Japan has been a place I have always wanted to visit ever since I joined the forums and I always loved looking at the many different trip reports that people would always post and learning about the different parks over there. Earlier this year a friend told me that he was going to get a group of friends together to go over and visit the parks in and around Tokyo and I knew I had to be apart of it!
Day #1 and 2 Part #1: Arrival, Akihabara, and Hanayashiki (see below)Day #2: LaQua/ Tokyo Dome CityDay #3 Part #1: Hakkejima Sea ParadiseDay #3 Part 2: Yokohama Cosmoworld and JoyopolisDay #4: Culture Day with More Akihabara!Day #5 Part #1: Tobu Zoo ParkDay #5 Part #2: YomiurilandDay #6: Fuji-Q-Highland
The trip was a good two weeks long and visit places such as Hanayashiki, Tokyo Dome City, Fuji-Q-Highland, as well as Tokyo Disney Resort. I also added on a stop down in Osaka to Universal Studios Japan.
Going in, I had never traveled outside the United States before but I did do massive research on customs and practices that I would experience (such as staying on one side the escalator to stand and the other to walk up, slurping ramen is okay as it shows that you like it, etc.)and watching Youtube videos on how to get around train stations. One thing that I regrettably did fall short on is learning Japanese; I only went in knowing how to say yes, thank you very much, good morning, good afternoon, and good evening. It got me by, but with so many kind people, I wanted to communicate more with them but felt limited. Finding someone that can speak English is common as it seemed most train station employees, police officers, park employees, and those who work at busy locations seemed to be very helpful, you just had to keep the sentences simple.
After only getting 2 or 3 hours of sleep, I woke up around 12:30am and tried going back to sleep until 4am; at this point I said screw it, I'll try to sleep on the 13 hour plane ride and woke up.
At Harrisburg Airport I waited in a 10 minute security line and arrived at an empty terminal to board a simple 13-seater Beechcraft plane to Toronto. After takeoff, we buzzed just about literally over Hershey where I got to see my apartment before heading north. An hour later I landed at Toronto.
So upon landing, you have to walk for a god ten minutes until you get to customs to allow you in to the international section of the airport... not good if you need to use the restroom. I saw an insanely long hallway next to customs so I figured there would be one further down. I found out later that this hallway is used for arriving international flights and upon asking an employee at the end of the hallway, I would need to go though customs first to get to a bathroom (also bring a pen if you travel internationally as the airlines don't give out pens even if they just give you the declaration card).
Once in the International terminal, I tried to get myself connected to my international data plan and while successful, the internet speed was nothing compared to what it was like in the U.S. (I got a travel plan with my cell provider that allowed me to take my plan with me). Next time I think I will get a wi-fi device like my fellow tripmates did.
I flew AirCanada for the whole trip and while flying over was okay, flying back was a tad better (I'll get into that when the time comes). They served a heated packaged dinner meal two hours in which was okay, a snack which was a large Cup O' Noodles where I used chopsticks (which I managed to figure out not get it all on me. lol) and a breakfast before we landed. Tried falling asleep with the travel pillow and blanket they've provided, but wasn't very successful.
One hour before landing we passed over Northern Japan with beautiful coastlines, and descended towards Tokyo. Before landing, we passed by Western Chiba, Tokyo Disneyland, Joyopolis, and the Tokyo SkyTree. Going through Japan customs and immigration was incredibly easy. Upon exiting, I went to the rail pass office at the airport, went right upstairs to the Tokyo Monorail station, googled the right train I needed to take, watched the display monitor to figure out when that was, and headed straight to the hotel. Once I got to the train station near my hotel, I accidentally went out the wrong exit and spent a good 5 minutes looking for landmarks that I remembered from looking on Google StreetView to pinpoint the correct street it was on. By this time halfway to the hotel I found the group. I quickly got checked in, unloaded my luggage, and went down to join everybody on their trip to Akihabara.
Akihabara: If you love electronics and anime, you came to the right place.
Let me say that again. This is THE place for both anime and electronics. There are many larger-than-department store buildings just devoted to these things. There are also a lot of arcades as well and maid cafes (didn't do, but there had to be somebody every half a block trying to promote one).
We came upon Akihabara MariCar in a back alleyway (in Tokyo it is not uncommon to find stores to be located in places like this) where we got suited up in character costumes of our choice, learned some basic road rules and jumped on our go karts for a ride around Tokyo.
Other than using the turn signal, driving wasn't hard at all. You follow a lead car around and he will signal you on when to stop at traffic light two-across or one-across and drive across town through akihabara, Ginza, and Tokyo SkyTree on a 2 hour drive (there's also a 3 hour one as well). I also strapped on a GoPro camera and captured a good 1 hour of the drive (video coming soon!) If you ever get to Japan, you HAVE to do this; you won't ever forget it!
After the awesome drive, we did some shopping at Don Quijote which was a mix of convenience store, department store, electronics store, anime store, maid cafe, pachinko parlor, and arcade. After nabbing every kind of kit-kat they had, we called it a night and took the train back to the hotel.
Since I didn't eat anything since we landed, some of us decided to go to Denny's for a late night dinner. Just to note, and I thought I remember hearing something about it awhile ago, Denny's is not a western restaurant like you would find in the US... nope it's Japanese food. I ended up ordering creme' brule' pancakes and pretty much crashed right afterwards after being up for almost 36 hours.
After having a kickass time the night before and not even getting to the theme parks, I woke up the next day after getting some much needed rest (even though I had a tiny bit of jet lag) and feeling ready to take on the first set of parks for Family Entertainment Center park day.
Like I said on the first day’s album, I’ve always wanted to visit these places and learn about these places. The rest of the albums about the trip are going to have an album dedicated to each park along with one cultural activity. I’m going to include some opinions, research on what I know about the history, how I experienced each park and what I would recommend or not recommend. I will tell you something in advance: there is not a park I wouldn’t recommend doing at least once as they were all great!
Getting from Shintomicho to Asakusa requires taking two or three train lines, but it can be pretty fast. Once you exit the station and go above ground, that’s where it can get tricky. It kind of felt like Asakusa and Hanayashiki were hidden in a maze of community shopping malls and alleyways. If you do come here, arrive hungry as there are no shortage of places to find something to eat.
Hanayashiki was a park I knew little about before visiting. I knew it had one coaster and a few rides, it was pretty compact, and different from the other parks I would later experience. I expected several rides here and there that are common, a drop tower, and a haunted walkthrough attraction and that’s about it.
According to the park map I picked up at the entrance (they have English and Japanese maps), the park opened as a flower garden in 1853. The park opened a zoo in 1915 and by 1947 rides started to be installed and the the park’s coaster was installed in 1953 making it the oldest in Japan. Hanayashiki became a paid entry admission amusement park in 1985, celebrated it’s 160th anniversary in 2013, and added multi-story wooden maze in 2015.
Admission to the park is ¥1000 (almost $9.00) and ¥2300 (almost $21) for a Free Ride Pass (the Japanese park term for an unlimited ride wristband). Individual ride tickets are ¥100 ($0.90 a piece) and the rides take anywhere from 2 to 5 tickets. So really if you don’t plan on doing many rides or re-riding so things, it might be better just buying individual tickets. Factor in food and it really can be a park you could easily do under $50.
Attractions in the park focus more on the family-friendly type, but you can find several thrill rides such as the park’s classic Roller Coaster, Space Shot drop tower, and the Disk “O” rides.
There are several haunted rides scattered throughout the park. Hanayashiki had to be no bigger than a football field, but they seemed to have mastered the art of utilizing space as many of the rides are built above the midways and have shops and different eateries built under them. The landscape and theming seems to be all handmade and complements the park’s history very well. Reminded me a little of Knoebels if it was in the middle of a city.
Upon arriving at Hanayashiki, we got our wristbands and headed straight to Roller Coaster, which would be the first coaster of the trip and mine in another country. As being someone on the larger side, I was kind of worried about being turned away on some rides, but it didn’t really turn out to be a major issue as the only ride I was rejected was the flume at LaQua/Tokyo Dome City. It was a tight fit as I needed to sit crosslegged.
The coaster starts going up a short 40 some foot lift and it goes over a series of hills, tunnels, and turns that circle the entire park. You do get some airtime in the middle of the train, but you get more of an intense experience in the very back. Still a very nice family coaster.
After the coaster, we rode Space Shot, which is the park’s S&S tower. It was pretty aged and only went up part-way as I think they added several more pieces to the top to make it noticeable to people visiting the area. Not a bad idea really. No loose items were allowed on this ride as they make you empty your pockets and put them in a box. No glasses even with a strap… kind of a bummer but oh well. It wasn’t a very intense ride, but you do get a good feeling of weightlessness when you’re launched to the highest point. It really looked like the ride was more about the view than anything.
We next went over and did some culture sightseeing at Asakusa at the temple, got lunch at a small shop that was kind of mediocre and returned to Hanayashiki, which has a handstamp re-entry policy. We took another lap on Roller Coaster and went upstairs in the coaster station (the park has a main building that houses several ride stations that take you over the park) and rode Sky Ship. You board a pirate ship that rides below a track and it circles much of the park from above.
While there I found out they had a ride similar to Houdini’s Great Escape at Six Flags and Dutch Wonderhouse, but we had trouble finding it. We did come to a building that looked like it might be it, but there was a sign out front in Japanese that looked like it said it was closed, so we went over to Disk “O” which ended up being like any other ride of it’s type if not slightly more intense.
We did end up discovering one of the park’s haunted attractions called Thriller Car. It really didn’t have much a theme and looked like someone built a ride in their backyard and tried turning it into a haunted house by adding whatever they had left at a Halloween store. Odd, but still fun!
I walked back past the spinning house attraction and they had someone staffing it at this time. I guess they had employees moving between two rides, so I got on it by myself. It was more like Dutch Wonderhouse as it had some theming, but seemed to be there just as a retro attraction.
I ended my visit with a trip into the park’s main gift shop where I bought a t-shirt, button and sticker. The type of items were a little different than what you would find in an American park gift shop, but more on that when I talk about the other parks. Once our group got back together, we navigated ourselves to finish the rest of the day at Tokyo Dome City/ LaQua.
Overall, Hanayashiki/Asakusa was a fun place to stop at. It was a little touristy with the numerous overpriced gift shops surrounding the temple, but I would recommend visiting the place at least once. Same goes for the park as it really isn’t about the thrills, but the overall park experience. The park’s landscaping is truly one-of-a-kind and they really got creative with fitting in rides such as the park’s main ride building.
I can’t really say what the park could improve on as the employees were nice, I didn’t get anything inside the park for food, and there’s no place left to add any new rides. I’m pretty sure they don’t need to add anything new since they are next to a popular tourist spot inside downtown Tokyo.
Next is Tokyo Dome City/ LaQua.