Hanayashiki Amusement Park, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
If you want to see all of the rest of the non-coaster stuff, check out my website below, as the whole trip report will be there.
Japan is the one country in the entire world that has been at the top of my bucket list for a very long time. I took 2 years of Japanese in High School, have studied the culture, pop culture, language, and more for many years, while looking at photos of cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, and more. I was determined to get there soon, and finally set a date, 2017. It took much planning (over a year), pre-paying, asking for time off of work, etc.
It’s been a long time coming, but the trip finally arrived. I’ve planned it out for over a decade. I’ve done heavy planning over the last couple months, and now here it is. First things first, I was nervous about being in a plane that long. The flight started from CLT to ORD, where we transferred to the international terminal, then ORD to NRT. True flight time was between 11-12 hours out. I packed every electronic I had (2 phones, 2 tablets, a DSLR camera, a GoPro Knockoff by a reputable camera company, chargers, cords, and more).
Honestly, I didn’t need as much and the next time I fly internationally, I likely will pack much less. I barely used my iPad on the flight because there was an entertainment screen in the back of the seat ahead of me with live news, lots of decent movies (I watched part of Skull Island, some of Guardians 2, and all of Minority Report and a Big Bang episode, along with CNN as Irma hit), and kept busy all fight.
I did dose off a bit, but there were 2 full meals, a sandwich snack, and 1-2 other snacks on the flight as well. And even though we were flying chasing day light the entire time, the plane’s windows dim and the flight was rather dark. Before I knew it, we were over Japan, and an hour away from Narita, so I watched a Big Bang Theory rerun to occupy me. I’m not a huge fan of the show, but I knew it wouldn’t be long after I finished watching that we would land.
Once we arrived at Narita we had to find the post office to pick up the wifi router we rented for the next two weeks. Isaac stopped to exchange the money he had out for some yen, and then we finally made our way to the Post Office on the third floor of Narita Airport. After a few moments and me realizing she couldn’t find the package, I looked at my reservation. I had had issues with the website when making the reservation anyways, but after looking, the reservation was for October, NOT September. Grr…
So we headed to the SoftBank kiosk to rent one (I’ll cancel the other order before I get back home). After that (unfortunately it was more if you rent it in country instead of before), we headed to the JR East office to exchange our Japan Rail vouchers for JR Passes for 7 days. I have to say, thus far, the customer service in Japan has been outstanding. It beats anything I’ve ever experienced on a consistent basis in the US. After that it was off to the Keisei office to get a Sky Access Express ticket and off to the terminal to catch our train. I was apprehensive because I wasn’t sure we were on the right platform, but the train came right on time.
After an hour ride from Narita in to Tokyo, we got off at our station in Asukasa and walked to our Hotel. The city is so quiet. We found the MyStays hotel and checked in, freshened up, then headed out to try and find dinner, but after walking around and nothing being open, we settled for Bento Boxes from 7/11 (They’re everywhere here).
I slept pretty well from about 8pm to about 5am Tokyo time. I got ready and went out the door to go up a couple floors to get some decent shots of the SkyTree from the top floor of the hotel, but as I was going out the door, Isaac, who also woke up around the same time, was coming out with his stuff to walk to a near by park. So we headed to the park a few blocks down. It was very nice. Since it was so early, it was mostly just a few older people walking around. Then at about 6:30 they all started doing exercises around the shrine in the garden. There were a good 100 people all doing exercise in unison. It was really great. Everyone was so friendly walking around.
Walking back by the river walk was beautiful, with one side filled with the buildings of the area’s business district. We ventured to find some food, but that turned in to a walk to the Renkoji Temple that we stumbled upon, a Buddhist temple established in the 1500s. We walked around and took pictures of the buildings and koi pond when I recognized the unmistakable site of an S&S drop tower fairly close, so we made our way over, exploring city streets. It was so quiet and very empty. After arriving, we found out we were at Japan’s oldest amusement park, Hanayashiki park. It looked very interesting, but of course it was too early to be opened, so we walked around the outside.
At this point we wanted food, so we wandered and explored some more, checking out a Starbucks and McDonalds, before finally settling on another 7/11 (don’t judge, the food was good), and walking back to our Hotel to pack up and head out.
Once back at the hotel I showered again (It's really humid here) and then we walked down a few blocks to try and find a drug store for Isaac, with no luck. We walked back to the hotel and grabbed our stuff, I had re packed and reorganized for the rest of the trip, so it was a quick in and out to go along with a quick check out at the hotel. I’d recommend Hotel MyStays (It’s a national chain) if you’re on a budget trip to Japan. I’d have used them more on this trip, actually.
So we got our stuff and headed back to Asukasa station to find a locker rental. That took a bit, but finally found one and locked our stuff up, then headed back over towards the temple area. At this point, it was packed with tourists form all over Japan and the world. We literally had the whole complex to ourselves earlier in the morning. However, it was neat seeing it both empty and busy, especially with many Japanese people now out and about, often wearing traditional garb, which I love. Also, all of the shops and stalls were open at this point as well.
We headed to Hanayashiki park (the oldest park in Japan, opened in 1853), which by now had opened and was running rides. First park of the trip, and it did not disappoint. I absolutely loved it! It was great, rides on top of rides, very compact. Great employees. It was 1000 yen to enter, and then we purchased some tickets. Our first ride was a suspended pirate ship monorail from the third floor of the complex. It gave a great view to all of the rides below. Next we headed to the park’s signature (and only) coaster, aptly named Roller Coaster.
Roller Coaster-This was built by the park’s original owner, Togo, in 1953. The trains are newer, and apparently have changed often, according to RCDB. The ride was a lot of fun as it hops over and even inside of buildings all around the park. Worth the five hundred yen for the ride.
Next we went and rode the ‘Western Style’ haunted house ride thru. It was pitch black with some decent scares. I like how it intertwined in the middle of the park and in a structure that serves as a themed ‘mountain’ in the middle of the park. In fact, lots of the park’s theming was great, very charming. There are a ton of lights strung up. I’d love to see it at nite, and perhaps we’ll go back before leaving.
Next we got a few more tickets and went thru the walk thru haunted attraction. It was also very dark with some good jump scares. One animatronic was a tree splitting down the middle, and a scary Ringu-esq woman with long fingers falling towards you from behind it. The whole walk thru was bizarre and very well done. Lastly, we hit up another haunt attraction. You sat in a themed living room, put on headsets, and basically they used stereo sound to make it as if there were invisible people in the room. I didn’t know enough Japanese (You really didn’t need to as there was very little talking), but since nothing in the room moved, it wasn't very scary, though an interesting concept.
So we headed out of the park and back thru the temple area, back in to the market, and eventually found a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, so we could get a quick bite and actually check that off the list. It was worth it, but I’ve had better sushi.
Japan has an amazing mass transit system. We went and picked up our luggage and took the subway to one station, easily using our Pasimo cards (Glad I got us those at the airport). One nice thing about Pasimo/Suica cards is using them at the many vending machines in the area. I got more Pocari Sweat and tried to types of Calpis (One carbonated, one not). We hopped another train to Tokyo Station (It was massive, or what I saw of it seemed to be), before we headed off to the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Kyoto. The nice thing about the 3 hour Bullet Train ride (I’m on it as I type this) is that it has outlets, big seats, and a nice table top on the back of the seat.
We arrived in Kyoto Station and schlepped our luggage nearly a mile to our next hotel, Hotel Anteroom, a pop/art themed hotel not far from the station. Our arrival was late, but the staff was so wonderful, giving us cold bottles of water and making sure we were set for the nite. The room was comfortable and stylish.
Congratulations on fulfilling one of your dreams.
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