Where: Kobe Portopialand (KP), Mosaic Garden (MG) and Central Park Himeji (CPH)
When: Saturday, 7 January 2005
Who: Just me, as usual
Why: Because Kobe Portopia Land closes forever on 31 March 2005!
This one may get a little long as I added an extra park that day and I'd like to put a little extra detail into Portopialand as it is about to close.
I left Yokosuka very early this morning in order to fit the two parks I had planned into one day. To arrive at KP by opening I had to catch the very first train from Yokosuka, the first subway at Kamiooka and the second Shinkansen at Shinyokohama. After arriving at Shinkobe, I transferred to the subway line and then the Portliner to Minamikoen station. I did have a little trouble finding my way from the subway to the Portliner as the signage really wasn't adequate.
While on the bridge to Portopialand, I noticed a small amusement park across the harbor and made a mental note to try to find it if time permitted.
Just outside Minamikoen station is the entrance to Kobe Portopialand.
Somewhat utilitarian, it simply consists of a small building for group sales, a tiny two window box for regular sales and a small roof over the turnstiles. The plain wrought-iron fence on either side is also quite plain. The park covers an area roughly equivalent to six city blocks, laid out 3 by 2. Upon entering the park I was initially impressed with the theming of the park with Bavarian styled buildings, a large (bigger than the Mayflower, a bit smaller than Columbia at Disneyland) realistic looking pirate ship (not a ride, but possibly once a show?) and many other nice touches like mosaic laid walkways.
Sadly, I realized as I walked around the park that much of the theming has been allowed to fall into disrepair and decay. The pirate ship on closer examination appears to be rotting away, the mountain covering BMRX is crumbling and exposing the underlying latticework, several of the buildings look like they haven't been painted in years. This park in no way is in as bad shape as Nara Dreamland, but it is headed that way.
My first stop was Munich Autobahn. This is a large Mack Bobsled coaster that ISN'T themed to bobsleds! The station is elevated, and arcade games are arranged underneath the large station / train barn.
The train barn is actually after the station, which is somewhat unusual. The third longest example of the style, it was satisfying as the shorter ones don't get enough speed to really get wild. This brings me to 7 of 10 worldwide on Mack Bobsleds! After a 180 left and climbing the lift, the progression of turns is as follows: 90 left, 315 right, 45 left, 270 right, 45 left, 495 right down helix, 495 up left helix, wide bank 180 right, straight, and a wide bank 180 right narrowing into the brake run. With a good amount of left and right sliding as well as enough speed to climb up the sides of the turns pretty far, this falls behind only Trace du Hourra (Parc Astérix) and Schweizer Bobbhan (Heide Park) in my rank. Interestingly those are the only two that are longer.
Next, I passed several midway games in dedicated buildings and a dark walkthrough that was incorporated into the structure of the large show stage and also supports part of the log flume. Also in this building was an arcade. The next building housed 2 restaurants.
Continuing around the park counterclockwise, the stations for the bumper boats and the log flume are on the inside and the Double Loop station is on the outside of the park's single ring path.
Double Loop is a Schwarzkopf custom coaster, as is BMRX. Double Loop has a large yellow station and currently only has one train although there is a transfer and storage track that leads me to believe that there were once two. The lift hill is straight out of the station and the track makes a graceful dropping left 180 turn maintaining the gentle drop as the track straightens out before entering the two vertical loops. Quite forceful, (RCDB lists 4 G's) the loops are wonderful, and as Anton showed us time and time again, you don't need OTSR's just to go upside down. After the two loops, the track makes a high gently banked left turn over the brake run. The next turns are to the right and weave up and down behind the Top Spin, the Giant Wave Swinger and the Condor before a final pop of air into the two brake runs. I was pretty surprised to get air that late in the ride! A second ride was called for, but they would only allow me to sit in the front row of the coaster. The rear half of the train was loaded with sand bags!
From there, continuing around the park there was an attraction called Panic House and a small minigolf course that were closed, Next was a Flying Carpet and the ever present Ferris Wheel. Panic House appeared to be one of those Crazy House 'rides.'
Next up on the inner side of the ring was the Top Spin and a Giant Wave Swinger with 2-person swings. On the outer side of the ring was a Condor ride with nautical themed cars.
Between the Wave Swinger and the large enclosed double decker carousel was the entrance to the Shoot the Chutes. This had a non-standard layout being neither a simple oval nor a figure eight as well as having covered boats. This one seemed as though the covers were removable. The large pirate ship seen from the entrance was within the boundaries of this ride, and the lake was shared with the other water rides.
Across from the carousel was a miniature train ride, next to which was BMRX, the park's second Schwarzkopf coaster. Formerly known as Bavarian Mountain Railroad, this custom coaster is themed just as it sounds, with the track climbing, crawling and dropping all over a mountain with model buildings and trees lending to the scenery. There are a few geysers of mist at key locations along the track, and are close enough that in the back of the train they get you a little damp. After more than a few rides on this very enjoyable coaster, I noticed that the scenery on the mountain was actually a little worn down to the extent that in some places holes had broken all the way through. After about ten laps on this helix filled coaster with one particularly crazy drop, I moved on to explore the final side of the park.
The final side of the park consists of two long buildings with a Tudor style. The one on the inside edge of the park contains some restaurants and the park information office while the other has bumper cars, some midway games, a large gift shop and another restaurant. I believe the park offices are on the second floor of this building.
I considered making another lap of the park hitting the coasters again, but I had taken LOTS of pictures, none of the flats were begging that I ride, and I was more interested in seeing if I could squeeze in the bonus park and still have time for Central Park. With some more people, a warmer day, and a lot of TLC this park won't be receiving, this would have been a really nice and fun little park.
I asked around quite a lot about the closing of the park. Many of the ride operators didn't seem to know that the park was closing, but a few did. They didn't know why, only offering that possibly the land was being sold. The park information office was a little more helpful. This woman indicated that due to the new Kobe airport opening in February that the land would be being put to use in another fashion. She was unsure if the land would be sold first, or if the park's owners were doing the new development. She was not certain if the area would be used for parking, hotels, or other airport related support facilities such as rental car agencies, or a combination of some or all of this.
Returning to the station, a little sad, knowing that this park would be closing forever soon and few if any of the rides would likely be saved.
Once on the train, I closely watched outside the windows to see if I could find the small amusement park on my maps. Once I caught sight of the Ferris Wheel again, I could see a coaster behind it.
I counted the piers between the bridge the train was on, and found the approximate location on my map. Once back at the other end of the line, I asked one of the station agents what train station was nearest to the park in question. Armed with that knowledge, I walked through one of Kobe's underground shopping malls to catch another subway line. Getting off at the station nearest Kobe Station, I caught a taxi to the park, Mosaic Garden. If I had known how close this park was to the subway, I'd have walked!
After a 2 minute taxi ride, (including one traffic light) I arrived at the mall and amusement park called Mosaic Garden.
There isn't really a lot to say about this little park. There is a small coaster, which turned out to be an identical twin to Labyrinth at Central Park. There's a medium sized Ferris wheel. Shocking! AFerris wheel in a Japanese amusement park! A flying elephant ride, a small motion simulator, a small walk through attraction, a ball jump, and the largest collection of coin operated rides I have seen in any Japanese park. That's it. I was done here in roughly 15 minutes and walked back to Kobe Station via a series of underground tunnels. Kobe does have a LOT of underground pedestrian malls.
I caught the first semi-express train to Himeji station and as I was becoming a little pressed for time, caught a taxi to the park for about $33. The first thing you see when arriving at CPH is a largish roller coaster that is actually mostly outside the park. To the left are the safari buses and the parking lots are like large steps down towards the park entrance. The farthest lot from the gate contained tracks for a coaster that was removed from another park and will be installed here, not opening until possibly next year.
I made some mistakes with my ticket purchases here. I asked for a free pass, but I somehow ended up with an entrance ticket with included safari. I tried to get on the first coaster, but was denied. So I went back to the ticket window and bought a ride pass. I ended up spending about $80 for little over 2 hours here, and I didn't even end up having time for the safari!
Ouch! I have really got to work on my Japanese!
The entrance building is really big, 3 stories and about the size of a football field. Besides the ticket windows and a couple stores, I really don't know why it was so big. Even park administration offices couldn't take up that much space, so possibly there are hotel rooms or some other functions.
Behind this building is a small plaza surrounded by an arcade, some small restaurants, a dark walkthrough, a motion simulator, coin operated ride-on animals and the station for Jet Coaster (Camelback Jetcoaster?).
This is another one of those rides over here that look big, but don't really DO anything. A long lift hill takes you out of the park, over the safari buses and along the outer entrance plaza. At the top, it levels out until the whole train has peaked before turning left and the whole train straightens again before the first drop. This drop levels out right over the city bus stop and taxi stand and actually fairly fun. It runs flat for a second, then rises up until all the speed is killed and levels out again. The next segment has a constant down grade of about 3-5% and makes a large slightly banked 270 degree left turn. After this turn, there is an upward sloped 90 degree right before a second smaller drop over the taxi stand/bus stop. A right turn leads the track back along the lift hill and into a pair of would-be air hills if it weren't for the trim brakes on each up slope. After the track passes the station, there is a slight left turn and the track gently rises and falls as it approaches and traverses a large right turn back into the station. Another brake run slows the train just prior to entering the station. I had a second round trip, but it really was a ho-hum kind of ride.
Next, I passed a new looking 4D theatre that was playing a movie I had seen before (Sorry, I forget what it was! This is what happens when I wait too long to write up a TR!) I quickly whored myself out to the caterpillar coaster and then passed the entrance to the water park and a small kiddy car ride. The water park looks almost entirely in house created except the new slides for '06. The lazy river, some waterfall pools, racing slides and a large tube slide all had a distinctly home made appearance. There is also a small sprayground being installed.
I wanted to work my way back to the last two coasters before looking at the rest of the lower level of the park, so I made my way over to a long covered motorized walkway that looked like a super long grocery store conveyer belt and walked up it to the back of the park.
To the left were a small suspended monorail with what looked like Donald Duck cars and the Labyrinth coaster. The little trains on this one looked like they had just been polished or somehow spruced up. Not quite a mouse, and not specifically any other type either, it was a fairly nice family coaster just as it's not as nice looking twin at Mosaic Garden.
Next, I made my way to my reason for coming to Himeji, The Batman: The Ride clone, Diavlo. I'm going to write this part based on the premise that everybody reading a Trip Report about an obscure Japanese amusement park is enough of a coasterphile that they have been on at least one if not more of B&M's inverted, dare I say it, masterpieces.
Now take that 5-inversion 55 mp/h goodness and try it in upper-30's lower-40's degree temperatures with the sun nearly set, and you will know what a freak we coaster junkies can be. Like all of these clones, it has that lovely sound, is smooth and has great low-g, zero-g and inverted force moments. What this one had that no other B&M I've ever been on (not even Orochi at Expoland in Osaka) was zero wait times. There was nobody in line for this coaster. I rode it solo a few times and with as many as two people a few others. I took POV footage, I tried all 4 front seats, and I loved every second. What I didn't get to do was ride in the back. CPH loads this coaster front to back, and if nobody was in row 7, I wasn't getting in row 8. Period. The front two rows had massive amounts of wear visible on the OTSR's and the seats, but the back of the train looked like it had just been unwrapped from its plastic.
After re-riding far more times than any other B&M I've ever been on, (I think I got 12 rides in about 45 minutes.) I tortured myself on the Intamin 1st generation freefall to get an aerial shot of Labyrinth, then passed a Rock'n'Roll, a covered flying bobs and an enterprise before riding my third Ferris wheel of the day for more high angle shots of the park's coasters.
From up there, I got my only look at the lower corner of the park I skipped. I could see a very slow go kart track, a Zamperla balloon race, a flying elephant ride, a miniature train, a carousel, a swinging ship and a small helicopter ride. I did two dark walkthroughs before I had to leave to catch my Shinkansen. The first was similar to one I had seen before where you carry a glowing plastic skull around and plug it into various stations making meaningless choices or answering questions (in Japanese) that somehow registered within your little skull. When finished, you were given a score that meant something if you can read Japanese. (I need to learn more Japanese!)
The other walkthrough was easier to 'get.' Teams of 4 people are handed electronic shotguns and you proceed through 4 mission rooms. A brief is given prior to each course with pictures giving you a run down of what you will be required to do in each mission. As I was alone and no one showed up to play with me, I went through the course alone. This means my team score was really low, but it was a lot of fun anyway. Target practice, a home invasion, a hostage scenario and an alien invasion were the four missions, and this would be a great addition to a lot of places in the US like large arcades, Jeepers/Chuck E Cheese type places or amusement parks could all make use of this type of attraction.
The sun was just about gone and I had to catch my train, so I left this interesting park. There were large picnic grounds and lots of open space here, so I suspect this park is more geared towards families than a lot of places. In all, Central Park Himeji was a very nice family park with one out of place coaster.
As there was no bus going back for a while, I asked the staff to call me a taxi, which oddly was a little cheaper ($30) going back. I caught my train with about 5 minutes to spare and took the long ride home.
Next up: South Kyushu. Possible parks include Mitsui Greenland, Kijima Amusement Park, Kagoshima Jungle Land, Harmonyland, Wonder Rakutenchi and Miyazaki City Phoenix Zoo.