Japan’s longest roller slide isn’t for the faint of heart
Tabayama is a quaint village in the mountains west of Tokyo where the picturesque views and natural silences can be abruptly broken with the screams of thrilled riders on Japan’s largest roller slide.
Opened in late 1990, this 800-foot-long slide isn’t for the faint of heart. Harkening to an era of more casual concerns for safety, the slide has no seat belts, helmets or much of anything in the way of personal protection. A set of cheap cotton work gloves and a rubberized, hard-foam mat are all you get.
“It’s wet; might be a little fast and more dangerous,” said the manager of the slide in clear English.
The 1 ½-hour drive there from Yokota Air Base and Camp Zama winds past Lake Okutama, through forests, along riverside roads and deep into the mountains of Japan.
As you arrive in Tabayama, look closely at the mountain overlooking the village for a small black-and-white tower peeking through the trees. The tower marks the start of the slide.
Making your way to the parking lot for the slide is simple, but pay attention as the signs are all in Japanese. The free parking is separated into two different lots under the building that the slide is based out of and can be recognized by the orange and green signs lining the lots.
Adult admission is 400 yen, or less than $4, and 200 yen, or $1.87, for children. However, you must be a minimum 2 feet, 6 inches tall to enjoy the ride.
Gather gloves and a mat and hike to the top of the hill where the two-story, castle-like tower stands. The view from this height is amazing — the entire valley opens in front of you. Now it’s time to feel like a 12-year-old again.
The slide resembles an Olympic toboggan run with a bed of rollers instead of ice. The beginning is slow and lulls you into a false sense of meh. Things speed up at the halfway mark; the final three drops will take your breath away as you shoot toward the finish. Use those work gloves as brakes so you don’t overshoot the landing.
Much like small-town attractions in the States, on this ride you pay once and ride as often as you like.
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DIRECTIONS: Address: 437 Tabayama, Kitatsuru District, Yamanashi 409-0300
TIMES: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Wednesdays. Closes for the winter Nov. 30 and reopens March 15.
FOOD: There are many small restaurants within a five-minute drive of the slide.
COSTS: 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for children.
INFORMATION: Phone: 0428-88-0466; Online: vill.tabayama.yamanashi.jp