Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tokyo Dome City and Thunder Dolphin - Japan Trip 11/2013

Practically in the middle of what you might call "downtown" Tokyo, there is an amusement park. There is also a domed stadium, which is itself pretty unique for a major city this size. This would be like putting a stadium and amusement park on 14th Street in Manhattan.

It's all tied together by - what else? - a giant shopping mall. Everything in Tokyo is tied together by a giant shopping mall. (New York has nothing on Tokyo for shopping - it's not even close.) This is Tokyo Dome City.

We went there coincidentally on a day when the boy band Kanjani8 were having a concert. It was just a sea of teenage Japanese girls everywhere.

Being neither a teenage Japanese girl nor a creeper, I did not go there for Kanjani8 nor their fans. I went there for...


That is a roller coaster track going through a building. This was my introduction to Thunder Dolphin - the first image of it I saw.

This was the second:


I love roller coasters and I'm not usually afraid of them. But this thing looks like it was just bolted haphazardly onto the side of an existing building with no regard for safety. It doesn't look like anyone actually designed it, it just looks like something Bob the property manager drew on a napkin in the hopes of making some extra money. It just looks crazy.

In fact, unbeknownst to my wife and I, Thunder Dolphin was closed for three years because a giant bolt fell off in 2010 and hit a 9 year old kid in the head. (He was injured but apparently lived.) It reopened just this summer.

I knew that the more afraid of it I got, the more I had to ride it. The day I run away from a roller coaster with my tail between my legs is the day I may as well just check in to a nursing home.

So I rode it.

This is not my video, but just to give you an idea of what it's like, check this out - despite the ill-advised slo-mo at the top of the hill, this video most closely approximates the craziness of this ride's first half of all the YouTube vids I looked at:

My wife and I have ridden a lot of coasters together (including ten more just a week earlier at Nasu Highland Park - more on that later). Both of us agreed this was the most intense we've ever been on. The urban setting makes a huge difference.

First of all, the only restraint you have is a lap bar, which is a little concerning right from the start. Then the hill climb is both really steep and really fast. The first drop feels like it's going to toss you right out over that lap bar. That first turn is about 90 degrees and it feels like you're just out in the empty air - it doesn't look like there's anything holding you up. That happens again at the next turn... and then you've gotta go through a hole in a building.

You can see in the video that the coaster then pretty amazingly cuts through a ferris wheel:

That's the "Big O", which we rode as well. I love ferris wheels for the exact opposite reason I love coasters - so relaxing! I shot this video of Thunder Dolphin from it, though - yes, this is my video:

My wife was doing the same thing, obviously. That's not our music, by the way - they have a little mp3 player on the side of the... gondola? But we couldn't figure out how to use it so we just left it on the default. Something about it makes me laugh every time I watch this.

Tokyo Dome City has some other rides too, but mostly they're smaller and it didn't seem worth paying either the separate fee or the day pass price to ride them. Even though it was early November when I shot all this, it was already Christmas everywhere in Japan. So we just hung around until sundown to see the "Christmas Illumination" which they had advertised all around. (It's not "Holiday Illumination" even though Japan is largely a Buddhist country - it's Christmas.) Had to have some crepes first, though:

The real reason I took that picture is the bubble tea, which a lot of people I know think of as Japanese, but it actually is not common there at all. In fact, this place had big signs advertising it because it's kind of exotic. It really is more Chinese than Japanese. This was the first time I'd actually seen it in Japan.

The Christmas lights were pretty cool, although I wish they lit up Thunder Dolphin a bit better.

You gotta put it on the bucket list if you're a coaster fan.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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