I'm way past 1000.
For now, I'm kind of focusing my vacations on overseas trips. To be honest, China is not really any place I've overly wanted to go for the culture or anything. But it's the next frontier for coasters, so a trip there was inevitable. When TPR announced they were going back to China and hitting nearly all of the major parks in the country, the time was right. I'd been wanting to go on in international TPR trip for some time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I've known Robb and Elissa for MANY years (we figured out that I've known Robb longer than anyone on the trip, including Elissa!) And I know that no one can plan a trip better than Elissa. So, this was perfect timing.
I'm also one of those people who wants to try to get the most out of every trip. I've always tried to add on other parks, other cities, other sightseeing, other experiences. And when it comes to overseas travel, it's always easier (and certainly cheaper) to add on other cities and countries when you're in the area. I've wanted to visit Taiwan and especially Korea, mainly for the parks, so I decided to add a few days at each. Talking with others who've been there, it quickly became clear that I'd need more than a few days in each! Plus, I wanted to make sure to do some non-coaster sightseeing, which I've realized is essential to my enjoying my trips. When it looked like the best flights route would take me through Tokyo, I thought about adding a day for Disney, then another, then Fuji-Q, and oh, wait what about Universal's Halloween, and so on. Before long, my 3 week TPR China trip blossomed into this insane nearly 7 week epic Asia trip! For the culture fans, there was plenty of culture in this report, though it was very interspersed with coasters and parks. Only 7 of the 46 days had all culture and no parks, but most of the park days had some culture, too.
For those who are interested in trying to get to some of the parks in Japan, Korea or Taiwan, without the aid of a group like TPR, I'll try to include some info on how I got to each park. Finding this info wasn't always that easy, since many of the Asian parks don't have any English on their websites. And when they do, the information is often VERY out of date. (One park had a bus schedule from 1999 on their English site!) I'd STRONGLY recommend that anyone planning any trips to Asian parks double check all information with the park's regular website in their own language, using Google Translate or Babylon or whatever. (Or better yet, getting help from native speakers of the language, as I eventually did! Thanks, Candice!)
I also wanted to say that I went into this trip thinking that I was mainly going to these countries for the coaster experiences. I’m very much a westerner, who likes western food and culture and isn’t that big on Asian food or culture. I didn’t think I’d really love the trip all that much. In fact, I was expecting that this would be kind of a check off kind of trip, mostly getting these countries and parks out of the way and not really ever needing to go back. I’m being honest. But, what happened is that I REALLY enjoyed myself all over the trip. Some places more than others, obviously. But I definitely want to go back to Korea, Japan and Hong Kong again soon, and would like to visit China again at some point. Honestly, I wasn’t all that thrilled with Taiwan, but I think that at least some of that was due to trip fatigue.
So, here's the index and rough layout of the trip. I'll fill in links to specific updates as I go along:
Week 7: Back to Japan. Osaka, Shima, Nagoya and Tokyo Disney.
Don't worry. This is just an introduction. There will be plenty of pictures and sassy quips coming up shortly! The first update is coming up today!
In case, I’ve lost everyone with all this text, here are just a few of the things you have to look forward to in this trip report that you won’t find in any of the other China TR’s: -- Japan! Meat on sticks! The world’s tallest observation tower! Coastering in clouds! Fuji-Q madness! The world’s only spinning and inverting coaster (coming up in the next installment!) Tokyo Disney going from packed to dead in three days! Pyrenees! Trying to negotiate Universal Studios Japan on one of their busiest days EVER! A cable car into the clouds in Fukuoka! The chair lift of death! Urinal video games! -- Korea! T-Express! A tour of the DMZ between North and South Korea! Ancient burial grounds! Atlantis Adventure! -- Taiwan! The world’s only Tilt Coaster! A plate (or is it a birthday cake?) as a park mascot! A park with a drag show (although I didn’t stay for it!) The crazy things they sell at Taiwan’s night markets! David screwing up and missing the last train of the night! -- Macau! Me jumping off a 233M tall tower! Casinos grander than in Vegas! -- Halloween events at Everland, Ocean Park (I stayed an extra day and went back for their Halloween event), Universal Japan (their first full-fledged Halloween Horror Nights), and Tokyo Disney -- and more temples and shrines and tall buildings and towers and cable cars than you’ve EVER seen before on TPR! -- Oh, and TPR in China, too! Even if everyone else beats me to that part, and gets all the good jokes and pics of crazy rides and smog and stray animals before me!
So, without further adieu, coming up VERY shortly: Phase One: Japan. Day One: Arriving in Tokyo, Aqua Stadium and Tokyo Joypolis. You'll see urinal video games and really crappy pictures of the world's first spinning and inverting coaster.
Last edited by David H on Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:20 am.
So, a little background on my Japan experience. I visited Japan in 2005 with the European Coaster Club and the American Coaster Enthusaists. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. I want to stress that this was in no way due to the organizers of the trip. There were several other factors, the biggest of which is that I was starting to hit a wall in the coastering hobby, kind of having overdosed on coasters and parks in recent years. That was my fourth trip that year alone. More importantly, I’ve learned that I enjoy trips a whole lot more when I try to do a whole lot more than just coasters and parks. Many of my fondest memories of my trips involve typical sightseeing fare like towers and museums, along with restaurants and nightclubs. And I did very little in Japan that didn’t involve parks and coasters. It’s my own fault. Not only was I intimidated by the language barrier, but I didn’t have enough time to plan this trip, because I was too busy planning my other three trips that year. Again, this is entirely my fault. Finally, the trip basically became a big run for coasters and credits, and to be honest, not that many of the coasters were all that great. In fact, when I returned this year, I only re-rode 15 of the 73 coasters I’d ridden on the first trip.
As I started loosely planning the basic shape of this trip, it started looking like layovers in Tokyo would work best for using award miles. So, I started thinking about adding a couple of days at Tokyo Disney and Fuji-Q. At some point, I decided I wanted to do some regular sightseeing to, to see what I’d missed on my last trip. At some point, I decided that I kind of wanted to try to “do Japan right” this time. And with that idea in my head, a strange thing happened: I started getting excited about Japan, something I honestly didn’t ever think I’d say. I decided to add in the Fukuoka area parks, both to give myself a bunch of credits, but more importantly to see some big parks that people have raved about on TPR. When I realized that I could take a ferry from Fukuoka to Korea on the way there and do Universal Japan’s Halloween Horror Nights on the way home, I decided to split Japan up into the first and last segments of the trip. Every leg of the Japan trip then grew as I got more ideas (Tobu Zoo for Kawasemi, Parque Espana for Pyrenees, Nagashima Spaland to finally get on Steel Dragon 2000, etc). What started out as a quick stop on the way quickly became two full vacations inside of a vacation! In fact, I actually did more planning for Japan than I did for the entire rest of the trip combined. I was committed to “do Japan right!” I think you’ll see that I accomplished this.
So, on to the trip! That's it for background!
I’m calling this day 1, though technically, it’s not, thanks to the international date line and time zones and the wonders of long flights! I left the house at 5 AM on Sunday, and with only a short layover in Dallas, I arrived in Tokyo at 1 PM the next day. So, let’s just call this day 1. Unless you want me to do an update about the plane ride over. Well, I did make a really good dance mix on my laptop that I’d listen to for the rest of the trip! And I got to see parts of Disney/Pixar’s Brave – when I wasn’t sleeping! And, oh yeah, they still feed you in international flights. (And in flights in Asia, too, as I’d soon discover!)
So, let’s just agree to call this day 1, ok?
Day 1 was originally going to be a sightseeing day. Culture, yeah! But as soon as I heard about the spinning, looping coaster at Tokyo Joypolis, that kind of went out the window. Once I arrived at the airport and got through customs, and picked up my bags, and took the train to my hotel, and checked in, and set up my portable wifi device, and relaxed a little, it was already getting late. So, my plan was to kind of just go down to Aqua Stadium, ride the coaster and see the aquarium and then head to Joypolis.
The Shinagawa Prince, my hotel for Tokyo, was recommended to me by Elissa. Gee, could the fact that they have an Intamin coaster on the property have anything to do with that? And I’m a fish geek too, with 6 aquariums in my house. So this was the ideal hotel for me. Plus, it was cheap and VERY convenient, being a 3 minute walk from a major train station, including one from Narita Airport and to Haneda Airport (where I’d be flying out to Fukuoka in a few days.)
Also, for those who don’t know, it’s not easy or cheap to get a sim card in Japan. And many US phones won’t work there, because they have weird non-standard phone and data frequencies. So I opted for a portable wifi (mifi) device. That was the cheapest option, though it was still quite expensive. (Like $70 for a week!) This would come in VERY handy especially in Japan, since I was able to use Hyperdia to navigate Japan’s confusing train system, as well as to use Google Maps and Google Translate when sign language wasn’t cutting it!
After setting up the mifi and the phone, I headed down to Aqua Stadium, and rode my first coaster of the year: Galaxy Express 999. Yes, I’ve been so busy working and saving up money and planning this trip, that my first coaster of the year was in at the end of the August in Japan! But I started on an Intamin in Japan, so it’s definitely TPR approved! Interestingly, they've changed the pre-show and made it smaller and shorter than when I visited 7 years ago. And the store selling merchandise for the anime show that the ride is based on is no longer there. I was going to try to hit up the aquarium, but time was running short, and I wanted to get to Joypolis, because I know that place can get busy. For those who want to get to Aqua Stadium in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, just go to the Shinagawa JR train station. I only had to walk down the corridors in my hotel! I rode the decent indoor coaster once, then decided to head out, because it was getting late. The aquarum could wait. I’m stayiung in the hotel, after all!
From there, I took the train to Tokyo Joypolis. Note that the Tokyo location is the only one that doesn’t have Sega in the name, even though it’s owned by them. They closed the park for many months this year to update it. They updated many of the haunted attractions and added in a copletely new coaster, getting rid of the piece of crap that was there before. If you want to get there by train, you can take the Rinkai line to the Tokyo Teleport station or the Odaibakaihinkoen Station (Odaiba Kaihin Park) on the JR lines. It’s a short walk from there, with wonderful views of the Rainbow Bridge. As with almost all of the parks on the trip, I bought the “free pass”, which includes all rides. In Japan, at most parks you can buy just an admission ticket and pay for individual rides, if you prefer. But if you’re going to ride more than 2-3 rides, it usually ends up cheaper to buy the “free pass”. And this is Joypolis, so I definitely intended to make use of that free pass!
First up, though, would HAVE to be the newest ride: Veil of Dark: the Shooting Coaster – the world’s first spinning AND inverting roller coaster. It also has a fairly extensive shooting dark ride section. I’m gonna admit that I could only get crappy pictures of the coaster. Partially because most of the coaster is inside where you can’t see from public areas, and they don’t let you take pictures. And partially because the small section that is in the public areas has massively bright lighting all over the place, which messed up both of my cameras, my regular one and my cell phone’s. So you’ll have to settle for what little I got – at least until TPR goes next year! Also, while I was waiting for the coaster, they put on their show on the stage that’s right between the queue and the section of the ride you can see. It’s a weird show, with live actors singing and dancing and otherwise interacting with a digitally created character.
One thing this brings up is that I NEED A NEW CAMERA! Perhaps, after spending a whole crapload of money on an epic trip to Asia, I should have bought a better camera? Yeah, maybe. Especially one that takes better night pics and better pics in low light, smog and fog, since I’m a night owl, and I’m going to China the smog capital of the world? Yeah, maybe!
As to Veil of Dark, I’ll spend a little more time describing it than I ordinarily would, since it’s a world premiere ride. Those who like to be surprised might want to skip this paragraph. Firs off, it has the world’s coolest coaster sign. It’s a video sign that sometimes shows video of zombies in the letters! It’s subtitled “The Shooting Coaster for a reason. The first section of the ride is a shooting dark ride. It’s a weird setup. Each car seats four, with stadium seating. There isn’t the usual actual gun. Instead, each restraint has a 2-way joystick and a button. As you go along the beginning of the ride, you stop in front of several screens, a lot like in Spider-Man at Universal. Your joystick controls the left and right of your crosshairs across the screen (you can’t move them vertically), while the trigger shoots the monsters attacking you. Unlike most rides, this is a proper video game, which responds to the actual shooting you’re doing. After 30 seconds or so at each scene, you move on to the next one, until you get to a lift hill, at the top of which is the last big boss battle screen. After that, you go into coaster mode. The spinning was quite decent on both of my rides. The inversion is a barrel roll, and yes, you’re spinning during it. There’s actually more coaster section than I expected, mostly helices to enhance the spinning. All in all, it’s a really good attraction. Nothing terribly intense, but a lot of fun.
From there, I headed around the indoor park, mostly doing the haunted attractions, most of which are new, and themed to Japanese horror movies I’ve never seen. Honestly, I think they’ve gone downhill with these. Most of them consisted of you sitting in a room where someone tells you a LONG story in Japanese. Then you walk through a short section, where a few people jump out at you, briefly. In one of them, you stand in a coffin, which is supposedly being moved around. The most effective haunted attraction should have been the least effective one. The attraction involves dolls coming to life while you sit in the dark with headphones. Some Spanish enthusiasts I ran into remarked that if we’d understood what they were saying in Japanese, it would have been terrifying! And, even so, it was pretty scary and very well done!
Some of the best parts of Joypolis aren’t even the actual attractions. They have all sorts of game-type stuff all over the place. At one big video screen, you can have your picture superimposed on a sea lion-type creature that swims around a fake tank. There are various games involving interactive cameras and screens, where you break bubbles or move objects around. In some of the queues, there are cameras that play games with your face (like in the Dark Knight queues at Six Flags parks.) but the best thing there, I ran into unintentionally. When I went to the bathroom, they had URINAL GAMES! Yes, you get to play a game with your pee! This is supposedly a hot new trend in Japan, according to the news, but these were the only ones I ran into in my whole two weeks in Japan. I was pretty excited!
After all of that, I headed back to Veil of Dark for another ride, and ended the day(with time running out!) on the awesome skateboard halfpipe ride. With only one person riding, it was actually much easier to play properly, and I got a TON of spin, and easily won the game! If you ever go there, do NOT miss this fun ride!
After Joypolis, I explored the area a bit before heading home. I found the replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was ironic since I finally saw the real thing in NYC for the first time 3 weeks before that. And I ran into some random statue of something that looked like a transformer.
Then I headed back to the hotel, because I had to get up early for what would undoubtedly be a trying day at Fuji-Q Highlands the next day.
Ah, Japan. I'm back!
The Shinagawa Prince. My home for the first 4 nights of the trip! Thanks for the reccomendation, Elissa. And it was cheap, too! Well, for Japan!
OK, maybe the rooms are a bit small by US standards, but for Japan, this is a massive suite!
And look at the oh-so-spacious bathroom!
This is the view from my tiny window (which you couldn't see in the room picture, because the bathroom door was blocking it!) Note the train station down below, just a couple of minutes walk away!
Culture day? Not with an amusement park right in my hotel!
Yes, my first coaster of the year! But it's an Intamin. And it's right in my hotel!
Let me push through these crowds to make sure I get a good seat! Oh, wait.....
It's amazing how the crowds just line up for the trains in Japan. The Japanese are so polite and orderly. Such a contrast to China in a couple of weeks!
Ah, here's where I'm heading, along with tons of Japanese geeks!
But let's take a quick look on the way at the famous Rainbow Bridge. Isn't it pretty?
Ah. Here we are. For those who don't know, Joypolis is a chain of arcades/amusement parks in malls across Japan. The Tokyo one is BY FAR the best. And not just because it's the only one with a coaster!
So, of course, I headed straight for.... THE SHOW! No, But I didn't have any choice, because it was right next to the queue area.
This is a digital character that was created for the show, who interacts with the live actors. Sega brags about this, trying to make a big deal about it. What's really sad is that the lighting in this area is so obnoxious that I got better pictures of the show than of the coaster that goes around it!
Ah, the moment we've all been waiting for! The best coaster sign in the industry!
It has moving video of zombies in it!
Like many parks in Japan, they REALLY want to make sure you put everything in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo! Luckily, they're free.
Are you happy, Larry? That's the best I could do with the obnoxious lighting and the nearby show!
And the moment you've all been waiting for: the world's first spinning, inverting roller coaster (with dark ride sections!) Sorry the picture is so crappy. believe it or not, that's the best I could do, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to get a good picture of it! Sorry, guys!
Here's a picture of the track, as it inverts. That's the show's stage in the background.
Yes, I find this as disturbing as you all do! They put your picture on some sort of sea creature that swims around the lounge area!
OK, this is REALLY the moment you've all been waiting for! Urinal video games! Notice the target in the urinal. It apparently can track aim and volume. Sorry, ladies. No equal rights in the bathrooms of Japan!
You can even choose your urinal video game. I should have chosen the Street Fighter-type game! I'd have tried to get more pictures for you all, but I felt creepy taking pictures in a bathroom!
While I was waiting in line for the half-pipe ride, I suddenly became part of the show, getting the hair from the computerized character from the show. Actually, I think it looks good on me. Should I have bought the wig? (I'm sure they had one!)
That's the best picture my crappy cameras could get of the half-pipe skateboarding ride. Trust me, it's a ton of fun! And I don't just say that because my score blew everyone away!
The rainbow Bridge at night. That's the Tokyo Tower in the background, which used to be a big deal, before the Tokyo Skytree supplanted it as the biggest tourist attraction in Tokyo.
A random Transformers-type robot I ran into on the way back to the train station. I'm sure the geeks will all chime in to tell us who he is! ;-) (That's not an insult. If it was comics-based, I'd be the geek chiming in!)
Last edited by David H on Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:43 am.
Your pics aren't so bad for such a crappy camera. Mine is probably worse actually.
Veil of Darkness sounds like a pretty interesting ride. Disney/Universal should definitely consider building something like that as a future E-ticket attraction. I had no idea a combination shooting dark ride/spinning coaster actually existed.
I believe the random giant robot is a Gundam (which is sorta like Transformers from what I've seen, but without the transforming part). Still nerdy to know that kind of stuff though
The cameras take much better outdoor daytime pictures. They suck at night pictures and somewhat at indoor pictures when I don't use flash. And they're not great with smog. Oh, crap, there goes all of China!
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