We’d arrived there late and as i’d later found out, by taking the train up the mountain we not only chose the most expensive route (nearly $40 a pop from where we stayed) but the slowest route too, limiting our time to get the all important fastpasses that at a 1000 yen a pop, allow you to skip Fuji-Q’s worst queues. You see, Fuji-Q is world renouned for having some of the world’s worst operations, which totally sucks ass, as the rides there are pretty damn decent. An example of woeful operations would be at Eejanaika, the park’s fourth dimension roller-coaster – after waiting for the ride attendants to eventually load us on, we discovered we had to basically strip down – belts, watches, shoes – we had to take all of this off just to ride. Major WTF ensued. Seriously, i’ve never been asked to remove my watch on a ride, and what’s worse, with alot of the park’s signature rides, they offer you a key on a wristband to lock your items in a temporary lockup, nice idea right? Except the wristband is the loosest, dodgiest accessory you’ll wear that day. This in itself is a great representation for the park, it’s the kind of park where it seems the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand in a way that leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. “How do we solve the loose articles problem? Watches, shoes and belts keep flying off at a rate of once per never,” “well, maybe we make these temporary lockups and give everyone a wearable key?” “But what if that flies off? Aren’t we replacing a problem with another problem?” “Maybe, but it won’t be our fault! GENIUS!”
At every turn, you’ll face crap like this. It’s an over-zealous approach to safety that all but destroys any chance of getting on rides quickly and at best, is a frustration that you’ll just have to bear with. That aside, the park does have one of Japan’s most unique line-ups of rides that a located right on the footstep of Mount Fuji. Riding Eejanaika (our first ride of the day) was an interesting experience – being on what was essentially a side of a mountain made the added thrill of having your feet hanging from an 80m height all the more sobering. The ride itself is damn amazing, and while I know there’s definitely some nay-sayers like Robb Alvey who don’t particularly like the rough ride, being a six foot blonde gargantuan Australian meant my head was well clear of the restraints and allowed me to really soak in the craziness of this coaster. And boy is it crazy. It’s one of those rare life experiences where you walk away going “what the hell just happened?” The whole fourth dimension concept is way ahead of it’s time, in fact so ahead it sent Arrow Dynamics belly up when they were developing the prototype back in 2001. Was it worth it? Coaster geeks remain divided. I think it’s a damn awesome ride, it’s even what got me into theme parks. If you don’t know what exactly a fourth dimension coaster is, the concept in a nutshell is that there’s a second track, almost like a record player, that triggers the seats to spin as you go through the ride. Cool, huh?
That’s not the park’s only gem, or rather, one trick pony either. Dodonpa, while no longer the world’s fastest coaster, it has the most craziest acceleration you’ll experience on anything, ever. Be prepared to be pushed 0-172k/ph in less than two seconds. I heard it was going to take my breath away, and boy did it. The acceleration hits you hard and fast, just like the rest of the ride, which is to say at the least, incredibly rough.
Another is Takabisha – which currently holds onto the title for the world’s steepest drop. It’s a big coaster – the designers have split it into essentially two parts, the first act launching you right out of the station after an in the dark barrel roll (spoiler alert) and then mid-way through you get a chance to take a break before being sent up vertically over the lifthill only to come back upside down @ 112 degrees. Don’t worry, it’s heavily braked and your eyes won’t pop out of your head too much.
After Takabisha, there’s some more older, but still interesting coasters like Fujiyama to checkout. It’s not bad, it’s fun, but it’s nothing to write home about, and casual riders will forget it’s name by the time you’ve left the park. Fuji-Q Highlands also features some flat rides, kids areas (Thomas the tank engine has his own land) and a whole heap of neglect throughout – it really is honestly like they’ve put 98% of the budget into building these crazy rides only to run them, and the park, into the ground. One upside, my Okinomiyaki was pretty damn awesome, probably helped by the beer I had, all of which was bought by an independant vendor the park allows to operate inside the premises.
All in all, you will have a fun day out. Just go on a quiet day, because even those days will feel like the park’s at capacity. I hate to think what the park is like on Sundays. It really did take us by surprise – everywhere you go, from food outlets to other parks, almost every Japanese man and woman prides themselves on doing their job with utmost integrity and honour, though here at Fuji-Q you’ll be reminded more of your local carnival back home then the country’s rich and noble history. Fuji Q Highlands for what it’s worth, operates almost the whole year. To get there, i’d recommend taking the bus, there’s tickets you can buy that basically give all but include the travel cost, saving you some decent coin in the process. The bus leaves Tokyo & Shinjuku stations for what it’s worth. If time is on your side, and you’re coming from Shinjuku station, at under 1300 yen one way, the train does serve as a 90 minute look at some breathtaking scenery, including some great opportunities to snap Mt Fuji.