Japan 14: On cracked paint and antibiotics

Written by

Andrew Millar


January 22, 2008

I’ll admit it. I love things that scare me half to death. I’m a bit of a thrill junkie and I love roller-coasters. And the best ones are found in theme parks.

The best I’ve been on was in Las Vegas. It is attached to the outside of the New York New York Casino. You are seated on the third floor and it winches you up to the 14th floor before releasing you to gravity and your personal fears. At one stage this coaster travels upside down for some distance. I went on it once. Partly because it cost $30 a ride, and partly because I was scared witless by it.

A couple of years ago we ventured to Disney World in Florida and rode the Rockin’ Roller Coaster – a slingshot roller coaster that goes from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 2 seconds… indoors… in pitch dark.

There were several other great rides in Florida. ‘Test Track’ was the fastest ride in the Northern Hemisphere. But for sheer complete experience, the best, the very best ,was the Tower of Terror. Now I’m not going to describe what happens here, because that would spoil your experience should you get there. And you should. But the point I wanted to make was that Disney did not omit one detail in order to make the illusion complete. Even to the point of adding plastic salt damp to the walls in the basement of the building.

God is truly to be found in detail when it comes to theme parks. And Disney appears to have captured the Deity in its parks. I can make this judgement because we have just been to Universal Studios in Osaka.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was a terrific, silly, dumb, grand illusion, so out of context that it was surreal. It had a great roller-coaster and was a brilliant holographic, 3D ride. Good enough to ride twice .We also witnessed the ‘Water World’ stage show and although we couldn’t understand a word of it, we got the gist.

But the detail was missing. You could see the scaffold behind the facades of the next street. You could see into the staff retreat areas in a couple of spots. You could see buildings outside of the park from inside. (Although to be fair, they may have been built after the park was finished.) And there were some chips of paint missing from walls. These are all things Disney meticulously takes care of.

However, my wife made a very solid point.

While the illusion in Japan was slightly lacking, the reality was well cared for. The subways are spotlessly clean. The train stations are spotlessly clean. The taxis are obsessively clean. And the streets are almost polished. In America, it is the reverse. While their fantasy is well constructed and complete, the reality is a mess. Subways leave you feeling the need to scour yourself clean with a wire brush and Dettol. Railway stations can reek like urinals that have not been cleaned for 3 months. (Because they are and have not been.) And cabs that are not filthy, just grotty. The interiors are sort of covered in other people’s breath if you get what I mean.

In short, most of the public areas of the US you feel you need vaccinations to use.

Personally I’d trade off a small percentage of fantasy for an easier to survive reality.