|Trip Report: |
I woke up at 4:30 am to start my train journey early enough to arrive in time for the park's 9 am opening. (Sorry, Elissa, none of the bus options work for me from the direction I start from.) After more transfers than I care to count, I finally arrived at the park at just before 9, to see all the rides running and the park already open! I also remembered why I always drove to this park, even though I take trains everywhere else in Japan!
I quickly paid my entrance fee and grabbed 'breakfast' (okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake) on a stick, not very good) in the new gift shop area built next to the EJ station. I snapped a couple pictures of the train in action as the line didn't look very long yet, and then got in line. The station can be approached from 2 areas, and there is a good amount of switchbacks located under a retractable sunshade. After passing the pay-as-you-go ticket machine (1000 yen / ride) the line goes up a short slope, turns right and then splits to the two sides of the train. The Guiness Book plaque is here, and another framed document which I've already forgotten what it was. I turned right at the split, moved around a left turn, continued up the ramp, u-turned right again, and hit the end of the line about half way up this ramp. That put one more turn and ramp section before the door where they split up the people into groups of ten to wait in the four locker / waiting platform / air gates. The wait was a little over 30 minutes with an average of one dispatch every 5 minutes 30 seconds when one train was running and between 3 and four minutes with 2 trains running. They had problems with both trains all day, and kept cycling out the trains for small fixes. I believe that they operated two trains for about half the day, but just putting the trains on and pulling them off certainly wasn't helping the queue times.
When I finally reached the door, I was assigned to row 5, the back row. They pulled the green train off just before I boarded, so I rode the yellow train. There was an American standing to one side of the station, and I ended up talking to him for a moment before I was dispatched. His name was Mike Smith, and he is an employee of S&S Power, and he works in the department that designs and fabricates the trains. He was part of the design team on X, and he offered to show me around the backstage areas of the coaster after my ride. As you can imagine, I took him up on that offer!
But first, the ride!
I'm pretty sure that if you've been following this ride at all, you've seen the POV. I will give my own version, in text, here. My pictures and video will be posted shortly.
As the train drops out of the station, the trains rotate back until your head is below your chest, and they remain there until just before the bottom of the lift. They rotate back to vertical, but in relation to the ground, not the track, for the climb up the long lift hill.
At the top, as the trains transit the dip, they rotate to face you straight down for the first drop. Since they reach this position before the drop begins, everybody gets to look 75 meters straight down to the ground, with no sight obstructions. As the drop begins, the seat rotates to maintain the orientation to the ground, and the cars in front of you seem to rotate into view. Just before the train reaches the pullout, the seats rotate forward to 'put your butt into the g's.'
After the train reaches the lowest point of the course, it ascends into the inside raven turn. As the train approaches the peak, it executes a full back-flip before dropping down to approach the full-full.
This maneuver is the most wild, insane, out-of-control feeling I have ever had on a coaster. The forward rotation, combined with the counterclockwise twist throws you against the incredibly comfortable OTSR's for an extended bout of twisting airtime.
Following the amazing full-full, you race along the top of the first evacuation platform and climb into the massive overbanked turn. The seats don't rotate but you change orientation from on your back to on your front during the turn. The half-half rotates you through a half backflip and you exit this element facing backwards for the first time since the lift.
The outside raven turn is the most gentle element of the ride, and it simply seems like the train rotates around you as you drop down for the last time. (It's actually a forward half flip.) The half twist onto the brake run is accompanied by a half back flip, and as you brake you are facing straight down at the walkway. This puts your butt into the deceleration, and is actually a much more pleasant element than the trick before the lift.
When I arrived in the station, I grabbed my bag from the locker and Mike Smith brought me up onto the catwalk behind the ride operations booth. From this vantage, we watched the trains get swapped out (again) and discussed what it was like at Arrow during the final days, working for S&S, the design sequence for the 4D concept, the changes made to the trains between X and EJ, as well as numerous other topics. During this conversation, we went down into the workshop under the transfer track and he showed me the disassembled blue train and he explained how all the pieces went together as well as how it all worked. He was particularly proud of all the new suspension elements added and the various weight reduction techniques they used during the construction. They shaved off a little more than 1000 pounds per row, which considering that they ADDED things, was quite an accomplishment! We exited the workshop and wandered over to the new concessions area built for the ride. We talked for some more, and then he had to go back to work. I got back in the line again for the now one hour wait, and got a 4th row ride. After my second lap, I spent most of the day getting off-ride footage before getting my final laps on Dodonpa and Fujiyama.
There were more people in the park from outside Japan than I had ever seen, I met folks from Germany, Australia and Americans who weren't in the military stationed in Japan. The park wasn't crowded as the wait for DDP was only 45 minutes and Fujiyama's line was only 10 minutes. Before leaving, I wanted one last ride on Eejanaika, so I queued up for the longest wait of the day, just over 90 minutes. This worked out to a third row ride, which was the wildest so far.
I had tried to get a front row ride by allowing people to pass me at the door, but the ops wouldn't let me do it. When I returned to the station this time, Mike had worked it out with the ops to let me skip the line, and immediately queue up for the front row in the same waiting area I had just left. (It wasn't actually quite that smooth.) So for my last ride of the day, I got front row, outside seat, and it was simply amazing. I only rode the inside seat on my first lap, and neither seat is rough, but the outside is definitely much more wild / out-of-control.
As for how it stacks up against the other 500+ coasters I've been on? Pretty good, actually, I'm positive it cracks into my top ten, and probably my top 5, but Eejanaika was not my number one steel coaster. It's simply too short an experience. At 30 million for X and 35 million for EJ, I sadly don't see anyone making a much longer model though.
I enjoyed tracking the construction of this ride for the past seven months, and sharing the images with everyone. After all the trips and build up for this ride, I'm not disappointed with the experience. Fuji-Q has a real winner on their hands.
Thanks to Fuji-Q, S&S Power, Meisho Amusement Machines and OB Steel for the excellent ride and special thanks to Mike Smith and the construction workers who allowed me a little better than average access to the ride before and after the ride opening.