New Reoma World28th May 2007
George had worked out a plan of action for how to get to New Reoma World. Step one was the train; Osaka to Okayama, then Okayama to Kotohira. Step two involved a two minute walk to a private train line which brought us to Okada. Step three involved taking a taxi the five minute journey to the park. There was only one problem; there were no taxis. We were rescued at least in part by a local bus driver, who told us to walk up the road to a convenience store, then turn right. Sure enough, this worked just fine bar one catch; a thirty five minute walk, most of it uphill. This would have been a bit more fun if I'd known about it in advance, as the shoes I was wearing were unfortunately less than ideal for the climb.
At any rate, the effort was well rewarded by what turned out to be an unexpected gem of a park. Of the four coasters, two were top grade attractions and another was above average. Vivace (#941) is the biggest ride in the park, towering over the front section. It proved to be a very smooth ride, other than the entrance to the brake run which felt like hitting a pot hole at speed.
The truly stand out coaster, however, was Spaceship 2056 (#942). Clearly ripped off influenced by a certain mountain at the Disney parks, this coaster is unique in that passengers do not experience the lift hill. They board an elevator inside the heavily themed space port which takes them to the loading bay. Though I didn't realise it at the time, this is right at the top of the ride, so when the train rolls out of the station it picks up speed right away. The track layout itself is a tangled mess which is very reminiscent of that found in the lands of the mouse, with planets and stars flashing by. If this is what Sansei Yusoki can do these days their coasters deserve to be more common then they are.
Then you have the Lady Bird Coaster (#943), a ride obviously built with the average Japanese height in mind. It was a considerable challenge to shoehorn myself into the ride car, but once again it proved to be mostly worth it. The ride is a custom wild mouse design surrounded by vegetation and theming which keeps things interesting. Of note was one rather close head chopper moment mid course, where there probably wasn't more than a foot of clearance between a tree branch and me. Next to it was the final coaster, imaginatively named Kids Coaster (#944), which oddly enough had far more leg room than its bigger brother. Go figure.
Time restrictions prevented us from exploring in exhaustive detail, but we did get to experience two other attractions. One was a rather dodgy target shooting ride called Battle Beast. There is no doubt that my aim with a gun is less good than it might be, but even I can hit targets less than six inches from the car. Unfortunately, the sensors disagreed with me; go figure. The other was a superb dark ride in suspended balloons called Rainbow Bandits, starring the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. The plot line escaped me entirely, I'm afraid. Perhaps if someone Japanese is reading this they could explain it to me?
We had to walk back to Okada, as expected, and unfortunately managed to miss our train by about two minutes. Connection issues meant this would mean a delay of over an hour. Somewhat to our relief however, a taxi had materialised at the station exit, and it wasn't expensive to take it the five kilometers back to Kotohira for our next train.
Washuzan Highland28th May 2007
We had a bit of difficulty getting the taxi driver at Kojima to understand where we wanted to go. In the end we adopted the tried and tested plan of foreigners everywhere; the stereotypical fifty metre Japanese ferris wheel was visible at the top of the hill. We pointed to it, and light dawned!
Two years ago, a certain park in Japan was described as having bad coasters dragged up a hill for a bet. Washuzan Highland is an example of taking even worse coasters and dragging them up an even steeper hill, though the writer has no idea if any gambling was involved. The park has less than a dozen attractions spread over terrain which makes an utter mockery of the unfit. Though I didn't actually count the steps, having given up that habit some time around my sixth birthday, I'm sorry now that I didn't; there were an awful lot of them, and the portuguese written on them was duplicated too many times to be interesting. Worse yet, none of the attractions that we tried were any good. Ultra Twister (#945) hurt, Star Jet was HNFT, and Chupy Coaster (#946) spent about two thirds of its time on the lift hill and the other third coasting around the top of the mountain at slow speeds. To be fair we only tried the two operational coasters, so it is possible that there was an absolutely stunning flat ride that we didn't notice, or perhaps a grade one dark ride. However, the only potential entry for the latter category was a separate paid admission outside the park, so we didn't give it a second glance.
As the photo above suggests, the park's defining slogan is that it is the Brazillian Park. To reinforce this message, there was a live band performing samba music at top volume to an audience of about five people (and, due to the volume, anyone within a three mile radius of the park). I did notice also that the usual arigato had been replaced with obrigado. No amount of portuguese in a Japanese accent could rescue a lousy park, though, and we were not unhappy to leave after just under an hour.
Kurashiki Tivoli Park28th May 2007
Kurashiki Tivoli Park is an absolutely beautiful park. As the name might suggest it has been built under license of Tivoli International, also responsible for the original Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. There is little resemblance, but the idea and the decorations follow the same broad theme; the key feature is the beautiful coloured lights that make the park come alive at night time. We had deliberately planned this day to finish here, allowing some time after dark to take pictures. Before doing that, however, there were two coasters to ride.
Odin Express (#947) is the adult coaster of the park, and it is superb. The design, which uses two lift hills, travels through an artificial mountain not at all unlike that on the classic Rutschebanen. The train moves almost ridiculously smoothly; there are no bumps whatsoever, and the wheels are almost silent; as if the car was running on rubber wheels. Whatever the case, we liked it a lot, particularly the section following the second lift hill. Observant riders may notice the presence of a third lift hill, which appears to go nowhere; there is a workshop below the station which doubles as a transfer track, and the chain is used to bring trains back onto the main ride.
The other coaster stretches the definition just a little, but Tivoli Railroad (#948) does eventually do some brief coasting after completing its two minutes and ten seconds of lift hill. The soundtrack on board is roughly synchronised to the speed of the train, which hits a whopping fourteen kilometers an hour in its few seconds of coasting between each brake segment. The one thing to be said for this ride is that it is ideal for a first coaster; nobody could possibly be scared of this one!