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Photo TR: Adam's Return to Japan & 1st visit to Hong Kong


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I'm so glad the aquarium got some additional Ocean Sunfish!!!

 

Did I ever share the story of when we went with KT? She was so excited because we read all about how they had a great display for them. We show up, go through the entire awesome aquarium and don't see them. We finally ask a worker and she almost starts to cry as apparently they died the week prior!!! KT then also breaks down into tears! To calm her down I said we would go to the gift shop and buy all the Ocean Sunfish merchandise we could find. I assumed that they were an ugly, unpopular fish as no one seems to know about them here and there wouldn't be much. Well, about $300 and four bags later KT was happy again and we have a LOT of Mola Merch!

 

I really do like Osaka. Not as much as Tokyo, but it's got a different vibe and some GREAT food!

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^

 

I actually assumed the same on my visit and was surprised to hear from a worker that apparently it got the same/sometimes bigger crowds than the manta ray/whale shark. It was super crowded and I didn't even manage to get a good picture of it. Thankfully I got a much clearer view of the one at Yokohama since the dolphin tunnel area was empty, but I heard that one sadly passed away too.

 

We don't have much luck either, my son wanted to see a whale shark when we were on Jeju and one had died and so they released the other. (kept the whale shark statue and mascot though and hid that info on small text on a picture on the site that still shows them ) We just went to Lotte World's aquarium because my wife saw on the news their 2nd Beluga had died and so the third would be released soon so we took him (like Jeju also conveniently not mentioned on the Korean site even though the beluga is the logo for the place) to see it because he's been asking for a while.

 

I think you and I already had a discussion on another thread about how funny it is in Asia that they pick and choose when it comes to what counts as animal cruelty. These aquariums that had fish they probably weren't equipped to handle get some minor protests and relegated to mostly Korean news sites but Everland gets international attention and major demonstrations over the polar bear yet places like this which opened recently with a lion in a shipping container and monkey in a bird cage get nothing.

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^Yeah, we did. Sea Paradise had a trained whale shark that started one of their shows! Hopefully your son can see that one at some point. And yes, the entire Ocean Sunfish exhibit at Sea Paradise has been gone for years now.

 

Sorry to hijack your thread Adam! Excited to see what you thought of Universal!

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^Sorry for hijacking the thread too. I did Sea Paradise a while back and the whale shark seemed to have been retired from starting the show but was still there in the stadium tank, your post made me curious in case I take my son in a few years and I'm not sure if it is due to Sea Paradise's own run-ins with activists or something else but they've scrubbed all mention of the whale shark form the site. It's not listed under creatures seen in the show area and all mention of the underwater viewing platform is missing from the Japanese site too.

 

A google search says there's a whale shark now in the main tank since 2018 though, perhaps it's been moved out of the show tank and the website is just outdated. Slightly related to Adam's post but my research thanks to you has let me know Osaka's seems to rotate whale sharks quite regularly in their tank: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20191017/p2a/00m/0na/015000c since the one I saw pre-dates the one in this article.

 

Edit: Yokohama's has in fact died: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/news/24657/index.html

Edited by Garet
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After our fantastic day in Osaka, it was time to experience our first ever Universal Studios park outside of the USA. I'd read/observed for years that this was a "best hits" of Universal park plus some exclusive offerings... A smattering of popular attractions from the stateside parks, plussed with a few unique experiences. I'd prepared for insane crowds and decided with Robb & Elissa's advice to splurge on Express Passes for the park. I researched the park heavily and with my planned Express Pass (I went with the maximum non-unlimited option for seven attractions) lineup, I figured out which attractions to go to in a rough order that would minimize the wait times and maximize our time in the park.

 

As researched proved, the park gets absolutely swamped, even before officially opening its gates. Express Pass is an absolute must. We visited during the Universal Cool Japan festival, which also impacted the way we experienced certain attractions.

 

This was also a neat park for me because it gave me the opportunity to experience a few new things, a few old favorites and one of the most intense coasters I've ever been on. The park experience from morning to night was almost entirely fantastic, with the operation of Space Fantasy's Lupin the Third coaster and The Flying Dinosaur being the only disappointments of the day. But much like how Tokyo's parks take the best of Disney's stateside experiences and makes them better, Universal Japan has managed to take popular attractions and lands like Jurassic Park and Despicable Me and make them better with their own execution. I wish we had more time at the resort to breath and visit CityWalk, and for this reason we both agreed Osaka would be back on our plans for our next visit to Japan.

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I woke up that morning to a breakfast of fluffy cheesecake... With fluff in my belly and Jaws in my soul, it was time to roll.

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Similar but different.

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I'd been told Hollywood Dream was a pretty standard mini-B&M hyper, but I was unreasonably excited to experience it.

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I'm not ashamed to say I have wished for years that this is what Florida got instead of Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit!

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Since it wasn't included in our Express Pass package, we went straight to the Lupin the Third XR coaster, an overlay of Space Fantasy.

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The queue has received a minor overlay to support the story of the anime... Which I had no background in, and didn't really need to understand to enjoy the experience.

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My research on the park strongly recommended waiting in the Single Rider queue to avoid a 2-3 hour wait. As it turns out, this would cut our wait time down to 65 minutes.

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Even though the coaster has seating forward facing and back, during the Universal Cool Japan XR Coaster overlays the coaster only loads the front facing seats... Which cuts the popular ride's capacity in half...

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The story of the coaster is that you're on a chase with Lupin the Third through the city...

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I rode the first half of the coaster with the VR on since I'd not been on many VR coasters (and none that were spinning coasters) and I was really impressed with the synchronicity of the movement of the coaster with the visuals. That being said, I was curious to see just how much of Space Fantasy was still active to be seen without the goggles, so about halfway through I lifted my visor enough to get a glimpse. Pretty much all of the lighting effects from the regular ride remained on to see without the VR headset... Having seen what I did, I really wished I could have experienced the normal coaster without the VR. I'm glad they've pulled the XR experiences off of this coaster for the upcoming Universal Cool Japan.

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Overall a neat experience but the coaster would be better suited to operate without the XR Coaster overlays.

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The pre-show starts off the same as those found in Florida and Hollywood...

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But given the fact that the ride leverages a different ride system (the Back to the Future: The Ride system versus Hanna-Barbera), there was an added loading video that played before you board.

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Having ridden both ride system versions, I can honestly say that this is the better execution of the concept. The huge screen and increased range of motion in the simulator pods makes this a much more immersive experience. The ride film even features adding beginning and ending segments to better match the setup of this attraction's ride system.

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Backdraft was an experience I was really interested to try for myself having never gotten to Hollywood's park in time to try it out (construction of Transformers: The Ride was already under way during my first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood).

 

It was like an alternate universe Twister-meets-Earthquake, with the interludes from the film director/cast and the multiple pre-shows before the big finale effects room.

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Overall, this was a really fun and unique attraction... I can only imagine what it costs to operate.

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FIERY WATER!!!

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Fun Fact: The film that inspired this attraction now has a direct to video sequel for some reason. I've not seen either of these films.

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My wife got super excited about the fact that Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue lives on (in a way) at Universal Studios Japan.

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It is just as cheesy as you remembered. This version of the show matches the one that ran at Universal Studios Florida from 2006 - 2014 (the show closed to make way for Fast and Furious: Supercharged in 2016).

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This is about the best "close up" photo I could get of Hollywood Dream from the queue. The park is *extremely* strict when it comes to loose articles and anything in your pockets that you choose not to put in a locker gets carried with you in a plastic basket to be put on the side of the station... Basically, the moral of the story here is just put your stuff in a locker for this and The Flying Dinosaur.

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Sing! Live was under construction during our visit. As someone that enjoyed the film, I'm curious to see how this turns out and if it eventually ends up stateside.

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Mel's looks VERY different here.

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The body of water in the center of this park is much larger than the one at Universal Studios Florida... And it is even more strange to see Jurassic Park in the corner where I'd expect to find Diagon Alley and Fear Factor Live!

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Hollywood Dream was not particularly intense, but it was silky smooth and had some great pops of air. I absolutely prefer it to Rip, Ride, Rockit.

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A very strange Bollywood Sesame Street show was running during our visit.

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No Jimmy Fallon here.

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These guests really love Minions!

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I would've enjoyed this visual a lot more if I had gotten MY CUP OF COFFEE!!!

 

(Japanese Spider-Man was equally as fun as its Floridian sibling.)

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I was incredibly intrigued to see how Super Silly Fun Land would turn out, knowing that Despicable Me Minion Mayhem took over Back to the Future: The Ride.

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Such an interesting view...

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I was very tempted.

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I absolutely love that Richter's is a Coca-Cola-themed quick service eatery here... Sadly there was nothing for my wife to eat here but I loved the theme nonetheless.

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Super Silly Fun Land really is an insanely detailed plaza!

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I remembered to take a photo of the sign for Larry, but not the ride itself... Shame on me.

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Some of the best carnival games I've ever seen in a park.

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Practically ripped from the films!

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Since it was Easter time during our visit, the land received some slight updates to match the season.

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Tons of references from the film Minions too!

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I can't deny how much I enjoy these films.

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A hidden nod to Snowball from The Secret Life of Pets films, another Illuminations Entertainment production.

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Time to head in!

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The land is overflowing with detail!

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Similar but different...

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KING BOB!!!!

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For Larry...

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Hello beautiful!

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I'm so happy to be home in Amity!

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It does exist!

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One for the books...

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The queue for Jaws in Japan is a little different than the one that existed in Florida...

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But it is filled with some really fun details!

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Well worth the wait!

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Details...

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Details...

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Details...

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I know you. I photo'd you once upon a dream.

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A sight for sore eyes!

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Time to find some dolphins!

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Amity 6 to base!

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SHAAAAAAAAARKKKKKKKUUUUUU!!!!

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Quint's will be safe... For sure. Definitely.

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Wrong.

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FIRE!!!

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Somewhere under the rainbow...

Edited by jedimaster1227
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(Continued)

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A tad bit overcooked...

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I love this.

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Yes, they have Jurassic Park: The Ride here. No, we did not ride it, because it was cold and we didn't want to be cold and wet.

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Long had I waited for this moment.

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The Flying Dinosaur changes the entire atmosphere of Jurassic Park.

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I hate Turkey Legs with a passion, but I was tempted to buy one just for this dinosaur grip.

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The lead car is gorgeous.

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Even with my Express Pass, I still waited 1.5 hours to ride The Flying Dinosaur. The operations on this coaster were incredibly disappointing...

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I give them credit for theming the station in such an intense manner... But aren't we supposed to be keeping the dinosaurs in and the people out?

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Familiar...

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But different.

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I've now visited Hogwarts via three different portkeys around the world.

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I've taken this photo many times before and yet this was the first time I'd taken this photo.

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Pretty close to similar.

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Same fun family coaster...

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And equipped with a wheelchair seat!

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No Magical Motorbike Creature Adventures for Hagrid.

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The path leading to Hogsmeade is long and winding and does a good job of separating the land from the rest of the park.

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The "Black Lake" was created thanks to the waterfront location of the land, and it is incredibly effective.

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Otherwise very similar to what we have back home.

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We ended up eating at the Three Broomsticks for lunch... Comparable food to what you'd find back home.

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Though this plate of profiteroles was definitely new, so I had to order it.

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BUTTERBEER!!!

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They sell gum here!

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I can't take this to the other park...

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I love the marquee.

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The Flying Dinosaur was easily the most intense, insane flying coaster I've been on... And one of the most intense coasters I've ridden ever, anywhere. It is like B&M woke up from their funk of forceless coasters for a brief moment to design this ridiculous coaster. The inside raven turn is one of the most forceful maneuvers I've ever experienced, and it is followed quickly by a tight pretzel loop. This thing took the wind out of me in the best way. I wish this ride was closer to home... It scares me how good it is.

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Night shots.

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I still feel my ribs being pressed down from this maneuver.

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YES PLEASE!

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I nearly left the park without remembering to visit Universal Wonderland. I've always been amazed that Universal was able to create a land where Sesame Street, Snoopy and Hello Kitty characters all coexisted.

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BEST QUICK SERVICE MEAL EVER!

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I love everything about these stacked track elements. This is a Rollercoaster Tycoon fantasy of mine, fleshed out in reality.

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So much fun!

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I love that the brake run cuts through the Pantages facade.

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The land is kind of amazing inside and out.

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We had to run back to the Hollywood section of the park to grab a spot for Universal's Spectacle Night Parade. The parade features floats from Harry Potter, Jurassic World, Transformers and Despicable Me, and the floats are supplemented by projection mapping to make this an incredible show-style experience in passing.

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The Hogwarts Express float was really a great way to start the show.

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Dementors on the train!

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The Quidditch float featured wizards flying on brooms, which was a neat effect.

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Bumblebee leads the Transformers segment of the parade.

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Megatron's float is huge!

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Optimus Prime transforms from a truck to his full form in a really clever effect.

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The Jurassic World section was surprising...

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Dinosaurs started to be carted in behind fenced paddocks...

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But these dinosaurs would escape...

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You bred raptors?

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They escaped.

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The T-Rex float is absolutely the star of the show.

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She's incredible!

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The finale of the parade features a series of Despicable Me/Minions floats...

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A good time for sure.

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So colorful!

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We ran out of time to experience Terminator 2: 3D, but it wasn't a huge loss considering the Florida version closed not too long ago.

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Time for some typical tourist shots.

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I love how Hollywood Dream frames the Hollywood coverings.

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And that the path of the coaster doubles back over the same hill.

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Yep, I did it.

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Backdrop has its own color scheme for its lighting and trains.

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Arriving two hours before opening and leaving an hour after close, we were exhausted... But we had little time to rest, as the next morning we'd be headed to Kyoto.

Edited by jedimaster1227
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Why is all of the food in Japan amazingly themed, amazing, and detailed!?!? The Chomp Mitten for the Turkey Leg is incredible and I almost bought some of that Jaws food last time even though I wouldn't eat it just because I loved the presentation so much!

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I didn't know that you ended up with a 90-minute wait even with Express passes for Flying Dinosaur... that's disappointing, I really want to hop over since it's only an hour wait but the huge price they've raised the express passes to compared to my previous visits pre-Potter puts me off. I heard from friends teaching in Japan they've used the single rider line for an hour-80 minute wait which seems pretty shocking that it's quicker than a paid pass

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fantastic pics, and really surprising to see just how MUCH the park changed things in just the 6 months difference from Easter to Halloween - when I was there (early Oct).

 

some spots look completely different!

 

I only saw the Halloween Parade, and tho it was great even with the one long song that just got played on every float thruout (and I got a wink from one of the singers on a float). . I would have loved to see this themed parade you saw. that looked so much fun!

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I didn't know that you ended up with a 90-minute wait even with Express passes for Flying Dinosaur... that's disappointing, I really want to hop over since it's only an hour wait but the huge price they've raised the express passes to compared to my previous visits pre-Potter puts me off. I heard from friends teaching in Japan they've used the single rider line for an hour-80 minute wait which seems pretty shocking that it's quicker than a paid pass

 

Express worked great during our visit in October! Of course, that was day before typhoon was to hit, so that probably impacted the crowds.

 

Was able to get a ride at park opening using single rider with a walk on, express later in the day was only 15, and even got a second night time express ride (granted HHN stuff was in going on) waiting about 20 min.

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^^&^ Exactly, I'm thinking Adam must have run into some extraordinary conditions or problems. I mean, he's right, the operations on that ride aren't super capacity amazing, but Express should never have been more than like 40 min (which is what I believe we waited during the Christmas busy holiday season once).

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^It definitely felt odd considering that everything else with Express that day worked pretty well. The ride never seemed to stop operating while we queued, it just moved incredibly slow... The worst thing that came of the line taking longer than expected was we had to choose between Terminator and the parade as we were running out of time... And the parade was the right choice to make.

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Great report! I agree Flying Dinosaur is incredible, but those operations sound terrible.

 

I actually don't mind the loose article policy on Flying Dinosaur or Hollywood Dream. I remember it going pretty quickly since everyone had bins all ready to go by the time they reach the station.

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Great report and photos, Adam! I miss USJ! I'll echo condolences on the extra extra long wait for Flying Dino, that's unacceptable. I'm happy to hear you were able to see part of Space Fantasy without the VR; it looks fantastic and I hope to see it not in the pitch black/HHN mode.

 

The parade looks stunning! Between all of the USJ reports I've seen lately it's impressive with how much the change the parade throughout the year.

 

All the food was so good! Thanks for including those pictures in your report.

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Another Amazing TR! Sad to hear that the operations on Flying Dinosaur are still that bad. When I was there it took at least over 3 minutes to dispatch a train... Well at least you're able to still keep your phone with you right until you enter the station.

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After an amazing day at Universal Studios Japan, it was time to spend a day and a half in Kyoto enjoying the more tranquil side of Japan. I'd visited Kyoto for the day during my high school Japan trip, but during our honeymoon we didn't venture outside of Tokyo. This time around, with the Cherry Blossoms in bloom and the weather nice and cool, it was a great opportunity after going nonstop for first two thirds of the trip to take it a little more slowly.

 

We started our morning with Ginkaku-ji followed by a stroll along the Philosopher's Walk. We were excited to find out in advance of our trip that Reikan-ji Temple, a temple only open to the public for four weeks out of the year (two in April and two in November) would be open during our visit. Nanzenji Temple was the next stop to follow.

 

The next morning we roamed Nishiki Market and spent the afternoon climbing Mount Inari as we experienced Fushimi Inari Taisha. Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka were enjoyed after our stroll through the Tori Gates of Fushimi Inari. Kiyomizudera was how we capped off our time in Kyoto...

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The Cherry Blossoms were in bloom at the Philosopher's Walk...

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Ginkaku-ji is beautiful campus of shrines...

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Zen evoked.

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The most notable piece of architecture in Ginkaku-ji.

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Pretty impressive.

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Incredible gardens at Ginkaku-ji.

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A unique natural waterfall...

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Beautiful.

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Ginkaku-ji features a small walking trail along the mountainside.

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Beyond the cherry blossoms, there were many pretty flowers to be found throughout Kyoto.

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Quite a view!

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Time to say goodbye to Ginkaku-ji...

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So pretty.

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Something about roaming monkeys in Japan gets me every time.

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Reikan-ji Temple was an exciting prospect purely for the commodity of the "special opening" experience.

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Very unique.

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Much smaller than Ginkaku-ji but really neat.

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So many flowers!

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Nanzenji was our final complex for the day...

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The scale of these structures has always amazed me.

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What an incredible place!

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A look inside...

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One of the more quiet corners of Nanzenji...

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Beautiful.

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The next day we made the trek to Mount Inari...

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When in Japan...

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Fushimi Inari is truly something else.

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I've been enamored with this prospective view since I first saw Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005... The cinematography of that film romanticized the orange tori gates in a way that made me want nothing more than to visit Kyoto to see it for myself.

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It was a shame it took me this long in life to experience it, but I'm so very glad I finally did.

 

It should be noted that sometimes the paths get this narrow and cramped due to crowds, though as you get higher up the mountain the crowds seem to thin out.

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Loving every minute!

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Once we were done hiking Fushimi Inari, it was time for some street food! I didn't know what Dango was but I was eager to give it a try...

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I was intrigued by the soy sauce on what looked like pillows of marshmallow.

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As it turns out, it is a combination of glutinous rice flour and water boiled until firm, and then grilled on an open fire. Not quite what I expected but I liked it!

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Kiyomizudera's complex is gorgeous.

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Quite an amazing way to round out our time in Kyoto.

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When in Japan...

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So glad we came here!

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Skewered pork for the road!

Edited by jedimaster1227
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what wonderful pictures Adam.

 

and so neat to see the Kyoto Gates when they are a bit more crowded (Condor mentioned in his recent stop there that he went super early as he had heard they get crowded with tourists later.. and your pics give an awesome example of that. . . even tho you got a fantastic "near empty" pic of yourself too!).

 

the temples are amazing, and I wish I had been able to find time to go visit a few of them - but with me it was 1st time ever (and maybe only??) so choices had to be made. Thrilled to see so many other things I missed during my visit, so makes me want to go back even more.

 

best of all?

 

THANK YOU for trying this, and explaining what it was:

 

thumb_33_698.jpg

 

 

I think that's exactly what I had at Fuji-Q, that while I didn't think was terrible, I thought it was just "meh"

 

 

Seeing your explanation of what it is? yeah, that's exactly what it tasted like. I'm glad I tried it too, but it wasn't one of my favorites on my trip to Japan.

 

 

the Cherry Blossoms are beautiful too. . thanks for sharing!

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