Friday, October 26, 2012

[YAMANASHI] How to Fuji Queue

I have taught you how to Disneyland in Hong Kong. In two days, I will be teaching you how to Disneyland in Tokyo. For now, I will show you how to Fuji-Queue. There are two kinds of people who go to Tokyo's neighboring Chubu region: those who climb Mount Fuji; and those who Fuji-Queue. Located at one of the foothills of Japan's most famous mountain, Fuji-Queueing should be on the list of every theme park enthusiast out there. Why so? Four of their roller coasters figure in the top rankings of several roller coaster achievements in the world. If you want to ride two or more thrilling roller coasters in a day, this must be the best place for it outside the United States.

But there's a catch. To Fuji-Queue means to stay on queue, more than 40 minutes each time depending on which day you go there. I went on a Friday and while the park seemed empty from the outside, your competitors in Fuji-Queueing will be concentrated inside, mostly in one of the big four. I waited in line for forty minutes to ride Fujiyama (world's tallest from 1996 to 1997; 3rd longest - steel category); an hour and forty for Takabisha (world's steepest - steel category); and another hour and forty for Eejanaika (most inversions). I did not make it to Dodonpa (one of the world's fastest initial acceleration). Having read all this, you'd think that the Q in Fuji-Q means exactly that: Queue, as in Fuji-Queue. Well, that simply is the reality of life in popular amusement parks. The faster you accept that truth and move on with your life, the better.

Since the lines are long, I suggest coming early in the morning. I think they open at 9 AM regardless of the day of the week. Their closing times vary, though, as they close at 5 PM on weekends, and at 8 or 9 PM on weekends. Most people come here for the big four, and those four might be the only ones you can enjoy given the long queues. The other rides are for kids and don't get as much tourists. Most of them are Japanese. I only saw a few Caucasians there. Maybe they were all busy climbing Fuji?

What people do is buy some overpriced pizza or whatever is available from one of the many food stalls and consume them while waiting in line. I hope they also bring a barf bag with them, although perhaps an hour of waiting is enough to guarantee not puking while on the ride? As for me, I didn't have lunch. Roller coaster first before food! I know my priorities. Besides, it has been months since my last thrill ride. I badly needed another one. I got three!

Fujiyama is a play with words, as the Kanji for mountain can either be pronounced as 'san' or 'yama' with the former being the right one for mountains. This ride takes advantage of that pun. If you say 'Fuji-san' you'll be referring to the mountain. Say 'Fuji-yama' and that will be associated with the ride, at least by people in the know. This roller coaster holds the world record certified by Guinness for being the highest steel coaster in the world, or at least after verification - used to, between 1996 and 1997. It's currently in number 10 or 11 as of press time. Most of its competitors are in North America. The ride is thrilling because of the high drop and the twists. Other than that, Takabisha reigns supreme.

Another record holder, Takabisha currently has the steepest drop for a steel roller coaster in the world. Everland's T-Express in Gyeonggi is the steepest WOODEN roller coaster in the world. Either way, none of the wooden ones would crack the top ten if grouped with their steel cousins. The highlight of the ride is not the drop, but rather the climb that comes before that, which is virtually vertical, as in the only thing preventing you from answering the call of gravity are the two safety belts and the hydraulic harness holding you in place. The ride IS safe, but not to my hyperactive imagination. Besides, those paranoia inducing what-ifs are what make these rides truly amazing.

Eejanaika is certified as the one with the most inversions in the world. What makes it unique is how it runs backwards, meaning you won't be aware what would happen next for lack of vantage point. Somehow it took away the fun because you couldn't really fear what you cannot see. Every sharp drop or quick turn just happens without warning, taking away the thrill brought about by a paranoid mind. Still, it's a physically challenging ride. Exiting the ride at around 4:15, Dodonpa's entrance was already blocked when I got there. It's right next to Takabisha. I should have done that first. Oh well, three high speed roller coasters in a day. Not bad!

The one day pass costs 5,000 yen, which includes all rides. You can opt for an entrance ticket for 1,300 yen, which I recommend if you come in late. If you do so, each of the big four would cost 1,000 yen. If you know that you could ride all four within the day, then go for 5,000. If aiming for just one of the big four, pay the entrance fee and pay per ride. Tickets for rides are available through vending machines near the entrance for each. Since I wasn't able to ride all four and snubbed the other attractions, I incurred around 700 yen worth of losses for that ticket.

What makes this place kind of inaccessible, though, is the way of getting here. You can reach it by two or more transfers through JR and the Fuji-Q line's trains, but expect to shell out more than 2,000 yen per way, meaning a round trip ticket would cost more or less the same as the park's one day pass. As for me, I took the resort bus from Shinjuku west. 1,700 yen per way for an hour and forty minutes. You might want to reserve a seat online for busier days. I was just lucky that I arrived at 10:10 and still got on a 10:10 bus with some vacant seats. Photo finish!

Camwhoring is a perfect way to Fuji-Q if the sun cooperates. The blue and white sky matched with the multicolored roller coaster tracks make for a good visual trick. Just make sure that you're wearing thick clothing if visiting in October. The elevation of the place combined with the cold season might give you frostbite. There is an OUTDOOR ice skating rink here, if you want some clear indication as to how cold it is. I think that rink is a pond of some sort during summer. No snow, though. Reserve that for winter.

Time to go home. How hard is it to reserve a bus going home? Due to the limited seats, no bus was available until 8 in the evening. I decided to take the train. Very bad decision. Stay away from JR when doing this route. A one way ticket to Akihabara sets you back 2,500 yen but the train is super super slow, like three hours or more kind of slow. Had I waited for the 8 PM bus it would've probably been not as bad. Charge to experience!

[YAMANASHI] How to Fuji Queue

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