Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Nagashima Spaland and Universal Studios Japan - a crazy weekend!

After five weeks of summer holiday, you'd think I'd have spent enough money and done enough travelling. One week back at work and one paycheck later, however, I was already in the mood for some fun.

During the summer, you can buy a train ticket called the "せいしゅん十八切符"(18 ticket) - 11500円 for five days of unlimited travelling on the JR trains. The five days don't have to be consecutive, and multiple days can be used by different people. So, long story short, Jenny and I each had one day left that we wanted to use before the expiry date. Not wanting to travel too far from home on a weekend, we decided to try out Nagashima Spaland, a theme park in Nagoya.

Waking up at 5.30am on a Saturday morning is not my idea of fun, but by the time we got to the theme park (at around 9.30am) the excitement had woken me up. Walking through the gates, I noticed that the entire park was Peter Rabbit themed...! Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny walked around, greeting the children, although sadly they ran away from us.

We started on the tea cups, as the only riders. After that we went on the Viking pirate shit for some stomach-lurching fun! Nagashima Spaland is - as someone else described it - a theme park, water park, hotel and onsen complex which looks as if somebody has just tried to cram as much into a small space as possible.

This place is a rollercoaster lover's paradise. One ride literally turned a 90 degree angle to reach the first slope, so that we were lying on our backs on our way up, the sun in our eyes and gravity pulling us down. The log flume - which we didn't actually go on - provided the biggest splash from a ride that I've ever seen in my life:

We stood on the bridge in front of it a few times, expecting a small splash. Instead, it was like being hit in the face with a tidal wave. It took us a few seconds, soaked to the skin, to compose ourselves and stop laughing - definitely helped us to deal with the blistering heat, though!

As well as rollercoasters, the park contains a massive water park, full of spiralling tunnel slides, fake waves where you can practice body boarding and rapid pools that pull you around a long river, often seperating families. My favourite ride was the tunnel slide, on which I was thrown down while sitting in a large rubber ring - at one point, it spun around and I was hurtling backwards helplessly... quite traumatising. Luckily I managed to correct myself before the end! - here is the official Nagashima Spaland website, by the way! It's in Japanese but you can still look at pretty pictures.

And then, the gift shop. When Beatrix Potter was writing her stories, I doubt she ever envisioned that a Japanese theme park would sell her characters. I bet she never imagined Peter Rabbit chopsticks, for example. Here is one photo from the gift shop:

As we were leaving for the bus to the train station, soaked, sunburnt and high on adrenaline, I pointed out that Jenny still had two journeys left on her ticket.

"Hmm," I said, "we could go somewhere else tomorrow. But where?"
"Well, there's always Universal Studios, Osaka," she said.
For a moment, we pondered, before deciding that it would take too long to travel there and back on a Sunday. After all, it's about 4 hours away on the JR Train.
"Well," I said, half jokingly, "we could go there NOW, stay overnight in Osaka and go there tomorrow."
We looked at each other and laughed. We had no overnight supplies, no clothes but the dirty ones that we were wearing now, and it was already 6pm. Laughter slowly subsided into that mischevous grin that people develop when they're thinking about doing something silly.
"Shall we???" said Jenny.
"Hahahah.... well, we COULD," I replied, amused by the spontaneaity.
By this point we were on the bus, heading back towards the train station. Perhaps it was the heat, but the decision was made.We would look on Jenny's iPhone for hostels. We could buy toothbrushes, shampoo, even new socks at a combini. Perhaps we could wash our clothes in the shower there. After trying 3 or 4 hostels, we finally found one with spare rooms. The 64 Hostel, Osaka was classier than your average backpacker's slum. A private twin room would be 4100円... hmmm, well, cheaper than taking a train to Osaka on a normal day.

So, after a brief combini stop, stocking up on overnight supplies an food, we got onto a train bound for Osaka. This is where I had my first taste of Tropicana: Orange and Rare Cheese flavour. Well... it was interesting. I didn't hate it (like Jenny did) - I actually drank most of it! Imagine washing down cheese and crackers with orange juice, without having to eat any cheese. Yum yum. We had to change trains 3 times before finally arriving Osaka at 10pm. Then, one short subway ride and a 5 minute walk before we arrived the beautiful hostel, still laughing with incredulity at our crazy decision.

Here's the beautiful lobby of the hostel:

And here's the room!

And so, the next morning, rested from a night in a real bed but feeling drunk due to the dehydration of heat and the air-con, I woke up to find my clothes still wet after I had showered them. Even worse, the wood on which I'd rested my WHITE trousers had left two suspicious-looking stains on the front. Yay. Improvising, I wrapped my scarf around my waist, meaning that I would have to quickly buy a hat or enjoy a bright red scalp for a couple of weeks. Off we went to Universal Studios.... Woooooo!!!

Well, what can I say? Disneyland can get lost. It might have been good timing, but the most we queued for a ride was 15 minutes, I think. We went on most rides twice. It was a hot day (37) but the awesomeness of the rides made up for that.

First, Hollywood Dream roller coaster. After riding this, I realise that what all other roller coasters are missing are: speakers that play funky music (you can choose from 1 of 5 tracks) while you ride, sparkly lights on the front, and the utter smoothness of the ride and the system. They have 3 cars, one arriving as soon as another leaves, meaning that the queue moves down very quickly. The first drop is a terrifying vertical plunge, and sitting in the front the first time, with my legs dangling down... aaaargh! We went on in three times, in total...

The park was peppered with performances and shows... including a performance of WICKED! I would have been there like a shot if I hadn't already seen it, and if Jenny had been more enthusiastic, heheh. Still, we stumbled upon this beautiful sight, a definite reminder that we're in Japan:

They were singing "You can't stop the beat" from Hairspray. I shall upload the VIDEO later!!

Jaws: The Boat Ride - see a crazy Japanese lady act out the progression from happiness, to fear and terror (and attempting to shoot a shark in the face) to relief, an act which she must be sick of repeating... Jaws looks pretty fake, but the splashing and explosion effects make it quite exciting.

WaterWorld - based on a film that I apparently have to see! Explosions, splashes and a lot of plunging into water. It was all in Japanese, of course.

Jurrasic Park - quietly ride through the dinosaur safari, before taking a wrong turn and ending up in scary evil dinosaur territory! The ride ends with a massive, stomach-churning drop through darkness, as a T-Rex starts to growl at you. It's a water ride, too, so you get soaked at the end (although nowhere near as soaked as Nagashima's log flume).

Sitting in Universal Studios, in Japan, in a fake San Fransisco ChinaTown, eating Chinese food and watching a "Chinese show" that was mostly in Japanese... this was a definite "love my life" moment... especially seeing as I was eating sweet and sour meatballs, egg soup, fried rice and a mango pudding. Wow, I miss Chinese food!

Back To The Future was an AMAZING ride (if you forget the looooong wait outside the door, watching Doc speak Japanese) - 8 people fit into a Delorean, surrounded by a massive curved screen. As it moved and bumped through the scenery on the screen, it really felt.. real. As if we were flying through cities, caves and space in a massive car. Amaaaazing!!!

Spiderman was even better... the combination of 3D glasses and actual 3D scenery made for one amazing ride. Villains were right up in our faces, sometimes covering us with water or heating up the room for added effect. The car spun around like scary, adding to the sense of excitement. Near the end, the little car seemed to fly up a massive skyscraper, before tilting down and plunging us towards the pavement.. until Spiderman saved us with his web! Seriously, I never thought that rides could be this realistic, exciting... yeah. Wowza. Went on it twice.

Space Fantasy was our final destination... whizzing around stars, planets and asteroids in a tiny (4 person) car, some serious backwards drops and turns really make it exciting. We also went on this twice.

On top of all that, a large part of the day was spent in gift shops. Each ride - as well as a host of other characters - had their own themed gift shop, so you could buy BTTF, Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Sesame Street, Pink Panther, Terminator, Jaws etc... merchandise:

Spiderman noodles!

Back to the Future underwear, anyone?

Pink Panther shop!

I needed a hat, so I ended up buying the world's most awesome hat - Pink Panther hat! Look!

I recommend the frozen pineapple on a stick, although I don't really recommend Backflash(?) unless you enjoy looong dubbed documentaries that you can lip-read but not understand, or Terminator (for the same reason). There are a load of other shows that I can't comment on. I have looked up the American Universal Studios, though, and they have a LOT more rides.... now I want to go to Florida even MORE (damn).

At 5 or so, we left the park, grabbing a quick Mos Burger on the way. Somewhere on the train towards Kyoto, however, we realised that we had taken the wrong train, and that at this rate we couldn't get back to Hamamatsu until 1am. We had work the next day, which for me means a 6am start. Eek. After much debating, we decided to take the shinkansen.....

Yes, this ruined the entire reason that we'd come here in the first place. It was expensive! But we got back for 9pm, meaning that I had time to upload all the pictures onto Facebook straight away, because I'm cool like that. So, that was last weekend. What a crazy, rock-star lifestyle I lead! Now, for the next few weekends, I think I will sit at home and eat udon (17円 a pack)...

1 comment:

  1. that place looks and sounds like a blast. my husband and i will be moving to nagoya next month, and being the kid at heart that i am, i will certainly visit that park as soon as i get a chance. funny, i didn't hear anyone mention it when i was there. we just got back last friday from our househunting trip. i fell in love with nagoya, what a beautiful city!

    teresa in lake stevens, wa. soon to be a resident of nagoya-yeah!!!!