This past weekend was a mix of adventuring, interviewing, and industry networking. FYI networking in the haunt industry means dressing up and talking about spooky things over cocktails. From Thursday through Monday I saw six different haunts, road a ton of rollercoasters, and added another couple Guinness Book of world record activities to my completed list (I think I’m up to five but I need to check). This all happened at the Midwest Haunters Convention in Columbus, Ohio followed by a trip up to Cedar Point with the ScareHouse crew on Monday. (If you want to see photos and tweets you can search the hashtag #MHC or #hauntconvention on social media. Actually, just follow ScareHouseScott). Starting with the Thursday haunt tours with Midwest—we went to the Haunted School House and the Haunted Laboratory, two haunts in one location that have been highly ranked across different outlets. From there I
Daikanransha is a 377 ft tall Ferris wheel in Odaiba, Tokyo, Japan
Today was another spectacular day. Well actually it’s the day after- I have not really been keeping track of time or ya know, what day it is. I’ve averaged about three hours of sleep per night—I feel like my time here is so limited that I can not stand to waste it sleeping. I can do that on the plane.
So I started this morning early because I wanted to beat the rain (and boy did it rain). I walked over to Hanayashiki which is Japan’s oldest amusement park. In my book I am talking about the history of amusement, thrilling activities, and haunts so what better place than Hanayashiki to get an idea of what it was like over 50 years ago (and judging by my visit not much has changed, but that’s ok!).
On my way there I stopped by the Sensō-ji Temple in Asakausa. It was really beautiful, there were also a TON of kids there on a field trip I guess. They were having fun cleansing themselves with the smoke before entering the temple.
From there I went into Hanayashiki and felt transported back to another time, or another universe. It almost felt like parts of The Langoliers, totally abandoned which makes you feel uncomfortable, where is everyone? It was just me and about ten kids, but I was there right when it opened on a school day with rain in the forecast, so it makes sense. And I love that it was desereted, I’m a big fan of those old abandoned amusement park photos, this made me feel like I was in one!
I rode all the rides, I went to all the haunted themed attractions and took a TON of photos. I could live there, it has a little bit of everything wrapped in a cute package.
I felt like I experienced the entire evolution of the haunted attraction industry within half an hour. They have a dark ride (old old school), a haunted mansion (old school), and a ‘modern’ haunt (getting to be old school). I’m not going to break down each attraction here (well my first draft I did and it ended up being five pages long and no one reads that much text today, I’m lucky if anyone is reading this far). But they were a ton of laughs, not scary to me, but I’m sure some kids still get a kick out of the ghost and goblins that pop out. I find it amusing and enjoyable because it reminds me of the haunts I went to as a kid, black plastic and scary skeletons. Again it was more fun and good humored that ‘OMG GET ME OUT OF HERE’ scary. I could have stayed all day just wandering around the tiny park but it started raining horribly and I had more haunts to get to..
I went down south to the Decks at Odaiba. Here there is a place called Joypolis and another haunt I wanted to check out called “Horror Diaba School” (roughly translated). What happened next is one of my favorite moments of my trip. I was the only one in line for the haunt (it was what around 11:00 on a Thursday in a beach destination on a rainy day…) and a gentleman came out and told me the directions (all very familiar, with the addition of straight up telling people not to stand still or ‘scared too long’, goodbye line back ups). He walked me through the hand out in English, highlighting certain things about the story (I’ve noticed all the haunts in japan are VERY narrative drive).
But I’m not giving any details of the haunt here, you’ll have to go yourself. But I was thrilled, there were some new ideas that I cannot wait to share with ScareHouse. Anyway I go through, and while it was small and there were not a lot of actors, I SCREAMED MY HEAD OFF. Seriously, it was great. I came out and the man was standing there again and asked if I wanted a picture and I was like hell yeah! I told him that I worked with haunts in the US and then for the next hour we attempted to have a conversation about haunted attractions. It turns out he (his name is Yuurei Hirano) is the designer and building of the Odiaba haunt and has set up haunts in Taiwan and around Japan, we pulled up each others websites, he’s been on TV in Japan, I showed him my site, it was all a mixture of charades and pictionary. We exchanged information, followed each other on twitter and became facebook friends. He’ll be getting an email form me this week with the help of a translator. We were like two kids in a playground who just discovered we both love the same movie. I’m really looking forward to talking with him.
This is getting long. I’ll keep it short.
That evening I went to meet with a reporter with RocketNews and his wife at Yurei Izakaya (Ghost Bar) about 40 minutes east of the city (CNN wrote about it here). Again, the Japanese really know how to make scary fun and just ridiculous. You walk in and each table has a spider hanging from it, you can clap to activate the spider, or raise a severed arm to draw your waitress’s attention. It was a lot of fun and really great to talk to people who live here and give the insiders perspective. (Check out RocketNews, every post is awesome). The legit scare came when they brought the food, there is no way real fire of that intensity is safe in a small restaurant. But it was awesome!
I’’m sad to go home, I really like Japan. Everyone is nice and it’s very clean despite there not being trash cans on every corner (seriously where are they?), there is an insane amount of cute (Kawaii) things EVERYWHERE, the ladies could definitely teach me a thing or two about style, and of course, they know how to make a great scary, fun, thrilling, experience.
I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to share it with everyone, so until next time Japan, and up next—Bogota, Columbia! (in between I’ve got Transworld and then Toronto, for the Edge walk at the CN tower, and some other adventure that is on my calendar but I have no idea what it is or where I’m going, I’ll figure it out later).
Now I think I’m going to get some sake and eat some sushi for the first time since being here (seriously my friend Laura Kingsley is going to have my head for the lack of culinary exploration I’ve done, I’m sorry Laura!).