Fuji-Q: In the Shadow of Nature's Perfection - My Family Travels

Given a long weekend out of Tokyo and the chance to ride the first or second biggest coaster in the world, this family goes to Japan's premier theme park at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

We were drawn to the Fuji-Q Theme Park by the so-called ‘King of Coasters’ Fujiyama, which at the time was the world’s tallest, fastest, steepest ride. It uses an elevator lift system to pull passenger cars up to 79m (257 feet), where they coast for several seconds of agonizing torture before plunging back down 70m (228 feet) at 130kph (78mph). The rattles and creaks– very Japanese– on the steeply banked curves make it even more scary. Although its record has been surpassed, Fujiyama delivers spectacular views of nearby Mt. Fuji and a really terrific ride.

In the Japanese tradition of striving for excellence, in 2002, the park introduced Dodonpa. As of 2006, it is said to be the world’s third fastest ‘jet coaster’ roaring around the park at 172kph. This combination of extreme thrills with bygone pleasures, such as a carousel, Ferris wheel with intoxicating night lighting, bumper cars, paddleboats and aerial bicycle tracks, is what makes the Fuji-Q Theme Park so delightfully unusual.

Fuji-Q may be mobbed by ear-phoned, cell-phoned, beepered, tea-haired teens holding hands, but there is plenty of fun for other kids, too.  “Thomasland” was the brainchild of Fujikyu Company’s owner, whose son fell in love with Thomas the Tank Engine and friends on a London vacation. A huge success in train-mad Japan, the park has several wild Thomas products and very gentle Edward, Harry and other character rides.

Parents will appreciate the many well-priced snackbars and restaurants (serving a large variety of Western and Japanese food); in particular, the new thousand-seat Food Stadium in the shadow of Fujiyama. We also admired the park’s attention to high chairs and children’s bathrooms- again, very Japanese! Where potty seats fit over adult toilets.

Directly across from the park is the Fujikyu Highlands Hotel, a winner of Japan’s prestigious resort “Grand Prix.” Just two hours from Tokyo by express bus or train to the Fujiyoshida JR rail station, it is a popular weekend getaway with an indoor pool and 20-lane bowling alley.

Many deluxe guest rooms and the posh rooftop restaurant overlook Mt. Fuji’s picturesque north face. During the peak mid-July to late August season, there’s an outdoor pool; over Christmas, two skating rinks form the largest outdoor frozen surface in the country.

Families also love the indoor arcade which connects the hotel to the theme park, and the Thomas the Tank Engine bedrooms festooned with images of the lovable train engine and his pals.

Among the many nearby attractions are 17 tennis courts, the public Mt. Fuji Golf Course, and Lake Kawaguchiko, which is encircled by a beautiful walking course. There are also some interesting museums, and for those with a car, access to scenic Lake Ashi around Fuji’s south side for boat tours and a cable car journey.

Details, Details

For more information, call 0555/22-1000 or 03/3376-1113 in Tokyo. Double rooms range from ¥21000-¥44000 (US$174-$365) depending on season and view; cribs are free of charge but extra beds are ¥5000 ($41) per night. Entry to the theme park is free to hotel guests; day passes cost about ¥1200 ($11) plus ¥200-¥1000 per ride.

For more information on traveling in Japan, visit the Japan National Tourist Organization online.

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