Monday – April 10, 2017
We decided to mix things up a bit today, again getting out of the city to do something different. For those of you who don’t know, I used to be, and still sort of am, a huge roller coaster nerd. In the research I used to do, I would find theme parks in countries around the world and say to myself, if I ever go those countries, I am gonna go to those theme parks to ride those coasters.
As it turns out, Japan is one of those countries and located a few hours outside Osaka by train is none other than Nagashima Spa Land. Nagashima is home to several world class coasters, but the most famous is Steel Dragon 2000. Built in the year 2000, now 17 years old, I have been looking forward to riding it since I was 10.
I woke up at 7am. After I got dressed I woke the other guys up at 8am and we were on the road by 9am. I was already a little upset because we were starting the day so late. Located in Mie Prefecture, NSL is a nearly 3 hour train and bus ride away from where we are staying. Additionally, because it is their off season, they have shorter hours; 9:30 to 17:00. I was afraid that the later we got there, the less time we’d have to go on all the rides I wanted to hit.
So for me, a perfect on the road time would have been 6 or 7. On top of that, the night previous, Dan started to question how we were getting there and was suggesting new/different ways than the ones I had painstakingly researched months ago. This threw a mental monkey wrench in my game plan, but also frustrated me because we have been executing our train rides flawlessly and I have given him no reason to doubt me thus far.
Because of this and the fact that I am really good a bottling and building my internal anger, the day started out with a lot of tension. We walked to Namba station took a train to Shin Osaka. There we switched to the Shinkansen to take us to Nagoya station. On that train, partially because it was crowded, partially because we hadn’t reserved a seat and partially because I was mad a them, Pete and Dan sat together and I sat by myself.
On the train I grabbed a drink and sandwich for “breakfast” and to break my 1,000 Yen note so I would have smaller Yen denominations to pay for the bus. At Nagoya station we we switched to a Kintetsu Limited Express train. This not only required us to tap on with our IC Card, it also required us to buy a ticked for that train. More money that I wanted to spend. We eventually figured everything out though, what train we needed to take, how to purchase the ticket, and got on a minute or so before it left the station.
Luckily ours was the first stop and it only took 16 minutes to get to Kuwana Station. There we were to board our final mode of transportation, a bus that would take us to the amusement park. However, we first had to make it out of the station.
I tried to use the card I bought to get on the express train to get through the turn style but all it did was eat the card and lock the gate. When I tried to tap my IC Card, it locked the gate again. Frustrated, I just walked through. Pete and Dan however went trough a different turn style, only tapped there IC Card and got through fine.
After figuring out where the buses were, we waited at our bus stop. We saw that the bus took IC Cards so we didn’t buy a bus ticket. When the bus arrived, I was the first to board. When I tapped my card, it made a weird noise and weird letters came up. When Pete and Dan tapped theirs however, they had no problem. This got me nervous that I would have a problem getting off the bus.
Being that there was still tension in the air, on our way to NSL I manned up and apologized to Dan and Pete for my shitty attitude. And though things were still sort of tense, I was forgiven.
When we arrived at the park I was the first to exit. I tapped my PASMO card and the screen said “Unable to use.” This bummed me out for two reasons, 1) I had to pay the fair out of pocket which took a long time and held up the line (something I HATE doing) and 2) it made me nervous I would have to forfeit my PASMO for a new card thus also forfeiting any money that was still on it.
Thinking of ways to rectify this situation was something that would plague my thoughts intermittently throughout the day. However, we were finally here and making our way towards the entrance so I couldn’t be too mad. We arrived at -near as makes no difference- noon.
Nagashima Spa Land
After paying 5,000 Yen (~$45) for a “passport” (unlimited ride) ticket and putting our things in a locker, we made our way to the crown jewel of the park, Steel Dragon 2000. As we entered the queue we found that there was virtually no line. We waited for the current train to come back, that train to board and were on by the third ride.
Acrobat (forground) and Steel Dragon 2000 (background)
I had not been on a gigacoaster (one with a drop over 300 feet) in a very long time, so by the time we got on the lift hill and started to climb, I was genuinely nervous. A feeling I have not felt on a coaster in some time. It was nice to have that “fear” again because I had gotten to a point where riding coasters was no longer thrilling to me.
In any case, we crested the 318 foot lift hill and dropped 306 feet to the ground below. We then went over the next hill and the helix and the bunny hops and 4 minutes later and over 8,000 feet of track (this is the current record holder for longest roller coaster in the world) behind us, the ride was over. We had conquered the Steel Dragon!
Psyched, any tension from the day subsided. We were all totally pumped on adrenaline. We ran back in line and immediately did it again.
After re-riding Steel Dragon we made our way over to White Cyclone. Built in 1994, this wooden coaster is well known in the coaster community as one of the best reinterpretations of a classic wooden coaster design. Again we had virtually no wait for the ride and though it was rough, we all enjoyed it.
Next we made our way to the Looping Star, a cookie cutter single loop coaster. Though it was tiny and novice, it was smooth and a lot of fun. They placed cherry blossom trees on the sides of the track so it not only felt like you were going faster, but it added theming to the ride. Dan and I rode it again, there was no line, and Pete filmed us on it.
After Looping star, we took a break and grabbed a light lunch. We all got chicken tenders and fries. Once we were done it was back to action with the Shuttle Loop. Despite the fact that this coaster is basic with a launch and two inversions, one forwards and one backwards, because of the rapid fire action of the ride elements, it’s kind of intense.
We had been going hard since we got there and so after the shuttle loop we all decided we needed a break. We grabbed a drink at a classic Japanese vending machine and took a partial stroll around the park. Clearly we either getting old, or simply not accustom to these rides because the day was kind of kicking our ass in terms of headaches.
We eventually made our way back to the Corkscrew roller coaster and checked it off the list. Pete then walked through the haunted house as Dan and I didn’t want to do it. Next we went to the locker to put stuff away and grab layers as it was overcast and chilly. We then banged out the Bobsled “coaster” -aka Bobkart- before walking around and exploring more of the park.
We then made our way back to the Acrobat, a flying coaster which is a carbon copy of Manta in Sea World. I let Pete and Dan do that one as I a) don’t really like flying coasters and b) though I’m sure I could have handled it, I was not feeling 100% enough to want to risk it.
I got a picture of them as they went swooping by
After Pete and Dan got off the ride, we all decided to do Steel Dragon one more time before heading back to Osaka. Riding that coaster was great every time. It felt like such and accomplishment and was the perfect ending.
Satisfied with our day, we started the journey home. First we purchased tickets at the ticket machine for the Mie Katsu bus. Then, since we had just missed one, we passed the time by going in the 7-11, getting snacks and hanging out. A few minutes later the bus arrived which took us back to Kuwana Station.
Steel Dragon 2000 flew by as we exited the park
There, Dan figured out that we could take a JR train, rather than a limited express train, to get back to Nagoya. Luckily, JR trains require the JR pass rather than the IC Card so my now defunct PASMO card would not be an issue.
However, before making it down to the platform, I tried an experiment. I tapped my PASMO on the same turn style card reader that Dan and Pete had when they were exiting earlier in the day. Low and behold, the screen read a balance and the curse had been lifted. All I had needed to do was to take the time and tap the right car reader. Oh well, the problem was solved and I was back in action.
We took the JR train to Nagoya and there switched to a Shinkansen bound for Shin Osaka station. We got on the first car and, because it was fairly empty, each grabbed a row to ourselves. On the way I listened to music, napped a little and tried to figure out the best plan of attack for the evening/tomorrow.
City Walk at Universal Studios in Osaka
Universal City Walk
After weighing my options I decided I wanted to go to City Walk, since I would no longer be going to Universal Studios to at least get my fix and to grab dinner. I pitched the idea to Pete and when we arrived at Shin Osaka, to Dan as well. Pete and I decided to go and Dan decided to head back to the room and grab dinner locally.
After reorganizing my backpack and giving Dan his personal affects, we parted ways. Pete and I hopped a couple of trains to get us to City Walk. Once there we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Pete had been wanting something quick and easy; something he knew like McDonalds. I was hoping to get something a bit more Japanese. We found a perfect compromise in Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to Burger King.
After hanging around a bit more and looking at some of the shops and restaurants, we made our way back to the Air BnB where Dan let us in and we all went to bed.