Trying to hit three parks in one day for the second day running was always going to be tiring. Nevertheless, we were greatly cheered to discover that all three of our targets for today had their own rail stations; two of them being standard JR lines and one being on a private metro line run by the Nishitetsu company. It is still amazing to me that cooperation between a state group like JR and a private company can be good enough to allow connections between private and public railway lines. But I digress.
The train station for Uminonakamichi can be found on the JR Kashii Line, a relatively short track serviced by the first Diesel locomotives I've seen during this trip. Our connections went like clockwork and as a result we arrived at the park some thirty minutes before it was due to open, and an hour before the rides opened up. The latter allowed plenty of time for photography, and as we were the only people in sight in the ride area we had the relatively unique opportunity to take pictures without other people getting in the way.
The purpose of the journey was naturally enough Jet Coaster (#565). Both of us had been anticipating a relatively small children's ride, given the absence of statistics in the database and the nature of similar locations in Europe. We were pleasantly surprised therefore to find a good sized coaster, probably around the 100ft mark, and we were able to enjoy our own exclusive ride on it for ¥500.
We had had the opportunity to explore the park thoroughly before rides opened. Though there was a Ferris Wheel we elected to skip it, given the cost of another ¥500. The one attraction we did want to try was the Penguin Encounter walkthrough. This featured a sign on the front indicating the internal temperature as -30C, and sure enough, it was extremely cold in there. Such a temperature difference would be far less of an issue in Ireland, but when you pass from +30C to -30C in the space of two heavily insulated doorways it is a shock to the system to say the least. Shorts and T-shirt were woefully inadequate for the climate within!
It is for this reason that I can only describe the walkthrough in broadest terms, as we made our way through pretty quickly. There were numerous ice sculptures of animals in modelled habitats, as well as a few other bits and pieces from colder climates. These were mixed in with some colourful glowing lights that were not unlike the crystal scenes in the Superman movies. The whole experience would have been better given a warm coat, but it nevertheless served its purpose to cool us down.
30th August 2005
The journey from Uminonakamichi to Kashiikaen took less than thirty minutes. The largest coaster, Pegasus (#566), was clearly visible from the exit of the station, towering over everything else in the vicinity. Needless to say we made our way directly there, and due to lucky timing we were assigned to front seats. To describe the ride as well built does it an injustice. It is very rare that you come across a coaster quite as smooth as this one, at least in front; there was no vibration to speak of, and only one or two slight jolts in a few places. The track may have born a passing resemblance to an older generation Vekoma product but the difference in ride quality was night and day.
The Rushing Car coaster, a wild mouse style ride by TOGO, was not operational. Judging by the general appearance of the track it looked like it might have been down for a while. A photograph of the sign in front is reproduced opposite if anyone who can read Kanji might care to translate for me.
I am reasonably convinced that I have ridden the same powered ride as Bunbun Coaster before in England. The layout of both rides was the same, and both are listed with no manufacturer in the database. The trains in this case were beautifully themed to look like a cartoon version of a bumblebee; see the link above for a photograph.
We did explore the rest of the park thoroughly but came across nothing we particularly wanted to ride. Before leaving, we went for a second ride on Pegasus, this time at the back of the train. These seats were not quite as smooth as those up front, but they could not be described as rough by any means. All things being equal, this ride can be described as the first really good coaster of the trip. With luck it won't be the last.
30th August 2005
Space World is one of the few parks that I have wanted to visit since I first heard about it. We had passed it on our train journey yesterday, whetting my appetite still further. For the third time today the entrance was directly beside a train station, in this case imaginatively named Spaceworld.
Coaster number one was Titan (#567), one of four existing models of the Hyper Coaster design by Arrow Dynamics. This one is not actually tall enough to be a real hypercoaster, but it is not far off, and it does reach a top speed of 71 MPH. The ride quality was arguably superior to that provided by the otherthreemodels, though as survivors of those will be aware this is not much of a comparison. When the trains are moving in a straight line, either up or down, they do their job well. Unfortunately, the ride designers thought it might be good to put some turns in, and it is here that things begin to go downhill (pun intended).
It should be noted also that the slow loading first seen yesterday at Kijima was very much in evidence here too. In this case the sheer capacity of the ride ameliorated the problem somewhat, as each train can seat thirty six. Even still, there was no reason why anyone should have had to wait for this ride today, and had the staff been a bit more efficient they wouldn't have had to.
Having eaten quality Japanese food for lunch two days in a row it was time to slide back to degenerate western food, at least for one meal. The choice today was KFC, and while I am not proud of eating there, it was certainly filling, and more to the point, a little under half the price of a proper meal. These days I only generally eat fast food while on holiday, and my preferred chains are, in order, Wendys, KFC, Arbys, and Burger King. Watching Super Size Me put me off McDonalds for life.
For the first time this trip, Clipper (#568) did not have luggage storage boxes in the station; everything had to be carried on board. This is not a big problem in small size coasters, but it is a bit of a challenge when riders barely fit in the train as is. In the end I wore my backpack on my front; it seemed the easiest thing to do.
The back two cars of the Boogie Woogie Space Coaster (#569) had been reversed, giving riders the option of facing forwards or backwards. We boarded a forward facing car, and strapped ourselves in. The operators began to jabber in excited Japanese, making curious hand gestures which all the locals in the train began to emulate. One of the staff came over to us, and said in broken English that we should do this too. Very odd indeed. As the train was dispatched, he gave us the traditional piece of advice as only a Japanese man can; Good Ruck!
The park was home to a superb walkthrough attraction by the name of Alien Panic Evolution. From time to time a screaming child would come out of the exit holding on to the arm of a parent or sibling with a white knuckle grip. Clearly something within was frightening to young children. A rule sheet was available in English, which I feel compelled to reproduce in its entirety for posterity:
It is dark, and inside walks along the winding way and progresses. -
Sound is loud and is a very fearful attraction.
Suddenly threatens and there is a stimulus by light.
The number of 1 team is 5 persons. In the case of beyond it, please be divided, and construct a team.
Don't keep a load. Please have by yourself and enter.
Use of a writer light, and eating and drinking and smoking are prohibition.
Without running, please walk and be sure to go to a front. Reversion is impossible even if fearful.
The instructions concluded with the burning question; Is it OK? Can it protect? While I could discuss the details of the walkthrough here, to do so would spoil it for other potential visitors. Suffice it to say that this is certainly one of the better haunted walkthroughs I have been through. It might not be quite up to the standard of those featuring actors, but it is not far off. Better translations of the engrish instructions wouldn't hurt, mind!
The Rapids ride was surprisingly aggressive when compared to that from Greenland. The boats featured articulation similar to those at Walibi World, although I didn't recognise the manufacturer label (and cannot remember it as I write this). They picked up a lot of speed on the course, with the inevitable result of some riders ending up absolutely drenched (myself included). Perhaps this is why so many of the locals were choosing to wear ponchos. I did my bit for international relations by removing the hood of one belonging to a teenaged boy just as we went past a water splash. His friend thought this was absolutely hilarious, although the victim was not quite as impressed!
Lunch had digested enough at this point to try out Venus (#570), the only custom looping coaster to be built by Maurer. This ride presents an impressive appearance, with a large model space shuttle surrounded by a lengthy tangle of track. I was amazed to discover that passengers were required to bring their bags with them on this ride too; the layout looked quite aggressive and it would not be all that much of a stretch to find the space theming boosted with a few unidentified flying objects. The ride itself was very good, with some strong forces especially in the latter sections of the track. Having said that, there were a few rough moments scattered throughout, bringing what might have been a nine out of ten attraction down to a seven out of ten.
The last coaster we had left was the Black Hole Scramble (#571), a superb enclosed ride carefully hidden so that we ended up spending twenty minutes trying to find it. Smooth tracking, two lift hills, and some fair bursts of speed resulted in a ride that I knew at once I wanted to do a second time.
Before doing that, though, we tried out the attraction next door, the Planet cruise simulator attraction. The ride system consisted of motion base units located in front of a huge screen. The sheer scale of this made me think that we were in for a treat. Sadly, it was not to be. The platforms moved from side to side in a slow and steady fashion, roughly equivalent to that of a boat at sea, with no discernable relationship to the events on screen. Additionally, the video kept jumping from one scene to another without so much as a crossfade, totally ruining even the chance of an illusion in the unlikely event that the motion inadvertently corresponded with the video.
By this stage we had passed far beyond the point of absolute exhaustion and out the other side. Nevertheless, there was time for one more ride before departure; the backwards cars on Boogie Woogie Space Coaster. These seemed to have somewhat less leg room than those facing forwards, perhaps due to extra padding, but the ride was fun nevertheless.