Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Monorails and Faded Amusement Parks

I have many gigabytes of photographs. I have no time at all to go through them and do anything with them. I'm throwing some of them into Flickr, but even then I just don't have time to even assign proper keywords! Putting it off means that most of these photos will never be cataloged, and not having time to write entries means I'll forget a bunch of this, I fear.

Today we went to Expoland. Lisa spent a lot of brain cycles studying maps trying to get us there using our rail passes. It can't be done. The park is on the Osaka Monorail line, and you get to that line by taking the Osaka subway or one of the privately-owned, non-JR lines. None of these are covered by the JR rail pass, so we had to buy separate fares out and back. This is not such a big deal, although it did add another JPY1500/person or so to the travel costs today.

We took the subway to the monorail and transfered to it -- separate fares on each system. To get maximum value for us train-brains, we rode the monorail to the airport first, stayed on the train, and then rode back to Expoland.

The former World's Fair site around Expoland is beautiful, but the amusement park itself is faded and sort of sad looking. Lisa said it was like walking around inside a Roller Coaster Tychoon simulation with run-down rides, right down to the "Wild Mouse" coaster -- that being the generic name of that style of coaster in the RCT game. Several rides were closed, including one we'd come specifically to ride, which was the park's monorail. That was only a minor thing though, as park monorails are relatively common compared to the Human Powered Monorail.

As far as we know, this is the only such ride in the world except maybe some crazy person's backyard model. (But our knowledge of amusement parks is not encyclopedic.) It's a simple enough ride: Two-person pedal-powered cars ride on a monorail. They're cranked up a short rise and coast for a while, but you also pedal (and brake) them yourself. I could just barely fit onto the car, but Lisa was comfortable enough, and Kuma Bear rode for free.

We'd sprung for unlimited-ride passes, so we felt obliged to ride as many things as possible. We rode the big Ferris wheel, which seemed about the same design as the one in Yokohama, and gave us a good view of the World's Fair site, but was at least as nice a ride because the air conditioning worked well on board. We rode those coasters that were working, none of which really lit me up that much. There was a motion-simulator ride, which turned out to be running the same show that was playing at Cosmo World, which makes us glad we didn't pay to ride it in Yokohama.

In the stifling, humid heat, one of the nicest "rides" was the Cold Room -- an exhibit refrigerated to 30 degrees below zero. Yes, 30 below. Frozen penguins and polar bears and lots of ice. You just can't stay in there very long, although it's a welcome break from the heat. When I stepped outside, I was immediately blinded by my glasses fogging over, which Lisa found very funny. Lisa says the park seemed frozen as well -- frozen in time, that is.

Late in the afternoon, we meant to get lunch at the udon counter that we'd spotted earlier, but it had closed at 2:30, much to Lisa's annoyance, so we went to the Canadian-themed "Maple House," where we feasted on that great Canadian delicacy, spaghetti carbonara.

Having had our fill of amusement park rides, we exited the park at 17:00. It took us longer to get back to Osaka Central and our hotel, where we were to meet galtine1 and jbriggs for dinner. We called them shortly after getting back to our room, and found that they'd given up on us due to having to wait around in the heat -- for which we blame them not at all -- and had gone to one of the restaurants in this building on the 16th floor. However, they'd just sat down, so we could join them. Our hotel here is on the 20th-26th floors or thereabouts, but due to the elevators, we thought we had to go to the ground floor and back up again. It turned out that we actually could have gone to the 19th floor, which is common between the restaurant areas and the hotel areas, and got to them from there.

After dinner, they showed us where the grocery store is -- the sub-basement of this building. We took them up to our little room, which Lisa describes as "the luxury suite of a capsule hotel." Then we went over to their much nicer and bigger room in the Hilton, where Lisa and I helped them work out a likely schedule for the trains they need to take tomorrow to get up to their time-share in the mountains. Then it was back to our hotel and a couple hours of trying to relax a bit, complicated by my trying to answer or at least read lots of accumulated e-mail.

Tomorrow, thank goodness, we do not have to pack up again, and instead can go to the transport museum relatively at leisure.

Update, 9 Sep 19:00: Comments tell us that "bicycle monorails" are common at Japanese and UK rail parks, even though I'd never seen one at a US park.
Tags: japan, monorail, trains, travel
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