You should have seen how hard it was to get a good pic of that sign. It was too well lit, and was giving bad flash elements. But since I wans't sure if anyone else in TPR would be there before next year's Japan trip, I knew you'd want it!
David H wrote:You should have seen how hard it was to get a good pic of that sign. It was too well lit, and was giving bad flash elements. But since I wans't sure if anyone else in TPR would be there before next year's Japan trip, I knew you'd want it!
Trust me, many of us have failed at getting good pictures at Sega Joypolis. Your effort is much appreciated.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
This will probably be one of my bigger updates of the trip.
So, for my first full day in Japan, I went to one of the biggest amusement parks in Japan, Fuji-Q Highlands. For those who don’t know, Fuji-Q Highlands is one of those parks that coasters fans hate, but absolutely must visit on every trip to the area. The reason we can’t skip the place is because if you were name the 10 or at least 20 most notable coasters in all of Japan, then Fuji-Q had 4 of them. Frankly no other park in all of Asia could make that claim. The problem is that the park is run so poorly that it becomes an exercise in frustration to visit the park. The main reason for the frustration is that the rides are run poorly, with ride ops that are clearly in no hurry to get a train out in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. Then you have a ton of rides with a pretty low capacity, at least for a park of this size. Add in some of the largest crowds of any non-Disney or Universal park in Japan. And then throw in a bunch of ludicrous rules that slow up ride loading even more. And you’ve got a recipe for pure frustration. At least if you’re a westerner, used to better standards. The Japanese apparently don’t mind waiting in ridiculously, needlessly long lines. They’re used to it. But if you’re a coaster nut, you absolutely HAVE to go to Fuji-Q Highlands in you’re in Japan. In fact, back when I was just planning a quick stop in Japan, it was the second thing I added, after the Tokyo Disney parks.
There’s pretty much only two ways to actually have fun at Fuji-Q. You can go with a fun group like TPR, so that when you’re annoyed and frustrated, you’re still with a fun group that makes it all better and eats up all that time you’re in line. Or you can buy their version of fastpasses. Lots of them. With the cost of this huge trip, I wouldn’t be able to afford TPR’s Japan trip for 2013. So I had to opt for option 2. But more on that in a bit.
If you try to plan a trip to Asia on your own, you’ll quickly find out that it can be challenging. A lot of companies and amusement parks don’t even have English websites. And when they do, they’re often painfully out of date. (The bus schedule that the English web site of one park in Taiwan pointed to was from 1999!) In some cases, I’m not even sure that they were ever actually accurate! There’s one piece of advice that Elissa gave me when I was planning this trip that turned out to be VERY good: NEVER trust the English websites of anywhere in Japan. ALWAYS check the original site in their own language. The problem is that the web sites for a lot of parks put their directions to the park – including infor about the trains and busses -- in graphic pictures. Google Translate isn’t going to help you with that, when you know there’s a train from somewhere that will take you to a bus from somewhere else, but you don’t know the names of those places. This is a lot of what intimidated me about visiting Japan back in ’05, but in that time, I’ve gotten smarter and more resourceful – and more stubborn, too! Armed with Google Translate and Babylon and a lot of time on search engines, I made my plans. Or at least I tried to!
To get to Fuji-Q Highlands without a car, there’s a bus that leaves from the Shinjuku station and goes to the Mt Fuji tourist area, with stops at Fuji-Q Highlands and elsewhere. With help from Elissa’s past Japan trip reports and Fuji-Q’s site, I was able to find out the info and reserve tickets on the bus company’s website. The odd thing, though was that their website returned an error whenever you tried to buy a ticket for the first bus of the day, which arrived at the park at right about opening time. It wasn’t because the bus was sold out, because it gave this error for that bus on ANY day I tried. The problem is that the second bus, which I had to reserve, because it was the only option, arrived at the park about an hour after the park opens. Anyone who’s been to any busy park knows what a bad idea that is, because all of the rides will already have long lines! At a park like Fuji-Q with long lines AND bad operations, that hour could cost you 3 hours in line! To make things weirder, the bus company’s website also let me reserve a ticket for a bus that was 45 minutes AFTER the last bus listed on the schedule. Hmmm. Since you actually buy your bus tickets at the bus station, I knew I’d have to get there a little early to try to clear this up. And to try to get on that earlier bus! And just to complicate things, the bus station is several blocks away from the train station, though you can get there indoors, in underground tunnels. So, if you’re going yourself, allow extra time.
When I got to the bus station, it turned out that, yes, there was return bus at the time my reservation was for, even though it’s not listed on the schedule, which was good, because that gave me nearly an extra hour at the park. And there was an early bus, but it was sold out. I begged with the agent to try to get me on that bus, and she managed to pull it off, since someone supposedly hadn’t shown up. Woo hoo! I was on my way to my first major park of the trip.
So, I get to the park pretty quickly, and based on advice from others, headed to their new coaster Takabisha. The line was only an hour, which was considerably shorter than it would be for the rest of the day. Takabisha by Gerstlauer is almost two coasters in one. First there’s a launched section. Then there’s the typical Eurofighter with the beyond vertical lift hill. Along the way, there are a ton of swoops and turns and inversions. While I wouldn’t rank it as highly as some people, who have said that it was a top 10 ride, it will probably make my top 40, whenever I figure it out after the trip. And given that I’ve ridden over 800 steel coasters, that’s pretty damn good!
I also experienced another weird quirk of the Japanese. They’ve VERY service oriented and very polite. But the rules are the rules, and they will STRICTLY enforce them, no matter how illogical they may seem, or even if they really make any sense under specific circumstances. But they'll do it with a big smile and many thank yous. For instance, I understand their policy of NOTHING in your pockets on coasters, for safety reasons. But does it really make sense to hold up the whole train for a Kleenex in someone’s pocket? Seriously? I hope to never get injured by a flying Kleenex!
One other problem with going overseas is that the advice you get from others isn’t always up to date. If someone asked on here about advice for a trip to Cedar Point, he’d probably get advice from someone who was there last week. But with Japanese parks, the info is often from a year or two ago, when things may have changed. This turned out to be the case for Fuji-Q Highlands. In the past, they didn’t start selling their fastpass tickets until well after the park opened. So, most of the advice I got was to head right to their new coaster, Takabisha, and ride that once, then go get fastpasses. This turned out to be bad advice. By the time I got there, the line for Takabisha was already an hour as I mentioned. But I’d soon find out that they now sell fastpasses right away, and you can now buy pretty much as many as you are willing to pay for. (They used to have limits and sold tickets for different rides at different times.) After an hour in line for Takabisha, the tickets for their 4th Dimension coaster Eejanaika were sold out – something I’d pay for all day, waiting in line! The good thing, though, was that I could buy the fastpasses for everything else. So I bought two for Takabisha, and one each for Fujiyama, Dodonpa and the Haunted Hospital walkthrough, all for specific one-hour time slots, that I tried to schedule well. They’re expensive at $12.50 each, but it’s totally worth it to avoid 2+ hours of frustration in a slow-moving line.
I headed over to Fujiyama next, armed with my fastpass, to finally get a full ride on this thing, even though I’ve had a t-shirt for it for seven years! You see, in 2005, I got stuck on the lift hill of Fujiyama, almost at the top. After an hour, I got evacuated from it and even made the local news in Japan! (Weeks later, I’d wait on a table of people back at home who saw us on the news!) So, I was excited to finally get a ride on it, even if I’d heard that I hadn’t missed much. I actually ended up enjoying it more than I thought, and decided to go get another fastpass, while they were still available, because I didn’t enjoy it enough to wait in line for 90 minutes for it! So, I went back and bought another fastpass for it, and another for Takabisha. I tried to get another one for Dodonpa, but they were sold out by then.
Basically, the rest of the day was spent trying to get on rides in my allotted one-hour fastpass times in between waiting in 2+ hour lines for Eejanaika. I headed over to the Haunted Hospital next. It’s one of the longest haunted walkthrough attractions in the world. They use a large building, and take you on a convoluted maze up and down stairs and down hallways and emergency wards and patient rooms in a hospital setting. Along the way, patients and other scary creatures jump out at you. The only problem for me was that they send you in your own group, because they take your picture first. Since I was alone and a guy -– and white one at that -- not as many of the actors would waste their time jumping out at me, preferring to save their strengths for groups of screming Japanese girls. Still, it’s a long attraction (over 30 minutes to walk through it all), and it’s very well done.
From there I headed to Eejanaika, an S&S 4th dimension coaster with cars that flip. It’s legendarily rough, but I really liked the one 4D coaster I’d ridden (X at Six Flags Magic Mountain) a whole lot, so I was interested to see what I’d think of it. Unfortunately, it would take over 2.5 hours in line to find out, although at least 30 minutes of that was due to the ride breaking down – something it would do all three times I waited for it! Unforutnately, that means sitting in a long, barely moving line with annoying commercials playing on the video screens in the line, along with the Eejaneika theme song. I can still hear it in my head two months later (“Eejanaika, Eejanaika. Eejanaika, Eejanaika. Fuji-Q Highland-ah.”) I spent much of that time listening to Doctor Who audio stories and catching up on Facebook on my phone. The fact that I waited 3 times for it probably tells you how much I liked it. Scrap that. How much I LOVED it. I was smart enough to sit on the inside seats, because I know that they rattle your body a lot less. But I really loved the intensity of the ride, and the whole flipping thing is still enough of a novelty for me that I really love it.
From there, it was pretty much trying to fit in the waits for Eejanaika in between the fastpass times. It was a really odd dichotomy. I’d walk up to two coasters and ride them with virtually no wait. Then sit in line for 2.5 hours for one ride on Eejanaika. I still love Dodonpa, with its massive ejector aitime, though I’ve now ridden a bunch more coasters with airtime that equals or surpasses it. (NTaG, anyone?) Towards the end of the day, I had ridden everything had wanted to, and had a little time to ride some of the smaller things that didn’t have long lines. I never did ride three of the coasters, because they had low capacities and long lines, and I’d already ridden them in ’05, so I didn’t need the credits. One piece of bad news: the really cool “coffin” haunted attraction has been replaced with some sort of acrobatic thing I didn’t care to wait in a very long line for. I did their weird headphones haunted attraction, but it was aimed more at kids, and wasn’t even scary, besides being in Japanese.
All in all, I had a great day at Fuji-Q Highlands, something that it’s not easy to do. But it was pretty much ONLY because I’d gotten a ton of Fastpasses. I may have spent over $100 on them, but considering how much money the trip was costing me, it was totally worth it. Especially if it gave me a good day at Fuji-Q!
I had a little time to do a bit of shopping and take some pictures and headed back to Tokyo by bus. I saw some weird shaker fries advertised in a window of some restaurant and tried them. Basically, they put cheddar, parmesan and gouda (!) cheese and herb sprinkles in a bag, along with fries, and then shake ‘em up and give you the bag. They were awesome! I also picked up some KFC and took the train back to the hotel.
Here I ran into another example of the rules in Japan being mandatory and inflexible. With KFC in hand, I stopped at the McDonalds by the hotel to pick up some of the cheap soft serve ice cream. I asked for a dish of the ice cream, and the clerk told me no. I was confused. I pointed at the ice cream cone on the sign, and said I wanted it in a cup. And he said no. I asked why, and he said “no have cup”. I pointed at the many cups in the place, and made a hand gesture of taking the cone and putting it upside down in the cup. And he said no. When they say a cone, you get a cone. Apparently, even nicer restaurants in Japan don’t often cater to special requests in any way. And the Japanese just accept that, and rarely make special requests. But as a result, they didn't get my sale. I wasn't going to try to juggle a dripping ice cream cone while I ate the KFC dinner in my hotel room! Ah, culture shock! Especially for a server in a restaurant that does almost anything a guest wants, no matter how unreasonable!
On to some pictures.
Next up: Day 3: Tobu Zoo, Hanayashiki, Tokyo Skytree and some culture.
Waiting for the train. It's amazing how everyone just lines up and gets on the train in an orderly fashion.
Waiting for Takabisha, you get to see the trains coming back on Dodonpa, and can see much of Fujiyama, too.
In 2005, I spent about an hour right about where the last car on that train on Fujiyama is, although I was in the front car. The motor blew, probably from all the fat Americans and Europeans on the ride!
One last picture from this angle, since it would be the best angle I got for taking pictures of Fujiyama.
They're proud of their at-one-time world record breaking Takabisha!
Takabisha. Tehre's more to come!
The haunted hospital. one of the Guiness musems has this listed as the world's longest haunted walkthrough attraction, though I don't think it is any more.
Some nice theming on their rapids. Even if i'd had the time, I didn't want to get wet.
That's a TPR-approved rodent.themed coaster on the left. I didn't feel like waiting several hours to ride a family ride, even if it's themed to hamsters. I had the credit and was heading for Eejanaika!
Skloosh! The splashdown boat in front of Eejanaika
Eejanaika would turn out to be my favorite coaster of not only the park, but this whole leg of the trip.
"Eejanaika, Eejanaika! Fuji Q Highland-ah."
Another picture of the rodent coaster I didn't ride this time.
A little more Eejanaika!
One of my favorite ride safety signs ever!
Yeah, yeah, screw the 4D. You want to see more of Takabisha, right? Well, how's THIS for a picture of Takabisha?
And more importantly, the FOOD STADIUM!
It's a pretty twisty ride!
A quick stop in Thomas the Tank Engine land for their quirky dark ride.
I forgot to get pictures of Thomas' kiddie coatser, since i didn't ride it. So, you'll have to settle for more creepy anthrompomorphic trains.
Back to Takabisha for a drop that was once world record setting.
You know, for Fuji-Q Highlands, this was actually decent operatons. Look, two trains one the track at once! And that's only in the part of the coaster you can see in this picture.
Fuji-Q Highlands is actually a pretty nice looking park. As long as you don't try to ride anything without a fsstpass, at least!
I love its setting, surrounded by Moutains. That was one of the things I loved about many of the Japanese parks, particularly those in Fukuoka, which you'll see a few days from now.
I really like this shot!
Ladies and gentlemen, the clouds have finally parted enough to reveal: MOUNT FUJI! And a really cool coaster in front of it!
Mt. Fuji is a real symbol of Japan. I'm glad I finally was able to get pictures of it!
What's not to love about a great coaster with great scenery?
Some parks block off funny pictures, so you can't see them. Fuji-Q posts them and has people sign them!
They took out the Zola 9 shooting coaster to put in a museum devoted to some anime show.
Me with some Japanese cartoon chick. Note that her boobs are bigger than those on 95% of the women in Japan. (Not that that's saying much!)
Since I went on the last week that they're open until 9PM, I was able to get some rare night shots of the park. Too bad my camera sucks for night shots!
A token picture of the mouse coaster I didn't ride this time. Notice that there isn't a single car in the picture's view. Even with a relatively short queue, with operations like that, it would have taken forever!
Dodonpa at night with a blurry train. I actually kind of like the effect.
Theming. Like in other sites and shrines in Japan, you tie a wish to this fake shrine.
Pretty night lighting.
And a Christmas tree. In August. With Fuji-Q ornaments. Ah, Japan!
Tell the truth. You really came to Fuji-Q Highlands amusement park to buy a t-shirt of New York! Now, if they'd only have some roller coasters t-shirts! (Actually, they have one of Takabisha, but it's completely in Japanese with no pictures.)
Last edited by David H on Mon Oct 29, 2012 9:30 pm.
I'm pretty sure I have a picture of you when we got stuck on Fujiyama. I was a couple of cars back and was able to get my camera out of my pocket. At least we got to ride Dodonpa with no wait, twice because of that!
Bob, if you could send the pic to me, I'd appreciate it. That was quite a memorable experience, wasn't it? Luckily, I finally got to ride Fujiyama on this trip!
Larry, I don't think I managed it to get pics of the signs for Takabisha. I know I intended to, but I was doing planning all day, and was going on very little sleep, since I had to get up early to try to catch the early bus, and I was already somewhat jetlagged. I'll check again, but I don't think I saw any. Sorry.
David H wrote:Larry, I don't think I managed it to get pics of the signs for Takabisha. I know I intended to, but I was doing planning all day, and was going on very little sleep, since I had to get up early to try to catch the early bus, and I was already somewhat jetlagged. I'll check again, but I don't think I saw any. Sorry.
No problem, I had to ask.
Last edited by larrygator on Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:09 pm.
As usual, my analysis is free of charge! Original enough to not steal someone else's quote as a signature
^ Yep, that's me, sitting up in front, waving. The funny thing is that I actually shold have been sitting in that empty seat right behind Bob.
But when there was an empty seat in the second row, I snuck up there and took it, which was probably against the rules at Fuji-Q, where they strictly assign seats. But I paid for my rule-breaking when the motor broke and we got stuck, because they evacuated the ride from the back car. So, it cost me an extra 10-15 minutes stuck up there!
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of that report actually, Bob. I didn't know it got posted here. I didn't think to look on TPR, since it was an ECC/ACE trip. It is already bringing back good memories!
As for my picture-taking, I actually took a lot fewer pics at the very beginning of the trip, but took more and more as the trip went on. I tried to remember to get pictures of signs for new rides, but didn't worry about it too much in China, with 30-odd TPR members there (and Larry himself!) there to get the pics!
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