• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports


Nearly one in four roller coasters and similar rides in Japan have never undergone maintenance checks, the transport ministry said Wednesday.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry made the discovery after ordering emergency checks on 306 amusement park rides nationwide following the death of a young woman in a roller coaster accident earlier this month in Osaka Prefecture.

Of the 306 rides, it was found that the amusement parks operating 119 of them had failed to conduct maintenance checks in the past year.

It was also found that 72 rides had never been tested since their debut.

The tests are used to detect internal cracks in axles, wheels and other critical parts that could cause the ride to fail.

The operators of the 72 rides include Misaki Koen in Misaki, Osaka Prefecture; Iwaki Kairyunosato Center in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture; Family Island You in Yubetsu, Hokkaido; and Obihiro Zoo in Obihiro, Hokkaido, the ministry said.

The list of operators who have failed to conduct maintenance can found on the transport ministry’s Web site in Japanese at www.mlit.go.jp/kisha/kisha07/07/070523_2_.html

Industry rules state that axle and wheel checks must be performed at least once a year for roller coasters and other rides that move on rails tilting more than 5 degrees.

“We take seriously the reality that the required tests have not been conducted in a proper manner and will urge each facility operator to ensure safety management,” a transport ministry official said.

The emergency checks have turned up cracked and corroded wheels and axles in seven rides so far.

The amusement parks running the seven rides are: Tama Tech in Hino, western Tokyo (two rides); Japan Monkey Park in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture (two rides); Asakusa Hanayashiki in Tokyo’s Taito Ward (one ride); Onomichi Senkojikoen Greenland in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture (one ride); and Wonder Rakutenchi in Beppu, Oita Prefecture (one ride).

Bad parts have been replaced on all of the rides except the one in Onomichi, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, 249 of the 306 rides passed inspection and safety checks are under way on the remaining 50, the ministry said. Nine of the rides opened within the past year.

The ministry plans to urge amusement parks to keep them abreast of the ongoing checks and carry out emergency checks on other types of rides as well.

On May 5, Children’s Day, a woman was killed and 19 others were injured when a car in a standup roller coaster derailed after breaking an axle at Expoland amusement park in Osaka Prefecture. The break was blamed on metal fatigue that escaped detection because the park decided to skip maintenance checks ahead of Golden Week.

Yoshino Kogawara, a 19-year-old company worker from Higashi Omi, Shiga Prefecture, died after her head struck a steel guard rail. Her friend, Sayuri Furukawa, 20, was seriously injured.

The coaster, which can carry 24 people, is about 40 meters high and reaches speeds of up to 75 kph. It was more than halfway through the 1,050-meter course when the accident occurred.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.