I’ve been mulling over this trip report and simply can’t get a handle on it. A few folks have asked me what “theme” I’m going to use, or how I’m going to approach my report, but I really haven’t a clue.
The beauty of the country, the politeness and efficiency of the people, the coolness and outright weirdness of the parks, the great company—just where is the handle? How can I really capture how awesome this trip was? I’m a bit stumped. So I guess I’ll just plow through it day by day, words and pictures, and see what develops. You’re welcome to come along, of course. Or not. Totally up to you.
But you really should. TPR tours are awesome, and you can’t ask for better hosts than Robb and Elissa.
I arrived a day before the “official” tour got underway—all the better to deal with losing a day thanks to the International Dateline. My head pounded during the 10-hour-plus flight from San Francisco to Narita, but I was feeling pretty much OK by the time my plane landed—and thank goodness for the efficiency of Japanese Customs and baggage handling (nice, quick, and painless—not to mention friendly).
So I joined the Alveys and the rest of the early arrivals, got on the Narita Express (Japan Rail Passes rule), and made it to the Shinagawa Prince Hotel early that evening—in time for a nice evening amble in Tokyo’s crazy Shinjuku district. I’ll let the pictures tell the story from here.
Next up—The Jeff Johnson Expedition to Japan’s oldest amusement park, and the tour’s official start
Here's what your fellow travelers look like when even your camera has jet lag on the Narita Express,
The view from my hotel room through my still jetlagged eyes--time to go out on the town!
Robb took us stomping around the Shinjuku district, which is like Times Square on steroids.
Massive penguin overlords rule the night! I, for one, welcome their enlightened administration.
Yes, all the children of the night worship Mega Penguin!
The whole area has a sort of "Blade Runner" vibe, . . .
. . . yet you can find little "traditional" joints like this.
Oooh! We are all dazzled by the pretty lights! Thank you, Mega Penguin!
Robb takes on the Old Man on the drum game at an arcade. It's exhausting just watching people play this thing.
They even had this strange video game you can play with trading cards.
Is it a trash can or a robot? You make the call.
Hmm--what if the woman is not taking the man? Can she go in then?
The sign in the previous picture was not in front of the "Sexy Club."
"OK, Lou, we'll spin this little wheel. If I win, we go to Sexy Club. If you win, we go to Sexy Club. Ergo, it's win-win for one of us."
So, no one went to Sexy Club. Good night, Shinjuku!
Chapter 1: A Day at Hanayashiki . . . I was feeling a bit restless the next morning, so I decided to join the Jeff Johnson Expedition to Hanayashiki—Japan’s oldest amusement park (circa 1893, as I recall). Yes it was, indeed, a scurvy, motley bunch of credit whores: Jeff Johnson (or “Old Jeff”), Jeff Waters (or “Young Jeff”), Bill, Rich (or “Hot Fuzz,” my roommate), Shane, Miles, and Steve (who was waiting for us at the hotel bar the first night).
What a cool, funky old place Hanayashiki is. You walk through a large, enclosed bazaar, where they sell everything from fried octopus balls to samurai swords, to an old Japanese temple, then down an alley to get there. The amusement park is surrounded by the city—the temple gardens border one side and apartment houses and old high-rise buildings the remaining sides (definitely a neighborhood hangout).
Their one coaster, with the catchy name of Rollercoaster, circles the park’s perimeter and was the first of the Japanese “jet coasters” of the trip. This is, I understand, Japan’s oldest roller coaster (circa 1953—pretty old for a steel coaster) and, with its tight trains, quite a “knee banger.” There’s a pretty cool drop and tunnel right at the end.
This is where I had my first taste of bizarre Japanese walk throughs—a standard haunted house; the strange, rooftop Treasure Fort Miracle Stone maze; and a truly odd “hall of illusions,” where you stop and watch little animated scenes that end with a dirty joke (usually involving nudity or flatulence). The park also featured the Thriller Car dark ride (which had two pretty good gags), the Surprising House (a homemade wacky shack), and the Bee Tower (an observation ride using birdcages on chains).
We had a blast there—the kind of fun that you can have only at a really old, noncorporate park. Here’s a look at Hanayashiki.
Next up as Chapter 1 continues—Aqua Stadium and LaQua.
The Jeff Johnson Expedition started it's quest at Shinagawa Station.
Sheesh! We gotta find this little park on this friggin' map? This may take some time, lads!
All good expeditions need proper reading material to maintain morale. Rich decides on a provacative issue of Wedge.
While Bill finds his own "special" entertainment.
Shane demonstrates the necessity of maintaining proper hydration by drinking the local swill. (Well, it beats drinking your own urine, right?)
If you're looking for samurai swords, bizarre candy, strange wind-up toys, or pratically anything funky and Japanese, this is the place for you.
The expedition stops to pay proper respect to Japanese tradition at the neighborhood temple.
Relax--the chicken wire is for your protection, not his!
There's even a tribute to our friend, the humble pigeon. (The hell? At least they can crap on themselves for a change.)
But in the distance, the park calls.
We trek down this mysterious, narrow street.
And our quest is at an end! God be praised!
Hmm--I think this fellow may be some sort of guard. Just a hunch.
Our first stop--the aptly named "Rollercoaster."
I hope you're wearing your knee pads, lads! You'll need them!
The ride cruises around the border of the park, trying hard to shatter riders' kneecaps!
Yes, I think an orthopedist designed this coaster.
It really gets you during this part--more to come.
Nice trip report. It seems like everyone is having a lot of fun on the trip. I haven't been a member of this forum for long but notice you all have a lot of great trips and have fun on them. I wish I could go to Japan. But maybe Ill do a trip with the group sometime.
Hahahaha! All of your trip reports are like storys, how they flow from picture to picture, and you can connect the events that happen in a particular order! They make me laugh every time I read them! Graet Job and have a great trip!
Great photos. Hanayashiki is a great way to start any trip. Our first hotel (Asakusa View) looked directly on the park. I rode that coaster at least 14 times. It was cool. I can't wait to see the rest!
I think you're doing just fine with whatever-the-f theme you've got going here.... I think.
I didn't take my camera for that first add-on park, so many thanks Oh Most Honorable One From Hummel Land (arrrrhhhh) with Your Most Elegant Intrepid Camera Work and Truly Artsy (not fartsy, perish the thought) Caption-ing.
Chapter 1 (cont.): . . . a Night at Aqua Stadium and LaQua
The Jeff Johnson Expedition safely returned to the Shinagawa Prince in time for the tour’s official start at 4:00 pm—a ride on Galaxy Express 999 at Aqua Stadium, the hotel’s very own indoor park. Express is an Intamin launched coaster that was sort of a kinder, gentler version of Flight of Fear. You have to get past a very long pre-show based on a Japanese animated feature about a steam train with a robot conductor that travels between planets and has to deal with bad guys and space pirates and stuff--I think it was based on a very obscure Agatha Christie novel("Twinkle Twinkle Little Killer," or something like that). I don’t think anybody in our group “got it,” but the ride itself was a fun and a perfect introduction to the weirdness to come.
Next up was a train ride to Tokyo Dome City, home of LaQua—a park and shopping complex that services the Tokyo Dome (home to the Tokyo Giants pro baseball team). LaQua is a pretty cool place to visit after dark--definitely a "date park." There are four coasters:
Thunder Dolphin—this coaster looks more awesome than it rides. The first drop is good, but there is but one pop of airtime on it, and it has this strange portion where the train shimmies back and forth—like a swimming dolphin, I guess. The crew has to do a little ritual dance when trains return, too. Fun, but it’s fairly weak for an Intamin hyper.
Linear Gale—Intamin strikes again with an impulse coaster. The first forward launch is fairly weak, but it’s a lot of fun when you shoot up that back spike.
Geo Panic—a major “WTF” ride. It’s an indoor coaster that’s sort of a ghetto version of DisneySea’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, what with the caves and rocks and lights and rumbling noises and such. A rough ride, but I couldn’t help but like the damn thing a bit.
Spinning Coaster—Hey, a name that makes sense! It’s a coaster, and it spins! Yay for truth in advertising!
LaQua also has a great “WTF” dark ride in Zombie Paradise. Well, they were more like goblins than zombies, but it does have its very own zombie/werewolf rock band and cars that are capable of spinning at least once. When the ride starts, it seems like a “family” attraction ala Disney, but it takes a gruesome turn with a torture chamber and kitchen scene where people are bring filleted and roasted—as if Gomez Addams had designed Disney's Haunted Mansion.
LaQua made for a fun evening—with a nice taste of the even more eccentric Japanese parks to come.
Next up—the dog of a thousand faces
As tempting as this offer is, I think I'll join the group at Aqua Stadium to ride . . .
. . . Galaxy Express 999!
Attention please! Now boarding on track 12, train 666, the Pits of Hell Limited! With stops at Sodom, Armageddon, and the Ninth Circle! Last call! Bo-o-o-o-o-ard!
Tom, I'm going to read the English translation of this ride's backstory. An interpretative dance will not be necessary, thank you.
Hmm--despite Robb's cogent explantaion, I still haven't a clue what this ride's about.
Don't worry--our robotic handlers will beat the meaning into us!
And we all saw stars after the fierce robotic beating.
So, after plunging across the galaxy and back, we rolled out to our next stop--a place where huge, naked fat men dance in the sky!
Yes, we had arrived at Tokyo Dome City! But why were we there?
Surely not to eat at Denny's or 7-Eleven.
No, we were there for LaQua! What was I thinking?
LaQua--where you have to empty your pockets, not mention your bladder and bowels (for it was a long wait), to get your Intamin fix!
Just check out those comfy Intamin hyper trains. But if your pocekts bulge, the ops will frisk you!
Yes, Thunder Dolphin--the coaster that goes for the "Big O"!
But what else is there to do at LaQua? Well, you can enjoy a nice can of Pocari Sweat, . . .
. . . scarf down a Frisbee-sized cheeseburger fot $41.50, . . .
. . . or visit Parachute Land. (The hell?)
Oh, I guess this is what they meant. More to come from LaQua.
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