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2018

 

TPR Japan Trip

 

Day 1-3: Arrival, Yokohama Cosmoworld/Sea Paradise, and Tokyo Sightseeing

Day 4: Tokyo Free Day

Day 5/6: Travel Day, Misaki Park, and Adventure World

Day 7: Universal Studios Day 1

Day 8: Washuzan Highland, New Reoma World, and a Speakeasy

Day 9: Hirakata Park, and Kyoto

Day 10: Nagashima Spa Land

Day 11: Parque Espana

Day 12: Legoland, Higashiyama Zoo, Culture, and Heavy Metal Concert

Day 13: Hamanako Pal Pal and Lagunasia

Day 14: Transfer to Tokyo, Free Day

Day 15: Fuij Q and Disney After 6

Day 16: Benyland, Lina World, and Sega Joypolis

Day 17 and 18: Tokyo DisneySea/Disneyland

Day 18 (Cont'd)

Day 19 and 20: DisneySea and Disneyland Day 3/4

 

Other 2018

 

Martin's Fantasy Island / Erie County Fair

Give Kids the World Village

Fun Spot Kissimmee and Busch Gardens Tampa

 

2019 Trips

 

Phoenix Phall Phunfest

 

 

Hello all! I have done a couple trip reports here and there, but never anything quite like this, so you'l have to bear with me. I don't think I have the same knack for incorporating humor into reports as others, so you may not get that here, but I do hope to convey just how incredible a time I had in Japan traveling with TPR for three weeks. Also, the photo quality isn't great. I personally value just capturing things even if it's not done... perfectly.

 

Just a bit of a backstory here on my time with TPR. I joined in 2010 and believe my first post was asking how feasible it would be for me to go on a TPR trip after my senior year in high school. I was a sophomore at the time and wasn't sure if it would actually happen, but it was in the back of my head. Fast forward to my senior year and my parents both put me into college prep overdrive, offering me a bribe to study harder for the SAT/ACT. They were hopeful that if I did very well it would translate into some scholarships. The bribe was an all-expense ticket on the New Hotness 2012 tour. It was an unreal experience and one I am so grateful for. I did not post a report from that trip, unfortunately.

 

Fast forward a couple more years and I am reading all sorts of trip reports from Japan trips of years past. I especially remember showing friends, family reports from Tokyo Disney Sea, because of just how amazing the park looked. It was a few years ago that TPR announced the end of public trips as we know them. Folks told lots of stories about some of the questionable behavior on trips, others sang praise for Robb and Elissa for the incredible planning and patience/tolerance. I chimed in and ended up reaching out to express interest in future trips, specifically Scandinavia and Japan. Elissa reached out to me one day with information on an extensive trip, covering some of their favorite smaller parks, as well as the major heavy-hitters. I knew right away I was going to do what I could to tag along.

 

Fortunately, my job at the time was a field position where it wasn't uncommon for us to work 14 12 hour shifts in a row to make up for vacations we would take, etc. So I talked to my boss about 10 months out and he gave me the go ahead. Trip time rolled around and that brings us to June 2018. Hope you enjoy following along. I know I am really enjoying revisiting the trip a few months removed.

 

Days 1-3: Arrival, Yokohama Cosmoworld/Sea Paradise, and Tokyo Sightseeing

 

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As all good trips must start... Chik-fil-A

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My itinerary was a bit goofy, traveling to Toronto and Montreal en route to Narita. I left around 7 AM and arrived the following day around mid-afternoon.

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Here we are after the first quick jaunt (of which I actually slept during).

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This guy.

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Yeah, I opted for Tim Hortons. Very much the cheaper option

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Really quality in-flight games kept me occupied the entire time (not).

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Yeah, it's a bit of a long trip. I flew Air Canada and did not upgrade my seat at all. I'm tall at 6'3" but I really can't sleep on planes regardless of the space I am given.

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First of three meals on the trip was actually pretty decent. Some orange chicken and couscous, plus a cold corn salad and a dessert.

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Had a nondescript sandwich for second meal, and then got a little breakfast as well.

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So, I did try to make the sleep thing happen. I brought along some Emergenzzz and bought a fancy new travel pillow. Also, had three little bottles of complementary wine.

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Almost there, it seems.

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And we've arrived. I did notice in retrospect the flight seeming very quiet and relaxing.

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So, upon landing I had a few things I had to do. First, I went to acquire some money from a 7 Eleven atm. As became a recurring theme on the trip, my bank card gave me a bit of a hard time (did alert them in advance of travel). After three tries, I did get some money. Then I was off to a travel desk at the airport to get my JR Rail Pass all set up. For those of you who don't know, Japan offers tourists the option of purchasing a rail pass that allows them access to most bullet train (Shinkansen) routes, as well as all JR local lines. As the report goes on, I'll try to shed a bit more light on how it all works. But basically, Elissa handled purchasing our passes, giving us the option to get a 2 week or 3 week pass (depending on our specific trip plans). I set mine up to activate the day we were scheduled to take our first bullet train and then had to go downstairs to a shinkansen office to make my seat reservation for the trip (guaranteeing you a seat).

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Then, I made a bus reservation from Narita to the Shinegawa Prince Hotel, which was honestly very affordable and (unsurprisingly) efficient. There is a desk right in the airport that shows departure times and you can book a round trip at that time if you want to save a few dollars.

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Also, discovered and utilized Japanese vending machines for the first time Milk Tea became my drink of choice and is something I desperately miss to this day (have found some similar products at home, none quite as good).

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Drove past Disney on the way to the hotel.

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One of many big wheels.

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After checking in and picking up my room key from Elissa, opted (upon recommendation) to keep it simple for dinner and order some American food. There was a vending machine to order from and prices were decent!

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To appease the American tourists, a classic option: Bacon and french fry pizza.

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I decided on this, though and it did not disappoint.

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Checked into my room that night and can remember being a bit surprised by the room size (though I had been prepared for it). Honestly, I would rather have a small, clean room and pay less as a result. Woke up and stopped at the 7 Eleven for the first (of many) meals from there. Teriyaki chicken and egg sandwich for breakfast was a great option.

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We gathered in the lobby and then headed toward Shinegawa Station, one of the busier hubs and one of only a few places in Japan where Shinkansen stop. Really a convenient hotel option (tons of places to eat and a two minute walk to the station).

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We arrived at the Yokohama station and were greeted with some huge skyscrapers and a very "friendly" lady who enjoyed following us around. Robb kindly explained it was a private group and we carried on to my first park of the trip (I joined the group for the final of three add-on days of the trip).

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Not before I snapped a picture of the station in case I ended up lost.

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And we're off! Yokohama was a really beautiful area from what I saw and in the distance is the second big wheel of the trip so far.

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The bridge offered great views all around and was a cool way to approach the park.

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We were greeted at the park entrance by a representative from Senyo Rides (for whatever reason, that doesn't sound correct, but google told me that) who Robb has worked with in the past. I can say his name in my head but don't want to screw up the spelling. He escorted us over to Diving Coaster: Vanish! to get some early morning rides (before the rain was supposed to hit).

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The first of many great signs we saw during the trip. I talked to some folks who visited this park later on in the trip on a free day (they didn't join the pre-trip) and they mentioned they were checking everyone with a breathalyzer.

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I made it a bit of a quest to try a bunch of different drinks from the vending machines. Unlike America, vending machines are everywhere, found in large quantities together, and have significantly more variety. This was kind of a lemony soda water. Not for me.

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Diving Coaster was decently fun. Roughest part was the tunnel after the dive and the cars were set up such that the back row was significantly smaller (leg room was at a premium).

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The other ride we rode before park open was the Log Flume, which had a strange coaster feeling in the sections between the lift and the drop. This gave some pretty solid air time.

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But! They also had this here scoreboard. The louder the screams, the higher the score. A nice little idea for some interactivity.

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Oddly enough, did not take a spin on the giant wheel, despite it probably offering some great views.

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This became a common trend (and one I appreciated). A large portion of restaurants had displays of the food available. Buying things without knowing what they look like can be annoying, so this comes in handy!

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This was one of the only parks we visited that operated on a ticket basis. Robb and Elissa provided us enough tickets to do some of the other dark rides and flats. This was an odd little dark ride where you had a device that functioned like a touch screen. You would look at the screen which would show what you were aiming at and then you would need to tap the screen aggressively to destroy stuff that would pop up on the screens. Really not the best description, I know.

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This was I think a more traditional shooter. But, I don't seem to have a picture of it, but the park also had a motion simulator. I don't know where the picture of me with the paper mask on my face went. But yeah, we had to be weighed and then wear a mask for contamination reasons. The ride was pretty fun, actually! The park had quite a few dark rides.

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Then came this haunted dark ride. A bit odd, but you could select the level of scare (1-3). We selected very scary and were... less than scared. But we WERE riding in a cage , which was odd.

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First of many capsule machines.

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First ice house of the trip. This one was in less than ideal conditions. By now, it had started to rain and so we really wanted nothing to do with this, but we figured why not. It was actually the nicest of the trip (not in size but in intricacy).

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Upon leaving, my waterproof rain jacket had ice drops (if that's a thing) all over it.

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The park is separated into two areas. This side has the flat rides and the kiddie coaster plus some more shops.

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The Family Banana (Stand) Coaster. Best kiddie coaster that I rode that day.

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Another shot of the ice house.

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Our friend from Senyo gave us these very nice sushi/yakatori keychains. Still haven't found a great use for them, but still! They were all individually wrapped. The first of many instances of how amazing Japanese folks treat tourists.

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In case you want to know, I am front right. I learned a bit as the trip went on, that a nice smile worked a bit better.

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Really started the trip off with some authentic food. Explored Queen's Square for a bit (a very large mall that was the first of many indications that retail was alive and well in Japan) trying to search for a friend who was already at Shake Shack. I will say, it was good, but wow is beef expensive. I believe a SmokeShack, fries, and little shake was around .

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After lunch, we had a bit more time before meeting back up, so I went off on my own to the Cup Noodles Museum. I wouldn't go out of the way for it, but if you are going to be in the area, it is worth stopping at. If you can figure out how to do it, reserving a time slot in the lab would make the trip more worth it.

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As it stands, admission is 500 yen. The museum is multiple floors, but only one of them is really the museum. The bottom is the lobby and gift shop, and then there is the lab, and a restaurant floor.

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This was a cool room with all sorts of different pre-packed noodle options.

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Yeah, the lab area was insanity. I think you get to make your own 'recipe' of sorts and design your own container design. I remember it being really affordable and there was multiple huge school groups there when I went.

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A neat little photo-op.

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On the way back to the station, finally passed the proper entrance.

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Neat little tid bit. This bridge was built by the New York Bridge Company. Really doing their best to hide that fact.

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Always the cleaning type. But yeah, this cute little truck was on the bridge.

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There was also this ship you could tour.

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We departed for Sea Paradise, home of Blue Fall, the pitfall famous for its hesitation at the top.

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Yeah, it was still raining a bit, but we were going to make the most of it.

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I loved, loved, loved seeing all the English translations throughout the trip. Often, they were rather funny.

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Just parking em halfway up.

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Some big birds.

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Surf Coaster was actually really fun. A nice, wonky Togo. Got a few trips on it. There were multiple sections where a huge fountain of water would spray up (depending where you were sitting, you would get a bit wet).

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Yeah, just take it all in.

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Didn't spend too much time in the park, but did make time to stop at the Booze Cafe for some.. booze.

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Surf Coaster.

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That evening, a few of us visited Sensojii Temple, something that was already on my list of must-sees.

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Pros of visiting at night: The Temple looked beautiful at night and the crowds were minimal.

Con: The shops and street food vendors were all shut down for the day. This is apparently a great place for that kind of thing.

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This guy.

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I do remember dropping 74 into a bin at one of the buildings off to the right and shaking a cylindrical container that had a bunch of wooden rods inside with Hiragana written on them. You shook the container until a rod slid out of a small slot and then matched the characters to a drawer that had a bunch of fortunes inside. Fortunately, the fortunes were written in English as well. If the fortune was good, you were to keep it. If the fortunate was not so good, you were supposed to wrap it up on a rack. CULTURE!

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Believe this is Tokyo Skytree. Did not get to visit.

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The area is also home to Hanayashiki, a little amusement park with the oldest coaster in Japan. Not open for our visit. Alas, another time. Would make for a nice little afternoon between the temples, shops, and amusement park.

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For dinner, we visited Sometaro, an Okonomiyaki restaurant. This is the menu.

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Basically, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that can contain a variety of fillings. This variant contained egg, cabbage, some other stuff, and your choice of a filling. We opted for three between the four of us, plus a noddle dish. Got a kimchi one, a cuttlefish one, and then a more traditional pork belly one.

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This place was a bit different than the okonomiyaki I had later in the trip. We actually prepared it ourselves. We were given a bowl with our ingredients unmixed and after we mixed them, we poured them onto our flattop and formed them into one big pancake.

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After about 5 minutes, you flip and let finish. We didn't know at the time what toppings were generally used, so we just cut it up into 8 slices and served. The waiter came over and politely explained that we had forgotten the 'barbecue sauce' and Japanese mayo. He re-formed our pieces into a circle and properly finished the dish. If you look up a few pictures, at the top of the menu it does clearly say, "Paste the sause, and if you don't mind, sprinkle the green cavel. Then you can eat it." So, in retrospect, it was really quite clear what we were supposed to do. But, alas.

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Here is a bit of a better look at one of them properly prepared. It was honestly really tasty and as you can see from the menu, super affordable. I am sure there are tastier spots, but if you are in the area, it is definitely a good touristy option. An experience that is hard to forget.

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The outside was real neat.

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Strolling back to the train station, stumbled upon some interesting things. Love hotels are common in Japan and can be rented for a few hours or a night. They aren't your typical sketchy prostitute type motels in the States, but they can have some odd 'features' to them, like dungeons, etc.

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Also, didn't go to a Denny's, but have heard some interesting stories about them.

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Stumbled upon a place serving up Fugu, the deadly blowfish made a bit more famous via the Simpsons episode.

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I'll leave you with this! Stay tuned for more detail-oriented, but not especially humorous captions in the next installment. Thank you so much if you even made it this far!

Edited by Taylor Finn
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commenting as I'm reading thru. . .

 

Was so excited to see another report on the Japanese parks, and the trip in general.. since I've never been overseas, so always dying of curiosity on how things work.

 

-- Fantastic Start, but can you elaborate on the room you 1st checked into? you said you were surprised but prepared for it. Was it smaller than you were expecting? larger? just curious. I'm assuming from context it was a smallish room, but clean, so you were pleased?

 

-- also wondering about your comments regarding using the ATMs. Did you not bring along much cash and then convert at the Airport? or did you just find it easier to use the ATMs? Glad it got worked out so you didn't have to keep fighting with the machines.

 

-- Fantastic pictures of the park (and Diving Coaster Vanish), and super smart of you to take a picture of the Train Station (reminds me of one of my friends who 1st thing upon getting on a cruise is to take a picture of his Cabin Number, so he won't get lost in the wee hours when heading back to the room).

 

I always knew Japan is super efficient from reading Robb/Elissa's official Trip Reports (or Chucks),but how cool is that display of what the food looks like before you order!

 

-- ahahaha. . love the Cup Noodles museum! I always go to World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, so this would be right up my alley. Looks like you had a fun time there.

 

-- Blue Fall and Booze cafe! that's a whole lot of win right there. and the visit to the temple at night looks gorgeous.

 

-- great call on trying the smaller local place (over Denny's). . . I too likely would have prepared it "wrong", but I love that the menu is in English too (with a picture!), and that the waiter was so polite to explain how to correctly do it.

That must be major culture shock for those from the USA (tho the Canadian folks I know are always very polite, so y'all are likely used to politeness)

 

GREAT start.. can't wait to continue reading along.

Edited by bert425
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Fantastic report!

 

The breathalyzer was one of the weirdest things I've seen on a coaster. We were handed this yellow rod, which I thought was a magic wand or something. Then we were told to blow into it. But it worked to our advantage since the group ahead of us failed, giving us the front.

 

I can't imagine how cramped you were on Surf Coaster. I had a whale of a time fitting in that coaster and you're quite a bit taller than me.

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Is breathalyzing common at Japanese theme parks / attractions? As someone that likes a stiff drink that scares me a bit about our trip coming up in September .

 

Diving Coaster Vanish is the only one I recall seeing a breathalyzer one, but a lot of rides (including here in the US) have signs discouraging drunks. Oktoberfest meanwhile...

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I don't intend to go riding any sort of ride (outside of Oktoberfest) while drunk, but it would be sad if a non 0.0 breath test resulted in me missing a notable coaster during my honeymoon. I'll be on my best behavior for Dive Coaster!

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Thank you all for your kind comments! I'm excited to have you guys along for the journey.

 

-- Fantastic Start, but can you elaborate on the room you 1st checked into? you said you were surprised but prepared for it. Was it smaller than you were expecting? larger? just curious. I'm assuming from context it was a smallish room, but clean, so you were pleased?

 

Sure! Yeah, so Elissa kind of let us know ahead of time that would be the case. Really, the Disney property and Universal property hotels we stayed at later were indistinguishable in size to most US chains. The first hotel and especially the one we stayed at later on in Nagoya were a bit more "Japanese." It was probably about what I expected, but having never been in a room this size, it was still a bit of a surprise. With big suitcases for a three week trip, it was a bit challenging to find space for it on the floor.

 

-- also wondering about your comments regarding using the ATMs. Did you not bring along much cash and then convert at the Airport? or did you just find it easier to use the ATMs? Glad it got worked out so you didn't have to keep fighting with the machines.

 

So, there are multiple ways I could've done it. For one, it would've been smart to get a credit card that didn't have foreign transaction fees (mine was 3%). But the way I looked at it... 3% of $1000 would be $30 extra. I don't think I spend much more than $1000-1500 for the whole trip. But I opted to just withdraw Japanese currency once I arrived. Airport currency exchange desks generally offer poor exchange rates. But the 7 Eleven atms offer the same exchange rate as what you see if you google it. And the fees are very insignificant (somewhere around $1.50/$100). So i just withdrew 20000 yen at a time (around $200) and went from there. I brought a tiny bit of American cash, but really didn't use it. Japan is largely a cash culture, though they are adapting a lot for the Olympics. I could've paid with card more often, but I felt it easier to track how much I spent via cash.

 

Is breathalyzing common at Japanese theme parks / attractions? As someone that likes a stiff drink that scares me a bit about our trip coming up in September .

 

Just to echo what was said already, I think this was done largely because of the park's location in a major city (Tokyo). If you go to amusement parks in the suburbs or further out from the city centers (ie- most of the trip for us), I don't think it would be nearly as likely. This was one of only two parks I went to that was right in the city (other being Tokyo Dome City).

 

Thanks for all the great questions and comments, guys.

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^ Even a simple tour trhough Japan, if there is actually such a thing, always creates amazing unique bizzare beautiful memories of that trip, even if it's only to Disney.

 

Great ongoing report. Enjoying it all. Looking forward to more!

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Expecting TPR ~ 2011 Japan Tour (o:

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TPR 2013 Japan Tour, Take 1.

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TPR 2013 Japan Tour, Take 2 ~ I loved Cosmoworld! (o:

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Day 4: Tokyo Free Day

 

The main reason I wanted to arrive a bit early for the pre-trip was to get myself adjusted a bit from jet lag so that on this day, I could explore Tokyo. No coasters on this report. But was definitely one of my favorite days of the trip, anyway. This was the main arrival day for the remaining trip participants (there were about 25 of us, total).

 

One thing I had decided early on was to head off on my own on these free days we did have. I am a bit different than most in the way I travel. My girlfriend and I will fit a lot more into a normal vacation than most (at least for now... we're young). I am a real planner when it comes to this kind of thing, so I had jotted down quite a few things I wanted to do while in Japan. I think I accomplished a lot of that, discovered quite a bit of stuff along the way, and had a great time doing it.

 

One of the reasons I was so excited for the trip was that it WAS all planned (expertly) by Robb and Elissa, as far as hotels, transportation, and parks. I could rest easy knowing I could simply wake up and be on time to the lobby and have a solid day. That freed up all my energy to finding things to do and eat during my free time.

 

So, with all that out of the way! Come explore Tokyo with me. Let's see how much ground we can cover in 16 or so hours.

 

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Started my day in a pretty typical fashion. But look at the variety and quality of options at this 7 Eleven!

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They had a variety of noodle dishes, sandwiches, onigiri (basically a rice ball that might have a fish or something mixed in that is shaped into a triangle).

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In addition to the cold food area, they had your typical convenience store snacks, but done well. 7 Eleven branded items were actually pretty good too. Remember having a Matcha and chocolate chip cookie which was delicious.

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I can't remember which of these milk teas I liked the most, but they're all delicious.

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On my way to our first destination. just your typical panda ball.

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Kabukiza Theatre. This is the main place in Tokyo to watch Kabuki, which is a traditional show that takes the form of dance-drama. I just walked past on my way to bigger and better things.

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I didn't really capture much of what happened between the last picture and here, so I'll catch you up. I stumbled upon a very nice ceramics store that sold tons of tea cups, plates, etc. It looked modestly sized from the window and first floor, but there were a set of steps that led to a significantly larger upstairs. Prices were fair. I got a few little things that I had wrapped and put into my bag to trek around for the day. Then I walked a bit further until I reached Tsukiji Fish Market. This WAS the largest fish market in the world. Read on to find out what happened. But yeah, this guy was just casually driving goods through and everyone parted off to the sides to make room (there was really none).

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Okay, so you read on. I do remember reading this when I visited but I completely forgot about it until I google Tsukiji to get the spelling right. They actually moved the entire market 1.5 miles away from the existing one and built a brand new building for it in October, a few months after my visit. From what reviews indicate, (2.5 on trip advisor), people are not thrilled with it. Seems to look very sterile and not much like a market anymore. Might be more functional, but part of what drew me was the history and scale. Oh... the picture. This guy is torching oysters.

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So, I made it my mission to try some stuff while I was here. This was absolutely not the right choice but it intrigued me. It was snow crab (I imagine imitation by the size) that was grilled and then torched. From there, you could have it covered in a buttery sauce or not. I tried it and really didn't care for it too much.

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Tamagoyaki. This was only 100 yen (< 10). Had a bit of a line that had formed so I checked it out. Basically it's an egg omelette of sort. Was very tasty. To prepare it, they have a square skillet that they very lightly oil (with a sponge) and then they pour a thin layer of egg over the whole surface. Once that cooks up, they roll it over itself. Then they add more egg to the remaining part of the skillet and repeat a few more times. You get an omelette with many thin layers of egg. It was tasty.

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Explored a bit more and settled on an indoor sushi place. Here is the menu (sorry for the rotated image, you're just going to have turn your head).

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I am more of a sucker for Nigiri, which is just a piece of fish over pressed rice. So I had a few pieces and can remember asking for my check in Japanese (all of two words) and the waiter being so, so happy to hear me attempt the language. It was adorable and further solidifies how much they appreciate foreign tourists (we could take notes).

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Some kind of bank building as I was walking.

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So, I had to get a picture in front of it. It was pretty, I guess.

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Naturally, we have a guy cleaning subway steps.

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From Tsujiki, I went to visit the Imperial Gardens, hoping to get a good view of the Imperial Palace itself.

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It was really a nice, serene place. One thing I appreciated was the seamless blend of modern architecture, parks, and shrines, etc.

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Lay of the land.

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I don't know what you're looking at, but it's historical in some way.

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On ground level, you can almost forget you aren't in Tokyo. I didn't actually find out where I needed to go to get a view of the Imperial Palace proper (not really accessible directly to the public), but alas, was still a nice little detour.

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More signs.

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From the gardens, I headed to Akihabara, which is the Electronics mecca of Tokyo. Tons and tons of streets just full of retro game stores, maid cafes (a cosplay cafe where they will treat you like their master.... very odd), and arcades. Did not experience, but there were loads of girls dressed up encouraging me to visit.

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By now, it was lunch time. Found a place just on a side street that looked good.

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I ordered a small Tonkatsu, which was like 600 yen (didn't feel like checking the menu in the above picture). It was plenty of food and was really tasty. Also they gave out forks to everyone here to use, which was a nice thing (maybe traditional with this specific meal). As was the case at most places, complementary iced tea was served.

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Here is the outside for any of you that decide to visit and copy my every move.

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Next up was a place that I had heard a bit about from Robb and in my research, Super Potato. I recognize I am contributing to the main issue people have with this place now... it is overridden with tourists who don't have an exceptionally large passion for retro video games. But yeah, I wanted to visit anyway.

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The store takes up the 3rd-5th floors.

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I didn't get much here, but it was a pretty neat store. Very tightly packed (as is typical) with tons of goods. Divided by floor depending on what consoles you're interested in. Can't speak on prices, but have heard they aren't super competitive anymore.

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From there, I visited a couple arcades in the area. This is one of the more unique things about Japan... there are quite a few multi-level (I'm talking 4-7 floors) arcades scattered around Tokyo, many of which are located in Akihabara. Most had floors dedicated to specific types of games. For example, the first floor or two might be dedicated exclusively to UFO crane games (which are incredibly challenging), with a floor for competitive racing, then a floor for music games (where this game was found). It was kind of like DDR but I don't really see buttons specifically on the floor there.

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On my way out of the area, I stumbled upon an idol group. Didn't appear wildly popular... but. Idols are generally just manufactured celebrity figures. They are generally placed together by an agent of sorts and usually don't directly contribute to the creation of their sound/writing of music. But Japanese folks fawn over them.

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Before I left, I explored Bic Camera, which is a chain of electronics stores in Japan. This particular location was a bit overwhelming. About 30 or so staff per floor and many a floor. I ended up buying this for my girlfriend. It is a paper model of Osaka Castle that you must craft. She still hasn't touched it (OH WELL).

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Yeah, it's extensive.

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I took a quick subway ride from Akihabara to the Edo Tokyo Museum. But on the station platform, I caught a glimpse of the top of the Sumo Stadium. Unfortunately, the Sumo season is fairly limited and wasn't occurring during the trip. I would consider going on my next visit.

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Stumbled into a little museum right next to the stadium.

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On my way out of the museum, noticed a cat cafe. It appeared new... you can pay a fee to go inside and just exist with cats. Cats suck, so I am not sure why this is appealing, but there was quite a crowd. Pets are very expensive in Japan and often aren't practical given tight living quarters, etc.

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A bike parking lot!

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Edo Tokyo Museum.

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Yeah admission was very cheap and I had read good things about the museum. But I never could've expected my experience to end up being as great as it was.

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Weird escalator to get inside.

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The top floor had HUGE scale models of what the area looked like during the Edo period (1603-1868 under the rule of the Shogunate).

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Descending to the bottom floor was a very comprehensive look at the development of Tokyo with time and at a lot of the innovations that came with this development. But they also host cultural experiences daily. This day, they were doing a demonstration on Japanese Acrobats. This man was insane. I am only showing two of the things he did here. But he was narrating his every move in Japanese (and there was an English translator enthusiastically conveying it to us). The whole thing was just insane.

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This is sped up so I could show you more, but he stacked item after item on his nose.

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Why are Japanese people so skinny when they have escalators this small.

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From Edo Tokyo Museum, I visited Shinjuku, which is a large shopping and entertainment district. I visited one of the many huge department stores (Isetan, I believe). They are mostly really upscale and can be 10 floors plus. It is insane, really. But the reason for my visit was the food basements. Think a giant upscale food market. One thing they are infamous for is pristine produce. Around 0 melon.

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Yeah, look at those prices (divide by 100 to get a rough USD). 5 cherries.

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Just beautiful though. Much of the stuff is actually decently affordable.

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From there, I attempted to find dinner. The place I found originally didn't pan out (Ichiran Ramen). The line to get in was EXTENSIVE. But read on to future installments of the report. The Ramen Saga is not over. I believe this was just a a random shrine I stumbled upon on my way to Ichiran. BLURRRRRY.

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From Shinjuku, I had one last stop. Shibuya. I would say it is like the Times Square of Tokyo in many ways. I was in here searching for a very specific Back to the Future shirt she had seen at one a year or so ago and hasn't found since. Don't judge. But yeah, 6 floors.

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I also found out that Tower Records is alive and well in Japan. This specific outpost actually recently was remodeled and expanded. Ironically, they don't sell much in the way of Vinyl.

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Just a wonderful retro vibe.

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Look at this directory.

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Hachiko, a dog made famous for his loyalty to his owner, whom he would meet daily at Shibuya Station. When his owner died, he continued to wait there for 10 years until he died, too. Really, really popular statue. It is located right at Shibuya crossing. Which is...

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INSANITY. It is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. There are many different crosswalks that all get walking rights at the same time. Controlled chaos (no one bumps into you).

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A novel little newspaper vending machine.

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Not pictured here... but my quest for Ramen was moderately successful. I stopped off on the way back to Shinegawa at a Ramen place. I can't find a picture and can't remember the station it was off of. But it was pretty solid and not crowded at all. Home is in the distance. At long last. 16 hours, 14 miles of walking later. Thanks for reading along. I hope I am not boring you guys with trivia and history, etc. Hope you enjoyed!

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I love explaining to people that in Japan, you can get a really decent, tasty, cheap meal at a convenience store and not expect to get poisoned from it! Soooo different than here!

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^^Not a problem! I really am grateful for how much free time was built into the trip because of the early park closings. Made it to a lot of the "Greatest Hits" as well as some more personal interests.

 

^And absolutely. That and just being able to stop at them before hopping on the Shinkansen to get a beer and a snack was one of my favorite parts about Japan. The only time a convenience store failed me was the day of the earthquake when all that was open was Lawson. I really didn't find anything too good there and think I ate deli meat, cheese, and chocolate.

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Day 5/6: Travel Day, Misaki Park, and Adventure World

 

Well, the next few days were quite eventful. After a couple very nice days in Tokyo, it was time to travel to Osaka (we will return to Tokyo at the end, don't worry)!

 

This first day was largely travel. We had a nice buffet breakfast at the Shinegawa Prince Hotel. It was VERY popular among hotel guests and had a huge variety. The whole space was really nice. Sorry if any of you foodies were hoping for pictures. We used the bullet train for the first time and had our seats reserved (we did this reservation on our own). Future reservations were done by Elissa (THANK YOU) who would just grab our rail passes, reserve us all together and then return them later in the day. Again, you don't need to reserve seats. There are cars that are non-reserved cars. You guarantee yourself a seat if you reserve (generally not an issue for them to run out unless you are there during the very busy season).

 

From there, had a nice afternoon at City Walk, and a great first evening in Osaka. The next day would bring some unique challenges to the group. Enjoy!

 

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Here we are. Leaving Shinegawa for Osaka.

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The rail pass itself. It's like a little laminated pamphlet. You can see that mine was active from 6.17-6.30. Important to consider your options as far as whether to get a 7, 14, or 21 day pass. If your first bullet train trip is not at the beginning of the trip and you will just be taking local trains, the rail pass isn't providing you optimal value (you'll be paying + a day to ride local trains that are usually .50 each).

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....But a bullet train trip from Tokyo to Osaka will run you 0 or so each way, so the value is most certainly there. I personally waited to activate mine until this day and just used the Suica Card (think Metro Card in NYC, pre-loading money on, etc.). This is the card you get for your reservation. I brought a more subtle 'fanny pack' along for the trip and had my passport, rail pass, money, battery block, and any train reservations kept in there. Remarkably, this trip departed and arrived on the minute. Crazy for a multi-hour leg.

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We arrived in Osaka, but had to take a local shuttle to our final destination. I wonder where that might be.

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Snoopy is way, way more popular here than in America, as you'll see.

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Also, it was interesting that in Tokyo, it was customary to stand on the left side of the escalator if you were not in a hurry. In Osaka, it was the opposite. Either way, this was a really nice cultural tick. Impossible for something like that to be implemented in America, I would assume. People just get it in Japan.

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We've arrived! We would be staying at the Hotel Universal Port for the next few days. Easy access to City Walk and Universal Studios, proper.

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Some familiar faces, here.

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Can definitely get used to a view like this from the hotel entrance.

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We had some free time to explore the area and get settled in before our welcome dinner.

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Clearly referring to the aging of steak.

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Took a quick peak around the Studios entrance.

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That evening we went to Yakiniku Karubii Champ for dinner. It was all you could grill and eat meat plus sides and a 'beverage bar' for around . You had a little touch screen at your table and could pick between a variety of meats that they would bring out (rather quickly, I might add) and you would cook them yourself over a little grill. We stuck with beef and pork but had some veggies, rice, and other sides as well.

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Mmmm! I am really missing this place.

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A bit of an idea of the setup. If you are hanging out in City Walk, I would recommend this place!

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So. much. meat.

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That evening, a few of us went to Umeda Sky Building. It is a famous skyscraper and as you'll see, it has a unique design.

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I dunno, this guy was just chilling at the base of the building.

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Okay, so those two little lines up there are escalators that cross from one side of the building to the other and offer ridiculous views of the city. It's super unique. You take an elevator up to the escalators, then the escalators, and then some extra steps to the observation deck.

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We paid like to do this (though not everyone seemed to pay once we got off the elevator and they never collected any kind of ticket, so I am not really sure what to say about that).

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Better view of the escalators.

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After that, we went and explored the Namba District, specifically the Dotonbori area, which is 100% the most popular destination in Osaka. This is one of many shopping 'malls' that jet out from the main dotonbori canal area. Nicely covered and tons and tons of people and shops.

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This, unfortunately, was not open on our visit. Don Quixote Ferris Wheel is its name. Has had some troubles apparently since its initial construction. Very funky, nonetheless.

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Here we are on the main bridge in Dotonbori. Basically, you have this levels worth of shops as well as some more on water level below. There are boats that pass through (you can buy a ticket and ride them) and the whole area is very lively.

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This is Gilco Running Man. Gilco is a Japanese food company headquartered in Osaka. This particular advertisement has been situated right here since 1935 (various iterations). Every so often, the running man would animate a bit.

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Just exploring some of the side streets. Tons and tons of lights everywhere.

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The tower used to be an operational drop tower. Now, we just have a rock wall.

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That next morning, we left our hotel and attempted to travel to our first park of the Osaka leg of the trip, Misaki Park. Unfortunately, at (I believe) Shin-Imamiya Station, there was an earthquake a few minutes before our train was due to arrive. It was measured at around 6.0 intensity. As you can see here, the radius was pretty large, but it was centered around the Osaka area.

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Compliments of Elissa. Yeah, I was sitting up against a wall when it happened and honestly, at the time, I had thought two trains had just collided or something because it was a very loud noise. I dunno if it was because a train came to an abrupt halt or what. The actual quake did cause the station to wobble a bit. I believe it resulted in a handful of casualties and the prime minister even spoke about it. I can say that it was intense enough to provide a little scare, but if it had been much worse, damage would have been significant.

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This was really the only noticeable change in the station.

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And 10 minutes later, it was being fixed. The whole ordeal took a couple hours before trains resumed. Even then, a lot of the express lines were suspended and trains were making stops at basically every station. We were determined to press on, because some CRAZY AWESOME credits loomed in the distance.

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Getting close to our first park. I believe we were due in around 9:00 AM to the park; Instead, I think we arrived around noon or a bit after.

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We didn't know at this point if we were going to make it our second destination, but the group decided to hustle our way through for the credits and get on our way.

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Robb buying us our ish.

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We were not shaken (hah) by the Earthquake. We WERE to ride coasters today.

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Our first stop at the park was this odd Hopkins wild mouse.

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We all wondered what the old one was like.

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Despite what you see here, this was probably the tamest coaster of the trip (including kiddie coasters). In its own strange way, I liked this. It was bizarre, kind of pointless, but still..

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The ride operation attempted to brace every car that approached the brake run (definitely the most intense part of the experience).

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Some more pictures of the place. It was obviously empty (which was a trend for the trip). The ride operators sort of followed us around as we did things.

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Children's Coaster was up next.

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It was actually a cute little kiddie coaster.

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Sadly, the train would have to wait for my next visit.

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Another developing trend was the presence of animals (usually pandas are a staple) that you could ride around any given area. They move rather slow, and I assume you just leave it wherever you end up when your time is up. This one may have seen better days.

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This was a side-sitting affair.

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We are... very proud of ourselves.

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It was a nice little park!

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I believe this is the entrance to the final credit, the Jet Coaster. It was actually my second favorite coaster of its kind on the trip, I think (just behind Red Falcon at Hirakata Park).

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Here we are on Jet Coaster!

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So, it was at this point, I believe around 1:00 or so. We stepped into the subway station and Robb and Elissa laid out our options. Elissa and some others were going to head back, because she thought it would be a bit tight trying to make it to Adventure World (our second park) before 4:00. The park closed at 5, but last admission was at 4:00. Basically, we would need our next train to arrive exactly on time to pick us up and drop-off/get a cab right away to the park. A handful of us agreed to give it a shot (not much else would be open back in Osaka, we figured).

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Some quality instructions, plus panda.

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So, yeah. Some more train pictures.

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The trip actually took us along the coast, which was really nice.

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Then, to the cab.

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And we made it! At like 3:55, to boot. The park was celebrating its 40th anniversary.

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Robb acquired our park admission tickets (around ), which didn't cover our coaster rides (just the zoo portion). He was informed that the rides closed at 4:30, so we had 30 minutes to work with.

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Just breezing through the ride area to our first destination.

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BIG ADVENTURE. A very anti-climatic but still enjoyable stroll around the perimeter of the rest of the rides.

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After this, we hustled over to Pandafull Coaster, which seemed promising.

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More fun animals.

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As thrilling as you can imagine. Another wonky wild mouse type ride with loads and loads of block brakes. Also, here is Adam. Adam and I went on the New Hotness Trip in 2012 and he joined this trip at the last minute. It was quite nice to have a familiar face on the trip!

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After a quick trip on the powered coaster, Adam and I hustled over to the main attraction (at least for me).

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They have two separate panda exhibits. I believe one is more for breeding. They, I believe have the largest breeding program outside of China.

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After leaving the park, we had a long trip back to Osaka (still not too many express trains running). We took a cab back to Universal and our cab driver got a bit lost. Instead of just 'taking us for a trip,' he turned the meter off and only charged us probably half of what the trip oughta cost. More Japanese decency and in the least expected of places. At this point, we were starved. Unfortunately, nothing was open except for Lawsons (another convenience store). I ate a very nutritious dinner (jokes) and just kind of took it easy. Thanks again for following along! I'll be back with some Universal Studios pictures next time.

Edited by Taylor Finn
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Taylor, I am having such fun "traveling with you!' You've really captured so many of the wonderful oddities that make Japan a one-of-a-kind nation and so very different from the "American experience." I couldn't even begin to compare the amazing ways we differ. Viva Japan! & Viva U.S!

 

Alice

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Even though I myself, have been four times to Japan (four times? omg), it's always an adventure reading through the memories of someone else who has been there, too.

 

No two TRs are ever the same, truth! Especially when it comes to Japan.

 

And indeed, 7/11s in Japan are very awesome places to find food and drink!

 

Looking forward to your Universal visit!

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Taylor awesome start to your report, missing that trip as I read through it. I took a ton of pictures but you captured pictures of a lot of things I didn't so it's awesome to see. Hope all is well with you.

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^ Since things happen in threes, it seems.......how about a Tsumani on the Japanese coastline?

 

 

 

 

 

I kid I kid I kid. But I am so glad I missed out on the earthquake. The typhoon scare (back in 2007?)

was stressful enough for myself. But we persevered, with Elissa at the helm and made it through

an amazingly tense evening!

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