As I was fumbling through my stuff today, I found my “Japan Memories” bag. Going through its contents, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. I can honestly say that it still is the best trip I ever had so far. Due to this, I’d like to share my memories of my trip with you, even though it’s been a few months delayed. I’ll be going back to Japan this April with a group of students, and hopefully it will push through! So, let’s start!
Day 1- Arrival
We landed in Osaka at Kansai International Airport. It was a clear and very cold night. I come from a tropical country, and I knew it would be cold in Japan, but no matter how much I prepared and how many pieces of clothing I put on, it didn’t prepare me for the shock I felt upon feeling the cold Japanese air. It was an interesting and a great experience! Our Japanese travel guide, Yuko-san, who speaks very good english, ushered us into our travel bus, and we all headed to this yakiniku (grilled meat) buffet place for dinner.
The place served really good food! Unlimited meat, which we grill ourselves, unlimited sushi, and unlimited ramen. Japanese food heaven. Aside from that, they also had unlimited Japanese sweets and desserts, such as cakes and pastries and fruit. Hungry yet?
After the scrumptious meal, we headed over to our hotel, The Westin Osaka. The Westin Osaka is one of the fancier hotels I’ve been to, since I’m always staying in cheaper budget hotels. The view was great, and the amenities were complete and within reach. I absolutely loved our room, and never wanted to leave!
After settling in the hotel, I decided to venture out and explore our surroundings. Shops close relatively early in Japan (around 9-10 pm), so most of our late-night escapades involve konbini, or convenience stores, They’re everywhere in Japan, but Familymart was the closest to where we stayed. I bought an onigiri (Japanese rice ball) and some Calpis water as a late night snack. I was surprised, because when we paid for the things we got, the cashier actually bowed to us until we got our change from the money plate (is that what it’s called?). Nothing reminds me of Japan like good old Japanese courtesy.
Day 2- Universal Studios Japan
We woke up early in the morning and had a breakfast buffet in the Westin Osaka hotel. The buffet had a lot of food and drinks choices, and their service was splendid! After breakfast, we made it into the travel bus and rode a good half hour to where Universal Studios was. Can I just say, there is virtually no traffic in Japan, and their definition of traffic is what I call a good day where I’m from. Needless to say, we made it there in no time.
It was my first time going to a Universal Studios theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was just being built at the time, so we didn’t get to visit there. Upon entering, I was greeted by wonderful views of the shops and the characters. One peculiar thing I took notice of was the number of students in their school uniforms. There were a lot of them, considering that it was a Tuesday.
My sister was feeling unusually daring that day and she told me that we were both going to ride the “Hollywood Dream” ride. Here’s the thing, I have only ridden one roller coaster since that time, and it was “Space Mountain” in Hong Kong Disneyland when I was 10 years old. So this probably wasn’t a good idea. On a normal day, I would totally deny her offer, but since we both were feeling really brave, we both waited 40 minutes in line to ride this star attraction.
After the forty minute wait, we both nervously made our way into the seats. We were seated next to two Japanese women, who were obviously very excited to be on the ride. I didn’t know how strong my capacity was for these kinds of rides, so I didn’t really think much of it, but when the hills started coming and I felt like falling, I started closing my eyes, tearing up, holding onto the seat belt like my life depended on it, and praying to sweet Jesus for it to be over. But over time when I have gotten used to the rhythm and the motion of the roller coaster, I got to enjoy it a little bit and even open my eyes at some parts. It was a terrifyingly good experience.
We then ventured to other parts of the theme park. I’ll just be posting pictures from there since reading all about it would just be tiring. But it was great! We rode the Spiderman ride, the Jurassic Park ride and the Jaws ride and both were really fun! Just a side note about the Jurassic Park ride, I bought this plastic poncho for 200 JPY or 1.67 USD thinking that I’d be getting really wet because the roller coaster goes down this slide and lands on water. Turns out, I didn’t need it since I sat at the back, and I looked stupid wearing a completely dry poncho in warm weather.
The performances are great too! There was this quartet of singers who were amazing and already have die-hard fans in the audience, as some of them have waited in their good spots hours before the singers were even performing.
Also there was this trio of violinists, and they played “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, which was really cool. The audience was really supportive and responsive as well, which made the whole performance even better!
Everyone enjoyed watching these performers, and they just add charm to the theme park!
Universal Studios Osaka was absolutely wonderful.
I managed to get myself a bunch of stuff from here! I got some Elmo toe socks and some cute hello kitty hair accessories!
Day 3- Osaka/ Nara sightseeing
Today, we went to Nara, which of course means deer-sighting! We went to Todaiji temple, where the deer park is located. Yuko-san told us that some vendors sell these rice crackers that we can use to feel the deer, and that if you move the cracker up and down, the deer starts to “bow” to you, which is pretty cute. Also, to avoid the deer following you after you feed it a cracker, you have to clap twice loudly (but this didn’t really work for me hahaha) Try these out if ever you get the chance!
Todaiji temple itself is really beautiful. There were Buddha statues and little replicas of the temple on display. People sold souvenirs and wares inside as well. The interesting bit about Todaiji in my opinion, is the wooden pillar with a hole in the base. Yuko-san told us that whoever manages to slip themselves through it will have luck. So naturally, my sister and my dad both tried it out. They’re skinny people, so they managed to slip out easily. I, on the other hand, didn’t even bother trying since I’d get stuck there in a heartbeat. That, and I lack the upper arm strength needed to pull myself out of there. There was this one couple with a baby though, and the mother placed her baby in the hole. At first the baby didn’t want to go through it, but after a bit of prodding, the baby coolly crawled out of it. It was an adorable and hilarious moment in an otherwise peaceful and serene setting.
I managed to get myself some souvenir items in Todaiji, such as a hello kitty cellphone charm and a beautiful flower print handkerchief.
We then went to the Hall of the Great Daibutsu. It houses a giant Buddha statue.
Once again, there were many students (probably on a field trip). I managed to take a picture with some of them!
For lunch, we had a buffet at Hilton Osaka Checkers. In the afternoon, we went to the Shimsaibashi Namba shopping area. We got lost at first, but someone noticed the confusion on our faces and decided to help us out! The shopping area is basically this long stretch of street with many shops on the side. There is a main road which you can follow, and there are other smaller roads that branch off to the sides. It’s a covered street, so even if it rains, one can enjoy going window shopping! I managed to get myself a bag from G.U which is a sister brand of Uniqlo’s, as well as a nice pair of loose pants from there.
We ventured out and went to this store called Tokyu Hands, that sells anything from cosmetics to home products. This place has it all. I bought two Canmake lip rouges here, and I just love them!
After meeting up with the rest of the group, we headed back to the Westin Osaka and packed our bags.
Day 4- Kyoto
In the morning, we checked out and made our way to Kyoto via bullet train. It was a comfortable and fast experience, and I was able to see a lot from the train ride. In Kyoto, we made our way to Kiyomizu temple. In order to do that, we had to hike up an upward slope lined with lots of shops selling unique goods and wares. I remember buying cream puffs from there, and they were delicious! After Kiyomizu Temple, we headed over to Sanju sangendo temple. Below are some pictures of the places we’ve been to.
While returning to the bus area, I did some last-minute shopping with my sister. I bought a kimono in this store with a foreign attendant. I remember him saying that he was from Australia and that he was living in Japan for quite a while already. My sister bought herself one of those freaky horse masks, because why not, right?
For lunch, we had shabu-shabu in Iroha ryokan (a Japanese inn).
After the Kyoto city tour, we made our way to the Toyohashi area to check in the Loisir Hotel Toyohashi. It was nearing nightfall, and it started to drizzle a little bit. I noticed that there was this little mall area right beside where we stayed, so my dad, my sister, and I all headed over there as soon as dinner was done. We only had about forty minutes before the mall closed down. My dad bought himself a couple of pants. My sister and I spent our time in the arcade figuring out how to work the purikura machine.
** I’m not sure when in the trip this was, but we had the opportunity of entering the Osaka Coin Mint (Which is open only a week in the year) and viewing the beautiful sakura flowers.
Day 5- Mount Fuji and Hakone
We spent a really long time in the bus riding to Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, we were only allowed to make it to the first station. I saw little patches of snow here and there, and it was really, really cold. The fog was really thick too, so we couldn’t even see Mt. Fuji from afar, but now we have another reason to go back to Japan. On our way out, Yuko-san pointed out this certain quirk. If one opens the car windows and listens carefully while driving past a certain strip of road, then the Mt. Fuji theme song will be heard playing in the wind. This is due to the different sized pipes that were placed in the area. Also, Yuko-san taught us how to make a samurai hat origami and a Mt. Fuji origami.
We also stopped at a few rest stops on the way, and can I just say how clean and nice their rest stops are? My dad bought a bunch of strawberries to try out, and they weren’t expensive. Despite their size, they were sweet and such a delight to eat!
In Hakone, we got to ride the cable car (ropeway ride) and the boat across lake Ashi. Because it was cold and foggy, we couldn’t see anything outside of our cable car. Then we headed to a store that sold different Mt. Fuji and Hakone related goods. We bought sakura jam (jam made from real sakura flowers and edible petals) as well as green tea KitKat. As for the boat ride, we stayed on the topmost outer deck despite the strong winds and the drizzling rain. It was another very memorable experience.Once this was over, we headed over to the Grand Pacific Le Daiba to check in. It’s another very swanky hotel in Odaiba, Tokyo, and is surrounded by many malls and recreational centers.
For dinner, we ate in a katsu restaurant in a mall near where we stayed.
When we still had time at night, we would walk to the recreational areas near our hotel, and bask in the cold Tokyo air and the night view. Here are some pictures!
Day 6- Tokyo sightseeing
Our first full day in Tokyo started with a trip to the Imperial palace. We arrived a few days before President Obama went to visit Japan, so we were lucky, otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed to see the Imperial Palace.
Next, we made our way to Nakamise Shopping Street, where many traditional souvenir items are sold. I also decided to try out my luck and picked a fortune paper, to be greeted by “best luck”!
Next, we went to Tokyo tower, a radio tower and one of Tokyo’s iconic spots. I’ve seen Tokyo tower featured in the many Japanese shows, dramas, and animes I’ve watched, so being there was awesome!
In the afternoon when we are free, I made my way to a maid cafe called maidreamin. I’ve always wanted to try going to one, and finally had a chance to do so. I was greeted by these cheerful waitresses in maid uniforms. I must admit, it felt a bit weird for me being the only girl customer there. The other customers were older males. Anyway, I didn’t let that faze me and so I ordered a cute cake and took away some nifty souvenirs including a polaroid picture with my maid called a chekki, as well as a photo of a maid.
Day 7- Tokyo Disneyland (aka the day my life became complete)
I am a huge huuuuge disney fan, so today was definitely one of the highlights of the Japan trip. We had the option to spend the day either in Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo Disneysea, but I opted to go for Disneyland. I have been to only one Disneyland previously, so this was a big thing for me. We arrived pretty early, but there was already so many people. The rides had long waiting times, but I managed to get in the Haunted Mansion Ride, the Peter Pan ride, the Snow White Ride, Mickey’s Gadget Coaster, and the “It’s a Small World” ride. I wanted to try out the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but it was under maintenance. Space mountain and Pooh’s Hunny Hunt all had ridiculously long waiting times, so I opted out on those. My main focus was to get as many pictures as possible of the Disney face characters or ‘friends’ as they are called, and I think I managed to achieve my goal!
Since this was the last day of the whole tour, I hung out a bit with those in my age group that I didn’t get to talk to because we were all shy. We went out for a bit and found an indoor amusement park. We bought tickets to the Joypolis roller coaster ride, which featured a 360 degree rotation (I got braver after the Hollywood Dream ride). It was expensive for one ride, but it was really fun! After spending our money, some of us just sat down and talked until we had to go back to the hotel. It was a really nice experience!
Overall, this trip was one of the best trips of my life so far. I really love Japan and am excited to go back again this April to visit Tokyo! I’ll be blogging about it and I’ll be taking more pictures, so hopefully the trip will push through without any problems!