Fuji Q Day 2
Everyone was itching to run to Dodonpa, when I had finished breakfast people were pacing back and forth outside what they thought was the door into the park. When it was revealed that we were going the wrong way I suddenly found myself near what was now the front of the queue.
When we were let into the park every ran through the queue line stepping over the ropes to get to the front. I spotted a quicker route around the entire queue line. The upshot? I was first in the queue and would be getting a front row seat on the first train of the day. Now I'm not one of those people who must ride in the front and will do all I can to ensure that happens, I don't care if I sit in the front, middle or back of rides (in fact experience has shown that you'll get more rides during ERSs if you avoid the front and back completely). Dodonpa however was the one ride I was most excited about riding in Japan, and in this instance I didn't mind making an exception.
So how was it? There was no chance of riding with my glasses on so I was mole-riding Dodonpa. There's a 2 part harness that ensure you are not coming out. After turning out of the station you sit in the launch track and the "do-don-pa" drumming starts (this is where the ride gets its name) as the compressed gas is built up. Like a DJ working a nightclub the tension builds up in both the ride system and the passengers. We were all cheering along with the drumming "dodonpa, dodonpa, DODONPA" and then bang, before I could take it in we were already along the straight leading out of the launch and turning into the big sweeping bend. I'd barely got my breath before we were turning up the hill and then at the top I experienced the most powerful ejector airtime ever, launching me out of the seat. I was very grateful for the harness, without it they could easily call this ride "birdmen" as we'd all be flying! A great great ride, made even better by being the first front row rider.
After Dodonpa it was time to ride Fujiyama, which had already amassed quite a queue. Some of the group and a lot of the public had chosen to go for this and risk getting to ride Dodonpa later in the day. A gamble given the queue times and the fact we weren't going to be at the park for long before needing to leave elsewhere. This is the sign indicating where the on-ride cameras are. How are we supposed to remember that with all that track?
As it turned out, the queue line was going extremely slowly and we were there for in excess of an hour, easily the longest waiting of the entire trip.
When we did eventually get to the station, something didn't seem quite right. In fact, it wasn't right at all. No sooner had we made our way to the ride...
then we were ushered over the track towards the exit gate and handed a ticket along the way.
Making our way down the exit ramp we could see now what the problem was. The first train of the day had gotten stuck on the lift hill. Interesting! This ride had been running fine all day yesterday, without any of us getting to ride it and then as soon as the first group of Americans get on it it breaks down. Draw your own conclusions! This incident did make the National media however with the people that had been stuck on it being interviewed by Japanese camera crews. Our guide later telling us that the headlines read "Americans stuck 70m up lift hill" although I'm sure my translation of the article came out at "Overweight westerners break our rollercoaster - send them home!". So it didn't look like we would get to ride this coaster today, c'est la vie! I'm just glad I picked Dodonpa first as the queue for that had already grown too long for us to join and make it back to the coach in time.
There was still plenty more of the park to see. Within coaster circles the park is famous for Dodonpa and Fujiyama. Fans of haunted walkthroughs will also know about the legendary status that Fuji-Q's "Haunted Hospital" has. Said to be one of the scariest ones in the world. We were greeted by a Japanese girl dressed as a nurse with an eye-patch and blood pouring from it. She wouldn't converse with us and just pointed us into a pre-show explaining the rules. The Gaijin were handed cards with the rules written in English. I'm not sure if it was a good sign or not but when you're waiting to start exploring the hospital you don't really want to see a group of girls making their way back to the entrance in floods of tears, clearly too scared to make it even half way into the attraction.
As it turns out the attraction takes a good 45 minutes to get through, and there are junctions offering multiple routes through the building. Most of the hospital is in the dark and you use penlight torches to light the way ahead, that alone puts it above most similar attractions. At one point we thought we had to put the torch in a box but having found the next room in complete darkness concluded that the box was only to be used by people quitting the attraction. Conveniently placed exits throughout the building gave plenty of opportunity to people who wanted to quit.
The ride is full of live actors but not as many as you think, I assume to build up the tension as you approach the next one. One guy dressed as a zombie did scare Tim senseless and after saying "arigato gozaimasu" (thanks a lot!) to him, we were quite amused to hear him moan back "doo itashimashite" (you're welcome) as he made his way back down the corridor he had just chased us up. In Japan, even the undead are civil!
Haunted Hospital is quite superb and definitely one of the best haunted walkthroughs I've ever come across. But it hasn't had the "jump out of your skin" panic that I experienced at Tibidabo in Spain where a room full of soft toys also featured midget actors, something I just wasn't expecting.
Fuwa Fuwa Osora No Dai Bouken was alright but I think it may have been better in its original guise of a flying coaster. Cute cars though, and a very over cute station themed full of those cartoon cat-bear things similar to the statue outside the ride.
It did seem to have a good throughput though and we didn't have to queue too long for this one!
One part of the park that I'd completely missed the previous night was the Thomas the Tank Engine themed area. In a country where everything including the police force has a cartoon character to represent it you'd think the market for imported characters would be quite small. Apparently not however as Thomas is extremely popular here! Those of you with a good memory will recall Hanayashiki having a Thomas ride. Fuji has a whole Thomas part of the park.
This is the exit to a really good Thomas themed dark ride and being themed around trains is perfectly suited to this kind of attraction. There are points that change the trains direction and at turntables to move the train around. The train seen here crashes at the end of the attraction and as you make your way out it looks at with a "move along there's nothing to see here" expression.
The Thomas kiddy coaster was just a means to accumulate a credit; It wasn't that good a ride, certainly nowhere near as good as the dark ride next to it. Had all the rides been running on the trip I would have hit my 400th in Fuji-Q. When some enthusiasts hit the landmark coasters they make a big deal out of it, making banners and choosing a standout ride for it. My plan had been to provoke them by picking this as the 400th over something more memorable as Dodonpa.
The theming in this part of the park was pretty cute, and for a park that seemed to slap their rides on concrete it was nice to see that when they wanted to they could put some really good theming into the park.
Now I thought this was a really really brilliant idea. Take a simple childrens ride that features Thomas and co. spinning around to some music. Not that different admittedly, but if you turn the music up and give each kid riding a tambourine to play along to the music then you have a really fun ride. Of course this could only work in Japan, put this in a park anywhere else and those tambourines will be gone before you know it!
Another bit of the Thomas area with the buildings tailored to the size of the children who walk down it. The buildings are clearly not actual size, which I guess isn't for the grown ups benefit.
This Thomas ride is the park train that takes you to another bit of the park. I didn't ride it so can't tell you which bit of the park it takes you to. Sorry! What are the odds on this train running on time, regardless of the number of leaves on the line?
I've never seen posters advertising the Welsh Railways before, and I've been to Wales on countless occasions. It's funny that I've had to travel all the way to Japan to see them! Thomas Theming overload! Time to go and see the rest of the park.
This is the largest number of people I've seen on a waveswinger all trip. The ride behind it is one of those rides that consists of a pair of arms that rotate spinning you upside down at the top. My interest in it went as far as taking pictures of it only, I certainly wasn't going to ride.
Zola 7, Zola 7 (holds head in hands) Zola 7. What on earth were the park thinking when they came up with this for an attraction? Take an enclosed coaster and install guns into each seat. Position targets around the building to shoot and have the riders see who can score the highest.
This fails on several reasons, firstly the ride with the guns is too difficult to get into. The guns barely moved so a lot of the time you could only shoot straight. Finally when riding coasters, the last thing you do is look all over the place, most people focus on the track ahead to anticipate the turns. I didn't like this at all, and to think I chose this over the mouse, which I wasn't going to get to ride because the queue was getting too long.
The second coaster in the park that I wasn't going to get to ride. Sorry mouse! Had I known Zola 7 would be so bad I wouldn't have bothered.
Dodonpa by day. I'd come to the conclusion that this was going to be the best coaster on the trip even though we still had two Yokohama parks to go.
The park had a tower ride, which I didn't ride due to queues. This park was getting extremely busy again.
A lot of parks in Japan use corporate sponsorship on their rides. Most had been quite subtle, this however would probably win the award for most brazen. Pizza La is one of the biggest pizza chains in Japan, which I'd not seen during all the sightseeing I'd been doing. Not that I would have wanted to eat pizza anyway. If you wanted pizza you wouldn't go to Japan to do so! Bring on the sashimi, teriyaki and sushi.
I said the park was busy but this picture would contradict that. Believe me it was heaving. Perhaps the Japanese were so efficient that they were only ever on a ride or queueing for the next one.
Moonraker was a spinning ride that would rotate to a decent speed and then lift up to a near vertical position. There was a very small queue here but I chose not to ride it. There was one thing I had still wanted to do, whatever it was that was under the grassy knoll in the centre of the Dodonpa ride.
Nicely themed it we had no idea what it was we were queueing up for, but sometimes the biggest surprises come when you least expect them. This was going to end up being the final attraction of the day so it would be an interesting gamble.
And this was it. You're lead into a huge tomb and you each step into a coffin facing towards a stage. Fortunately the coffins were of various sizes and we were able to fit our big frames into them. After the lights go out you watch a bit of a stage show before some guy in a hooded robe pops up in front of your coffin shining a torch at his face from below. If that doesn't scare you then there are also sounds played into the coffin, something nudges your back and the coffins tip. A very unique attraction and one I'm glad I did.
Back into the centre of the park and this sign stands in front of a sealed off area in which the park are building their new ride.
Construction was clearly still at the early stages, but what was it they were going to build? Fortunately there were some teaser signs around the construction site that may shed some clues. When it opened in 1996 Fujiyama was the first big coaster in the park and was given the project name Episode 1. 5 years later Dodonpa became Episode 2.
Is Episode 3 going to have this coaster design?
Or this one perhaps? Physics graduates will be doubting this given that the top of each hill is at the same height which could only exist in a frictionless environment.
Alternatively it could be a piece of tempura. Nice to see a park have a sense of humour!
The park's sense of humour is also clear on this teaser poster for a ride opening in 2051 that is 12 Kilometres in length.
Here's the crazy truck again. I couldn't help but think that it may be a transformer robot. It certainly didn't look like any conventional truck.
Fujiyama never did open for us that day, at least I have a reason to go back to Japan. Of course re-riding Dodonpa would be good enough on its own.
Fuji-Q is a nice park with some really decent attractions but I think the crowds had caught us off guard and not being able to ride anything on the first night probably put a downer on it. I should acknowledge that up to this point we had been extremely fortunate with the crowds in the parks and shouldn't have taken it for granted!