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USJ

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 17, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

All Pictures

The USJ station an hour and a half before the park opens.

We planned ahead.

We were ready for this. We knew that Universal Studios Japan was super crowded and overpriced. But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened the summer before and I had to see it. We bought our tickets weeks in advance.

We knew that getting into the park did not guarantee that we would get into the Harry Potter section. Only paying for expensive fast pass tickets, or buying a package tour with flight or hotel stay included could guarantee that.

We had to get there early, be one of the first people in the park, then run to a timed entry ticketing machine before we knew whether or not we would be playing quidditch this day.

And we were one of the first people here!

The park opens at 9:00. We got there at 7:30 only to be met by a crowd of people in line in front of us.

There was a line on the far left. They had a red carpet and uniformed staff personnel checking their tickets. That line was for early entry. Everyone looked at them with envy.

At 8:00 the early entry people were let in. “Those lucky bastards get a whole hour of the park to themselves,” I thought. The crazy thing was that many of the early entry people showed up at 8:15 or 8:20. Everyone else, who could only go in at 9:00, got here around 7:30!

Get out of the way moms and dads!

At 8:30, half an hour before the park officially opened, they let everyone in. There was a mad dash to the Harry Potter Timed Entry ticket machines. Everyone, but parents of small kids and the utterly clueless, was running as hard as they could to be first in line to the ticket machines.

As we got closer to the machine we saw people heading to the Harry Potter section. One member of the USJ staff was waving people in. “It’s open now! Anyone can go in, even without a ticket.”

I wanted to be first in line.

Many people stopped to ask the staff person if it was true. Mark and I didn’t bother. If it was true, great! If it was a matter of us not understanding Japanese enough, someone would stop us eventually. But asking questions was wasting time; time we could waste standing in line for a ride!

But, which line ends here?

We ran into the Wizarding World. All the shops were empty. The shop keepers were standing outside calling for people to come in. I wanted to go. When would the shops be this empty again?

Mark tugged at my arm. “No! We have to choose wisely. Let’s get on a ride now.”

He dragged me to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. “This line will get very long later, so we must get in line now,” he told me. “But the line looks long now,” I protested. “And, how are you even sure we are in the right line?”

I looked at the crowd of people around us. There seemed to be several lines each going in different and random directions. I told Mark to hold my place while I followed the line to see where it ended.

I walked along the path. The “line” that Mark was in stopped at some guy eating popcorn with his friends. Another line ended at a restroom. I found the line for the ride and called Mark over. There was a break in the line where some lady had her back to the line and did not notice that everyone else had moved up. We jumped in the open spot.

Hufflepuff!?

From there it took about 15 minutes to get on the ride. It would have taken 10, but we wasted a lot of time putting my bag in a locker and then getting back into the line. The ride was great.

After the ride we ran back to the line to go again. We found another open spot where someone in the line wasn’t paying attention letting a gap form. This time it took 25 minutes to get to the ride. I would have gone one more time, but after the second ride the line had gotten a lot longer and there were no gaps to sneak into.

$45 for a wand! You do know that they aren’t really magical wands, right?

We then checked out the shops. They were still easy to get into; you could just walk in. Later, we would have to stand in line to enter the shops.

If you want to go into the shops to look around, do it at the Harry Potter section. If you want to buy something, especially if you’re like me and need to read everything and take your time to choose the best one, do it at any of the shops near the entrance. Those shops are less crowded and they stay open until the park closes. They have all the stuff that all the other shops throughout the park have.

Butterbeer

There were a few carts where butterbeer was sold. All the carts had really long lines. I wanted butterbeer, but these lines were too long.

Mark: “I read online that you should never buy butterbeer from the carts. They have really long lines. Instead, go to any of the restaurants in the Harry Potter section.”

At that time, there were very few people in the restaurants. We did have a big breakfast and weren’t really hungry. But we knew that we were not going to be eating at lunch time like everyone else. So early lunch it was!

The food was overpriced, but good. We had a whole table to ourselves. I enjoyed it, because things would only get more crowded.

We order one large hot butterbeer to be shared between the both of us. The first sip, was great. The second sip, was less great. By the 4th sip, the stuff was disgusting. It’s very sweet and buttery. We should have gotten a small cup. We forced ourselves to finish the whole thing; it was torture.

Good reading

We walked through all the shops and took more photos. Then we decided to see the rest of the park. We thought about going on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride one more time before leaving, but opted not too.

It’s like we’re in Anytown, USA.

I didn’t have any plans for the rest of the park. All the stuff I wanted to do, we did before 11:00 that morning. I let Mark pick everything we did for the rest of the day.

We rode on several rides. first we chose them based on how awesome they were when compared to the wait time for their lines. Then we discovered the “single” lines. That cut our line waiting time down to 15 or 20 minutes per ride.

Normally people go on rides in groups. Very few people show up at Universal Studios alone. If you come here with say, 2 friends, you will want to go on rides with your 2 friends.

But the park gets crowded. If you have a group of three, and a car on a ride that seats four, that ride will go with less than max capacity. USJ is very crowded even on its least crowded days, so they can’t have that.

But, there is a line, where people who don’t care if they sit next to their friends, can go. When there is an empty seat, a “single” person will take it. The rides always run at max capacity and overall there is less wait for everyone.

Mark and I started going to the “single” lines. Sometime, we still sat next to each other. Sometimes, we were on the same ride on different cars. Other times, we rode on different coasters. But it took way less time. We were able to get on every thing we wanted to ride that way.

Let’s be greedy and go back in.

After noon we wanted to see if we could get a ticket to go into the Harry Potter area. We spent so much time worrying about the ticket machines we just had to go look at them. Once there we saw that there wasn’t much of a line to get a ticket. So, we got a ticket.

And what do you know? There were plenty of tickets left for most of the time slots throughout the afternoon. We chose the last time slot. We felt a little guilty for going back after spending almost the whole morning there. But, not too guilty to not go back…

I just had to have one.

We continued to ride rides and eat. We specifically did not want to waste time or money on food in the park. We were going to eat only what we needed to stay alive. Time was really not to be wasted on silly things like food.

But, we got to ride so many rides using the “single” lines that time was not a factor anymore. And we’re just not used to being around so much American food. We got home sick. I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor? …or a churro, or a cinnamon bun?

Last time, I swear!

We went back to the Forbidden Journey one more time. This ride did not have a “single” line and it took us 45 minutes to get to the ride. This is where we noticed that there were things to look at while we waited in line.

“How did we miss this? We’ve been on this ride twice before?”

“We weren’t really standing in line much then, were we?”

When the ride was over, it was too late to stand in line for another turn. But, we could do the Hogwarts’ tour. Basically, we got to walk along the line going up to the ride. But, this time we could stop and look at all the stuff decorating Hogwarts. We could take photos without the people in line being in the way. That was nice.

Giant Elmo will kill us all!

We stayed until the parade then left with everyone else at closing time. We spent the whole day at USJ!

Later we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant near our hostel. We were still hungry!

The next day we drove back home while eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

Dirt is not so bad…

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Bonsai Guest House
(盆栽ゲストハウス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’30.9″N 135°31’41.5″E

Address:

1-4-13 Momodani, Ikuno-ku, Osaka, 5440034

Phone:

  • +81-6-7492-8884

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • from 2,700 JYN

Hours:

  • reception is open~ 8:30 – 22:00
  • Check in ~ 16:00 – 21:00
  • Check out ~ by 11:00

Notes:

  • It’s a one minute walk from Momodani Station.
  • It’s a one minute walk from a shopping area with lots of restaurants.
  • It’s about a two minute walk from a grocery store.
  • There is paid parking right across the street, but it might be full.
    • There is another, cheaper place to park near a little park called Momodani Park.
    • Parking Lot: 34°39’40.4″N 135°31’44.7″E
    • (I don’t remember exactly, but I think it cost 700 JYN / day to park here.)

Universal Studios Japan
(ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’55.7″N 135°25’56.1″E

Address:

〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 2−1−33

Phone:

  • 0570-200-606

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 to 17:00  low season
  • 9:00 to 21:00 peak season
  • Sometimes they open the park earlier than scheduled.
  • You can also get an early entry ticket, which allows you to get into the park at 8:30. But I don’t know how to get one other than going through the JTB travel agency.

Notes:

  • Getting into the park doesn’t guarantee you entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • My advice:
    • Try not to go on a really crowded day.
      • Okay, so everyday is a crowded day, but there are some really crowded days.
      • Try not to go on a holiday or weekend.
      • Try not to go in the middle of summer.
      • Try to go on any Monday through Friday that is not a holiday when most kids should be in school.
    • Buy your ticket in advance at a Lawson convenience store.
      • Instructions in English
      • Any Lawson in Japan will do.
      • Don’t wait until the day of your visit and buy your ticket at the Lawson right outside USJ, that’s what everyone else is doing.
    • Get a Free Timed Entry Ticket to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
      • To get this, go early and be one of the first to enter the park.
      • Head to the Rose garden. (#65 on this map)
      • You don’t really need to know where it is, everyone in the park will be running to it. Just follow the crazy mob.
      • If you go on a not-so-overly crowded day, the Harry Potter sections will be open to any and everyone for the first couple hours after the park opens. Run there and do not leave until you are done. To re-enter you will need a timed entry ticket.
    • Bring your own lunch.
      • I know you’re not supposed to bring in food, but everyone does it (especially parents with small kids). In fact there are many areas in the park that are great for picnicking.
      • No one checks your bags or pockets.
      • Pack light; lockers are expensive.
      • If you need to buy lunch, or a snack, do so before or long after lunch time.
        • Eat at the Chinese Restaurant (#48 on this map). The lines are much, much shorter there.
        • Forget about American cuisine. The lines for those are ridiculously long.
        • Eat a hog dog super early or really late. Those lines could last for a good 50 minutes.
          • Don’t worry; they never run out of overpriced hot dogs.
        • Drink at any of the many water fountains throughout the park. It’s free and there are no lines.
      • Ideally, you should have a big breakfast. Buy some rice balls or sandwiches that you can fit in your pockets for lunch. Have a snack or meal around 15:00. Drink water anytime you pass a water fountain. Have dinner after the park is closed at any restaurant that is no where near the park. This would save you lots of money and time.
    • Take the “singles” line whenever you can.
      • The “singles” line are for people who don’t care if they sit next to their friends on a ride. “Single” people stand in a separate and much shorter line than everyone else. Whenever there is an empty seat on a ride, someone from the “single” line is put in that seat. A 2-hour wait in the regular line could take about 20 minutes in the single line.
    • Don’t bring too much stuff.
      • Lockers are expensive.
      • Lockers waste a lot of time. Sometimes you have to form a line to put your stuff in a locker before you can form a line to wait hours to get on a ride.
      • If you can fit everything you need in your pockets, that would be great.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Osaka 市, Osaka 府 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Water Day

Posted by Heliocentrism on April 10, 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

All Pictures

Shiver me timbers!

I’m Sailing Away

This day had an unplanned nautical theme. Originally, we were going to drive through Shikoku, the smallest big Japanese island whose name everyone keeps forgetting, at the end of this trip. We would have entered near Kobe, driven by Naruto, stopped off at Matsuyama to check out the Dogo Onsen, then headed home via a bridge near Fukuyama.

But then, Mark got an email from his boss telling him that he had a company meeting in Hiroshima on the 7th. So, I had to rearrange some of our plans. We went to the Dogo Onsen in early November, instead of during this trip. And, we left Kyoto at 5:00 and drove past Osaka and Kobe, this day, to see a whirlpool then drove back through Kobe and on to Osaka. Madness!

Give it a whirl!

The Naruto Whirlpool

I’ve wanted to see this thing since I found out about its existence a few summers ago. This trip was the closest we have gotten to the whirlpool since then. I know it’s best to go during the summer, but now is when I would be in the area.

The whirlpool didn’t get very whirlpooly and I was forced to take a photo of a photo of the whirlpool taken in the summer. The level of the awkwardness of that last sentence is about the same as the level of disappointment I had looking at the whirlpool that just refused to whirl.

Mark had to stop retaking this picture when the line of people behind us started to complain.

The Floating Garden

I took Mark to see the Floating Garden in the Umeda Sky Building. It’s a misnomer, but the name fits the theme here. We got to the top in time to watch the sunset and to take photos at night.

Mark will be occupied for the next 10 minutes.

If you go through Mark’s photos you will see very few pictures of me smiling. It’s not because I don’t smile. It’s because by the time Mark took the photo he actually keeps, I had stopped smiling.

We’ve been at this for hours; I’m cold and hungry now.

He’ll take a picture and forget to turn off the flash, or turn on the flash. Then he’ll want to try other modes, like cartoon mode or toy mode. Then I’ll hear something like, “Oh, the leaf moved,” or “Stand like this.” I would pose for him for a minute or two and then get bored.

I would tell him that I want to take photos too, but can’t because I’m spending all my time posing for him. Then he’ll complain about how he has no good photos of me smiling. “Learn to take photos more quickly!” I’d yell at him as I storm off to take my own pictures.

I bait ’em, Mark, you catch ’em!

Fishing on a boat in a restaurant

Mark found a Zauo Fishing Restaurant in Tokyo. But, when he called to make reservations he found that they would be closed for the duration of our stay in Tokyo.

He then went online and found another Zauo in Osaka. They would be open while we were in town. So this is where we went our first night in Osaka.

It takes less time for Mark to catch a fish than to take a photo of one.

We each got a pole, hooks, and bait. We stuck our hooks in the water and waited. People left, right, in front, and behind us pulled fish out the water. Every 5 minutes someone in the restaurant was cheering and laughing because they had caught a fish.

Every time a fish is caught the wait staff beat on some drums. There were no drums for us. We sat there for about 3 hours. I eventually gave up, took out my tablet, and started reading an e-book. I ordered some fries and a drink and let Mark have his fun.

He was having the time of his life even if he wasn’t catching a thing!

We get to eat!

The staff moved Mark around to restaurant hoping he would have better luck at some other spot. He must have met everyone on all the boats. When we were leaving several little kids ran up to Mark to say goodbye.

When Mark was still fishless after an hour they gave him a special 4-pointed hook. With this Mark was to try to grab the fish by the chin rather than wait for the fish to bite. On his first few throws Mark just whacked a couple fish on their heads. Then he got a hang of it.

The whack on the head really adds flavor.

Mark had the fish sushied and tempuraed. The fish was really good! …or maybe we were just half-starved by the time we got our meal.

The whole thing for the both of us, including appetizers, drinks, dessert, and bait cost us about 4,500 JYN. Not bad for dinner and an evening worth of entertainment.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Naruto whirlpools
(鳴門の渦潮)
(Naruto no Uzushio) 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°14’21.8″N 134°39’18.9″E

Address:

Fukuike-65-63 Narutocho Tosadomariura Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture 772-0053

Phone:

  • 088-687-0613

E-mail:

  • info@uzushio-kisen.com

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • free – 2,000 yen depending on how you want to look at the whirlpools
  • View from the bridge:
    • Parking: 420 JYN per day
    • Admission to just the bridge: 510 JYN
    • Admission to bridge and boring museum: 900 JYN

Hours:

  • Bridge: 9:00 – 18:00
    • Closed:
      • during bad weather
      • 2nd Mondays in March, June, September, and December

Notes:

  • The whirlpools happen about every six hours, once in the morning and once in the afternoon for an hour or two.
  • The whirlpools vary in size, depending on the intensity of the tides.
  • They tend to be larger in summer than in winter, and are largest during spring tides, which occur every two weeks.
    • The name “spring tide” has nothing to do with the season spring. It’s just a name.
  • The best places to see the whirlpools is on the coast of the island Awaji or from the bridge.
  • You can see the whirlpools

The Umeda Sky Building
(梅田スカイビル)
(Umeda Sukai Biru)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’18.5″N 135°29’26.0″E

Address:

1-1-88 Oyodo-naka,
Kita-ku Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
531-0076 Japan

Phone:

  • 06-6440-3855

Websites:

Cost:

  • 700YEN,
  • but if you visit the cinema in the other building you can get a flier with a 70YEN discount/ person.
  • You only need one flier per group to get a discount for each person.

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:30
  • (Last admittance is at 22:00)

Notes:

  • The “Floating Garden Observatory” is on the 39th floor.
  • Be sure to visit the old time Osaka town on the first basement level (B1) of the building. It’s free to view.
  • There are many restaurants.
  • There are lockers near the elevator to the top. They cost 100YEN to use.
  • I recommend going about  15 minutes before sunset.

Zauo Fishing Restaurant 
(釣船茶屋 ざうお )
(Tsuribune chaya zauo)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°40’06.2″N 135°30’23.9″E

Address:

Namba Washington Hotel Plaza B1F, 1-1-13, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka 542-0073

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Weekdays 17:00-24:00
  • Weekends and holidays 11:30-23:30

Videos:

Notes:

  • What to do
  • You can take as long as you need to catch a fish, as long as it is within opening hours.
  • If you are having trouble catching a fish, they will give you cheat hooks, where you can basically just claw the fish out the water.

Bonsai Guest House
(盆栽ゲストハウス)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°39’30.9″N 135°31’41.5″E

Address:

1-4-13 Momodani, Ikuno-ku, Osaka, 5440034

Phone:

  • +81-6-7492-8884

Websites:

e-mail:

Cost:

  • from 2,700 JYN

Hours:

  • reception is open~ 8:30 – 22:00
  • Check in ~ 16:00 – 21:00
  • Check out ~ by 11:00

Notes:

  • It’s a one minute walk from Momodani Station.
  • It’s a one minute walk from a shopping area with lots of restaurants.
  • It’s about a two minute walk from a grocery store.
  • There is paid parking right across the street, but it might be full.
    • There is another, cheaper place to park near a little park called Momodani Park.
    • Parking Lot: 34°39’40.4″N 135°31’44.7″E
    • (I don’t remember exactly, but I think it cost 700 JYN / day to park here.)

Map:

Posted in Awaji 島, Honshū, Hyōgo 県, Japan, Naruto 市, Osaka 市, Osaka 府, Shikoku, Tokushima 県 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2 Days Away from Our Prefecture

Posted by Heliocentrism on October 10, 2014

December 21-23, 2013

All Pictures

We’re going to a Park!

A Vacation for Pennies (uhm… yen)

Mark planned this trip. We wanted to do something for winter break, but we did not want to spend a lot of money. In Okayama we live near some nice big cities in Japan. Many of them are less than a half day’s drive. So we took two days to see 3 cities each with a tourist attraction that was not too expensive.

This is where all the flowers would be, if there were any flowers.

The first stop was the Expo Commemoration Park in Osaka. If I lived in Osaka and had kids, I would get a year pass for this place. It’s a huge park filled with stuff for kids to do. In the spring there are lots of flowers to admire. In winter, not so much.

We walked around the park exploring each section. When it started to get dark, we headed for the main gate. But, first I needed to use the restroom. We took a detour to pass a certain set of bathrooms and in that process, we found a group of people playing loud music.

Mark swore he heard K-pop and we marched into the crowd to check it out. We stood in the middle of herds of people. Half of them were standing in line the other half were jostling for seating space under several tents. We looked around for a sign to explain what was going on.

Ramen Expo!!!

“Mark, Mark, it’s a ramen expo!!!!”

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog yet or not, but I LOVE ramen. I am also quite an artist when it comes to making ramen at home. Depending on the mood I’m in I might add extra things to my ramen to liven up the flavor like, cheese, kimchi, vinegar, hot peppers, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, sake for rice, lime, I could go on.

The Ramen Brochure

The lines people were in, where for the many types of ramen for sale. Mark got a brochure and we looked through it. I’m sure the booklet explained the history, making, or ingredients of each of the ramen, but we could not tell. We had to make our decisions based on pictures and the little Japanese we could read. Luckily for me, most of my Japanese vocabulary is centered around food.

Yum!

I knew I wanted one with meat (にく), an egg (たまご), and some kimchi (キムチ). We searched through the booklet and found a vendor that sold kimchi ramen with beef or pork. Almost all the vendors gave you the option of adding an egg or two to your soup. We walked to the back of the crowd and bought tickets for ramen. Then we looked for our vendor.

Which one is the one in the little ramen book?

We stood in several lines, trying to find the vendor we had chosen from the brochure. Many of the vendors used kanji to write their names, and fancy kanji at that. Everytime we thought we found the correct line, it turned out to be the wrong one. We gave up on finding this particular vendor and just went to the one with the shortest line. When we reached the front of the line I saw a sign that advertised extras like kimchi and ramen eggs for 50 yen per serving. “That’s good enough!”

What Luck!

We took our food and headed to one of the tents. They were heated and were a lot warmer than the benched outside. Just as we entered the tent a large group of people got up and left the tent. I think they were from a school field trip or something. We sat at an empty table and ate our ramen. By the time we finished our table was full, so we didn’t stick around to chat. There were more people who needed seats.

Christmas lights of Osaka

Next we headed downtown to look at the Christmas lights. Well, they didn’t have so much of a Christmas theme as a Christmas feel. There were a couple of displays that were Christmasy, but most of them were just nice lights to enjoy near the end of December.

winter garden

Christmas in Japan is not like Christmas in the states. You order some chicken from KFC weeks in advance along with a cake from some bakery. Of course you can decorate your door with red and green kitsch. You might even buy an already decorated 5 inch Christmas tree to place in your apartment or shop window. But, no one celebrates Christmas day here, anymore than one would celebrate Groundhog’s day, assuming you don’t live in Punxsutawney, PA.

You could almost fit a double bed in here.

We spent the night in a tiny hotel room. The hotel was really not nice. We only put up with it because it cost 2,000 yen ($20) and it was only one night. I would have prefered staying at an internet cafe, but this was cheaper.

Hurry up and take your photo!

Because our hotel was so dreadful, we got up early and drove to Nara. Mark wanted to see this temple just to feed the deer. Mark loves feeding things. They sell deer food from wooden boxes placed around the temple grounds. It’s based on the honor system. You put 100 yen in the box and take out one bag of deer food.

“It’s too early to eat, human!”

Since we got there so early the deer didn’t seem fully awake yet. We went into the temple and looked around there, before going back outside to feed the deer.

He reminds me of Zoltar

We found this wooden statue in the temple near the main hall. It is a Pindola called Binzuru. If you touch a part of your body that is ailing and rub the corresponding part of the statue’s body, you will be healed. I’m not sure what to do if one has, say breast cancer…

Now, who’s the popular kid?

Once the deer were fully rested, they were more willing to chase Mark around as he bestowed deer pellets upon them. Mark spent more time with those deer than he did in the temple.

The nicest entrance ticket I’ve ever had.

Next we went to the Kinkaku Temple in Kyoto. I really was not expecting much from this temple. I’ve seen many temples before. This wasn’t even the first temple I had seen that day.

Wow!

But when I saw it. Wow, that was one hell of a temple. We could not go near it of course; we were only allowed to admire from afar.

Try your hand at some good luck?

There were many stone cups for you to try to toss coins into for good luck, wealth, or health. Look at all that disappointment.

Hooray for English!

There were machines that sold fortunes. Usually there is a paper and drawer system of buying oracles at temples. I have never been able to crack it. But that doesn’t matter anyway, I can’t read Japanese. So even if I did find my correct fortune, I can’t read it. But this temple not only gives their fortunes by way of a vending machine, there was one in English!

My 2013 Oracle

It’s in English, but I’m still not sure what it says…

I have no idea where this is. 😦

After getting my oracle that told me to stay where I was, Mark and I left Kyoto and went home in Okayama. On the drive home we found this park, but I just can’t remember where this is. I wrote the name of the park down somewhere, but I can’t find that notebook. I only know that this park is in some town between Kyoto and Okayama.

…Maybe that was what the oracle was warning me about.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to askwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Expo Commemoration Park
(万博記念公園)
(Bampaku kinen kōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°48’44.1″N 135°32’20.0″E

Address:

Senri-Banpaku-Koen, Suita-shi, Osaka

Phone:

  • 06-6877-7387

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Adults – 250 yen
  • Kids-  70 yen
  • Under 7 – free
  • Parking –
    • 800 yen weekdays
    • 1,200 yen weekends

Hours:

  • Closed Wednesdays
  • 9:30 ~ 17:00 entry stops at 16:30

Notes:

  • Sometimes there are exhibits that cost extra to enter.

Tōdai-ji
(東大寺)
(Eastern Great Temple)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34° 41′ 21″ N, 135° 50′ 23″ E

Address:

1 Zōshi-chō, Nara, Nara Prefecture

Phone:

  • +81 742-22-5511

Websites:

Cost:

  • 500 yen (museum only)
  • 800 yen (museum and Temple)
  • Parking is free (I think…)

Hours:

  • 8:00 to 16:30 (November to February)
  • 8:00 to 17:00 (March)
  • 7:30 to 17:30 (April to September)
  • 7:30 to 17:00 (October)

Notes:

  • constructed in 752
  • There are many deer walking around the grounds you can feed.

Kinkaku-ji
(金閣寺)
(Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
(Rokuon-ji)
(鹿苑寺)
(Deer Garden Temple)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35° 2′ 22″ N, 135° 43′ 46″ E

Address:

1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto City

Phone:

  • 075-461-0013

Websites:

Cost:

  • 400 yen adults
  • 300 yen kids
  • There is no free parking. You can pay less and park further away, or pay more and park next to the temple’s entrance.

Hours:

  • 9:00 ~ 17:00

Notes:

  • This is one of the few places in Japan where you can get a fortune-tell paper in English.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Kyoto 市, Kyoto 府, Nara Prefecture 県, Nara 市, Osaka 市, Osaka 府 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ラーメン on Holiday

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 16, 2011

December 29-31, 2010

All Pictures

Cheesecake and coffee

No ramen

One thing I really wanted to do while in Osaka was to visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. But, alas, I was not able to go. The museum was closed for the holidays.

Instead we went to the Floating Garden Observatory downtown. I have no idea why they picked this name. Nothing floats, and there is no garden; not even a solitary flower. There is, however, a great view of Osaka.

We walked around up there until it was time to watch the sunset. Then we went inside to stare down on the city while sipping hot chocolate. We sat there for a couple hours. Then it was time to say goodbye to Makeeya.

She was heading north to Tokyo and my mom, Alex, and I would spend the night in Osaka. The next day we would take an overnight boat back to Beppu in my prefecture.

Good old underground shopping

It’s too cold to be outside

The next day we were to travel to different tourist spots in the city, but it was cold and rainy. We decided instead, to stick to things near the Umeda train station. We rode on the ferris wheel at the HEP Five then explored the neighborhood.

We just walked to what ever caught our eye. There were so many sights and sounds. We managed to find a huge underground shopping mall that seems to link many of the train stations together. There was a lovely underground fountain and everything!

our sleeping area on the ferry

Did you see the sauna? Yes, but it was filled with naked old men.

There is no direct train back to Oita. To return by train we would have to transfer at least once in Fukuoka in the middle of the night. Plus we’ve already traveled by train in Japan, so I wanted something new for my mom and nephew.

The boat from Osaka to Beppu was my choice. Just get on the boat and go to sleep. When you wake up, you’re there. We got the cheapest tickets available because that was all that was left.

If the next class up isn’t too much more expensive next time I would take that, but the class we had wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t cold, noisy, or uncomfortable. It was okay.

Goodbye Osaka!

The boat had everything. There was a restaurant, vending machines, a store, a spa, and many slot machines. I didn’t venture into the ladies’ spa, but Alex went into the men’s. He didn’t stay long.

We sat by a window and watched Osaka disappear into the darkness. We ate the dinner we brought at the Lawson’s at the port. Alex explored the boat and one by one we all headed to bed.

In the middle of the night one of our neighbors had the great idea of rearranging all the stuff he kept in a series of paper bags. He kept taking things out then putting them back. I woke up to find many heads popping up and looking around to see what was going on.

At first I thought there was a badger in the room or some other trash rummaging rodent. There was a drop of relief to find out that it was just a young man in white skinny jeans trying to organize his clutter. Then I wished he would put that paper bag over his head and go back to sleep. Eventually he did; with his head uncovered.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank toaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

CaminoRo

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°44’20.2″N 135°29’17.2″E

The nearest subway station is Mikuni Station.

Address:

2F/3F 2-6-7 Nishimikuni
Yodogawa-ku, Osaka City 532-0006 JAPAN

Phone:

  • 06-6398-7313 (in Japan)
  • +81-6-6398-7313 (international)

Website:

e-mail: guesthouse@caminoro.com

Cost

Notes:

This hostel is run by a very nice couple with a baby. They really went out of there way to help us in any way they could.


The Umeda Sky Building
(梅田スカイビル)
(Umeda Sukai Biru)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°42’18.5″N 135°29’26.0″E

Address:

1-1-88 Oyodo-naka,
Kita-ku Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
531-0076 Japan

Phone:

  • 06-6440-3855

Websites:

Cost:

  • 700YEN,
  • but if you visit the cinema in the other building you can get a flier with a 70YEN discount/ person.
  • You only need one flier per group to get a discount for each person.

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 22:30
  • (Last admittance is at 22:00)

Notes:

  • The “Floating Garden Observatory” is on the 39th floor.
  • Be sure to visit the old time Osaka town on the first basement level (B1) of the building. It’s free to view.
  • There are many restaurants.
  • There are lockers near the elevator to the top. They cost 100YEN to use.
  • I recommend going about  15 minutes before sunset.

Hep Five

How to get there:

Address:

5-15 Kakudacho, Kita-ku
Hep Five Mall Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
Japan

Phone:

  • +81 6-6313-0501

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Ferris Wheel – 500YEN/person

Hours:

  • Stores – 11:00 – 21:00
  • Restaurants – 11:00 – 23:30
  • others – 11:00 – 23:00

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
(インスタントラーメン発明記念館)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°49’05.2″N 135°25’36.2″E
  • Go to Ikeda Station
  • Go through the south exit.
  • Turn left and follow the signs to the museum.
  • It’s a 5 minute walk.

Address:

8-25 Masumi-cho,
Ikeda-shi, Osaka
〒563-0041 Japan

Phone:

  • 072-751-0825

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Ramen class is 500YEN/Adult and 300YEN/Kid

Hours:

  • Wed – Sun 9:30 – 16:00
  • Allow 90 mintues to view all the exhibits and another 90 minutes to make ramen.

Books:

Notes:

  • In order to take part in the ramen making class, you must have a reservation.
  •  For reservations – Call 072-751-0825 any time between 10:00 – 16:00 Wednesday through Sunday.

Boat to Beppu
(Sunflower)

How to get there:

  • 34°38’16.3″N 135°24’44.5″E

From Osaka –

Website:

Cost:

  • 9,700YEN/ person For the open room
  • List

Hours:

  • Leaves Osaka at 19:05
  • gets to Beppu around 7:00.

Notes:

  • There is a Lawson’s right after you check-in to the ferry terminal, but before you get on the boat.
  • There is also a convenience store on the boat along with a restaurant and tons of vending machines.
    • There are many hot water stations where you can get hot water for tea, ramen, and whatever you want hot water for.
  • The website is in Japanese, so it might be easier to buy your tickets from a travel agency.
    • There is a travel agency and just about every major JR station.
  • There is a women only open  room.
  • You ca bring your car on this ferry.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Osaka 市, Osaka 府 | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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