4th Dimension coasters. Ridiculous contraptions – huge, complicated and expensive, there’s a reason why only 3 have been built across the world. The prototype, X at Six Flags Magic Mountain may well have contributed to the demise of Arrow Dynamics, the company responsible for creating the concept as in the same year of its opening they were bought out by S&S, who manufactured the remaining two over in Japan and China.
Eejanaika was the first time S&S put the design back into action and in doing so they decided to go even taller and faster, while simultaneously setting a world record for the most ‘inversions’ on a rollercoaster. I use quotation marks here because these are not counted in the traditional sense, although they added an extra physical inversion to the layout in the form of a Zero-G Roll (bringing it up to 3), the remaining number of times riders are inverted is due to the rotation of the vehicles rather than the track design.
Having since tried both designs myself, this makes a massive difference to the experience, though I didn’t know it at the time of riding Eejanaika. In fact it wasn’t just this coaster that was an overwhelming typhoon of sensations, the entire day at the park did that to us. Before we talk any more about the ride, it’s probably best to mention our day at Fuji-Q as whole – we are in top ten territory here and it’s often the little extraneous details that tip these coasters over the edge for me.
Fuji-Q Highland is an absolute legend of a park to the industry, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Over the space of 15 years they built 4 consecutive monster coasters, all big named, record breaking, headline attractions that permeated the minds of every enthusiast, something I’d argue no other park in the world has achieved with such focus.
The challenge comes however in managing to ride them all in a single visit. Countless reports come in over the years about how terrible the place is, the pain of missing out on at least one of these coasters clouding judgment on the experience as a whole, I know the feeling. The fact the big 4 are all so intriguing makes the loss even harder to bear, particularly if it comes through experiencing the way the Japanese parks handle rainy days, of which they have a huge amount. We actually won out though, I still can’t believe it to this day, but the success story is here.
Even if everything is open, the queues are monumental, though they may not look it. Capacity is not on your side. That focus on high intensity thrill rides and little else comes at a price in that there’s very few other attractions to keep guests occupied and spread the load. It’s a popular park obviously, a massive name in Japan, so when they all come for the same thing, you can expect to wait in excess of 2 hours for each and every headline coaster. If one closes? That’s another 40 minutes of people to add to the other 3. If 2 close? You get the picture.
We experienced all of this, and more. Standing in the longest queue of my career (Fujiyama), the only 1 of 4 open at that precise moment, looking out at Eejanaika which hadn’t yet moved for the day. I can’t think of a single other park that does this, and it perfectly summarises all that I’ve said above about Fuji-Q, they play parkwide announcements to say “attention guests, Eejanaika is now open.” People know what they want, they know what they came for, they want to spread the queues around and actually get on something today!
Have you ever run for a rollercoaster? I have, many times, but never in this way. Usually it’s only that initial surge at the start of the day, if you’re present when they open the gates, otherwise there’s no point right? Yet here we are, several hours in to our visit, having not ridden a single thing, sprinting like madmen towards the biggest and scariest of the lot.
It didn’t work, they had already opened the queue well before the ride itself and we were faced with exactly what we had just abandoned – a multiple hour line of people in front of us. Desperation kicked in and there was a fastrack machine directly outside the entrance. We’ve come this far, we’ll have to pay our way through the day.
Why am I recounting this magnificent tale again? The fastrack ticket took us straight into the station without pause for breath and when I say these rides are legends, that’s not a guarantee that they’re good. They get mixed reviews – lots of love, just as much hate. They push engineering limits to the extreme, they could easily murder you (not literally) and for those reasons they’re downright terrifying. There was no time to mentally prepare for what was about to unfold, being batched directly into one of the holding pens to remove our shoes (also not reassuring) and then climbing into a contraption straight out of a nightmare.
The trains for this ride do nothing to instil you with any confidence. The restraints are completely unintuitive, requiring a staff member to come and strap you down in some complicated manner, fold in what can only be described as a waistcoat around your arms, across your chest and that’s it. Legs wildly dangling out the front, total freedom of movement in the lower half of your body, lap included. This does not feel right. Can you recheck this for me please? Oh, the’re playing the dispatch music and the staff are shouting “Eejanaika!” Too late, I’m going to die.
As soon as the train leaves the station it teases riders by tilting them right up onto their backs as it traverses the turn before the lift hill. Immediately I’m out of my comfort zone and that’s saying something because I’m not exactly new to this game, I’d ridden one before and had somehow suppressed almost every memory of the experience. The lift hill itself is, of course, backwards, with 240ft of steady ascent, desperately trying to work out what part of this restraint to hold onto (almost impossible), looking out at the mountains, trying and failing to calm down, not knowing when the ride will actually begin.
It begins by tilting you on your back again, as you feel the train behind you begin to accelerate and drag you toward your doom. This acceleration is paused briefly, as the seats now rotate you in the opposite direction, in perhaps the most calculated stroke of evil genius about the whole ride, you turn to face the floor just as it plummets towards the ground. This seat rotation is not refined or smooth, it bumps and jerks around with the most unusual and unnerving sensation. I’d like to say there was time to think ‘should it be doing that?’, but there’s no time to process thought at all throughout this ride and that’s what makes it so special to me.
I can’t really describe any of the rest of the layout with any form of conviction, because it’s all a wonderful blur of disorientation and pure, instinctive survival. I found myself holding on to whatever I could, as tight as I could as the train mercilessly threw me around like a rag doll. Not only are you travelling at ridiculous speeds and soaring through the air, like on any other major coaster, you’re also rotating this way and that with the accompanying bounce and wobble that comes as part of the package. True to the product name, there are 4 dimensions of sensation going on at the same time and that’s very hard for the mind to quantify.
Though you may think I’m mad for saying it, all of that which I just described is one of the best things ever. I love it. The more rollercoasters I experience over time, the more I get the feel for what each of them are going to do to me. In the most basic cases, having that visual cue in front of you of ‘oh, there’s an airtime hill coming next’ diminishes that very moment because your body expects it before it happens. I like to not see what’s coming, I like an unpredictable experience and I like a ride that feels out of control.
Eejanaika does ALL of that and then leaves me questioning what sensations I even like about it. It’s not an airtime machine – you can’t say I love those thigh bruising hills. It’s not intense in the traditional sense – you can’t say I love that head crushing helix. It’s not a visual masterpiece or heavily themed – you can’t say I love looking at the surroundings (once it begins). It has no moments. It is a moment. From start to finish.
There are very few other rides in the world that are in any way like that (2 to be precise, maybe the Freespins to a much lesser extent) and I can personally confirm that this version takes it to the greatest intensity of any of them. That killer combination of unique and extreme is why this coaster holds a top ten spot in my heart. It’s almost impossible to compare to everything else around it, but I just know that it has to be there, somewhere.
And then we rode it at night.