Location: Yamanashi Prefecture – near Mt Fuji.
Access: around 2 hours from Tokyo by train or bus - FujiQ access guide
Cost: ¥4800 (tickets can be purchased from convenience stores around Japan for ¥4400)
Famous Rides: Dodompa, Fujiyama, Eejanaika?!
The ski season in Japan is still a long way away but with plenty of people getting into the planning I thought it would be a good time to post a few side trip travel recommendations, starting with FujiQ highlands, an amusement park right next to Mount Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture, located 2 hours by bus from Tokyo.
Japan would have to have one of the highest rates of amusement park per capita in the world – according to roller coaster database Japan has 167 theme parks. Whilst many of these are nearly abandoned relics from the bubble (and unfortunately the several “New Zealand Villages” dotted around the country come to mind when i say that), Fujikyu Highlands is an amazing place to visit for adrenaline junkies with some jaw dropping rides and attractions. There are so many rides at FujiQ that it probably wouldn’t be possible to ride all of them in just one day. The big ones are extremely popular and it is not uncommon to face queues of up to 3 hours just to ride one roller coaster. Fortunately when I visited the biggest queues were just an hour, and here is my review of the day.
I started the day at Eejanaika?!, the newest roller coaster at FujiQ. Eejanaika?! is a 4th dimension roller coaster with seats which spin around backwards and forwards. Walking up to the ride I actually couldn’t believe that I was going to go on it. With all the twists, turns and drops, and hanging chairs that spin around, it really just looks too ridiculous to be true. It starts with a backwards climb, small drop (still backwards) and just as you go off the edge of the first big drop you are flipped over to face the full terror of the drop face first. In all you are inverted 14 times, which gives Eejanaika the world record for most spins.
Next up was Fujiyama. Fujiyama is a classic roller coaster which briefly held the world record for tallest roller coaster in the world (79m). The climb really gets you up over the park, and after the climb there is a small straight which directly faces Mount Fuji providing great views on a fine day. The roller coaster itself is best described as fun rather than terrifying. It is long ride taking over three and a half minutes with lots of up and downs. Japanese roller coaster veterans even hold the safety bar to prevent it locking too tight, thus leaving room to move around and make the turns that much more exciting.
Probably my favourite ride at Fujikyu, Dodompa sets off on an aircraft style hydraulic launch system which fires the roller coaster to a speed of 172kmh in just 1.8 seconds. Dodompa shoots out of a tunnel and time seems to bend (think star trek warp-speed style) as you approach the first corner. A rather short coaster, the other main scare is a 55m vertical climb and then straight drop over the other side of a loop. The day I went there was a wait of around an hour and 15 minutes for the ride (apparently not much of a queue compared to really busy days), but 30 seconds of pure terror and excitement really made it worth it.
Tekotsu bancho is a new attraction opened just a few weeks ago. It is basically an extreme merry-go round where you are strapped into swings and raised high above the park, before you are spun around going up and down for a couple of minutes. There was a lot of hype for Tekotsu Bancho being the newest ride at FujiQ, however the highlight of the ride is the view from up so high and the actual ride was rather dissapointing.
Tower of terror ride where you are strapped in and lifted to the top of a very high pole and then dropped for a second or so of freefall. Perhaps this type of ride is old hat for the Japanese (and with rides like Dodompa and Eejanaika that may be justified), but there was no queue for the Red tower all day long.
Senritsu meikyu (haunted hospital)
No one does horror like the Japanese, and surely the haunted hospital at FujiQ would be unmatched anywhere in the world. The premise of the attraction is a hospital which has been taken over by zombies (although strangely there are also plenty of non zombie hospital staff playing their part who seem to be blissfully unaware of all the zombies). At the start of the ride we were ushered into the waiting room and shown a video of the hospitals history. The video was a collection of disturbing horror scenes (think “The Ring” or “The Grudge”) which which made little sense but was scary all the same.
The attraction is a 50 minute/ 900m walk through an abandoned hospital. The decorations are gruesome and the zombies – actual human actors with great make up and excellent zombie growls/croaks – are well versed in extracting the biggest screams. Despite being skeptical I have to admit jumping out of my skin several times and wanting it to be over well before we were chased out of the hospital by the last zombie.
FujiQ is right at the top of the scale for extreme theme parks. Japans other big theme parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan (in Osaka) concentrate on creating a magical atmosphere, and the rides are actually rather tame. FujiQ does its best to make you lose your lunch in as many ways as possible. For roughly the same cost as a one day lift park, FujiQ is pretty good value and well worth the visit if you are any kind of thrill seeker.