^I wonder if you can buy one of those Bondage Bears on E-Bay? Derek, you have your work cut out for you.
And now, moving right along . . .
Chapter 3: From the Final Frontier to the Wild Frontier—Space World and Uminonakamichi Seaside Park
Parks with their own train stations were the order of the day—one a port to the infinite cosmos, the other an outpost on the edge of nowhere.
The Final Frontier is a rather colorful, goofy place, if Space World is any indication. This well-themed, somewhat off-center tribute to man’s exploration of the trackless void was one of the highlights of the trip. Yes, you will believe that a giant, rubber-headed bunny has conquered the universe!
And the bunny has some pretty decent coasters, too.
Venus—This was one of my favorite coasters of the trip. It’s intense, twisty layout reminded me of Flight of Fear (only without a launch), and it’s a lot of fun (especially the loop in front of the park’s very own space shuttle). This was yet another coaster with a launching ritual, this time involving the drumbeats from Queen’s “We Will Rock You" (but no "Go, go, Venus!"). I guess they couldn't get the rights to the songs by Bananarama or Frankie Avalon.
Zaturn—This is the Japanese version of Thorpe Park’s Stealth. It’s an Intamin rocket coaster with good airtime over its high hat and unfortunate brakes on its bunny hill. The launch is pretty cool, thanks to pulsating (and rather warm) lighting in the station and some throbbing, “heartbeat” music to hype riders up. Fun, but I wish it had another trick or two.
Black Hole Scramble—This is Space World’s version of Disney’s Space Mountain—an indoor coaster with lighting and painted murals to depict the infinite void. It’s a fun ride, if not particularly thrilling, and you have to walk through a bizarre complex ruled by a space bunny to find it.
Titan—I think Arrow’s Ron Toomer heavily invested in Advil stock, then got into coaster design. This hyper has a great first drop, but the rest is a twisted study in pure pain.
Space Coaster—You can ride either backward or forward, on the same train, on this family coaster. The backward cars are the most fun, but “space” is simulated by cruising through a green, rather aromatic plastic tunnel. And, in yet another ritual launch, you have to join the ride ops in wagging your fingers in the air and saying “boogie woogie woogie.” (As for why, I have no idea.)
Clipper—A kiddie coaster with “space shuttle” trains and a long, twisty layout. Better than average.
Space World also has a great flume ride with rocket-shaped boats, a strange, coaster-like spiral drop, and a very wet splashdown at the end. The Alien Panic Evolution walk through was a great space-oriented haunted house. And let’s not forget the giant Space Eye Ferris wheel, or “Holey Rusted Wheel of Twirling Terror.”
The group came back down to Earth at Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, which from the train station looked like an ancient fort bordering a trackless wilderness. It was a bit of a walk to the park’s amusement section, which featured Jet Coaster, a decent Togo with a twisty layout, station flyby, and a blue-and-pink color scheme, and a frigid Arctic walk though. But the real attractions of this place were three things you’d never see in the States: an obstacle course over a creek of rather fetid water, some rather dangerous roller slides, and a go-kart track with an “offroad” section complete with huge rocks, potholes, and water.
Apparently there’s not much danger of litigation on the Wild Frontier.
Next up—cuteness, desolation, and roughness, along with a cautionary tale of random cluelessness
Before exploring the cosmos, proper nutrition is essential.
Our futuristic bullet train is here to haul us to . . . where are we going kids?
I know! I know! To . . .
. . . Space World!
And what does one do at Space World? Well, you could check into the Zero Gravity Party Suite at Space Lodge, . . .
. . . enjoy a nice dessert and burger, . . .
. . . or race to Venus!
"Venus, if you will . . ." Nah, doesn't work. "I'm your Venus/I'm your fire . . ." Doesn't work either.
Now this is the wait time I like to see. This park was pretty dead the rest of the day, too.
Hmm--kind of looks like I'm in the UK from this angle.
I wonder if Robb had to pry the camera out of his eye after riding Zaturn?
Lock and load, Rich and Bob!
And there they go!
"Titan" is actually Japanese for "ibuprophen."
To be fair, this part is pretty good. The rest of it though . . .
Chapter 4: Cuteness, Desolation, and Roughness—Harmonyland, Wonder Rakutenchi, and Kijima
Before we take a look at three more Japanese parks, a word of caution. When using a bullet-train lavatory, be advised to push the green button to flush the toilet—and that there’s a ten-second delay. Pushing the red button will 1) sound an alarm worthy of the starship Enterprise and 2) bring the bullet train to a dead stop. I know this from hard experience (the best teacher of them all). Yes, this will explain any “Chuck, don’t push the red button” jokes you may encounter here and in other site updates or TRs. But at least those who follow will benefit from my mistake. (In my own defense, I did try the green button first, but it didn't seem to work, thanks to the delay.)
The Japanese train system is, indeed, remarkable and efficient. Even after going from 200 miles per hour to a dead stop, then restarting, we still made our station on time.
We boarded a bus in the Beppu area to tour three more parks in the mountains nearby. First up was Harmonyland, and it was all so precious and cute and sweet and darling and colorful and nice, thanks to the enlightened administration of its benevolent dictator, Hello Kitty, and her garrison of Sanrio cartoon characters. There were two coasters here—the Rhythmical Coaster, a longer- and higher-than-average Rollerskater, and the powered Hello Kitty Angel Coaster—but it’s really all about the Sanrio characters boat ride (you have to see them spank the penguin to believe it).
We went from the cute and the perky to the desolate and desperate at Wonder Rakutenchi, a park that, at least, has a beautiful mountain setting. Never have I seen a park so empty, or ride ops so desperate to serve someone, anyone. (They actually seemed to stalk the few guests they had, and were often in charge of multiple rides.) The park’s one credit was the Jet Coaster we were becoming so familiar with in Japan (OK, with a nice little drop right before it returns to the station and some nice views). There was a unique double Ferris wheel, a pretty-good haunted house, and a very sad little zoo (with equally sad animals to match). But what I’ll take away from Rakutenchi was the eerie emptiness of the place; it would be a great setting for a horror movie.
Kajima was the final park of this very strange leg of the tour. It was pretty quiet, too, but not eerie like Wonder Rakutenchi. But two of the coasters did seem determined to beat the crap out of us:
Super fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo Coaster—Who would’ve thought that a loop-screw would be the smoothest big coaster in any park? This looked painful, but was actually OK.
Jupiter—Ah, an Intamin woodie! This should completely rule! Well, not if it’s an older Intamin woodie that was like driving over 100 miles of bad road (one of the bumpiest coasters I’ve ever ridden). This is too bad, because Jupiter looks like it should be excellent (maybe if Intamin were to retrack it in the style of Balder or El Toro). The best part is the series of bunny hills before the lifthill—after that, its pure Marquis de Sade.
Gold Rush—Another coaster that wants to kill you (or at least shatter your kneecaps). This is one rough old mine train (nicely themed station, though).
There’s a standard-issue Rollerskater and a powered Dragon coaster, too, along with a very good, spooky haunted house and Zorb, the giant hamster ball.
All in all, a very strange day and mix of parks—and did I mention how much I love the Japanese rail system?
Up next--cabbies and arrows and chairlifts--oh my!
I can't believe I'm taking a busload of adults to Harmonyland!
Perhaps they'd like to stop and play on this thing for a while.
Yes, Harmonyland, which shows us how all the world can benefit from the enlightened rule of Hello Kitty!
Yes, all hail her mighty name!
And all must obey her wise restrictions!
Yes, my people! I will show you the way!
We follow, oh mighty Hello Kitty!
She has ordered us to ram Barry into submission, and we must obey!
And all must smile and wave from the Rhythmical coaster, for it is the will of Hello Kitty!
We are plunging through darkness! Save us!
Your brakes bless us, oh mighty Feline of Much Power!
By decree of Hello Kitty, citizens may not delcare this as a coaster credit!
I understand, oh mighty one! I would never dream of such a thing, lest I suffer the fate of . . .
. . . this unfortunate penguin! Yes, he thought the train was a credit! But has since seen the wisdom of Hello Kitty!
Yes, obey Hello Kitty's edicts, and you will be rewarded with liquor!
Huzzah for the mighty spirits of Hello Kitty! Rakutehchi is next.
And another excellent set of parks caption-ized by
A Master of Such Things.
And stalling our gokarts on the track in the deep, deeeep forest of Wonder Rakutenchi (bless me!) - downhill side, of course - caused several of the ops there, to all scurry down to me and Rich Au$$ trying to get the dz*&#$-ed things moving again. They didn't. So we walked back to the station. Uphill all the way.
So I'm pretty sure we filled up their day's activity/entertainment cards very nicely. A few of them, heh heh.
^I think a few people have that particular shot, Bill.
Before posting the next set of photos, I'd like to thank all those who have posted comments--and those folks who have just stopped by to take a peek. I enjoy putting together a TR, but it's a lot of work, and it's good to know that someone out there is checking it out.
And now, the park that just wants to rough you up--Kajima!
OK, which way is the entrance?
Hmm--Ryan and Barry are celebrating because they're about to get ERT on an Intamin woodie. Either that, or they need to get a room.
Ah, who doesn't love Intamin wood? Well, there's an exception to every rule.
It looks like it ought to be great.
But looks can be deceiving.
At least Jupiter comes with its own dessert treat!
This was actually the best coaster in the park.
Shocking, but true.
You'll find nary a contusion on these happy riders.
The powered dragon was standard issue, . . .
. . . as was the Rollerskater (right down to its skate cars).
Now this here is one nice-lookin' station and queue fer one rough ol' ride! Kinda got a KBF look to it, don't it, hombre.
Hey, where's the train? Oh, wait . . .
There it is! Yee haw! It's a wee bit rougher than Knott's mine train. (Best bring your kneepads and back brace, pardner.)
Kajima had a pretty cool haunted house.
Even the dude in the ticket window was cool--in a 1980s sort of way.
And now, life from the hamster's point of view.
Uh oh! Zorb's looking a little sick and wobbly! I think Zorb's gonna hurl!
Bleah! That "Fresno Surprise" didn't sit well!
Bleah! Never eat at a Valencia/Fresno buffet! And with that, we bid farewell to Kajima.
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