Japan 2017 Day 5

17Japan5BannerUniversal Studios Japan | Photos | Videos


September 14, 2017
Osaka, Japan

Universal Studios Japan is another busy park where you must arrive before opening to get an Express Pass, otherwise it sells out and the lines can be outrageous. Since you can’t get the Pass online on any English website based in the US, it has to be purchased onsite. So after going to sleep early, we got up early and headed to Osaka once we checked out of Hotel Anteroom (I had accidentally booked one less night than we needed, but we decided just to Hotwire a room in Osaka). Osaka is a very convenient hour or so train ride from Kyoto.

We arrived a good hour before park opening. I’m actually fairly proud of the fact we were able to do this for all of the parks we needed to. After purchasing our tickets and choosing our express passes, we got in the massive line to go in. Thankfully the older lady selling us tickets was very accommodating with our lack of Japanese and helped us pick the correct Express Passes. Then just before 8:30, Woody Woodpecker and his girlfriend came out to greet everyone.  Once the gates opened, everyone rushed into the park. Universal is another Japanese park with a covered ‘main street’. My first impression of the park and CityWalk were that they were definitely modeled after both of the US Universal parks, and that’s great.

At this park, you choose which type of Express Passes you want. You get 4 A level rides at timed slots, then get B level rides (You choose between 2 rides for the 3 slots) you can use at any time. This is a busy park with long lines, so we wanted to maximize our Express Passes and play it smart. Hollywood Dream, the park’s mini B&M Hyper, is running one of its 4 trains backwards and calling it Backdrop. We decided to hit it up first thing since it’s only one of the trains, and they were running 3 forward. The wait was between 20-30 minutes, not bad considering you were waiting for only one of the four trains.

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Japan 2017 Day 4

17Japan4Banner.jpgSpace World | Photos | Videos


September 13, 2017
Yahatahigashi-ku, Kitakyūshū, Japan

Isaac & I woke up super early again on Tuesday morning, but this time we skipped breakfast at the hotel as they didn’t start serving for another hour or 2 and headed to Kyoto Station to catch the Shinkansen to Space World. I realized I’d forgot my phone on the way to the station, but once we had our tickets for the train we realized we had plenty of time to run back for it and eat a bite at a breakfast place across from Kyoto Station. Breakfast at Topscafe was interesting. You ordered from a machine then hand in your ticket. It was busy, cramped, but clean and the food was very good. Once we finished eating we headed to our platform to catch the train.

We arrived at Space World after a 3-hour Shinkansen ride and a couple of transfers onto the local train line. This area was definitely different from Tokyo & Kyoto. Not one of the major Japanese tourist areas, much further south, even hotter, more humid, and in a more industrial setting. We passed right by the park and into Space World Station. Many people were heading to Space World since it was closing, so we had to stand in line for a bit to get tickets. Lines would be the order of the day.

Thankfully, all of the coasters opened. Unfortunately, all but 3 of them had long, slow lines, with a couple having insane wait times, as they seemed to dispatch trains every 10-15 minutes, just as I’d read online. Since we were prepared it was only slightly annoying, but expected. After getting into the park we headed to Zaturn first, as a launched Intamin was more prone to breaking down. Walking thru the park, it looked very different than the photos I’d seen from even just a couple of years ago. It was clean, but it was definitely not being fully kept up. We headed around the corner and got in line for the coaster. The line wasn’t long, but launches were slow. Once we were in the station, there was an area where you had to lock up all of your personal items, then head into the main queue area. Eventually, though, we were on in the back row of the train.

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Japan 2017 Day 3

17Japan3Banner.jpgKyoto Imperial Palace | Photos | Videos


September 12, 2017
Kyoto Japan

We woke up early (thanks, jet lag) and looked at the forecast. The original plan was to head south to Space World in Fukuoka Prefecture since it was closing at the end of the year and this would be my only shot at a park I’d been wanting to get to for a long time. Unfortunately, the weather outlook was terrible. There are already horror stories on the net about the park closing rides early, only sending 1 train out every 15 minutes, and a barely running, barely functioning park, so we decided not to risk it in the rain especially since the following day was forecast to be much nicer. This meant switching our free day to Monday and hanging out in Kyoto instead.

Isaac & I headed down for breakfast at the hotel. The hotel buffet was pretty amazing. I had a cheese breakfast thing, salad (common for breakfast in Japan), and some other good stuff. Once we were finished with breakfast we headed to the closest thing on the list of things to do, Kyoto’s Imperial Palace complex.

With our Railpass and Pasmo, it was a quick commute after walking to the station. On our walk to the transit station, though we were in raincoats, we decided to be more like the locals (especially since it wasn’t very cool weather-wise), and get umbrellas at a Family Mart, a chain of convenience stores in Japan. I made our cashier so happy when I thanked her in Japanese. It made her day, and mine too.

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Japan 2017 Day 2

17Japan2Banner.jpgSenso-Ji | Hanayashiki Park | Photos | Videos


September 11, 2017
Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan

I slept pretty well from about 8 PM to about 5 AM Tokyo time. Once I woke up I cleaned up, and made a video to record my thoughts on our arrival. I got ready and went out the door to go up a couple floors to get some decent shots of the Tokyo SkyTree from the top floor of the hotel, but as I was going out the door, Isaac, who also woke up around the same time, was coming out with his stuff to walk to a nearby park. Neither of us wanted to wake each other up, but when he heard me open my door, he rushed out to see where I was going. I made my way up to the top floor to take some photos, then headed back down while he was getting ready before we headed out to Sumida Park park a few blocks away.

The city was so quiet early in the morning. At this point, it was after 6 am. At some point I finally found a vending machine with Pocari Sweat, a drink I’d wanted to try for many years. It was good. We walked along the riverwalk area, which is beautiful, and arrived at the park after a few minutes walk. It was very nice. There was a beautiful pond that we walked around, and even explored the Ushijima Shrine located in the park. There were plenty of views of the surrounding city, as well as Tokyo SkyTree, as the morning woke the city up for the day. Since it was so early, it was mostly just a few older people walking around.

Then at about 6:30, they all started doing exercises around the shrine in the garden. There were a good 100 people all doing exercise in unison. It was really great to see. Everyone was so friendly walking around. Many had dogs. Walking back to the river walk was beautiful, with one side filled with the buildings of the area’s business district. We ventured to find some food, but that turned into a walk to the Senso-ji Temple complex that we stumbled upon, a Buddhist temple established in the 1500s, making it Tokyo’s oldest. We walked around and took pictures of the buildings and Koi pond for quite a while as some locals came to pray and worship.

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Japan 2017 Day 1

17Japan1Banner.jpgJapan | Photos | Videos


September 9 & 10, 2017
Narita & Asakusa Tokyo, Japan

Japan was the one country in the entire world that had been at the top of my bucket list for a very long time. I took 2 years of Japanese in High School, studied the culture, pop culture, language, and more for many years while looking at photos of cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, and Osaka. I was determined to get there and, after several false starts, finally set a target for September of 2017. It took much planning (over a year), pre-paying, asking for time off of work, etc., but it was worth every bit. My only regret was that it took this long, though I won’t wait as long to go back.

It’d been a long time coming, but the trip finally arrived. I’d planned it out for over a decade. I’d done the heavy planning over the last couple months, and now it was time to go. First things first, I was nervous about being on a plane that long. The flight started from Charlotte (CLT) to Chicago (ORD), where we transferred to the international terminal, then ORD to Tokyo Narita (NRT). True flight time was between 11-12 hours from Chicago to Narita.

I packed every electronic device I had (2 phones, 2 tablets, a DSLR camera, a GoPro Knockoff by a reputable camera company, chargers, cords, and more). And even though I slashed the amount of stuff I’d have normally packed for even just one week, I way over packed for the trip. I didn’t need as much in the way of electronics, and the next time I fly internationally, I will pack much less. I barely used my iPad on the flight because there was an entertainment screen in the back of the seat ahead of me with live news, lots of decent movies (I watched part of Skull Island, some of Guardians 2, and all of Minority Report and a Big Bang episode, along with CNN as Irma hit the east coast back home), and kept busy all fight.

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