If you've ever sat on theme park rides thinking "this would be so much better if I had pedal to make it go," the Gunma Cycle Sports Center might be for you.
Living in Japan comes with a few perks. I have access to the world's fastest personal internet, I get a bunch of exclusive videogame releases, and I get to experience the cutting edge of technology. But none of that compares to the head-scratching oddities that Japan is famous for, like the world's shortest escalator. Recently, I had the pleasure of accompanying a friend determined to make a video of one of Japan's strangest tourist attractions, the Gunma Cycle Sports Center, featuring a pedal-powered rollercoaster and other bicycle-themed attractions.
The park itself is pretty out-of-the-way, requiring a four-hour car trip from my home base up in Tochigi prefecture, and being nestled at the top of a mountain in a sleepy little unsuspecting town. One of the biggest surprises of the park was just how many people were there! It seems that there are some popular bike trails in the area that are part of the cost of admission. But, I'm the furthest thing from a "bicycle enthusiast," so for the three of us the biggest draw was the decades-old rust-laden craptacular rides.
First up was the "Cycle Monorail," the only ride that legitimately "thrilled" me. Not because of its high-speed pedal-powered action, but because my friend and I are quite heavy-set guys, and the monorail is quite high up, and quite rusty. We legitimately thought that this was how it would all end, which would make for one of the stupidest deaths of all time.
Other attractions included the "Tall Bike" the "Cycle Train" and the "Tricycle Circuit." The highlight for us was this parking-lot area filled with the stupidest bikes you could ever imagine. A bike powered by turning a crank. A bike powered by hopping up and down on the seat. There was even a penny-farthing there.
The theme park's star attraction though, was the "Rolling Thunder," one of the world's only pedal-powered rollercoasters. If you plan on riding this one, make sure you bring a couple of buddies, for hauling the damn cars up that first big incline by yourself would require some kind of herculean feat-of-strength.
If you are visiting Japan and are a fan of stupid and unique tourist traps such as this, you should definitely check it out. Despite its inherent crappiness, we certainly had a good time.