Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I heard Kevin getting up for the day around 7:30, so I decided to go ahead and get up as well. His plan was to go to Hakone for the day and do a tour he'd read about in the Frommmerís guide. I had planned for myself a jam packed day of coastering since I only had the one day to hit the parks that Kevin didn't care about going to. The plan was to start off at Yomiuriland, which was in a far western suburb of Tokyo. When I was done there, I was going to take the train back in to Tokyo, then go to Tobu Zoo Park, which was in a far northeastern suburb of Tokyo. If I wasn't totally dead by that point, I was going to go to Yokohama Cosmoworld, which was in Yokohama, which is pretty much just a far southern suburb of Tokyo. It was going to mean a LOT of train riding and a LOT of walking, but hey, who knows when I might come back! And these were all parks that I really, really wanted to see.

Once Kevin left, I showered, fixed my hair and headed off. I stopped at the Starbucks next door for breakfast, where I found a packaged sandwich that was half shrimp and tomato and half potato. It was decent! Of all the random sandwich halves to put together...but it was nice. I also got a juice smoothie of some kind that was tasty too.

With breakfast quickly consumed, I started out on the ominous voyage of finding Yomiuriland. I had to go to Shinjuku, then walk to the far reaches of the Shinjuku station to reach the Keio New Line. I took that as far as Sasazuka where I changed to the regular Keio Line. After that, I changed to the Keio Sagamihara line, and rode it until I finally reached the Keio-Yomiuri-Land station. From there, it was a gondola ride to the park.

The first transfer went just fine, but I had a little trouble finding the Keio new line since there weren't many signs for it. I ultimately had to stop and ask for directions. You had to walk down a tunnel that looked like a mall, and when you emerged, there it was. I don't think I would have ever found it without asking since it wasn't well marked at all. Once I found it, it was easy to get to Sasazuka.

On the train platform in Sasazuka, I had one of those "never in America" moments. There was a piece of plastic blocking a leak in the ceiling, but then the plastic had sprung a leak and water was dripping onto the platform. There were three employees standing around it blocking the area that was dripping just so people wouldn't get dripped on! As if that wasn't amazing enough, out of nowhere, five more men rush to the scene with ladders, more plastic and whatnot, and fixed the leak in a swirling cloud of efficiency. Then as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared, leaving the area like new! The whole scene didn't even take 5 minutes! Japanese efficiency is amazing!

From there it was very simple to find Yomiuriland since you can see it coming up from very far away. Not too far from the train station, there is a gondola ride that takes you up a hill, past the Yomiuri Giants baseball stadium and directly to the front entrance of the park.

The pass for the gondola was about $2 each way, and the air conditioning was icy cold inside. When I passed the baseball stadium, I saw the baseball team out on the field in two lines doing some exercises, which was pretty cool.

The view from the gondola was amazing...you could see everything in the park.


The wish of the emergency? hahaha I love Japan!


Land Dog artwork at the Yomiuriland entrance

When I arrived, I bought my ticket, and was impressed with the way that English speaking guests were handled. There were signs for the admission tickets in English, and when the lady needed to give me extra information, she would hold up signs in English. She had two or three of them, but the one I remember most said "Do not put on the wristband. An employee at the gate will put it on for you" or something like that. It was an ingenious way of getting the message across!


OMG! I'm at Yomiuriland!!

Once inside, my first line of business was to catch a ride on Bandit. On the way there, I saw the huge Land Dog statue in the center of the plaza, so I found someone nearby and motioned for him to take my picture. He understood me well enough, and took a great photo of me (I hate when I hand my camera to someone else to take a photo of me somewhere, and they cut off an important part of the photo...thankfully he didn't do that!). After that, I went straight for Bandit. Of course, since it was hot, they were doing "Splash Bandit" which meant that they had sprinklers on all over the ride, and there were people standing around with water guns. Even better (or worse!) I got a front seat ride. Normally that would have been awesome, but with Splash Bandit, it meant that every drop of water hit me directly in the face!

The ride was great fun, and was way faster than I had expected. By the time the ride was over I was soaked from the waist up from all the water jets. And I had put extra curl cream in my hair that morning in anticipation of rain, so my hair was all slimy haha.

Still soaked, I went next door to get my SL Coaster credit. This is pretty much just a mine train over water, with a drop out of the station and a lift hill at the end. It was nice, but nothing I was itching to run around and ride again.

After SL Coaster, I rode the dark ride in that area, which was jungle themed. It was kinda random in a fun way. There were hardly any guests in that area, yet this ride had two ops there, and they were just kinda standing around. It was quite hot, even with being soaking wet, so I grabbed a Coke out of a machine and sat in the shade for a bit to cool off. After about half the Coke was in the tank, I walked up the hill to the large Ferris wheel.

The Ferris wheel wasn't air conditioned...just great. But oh well, I love Ferris wheels and I already looked like crap, so it wasn't like it could get much worse! haha The ride was slow but continuous, instead of starting and stopping like most wheels in the US. This makes much more sense to me, instead of having to keep track of which buckets you've loaded and which ones need to be unloaded and how many times everyone has gone around. Bucket comes up, people get off, people get on, and they ride. Simple. Of course the Japanese would figure this out well before Americans would. The Ferris wheel had a great view of the entire park and the surrounding area, which was full of all kinds of interesting stuff.

While on the Ferris Wheel, I perused the map and decided to go down the midways with the kiddie coaster on it. There seemed to be lots of fun rides that I'd never done before down in that area, so it seemed like a logical next step.

My first stop after the Ferris Wheel was Wan Wan Coaster Wandit, the kiddie coaster, which had an angel Land Dog on the front of the train...so cute!

After the coaster, I rode this little cycle monorail thingy since I'd never seen one before. You actually sit on it like a bike, instead of sitting in a little car that you peddle. It was obviously not made for people my size because when I was on it, my whole body weight was hanging off the right side of the track, and the wheels on the left side weren't touching the track at all! I was seriously scared that it might lean too far over the edge and dump me out! I survived it though *whew*

Next, I went on the Miracle Wan Room, which is one of those houses that rises up on a big arm and spins around. Once I was inside, there was techno music, police beacon lights and a really trippy video of Land Dog in outer space and stuff! It was like a rave in the air! It was so random, but so great! hahaha

After my rave with Land Dog, I went through an arcade, and wandered around taking photos in the area. I spotted the ride-on Land Dogs, but didn't want to ride them since I thought it would look too silly since I was there alone.

Next up, I headed for Momonga Standing and Loop Coaster for my credit there. I wanted to ride the sit down side, but I couldn't tell which set of stairs led up to the sitting side of the track. So I stopped some young girls behind me, acted like I was sitting down, then looked puzzled while pointing at the signs. They understood me (eventhough they thought it was funny!) and pointed me to the sit down side. The ride wasn't all that bad, though I wasn't in a rush to run around and try the stand up side...it wasn't *that* good! hehe

After Momonga, I only had one credit left in the park, and that was White Canyon. I made the trek over there, and had a tough time getting photos of the ride since there were so few people riding it and they were dispatching so slowly. I ended up riding in the front row...one of many front row rides I had during the trip! I'd heard awful things about this ride from lots of people, but I really enjoyed it! I didn't think it was overly rough for a woodie...it did manhandle you a bit, but all good woodies do that. I must have caught it on a good day, because this was probably my favorite ride in the park.

When I was leaving, I lingered for a moment to take a photo of the train, and an Australian man passed me and said something like "Wow, that was a great ride!!" So he and I started chatting for a bit, and it turned out that he was in Japan for business. He had gone on Youtube to see if there were any good coasters near where he was working, and he came up with White Canyon. Once I told him where I lived, he said I was lucky to have so many good woodies near me, and he got very jealous when I started listing off some of the ones I have ridden. After we both paused to take some more photos, we went our separate ways, wishing each other a nice rest of the day.

I was done with all the credits in the park, but wanted to make sure that I had cleaned up all the other smaller rides that I wanted to ride. I walked back toward the large amphitheater in the park, got another drink and sat in the shade to peruse the map. It looked like I'd done all the unique stuff, so I decided to head on out and make my way to Tobu Zoo Park. On the way out, I spotted two vending machines...one had keychain donuts, so I bought that for a co-worker of mine (I didn't end up giving it to him...I got him something else, so the donut is now mine!), and the other had little watertight bottles that I thought were cool. Each one cost 100 yen.

On my way out of the park, I stopped in "Gets" to see about getting a Land Dog plush. My original plan was to get a really big one, but the biggest ones were in the neighborhood of $50, and were almost the size of my big backpack! So I opted for the medium sized Land Dog, who is about the size of a football. He was still kind of expensive, but he was so adorable that I just had to get him. I also got a Yomiuriland lanyard to use at work.

On the way out, I was still feeling hot and dehydrated, so I got a bottle of water just before reboarding the gondola back to the train station. This water was actually so cold that when you squeezed the bottle, ice fell off the insides and into the water! It was so great to have ice water when it was so hot! I didn't want it to warm up before I drank it, so I downed the entire bottle during the gondola ride, and felt wonderfully cooled down by the time I was done.

As I arrived at the train station, I grabbed another bottle of water for the ride, since I knew it was going to take a while to get to Tobu Zoo. I backtracked my steps up the Keio Sagamihara line to the Keio line (avoiding the new line this time, but instead taking an express train straight back to Shinjuku). Once I was in Shinjuku, I took the Yamanote line up to Nishi-Nippori, then transferred to the Joban Line up to Kita-Senju. At Kita-Senju, I was supposed to change over to the Tobu Line Semi-Express train, but I ended up on an Express train instead, which made me miss my station by one stop. So I had to go back in the other direction, and get on the right train, then go on to Tobu-Dobutsukoen. The whole trip took about two hours, which sucked, but I really wanted to go there, so I dealt with it.


Yep, this is the right place!

At long last, I arrived at the Tobu-Dobutsukoen station, and followed the signs to the zoo. The walk ended up being at least a mile or more, which was way farther than I expected. I kept seeing the top of the Ferris wheel and the drop tower peek above the top of the trees so I knew I was going in the right direction. It was beginning to rain, and it was even hotter and muggier than at Yomiuriland! By the time I got to the front gate, it was raining at a steady clip, and my feet were killing me from all the walking. After purchasing my admission, my first stop was Tobu Zoo's new Intamin, Kawasemi.


Aww...cuteness right inside the Tobu Zoo Park gates

When I arrived at Kawasemi, to my great surprise, there was only about one train worth of people waiting in line in front of me! I had been concerned about going to these parks on a Saturday, but my fears were all for naught since both parks were quite empty. I was really hungry, but I wanted to get my Kawasemi credit just in case it started to storm and rides started to close. My first ride was near the back, and I thought the ride was fantastic! Easily the best coaster of the trip! It had tons of ejector airtime, and a couple of near-gray-out overbank turns. It was wild and fast, yet incredibly smooth...just what a great coaster should be. When the ride was over, I really wanted to run back around for another ride, but my stomach was telling me otherwise! Being the credit whore that I am, I also grabbed a ride on Tentomushi while I was passing by since there was no line and the skies still looked ominous!

I found a food stand not too far away, so I got a box of lo mein and a bottle of Mitsuya Cider out of a nearby machine. The lo mein was great, and the Mitsuya Cider was drinkable, though not the best drink I had all week. It was kind of like bitter Sprite...not horrible, but I didn't get it again.

After lunch, I found my way to the back of the park to ride the woodie, Regina. The rain had slacked off by that point, and there was no line, so I was on as soon as I walked up the steps. Well, unlike White Canyon, I had heard great things about Regina...none of which ended up being true for my ride :-( I thought this ride was pretty brutal, and didn't even have a great layout to redeem it. It did a lot of jack hammering at the bottom of the hills, and was generally just too rough to be much fun. That was too bad since it is supposedly a great ride when you catch it on the right day.

The last credit I needed was Wild Mouse, which is the only looping wild mouse in the world. This ride looked like a lot of fun, if for no other reason than to say that I had ridden a looping wild mouse! I didn't wait more than about five minutes for it, and my little mouse vehicle had cartoony cuts and bruises all over it. The ride was actually a lot of fun, and not rough at all, aside from the normal painful laterals of a wild mouse coaster. Nearby, there were a bunch of little kids ride-ons that looked like ones you can put a quarter into outside of the grocery store. And there was one that played Obladi Oblada really loudly...random! haha


Rainbow Town, with a Sky Love bucket above it

With all the credits out of the way, I decided to head back toward Kawasemi and ride the suspended monorail, Sky Love *snicker*. The guy made sure that I understood that it was a one way trip to the zoo side of the park, and I said that was fine, eventhough I fully intended to get off and right back on at the zoo station. The ride was nice and breezy, and I got a lot of nice photos of Kawasemi and the wild mouse, as well as the midway areas of the park. I spotted a Dino Island 3D on the zoo side of the park...that made me laugh. As soon as I arrived at the zoo side, I got off the ride and immediately back on so I could go back to the ride side. The zoo side looked ok, but I wanted to make sure to ride Kawasemi again, as well as the Ferris wheel, before I left for the day.

As I arrived back on the ride side of the park, I opted to ride Kawasemi one more time before the weather got too rough (it was really getting dark at this point). I had no wait again, and the second ride was just as great as the first one.

Immediately after my ride, I ran for the Ferris wheel, and made it just before the skies opened up and started to rain again. It was stuffy and burning hot inside, but I survived thanks to a fan conveniently hanging from the window. During my ride, I had noticed some lightning, so not surprisingly, everything was closed when I got off the Ferris wheel. I didn't plan on staying much longer anyway since I really wanted to make it to Yokohama Cosmoworld, so it was no big deal.

I made my way to the gift shop in hopes that I could get something interesting as a souvenir of my trip to the park. They didn't have much of anything all that great (such was the case with every park we went to), but they did have some cool tape dispensers in their office products area. One had these amorphous chunks of colored stuff floating in it, while the rest just had fish. I really wanted the colored chunk one so I looked in every box, but all they had were fish tape dispensers. Finally I decided to see if I could get my point across about wanting the colored one using sign language with the employees. So I pointed at the colored one and made a "I love it" motion with my hands over my heart. Then I pointed at the fish ones and made a "meh" face. Then I pointed at all the boxes, then pointed at the fish, as if to say that all the ones in the boxes were fish. Eventually they understood me, and packed up the colored chunk one in one of the boxes so I could buy it. It was way cooler than the fish ones, and I will actually use it, as opposed to most of the other crap they had for sale.

With tape dispenser in hand, I headed back out of the park in the rain. My feet were pretty much toast by this point, but I knew I still had a lot of walking to go, and now it was gonna be in the rain! As I walked the street back to the train station, I saw that it was now lined on both sides with food stalls selling fresh grilled meats, snow cones and other delicacies.

Ladies were out in kimonos, and everyone looked like they were having a great time. I thought about buying something for a snack, but I wasn't sure that I could identify everything as well as I would like, so I didn't get anything. I also noticed a lot of grilled squid on sticks...*barf* So nasty.

Back at the station, I managed to backtrack my way to Nippori station, then on to Tokyo station on the Yamanote Line. At Tokyo, I switched to the Keihin-Tohoku Negishi Line, which took me straight to the Sakuragicho station for Yokohama Cosmoworld (only later did I find out that Yokohama is one stop away from Tokyo station on the Shinkansen...not sure why that didn't show up when I searched on Hyperdia for it! Would have saved me at least half an hour!)

By the time I arrived, I was starving, so I popped into a large building just outside the train station. I saw a sign for a TGI Fridays, and thought that a nice meal in my favorite chain restaurant might be nice in the middle of all the Japanese food. When I got inside, an Italian restaurant with no English name caught my eye, so I decided to eat there instead.

I ordered this spaghetti dish with seafood and cheese since the plastic model just looked so, so good. When my dish arrived, it wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was still pretty good. It was quite a bit more seasoned than I expected...I think it had sage or something in it that made it green. And I ate the whole thing with chopsticks, which seemed to impress my waitress!

Once dinner was down the hatch, I started the walk over to Yokohama Cosmoworld. I'd bet it was at least a half mile walk across a long bridge, then around a corner before you actually got to the park. It was still raining at a steady clip when I arrived, but I wanted to get my Diving Coaster Vanish credit post haste just in case it started to storm.


The Yokohama Cosmoworld entrance


Diving Coaster Vanish

I found a ticket window and got my tickets for Diving Coaster Vanish, the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel and Spinning Coaster. My first stop, predictably, was Vanish. I remember seeing this coaster on a travel show in '99 or 2000, and thinking that it looked like one of the coolest coasters I'd seen. When the coaster comes down one of its drops, it looks like it splashes down into a lake, then goes into an underwater tunnel. I had resigned myself to not getting to ride this coaster, despite it being near the top of my "must ride" list for close to 10 years, since I didn't think I could fit it into the schedule anywhere. So when my day freed up and I was able to go coastering, I was fairly sure I would make myself go ride it, no matter how tired I was. And I was beat...my feet felt like bloody hamburger by this point...but I just had to ride this coaster.


Vanish, splashing down into the water

Much to my disappointment, this coaster looks a lot better than it rides. The worst part was actually the underwater tunnel eventhough it did have an unexpected light show inside it! It wasn't one of the worst coasters I've ridden, but it wouldn't be right to call it a good coaster. That's really a shame since I had looked forward to riding it for so long. But it will still hold that place in my coaster riding history of being a coaster that I never assumed I would get to ride, yet I rode it.

After my ride, I went to the Ferris wheel, which was also not air conditioned, but at least it was night time and the temperature was more pleasant. I had a fantastic view of the whole area, but I couldn't get good photos because it was dark and the windows were all covered in rain drops. I even got chided for putting my wet umbrella on the cabin seat! I should have known better, since after three days of being in Japan, it was quite obvious as to which behaviors were acceptable and not. I should have assumed that people there were more courteous than to do that! So I quickly moved the umbrella to the floor and dried off the seat with my hand.

Leaving the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel, I hung around inside the loading area for a bit and took photos of Vanish, but then decided to suck it up and see if I could ride Spinning Coaster, despite the rain. It was lightning a little bit, so I assumed it was closed, but when I got there, it was open! The ride ops seemed stunned that I wanted to ride while it was storming, but they let me ride anyway! It was pretty freaky to be on a completely open roller coaster when I could see lightning not too far away! But I survived, even if I managed to get wet in the process. Just one more thing to add to the list of awesome experiences I had in Japan...riding a roller coaster during a lightning storm...check!

After my ride, I was exhausted. There was another small coaster there, but it was WAY on the other side of the complex, and I just had no desire to walk all the way over there when it may or may not be open. So I started the long walk back to the train station in the pouring rain. I just knew that my feet were toast, despite all the little anti-blister measures I was taking. Once in the station, the trip back to the hotel was relatively uneventful...just the Keihin-Tohoku Negishi Line from Sakuragicho to Tokyo, then then Yamanote line back to Takadanobaba.

On the walk from Takadanobaba station to the hotel, I stopped at a machine and got the hugest can of Coke I had ever seen! It was probably 1 1/2 times the height of a normal can! haha At the hotel, I took a few minutes to upload about 30 photos to Flickr, and send my first email back home to my friends and family. It took me forever to get the email composed since I would accidentally hit the kanji button on the keyboard, then couldn't figure out how to make it go back to typing in English. My first email ended up all mangled up, but luckily you could understand most of what I was saying.

After that was done, I took my huge Coke back to my room where Kevin and I caught up on what each other did during the day. My favorite story from his day was about a man who randomly gave him an umbrella. He was walking in the rain, and a man came up to him, said something in Japanese, then ran away. Just a moment later, the man came running back with an umbrella for him! It was rusty and old, but perfectly functional. I thought that was so nice to have a stranger be concerned that you were getting wet and to give you an umbrella. Leave it to the Japanese to be that considerate.

Go to Day 4 - Meiji Jingu Shrine, Harajuku
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