Following a very busy Tokyo orientation, we AJET members had to stick around until the following weekend’s Group B arrived. Besides holding a few important meetings, we also deemed it necessary to have some fun. So this year we planned two fantastic events. The first was a Wednesday night boat cruise on the Tokyo Bay. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but two hours with friends on a giant boat with a bottomless cup was everything necessary for a great time. Another fun bit was that if one wore the traditional Japanese summer clothes called a yukatta, they got a discount on their entry fee. I don’t have one, but to be in the company of hundreds of college-aged people getting their summer on was a lot of fun. I had one guest spot to fill so I invited fraternity friend Kei Mamiya of Yokohama. It was good to see him again and it was his first time on the cruise too, so we made the most of it. Also, fun was chatting with strangers and trying to formulate some after party plans, but in the end a bunch of my AJET peers opted for a karaoke bar and wandering the streets. It was a great time, with a genuine atmosphere, and certainly something I hope to do again.
This was a good mix of the AJETs and our freshly made Japanese friends. The next day we wisely gave ourselves until about noon to sleep and and warm up to the idea of productivity. At the meetings we discussed the previous weekend’s orientation, focusing on what went well and what improvements could be implemented for the next run though it. Myriad things were brought to light, and some time was allotted to determining how we could more effectively move our books in the the hands of the incoming teachers. Sales were down as per the trend of the print world, but we did come up with a few solutions. After a full afternoon of meetings we made the walk back to our not so swanky hotel. On the way we thought it would be nice to make a pit stop at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to catch the sunset over the endless urban sprawl.That evening we all did our own thing and while some embraced R&R, I hit the town with a friend and concluded the night with passionate karaoke. The following morning however, we had big plans to go to Fuji-Q Highlands for a day of fun and excitement. I was especially excited to go and enjoy some real rides. I had been to Disney Sea in Tokyo, but save for a couple rides, they are far from exhilarating. Disney is a place one should go to for dates, but not so much enjoyment. I’ll take thrilling coasters to themed boat floats through animatronic villages any day. Fuji-Q Highlands is Japan’s premier thrill ride destination and it looked to be a great time. Also, located in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, I was able to return to my tormentor and actually get a clear view of the summit.
I arrived 3 hours later then the rest of my crew, as my roommate et all didn’t think to wake me for the bus we had reserved. I was a little irked, since it was more than obvious that I was going with them all, but I made it there all the same and didn’t have too much trouble finding the crew. I had missed a number of rides already, but because Japanese people don’t know how to take vacation, even being there on a Friday made for incredibly short lines.
I had to jump in a photo booth for my day pass…didn’t do so well with this task.
On the first roller coaster of the day, Fujiyama, my kind roommate and some stranger Canadian decided to keep me company by breaking off from the main group. We would of course meet up again later, but most weren’t interested in riding the same things twice. Many of the coasters here at Fuji-Q were/are world record coasters, so despite having only 6 or 7, they were all quite good. As I was boarding, I noticed an extreme inefficiency in loading the trains. They were absolutely anal about emptying our pockets of phones, wallets, cameras, trash, anything. I was forced to make three trips back to the lockers, each time aghast at what more they were expecting me to take out. I was contributing to the slow turnover of cars I suppose, as this was all taking place with everyone already sitting and strapped in. Store a handbag – fine, sandals – arguable, but the earbuds I had wired through my shirt were not going to fall out under any circumstance. Other than this obnoxious formality at every ride, the only notable differences were the workers bowing to us as we left the station and their congratulatory applause when we got back. I was sure that that had to be the worst part about the job. In the case of this first coaster, it was the longest on Earth. It felt great to get back on this sort of ride, front row, with my arms splitting the wind. I was a bit surprised when I looked at the pictures from after the ride though; I was the only person with my hands up. Japanese people don’t know how to do that I guess.
From there, our threesome went over to one of the water rides that makes the enormous splash. Here too I was shocked by the Japanese way – not only did they wear ponchos to keep dry, they paid for them. It’s a water ride. What reason could one possible have for riding other than to get wet? We all hopped on without our rain gear to the ire of our peers, got soaked, and had a great time.
Here you can clearly see where the lines were drawn.
Once the group got back together, we went on the best coaster of the day, Eejanaika. Holding the record for coaster with the most inversions, on this ride the passengers were situation in dangly-leg bucket seats that would spin throughout the duration. They used this feature to have you facing straight down during drops and greatly enhance all the loops, corkscrews, and banked turns. After arriving back to their cheers, I was genuinely impressed with the whole experience. I remember at the time this coaster was built six or so years ago reading about it and thinking I’d never have a chance to ride. Of course, at that time I had no idea I would ever set foot in Japan either. One other coaster worth mentioning was the newly completed Takabisya, literally meaning ‘high flying car’. This coaster’s claim to fame was the 121 degree drop that makes it the world’s steepest.
Despite getting there a little bit late, I still managed to fit everything in. It was a great day filled with fun and friends and certainly fulfilled an itch for excitement.