First, a completely unrelated photo of Aria. Just because I'm very pleased with it and she's adorable. So there.
Yomiuriland is a theme park surprisingly close to where we live. It's not the biggest or the newest, but we went on a perfect day, with another couple I'll call T and J. The weather was beautiful - not a cloud in the sky, and the sun was warm enough to justify removing jackets for a little while. And, as you can see, it wasn't exactly crowded. T and/or J (I can't remember) had never had a churro before, so that was breakfast. Fresh out of the however-they-cook-them, too, it was spongy and hot and amazing. Apparently I'd never had a churro before, either, because I'd never had one like that. (No picture, sorry, but you probably know what they look like.)
But I digress. Like I said, not exactly throngs of people.
There were enough people for the rides to operate, but very few had any lines, and we even spent a minute or two on some rides just waiting for other people. Best case scenario, I'd say.
We started with the haunted house, which was the silliest and most incongruous haunted house I've seen. There were Christmas decorations next to skeletons, semi-gory masks next to round cartoon characters with pointy teeth, and the center of one display may as well have been captioned, "Run for your lives, it's CUSTARD!" But it was thoroughly entertaining in its silly non-scary-ness.
It also gets points for having a huge animated statue with rolling eyes as part of the architecture. Heehee.
And then some more walking around...
Check the map, see where we should go next...the park's mascot is some sort of alien puppy named Landdog. I'm not sure what the story is, but roll with it.
Wait, what's that at the top of the sign?
Landdog's butt. Of course. Why wouldn't it be?
Need to make a pit stop? Look for one of these helpful signs!
To the go-kart track! This was kind of cool, there was a "family course" with 2-seat cars, and a "long highway course" with 1-seat cars that looped around to be a two-level course. Even though the cars only went at about a jogging pace, the sign makes it look so much more bad ass:
Kind of overdoing it for a starter pistol, but whatever.
Good news - in spite of not being able to read directions or understand spoken instructions, the How To Operate sign is pretty straightforward:
Left pedal is stop, right pedal is go. Got it.
It was the most relaxing drive I've had in this country. No bicycles, no pedestrians, no oncoming traffic, no sharing 1.5-car-width roads with other cars, no blind corners...
Another attraction that was more fun than I anticipated was the obstacle course, complete with lasers.
We had three minutes to swivel the tubes, push the Temple-of-Doom sized ball, get around a ridiculously complex series of lasers (think Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones). We almost made it, too. T/J said when we finally tripped a laser (okay, I tripped the laser...but only barely) everyone waiting in line let out a sympathetic groan. If we try it again sometime, we just might make it.
Theme park staple - the Ferris Wheel! Great way to get aerial views of the park.
And, in this case, how very, very dense the surrounding metropolis is. Remember, we're in the suburbs of Tokyo.
Oh, and that brown roller coaster? It's awesome. We did that ride three times before the day was through. I learned early in the day that T -- horror of horrors! -- had never been on a roller coaster before. I know! Turns out she loves 'em. She out-coaster-ed her husband by a trip or two.
Also speaking of that coaster, it's called The Bandit, but they have statues out front that look suspiciously like lumberjacks with scimitars. I guess that's what bandits look like around here.
Back to the Ferris Wheel...
Oh, and in the other direction, you can see Mount Fuji. Barely, in the afternoon, but in the morning it was crystal clear.
I see you, tiny adorable train!
I see you, too, even more adorable Animal Coaster for Kids! (Click the photo for a better view of exactly how kawaii it is.)
This one confused me...at first I thought it was a whale with the tail on the wrong end, but then I realized it was a stag beetle. So it's okay.
I wanted to get a photo of the water fountain by itself, but this guy was apparently talking it through a difficult time and I didn't want to interrupt.
OH MY GOD, FLYING ROBOTS!
Seriously, how awesomely Japanese is that?
We also passed by the kid-sized version of that ride that shoots you up in the air and lets you fall halfway back down, although instead of one dramatic upward voyage, this one sort of jerked the passengers ruthlessly up and down. Grandpa all the way on the right didn't look like he was enjoying himself.
Merry-go-Landdog! What child wouldn't want to ride in a circle on a big-headed dog with a thousand-yard stare?
A statue of the exalted LandDog, who must have done something heroic to deserve a memorial that size, like save a school bus full of nuns from an oncoming freight train.
More walking, passing by a couple very-small-kid rides, the coin-operated kind.
So that's what's going on inside Pikachu's head!
You know those viking ships that do the complete loop and hang you upside down for what feels like forever and makes your eyes water? The one here is a spaceship.
Landdog might be a test animal, he doesn't look very happy to be flying around weightless.
For your own safety, no food, strollers, smoking, or...ducks?
More evidence of how not-crowded this park was that day...
These are the Very Tall rides. All the way on the left is the bungee jump, the red and yellow towers both have great names.
I'd never been bungee jumping before. T and J sat out the experience, Husband ended up going twice. I did it once, and that was quite enough for me for one day. It was a 20m drop, not high by bungee jumping standards, but that giant inflatable cushion was so very, very far away from the top of those stairs. Just like climbing Mount Fuji, it was a little bit awful but I'm glad I did it and I'll probably do it again.
Watching the video, I realize two things: from the ground, it doesn't look terrifying at all. And my bow needs work.
The CRAZY HYUUUU! (Super Exciting Shot) shoots you up in the air until you have an unobstructed view of Mount Fuji then lets you fall most of the way back down before applying the brakes.
The CRAZY STOOON (Super Exciting Drop) drags you slowly to the top and drops you with very little warning.
At the end of the day, we saw a sea lion show.
That's some cuddly fiberglass, there.
Of course they can't have the nearest vending machine undecorated with both sea lions and Landdog...
But they probably didn't need to add this photo, too.
I didn't tape much, I try not to record large chunks of live performances, but here's a little bit of flavor.
At the end, three trainers and sea lions posed in pairs, ready for the final bow, and the one in the middle kept leaning over and kissing his trainer on the cheek. It was adorable, and it wasn't even part of the act -- she kept making a face and leaning farther and farther away, but that did nothing to discourage the fish-breathed, damp-whiskered snout from touching her face. And that just made it more hilarious. And it made me want to be a sea lion trainer. Perfect way to end the day.