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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 $20.
- 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.
- I do remember dropping $1 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.