There’s more to theme parks in Japan than just Disney Resort and Universal Studios; there’s also ninjas, go-karts and looking through your legs.

Think of theme parks and there’s a good chance that the the local versions of big American theme parks come to mind. However, travel site TripAdvisor’s list of the ten most popular theme parks in Japan shows that a) there are other theme parks worth a visit beyond Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka; and b) what constitutes a theme park is open to interpretation.

Japan’s Ten Most Popular Theme Parks:

1. Universal Studios Japan, Osaka

Home to rides like The Flying Dinosaur and what is purported to be Japan’s slowest roller coaster, the Osaka-based theme park has seen visitor numbers increase massively, particularly with the introduction of its Cool Japan limited-time attractions and a rising number of foreign visitors to the country.

2. Tokyo DisneySea, Chiba

One of the two Disney theme parks in Chiba, outside Tokyo, the aquatic-themed DisneySea is enough to win over the most-hardened unbeliever to the magic of Disney. With rides based on the works of Jules Verne inside a volcano, and a plethora of delightful staff costumes, DisneySea managed to beat its older sibling to the second spot in this list.

3. Tokyo Disneyland, Chiba

While Tokyo Disneyland’s crown may be slipping, there’s a reason why Disney theme parks have dominated the top ten lists for Japan, Asia and the world, with their mix of rides, live shows, and curiously shaped eggs. Our own reporter Daiichiro certainly couldn’t get enough of the place during his visit to the park for its 35th anniversary this year. With a third park rumoured to be in the works, will Disneyland find itself bumped down another spot in the future, or will it reclaim its throne?

4. Adventure World, Wakayama

Out of the top three and into the unknown, for many. In fourth place, we have the first of the Japanese original theme parks: Adventure World in Wakayama Prefecture. The wildlife and safari park’s most famous residents are the giant pandas, five of only nine in the whole of Japan. As well as the pandas, the park hosts a variety of live shows and even night-time safaris.

5. Nagashima Spa Resort, Mie

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After a hard day of screaming your lungs out on roller coasters and filling your belly with snacks, what could be better than a long soak in a hot bath when you get home? Or what if you didn’t have to wait until you got home? That, presumably, is the premise behind Nagashima Spa Land in Mie Prefecture. With wooden and steel-made roller coasters aplenty, a massive water park, botanical gardens and Yuami no shima, Japan’s biggest onsen hot spring park, Nagashima Spa Land has something for everyone and if all the excitement and bathing tuckers you out, there are nap rooms too.

6. Fuji-Q Highland, Yamanashi

Featuring heavily in our previous article on the best roller coasters in Japan, with several roller coasters that at the time of building were record-breaking in terms of speed, height or length, Fuji-Q Highland also has other ways to terrify you, with haunted-house attractions like The Haunted Hospital and the Fortress of No Hope.

7. Tokyo One Piece Tower, Tokyo

The first in the list of Tokyo theme parks, and the first to be entirely indoor, the One Piece Tower can be found inside Tokyo Tower alongside the official One Piece Manga Café. As well as a number of attractions based on the hit manga and anime series, visitors can take ‘trick art’ photos, meet the members of the Straw Hat Crew and watch One Piece adventures enacted onstage.

8. Mega Web, Tokyo

It may sound like Spider-Man has finally got his own theme park, but no. Mega Web, on the island of Odaiba, is a theme park dedicated to Toyota and stunning examples from the history of the motorised carriage. It’s not all just about looking though, you can also take your favourite Toyota for a test drive, provided you have a Japanese driving licence or International Driving Permit. Even if you don’t have one there are go-kart tracks too where you enjoy the thrill of driving.

9. Amanohashidate View Land, Kyoto

While this theme park may not match the jaw-dropping roller coasters or sheer scale of some of the other places on this list, it does have a view certified as one of Japan’s top three. Situated in Kyoto Prefecture, this little park overlooks the famous ‘Bridge to Heaven’ sandbar. As well as the spectacular view, there are also a number of rides and a Ferris Wheel to take in when you’re not looking out across the sandbar in the traditional way, as in the photo above.

10. Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, Tochigi

While the only rides at this theme park are limited to being pulled or carried by kimono-clad servants, the park allows visitors to step back 400 years into the past and experience the Edo period. Dress up in kimono and wander the streets between the stunning buildings and watch as ninja bound from roof to roof, or as a geisha strolls alongside the river, parasol in hand. The park, in Nikko, not far from Tokyo, is often used as the scene for historical dramas and other samurai-era videos, and where you can roam around as the Edo-era character of your choice, traditional chonmage haircuts optional.

That concludes the list of the top ten Japanese theme parks, according to TripAdvisor. Did they miss out on any of your favourites? While the Disney theme parks and USJ are well worth a visit, for those seeking something a little different, or a little more quintessentially Japanese, Japan has plenty to offer.

Source: tripadvisor
Top image: Nagashima Spa Land
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