After our laid back day spent sight seeing in Tokyo, we were off on another adventure outside of town. Our destination for the day was none other than Fuji-Q Highland, an amusement park at the foot of Mt. Fuji. This was the part of the trip that Alana (the amusement park enthusiast of our team) had been most excited about since we started planning. I personally would have preferred just walking to the top of Mt. Fuji, but, as it was just the beginning of spring when we were there, there was still quite a lot of snow up on the mountain. Instead we got views to experience Mt. Fuji from the seats of the roller coasters, ferris wheels, and other rides in the park.
We had to get up at around 5:30 to take the train into Shinjuku to get to the bus to Fuji Q. Alana planned this meticulously and for once we were able to casually find the correct bus and casually grab some convenience store breakfast. The bus ride was about an hour and forty minutes, and both of us slept for most of the way. We arrived before the park was open and waited in line at the entrance. I was surprised by how many people were there on a school day in the beginning of spring. It was early enough that the air was still chilly and a brisk wind was blowing. It didn’t really feel like an ideal day for going to an amusement park, but the energy surrounding us (and within Alana) was high.
After the park opened, Alana made a b-line for the ticket booth selling fast passes (these passes gave you access to the quick lines on some of the most popular rides, cutting wait times from several hours to several minutes), while I took a trip to the restroom. I’m not a real big thrill seeker, so Alana only got a fast pass for me for the “tamest” of the four big roller coasters in the park. We went for a warm-up ride on a Crazy Mouse type coaster that whipped us around quite a bit. After that we hopped in line for Fujiyama, the first big ride of the day. When it first opened, Fujiyama held the records for tallest roller coaster, fastest roller coaster, and largest drop in the world. It was a pretty standard big roller coaster, one big hill, some curves, medium sized hills, more curves, small hills, etc. etc. It was a lot of fun, though it also just about filled my thrill quota for the day. Alana went on to ride the next three even crazier coasters afterwards. Here is the tale in her own words:
Feeling a bit underwhelmed by Fujiyama (I grew up with Cedar Point and King’s Islands’ coasters, so Fuji-Q has some stiff competition) I headed onto the worlds steepest roller coaster, with a 121 degree drop, Takashiba. It was fun…! It started in the dark with a sudden drop and some flips before emerging to reveal the straight up hill. It paused at the top and hung over the edge for a long moment. That drop was only a split second, but it was quite an exhilerating split second! The rest of that ride was a bit underwhelming.
One thing about Fuji-Q is that they are incredibly inefficient! Sure, things can only move so fast when you have just two trains running that each hold just 8 people. But compared to the efficiency of Cedar Point, I was appalled at something as simple as not putting single riders together. I rode by myself for most of the rides that Rich was too scared to go on, including Do-Dodonpa, record holder for fastest acceleration in the world (0 – 112 mph in 1.56 seconds, I was not ready!), which was amazing! The start propels you forward and out of a tunnel with a roar. It quite literally stifled my scream. We continued through another tunnel of lights before emerging towards a loop. In the loop we slowed down a lot (…a…lot…) and then soon after that the ride was over. With both Do-Dodonpa and Takashiba the drop and the speed were out of this world, but then the rest of the ride was rather meh.
But Eejanaika! Oh, what a ride! It takes the cake for best roller coaster I’ve ever been on. Richard spun us around in some teacups, the big baby, right before I got on this last ride, so I was really nervous about the infamous spinning. Eejanaika is famous because the seats spin independently of the track. That sounds nauseating, but I actually found it…perfection. We went backwards out of the station, waving happily to the workers (this was the most efficient boarding station, quick, energetic, organized, but I was still seated as a single all alone in a row of 4). On the way up the hill, I zoned out, looking around at the scenery, satisfied with exactly where I was in space and time for the moment. Then we reached the top. The rest of the ride is a high-pitched screaming blur. I remember curling my feet up because they had us take our shoes off (whether you had laces or not) and, oh my goodness, the steel bars looked so close my feet could smack them. Barrel rolling made me feel ways I’ve never felt before. I felt my stomach drop (I enjoy this feeling, that means it’s good) at unseen drops and turns. From bottom to top, upside down and downside up, Eejanaika was staggering.
After the coasters we finally had lunch at Auntie Anne’s of all places. Alana could have subsisted off of pure adrenaline the entire day without needing any other form of sustenance, but I was really hungry after having gotten up at 5:30AM and only eaten two rice balls all morning. After lunch we went on some more rides. There was one fun little roller coaster style track but the cars were all equipped with pedals, so you had to bike your way around the track. It was quite the quad workout! The highlight of the day for me was the ferris wheel. We had a nice view of Mt. Fuji and at the top I asked Alana if she would marry me and she said yes!
Trigger Warning: If you are averse to mushy-gushy-lovey-dovey romance talk and are only here for the hardcore travel stories, feel free to breeze past this next paragraph. This is my blog though, so for the sake of my future self, family, and friends, descendants, etc. etc. I’m going to indulge in recounting this love story for the ages!
You read that right! This is the official blogofriches engagement post! Woohoo! After nearly ten years together I finally worked up enough courage to pop the question. I had actually started planning the whole thing out back when we were winding down our time in New Zealand. I tricked Alana into thinking I was going out to take care of some business, but I was actually going out ring shopping! But holy smokes! I had no idea how complicated the whole process would be! I figured I’d just stroll on in to a store, find a ring that looked good, and buy it. The first store I visited started throwing around all this technical jargon like size, stone, setting, and on and on. I was completely at a loss. In the ten years that we’ve been together Alana has only worn jewelry on one or two occasions, typically earrings that she borrowed from a friend or family member in order to wear to some special event. I then told these jewelry store that I was on a pretty tight budget. They showed me some alternative stones (as opposed to diamonds) which were still running over 1000 NZD. I decided that this clearly wasn’t the right jeweler for me. I had to consider the fact that pretty much everything in New Zealand is more expensive than it is back home and I might be better served by waiting until we were back in the states to carry out this whole plan. I had made up my mind though, and once the idea was in my head I couldn’t simply put it on hold! Having no idea what kind of ring Alana would even want, I decided to simply buy an affordable stand in that I could use for the actual proposal (thus keeping it a surprise) and then get the real ring once we were back home. I got a ring at a jewelry store in the Northlands Shopping Center near where we were staying. Now that I had the ring I could plan out when to do the actual proposal. I wanted it to happen during some kind of activity that Alana enjoys. I had a few ideas for parks and playgrounds, but bad weather, excessive crowds, and a host of other dilemmas got in the way. Giving it some further thought, I realized that Fuji-Q would be a great opportunity. Alana is a huge amusement park buff and had been looking forward to going to Fuji-Q more than any other part of out planned trip to Japan. I briefly considered proposing on the roller coaster since those are Alana’s favorites, but I didn’t trust myself not to drop the ring. So the ferris wheel it was! As mentioned previously, Alana said yes, so keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming spin-off: blogofriches: wedding planning edition!
Here we resume our travelogue, with only a few toned-down mentions of love and romance.
After that I was so high on love that I agreed to go on some crazy, spinning swing ride. Alana claimed it was usually a kid’s ride but I gripped the harness in terror and closed my eyes on every upswing, counting down the swings until the ride was over. Oh the things we do for love. We had one more quick coaster afterwards and then it was time to hop on the bus back to Tokyo.
We hit some pretty bad traffic on the way back and it took around two and a half hours before we were back in Shinjuku. We were really hungry when we got into the station, so of course we decided to walk to a popular restaurant, Shin Udon, that had a line waiting outside. Similar to our experience at Tensuke, there was only seating for a handful of people inside. Also similar to Tensuke, it was absolutely worth it. As we were waiting in line a few other tourists walked past, commenting on how they couldn’t understand why anyone would wait in line for food. Ha! If that’s how you want to think about it then stay out of the line so the rest of us have less of a wait for our mind-blowing culinary experience. We both had some delicious udon and tempura in a very cozy setting.