After month’s of waiting, the amusement park that seemed too crazy to be true receives its first visitors.
Last November the city of Beppu, a popular hot spring resort, posted a video of its vision for an onsen (hot spring) amusement park. Guests were shown strolling about the facility dressed in towels and hopping into roller coasters and other classic theme park rides that were filled with the town’s famous naturally heated water.
It seemed like a cute, tongue-in-cheek promotion for the city, but Beppu’s mayor promised that if the video got more than one million views, he’d make sure the onsen amusement park became a reality. That turned out to be no problem at all, as the video racked up more than four times the necessary number of views, and following a crowdfunding campaign the park, christened Uenchi (and also known as the Spamusement Park), received its first guests last weekend.
Not just anyone could roll up to the front gate and buy a ticket. From July 29 to 31, only backers who had pledged 8,000 yen (US$72) or more were allowed in. Luckily, we’d opened our wallet wide for the crowdfunding campaign, and tapped our Japanese-language writer Masanuki to go, since he felt the least self-conscious spending the day walking around with his shirt off.
Like we said, the initial Uenchi concept video was released in November. If just a little over a half-year sounds to you like not nearly enough time to build an amusement park from the ground-up, you’re right. Uenchi is sort of a pop-up amusement park, operating on the grounds of Rakutenchi, a preexisting Beppu amusement park, but a a number of the park’s rides have been given onsen-themed overhauls.
▼ The Uenchi map
One of the biggest crowd pleasers was the Onsen Bubble Jet Roller Coaster, which fills the cars’ seating area with frothy foam and had a line almost as soon as the park opened at 10 in the morning.
The line was also long for the Onsen Merry-Go-Round, with a 40-minute wait to sit in one of its hot spring water-filled bathtubs (though there was no line to ride on the carousel’s remaining horses). The Splash Glider, which sprays riders with hot spring mist as they go around and around, was also a hit with the crowd.
And while these spinning chairs didn’t have any onsen element, they did live up to their billing as the Gale-Force Wind Dryer Chairs, as they did a good job of drying Masanuki off after his ride on the Splash Glider.
But as he was feeling the breeze against his bare skin, Masanuki couldn’t help but notice something. In the original video for the park, everyone was shown wearing a towel wrapped around themselves, and Masanuki had done the same, although he had a pair of swimming trunks on underneath. Looking around though…
…he saw that everyone else had a T-shirt on, plus a pair of shorts.
While everyone had listened to the park’s guidelines of “come in clothes you don’t mind getting wet,” none of them had quite gotten into the onsen spirit as much as Masanuki had.
▼ Even in the onsen pool, there were plenty of T-shirts.
Still, it didn’t dampen his mood. Walking about proudly in his towel, Masanuki began to feel like the entire park was a gigantic outdoor hot spring bath, and one with fantastic views.
As the day wound down, Masanuki reflected on the time he’d had and felt a mixture of contented relaxation and cheerful joy form this synthesis of hot springs and amusement park rides. Still, many questions remain, such as whether Uenchi will be popping up again, and if so when. However, as he sipped a cooling complimentary beverage, he know one thing for certain.
It wasn’t that he was underdressed, but that everyone else was overdressed.