Hanayashiki is Japan's oldest theme park, having been open since 1853. It originally opened as a flower garden (in fact that is what the name translates to) and because it has a history going back to Feudal times is close to the hearts of those who visit it. I think it's also the smallest park I've ever been to, easily fitting within a single block. It's possible to see across the full width of the park, in fact it was also so quiet that if I wanted to I could get the attention of people on the other side of the park just by shouting at them.

I did have a worry before coming to Japan that I wouldn't be able to fit into the seats due to the average Japanese person having a much smaller frame than me. However it was immediately obvious that this park was tailored to the kids, not the adults. So there was no way I was going to get into rides such as this animal themed one.

The park has a single coaster but it also has some historical significance. Running since 1953, the unimaginatively named "Roller Coaster" is the oldest steel tracked variant in the world. If a park said it had a ride that circled its perimeter you'd think "Wow that must be huge", but alas, with this park being so dinky, the ride is also quite short.

This is actually the first drop on Roller Coaster. Huge, isn't it? The ride was actually quite enjoyable. Sometimes you don't want to be thrown out of your seat all the time and to be honest having a ride that did that wouldn't really fit with the overall vibe of the park. Look at the concentration on Justin's face as he takes an on-ride picture of all those hands in the air. You can tell that although the girls in row two have their hands up, their hearts aren't really into it.

Japan loves it's big wheels. We'd passed several on the way to the hotel and this park had it's own too. This one was quite small but in the confines of a small park still stood out. This wheel also lacked any air conditioning and it was soon apparent why we'd been handed the fans on the way in.

At the top of the wheel you could see out over the immediate vicinity and the grounds and the Asakusa-Kannon Temple stood out like an oasis of calm in another wise busy city... and this wasn't even the built up part of Tokyo. Beyond the pagoda can be seen the Flame D'Or.

I took this shot just so I could figure out the way through the maze when I came to do that later on. When I did eventually do it I was being told that it was a dead end and there was no way through the metal cages in the right hand end. They hadn't figured out you could swing one bar in each set and squeeze through. Well the Japanese could squeeze through, I had to crowbar my way through it.

And what was the prize for completing the maze? An animatronic drops his pants and pees at you. Charming!

Because of it's small size, the rides were crammed in amongst each other. I do prefer parks that do this as being close to another moving ride does add to the overall enjoyment. Whilst it's no Blackpool it still does this very well.

The park used to be owned by nefarious stand-up coaster maker Togo but when the company started to go under it was sold to toy maker Bandai, who were responsible for marketing Pikachu and the other Pokemon animals found around the park. The craze is still quite prevalent but this machine had clearly been targeted at the little kids. I wonder if Thomas is wondering what it would be like to be as popular as the little electricity generating rodent.

In its prime Pokemon made the news not just for its popularity but also because one episode brought on seizures in a large number of viewers. So it seemed a bit odd that the game within Pikachu consisted of watching spinning lights flash increasingly faster and faster.

Interesting Pokemon trivia. Pokemons #109 and #110 were the two that coughed all the time. In the West they're called "Koffing" and "Weezing" but their original Japanese name were "NY" and "LA", a cheeky reference to the smoking culture that runs rife in both cities.

This isn't the wheel we rode, it offered no views over the city. It was the one for the kiddies and vertigo sufferers. The 1892 refers to the year the RiesenRad company was founded, not the year the wheel was made. Kasse is German for tickets so guess where this ride originated.

The large white building in the corner of the park housed a mixture of bizarre walkthrough rides and attractions. Nudity clearly isn't a problem in Japan in the same way it is back home. One of the walkthroughs featured plenty of that as well as bodily functions.

The standout attraction in that mini-complex was this Sound Illusion attraction where you sit in the dark around a nicely themed dinner table listening to to sounds on some headphones. It doesn't sound that exciting when put like that but the idea of only being able to hear really makes this attraction scary, especially when the sound being played considered of ghost children terrorising you with scissors. Proof that you can have immersion without the visuals. I was particularly interested in this because I wrote a paper on Virtual Reality and Sensual Immersion at University that mentioned this kind of trick.

I can only read the first part of this kana but it says "go-o-su-to-no", which is "ghost". The "no" is possessive turning it into "ghost's".

More squishing together of rides and in this shot my first encounter with the Statue of Liberty sitting in the centre of their Rainbow ride. In the west those on the rainbow would be throwing things onto those in the inverted pirate boat ride, but not in Japan where everyone is so much nicer and respectful.

Those of you that have been in Madhouses such as Hex at Alton Towers will know that when done well this attraction, where you think you're spinning around a room, can be very exciting. This 3 Little Pig equivalent was an example of how to do this badly. The room was tiny and spun at such at ridiculous speed that the effect was lost. However the cute pig is much better than the one-eyed Hex Monster.

This was the park's haunted walkthrough, and was extremely tame. It was also quite short being over before you expected it to be. Nice bamboo fencing though and the building was nicely themed even though it wasn't that good.

You might have noticed that this park isn't particularly busy, and that is because it wasn't. Admittedly we were the first in having waited outside for it to open (I wonder how that would have been perceived by the staff to see 100+ westerners waiting for opening time). It also has a feeling that it's never really that busy because of it's location; the locals have probably been to it enough anyway.

Another of the park's dark rides. The whole back wall consisted of panels that moved from side to side revealing various pictures and the occasional monster to scare the kiddies in the queue line.

Say hello to Anpanman, whose name comes from the fact that he is a man with a head made of bread (pan is japanese for "bread") that is filled with bean jam (an). His weakness is water or anything that makes his head dirty. He regains his health and strength when his father bakes him a new head and is placed on his shoulders. He was created when a shooting star landed in his father's oven while he was baking. He has two special attacks called: Anpan-punch and Anpan-kick. When Anpanman comes across a starving creature or person, he lets the unfortunate creature or person eat part of his head.

Who came up with that for a cartoon character and what were they on?

Now here's a fairground game you're not going to get anywhere else. The aim is to put the babies into the green scoop, pull it back, and launch them past the knife wielding monk dude through the hole to safety. Get it wrong and your baby is going to be chopped up!

Remembering the park was originally a garden, the centre of the park contains this really nice Japanese Garden complete with fish pond (full of huge goldfish) and waterfall. Where's the waterfall you cry?

Here it is, what were you expecting? The Niagra falls?

Now these things were a little strange. They're a way of getting around the park; that's right, you ride them. Admittedly they're extremely slow and you'll soon get give up and end up walking. It's nothing I've seen before though and I prefer seeing these to electric wheelchairs that ruined Disney for me.

As a gentle introduction to the trip the park was fine. The thrill rides were to come later. We were at this park for its historical aspect, not its 5* rated rides. As we left the park it started to rain, hopefully this wouldn't spoil our next park, Toshimaen.


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