Celebrating New Year at Yagiyama Beny Land
Yagiyama Beny Land is a metropolitan amusement park in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a compact park equipped with about 30 attractions from thrill rides to family rides, and sits on the top of Yagiyama Mountain, next to Yagiyama Zoological Park. The park is conveniently accessible from the city by bus and the Sendai Subway Tozai Line.
During spring and summer you will be greeted with beautiful greenery and blessed with wonderful sunshine. In autumn, visitors can enjoy wonderful fall foliage on the way to the park. But the beauty of the place rises a level during winter when its castle and surrounding mountain are covered with softly falling snow. It looks like a landscape right out of a fairy tale.
Annually, to celebrate the New Year, the park offers free admission and free parking January 1 - 3 and 7 - 9 for all visitors. Additionally, on the first three days of the new year they give out free glasses of amazake, a non-alcoholic malty drink made with fermented rice, to the first 100 patrons. The mildly sweet drink is usually served to help warm up the body during festivals in winter.
Most Japanese start the first day of the year staying home with family or joining the crowd perform hatsumode, the first visit to a shrine or temple in the new year. (There is no set period for the practice, but many choose to do it within the first three days of the year.) Very few people head to an amusement park, so expect no line, other than waiting for the prior cycle to finish.
Located at the front of the uncrowded park are a pirate ship, a carousel, other family–friendly attractions, and of course, teacups. To migrate to the more thrilling side of the park, you have to continue beyond the castle that serves as an entrance, over which a roller coaster passes.
A short walk from the castle is the fantastic Ferris wheel built in 1992. With a height of about 35 meters and with 24 gondolas, this Ferris wheel is pretty small compared with some of Japan's giant wheels, but still offers a great panoramic view. The cabin-like gondolas deliver nostalgic trapping of the yesterday, reminding me of old carnival Ferris wheels.
To the right of the wheel is a small haunted house. It takes less than 10-15 minutes to test your nerve in this place of nightmares. Don’t expect anything like the typical American haunted house though -- there are no ax murderers, pop up ghosts, or chainsaw—wielding maniacs soaked with blood and gore. Nevertheless, it's fun to take someone with you and let your imagination run wild in the dark hallways and corners.
Despite its limited space, the compact park has a lot to do. On the more thrilling side, there is also a roller coaster, and go karts on a simple track with a wall that doubles back to allow the go karts to have a longer ride. Japanese architecture is chock full of space-saving designs and this park is no exception.
If you’re with small children, let them jump in a colorful balloon house or surprise them with a toy from a crane game. Just take a stroll through the park and try out everything in a day!
Dine: You’ll be hungry after an adrenaline dump, so grab a bite to eat before leaving. The precincts of the park feature a humble canteen and many food stalls. Most of the meals and refreshments are freshly made and served at very reasonable prices. They serve delicious hearty ramen for 600 yen.
If you’re not after an amusement park, honestly, I think it may not be worth travelling all the way from Tokyo to spend a day here. However, if you plan to ring out the old year in Sendai or intend to spend a New Year’s Eve night at Jozenji dori, enjoying the Sendai Pageant of Starlight, why not visit the park the next day?
Hours: 9.00-17.00 every day from about the second week of March to the last week of November, then open mostly on weekends through the New Year. The park is closed for winter from mid-January to early March each year (in 2017 the park will be closed from January 9 through the end of February).
Address: 19-1 Nagama-chioeji, Taihaku-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Access by Bus or Car: 30 minutes by bus from Sendai Station / 20 minutes by car from Tohoku Expressway Sendai Miyagi IC
Access by Train: Take Sendai Subway Tozai Line from Sendai Sta. to Yagiyama Zoological Park Sta.
Nearby Attractions: Visitors can enjoy a combined tour of both the amusement park and the Yagiyama Zoological Park (Yagiyama Dobutsuen) for a nice day off. The zoo is closed on Mondays (If Monday falls on a holiday, then it is closed the following day) and during the year-end and New Year holidays (December 28－January 4).
The area is quite close to downtown Sendai and other major tourist spots such as Aoba Castle, Sendai City Museum, and Zuihoden. You can make a fun and interesting trip without having to go too far out of your way. I really recommend Yagiyama Beny Land!
Official Website: http://www.benyland.com/ (Japanese)