Toshimaen

19th October 2015

Toshimaen is owned by the Seibu Group, a local conglomerate that operates several private railway lines in Tokyo, including one that runs directly to the park from Ikebukuro Station. There are a variety of shops and restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the terminus, including a convenient McDonald's for enthusiasts in search of an emergency western meal. Those out to credit whore only (shame on you!) can buy park admission and one ride on each coaster for ¥2900 (~€21) but there's more than enough in the park to justify upgrading to the "free pass" which costs ¥4200 (~€31). This is supplied as a piece of paper that has to be shown at each ride, so be careful not to lose it.

My first visit to the park over a decade ago was a total write-off as almost all of the attractions were closed due to weather conditions. A second trip two years later was somewhat more successful, but still unsatisfying as two of the three adult coasters were down. Staff that day told me to expect an afternoon opening for the classic Schwarzkopf-built Shuttle Loop, but I decided not to wait and instead relocated to Fuji-Q Highland, an embarrassing blunder that remains one of the worst decisions I've made in my career as an enthusiast. The ride in question was sent to the scrap heap a year later, eliminating any hope of redemption.

Our visit today began with Mini Cyclone (#2176), a very sedate family coaster added to the park six years ago. The layout had no airtime and in fact no perceptible forces of any kind, but on the positive side the tracking was smooth and the seats were more than big enough to take western adults. We were lucky enough to get a front seat for our single lap.

Corkscrew

We went from there to Corkscrew (#2177), one of the five Arrow Corkscrews in Japan. Our first lap was in the front car, and I'm sorry to report that it was dire; the tracking was horribly rough and the unforgiving restraints triggered a nasty headache. Megan encouraged me to give it a second try towards the back, from where the experience there was indeed somewhat better, though still not something I had any desire to repeat. When she went back for a third lap later on I decided to pass the time taking photographs, and I don't regret that decision for a moment.

Readers should be aware that the ride operates with an utterly asinine loose object policy that makes no sense at all. Glasses are not permitted with or without a strap, but all other possessions must be brought on board and stored at the bottom of each car, where they can potentially fall out above the midway. Leaving bags on the station platform is strictly forbidden, despite that being the expected approach on the other coasters in the same park. The staff enforcer indicated that I should remove the tightly secured fanny pack from my waist and place it at my feet, but I politely declined and eventually she gave up, allowing me to ride with it in situ. The only real positive from this stupidity was that I had no choice but to hold my camera in my hand in the interests of safety, allowing me to get a variety of interesting on-ride shots.

Megan decided that she didn't need to get her remaining coaster credit right away, and thus we decided to board Mystery Zone, a dark ride probably best described as a cross between a river caves attraction and a haunted house. The layout was quite long, and almost all of it was taken in complete blackness, perhaps explaining why my old report described it as missable. We passed a variety of disjointed scenes, including faces with unhappy expressions, part of a jungle, a prison cell with zombies trying to escape, and a bedroom with a single occupant of unspecified gender. There was no coherent storyline that we could decipher, making the attraction name very apt indeed.

We used our unlimited passes to justify trying the Mirror House, a fairly large glass maze that was lit in a variety of interesting ways. The individual segments were spotlessly clean and quite hard to see, with the exception of one with a large crack down the middle that had presumably been caused by an overenthusiastic guest. The layout was split into two distinct sections connected by a room with multicoloured panelling and a collection of bizarrely shaped mirrors.

Mirror House

Our next stop was at Cyclone, a really good fifty-year-old jet coaster that is well up there with the best rides of its type in Japan. A lot of effort has been put into the appearance of the seven car trains, which look like log flume boats upholstered with padded velvet. Most of the layout is made up of gently sloping hills, but the journey concludes with an underground helix that adds a surprise thrill (and some refreshing cool air!) right before the final brake run. The tracking is for the most part smooth, with only a tiny bit of vibration that doesn't impact the enjoyment factor. We did a lap in the front seat, followed by two more towards the back.

One of my favourite things about Toshimaen is the way rides have been installed on the roof of all buildings large enough to take them. One example is Blauer Enzian, a Mack-built powered coaster with powerful lateral forces delivered over a three lap cycle. The building it was placed on was apparently designed specifically around the layout, with about five feet of clearance on all sides. I noticed some signage in German, perhaps indicating a second hand installation that began life somewhere in Europe.

The rooftops also house six different machines from the Huss catalogue, respresenting what has to be one of the largest collections of these rides outside of a European fairground. Our first target was always going to be the Condor, which was configured with a perfect programme for nerdy enthusiasts; it ran at full speed for around a minute, before slowing down for long enough for us to take good photographs. It then picked up speed again before descending back to earth. Megan followed this up with the Swing-Around while I sat in the shade with a cold drink. She told me subsequently that I'd not missed much, as the ride was apparently on a "Six Flags Programme".

Our final stop was at the Japanese Haunted House, a walkthrough with arrows on the ground. The best feature of this was a scene with the sound of blowing wind and stalks of wheat rustling in the breeze, which might have had significance to locals (and perhaps coeliacs) but for us constituted pure unadulterated comedy gold.

Japanese Haunted House