Bamboo Coaster Makes its Lone Annual Appearance in Chiba Prefecture

Old & New video

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Riders descend the track of the annual “bamboo coaster” as a long line of people waiting their turn look on during the lone day of operation on June 9 at Ajisai Park in Tako, Chiba Prefecture.

For one day every year, the excited cries of riders on a handmade “roller coaster” sound out in a Chiba Prefecture town as airplanes from nearby Narita Airport fly in the distant sky. This year, the ride in the town of Tako made its appearance on June 9.

The coaster, an added attraction to the town’s annual hydrangea festival, is built in a space enclosed by rice paddies and a river, from which the cries of joy are heard until the evening.

Starting at a point about five meters high, the single car shoots down a track about 50 meters in length. The ride is called the “bamboo coaster” because it is made almost entirely of local bamboo, which is gathered by town in May and cut into about 300 logs, each three meters in length. Wooden posts support the frame.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
The track and most of the frame is made of about 300 locally hewn logs of bamboo, supported by wooden posts.

The construction is carried out the day before by local volunteers, many drawn from the town’s juvenile counselors’ association and children’s education and development association. Also helping out are Japan Airlines group employees working around Narita Airport. This year, it took about 50 volunteers about nine hours to build the attraction.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A group of volunteer students from Tako Junior High School pull the coaster car back to the starting position using a rope and pulley.

>The idea for the coaster was inspired by the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in the prefecture in 1983, and local residents have been building one almost every year in the 40 years since. The construction method has been passed down from generation to generation based on a blueprint kept in the town.

The ride is free of charge, and there is no age limit or requirement. Anyone who gets in the line can take a ride, and many adults from outside the prefecture come just to try it. According to the town, about 700 people, including non-residents, rode it this year.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Volunteers haul bamboo logs for the construction of the coaster on June 8, a day before the festival.

However, as the festival often coincides with the rainy season, there are years in which the coaster was canceled because of bad weather, so there is no guarantee of getting a ride. In addition, leaving the coaster unattended is dangerous, so it is dismantled and removed before sunset.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Construction of the coaster is in full swing on June 8. While they may look like professional craftsmen, they are all volunteers.

“I heard about Tako children growing up riding this coaster, and my husband was one of them,” said a 30-year-old female company employee, who grew up in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, and moved to Tako upon marriage. After riding the coaster for the first time with her 4-year-old son, she said, “It was pretty scary for me, but my son enjoyed it and said he wanted to ride it again.”

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Volunteers lay down the bamboo logs for the track of the coaster.