Well, it's been over a year since the trip, so I guess now's as good a time as any to post this here.
TPR has long been a great way for me to escape Cornland USA and go on trips with like-minded people to more out-of-the-way parks but also experience even the larger parks in a way few get to. These events and tours had taken me from Toronto to Texas, and I'd ridden well over a hundred new rides on them alone. So when the opportunity for a Japan trip arose, the choice was a no-brainer.
I consider myself somewhat well-traveled, but that's very strictly in an American sense; before this trip, I had only ever been to Canada once…
…for only a few days….
But I am always aching to go to new places, and I've always had my eyes set on Japan in particular. Between my history of playing Taiko drums and my continued exposure to Japanese pop culture through social media (it's no secret that the Internet loves Japan), I decided it was time to embrace my inner weeb and fly on over to the Land of the Rising Sun.
So, without further ado…
Day 0: Journey to the Center of Japan
I hadn't slept, which should come as no surprise. But I was ready, baby!
Breakfast of champions
Before the big flight, I had a layover in Toronto. This was probably the smallest airplane I had been on (soon followed by the largest!)
Toronto. I don't know if it was the sleep deprivation, but it hadn't quite hit me yet that I was going to frickin Japan. It wasn't until I got to my gate that I realized, Oh, that's right—I'm flying thousands of miles away.
This was by far the longest flight I had ever taken. I regularly go to Colorado to see family, and that seems like a light jaunt to the corner store compared with the 13 hours it took here. That's a long time to be sitting in a pressurized tin can hurtling through the sky. I also found out the hard way just how bad I am at sleeping on planes, which is to say completely incapable. But, hey, at least I got a window seat….
Okay, so I did have a window seat, but unfortunately, it was cloudy most of the flight. I believe this here is the Brooks Range of northern Alaska… maybe.
Our flight took us a little north of the Arctic Circle, as you can see by the Alaskan tundra outside. One of the more surreal aspects of the trip was that the sun never set.
In the distance you can see what I believe to be the Kuril Islands, which stretch from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Hokkaido. We were getting close now!
And there she is! A glimpse of the largest metropolis in the world and where we would be staying our next couple nights.
~14:57 local time: Touchdown at Haneda International Airport! It was a grueling 13 hours, but I couldn't have cared less; I was in Japan!!!
Steve O. was on the same flight, so we met up and got our bags and rail passes. After exchanging my currency, we were on our way. This was all done in maybe 20 minutes, so kudos to Japan!
It was then time for our fist of many, many train rides on this trip. And thus began a fruitful relationship with the Japanese rail system. Seriously, their public transit is the friggin BEST!
This is the face of Death
The train from the airport took us straight to Shinagawa Station, which was right in front of our hotel! After settling down for a bit, I decided to walk around the premises a little. Here we see a random Shiba in front of a restaurant. Must be their spokesdog or something.
And after a long, long, long, long day of begging for it, it was time to sleep. Even the excitement for the following day wasn't enough to keep my eyes open any longer. But hey, look at that view!
I'm glad to finally be getting around to this! Stay tuned for more!
I woke up early the next morning. Taking a peek outside, I saw that it was pretty light out, but looking at the clock, I realized it wasn't even 5:00 yet. One thing I hadn't accounted for was that Japan's position and lack of DST made sunrises and sunsets nearly two hours earlier than I'm used to in Ohio. I found it kind of amusing how the "Land of the Rising Sun" has its sunrises at such ungodly hours of the morning.
But now wasn't the time for inane observations; I needed more rest, because today was…
Day 1: Yomiuriland
Yes, our first park of the trip! Well, technically this was a pre-trip add-on; the tour wouldn't start in earnest until a few days after, but how could I have missed out on this!?
I finally felt somewhat human again after getting some sleep, and so we were off! Yomiuriland is just south of Tokyo proper and a fairly short ride from Shinagawa.
The park is up on a big hill (actually, a lot of these parks were) and gives a great view of the surrounding area, including downtown Tokyo! Usually, you can take a gondola up the hill, but we got there before it opened to do some filming on Bandit…
…so we opted for our first taxi ride of the trip!
And there she is—the first ride of the trip: Bandit! They were doing a little gimmick this year where they would stop the train at the top of the lift hill for about 10 seconds before sending you on your way. During that pause, you would be treated to a fantastic view of Tokyo!
Photo from Robb's TR "We out here"
Photo courtesy of Robb As I'm sure you're well aware, Bandit is a Togo—a large one at that. But despite the uncomfortable seats (clearly not made for chubby Americans), the ride is actually very fun! It's really no jankier than your average Arrow stateside, and you get some surprising jolts of airtime as you go whizzing through the trees and valleys.
Photo via Robb A seriously good way to start out the trip!
We then moved on to the park's new fashion-themed Gerstlauer spinning coaster. I didn't get any photos of it (it was indoors, after all), but if you see Robb's video of it, you can see how quirky it is, with its dark ride section and bizarre Flappy Bird-esque game on the lift hill.
Another ride I unfortunately didn't photograph was their wacko instant ramen-themed raft ride. This thing was really fun, as it has you flying down chutes and spirals as you attempt to… save… the ramen, I guess?? The plot was kinda lost on us, but honestly, that's part of the magic of these foreign rides.
They also had this weird ball run course thing
After riding their S&S drop tower and new Disk'O ride, it was time for our next credit:
Momonga Standing and Loop Coaster! This ride has a transfer track-style station with one sitting train and one standing train… and, of course, it's a Togo!
I've never been a huge fan of Togo stand-ups, and this one is no real exception, but the sit-down side is actually really smooth!
Their Ferris wheel offered some nice views, but boy was it a sauna in there! The capsules didn't have AC (unlike many of the other Ferris wheels we went on), but they at least provided some plastic fans for us. (You can kind of see where White Canyon once stood; there's a sick part of me that wishes it were still there).
"Me am angwy piwate. Me am steal your doubwoons."
So, I didn't take as many pics here as I would've liked, but there were some other cool attractions here, like the funky little one-lane go-karts and the pedaled "coaster." Overall, Yomiuriland's a really nice park with some solid attractions in a nice location.
Photo via Robb Anyway, it was time to leave, and this time we were taking the gondola!
The rest of the evening for me was spent getting more rest in—I was still exhausted. Unfortunately, I ended up missing the bowling match the others were having (which I totally would've WRECKED), but oh well, c'est la vie….
Next up: Tobu Zoo
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
Today would be a much busier day than the previous one; we'd be hitting two parks and exploring Tokyo afterwards.
Image via Robb The day began with a longer couple of train rides north to neighboring Saitama Prefecture. After getting off, it was just a bit of a walk to our destination. (I should've taken some pictures of the walk; it's through this cozy suburb with little rice fields!)
We were, as you know by now, on our way to Tobu Zoo!
Photo by Robb "Who's ready to see some animals? and ride some rides, I guess…"
The hippo exhibit is really fascinating. As you can see, you can almost reach out and touch them! Unfortunately, these hippos just kinda stood there doing nothing. "Africa's most dangerous animal"? Pfft, yeah right….
Photo by Robb Of course, the main attraction here is Kawasemi, the first-ever Intamin Mega-Lite! "Kawasemi" (lit. "river cicada") means "kingfisher" in Japanese, which seems about right for such a small-but-thrilling ride like this.
Photo by Robb Admittedly, being that this was in the morning, the ride was moving a little sluggish (to use an animal term).
Photo by Robb But it's still a really solid ride overall! I may prefer the spine-stretching airtime of, say, a Lightning Run, but Kawasemi's absolutely worth at least a few rides!
The park mascot lookin like he bumped a few too many lines
Next we rode everyone's favorite animal… a woman? (I dunno what they were going for here). This turned out to be an OK woodie—not too rough, but not particularly eventful either.
Look at that river cicada go!
Tobu Zoo's Ferris wheel is themed to cheese (because "cheese wheel" hahaha). This here is most of the "ride section" of the park.
The other half is taken up mostly by the actual zoo! There's a really nice variety of animals here, but, if I'm being honest, I do wish the enclosures were at least a little bigger (but, hey, I live right next to the Columbus Zoo, so maybe I'm spoiled).
Worn out after a long session with Siegfried & Roy
Whoa, hey Simba, watch where you're swingin' those things!
What would Nala say?
Or Timon, for that matter?
"It ain't easy bein' cheesy"
"Haven't you seen enough cats yet?" (No)
One of the more unique exhibits at the zoo: cassowaries
A little backstory for later: Tobu Zoo has been doing a deal for a while now with Kemono Friends, a popular franchise which features anthropomorphized animals. Here we see the cassowary character. Isn't she just the cutest!?
Look at this foppish lad
Just tryna keep cool
Gotta say, this guy looked a little agitated.
"Oh my gahd! Ey Tony, get a lookit dese tings outside da window! Dey look like dat half-digested crap dat our muddas used ta feed to us when we were little!"
OK, now for one of the things I was personally excited for….
The Saga of Grape-kun: So, in 2017, an old Humboldt penguin by the name of Grape-kun had recently been scorned by his longtime lover. He was distraught until he met a new penguin by the name of Hululu. The thing is, Hululu wasn't real; no, Hululu was just the cardboard cutout of a character from the aforementioned Kemono Friends. But he was truly enamored with his 2D waifu, staying by her side at all times.
Unsurprisingly, our little avian friend became a worldwide sensation, inspiring mountains of fan art and garnering the affection of the Japanese public.
Unfortunately, Grape-kun passed away later that year from old age. But the park honored him with a new cutout of him cavorting alongside his true sweetheart. May you slay that sweet anime tang in the afterlife, little dude….
"I want a nice anime waifu :c"
Our boy even got a shrine dedicated to him. Rest in peace, you magnificent bastard.
Anyway, it was almost time to go, so we started heading back towards the gate. On the way, we checked out this weird maze thing where you pick up a weight at the beginning, go through a really disorienting mirror maze, and then pick out a metal ball with the same weight as the one from the beginning. (I got it first try, of course ).
Of all their animal exhibits, this one was surely the most exotic.
Photo by Robb One more ride for good measure
Overall, Tobu Zoo's a quaint little park which is definitely worth a visit if you wanna do something outside the bustle of downtown Tokyo.
Next up: Toshimaen
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
Toshimaen definitely ended up being the "sleeper hit" of the trip for me (and I think some others as well). Read on to see why….
Photo by Robb For our next park, we backtracked into Tokyo.
So, Toshimaen was one of the smaller, quirkier parks of trip; I might've even skipped over it had I gone by myself….
However, once I saw the random Teddy on the park map, I knew I was in for a good time! (As it turns out, Toshimaen was doing an American theme).
Photo by Robb And what's more American than Pokémon?
Unfortunately, the Arrow corkscrew the down for day (well, the jury's still out on whether or not that was actually unfortunate), but that's fine, 'cause the real star of this park is Cyclone, an old Togo coaster. It may not look like much—it is essentially a "jet coaster" after all—but it's actually a really fun ride! It helps that the seats are lined with comfy velvet that make it feel like you're whizzing along on a sofa.
Despite not being the most outwardly impressive ride, Cyclone still manages to have quite a few moments of airtime. However, I think the real kicker is how close you come to your surroundings; if you raise your hands, you're liable to smack a few leaves. (Also, check the guy sitting sideways!)
Photo by Robb Cyclone has a "mini version," so of course we weren't above a little whoring! ("Hell yeah, I think?")
One of the charming aspects of Toshimaen is how many of the rides are up on buildings and stacked on top of one another. Take these dueling pirate ships for example: These things were massive, and their placement added to that! They also had another, smaller "pirat" ship; I wonder if they ever need that much capacity….
This is where the Japanese get their devil's lettuce
They even have a powered coaster on a roof! There's also a decent long flume here.
Photo by Robb This maze is so disorienting that we got lost before we even entered!
One of the more unique attractions was this oversized playground with some "exercise equipment," for lack of a better term, as well as…
…roller slides! Nothin' like a high-speed ass massage! Me being the beefy boy I am, I had enough momentum to shoot off the end and right onto my ass!
So you want mini bumper cars for your park…. Why wouldn't you theme it to sushi?
After seemingly no time at all, it was time to head out. There were other attractions which I could talk about more, like their funny little ghost train, but I hope I showed off this park's worth to you; I would gladly go again!
Next up: We'll be exploring downtown Tokyo, hitting Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
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