February 4th, 2010 at 9:41 pm (anime)
The Shinagawa Prince Hotel, located just a stone’s throw through the labyrinth before Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, even with its tuxedo wearing top-hatted valets has more than just your standard regal affairs. Indeed, it also houses the Epson Aqua Stadium, filled with overpriced and over-glorified pastimes. That is, all except the Galaxy Express 999 indoor roller-coaster.
Bastu went after a visit to the immigration bureau on the other side of the station, and nothing gives bureaucracy a good kick in the face like traveling through a void of mysterious dark space, upside down at incredible speeds.
I was practically the only visitor in the whole park! Not bad for a Thursday evening. There were armies of staff ready and waiting to heed my every whim as I careened through the tape. A pleasant attendant manning the automated machines (oxymoron?) was quick to do the entire processes of purchasing a ticket for me, sans actually paying. She then escorted me mostly to the ride, where another bevy of enthusiastic employees lie in wait.
“Your train will be departing in 10 minutes,” one of them informed. The other six scuttled away.
Looking up, a huge information board with scheduled departures hung over the entranceway. How cool! My train was coming in 10 minutes! Not just any train, but an intergalactic train bound for Andromeda. I felt so cool! Looking down, there was a map of the various trade and train routes; however, it was obstructed with dividers – no good pics. A few minutes later, the times flipped – Oh! It was time to get on the platform!
A staff member quickly went through a check list of possible ailments (no heart problems, no blood pressure problems, no other illness… you’re OK going upside down, right?) and then led me into a holding area with replicas of Maetel and Tetsuro’s clothing. There were other things to be seen, but I was quickly led to a futuristic platform with 3-D dioramas of Megalopolis embedded into the floor and intimidating robotic guards overlooking to the side. After a few moments, the guards announced the arrival of a tram bound for the actual track and made various safety announcements. Like, about space pirates and whatnot. They seemed just like statues, but were really animatronic actors that really came to life. It was just like being in Megalopolis, or at least, just as I had imagined it.
The tram arrived and the doors opened. Another staff member led me in and explained the ride, such as the glories of how to take off your glasses and empty your pockets. The tram would now be departing towards the 999.
Of course, the tram was just a room with a huge screen, but still had a nice facade. The conductor began explaining about the train and the route, showing our position relative to the track when – all of a sudden we encountered trouble! The whole car shook in suspense!! We were up against some formidable foes, but Tetsuro and Maetel came through, along with the assistance of Harlock and Emeraldas. Mr. Conductor apologized for the inconvenience, upon which the door opened, revealing the ride.
Just one look told me I did not want to ride that thing. It was small – even compensating for the fact that many Japanese things seem small. The seats were hard, with no shock absorption, or even modest fabric covering. Could I just refuse and walk out? I’d certainly had my 1,000 yens worth, but nonetheless quickly stepped in file putting all of my belongings and glasses into the cubbyholes like the nice man said.
Strapped in tightly, the train (coaster) took off with frightening speed. But without my glasses it was hard to tell what was going on. I could make out a glowing green ring which the train went through and then circled about, which left me wondering if I had actually been upside down or not as a barrage of weird colored lights appeared to be suspended in the darkness, here and there, in clusters. The train swooped around them, jutting left and right, as I hoped it would quickly be over. Though the ride itself gave a wicked headache, there was a cool futuristic lounge area full of character art just outside, which I made full use of.
However, had there been a gift shop full of swag, it would have all been coming home with me. Despite the sour ending, this was one of the cooler interactive anime experiences I’ve had, and I didn’t even have to buy admission to a major theme park or wait in line. I felt like a princess having so many staff members to pamper me, and the mock-ups were really good. Aside from the train, this is as close to Megalopolis as it gets.
So indeed, after weathering my next pilgrimage to the immigration offices, I will be riding the 999 again. Taking another look at the map, there is supposed to be a “souvenirs and novelties shop” – I was just too sick and spaced out to find it. Or, shall we blame poor marketing and /or product placement? I should have just asked, but by that point the place had more and more couples on dates, giving me weird looks. Common sense says one wouldn’t usually take themselves to the amusement park – but it probably would have been alright had I dressed less fancy.
Where: Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium
When: Mon.-Fri. 1pm-10pm, Sat. 11am-10pm, Sun. and Holidays 11am-9pm