We had been warned before our trip to Universal that the park could well be absolutely jam packed. Martin had been there a few days before us, and had found it necessary to purchase Universal Express passes, a park sponsored way of skipping lines for those with even more money to spend. Don't even get me started on the ethics of these; I regard it as a disgrace that these are even available, especially given that regular park admission is already more than five thousand yen.
Fortunately for us, these lengthy queues were not in evidence during our visit. There were certainly a number of school groups around, including one substantial one that had been hijacking the area in front of the Universal sign outside the gate for a group photograph, but we managed to avoid them almost entirely when inside. Our first stop was the obligatory credit, Snoopy's Great Race (#583). With that out of the way, it was time to see some of the other attractions. Though I had previously visited both Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood, I had only done a small number of the shows and rides, and as such I was very eager to fill in some of the blanks.
Jaws was the first port of call, a boat ride where, surprisingly enough, the boat is chased by a large animatronic shark which sprays water at riders. There are numerous fire effects, which were wholly inappropriate for the weather conditions; I did not need to be blasted with additional heat given that the ambient temperature was already running at more than thirty degrees.
We managed to go up the exit for Jurassic Park the Ride by mistake; one of the operators walked out with us and showed us where to go. This would never have happened in America (though, to be fair, I could read the sign properly there!). This was a heavily themed boat ride and giant splash, identical as far as I could tell to the version in Florida. We were seated in the middle of the back row, and neither of us got even remotely wet; I guess those two seats are the dry ones.
Spiderman was a direct clone of the version in Florida. Consequentially it was spectacular, and better yet, there was absolutely no wait. Lots of the ride vehicles were going out completely empty; the capacity here was far greater than the attendance today demanded. Next to that was the new-to-me Terminator 2, a 4D attraction not dissimilar to a cinema, although it was supplemented with actors jumping out of the screen and real fire effects. Naturally it was all in Japanese, restricting my comprehension somewhat, though George had seen it before in English and explained the approximate story line to me again afterwards.
We decided it was worth sitting through a 4D cinema show in Japanese as a way of getting out of the heat. The park map had suggested this would be Shrek 4D, but it turned out to be a new movie based on Sesame Street. This will no doubt find its way over to the American parks at some stage in the future, at which point it might be possible for me to follow the plot!
1st September 2005
Festivalgate is a shopping centre which has been beautifully themed, with mosaics everywhere and creative architecture. One of the most interesting features was a staircase which had been decorated thoroughly to look like a beached ship. The large number of shops were mixed in with a small number of thrill rides, including a substantial roller coaster. With such a unique and decorative building it is my sad duty to report that almost all the shops were closed, and signs of decay were very much in evidence. Festivalgate is clearly on its last legs. How could things have gone so wrong?
The powered ride, Dragon Coaster, had a sign in front of it indicating that it had closed down on the 30th of September the previous year. It wasn't a particularly great loss, but it would still have been nice to ride given that the whole park will almost certainly be history before too long.
Fortunately for us, the main coaster, Delphis (#584), was up and running, although we were the only two people to ride it in the entire ninety minutes spent exploring the complex. By my count there were four staff members operating the ride, and there is no chance whatsoever that our two admission tickets would have covered their wages.
The ride itself is a real challenge to rate. As my previous commentary might have hinted, the theming and scenery (and thus the setting of the ride) was among the best I have ever seen. However, the ride itself was average at best, with a lot of vibration and some particularly nasty bumps around corners. After disembarking, we spent some time walking around the ride taking photos from every conceivable angle. We would probably have done so anyway, but the task took on a greater urgency due to the almost inevitable demise of the coaster in the very near future. The heavily customised design would make it entirely unsuitable for resale to a park elsewhere.
1st September 2005
Misaki Park has its own railway station on one of the numerous private railway lines in Japan, in this case the Nankai Main Line. The park itself is also owned by the Nankai company, and no doubt the park drives patrons on to the train line; it is, after all, in the middle of nowhere. The station is at the top of a hill, with a two block walk down to the park.
Buying ride tickets proved to be quite a problem. The lady spoke no English, and all the ride names were in Kanji. Despite our best efforts, we only managed to purchase one ride ticket each on our first attempt. These we utilised on the Wild Mouse (#585). This was my first coaster built by OD Hopkins. There are only seven of these in the world, and all bar this one are in relatively obscure parks in the USA, probably the main reason why I had yet to encounter one. The design is small, to the point that all riders have their own car. Nevertheless, it was still a highly enjoyable attraction. I have a sneaking suspicion that the cars are only capable of a very slight angle when turning, as the track layout avoided any really tight turns. Does anyone know for sure?
Next came the Child Coaster (#586), a ride oddly reminiscent of the Taxi Jam coasters at the various Paramount parks. The ride operator thought it was very amusing that we wanted to ride his coaster, but was very obliging and helped us shoehorn ourselves into seats designed for children (and Japanese ones at that!).
The setting for Jet Coaster (#587) was quite impressive, with the track winding around the side of a mountain. Though most of it consisted of the standard gently sloping hills as found everywhere in this country, there were a few good drops on the course too that made it in our view the best ride in the park.
We finished up with the powered Dragon Coaster, making one more for the collection.