• 12 . 05 . 05
  • I can’t get enough of themeparks, and this one even has a view of Mt. Fuji. On a clear day.

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Fuji, Queues, Running, Scared

I’ve been here for well over a year now, but still hadn’t got round to seeing one of the most iconic Japanese sights, Mt. Fuji. If seeing it from a distance for a couple of minutes counts, that changed today as I travelled to Fuji-Q Highland, a theme park close to the mountain. Apparently, great views of Fuji are possible but, typically, the day was cloudy so there wasn’t much chance to see it. From what I did see though, it definitely is a mountain, and it is big, so that’s a relief. I guess that’ll have to satisfy my curiosity until I climb it this summer…

The journey took about 4 hours from Gifu, requiring a 5:30am start, which didn’t feel like the best time to start the day, but the park was practically empty when we arrived. Of course, that changed when the school day trips arrived.

Fuji-Q has what was formerly the world’s tallest rollercoaster, appropriately named Fujiyama, which tops out at 79m. Heights aren’t my best thing (photographic evidence), but I’m pleased to report I braved it 3 times. I only genuinely thought I was going to die once. The view from the top is supposed to be spectacular, but I couldn’t comment on that. My knees and the guardrail were exciting though…

Also exciting was the Do-Dom-Pa World Bucchigiri Express which fires you from 0 to 172km/h in a couple of seconds. That’s over 100mph in real money and was such a surprise that I forgot to screamshout for the first few seconds. Not that I would have been able to though. The ride starts in a tunnel and the force you feel as you leave it caused most people to close their mouths.

The most surprising though, no pun intended, was the haunted house, which was actually scary. My memories of these places were dark rooms with ‘ghosts’ in white sheets and chains making half-hearted attempts to shock you. This one was different. Set in a large, abandoned hospital (straight out of Silent Hill) it took about 40 minutes to make our way through it. Before you leave, you get to watch a montage of famous Japanese horror films, including the various Ring movies and Juon, which you may remember scared me silly in the cinema a few months back. Then, suitably chilled, you are led into the foyer and told you can leave.

It takes a long time to get out though, as you navigate through operating theatres and wards, up twisty spiral staircases and through broken walls. The rooms are for the most part pitch black, and you have one pen-light between a group. And it’s not even a Mag-lite. Then, taking a seemingly perverse amount of pleasure in their jobs, there are the ghosts. These bad, bad people are dressed in bloodied nurse’s and doctor’s uniforms and are extremely good at making you jump. Sometimes taking the first person in a group, sometimes waiting until you are nearly out of the room, they always get you when you are least expecting it. Some of them start chasing you, and strangely, you run away, because even though you know they can’t touch you, you have the strongest feeling that they will.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were lots of injuries there as easily frightened Japanese people ran headlong into pitch dark with no warning signs. It would be shut down in America inside a week I’m sure, through litigation. As you finally emerge into daylight, you are given one final present; a videotape. I haven’t watched it yet, but I have the feeling that it’s going to be the actual ‘Ring’ video where you die 7 days later. If you hear nothing of me, contact the authorities!

All in all it was a great day, especially as it started spitting later on which meant that most of the people went home early and the queues were drastically reduced. A 4 hour journey back meant a really full day, and I’m going to Lake Biwa tomorrow! It’s nice to actually be using my weekends now.

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