Nasu Highland

9th September 2005

Many readers of this diary will be familiar with the computer game Roller Coaster Tycoon. For those who are not, the game allows players to construct the theme park of their dreams, with a particular emphasis on coasters which can intertwine and interact with other rides in seemingly unlimited ways. It is quite unusual to see coasters intertwine in this fashion in real life, as it requires a considerable amount of engineering and planning. At Nasu Highland, however, four of the major coasters are wrapped around each other, making it quite challenging to get an individual photo of any of them!

Roller Coaster Highland

Our first stop was the distinctly mediocre Meisho-built Thunder Coaster (#618). This ride may have been comfortable when it was first built, but it certainly isn't now. Rather better was Big Boom (#618), a rather short looking coaster with just two drops, a loop, and a brake run, or, to be more accurate, a tire-driven braking system which has to be fairly high maintenance given the smell of burning rubber that comes from it. However, the first drop is extremely steep, and the train is already going at a fair rate by the time it noses over it, resulting in massive airtime for everybody, especially iin the back half of the train. The only downside was the ridiculously slow lift hill, which at two minutes ten seconds represents around seventy percent of the total ride!

As far as I could tell there was no mechanism to restrict rotation of the cars on Spin Turn (#620). Never before have I felt such insanely powerful spinning on a coaster, so much so that I could barely see the people in the other cars on board. The spinning continued at a fair rate on the brake run, leaving me quite dizzy. Readers should be aware that this ride features a Maurer-like system for rotating cars back to their normal position, namely a blunt instrument which jerks the cars violently back to where they should be. Having said that, this particular design is clearly a prototype; future installations will no doubt refine the design.

Our next stop was at Camel Coaster (#621), a fairly lengthy ride with no inversions, and all in all probability the most rerideable of any of the coasters we'd been on so far. From there we joined the extended queue for Batflyer (#622), probably the shortest such ride in existence. The lion's share of the ride time was from the elevator lift system, which I still consider to be really cool, even if the capacity borders on the horrendous. It strikes me that it should be possible to design an elevator lift that can take several cars at once, although it obviously won't be coming from Caripro given their recent closure.

Having survived a total of eighteen SLCs to date it can sometimes be difficult to decide which ones are good and which are bad. However, I can say with conviction that F2 Fright Flight (#623) is without question the most uncomfortable one I have ever experienced. It was absolutely brutally rough, and the extra padding on the restraints didn't help much. The best thing that I can say for it is that I never need to ride it again, as I now have the credit.

Lego

The last real coaster we had to do was Panic Drive (#624), a wild mouse style ride which threw riders around a lot. After the first harsh turn I stopped paying attention to the ride and instead put all my effort into bracing for impact. It was entirely successful, although I cannot remember any more of the ride for this reason. The one thing I did notice was a full train of club members on the nearby powered Dragon Coaster full to capacity of club members. The ride operator was far too polite to find this funny. I did my bit for the general insanity of the day by taking one ride, a short affair thanks to the train only being run for two laps.

With the coasters completed, we began our second circuit of the park, seeing what else there might be. First stop was a small Lego play area, with a few substantial models along the lines of what might be found in Legoland, as there isn't one of those in Japan. There was a not-terribly-realistic rendition of New York City (pictured above), as well as a brightly lit street that might have been anywhere in central Tokyo, and a town scene with a working model of Shinkansen zooming past every few seconds.

The park had a substantial number of dark rides, but it seemed that our wristband wasn't valid for most of them. The one we were able to do was Dark Castle, a continuously moving tracked attraction on two levels with some good special effects. It would be stretching the phrase to describe it as a ghost train; rather, it was more a multipurpose attraction with numerous different types of scene all thrown into one.

I was the only person on our boat to get wet on the River Adventure rapids, a high capacity model being run by one operator only using a technique I saw last week at Greenland. The station was filled with boats, at which point the lift mechanism was stopped. These were all loaded and checked, and all were dispatched together. Then the procedure was repeated with another set of boats. There were enough on the water to cause a moderate length queue at the bottom of the lift at all times, but nobody seemed to mind too much.

River Adventure

Though the weather was less than ideal for it we rode the Ferris Wheel, Parachute Drop, and Monorail rides as locations for photography. Each provided unique angles. For once the latter proved to be the best of the bunch, as the track routed through some of the coasters and very close to the others. Riders could control the speed of their cars, and if they wished they could halt completely, allowing some excellent shots.

It was almost time to go at this stage, but before leaving I decided to test the integrity of my stomach muscles by going for a back seat on Big Boom. This generated probably the most powerful airtime I have ever experienced on a ride of this size, making me very glad indeed of my restraints; without them I would certainly have been launched into orbit. I also managed to sneak a fast reride on Spin Turn, although I regretted it afterwards as it made it difficult to walk in a straight line back to the park entrance.

 

Tobu Zoo Park

9th September 2005

Tobu Zoo Park is a combination amusement park and animal facility with a decent selection of rides, including four roller coasters, though Mount Rocky Coaster is no longer operational. One of the staff members who welcomed us did his best to explain the situation using his limited English. I believe he was saying that the ride was closed due to the increased cost of maintenance following the collapse of the manufacturer two years ago, and that in all likelihood it would be replaced in the future rather than reopened.

The signature coaster now is one of just six wooden coasters in Japan, an Intamin product by the name of Regina (#625). I really wanted to like this ride; after all, the layout looked to be really good. Unfortunately, one circuit in the second row of the front car shook me about so badly that I was left with a mild headache afterwards. Some of the hardier members of our group went back for a second lap, but I decided that I'd had my fill for one day.

My next stop was at Crazy Mouse (#626), a rare example of a wild mouse ride with a loop in it. The ride was remarkably good all things considered, despite an obvious design error that necessitated a second five foot high lift hill immediately after the loop; one can only assume that this was retrofitted after testing showed a strong risk of rolling back. The consensus among our group was that the best word to use on this discovery would have been borrocks, though one presumes that the local engineers had a more specific profanity in their lexicon.

Nerd Photo

One of the funniest things about travelling through a country with a large group of coaster enthusiasts is the chance to see groups of people all taking exactly the same photograph. I've taken to documenting these moments, with one reproduced across; probably the best one yet, given that all those within are wearing exactly the same t-shirt. These three were trying to capture a shot of Tentomushi (#627), which I went to next. My first Japanese Tivoli ended up being my favourite of the three coasters in the park, as the other two had hurt me in one way or another.

The Ferris Wheel had holes at the bottom of the door area, presumably designed in by the manufacturer for ventilation. They were easily big enough to point a camera lens through, but their location was less than ideal. Fortunately, large enclosed cars allowed me to move around the car without fear of falling out, including acrobatics which would normally be wholly inappropriate in a ferris wheel car (and yes, I know how that sentence sounds; I could say that I was alone in there, but that would probably make the above worse!). I was able to make proper use of the camera through the small gaps and managed to get a fairly decent photograph of the full layout of Regina.

We took the monorail ride across to the far side of the park. The name, Sky Love, makes no sense to me though maybe it works better in the original Japanese. The routing wasn't ideal for photography, but it still gave a better shot of the Crazy Mouse then I could get from ground level. At the end of the track we found a few second tier attractions. The first we tried was a walkthrough with the wholly appropriate name of Strange Street. Next up was Dino 3D, which, well, wasn't; the two projectors were not properly in sync, resulting in a complete failure of the 3D effect, and even the regular sections of the film were blurred. Last came the Haunted Swing attraction, which was completely out of control and wholly unconvincing, similar to the one at Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

We took the monorail back across the park towards the only major attraction left, a second generation Intamin drop tower by the name of G-Max. This one featured a very slow ascent for the last section, but otherwise was identical to the others I have ridden. We enjoyed it enough that we stayed on for a second go, as there was nobody in line.

Strange Street

Though we attempted to find some food, everywhere in the park was now closed. The only things still open were the three coasters, which we had an hour of exclusive time on. During the time, I managed two rides on Crazy Mouse, three on Regina, and one on Tentomushi. The last two rides on Regina were in the back row, which was a good bit smoother than the front of the train. Nevertheless, the final one was involuntary; the consensus on the train was for "one more time!", and the operators didn't release the restraints. My lap bar was tighter than it should of been, so I can't say I particularly enjoyed it, but what the heck; it seems improbable that I will be back at the park in the near future.

2005


Nasu Highland

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Tobu Zoo Park

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