Are TOGO Coasters Actually That Bad?

So the topic of today's discussion is something of a pet peeve of mine and something I've been wanting to write about for a while. The hate for TOGO, and why personally I feel not only is it unwarranted but in fact would go as far as to argue that TOGO actually make some pretty kickass coasters. What I want to explore in today's post is why this misconception might and exist and where it possibly comes from, as well as giving some of my own examples of why TOGO are actually pretty awesome!

For those unfamiliar with the company, TOGO are a Japanese amusement ride manufacturer founded in 1935. Their first attraction was a mechanical walking elephant in one of Tokyo's neighbourhood and they later went on to build Roller Coaster at Tokyo's historic amusement park Hanayashiki. The coaster remains the oldest operating coaster in Japan and is one of the oldest operating steel coasters in the world. The company sadly went bankrupt in 2001 after a lawsuit with Knott's Berry Farm over the infamous Windjammer Surf Racers but as recently as 2018 there have been murmurings of the company making a comeback with fresh new designs, although nothing has been confirmed.

Roller Coaster, Hanayashiki
You'll likely have heard the company mentioned alongside moans and groans on the good o' internet accompanied with declarations of how terrible and unbearable their coasters are. For Western enthusiasts they're a company associated with painful, uncomfortable ride experiences and are often the butt of jokes similar to that of Vekoma Boomerangs and SLCs. So, where does this preconception come from? My theory is that although the company predominately installed coasters in Japan, they did manage to build a handful in the USA. Doubtless a few of you will be familiar with the likes of Viper at SFGAdv or Shockwave at Kings Dominion but I'm willing to bet that most in not all of you will have at least heard of the Big Apple Coaster, previously known as Manhattan Express, located at the New York, New York Hotel & Casino on the main strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. And that is where I believe this myth of TOGO=terrible comes from.

Because you see, Big Apple Coaster is objectively, a terrible coaster. It serves more a purpose as a tacky piece of Las Vegas outrageousness as opposed to going out of its way to deliver a fantastic ride experience and it certainly help the NYNYH&C stand out from its other competitors. I'm sure if you even asked non-enthusiasts about this they would be familiar with the hotel with a roller coaster in Las Vegas. It's peak Las Vegas kitsch and as a strip icon and marketing tool it works perfectly. Sadly as a coaster it's incredibly uncomfortable. It's rough, painful and janky with a strange and awkward layout to try and fit into its footprint amongst the giant New York skyline cut outs. I rode it once not actually knowing how terrible it was supposed to be and came off with my ears ringing, it truly is that bad. So herein we see the problem - if the coaster you're most famous for manufacturing is a piece of shit then I think it's only natural for people to assume that you must just be a terrible coaster manufacturer as opposed to anybody assuming this is just the anomaly.

Ultra Twister, Nagashima SpaLand
But this is where it all goes a bit wrong. Coaster enthusiasts (and people in general to be honest) have a really annoying habit of jumping on the bandwagon of general coaster tropes even if they haven't experienced it for themselves. "All Vekoma SLCs are terrible", "RMCs are the best thing since sliced bread", "Icon is good" - you know what I'm talking about. And don't get me wrong, I've definitely been guilty of it before myself, especially when I was younger and less well-traveled when it came to theme parks and it's a behaviour I actively try to train myself out of because personally I find it incredibly hard to be objective about my own personal experience with an attraction if I board it for the first time with a preconceived idea of what it will ride like and that is not something I like to do. But if everybody is telling you that TOGO are shit then of course I think it's fair to assume that they're probably shit. But the truth is, they're actually kind of great?

I rode Big Apple Coaster in January 2012 and honestly I think I was still nursing my injuries from it when I joined the queue for Shockwave at Kings Dominion six months later. I so vividly remember thinking that we might and well get this TOGO stand-up coaster over and done with, for the +1 of course. Because I'd had such a ghastly experience on Big Apple Coaster I was bracing myself for the worst for this one, especially as it was a stand-up and I'd never particularly been a fan of Shockwave at Drayton Manor. I was incredibly surprised and a little bit confused to find that I actually adored the coaster and it turned out to be my second favourite of the day at Kings Dominion after Flight of Fear.

Fast forward to my Japan trip in 2015 and any negative feelings I'd previously had towards TOGO were but a thing of the past. From the insane layout and sideways airtime of the mighty Fujiyama,  to the mad unqiueness of Ultra Twister at Nagashima SpaLand to the intense and powerful forces of Surf Coaster Leviathan I had fallen madly in love with this strange Japanese manufacturer. Nothing they do is really like anything else we know of Western manufacturers and their...flair for the unusual feels quintessentially Japanese and something I quickly fell in love with as I rode more and more of these quirky coasters as we made our way through the Japanese parks on our trip.

Surf Coaster Leviathan, Sea Paradise
TOGO get a bad name, and unfairly so, simply because of the fact that their most famous coaster also happens to be their worst. It's the prime example of how going along with the crowd can mismanage your expectations and why I will always encourage any coaster enthusiast to do their best to ignore the mantra of the crowd and instead use their own experiences and research to come to our own conclusions. Not only do TOGO make really great rides they're actually pretty iconic in terms of the history of the roller coaster, responsible for some of the oldest operating roller coasters in Asia, an important player in developing alternative approaches to what roller coasters can do with their Ultratwister models and even managing to nab some world records with Fujiyama. They're not some trash coaster manufacturer who makes crap but instead are an innovative, quirky company hugely responsible for the success and development of the amusement ride industry in Japan.

Have you ridden a TOGO coaster? Do you agree that they're unfairly labelled as a manufacturer of terrible rides? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to know what you think!

Talk later xoxo,

All images were provided with permission by CoasterForce


  1. I'm so right there with you. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is just something quintessentially Japanese about TOGO's full design portfolio. They are so unique and so... joyful? They simply feel fun, at least the ones that aren't Manhattan Express, and isn't that the main thing one wants from an amusement ride? Now-- especially considering the company hasn't existed for 20-odd years-- they are also really reminiscent of a different time, so they have a whole nostalgia thing going on, too. Lastly, I think the fact that today you have to go to Japan to ride a good one adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole experience (though I too enjoyed Shockwave, King Cobra, and Astroworld's Ultra Twister while they were standing).

    Nice article!