Nagashima Spa Land ReviewJapan’s biggest amusement park

In between two of Japan’s biggest cities lies the country’s biggest amusement park, Nagashima Spa Land. It’s so massive that since I was there last, they’ve opened two more roller-coasters, The Bat (a flying roller-coaster), and Arashi (free-spinning roller-coaster) and to top it off, works are already underway on revitalising their wooden roller-coaster, White Cyclone, with world renowned designers RMC poised to to turn an ageing relic into a thoroughbred monster.

But all of this still pales in comparison to the park’s flagship ride, Steel Dragon, which at 2,479 metres, is the world’s longest roller-coaster, and at a cost of over 50 million US, it’s also one of the most expensive. If you’re travelling between Osaka and Tokyo on the shinkansen and you fancy a unique stop-over, or you just want bragging rights from braving the world’s longest coaster (one that’s also perched smack bang on a giant fault line on the side of the ocean,) then the visit to Nagashima Spa Land is for you.

Getting There

All Shinkansens between Tokyo & Osaka (including those on the super-fast Nozomi Shinkansen) stop in at Nagoya Station, which is where you’ll need to jump off and trade your bullet train speeds for a much slower bus that’ll drop you right at the front gate of the park. It’s not the most obvious connection on the planet – when you jump off your Shinkansen, head for the Sakura-dori side of Nagoya Station and turn right, where you’ll stumble upon the Meitetsu Bus Centre a few hundred metres up.

If you’re like me and want to travel south (I ended up in Shima Spain Village / Parque Espana the day after) you may end up spending a few extra dollars on taxis and busses to make it work – unlike Tokyo Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Japan, Nagashima Spa Land isn’t exactly near, well, anything. That being said, if you want to take a few days off and enjoy what Nagashima Spa Land’s resort has to offer, then there’s more than enough to do, especially with Legoland now open nearby.

Must-Do #1 – Steel Dragon

Naturally, the big ticket item for making the journey out to Nagashima Spa Land is to conquer Steel Dragon. In recent years, the park has gotten an industry titan designer (B&M) to craft new trains that took what was a bit of a snooze-fest beyond the first drop into something that’s now insanely fun from start to finish. Simply put – the old trains really sucked – you were well covered from all sides and any sense of speed or height was lost. The new trains though? The best way to describe it is exposed – you’re up higher and in individual seats, making the entire experience much more raw.

As for the experience itself – Steel Dragon is not at all the most technologically sophisticated or refined (the original designer’s solution to getting trains up its giant, long lift hill was to to just whack on two clunky old chains back to back instead of something far more sophisticated like a cable lift) but what it lacks in design it makes up for in brute strength. At 153k/ph, it’s no slouch when it comes to speed, and at 97m tall, it dominates the park from one end to the other.

Steel Dragon is worth the ticket price alone – while it’s not one of the highest rated roller-coasters on the planet, it sure as hell is one of the most fun, and something you’ll enjoy over and over again without much pain or agony.

This ride is massive.
Steel Dragon’s mid-point takes you through some gigantic turns that are longer and taller than some other roller-coasters.
The big question – will you pull faces on this ride?
Short answer – yes.
No matter which way you look at it, Steel Dragon is just a crazy amount of steel.
A word of caution – the park is over-zealous about closing this ride and will stop operation at the faintest hint of wind or rain.

 

Must Do #2 – Ultra Twister

Unlike other parks who tend to retire older coasters (especially when they’re in the road of something new and fancy) Nagashima Spa Land has done an incredibly commendable effort at retaining some real classics that are hard to come by these days.

This largely makes Nagashima Spa Land such a fun and awesome day – the park is basically a giant showcase for all things rides, big & small, past & present. How many other parks honestly have three pirate ships next to each other? It’s strange but awesome in a uniquely quirky Japanese way. As for the roller-coasters specifically, there’s a few worth the mentioning, namely the Ultra Twister.

This coaster in particular is a dying breed and these days are only found in Japan. Whilst vertical drops and barrel rolls are a common affair today, Ultra Twister was rocking being a total nut-job with relative ease since the early 90’s.

Ahhh, Ultra Twister. Totally badass yet totally unassuming to look at.

 

Must Do #3 – Everything else, seriously

As I mentioned above, there’s just so much to conquer – there’s old school Schwarzkopf designed roller-coasters like the Star Loop or the Shuttle Loop that launch using flywheels to just old school terrifying stuff like the Free Fall ride. Sure, it’s only 30 metres tall, but the fact that it’s a first generation drop ride (that’s two generations older than something like the Giant Drop at Dreamworld) and is 100% mechanical makes it bloody terrifying. Knowing that you’re about to drop, hearing gears whirring and loud “ka-chunks” was more than enough to put me on edge.

Looks harmless enough right?
What’s worth mentioning is that instead of using magnetic brakes like a modern drop ride, this one levels out and grabs you with giant friction brakes. Joyous.
Looping Star was one of the many classics I spoke about before – it’s not much but it’s still a bundle of laughs and a credit to timeless design.
Don’t worry, there’s plenty of new, gigantic rides like this picture perfect Giant Frisbee.
As seen from the Ferris Wheel – it’s the biggest model Huss (the manufacturer) makes and from up in the air it’s easy to see just how big it is.
More views from the Ferris Wheel – if you’re wondering why the photos are going from blue skies to rain in rapid succession – my first scheduled filming day was anything but calm skies.
When you arrive in gusty winds and the park is deserted, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth sticking around and waiting to see if the weather will change.
On my first day, the cloud gods did grant me one go on Steel Dragon which meant I was able to capture some incredible on-ride footage through the clouds, but alas, the weather worsened and a second trip back was scheduled.

Wait, where’s White Cyclone!?

As much as i’d like to include the park’s absolutely giant wooden roller-coaster in the must do list, as aforementioned it’s currently in pieces and undergoing a massive redesign. Whilst White Cyclone was no slouch, it’s new track layout will give new life to the ride and allow it to do things no wooden roller-coaster should be able to do (think barrel roll drops and crazy twists.)

There’s no denying it – White Cyclone was a gorgeous beast.
Here’s hoping it keeps its good looks when it re-opens in 2019!
Props to our legendary guide for help making some of these incredible shots & footage possible!
Say it with me, ready? This ride was…
…absolutely…
…massive.

Should I go?

If you’re into roller-coasters, this park is a must. There’s only a handful of other parks that have this many rides – in my mind that makes Nagashima Spa Land an under-rated nugget, at least to tourists. For locals, this park is a regularly visited destination, especially during summer. That’s where i’d express caution – if you’re visiting during the warmer months when the water-park’s open and the park is at capacity then visiting on a week-day is an absolute must. For those visiting off-peak in the colder months like myself however will find a quiet park that’s cheap, hearty and a ton of fun.

 

Nagashima Spa Land ReviewJapan’s biggest amusement park
TL;DR
Go for the world's longest roller-coaster, stay for a crazy amount of roller-coasters. The best shinkansen lay-over by far. Nagashima Spa Land is, at minimum, a full day experience and is sorrounded by other cool attractions like Yuami-no-Shima (an onsen), Nabana-no-Sato (botanical garden) & Legoland Japan.
Bang For Buck100
Vibe77
Attractions85
Food80
Service80
Reader Rating2 Votes90
Positives
Easily Japan's widest range of roller-coasters
Gorgeous amusement park with plenty to do
Steel Dragon is amazeballs
Negatives
Not near a train line (but not a big deal)
The park tends to close rides at the first sign of weather.
84
Highly Recommended
Ben Roache

Editor in Chief

Photographer, film-maker & thrillseeker, sometimes all three at the same time. Lover of great design, captivating stories & amazing people.

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