Korea + Japan 08/18 – Suzuka Circuit + Parque Espana
Today began with an early start, followed by a trip on the metro to Busan airport.
After a rather uneventful hour long flight we were in Nagoya.
Despite it being my second time visiting Japan it managed to yet again take me by surprise just how friendly the people are.
Look slightly confused for half a second and out of nowhere a friendly Japanese man/woman will appear with a huge smile on their face desperate to help you.
After picking up the hire car and 2 comedy sized drinks from one of the millions of vending machines that litter Japan, it was off to Suzuka Circuit.
As you’ll hopefully remember from my last Japan report, Japanese highways come with very expensive tolls attached to them, it’s not at all uncommon for an hours journey to cost you £30 ONE WAY.
In order to slightly combat this, this time around we rented an ETC card. This card goes into a machine in the hire car and then allows you to drive straight through tolls, with the toll fee being charged to the card. The main advantage of this is that you save 1/3 on every toll and with the amount of driving we planned to be doing this was an absolute necessity.
On route we unintentionally passed Legoland Japan and I promise you I’m not joking when I say that the park is built in the middle of industrial wasteland to the side of a huge bridge. Seeing the stupid sky tower thing painted in the brash Lego colouring surrounded by rusting metal and chimneys was hilarious!
For the first 2/3 of the journey the weather was beautiful but as we approached the park, the heavens opened…
As well as being a World famous race course, Suzuka Circuit is also home to a sizable amusement park.
It was still raining somewhat heavily when we got to the ticket window and with this being Japan I was already expecting this to go terribly but to our surprise and delight it didn’t. Not only is every ride still running but we’d also be getting tourist discount!
After passing the turnstiles, the rain went from “oh this is quite heavy” to a “oh my god we are going to die” thunderstorm and immediately an announcement came over the park wide PA, well that’s gone well…
We powered straight to the first coaster assuming the worst but hoping if we were really quick we might be in luck.
Rocky Coaster – With lightning striking structures in the distance we entered the queue for Rocky Coaster, the park’s Senyo sit down coaster.
Coming from a man who’s ridden Stealth in hailstones, I was amazed any park in the World would run a coaster in this amount of rain, it’s not an exaggeration to say the rain was so heavy you couldn’t see through it. Couple that with lightning striking in the area and thunder shaking the ground and I was left in complete disbelief. Nagashima closed their entire park in moderate rain which ended after 2 hours and now Suzuka are running their coasters in a stupidly intense thunderstorm, someone needs to explain what’s going on over here!
After seeing 2 trains worth of people coming back wetter than Valhalla and in serious pain, I was glad the rain eased slightly for our lap, which I honestly cant’ remember at all because I was still in complete shock at what was happening.
Adventure Drive – We knew our luck was going to run out at some point, so we powered to the park’s only other coaster as soon as we got off Rocky Coaster.
After about 10 minutes of waiting with the already intense rain getting even worse, the coaster ceased operation but it ended up being more interesting than frustrating.
The operator shut the coaster down completely, including isolating the control console and ride electrics. Then he walked down the queueline informing people, “it’s going to be about 30 minutes, if you’d like to wait that’s ok”. After this he switched between contacting control on his radio and entertaining the kids at the front of the queue. 20 minutes later the rain died down, he turned it all back on, performed all the start up checks for the coaster and even explained how the block sections on the touch screen worked to the kids. Exactly 30 minutes after it closed the ride reopened in the most Japanese manner, including all the seats being wiped completely dry and bowing.
The coaster itself is quite fun and the scream powered launches are just so Japanese that you have to love it.
After the 2 coasters were knocked off we rode the park’s shooting dark ride, a ride style that by the end of this trip I was getting quite bored of but this was the first and I enjoyed it.
Next we checked out the park’s brand new ride Duel GP.
Duel GP – This thing was great!
2 cars race each other on what is essentially a really complicated duelling powered coaster. The fun part being that you have to steer your car and the challenge being that if you steer gently and precisely you’ll do well but if like me you can’t be gentle to save your life, you spin out on the corners and it slows you down. I’m not ashamed to admit I lost when I rode both tracks, though I’d argue it’s probably more fun to spend the entire ride spinning around and shouting anyway.
Suzuka Circuit really surprised me, I wrote it off as just a stop off on the way to better things but I ended up leaving quite fond of the park. Their willingness to run things in the rain and their wonderful customer service can’t be overlooked.
Due to the rain slowing us down, we were now running rather late and had quite significantly gone past the time we were due to leave the park. With this in mind and slightly worried the rain might have beaten us there, we thought it would be best to phone Parque Espana and check everything was still on for their 8pm close.
I ended up having one of the most amazing phone conversations of my life with a very confused Japanese woman. Did it answer any of my questions? No. Did I care? Also no.
The journey to Parque Espana was really impressive with crazy mountain roads and killer views. The best of these views however was seeing Pyrenees getting ever closer.
We arrived at 4pm with an advertised 8pm close but having not seen Pyrenees move during the last 5 miles of the journey we were rather worried.
It was all for nothing though because as soon as we got out of the car Pyrenees dispatched onto the lift hill.
After buying our tickets, which were once again discounted, this time due to arriving after 3, we sprinted across the park into the waiting arms of Pyrenees!
Pyrenees – Now at the time I couldn’t believe it but even now I’m rather amazed that I was lucky enough to be able to ride what I consider to be the two legendary Asian inverts back to back.
Now while Phaethon was good, Pyrenees is in a completely different league, I’ll make it as simple as I can, this is the World’s greatest B&M invert and more than that it’s one of the best coasters in the World.
I can’t not mention that this coaster looks absolutely insane, the shaping on the first drop compared to Phaethon alone had me deeply concerned. Everything just screams that this coaster is going to kick ass and it does!
So you think the drop looks intense off ride? That’s nothing compared to how it rides.
The loop zero g loop start to Batman is one of my favourite opening sections on any coaster, so the fact Pyrenees borrows it on an enlarged scale is awesome. While the section doesn’t ride as intensely as Batman, when it’s coupled up with that ridiculous drop, it is an absolutely incredible way to start a coaster.
The madness is then followed by a snappy and intense cobra roll and only then does Pyrenees let you catch your breath, slightly. Next up is an almost helix through the second loop, a midcourse that barely slows you and a perfect example of a corkscrew.
It’s now that you can really catch your breath, because sadly Pyrenees does suffer a bit from the large invert habit of searching for the next bit to do, however it really is a short patch and it’s so out of place after the intensity before that it’s rather cute actually.
Then things pick back up with a rare example of an air time hill on an invert, followed by an intense floor hugging drop, before you’re swooped back into the station.
I knew after my first lap that I was really taken with Pyrenees but by the end of the night and after 5 laps I was in love.
Gran Montserrat – One of the biggest surprise hits of the trip belongs to this Mack mine train coaster, it’s surprisingly fast, way more intense than it looks and as you’d expect from Mack it’s butter smooth, for what it’s trying to be I can’t praise it enough.
With those beasts down we went looking for the park’s other major coaster, a search which led us around the entire park.
On route we rode the Nutcracker dark ride, which was weird, another shooting dark ride, which was meh and the park’s Peter Pan inspired dark ride, which was awesome.
Steampunk Coaster Iron Bull – I hope the photo of the beautiful building housing it sums why it took it so long to find this enclosed Togo coaster, it’s hardly screaming in your face and I love that.
Some call this coaster rough, it’s not but it is weird and hilarious and I also love that.
With everything done, including multiple re-rides, it was now park close and we decided to grab some food and watch the park’s closing fireworks.
How many parks in the World would bake you a pizza if you show’d up in the restaurant 5 minutes before park close and then proceeded to take most of them 5 minutes choosing said pizza? None?
Well Parque Espana did for us but not only that, the incredibly friendly elderly man insisted on us taking our seats and bringing it over himself, oh Japan you are too good to us.
Given the choice I’d easily be able to entertain myself for the day at this amazing park. From riding the World’s greatest B&M Invert, riding the fantastic Mack mine train, checking out the many dark rides and just enjoying the lovely theming.
Parque Espana much like the park before it blew expectations out of the water and ended up becoming one of the best parks on the trip.
Thanks for reading, click here for the next part of this report where we seek revenge on Nagashima Spa Land.