Akiyoshidai Safari Land

10th September 2017

Our morning began with a 150km journey from Hakata to Shin-Yamaguchi by bullet train. There were no high speed services available first thing on a Sunday morning, but the "slow" Kodama train managed the distance in just fifty minutes despite stopping at three other stations along the way. The drive from there to Akiyoshidai Safari Land took forty minutes, virtually all of it by expressway, and in due course we arrived at an enormous (and almost entirely empty) car park. It was a pleasant surprise to find no charge for parking, and we duly selected a space just metres away from the roller coaster.

The park is aimed primarily at animal enthusiasts who visit for a thirty-five minute long drive through safari, which features almost all of the expected species, including elephants, tigers, lions, bears, and zebras. It costs ¥5000 (~€38) to bring a private car through the plains; alternatively, a bus service runs every thirty minutes for ¥2400 (~€18) per adult and ¥600 (~€4.50) per child. In common with Gunma Safari Park the amusement ride area is charged separately, with attractions requiring a varying number of ¥100 tickets that are (as ever) dispensed from convenient vending machines.

Super Coaster

Super Coaster (#2372) was the last of ten coasters produced by Japanese manufacturer Ikeda Works in the closing years of the twentieth century, and one of just three that remain in operation as of 2017. The layout consists of a straight drop and climb-out, a descending helix, a terrain-hugging figure eight, another straight drop, and a climb back to the brake run. The fourteen passenger train negotiates the track effortlessly, albeit in a fairly forgettable way; the only really memorable feature of the experience is the strong laterals in the turns. We tried both the front and the back seats, and didn't notice any significant difference between locations.

Our second stop was at Adventure: Exploring the Mysterious Underground, an antiquated dark ride that blended a number of different themes into one (mostly) coherent whole. The individual cars were specked with rust and made a horrible grinding noise as they scraped their way out of the station, to the point that it was almost a surprise when ours managed to complete the layout without getting stuck. The journey brought us past Easter Island statues, collapsing roman columns in what was almost certainly supposed to be a tomb, oddly-shaped plants with a vague resemblance to mushrooms, and a pair of animatronic dinosaurs.

The only other ride of interest to us today was the Ferris Wheel. The sixteen cars were all painted with cartoon versions of different animals, and a handful had been upgraded with glass floors. Assignment of these was purely by the luck of the draw; Bruno and Anita ended up in one, while Megan and I ended up in a standard version. The wheel was placed in an ideal location for photographing both the rides and the safari, and we took a sizeable number of shots.

 

Marina Circus

10th September 2017

We spent the first portion of our afternoon being normal tourists at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and museum, an interesting yet sobering experience in a world where nuclear tests still happen on a semi-regular basis. We took our time at the exhibits, comfortable in the knowledge that the Marina Hop shopping mall was advertised as being open until 8:00pm. What we didn't know was that the amusement area next door was due to close for the day two hours earlier, and it was only pure luck that got us to the coaster with thirty minutes to spare. Enthusiasts retracing our steps may want to do their local tourism last in order to avoid potential embarrassment, especially when travelling with someone who takes their time in museums.

Pierrot Coaster

Pierrot Coaster (#2373) is a family-sized creation from local manufacturer Hoei Sangyo that has been shoehorned into an oval-shaped space of land directly above a midway. The designers clearly started with a traditional layout made up of a few airtime hills, then decided to stretch the track horizontally by applying a slight left turn to each climb followed by a slight right turn on each descent. The total horizontal displacement is very slight, coming in at around two metres, but it produces a novel effect that is certainly different, if not one likely to become commonplace in the near future. The top speed looked too slow for there to be any discernable difference between the ends of the train, but we decided to complete two laps anyway in order to be confirm that for ourselves.

The Ferris Wheel had a thick wire mesh across the windows, and though a gentle sideways push freed up enough space for a camera lens the wheel was far too close to the other rides for useful photographs. On a clear day there might have been distance shots of Miyajima Island, located around three kilometres across the bay, though tonight there was precious little to see other than low cloud.