Universal Studios Japan

From a Japanese film studio yesterday to a Hollywood theme park today. This was our second visit to USJ and we also visited their Singapore sibling earlier this year. 

It felt like Singapore. Hot, humid and big tropical clouds threatening in the sky. None of the miserable wet weather of our last visit. I think I preferred it. 

I would personally like to have gone hunting a Series 500 Shinkansen and visited Takamatsu in Shikoku or Kita Kyushu. The others complain of boredom on trains. Well that’s what I experience at amusement parks. 

I just like the general settings and a bit of the food. I don’t actually like many rides and have to find somewhere to sit or stand while B and Alex go on rides with hour long queues. 

Their first ride was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in the huge Hogwarts recreation. I just went on the walking tour through the dark corridors but Alex emerged crying and dizzy with fear. Even B admitted that it was a scary ride. 

To his great credit he picked himself up and went on a number of other rollercoasters afterwards. 

Meanwhile I watched magic shows, drunk butterbeer and got sunburned. The young lady, Matsumoto, serving the creamy white headed vanilla flavoured non-alcoholic “beer” loved my sushi lifting t-shirt. It’s funny the positive responses I get from locals about my t-shirts, despite them being of the Japanese brand UniQlo. 

The butterbeer came in a delicious “frozen” form or as a cold drink, but nobody had heard of the hot version we tried last visit. 

Alex loved the Minion Mayhem ride, the Flight of the Hippogryph, Jurassic Park and the Snoopy Coaster. We watched Waterworld in Japanese rather than Singaporean English and watched Ron Howard dubbed in Japaneseand wearing a terrible cardigan at the Backdraft show. 

Space Fantasy – The Ride messed it all up. A spinning coaster, Alex emerged motion sick, miserable and exhausted. He didn’t enjoy the amazing 3D/live action hybrid of the Terminator 2 show (which contradicts the only living tissue time travel rule of the movies). I admit the ending was a true assault on the senses. 

His all-you-can-eat was almost nothing when we left the park for dinner and our train got stuck for a long time. Yet he perked up on the way back to the hotel. Not enough to want to enjoy a final view of the city at night. 

Tomorrow evening we begin our return to Sydney. I’m not looking forward to the flight or leaving Japan. 

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

Absolutely exhausted after Kyoto. I used our rail passes to jump aboard the all too familiar Haruka express to the airport, though we got off a Shin-Osaka. It was comfortable with a place to sit and I fell asleep for some of the ride. 
We then caught the subway to Umeda and went straight to the Yodobashi Camera building, where we had one of Osaka’s signature dishes: okonomiyaki, along with yakisoba. 

The shredded cabbage, egg, sliced meat and other ingredients are cooked at your table. Very yummy.

Shopping until dropping followed. Something I really like about this hotel is the bathroom, which is like a traditional Japanese bathroom with a seated washing area and big bath. 

Zoom zoom to Osaka

As we passed Hiroshima the amusingly named Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (for Hiroshima is their home town) was filled to capacity with fans of their beloved Carp baseball team. 

More lights at Osaka after I emerged from the subway at Namba, after transferring off the Shinkansen. Dotombori Street and Shinsaibashi Suji were filled with Asian tourists with selfy sticks and Japanese touts. Makes me long for somewhere quiet.

That’s probably the end of the giant journeys for the short remainder of this trip, at least until the flight home. Oh well, I collected my compass points and travelled as far as I could by Shinkansen. 


To get my KIX

My earlier train from Tokyo arrived at Shin-Osaka with enough time for me to drop my luggage off at the hotel and race back to catch my original train to Kansai International Airport. Once I meet B and Alex there we’ll head back. 

Speaking of greys earlier, Osaka is a very grey city. The Haruka’s path to the airport takes you past a sea of concrete apartment blocks, stained houses and a disturbing sameness. One might think it a very ugly city. 

But I find that it allows the little things to shine through. I love the neon signs, the izakaya lanterns, the pedestrians strolling home that suddenly appear in that monotony. 

Then there is the sunset backdrop, the pastel shades somehow different from home. There’s a lot of beauty in ugliness.