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Nick's Japan 2018 TR

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Day 0: Arriving in Japan

Day 1: Yomiuriland

Day 2.1: Tobu Zoo

Day 2.2: Toshimaen

Day 2.3: Exploring Tokyo: Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya

Day 3.1: Yokohama Cosmoworld

Day 3.2: Sea Paradise

Day 4: Exploring Tokyo: Akihabara and Tokyo Tower

Day 5: Exploring Osaka

Day 6: Misaki Park and Adventure World (+ earthquake)

Day 7: Universal Studios Japan

Day 8.1: Washuzan Highland

Day 8.2: New Reoma World

Day 9.1: More Universal and Hirakata Park

Day 9.2: Exploring Kyoto

Day 10: Nagashima Spa Land

Day 11: Parque España

Day 12: Legoland Japan and Higashiyama Zoo (+ karaoke)

Day 13.1: Hamanako Pal Pal

Day 13.2: Lagunasia (+ Nagoya stuff)

Day 14: Exploring Tokyo: Tokyo Dome City, Skytree, Imperial Palace, Odaiba (incl. Joypolis)


Well, it's been over a year since the trip, so I guess now's as good a time as any to post this here.


TPR has long been a great way for me to escape Cornland USA and go on trips with like-minded people to more out-of-the-way parks but also experience even the larger parks in a way few get to. These events and tours had taken me from Toronto to Texas, and I'd ridden well over a hundred new rides on them alone. So when the opportunity for a Japan trip arose, the choice was a no-brainer.


I consider myself somewhat well-traveled, but that's very strictly in an American sense; before this trip, I had only ever been to Canada once…


…in 2012…


…for only a few days….


But I am always aching to go to new places, and I've always had my eyes set on Japan in particular. Between my history of playing Taiko drums and my continued exposure to Japanese pop culture through social media (it's no secret that the Internet loves Japan), I decided it was time to embrace my inner weeb and fly on over to the Land of the Rising Sun.


So, without further ado…


Day 0: Journey to the Center of Japan


I hadn't slept, which should come as no surprise. But I was ready, baby!



Breakfast of champions



Before the big flight, I had a layover in Toronto. This was probably the smallest airplane I had been on (soon followed by the largest!)




I don't know if it was the sleep deprivation, but it hadn't quite hit me yet that I was going to frickin Japan. It wasn't until I got to my gate that I realized, Oh, that's right—I'm flying thousands of miles away.


This was by far the longest flight I had ever taken. I regularly go to Colorado to see family, and that seems like a light jaunt to the corner store compared with the 13 hours it took here. That's a long time to be sitting in a pressurized tin can hurtling through the sky. I also found out the hard way just how bad I am at sleeping on planes, which is to say completely incapable. But, hey, at least I got a window seat….



Lake Athabasca



Okay, so I did have a window seat, but unfortunately, it was cloudy most of the flight. I believe this here is the Brooks Range of northern Alaska… maybe.



Our flight took us a little north of the Arctic Circle, as you can see by the Alaskan tundra outside. One of the more surreal aspects of the trip was that the sun never set.



In the distance you can see what I believe to be the Kuril Islands, which stretch from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Hokkaido. We were getting close now!


And there she is! A glimpse of the largest metropolis in the world and where we would be staying our next couple nights.



~14:57 local time: Touchdown at Haneda International Airport! It was a grueling 13 hours, but I couldn't have cared less; I was in Japan!!!


Steve O. was on the same flight, so we met up and got our bags and rail passes. After exchanging my currency, we were on our way. This was all done in maybe 20 minutes, so kudos to Japan!


It was then time for our fist of many, many train rides on this trip. And thus began a fruitful relationship with the Japanese rail system. Seriously, their public transit is the friggin BEST!


This is the face of Death



The train from the airport took us straight to Shinagawa Station, which was right in front of our hotel! After settling down for a bit, I decided to walk around the premises a little. Here we see a random Shiba in front of a restaurant. Must be their spokesdog or something.



And after a long, long, long, long day of begging for it, it was time to sleep. Even the excitement for the following day wasn't enough to keep my eyes open any longer. But hey, look at that view!


I'm glad to finally be getting around to this! Stay tuned for more!

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I woke up early the next morning. Taking a peek outside, I saw that it was pretty light out, but looking at the clock, I realized it wasn't even 5:00 yet. One thing I hadn't accounted for was that Japan's position and lack of DST made sunrises and sunsets nearly two hours earlier than I'm used to in Ohio. I found it kind of amusing how the "Land of the Rising Sun" has its sunrises at such ungodly hours of the morning.


But now wasn't the time for inane observations; I needed more rest, because today was…


Day 1: Yomiuriland


Yes, our first park of the trip! Well, technically this was a pre-trip add-on; the tour wouldn't start in earnest until a few days after, but how could I have missed out on this!?


I finally felt somewhat human again after getting some sleep, and so we were off! Yomiuriland is just south of Tokyo proper and a fairly short ride from Shinagawa.



The park is up on a big hill (actually, a lot of these parks were) and gives a great view of the surrounding area, including downtown Tokyo! Usually, you can take a gondola up the hill, but we got there before it opened to do some filming on Bandit…


…so we opted for our first taxi ride of the trip!



And there she is—the first ride of the trip: Bandit! They were doing a little gimmick this year where they would stop the train at the top of the lift hill for about 10 seconds before sending you on your way. During that pause, you would be treated to a fantastic view of Tokyo!



Photo from Robb's TR

"We out here"



Photo courtesy of Robb

As I'm sure you're well aware, Bandit is a Togo—a large one at that. But despite the uncomfortable seats (clearly not made for chubby Americans), the ride is actually very fun! It's really no jankier than your average Arrow stateside, and you get some surprising jolts of airtime as you go whizzing through the trees and valleys.



Photo via Robb

A seriously good way to start out the trip!


We then moved on to the park's new fashion-themed Gerstlauer spinning coaster. I didn't get any photos of it (it was indoors, after all), but if you see Robb's video of it, you can see how quirky it is, with its dark ride section and bizarre Flappy Bird-esque game on the lift hill.


Another ride I unfortunately didn't photograph was their wacko instant ramen-themed raft ride. This thing was really fun, as it has you flying down chutes and spirals as you attempt to… save… the ramen, I guess?? The plot was kinda lost on us, but honestly, that's part of the magic of these foreign rides.



They also had this weird ball run course thing


After riding their S&S drop tower and new Disk'O ride, it was time for our next credit:


Momonga Standing and Loop Coaster! This ride has a transfer track-style station with one sitting train and one standing train… and, of course, it's a Togo!




I've never been a huge fan of Togo stand-ups, and this one is no real exception, but the sit-down side is actually really smooth!



Their Ferris wheel offered some nice views, but boy was it a sauna in there! The capsules didn't have AC (unlike many of the other Ferris wheels we went on), but they at least provided some plastic fans for us. (You can kind of see where White Canyon once stood; there's a sick part of me that wishes it were still there).



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"Me am angwy piwate. Me am steal your doubwoons."


So, I didn't take as many pics here as I would've liked, but there were some other cool attractions here, like the funky little one-lane go-karts and the pedaled "coaster." Overall, Yomiuriland's a really nice park with some solid attractions in a nice location.



Photo via Robb

Anyway, it was time to leave, and this time we were taking the gondola!


The rest of the evening for me was spent getting more rest in—I was still exhausted. Unfortunately, I ended up missing the bowling match the others were having (which I totally would've WRECKED), but oh well, c'est la vie….


Next up: Tobu Zoo

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Thanks for the positive comments so far!


Day 2.1: Tobu Zoo


Today would be a much busier day than the previous one; we'd be hitting two parks and exploring Tokyo afterwards.



Image via Robb

The day began with a longer couple of train rides north to neighboring Saitama Prefecture. After getting off, it was just a bit of a walk to our destination. (I should've taken some pictures of the walk; it's through this cozy suburb with little rice fields!)



We were, as you know by now, on our way to Tobu Zoo!



Photo by Robb

"Who's ready to see some animals? and ride some rides, I guess…"



The hippo exhibit is really fascinating. As you can see, you can almost reach out and touch them! Unfortunately, these hippos just kinda stood there doing nothing. "Africa's most dangerous animal"? Pfft, yeah right….



Photo by Robb

Of course, the main attraction here is Kawasemi, the first-ever Intamin Mega-Lite! "Kawasemi" (lit. "river cicada") means "kingfisher" in Japanese, which seems about right for such a small-but-thrilling ride like this.



Photo by Robb

Admittedly, being that this was in the morning, the ride was moving a little sluggish (to use an animal term).



Photo by Robb

But it's still a really solid ride overall! I may prefer the spine-stretching airtime of, say, a Lightning Run, but Kawasemi's absolutely worth at least a few rides!



The park mascot lookin like he bumped a few too many lines



Next we rode everyone's favorite animal… a woman? (I dunno what they were going for here). This turned out to be an OK woodie—not too rough, but not particularly eventful either.




Look at that river cicada go!



Tobu Zoo's Ferris wheel is themed to cheese (because "cheese wheel" hahaha). This here is most of the "ride section" of the park.



The other half is taken up mostly by the actual zoo! There's a really nice variety of animals here, but, if I'm being honest, I do wish the enclosures were at least a little bigger (but, hey, I live right next to the Columbus Zoo, so maybe I'm spoiled).



Worn out after a long session with Siegfried & Roy



Whoa, hey Simba, watch where you're swingin' those things!



What would Nala say?



Or Timon, for that matter?



"It ain't easy bein' cheesy"



"Haven't you seen enough cats yet?" (No)



One of the more unique exhibits at the zoo: cassowaries



A little backstory for later: Tobu Zoo has been doing a deal for a while now with Kemono Friends, a popular franchise which features anthropomorphized animals. Here we see the cassowary character. Isn't she just the cutest!?



Look at this foppish lad



Just tryna keep cool



Gotta say, this guy looked a little agitated.



Old man



"Oh my gahd! Ey Tony, get a lookit dese tings outside da window! Dey look like dat half-digested crap dat our muddas used ta feed to us when we were little!"


OK, now for one of the things I was personally excited for….


The Saga of Grape-kun: So, in 2017, an old Humboldt penguin by the name of Grape-kun had recently been scorned by his longtime lover. He was distraught until he met a new penguin by the name of Hululu. The thing is, Hululu wasn't real; no, Hululu was just the cardboard cutout of a character from the aforementioned Kemono Friends. But he was truly enamored with his 2D waifu, staying by her side at all times.


Unsurprisingly, our little avian friend became a worldwide sensation, inspiring mountains of fan art and garnering the affection of the Japanese public.


Unfortunately, Grape-kun passed away later that year from old age. But the park honored him with a new cutout of him cavorting alongside his true sweetheart. May you slay that sweet anime tang in the afterlife, little dude….



"I want a nice anime waifu :c"



Our boy even got a shrine dedicated to him. Rest in peace, you magnificent bastard.


Anyway, it was almost time to go, so we started heading back towards the gate. On the way, we checked out this weird maze thing where you pick up a weight at the beginning, go through a really disorienting mirror maze, and then pick out a metal ball with the same weight as the one from the beginning. (I got it first try, of course ).


Of all their animal exhibits, this one was surely the most exotic.



Photo by Robb

One more ride for good measure


Overall, Tobu Zoo's a quaint little park which is definitely worth a visit if you wanna do something outside the bustle of downtown Tokyo.


Next up: Toshimaen

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Day 2.2: Toshimaen


Toshimaen definitely ended up being the "sleeper hit" of the trip for me (and I think some others as well). Read on to see why….



Photo by Robb

For our next park, we backtracked into Tokyo.


So, Toshimaen was one of the smaller, quirkier parks of trip; I might've even skipped over it had I gone by myself….


However, once I saw the random Teddy on the park map, I knew I was in for a good time! (As it turns out, Toshimaen was doing an American theme).



Photo by Robb

And what's more American than Pokémon?



Unfortunately, the Arrow corkscrew the down for day (well, the jury's still out on whether or not that was actually unfortunate), but that's fine, 'cause the real star of this park is Cyclone, an old Togo coaster. It may not look like much—it is essentially a "jet coaster" after all—but it's actually a really fun ride! It helps that the seats are lined with comfy velvet that make it feel like you're whizzing along on a sofa.




Despite not being the most outwardly impressive ride, Cyclone still manages to have quite a few moments of airtime. However, I think the real kicker is how close you come to your surroundings; if you raise your hands, you're liable to smack a few leaves. (Also, check the guy sitting sideways!)



Photo by Robb

Cyclone has a "mini version," so of course we weren't above a little whoring! ("Hell yeah, I think?")



One of the charming aspects of Toshimaen is how many of the rides are up on buildings and stacked on top of one another. Take these dueling pirate ships for example: These things were massive, and their placement added to that! They also had another, smaller "pirat" ship; I wonder if they ever need that much capacity….



This is where the Japanese get their devil's lettuce



They even have a powered coaster on a roof! There's also a decent long flume here.



Photo by Robb

This maze is so disorienting that we got lost before we even entered!


One of the more unique attractions was this oversized playground with some "exercise equipment," for lack of a better term, as well as…



…roller slides! Nothin' like a high-speed ass massage! Me being the beefy boy I am, I had enough momentum to shoot off the end and right onto my ass!



So you want mini bumper cars for your park…. Why wouldn't you theme it to sushi?


After seemingly no time at all, it was time to head out. There were other attractions which I could talk about more, like their funny little ghost train, but I hope I showed off this park's worth to you; I would gladly go again!


Next up: We'll be exploring downtown Tokyo, hitting Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Shibuya!

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Day 2.3: Exploring Tokyo


Tokyo is the largest metropolis in the world; when the whole Greater Tokyo Area is taken into account, it has a population of over 38 mil.—bigger than all of Canada. At the center of it all, downtown Tokyo has grown into a bustling maze of skyscrapers; train tracks; crowded streets and walkways; neon lights; and more shops, bars, and restaurants than one could ever hope to visit. And to top it all off, the city's cultural output has been far-reaching for decades.


Point is, I was ecstatic.


After Toshimaen, we were free to do whatever we wanted. While a trip back to the hotel wouldn't have been uncalled for, it certainly would've been a waste passing up this opportunity to roam the streets of Tokyo City itself. Besides, we were clear on the other side of the city anyway!




Ikebukuro is a district in Toshima Ward. While not the most famous area we'd be going to…


…it's still jam-packed with cool stuff!



Just look at the view outside the station!



After getting a rundown from Robb and Elissa, we were on the prowl….



You know, I'd gone to NYC a few years back, but Tokyo really pulls out all the stops when it comes to sensory overload.



What other city outside Japan would have multiple giant Sega arcades??





Naturally, we went into an arcade, so of course we had to pay a visit to our favorite membranophonic friends!



This is some bizarre rhythm(?) game. These guys were insane at it!




This arcade has a casino on the second floor, and it had this strange horse racing… thing… which I guess you bet on??



It was nearing dinnertime, so we decided to go looking for a good place for ramen. It wasn't a hard task. (I didn't take any photos of it, but rest assured, it was good!)



Huh, quite a lot lot of Starbucks 'round these parts, isn't there…?



Cool karaoke tower


After dinner, we decided to move on to our next destination…





Shinjuku is essentially the "capital" of Tokyo, although that can be a little hard to discern because it's just as brightly colored as everywhere else! It's also arguably the "sketchiest" part of Tokyo (read: still safer than the U.S.) and is the home of the city's red light district.



But a few hookers can't stop us intrepid gaijin!



It's hard not to be impressed by the spectacle of dozens of stores and such duking it out for attention



We even saw the Tourism Ambassador of Shinjuku!



Oh, you thought I was joking….



"Lemme offer you a deal: 4 girls, whatever you want, ¥50,000 an hour. How's about it, ey?"


Sadly, we had to decline the old kaiju's offer; we still had more places to hit!





Harajuku is one of the most well-known spots in all of Tokyo and is famous for being arguably the kawaii capital of the world. The district is particularly notable for its more extreme fashion scene, especially in the 2000s. Look it up; you'll see what I mean.



So, this was the first thing we saw stepping out of the station…. It turns out you could do tours of a few Japanese cities via Mario Kart! I would've needed an international driver's permit, but Taylor did this if you wanna check out his TR! Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), the company doing this got C&D'd by Nintendo and so won't be continuing with the Mario theme. RIP




Also, there was this DJ guy.



And here's the backbone of it all: Takeshita Street!



Random "ghetto-style" wall for people to look badass by



Wow! This store just don't give a gosh dang flippin' heck!




Okay, so we were technically already in Shibuya, but what this ward's really known for is its giant crosswalk (supposedly the biggest in the world, as a matter of fact!) So we headed further along until we reached what is essentially the Times Square of Tokyo. We never actually crossed, but the view was enough:


Ah, who am I kidding? The whole city's a giant Times Square!


And that's probably the most striking thing about Tokyo: Everywhere you go, there are bright lights and amazing sights! I think everyone should come here at least once in their life!


Next up: Yokohama Cosmoworld!

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Great tour of (where you went in) Tokyo! And it never gets old, seeing all those neon signs everywhere!

It's such an intense rush of "city vibes" no matter where you are there, most of the time.


Thanks for sharing your City Day!


I miss Japan.

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We had gotten lucky with the weather so far—maybe some clouds and overcast, but nothing too serious. Today was kind of the other side of summertime in Japan: cool and rainy. But that wouldn't stop us!


Day 3.1: Yokohama Cosmoworld (and some of the surrounding area)



Yokohama is just south of Tokyo, but you'd be forgiven for thinking you were still in Tokyo…


…just look at that skyline! This right here is the Yokohama Landmark Tower, the fourth tallest structure in Japan at 972 feet! (It looks way taller in person!) But we weren't here to gawk at architecture…


…we were here for the famous Cosmoworld!


Now, it had been predicted that it would start raining right around this time, and, sure enough, a few drops started falling as we headed towards the park. It seems even the weather's punctual in Japan!


Luckily, we had Mr. Kitagawa on our side! Mr. Kitagawa's from Senyo and has a high profile in the Japanese park biz, and he's a longtime friend of TPR's!




The first thing they wanted to show off was this funky little VR thing. Unfortunately, the ride has a below-American weight limit, so I didn't end up riding.




Our next session was on the ever-popular "airtime log flume." What I didn't know was that they had added this thing that measures the volume of your screams and puts them on a scoreboard! I'm happy to say that Sporty Steve and I were the leaders (for all of 30 seconds)! The ride itself is pretty fun, although I ended up getting wetter from the rain rather than the ride!



The narration on the Ferris wheel said that it's the largest Ferris wheel in the world… with a clock on it. I suppose only the Japanese would care about that record!



Photo by Robb

Finally, it was time for the world-famous Diving Coaster: Vanish! Now, normally the ride wouldn't run in rain, but Mr. Kitagawa was determined to let us get in our rides, so thanks to him!




And here it is: one of the biggest pieces of clickbait from any coaster! Real talk, though: The ride itself is nothing special and is even bumpy inside the tunnel, but it's not bad by any means.



After the ERT was over, Mr. Kitagawa gave us all these surprisingly realistic keychains of various Japanese foodstuff!


We were then free to do whatever we wanted until moving on to the next park, and since it was still raining, checking out the indoor attractions seemed more than reasonable. See, Cosmoworld isn't just an outdoor amusement park; it also has a multilevel arcade with dark rides alongside it!





Their dark rides are pretty funky. One is a "scary" ride in a cage, and another is an "augmented reality" ride where you tap these "smoke monsters" onscreen to kill them. I don't know what to think of the augmented reality; I think it kinda distracts from the rest of the ride.



But hey, I got this lil guy from one of 'em!


After all that, a couple of us decided to go on the giant Ferris wheel. Of course, you've got your usual capsules, but there was a twist:


…some of them were clear!



The viewing conditions weren't the best, predictably, but you're at least provided some cloths to wipe off any condensation. I'll have to do this at night at some point!



After crossing the water to whore out the kiddie coaster (the spinning coaster was closed), we decided to walk around the surrounding area of downtown Yokohama and try and find some food. Now, none of us were too interested in the Hard Rock Cafe, but that metal sculpture's pretty cool!



There's also this cool dry dock that you can now go inside!



It looks like some sort of Roman amphitheater in this state….



Photo by Barry




We went into the Yokohama Landmark Tower to find ourselves some grub. Once again, I don't think pictures do this plaza any justice!




We ended up going to a French restaurant (there's a surprising amount in Japan), where I got a pretty damned good pizza.



After lunch, it was time to head back to the station to go to our next park.


Cosmoworld may not be a huge park with 10/10 rides, but its location is absolutely stunning, and it's well worth a visit, although I'd recommend going at night!


Next up: Sea Paradise!

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This is gonna be a bit of a shorter report….


Day 3.2: Sea Paradise



For our next park, we took one of these things down to the southernmost part of Yokohama.






By this point, the rain had lightened considerably, but it was still pretty chilly out—chillier than you might expect for summertime in Japan.



Well, these guys are clearly very honest with their image! (Although it does say "Family Restaurant" below it….)






Sea Paradise only has one credit, but it's a fun one: Surf Coaster Leviathan.



Appropriately enough, much of the coaster juts out over the water.




Surf Coaster used to have OtSRs, but thankfully they replaced those with lap bars, so the ride is quite comfortable overall, although the seats are a bit small. The ride itself isn't too intense, but it's more fun than, say, your average jet coaster. At certain points throughout the ride, they would fire these big water cannons up into the air, and, depending on where you sat, you might have gotten a couple drops on you!




Next we did the fan-favorite Blue Fall, which is one of the tallest drop towers in the world! By the time we had come around to it, though, they were only running one side—one with the "fake-out" drop. While it was novel, I prefer the normal single-drop mode, because the fake-out doesn't let you build up the butterflies in your stomach that you normally get from these things.


On another note, the ride ops handed out these orange vests to, I guess, protect from oil that might be dripping of the ride from the rain(?)



This train, bored of the straight-and-narrow life of the tracks, sought out a new life on the open road.


Lastly, a few of us decided to do this big wooden obstacle course thing where you crawl through ropes and narrow passages trying to collect stamps on a card.


I got most of them, but I got stuck by the end of it. We had originally planned to do the Splashchute, but this whole maze thing took us way longer than we'd expected, so the ride had closed by that point. And since it looks to be shutting down for good, I guess I'll never get to ride it


Okay, so story time: As Barry, Steve, Jason, and I were heading back to the train, we crossed over a bridge. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there's this whooshing sensation and some commotion to my left. I then looked ahead to see that a big-ass eagle or something had swooped down and stolen Jason's TPR poncho! I guess it'd thought it was a rabbit or something? Anyway, I probably could've taken pictures of the scene, but, frankly, I was just too damn floored by the situation to do anything! I just hope that eagle made good use of that poncho….



So after that ordeal, it was time to move on. Some on the tour group decided to go to a shrine further down south, but my group decided it was time to head on back and get prepped for the tour to start in full….


Overall, Sea Paradise is a nice little park to visit if you find yourself in the Yokohama area, although it's not the must-see that Cosmoworld is.


Next up: more Tokyo! I'll be going to Akihabara and Tokyo Tower!

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Great reports!


I visited Cosmoworld on my own a few days later and am thankful they were operating the Dive Coaster in a very light rain. The spinning mouse was a no go though.


I also agree the regular drop side is better. I felt like I was in the minority for thinking that after riding Blue Fall. I feel like the fake out would have been a whole lot better if I hadn't known about it.

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Day 4: Tokyo free day no. 1


The pre-trip had now drawn to a close, but the trip was only just beginning! Today was the day when everybody else would be arriving, leaving us early birds to do whatever the hell we wanted! I decided to set out on my own to explore some sights at my own pace….




The main place I wanted to peruse was the famous Akihabara, so I set off to see how well I could navigate this metropolis as a first-time tourist….


Wish me luck, little guy.


Japanese Toilet Protip™:


The top character means "big," and the bottom one means "small." You do the math.



Look! It's the first double-dip of the trip!



So, getting to Akihabara was actually really easy! It's really impressive how smoothly the trains operate in Japan, and it's especially easy when you've got a JR Pass. It also helped that R&E sent us online maps of the train lines in Tokyo.



So, for those of you who don't already know, Akihabara is basically the "electronics district" of Tokyo. But to people like me, Akihabara is the nerd capital of the world! You want some manga and anime? They've got tons! Retro video games? They've got you covered! Wanna go to a sweet arcade? You're in urban Japan; of course there are arcades! Do you want a lewd figurine of your favorite anime character? Well, um, yes they do have those as well….


Oh, and they have maid cafés too. I never ended going to one, but rest assured, they have them!



In the melée that is Tokyo, I somehow ended up stumbling across Dan right in front of this peculiarly named donut shop (which, coincidentally, I had seen in a vlog before).



At Dan's recommendation (and after enjoying a donut), I went into an adjacent electronics store. This wasn't your granddad's electronics store, though; this was a multilevel bonanza of everything the modern hobbyist could ever need!



I mean, I don't know how good the conditions are in Tokyo, especially at this time of year, but they've got your stargazing needs taken care of!



They call him "Bling Boy"



Sure, you could just buy one, but you'd really be doing yourself a disservice in not buying the complete set for the whole effect.



"Okay, okay, I'll make you a deal: ¥40,000/hr. AND I'll throw in some blow as well! How's that sound?"



Butt jigglers



Tower Records is still very much a thing in Japan! And I dig the attitude!



They had a nice little selection of LPs here, but I wasn't too keen on finding a place in my suitcase for one for the rest of the trip.



After even more perusing through Akihabara, I took a short ride to Ochanomizu, which is a neighborhood known for having many instrument shops. I didn't stay for too long, but there were indeed quite a few of them! I was talking to one of the employees who worked at a guitar store, telling him about the tour, and he said how Ochanomizu was a "theme park of guitars." It's a pretty accurate statement! Definitely a place to go if you're a musician!


By this point, I was ready for a midday rest, so I headed on back to the hotel.


Tokyo Tower


After resting awhile, I decided to head back out to Tokyo Tower—one of the landmarks of the Tokyo skyline.



One of the most impressive aspects of Tokyo is how safe it is. I felt perfectly fine walking through this deserted street at night. It's also remarkably quiet for such a dense city.



It's like a giant laser used to blast down alien spacecraft



On the way, I decided to take a detour through an empty park—another thing I wouldn't dare do in other cities—and I caught a glimpse of this Buddhist temple through the trees!




As I neared the temple I noticed there was a free concert going on! I didn't catch the name of the singer, but she was singing some Bruno Mars when I got there. This whole experience was a great surprise!



Even with its lights off, Tokyo Tower is still an impressive sight!



Tokyo Tower was celebrating its semicentennial, and those pink butt plugs couldn't be happier!


Now, I had thought that this would be a very normal event—namely, an elevator-centric one (you see where this is going). But, as it turns out, Tokyo Tower offers you the chance to climb up and down the stairs from the bottom all the way to the observation deck nearly 500 ft. up….


Unfortunately for me, I am not fit to climb 150 meters straight up.

Fortunately for you, I am an idiot.


The whole process was surreal. It involved going on top of the base building; once I was was there, I looked around to see there was no one up there…. It turns out I had to go around the corner to find the foot of the stairs. This felt like the strangest drug deal ever, and the dealer was none other than…


…a pink butt plug.


Well, okay, a guy dressed as a butt plug. But he wasn't wearing a bulky mascot costume; no, he was wearing a pink spandex bodysuit with some weird cone on his head underneath the suit. As if this weren't unsettling enough, when I walked up to him, he was completely motionless, standing akimbo with the craziest of smiles on his face. It wasn't until a few seconds after I'd reached him that he suddenly sprung into life and started giving his spiel on the journey upwards. I should've taken a selfie with him, but I was a bit too bemused to do anything but walk.


And walk I did. Thankfully, it was still kind of cool out from the day before, in addition to it being nighttime. Once again, I regret not taking any pictures of the climb, but, honestly, my mind was focusing all its energy on making sure I didn't keel over. Boy, was it tough.


But man, look at that view! It really does look like it goes on forever….



Here I am being an absolute madman, just standin 500 feet above the ground like it's nbd.



Beautiful, simply beautiful….



Honestly Tokyo Tower was a great experience! It was beautiful, exciting, and much cheaper than I expected (less than ten bucks)! It is a must if you ever come to Tokyo!



Show this off to your friends



This was kind of unnecessary, but I appreciate it all the same.



praise jeebus


So, that was my day out on the town! But it was time now to get some sleep; tomorrow would be our first Shinkansen!


Up next: Osaka!

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Day 5: Exploring Osaka


By now, everyone was here, but we wouldn't be sticking around in Tokyo; we were headed to Osaka! We would eventually end our trip back in Tokyo, but for now, we'd be doing our business to the southwest.



And what better way to get there than by bullet train!?



Yeah, these things fly… but they're smooth as hell!



Oh, look! There's Mt. Fuji peeking down on us!



Just an absolute unit



While the city is great, the Japanese countryside is really somethin' else.



And here we are! City Walk at Universal Studios Japan!



Photo by Robb

And this is where we'll be having our welcome meal!



It was all-you-can-eat! I had never been to one of these kinds of restaurants before, but it was cool being able to cook your own meat on the grill. Plus the food was great!



Photo by Robb

None of us were particularly confident enough in our cooking skills to try our hands at the chicken, so we just stuck to the beef. Who could complain, though?



We headed to our new hotel to get settled in a bit. They had these lil jelly bois outside the elevators.



I gotta say, the hotel at Universal was probably my favorite!





After getting everything situated, a few of us decided to go to the Umeda Sky Building.


As you can see, the Umeda Sky Building is a massive Π-shaped structure that towers over its surroundings.




Looks like fun



Nice of them to give the water its own set of stairs





You see those beams spanning that gap up there…?


Those are escalators!



Ah yes, the second-largest Lego model of the Umeda Sky Building I've ever seen.



Up on top, in the open air, you get a stunning view of downtown Osaka!



Random giant Ferris wheel in the distance




Yeah, those escalators are nuts!




I happened to catch some fireworks going off waaaaaaayy off in distance




You get a great view of the Yodo River from up here



Simply gorgeous



Here I am looking like a complete jabroni



After getting our fill, we headed back to Umeda Station to go to our next destination: Dōtombori!



There was a bunch of covered walkways on the way to the canal






And we're here!



Dōtombori is definitely the most famous area of Osaka with its canal and unique signage



I just love this place!



You can take a boat ride down the canal!



Like I said, they've got some unique signs here….



Of all the signs here, the most famous is almost certainly the "Glico Man." Different iterations of this sign have been up since 1935, with the current one having been installed in 2014. It's common to see people taking pictures posing like the man.



More crazy signs



In case there was any doubt, the Japanese do love their seafood.



"Come to our restaurant! We're the one with the evil baby!"



We started heading back around this time. Apparently, this used to be a drop tower, but it's now a rock climbing wall. Still cool, though!



Some nice art to accompany your commute


All in all, Osaka is every bit as vibrant as Tokyo and has tons of cool attractions!


Next up: Misaki Park and Adventure World!

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^Thanks! Those days were easily on par with the park days!


Day 6: Misaki Park and Adventure World


I had been in Japan for nearly a week, and today was finally the first official day of the trip! The plan was to head due south to two smaller parks: Misaki Park and Adventure World. Some people held back, preferring to get more time at USJ. I, for one, was excited to check out some lesser-known parks and all the quirks that come with them; however, things got off to a (literally) rocky start….


As we were on the train platform to head out of Osaka, I suddenly felt as though I were already on a train! I had gotten accustomed to that sensation by this point, so keeping my balance wasn't a huge issue, but if there's one thing I know, it's that train stations don't typically shake from side to side. I was listening to some music through my bulky headphones, but even through them I could hear some banging around; I thought a train was crashing or something! By the time I realized what was going on, it was over, leaving me to take off my headphones and say, "Was that an earthquake!"



Of course, it was an earthquake—a strong one at that! While it was a relatively modest 5.5–6.0 (depending on your source/scale), it was very shallow, and we were quite near the epicenter! The quake was evidently enough to warrant a Wikipedia article, and this one was apparently the first of its strength to be measured in Osaka Prefecture! (The Kansai region apparently doesn't get quite as many quakes as many other regions). Unfortunately, the quake did end up killing four people and injuring hundreds more, but in an area with millions and millions of people, I suppose it's a testament to Japanese engineering that there weren't more.


Although this was my first ever earthquake, I probably underreacted to the initial event; I had thought that something like this might happen, although I still probably should've been watching out for falling light fixtures, one of which did fall across the track from us. That being said, I did end up feeling a little unnerved for basically the rest of the trip. I frequently felt a slight swaying sensation, but I didn't know whether it was from real aftershocks, from being on trains all day, or maybe my mind was just playing tricks on me. There were actual aftershocks, though; I remember feeling a small swaying sensation at the hotel sink and then looking up to see the hand towels swaying too!


Anyway, back to the station: Only a train or two made it past over the next hour or so, but everyone was clearly hard at work to get everything up and running again. Overall, it took about two hours of sitting around on the platform for us to get out of the station. The turnaround was pretty damn impressive for what had just occurred, but it was now a race against the clock for us!


But fist…


"So the legends were true…."


Misaki Park



Misaki Park is in the southern reaches of Osaka Prefecture and was certainly the smallest and quirkiest park we'd been to thus far.



As you can see, the park was a little… homely?



Our first ride of the day was this really weird Hopkins coaster called the "New Wild Mouse Coaster", which is strange because there seems to have never been an old wild mouse. I really don't know what to make of this thing; it's like Hopkins had some spare track lying around and then cobbled together some pseudo-mouse coaster.




As was usual for this trip, the park was deserted (school was in session), and they had some creepy music playing over the speakers. I can only imagine how unsettling this would have been if I'd been alone!



Photo by Robb

We then moved on to do some whoring on the Child Coaster! Obviously, the seating conditions weren't ideal.



Photo by Taylor

Just smile and wave….



Children on the Child Coaster



Photo by Robb

"What can I say? I needed the credit!"



Photo by Chuck

The last credit was up the hill: Jet Coaster!



Jetto Kōsutā is the generic term for roller coasters in Japanese, and coasters with that name tend to be, well, kinda generic. That's not to say they can't be fun, though! This jet coaster in particular is the second oldest coaster in Japan, and it gives very nice views of the surrounding area!



Photo by Robb

The ride's similar to Cyclone at Toshimaen, but it doesn't have as much airtime or speed. We didn't have much time to savor it, though; we had to move quick if we wanted to make it to our next park!



Photo by Robb

Some decided to dip around this time, fearing we wouldn't make it to the next park in time. For us intrepid few, though, we didn't mind cutting it close!



Adventure Park was the southernmost park on the trip, and the trip from Misaki is a couple hours long.



I was totally fine with that, though, 'cause the trip through Wakayama Prefecture was stunningly beautiful! Most of trip stayed along the coast, with its several scattered villages and rias. Even if we hadn't made it to the park, the views on this train would've been worth it!



On the way, we passed by an amusement park across the water called Porto Europa. It turns out that its big coaster is SBNO, so no big deal passing it up.



There's something about industrial areas like this that I think's really cool



There's just something so comfy about these little towns with their rice fields situated in these green valleys



I would totally live here



As we neared our destination, we were treated to some splendid views of the Pacific!



Not so much of a beach, but still beautiful nonetheless!


Adventure World



And here we are! And just under the wire too! That being said, we only had about half an hour to get our rides in. As you can see, the park was celebrating its 40th anniversary. (Actually, a lot of parks/things seemed to be celebrating anniversaries….)



To tell you the truth, I don't think I'd ever heard of this park before, but I was immediately taken by its gorgeous location!



Sorry guys, we've got credits to get!



Photo by Robb

For our first ride, we all flocked to Big Adventure, the park's biggest coaster.



Photo by Robb

This is us in adventure mode. Truth is, Big Adventure is pretty much THE archetypal jet coaster, with not much in the way of forces, but a pretty nice ride overall.



Because one weird wild mouse in a day wasn't enough…. The panda theming (oh yeah, this park has pandas btw) was already amusing, but the ride itself was really odd, with not as much of the laterals as you'd expect on a mouse…



…but the brakes certainly pack a punch!



They also have a fun powered coaster for you whores out there



In the "never in America" section of the park…



Photo by Robb

After getting our rides in, it was time to leave. Would've liked to have stayed longer, but clearly our circumstances weren't ideal!


Misaki Park and Adventure World kinda fill the same niche for a coaster enthusiast: they're small parks with average rides. But while they won't be most people's first choices when they come to Japan, they're nice enough for their charm.



After leaving, it was a quick cab ride back to the train station.



Adventure World really does have a surprisingly good setting!



As we waited for the train, we got to walk around this cozy little area and pick up some snacks before the long trip back.



Caught some surfers catching some waves!


The ride back wasn't without delays, but basically everything was up and running again by the end of the day, impressively. Arriving back at Universal, many of the stores were closed for the time being, but at least we wouldn't have to worry about any long train rides the following day….


Next up: Universal Studios!

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^Thanks, Elissa! I'm glad we all escaped unscathed!


Day 7: Universal Studios Japan


After the craziness of the day before, this day came as something of a relief. We wouldn't have to worry about getting stuck on any platforms, and we didn't need to race anywhere; it was just just a short walk to the park! I was really looking forward to this, as I hadn't been to a Universal park in ten years!


Of course, things could never go that smoothly….



Runner-up in the 2018 "Sequels That Never Should Have Happened" contest



Doot-doot-dooooooot dooooooot doot-doot-doot-doot-dooooooooot


So, today was the first day we faced any real crowds on this trip. Being that it was a Tuesday, I'm willing to bet most of the other guests were tourists from other East Asian countries, and I did seem to hear a lot of non-Japanese spoken. Goes to show how big of a draw this place is!



Photo by Robb

"Move out of the way, casuals! It's credit time!"


…Or so we thought. As it turns out, the park's major coasters were still shut down due to the earthquake, although the park issued no heads up about that. We hoped they might open up later in the day, but they never did. This lack of communication was compounded by the fact that the park offered no refunds for tickets that day. So while Robb dealt with this whole situation, the rest of us split off to make the best of our visit.



Luckily, the ride formerly known as Space Fantasy was up and running. This year they themed the ride to Final Fantasy. For this, they had VR headsets, which wasn't so bad because the trains don't stop in the station, so the line moved fine. Unfortunately, the cars didn't spin like usual, and only the front-facing seats were used. (And also I didn't see any Tifa, so I was disappointed, personally ).



Even if we couldn't ride the coasters, the view on the lake was pretty great! (Doug broke his head in the earthquake pls pray for him)


I remember us doing Terminator around this time. I had already seen it in Orlando, and it was exactly as I remembered it, but I gotta say, the hostess had the most impressively intense bow I've ever seen!



Okay, so the Flying Dinosaur wasn't open, but at least we had this classic to ride!



Of course the American's gotta ruin everything



Obviously, we couldn't go to Universal and not ride their Spider-Man ride.



It started to rain around noon, which is okay in a park consisting largely of indoor rides. (I mean, it's not like the coasters were gonna open anyway…). My group and I headed over to the Hogwarts area—something that was completely new to me!



I knew next to nothing about the Harry Potter ride, but I was pleasantly surprised! I probably would've appreciated it more if I understood what the hell was going on, but it was certainly an experience!



Luckily for us, Flight of the Hippogriff was open!


While we were in this area, we checked out the Wand Studies… "show," I guess? If you don't know, in this thing, one person in a small crowd is chosen to wield a wand. A wizard dude then instructs the "student" to cast spells on various things in the room. Hijinks ensue. Me being the young, bright-eyed lad I am, I was the one chosen to be the wizard in training. Looking back, I feel like I shoulda hammed it up a bit more, but I was probably too dumbstruck to really feel the performance, y'know?



The restaurant's really cool!



Leaked scene from the fifth Jaws movie, And You Thought the Last Three Were Bad.


After being thoroughly wizarded, a few of us went over to the Peanuts area to ride the looks-like-a-Vekoma-but-is-actually-a-Senyo kiddie coaster over there. Surprise, surprise, it was down! It had been open earlier, but, I dunno, maybe this indoor coaster doesn't run in the rain….


Heading back to the front gate, I spied an attraction advertising Sailor Moon. Now, I've never watched Sailor Moon before, but, c'mon, how could I pass this up?? The attraction itself is a 3-D movie wherein the theater is ripped out from the park and flung into space, and it's up to Sailor Moon et al. to save you! It was strange, but I would have regretted missing it.


At this point, I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the hotel and wait to hear if any of the rides open. And we all know how turned out. This day was by no means a bad day, but there was a palpable disappointment among our group, especially those who had visited before. But we'd get our redemption!


Next up: Washuzan Highland!


Oh yeah, they have a Minions area too…. Fuck that.

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