Tokyo: Are you tough enough for Muscle Park?
Stars and Stripes March 2, 2008
With a baseball bat held firmly in my hands and a helmet fit snugly on my head, I stared down the 5-foot- by-5-foot plastic target before me.
My goal: To hit balls fed by a machine to the bingo-card-looking target, with individual panels numbered one to nine.
There were people watching. My heart was pounding. I swung away. I hit the first ball and it rolled on the ground. The next ball I hit flew above the target. I hit all nine balls, but only one connected with a panel on the target.
“But it looked so easy on TV,” I thought to myself as I walked away frustrated.
The game, Spray Hitter, is one of many activities at Muscle Park, an indoor, sports-themed amusement park. It was played by professional athletes on a Japanese TV show that ended a few years ago. When I watched the athletes try on TV, it looked so easy. I even made fun of the players who could hit only a couple of panels.
Though I regretted making fun of the professionals and was embarrassed by my own performance, I understood the reason Muscle Park is popular: Even though I failed, I was hooked and wanted to try it again.
Muscle Park, located in Tokyo’s popular tourist district of Odaiba, consists of 18 activities divided into nine themed areas. All activities are from Japanese TV shows, in which Japanese and internationally well-known athletes as well as qualified audience members participate in various challenges, such as knocking down targets, like the one in SprayHitter, with baseballs, Frisbees, darts and soccer balls.
[PULSBODY]You can compare your results against the pros who appeared on the show, such as Barry Bonds, who knocked down five of the nine panels trying Spray Hitter in 2002.
In the game Struck Out, where a challenger throws a baseball at a target with nine panels, Boston Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka knocked down eight and Hideki Okajima knocked down five.
“We wanted the viewers (of the shows) to experience the activities,” said Maiko Sakaguchi, a subsection manager of the Muscle Park division at Monster 9, the company that runs the park and also produced the TV show.
One activity I didn’t dare try was the Descente Sasuke Park area. It is a re-creation of activities on the TV show “Sasuke,” aired in the U.S. as “Ninja Warriors.”
It consists of activities including the Arm Bike, where you propel forward with your arms to move bicycle pedals; Cliff Hanger, where you move forward by supporting your weight on your fingers on an inch-wide ledge; and Salmon Ladder, in which you climb up a series of notches sticking out from the wall while hanging from a bar.
I couldn’t believe it when I was told that some people manage to complete all the challenges.
But the park is not just for jocks. There are games that challenge your brain and ones that test your physical ability by measuring and comparing your agility, coordination and balance against others in your age group. There are also activities that have to be played in a pair.
All activities are geared to people 6 and older, but the Kids Park area offers an inflatable obstacle course for younger children.
Since its opening in 2006, Muscle Park has attracted about 2 million visitors a year, according to Sakaguchi. The park is foreigner-friendly, with many instructions and rules written in English.
When you get hungry from moving so much, you can stop by the concession stands. The park’s original Monster Burger is quite a sight, with three stacked layers of sandwich.
And when you get done chowing down, go give the games another try.