Day two of our trip began with a profusely apologetic email from the company that had supplied us with our Japan Rail Passes for the embuggerance that prevented our exchange orders from being honoured. They sent us half a page of neatly typeset Kanji to give to the manager at the head office in Tokyo Station, and much to our relief this was accepted without question.
The lady we dealt with, Ms Kobayashi, was a little taken aback when we handed her a list of twenty-six trains that we wanted to reserve seats on, but recovered quickly and over a period of half an hour presented us a series of carefully labelled ticket wallets secured by rubber bands, one for each day of our trip. She asked if she could photocopy our master list, presumably for her own amusement on boring days, and we were happy to oblige.
13th October 2015
Musashi-No Mura, roughly translated as Mother's Village, is located around thirty minutes walk from Minami-Hanyu Station on the private Tobu Skytree Line. One can connect from the JR network at Kuki Saitama Station, and tickets for the sixteen kilometre private section cost a very reasonable ¥330 (~€2.50).
We arrived at the park to find a queue of around five people waiting at the ticket office. The purchasing process was pretty slow, as everyone seemed compelled to discuss their life histories with the cashier, but in due course we had two brightly coloured admission tickets acquired for the princely sum of ¥1200 (~€8.80) apiece. Moments later a cheerful employee at the gate took them from us with an enthusiastic Harro!
It wasn't long before we caught the first glimpse of our target for the morning, and to our delight, it was running. Cycle Coaster (#2164) is a typical example of a Jet Coaster, consisting largely of straight and level track punctuated occasionally by short V-shaped drops that look like something designed in Roller Coaster Tycoon. The track design looks equally contrived, thanks to it featuring a bizarre gauze-like structure between the rails that looks like a cable management system from a data centre.
Despite its appearance however, the ride does deliver some airtime for passengers sitting in the back cars, and there are some respectable laterals to be had in a descending helix section towards the end of the course. The experience is somewhat flaccid, especially when compared with what might have been achieved with a similar height and track length in a western park, but the end result is still fun and worth the effort required to visit.
Taller readers should be aware that the train has a soft canvas roof that in my case (6'2") had roughly an inch of clearance when sitting up straight. Though not obvious from ground level, it is apparently there due to the presence of low tree branches that would do bad things to raised hands despite the relatively low top speed.
There seems to be an unwritten regulation in Japan that requires every amusement park to have an enormous Ferris wheel that towers over everything else for miles around. The BFOFW (use your imagination) at this park could not have been less than two hundred feet tall, and featured twenty cars without window glass to get in the way of a camera lens. The vantage point was great for seeing the local area, but not all that useful for the park itself, as the coaster track quickly disappeared beneath the tree line.
Tobu Zoo Park
13th October 2015
Tobu Zoo Park is located a few minutes walk from Tobudobutsukoen Station on the Tobu Skytree Line, and a shuttle bus is also available for the terminally lazy. Ten years ago my trip report described the place as a zoo with a medium sized amusement park, though nowadays it is probably fairer to reverse that description and refer to it as an amusement park with a medium sized zoo; satellite photographs from Google Earth make it fairly clear where the majority of investments have been going over the last decade.
The most visible addition since my last visit in 2011 was a new thirty-two car BFOFW with air conditioning that has been installed right next to the animal exhibits, giving an nice perspective of an area that a sizeable percentage of guests likely never bother with. The older thirty-six car model was still in place on the other side of the park, though it wasn't operational today and in fact looked to have been out of commission for some time. I'm guessing that management have chosen to keep it as a clearly visible advertisement for the park instead of paying for it to be disassembled.
There was nobody waiting to ride Kawasemi, an Intamin Mega Lite, giving us the rare treat of a walk-on front seat. Megan believes this ride type to be the perfect coaster, a personal love letter written by Intamin to her, and given that it was no surprise that she managed to clock up nine laps over the course of our visit. The ride is without question the most thrilling production model coaster in history, delivering intense airtime and strong lateral forces, but I find the seating design overly cramped compared to the near-clone from Mack. After about five laps I decided I'd had enough and relocated to a nearby walkway to take pictures.
The park refreshed its children's area for the 2014 season, and one of the additions was Diggy & Daggy's Tram Coaster, a single helix powered coaster with a fantastic-looking custom train. Unfortunately, the appearance of the ride was its best feature; today the train was hitting a top speed not much faster than walking pace, rendering the experience fairly pointless. The one saving grace was that we only got one lap, thereby minimising the wasted time.
After a short walk around we relocated back to Tentomushi, a standard model medium Tivoli memorable mainly for the death metal being played in the station.
Japan was once home to six different wood coasters. Aska at Nara Dreamland was the best of the lot, and while it still stands as of this writing it has been accessible only to urban explorers since the end of 2006. White Canyon met the wrecking ball at the end of 2013, mourned only by those who never got to experience it. The general appearance of Regina today suggested rather strongly that it will be the next to go; only the red train was in use, albeit with cars three and four roped off, and the blue train on the transfer track had apparently become a parts donor.
Once again there was no queue, and thus we took the front row where the ride was, in a word, horrible. The experience began well enough, with two seconds of floater airtime during the initial descent, but that gave way to a crunching impact at the base that immediately induced a headache. The second drop wasn't much better, and some horrendous shuffling during the turnaround sealed my overall impression. I'm reliably informed there was some airtime on the subsequent hills, but by that point I'd switched to self-preservation mode, bracing for impact rather than enjoying the ride.
Mori no Yuenchi
13th October 2015
The third and final stop of the day was written into our plan as an optional hit that could be dropped in the event that we wanted more time at Tobu Zoo Park. As that proved unnecessary we took a number of different trains to get to Nodashi Station, located directly next door to the headquarters of Kikkoman Corporation. The short walk to the park brought us past what I've got to assume is the world's only Soy Sauce Museum, somewhere that I'd have happily called into given more time.
The first hint of an amusement park came when we were still half a kilometre away, as the telltale BFOFW appeared on the horizon. This one was the biggest of the entire day, featuring an incredible forty cars, and looked decidedly out of place in a park where the all the other rides were tiny. We chose not to ride out of consideration for the staff, who would have had to stay back for us given the slow rotation speed; instead, we bought tickets for the powered Dragon Coaster, a single helix Zamperla model that was enjoyable enough despite not qualifying as a credit.