When you say “roller coasters,” most people don’t usually think of Japan. And you’d be forgiven if you fall into this category because the truth is, the best coasters in the world are still probably in America. But for such a small country, Japan really gives American a run for its money in the coastering department. Setting aside the utterly lame (but inexplicably popular amongst the young-Japanese-girl set) Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Sea and Universal Studios Japan (the rides in all of which are considerably less entertaining than any late night train in Tokyo), Japan still sports an impressive array of roller coaster parks: the awesome Thunder Dolphin in Tokyo Dome Aqua City, the entertaining Yokohama Cosmo World, the old stalwart of Yomiuriland, and a host of others I haven’t yet been to.
But the big daddy of them all has got to be Fuji-Q Highlands, located just out west of Tokyo in Yamanashi Prefecture, nestled at the base of beautiful (provided you’re not foolish enough to climb it) Mt. Fuji. Fuji-Q is hands down the best roller coaster park in Japan for roller-coaster enthusiasts (If you’re one of those people who goes to amusement parks to look at silly people dressed up as Mickey Mouse and watch lame parades, go away, this post is not for you). It features Japan’s top three most famous roller coasters (the awesome Eiijyanaika, the rocking Fujiyama and the stupidly fast Dodonpa), and believe me, they are as good or better than anything you can find in your nearest Six Flags.
The problem with being Japan’s most awesome roller coaster park is that in general, Fuji-Q is expensive and crowded. I’ve actually been once before (for some reason, I appear not to have blogged about that trip!?), and for our rather steep $50 admission ticket, we got to ride a grand total of 3 rides (plus a crappy kiddie coaster which we did just to get our “money’s worth”) due to the crazy lines. So you know, that kind of sucks. The thing about that though, is this is Japan. And people like to do things according to the “seasons.” “Roller coaster season” is usually considered to be summer for some reason which means that if you’re us and just wanna ride coasters whenever you damn well feel like it, current season not withstanding, things can work out very nicely indeed. Or, to put it another way, Fuji-Q in the summer = crowded and expensive. Fuji-Q in the winter, however, = empty and cheap. (admission is discounted in the winter). Guess what season we’re currently in?
Oh yeah. Buckle your seatbelts.
The thing I remember as I stepped out of my house at the stupidly early hour of like 5:15am is that it was dark, like stepping into a closet. Apparently, all the lights in the stairwells in my apartment turn off from 3AM to 6PM, something I did not realise because usually I’m not fool enough to leave my house at 5 in the AM. It was creepy and scary as hell (and an oh-so-ironic foreshadowing to the terror we were soon to experience at the world’s scariest fricking haunted house EVAR) and I twisted my ankle when I missed a step whilst gingerly picking my way down to the ground floor. Yes, gentle readers, I got my ass kicked by a staircase.
The reason why I was up at this dumb hour is because in order to maximize our fun time, we decided to catch an express train to the park. That required me to be at the station by 6AM and whilst normally I’d bus it and be there lickity split, at this ungodly hour the buses were all safely asleep in their little bus beds (I’m getting carried away with this sentence here) and consequently poor little twisted-ankle panda had to limp his way piteously to the station in the cold darkness of the early morn.
Our crew for today’s particular expedition numbered four (or as 50 Cent would say: “When we roll 20 deep / it’s 20 knives in the club” only it would be “we roll 4 deep / it’s 0 knives in the amusement park” in our case, because who the f–k carries knives on a roller coaster? That can only end in tears, people.) (And if I might take a moment, I was always confused by those lyrics. If he’s so gangsta, why would he and 19 of his boys roll into the club with knives? That’s not gangsta… that’s, like, culinary…! F-ing Julia Childs carries knives, people. She probably carries more than 20 of them too, I bet. Real gangstas would roll with gats strapped to they belts, that’s all I’m saying) (Umm, I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry now)
ANYWAY. So there were 4 of us on today’s little adventure. As always, my ever-present Okapi fanatic / kakigori-connoisseur extraordinaire partner-in-crime, and making their inaugural appearance here on the pandablog, the lovely Tami and the equally lovely Calvin. And me. And soon we found ourselves asleep aboard an express train hurtling towards Fuji-Q… a brief nap later, and we awoke to see the beautiful snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji in the background and… the even more beautiful Fuji-Q Highlands right in front of us!
Now, I debated a while about the best way to write about everything we did in the park. It can basically be summarised as something along the lines of “rode roller coasters for hours, stuffed our faces with Pizza-La and Mos-Burger, rode more roller coasters for more hours, got chased by horrifying zombies, ran full-speed into a doorframe, treated Bethann for a concussion, ran away from more zombies, rode even more more roller coasters (the best remedy for a concussion), got on train, slept, came home.”
Of course that doesn’t quite convey the full sense of excitement of the day (though the concussion might come close), yet at the same time, an exhaustive list of all the awesomeness we experienced for the day would be, well, exhausting.
So here’s the compromise I arrived at:
We rode roller coasters all fricken day long. It was awesome.
Now here are some of our favourites.
This has got to be the best roller coaster I have ever been on. Wikipedia is talking some jibber jabber about it being a “4th Dimensional Roller Coaster.” I don’t know about that (though you might find yourself losing track of time as you flip and hurtle through space), but I do know that it is awesome. You flip. You turn. You twist. You roll. You rotate. You invert. You do all of this whilst hanging from a harness that stick out over either side of a thing metal rail way, way, way up in the air. The most memorable part of this ride is the initial slow climb to the top – without warning the floor drops out from under you, the chair flips you upside down, and all you see is an inverted Mt. Fuji as you slowly, slowly ascend (your tears running in your face and screams echoing off the distant landscapes below) to the top accompanied solely by the ominous clanking of the metallic gears and chains. Oh yeah, and then you drop. Straight down. Facing straight into the earth. I’d write more about that, but honestly, I don’t remember anything except flipping and screaming through space (and time). If you go to Fuji-Q, you absolutely must ride this one.
Dear god, just writing this makes me want to go back and ride this coaster again. (and believe me, we rode it more than once when we went!)
I remember riding this one the first time I came to Fuji-Q. Or rather, I remember getting into the seat on this one, hearing the countdown, and then the next time I remember was coming to whilst strapped to a roller coaster that was slowly decelerating back towards the platform. See, the thing about this ride is, it’s the fastest accelerating roller coaster in the world. (It used to be the fastest overall in pure speed as well, but has since been outdone by others). We’re talking like 0 to 70 in one second or something like that. Oh yeah, and you’re sitting in an open topped chair with nary but a single lap bar to keep you in.
How fast is fast? Well, let’s just put it this way – I have never moved this fast before in my life and it’s so fast you don’t even have time to think (and seriously, like you might black out there for a few seconds or so haha). It has a nasty trick too where they will give you false countdown sometimes (it happened the previous time we rode it, but not this time around) where you’re like “oh heyz, is something wrong? The countdown finished but we’re not -WAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH……….!!!!!!!!”
I was ready for it this time around though, and whilst just as we began to take off a memory flitted through my mind of this wikipedia article I read once on retinal detachment due to excessive speed, in the end we survived (retinas intact) to ride another day. What a fun coaster!
This particular coaster was closed the last time we came to Fuji-Q, so we unfortunately were unable to ride it. However, this time around we were lucky enough to not only get to ride it, but to be able to do so with hardly any wait. Unlike Eijyanaika and Dodonpa, Fujiyama doesn’t really have any “gimmicks.” It’s not “4-dimensional” and it doesn’t accelerate so fast you momentarily black out either. But what it does have to offer is just a straight-up pure roller coastering experience that goes on, and on and on. Seriously, every time you thought the ride was over…? Well, it wasn’t. It was a nice change from other one-trick-ponies that have an exhilarating gimmick or two, but are over soon afterward.
So yeah – Fujiyama. A rocking good time and in terms of pure bang for your buck (or yen, I s’pose), it’s hard to beat!
Okay here’s the deal. I’m not really into haunted houses. I always found them kind of boring and goofy, and not at all scary. But you know what I do find scary? The countless myriad of semi-abandoned hospitals that litter Japan. Until come to Japan, I never even knew it was possible for a hospital to be abandoned (outside of zombie movies, that is). Of course, until you come here, you don’t know what hospital overload is either – I mean, back home, we had all of two or three major hospitals for an entire city. Here, there are literally a dozen near-empty hospitals near my house alone…!
The thing is, most of them don’t get a lot of traffic. A lot of them went out of business decades ago, but for inexplicable reasons, the buildings haven’t been torn down. Instead, they just stand there, ominous and creepy as f**k, collecting dust and harboring god-knows what kinds of terrifying scenes and medical experiments inside. There are few things more fun than walking past one on your way home late at night in the dark and thinking you see something moving inside the windows. And that’s just abandoned hospitals in the city! Don’t even get me started on hospital haikyo], way out in the country. Dear jesus.
Why am I talking about terrifying Japanese hospitals? Because, it turns out that the only thing more terrifying than an abandoned old Japanese hospital you only have to pass by on the outside is an abandoned old Japanese hospital that you actually have to enter (best part: it costs you 500 yen to do so). Because folks, Fuji-Q is home to what has got to be the world’s scariest haunted house/hospital. Seriously, this place was messed up. It was dark. It was creepy. It was filled with old hospital equipment/torture devices (if you’ve ever been inside a Japanese hospital, then you know what I mean). The people inside took their jobs seriously…! They give you a single little pitiful flashlight, and send you through the longest, most twisted maze you’ve ever been inside of in your life. I mean, we must have gone up and down four different floors and four different wings of this place. We ran and screamed so hard that at one point, as we were running in terror from a zombie creature covered in a bloody hospital gown we accidentally ran Bethann full force into a door frame. She blacked out, we fell on top of her, the zombie came coming, it was dark, we dropped the light, we were certain we were about to die.
“GET UP!!! RUNN!!!!” we screamed.
“Wha…. what happened?” was all her bewildered expression said as she looked up from the floor.
“I think… I have a concussion. Wait, is that a zombie!?”
The best part was the look the people waiting in line out front gave us as we emerged (finally) into the blessed sunshine, shaking, laughing (hysterically, no doubt) with Bethann clutching her head, and the rest of us limping. Yeah. It was intense. It was like being in a real life zombie movie (seriously, there is nothing more terrifying than walking through a room full of cadavers, only you know – you know – that one of them is going to come to life and start chasing you at any second.) only we didn’t have any guns. And that, my friends, is not a place you want to be. I slept with a nightlight on for the next two days
I could write a full book about all the fun we had at Fuji-Q, but it’s probably best that I just stop here, and leave you with this: if you’re even remotely interested in roller coasters and happen to find yourself in Japan (especially in the off season) you absolutely must stop by Fuji-Q. You won’t regret it, I promise.
Thanks for reading!
Now listening to: Drake – Forever (feat. Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne, & Eminem)
Eminem’s verse at the end of this track is crazy sick. By far the best part of the song (apologies to Kanye’s grandmother and her “bad hip / like a fanny pack”).
There they go, back in stadiums as Shady spits his flow
Nuts they go, macadamia they go so ballistic, whoa
We can make them look like Bozos
He’s wondering if he should spit this slow
F-ck no! Go for broke
His cup just runneth over, oh no
He ain’t had a real buzz like this since the last time that he overdosed
They’ve been waiting patiently for Pinocchio to poke his nose
Back into the game and they know
Rap will never be the same as before
Bashing in the brains of these hoes
And establishing a name as he goes
The passion and the flame is ignited
You can’t put it out once we light it
This sh-t is exactly what the fuck that I’m talking about when we riot
You dealin’ with a few true villains
Whose stand inside of the booth truth spillin’
And spit true feelings, until our tooth fillings come flying up out of our mouths
Now rewind it!
Payback muthafucka for the way that you got at me, so how’s it taste?
When I slap the taste out your mouth with the bass so loud that it shakes the place
I’m Hannibal Lecter son just in case you’re thinking of saving face
You ain’t gonna have no face to save by the time I’m through with this place