Theme Park Review 2013 Trip Reports

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Part Six

Nagashima Spaland

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Gigahertz, gigawatt, gigabyte, gigaflop... "Giga" is a silly sound. It's so close to "giggle." Or "gaga." If a word starts with "giga," I can't take it very seriously. Except when it's in front of "coaster," different ball of wax entirely.

(Had Hard Rock Park survived, I'd have lobbied for them to build a 300-footer and call it Lady Giga.)

Outside of the Universal and Disney properties, Nagashima Spaland would turn out to be the most Western of the parks we hit on this trip. If you visit and think "Japan's Cedar Point," you'll be in good company; that was my reaction, and it is shared by many others. Spaland is very much a Japanese amusement park, but there are more than a couple of spots where you could convince yourself, if only for a second, that you were in Sandusky instead of Kuwana.

Head and shoulders above Spaland's numerous Cedar Point-esque attractions is Steel Dragon 2000, one of only four giga-coasters in the world (until Fury 325 opens for bidness in 2015) and the only one outside of North America. And the only one built by Morgan Manufacturing. And the only one with two-across Bolliger & Mabillard trains (brand new, just in time for our visit!) Annnnd the only one that is still a significant record-holder as the longest coaster in the world. I could be wrong on this last factoid, but I think SD2K also remains the most expensive unthemed roller coaster ever built, with a price tag north of $50 million.

Steel Dragon was a blast. It's a big, fast, smooth giga-coaster – what's not to like? Spaland's quirkier, Japanese-flavored attractions were more memorable, though, like the sincerely depraved Ultra-Twister. And their haunted house? The pre-show alone is worth the price of admission.

We had a slightly truncated day at this park, as we had to catch a flight to Sapporo late that afternoon. But the weather was beautiful, the crowds were light, and we had no trouble grabbing the available credits.

Here we are gathered outside before the park opened to the public. We arrived early to help out with tapings for a cable channel show on international roller coasters and other things of that nature.

Big wooden coaster, big wheel, big Shoot the Chutes deal, a big, flat expanse with a wide-open blue-sky backdrop... It's totally Cedar Point, right?

Truly, Spaland is a park I would strongly recommend to any homesick American, although the idea of being homesick for America while in Japan is incomprehensible to me.

The plan for the morning included ERT on both Steel Dragon 2000 and White Cyclone, which was a fine plan indeed because the film crew setting up their equipment at Steel Dragon took longer than anyone would have preferred.

Did you know that Japan has six native species of palm trees?