Whiplash-inducing rollercoasters, two side-by-side Disney Resorts, a hot spring theme park, and a whole Hello Kitty world – it’s fair to say that Japan is a nation a little obsessed with amusement parks. The country is dotted with some of the biggest and most renowned parks in the world. If you’re planning on visiting Japan, here are some of the more unique parks worth checking out.
When it comes to mega theme parks, it doesn’t get any bigger or more popular than Tokyo’s Disneyland. Originally opened in 1983, this was the first Disneyland built outside the US. It’s such a raging success that it’s one of Disney’s most popular parks in the world – in fact in 2017, a whopping 16.6 million people visited. The layout was modelled after its Californian contemporary and features seven sections known as lands, all based around a different theme. The park sits in Chiba, just outside of Tokyo, making it an easy day trip destination.
Sitting just next door to Disneyland, DisneySea is based around a nautical theme, and it is the only park in the world of its type. The original concept of DisneySea was named Port Disney and was proposed to be built in Long Beach, California; however, after some financial troubles the concept was passed on to Japan. The park focuses more heavily on trying to attract more adult visitors by offering higher-end food options and serving alcohol (which is unavailable at Disneyland).
The most visited amusement park after the ridiculously popular Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios opened in March 2001 and has remained a must-visit park for both domestic and international tourists. One of the park’s biggest draw cards is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a mini park-within-a-park where guests can live out their Harry Potter fantasies by taking a ride on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a 3D rollercoaster simulation-type ride where you’ll dodge dementors, soar by whomping willows, and get swept up in a Quidditch match. Some of the park’s other attractions include rollercoasters based on a number of other blockbuster film franchises like Spiderman, Minions, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and Terminator.
Located in the Fuji Five Lakes region, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Fuji Q Highland is all about the thrills. Featuring roller coasters with gravity-defying loops that shoot off in every direction, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. The park lays claim to a number of world record-holding rides including the Dodonpa, which was built in 2001 and is the world record holder for the coaster with the fastest acceleration. If that’s not enough, Takabisha – which was built in 2011 – is the steepest rollercoaster in the world, with a drop that hits an eye-watering 121-degree angle.
For something a little tamer, Cosmo World is the quaint retro-style theme park located on the picturesque harbor of Minato Mirai in Yokohama. The park’s centrepiece is the iconic 112.5 meter-high (370 ft) ferris wheel, which from the top offers arguably the best views in all of Yokohama. Unlike the other parks on the list, this one doesn’t require an entry fee – the park charges per ride.
A park dedicated to Japan’s most famous feline, Sanrio Puroland is a Hello Kitty-centric world of weird and wonderful cat cuteness, offering endless fun for adults and children alike. Located in Tama New Town, Tokyo, this indoor park welcomes around 1.5 million visitors per year. The park has a handful of rides, but its biggest attraction is the colourful parade that features over-the-top light shows and performances by Hello Kitty and her pals. Once you’re done watching the extravagant shows, be sure to try grab a bite at one of Kitty’s many colourful on-site restaurants for the full experience.
For those who like a little history lesson with their fun, consider making the trip to Nikko for a day at Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura. Built to look like an Edo-era (17th-century Japanese) city, a visit to this park is probably the closest you’ll ever get to time travel. Populated by townspeople dressed in authentic Edo-style clothing, the town-theme park hybrid is also home to one of Japan’s most enigmatic figures, the ninja. Here, you can witness live ninja performances, get a photo up close with a fully decked-out ninja and even get lost inside a ninja maze. Although it may be a little more low-key compared to some of the other blockbuster attractions on this list, it definitely has its own unique charm.
After all that amusement park hopping, what you’ll need is a long, relaxing spa day, so why not head to Nagashima Spa Land where you can combine the excitement of an amusement park with the rejuvenating properties of a hot spring bath? Located just outside of Nagoya, the park features a number of both indoor and outdoor hot spring facilities. It’s also surprisingly home to some of the country’s biggest rollercoasters, and the most attention-commanding is definitely the Steel Dragon 2000, which runs the length of the entire park.