Mrlittle wrote:Maybe I missed part of your USJ report but was Space Fantasy open? Or was it still doing VR crap?
Looks y'all made the best of the Typhoon situation. I don't remember every detail of my Japan trip but reading your trip reports has brought back so many great memories.
Space Fantasy was open, but with the "Black Hole" overlay.. so the only lights in the whole ride was the "strobe" room.
made for a super disorienting ride, as you couldn't tell if you were spinning or not, since EVERYTHING in the pitch black felt like you were spinning. I enjoyed it, but would love to see what it looks like when it's running standard without an overlay.
Today was the transfer day from Osaka to Nagoya. . . we basically had the day to ourselves as long as we ended up in Nagoya by the end of it.
working with Elissa, most of us had already booked Shinkansen reserved tickets from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya (I believe they were ~5pm). . so we had the whole day to ourselves.
Even tho the day before, a massive Typhoon had hit Japan? you would never know from the area we were in, and the day was gorgeous (other parts of Japan sadly were impacted pretty badly, and there was some loss of life as well as monetary losses - in particular I saw reports of many Shinkansen trains badly damaged resulting in millions of $$ in losses).
but as noted, this didn't really impact us, as where we were, the trains were running and even the scheduled luggage transfer - to move our bags from Osaka - Nagoya for us, was on schedule, as long as we had our bags down in the lobby of Universal Port Hotel by 8am.
there were lots of options on what to do today, including going back to Universal if we wanted to (no need, as I had gone the night before our full day, as well as open to close on our full day).
or sleeping in, or shopping.
If we wanted to do "theme park" stuff, the options were: Hirakata Park in Osaka (oldest Amusement Park in Osaka area) Legoland in Nagoya or the Zoo in Nagoya
a few folks did go off to Hirakata Park, and then Legoland (and were kind enough to send me pictures of the Carousels & Miniland areas - since I would have *loved* to see these places). But I didn't go to the "Amusement" options, as I really wanted to use today for a "Culture" day, since it was so gorgeous and everything was open with no Typhoon impact.
and since we were fairly close to Himeji - only about 30 minutes via Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka? That was what I wanted to do today. Himeji would have been our stop the prior day to switch to other transportation for heading to Central Park, and in Himeji is a World Cultural Heritage Site, Himeji Castle.
I'd tentatively "penciled" into my itinerary for the prior day to leave Central Park a bit early to explore the Himeji Castle (based on feedback from the group). The universe had actually given me a gift, as it turned out that I was able to spend more time at Himeji Castle on this Sunday, then I would have been able to even if I had left Central Park early. So it all works out like it needed to.
So myself, and a group of others, decided that we would be the "Himeji Castle" group, and that was our plan for the morning.
expect LOTS of pictures of the Castle, so apologies if you aren't into this stuff. . . I took well over 400 pics there (!) but cut it down to only ones I thought were fun to share.
Waking up fairly early (since we had turned in fairly early), I opened the curtains to the room and looked out to a beautiful Sunrise
looking towards Osaka. . . so pretty.
hard to believe there had been a Typhoon the prior day.
most on the TPR trip headed down to the buffet breakfast, and we ate and visited, then all went back up to the rooms just be 8am to grab our bags to hand off to Elissa in the lobby.
last looks at Universal Studios Japan, from the hotel window by the Elevators, as we are heading down to check out and hand off bags.
bye-bye Harry Potter world
on the short train ride from Osaka to Shin-Osaka.
the train had an advertisement banner for the "drumming game" we had seen in a few arcades.
not sure who wanted this picture, Zach or William. . but it's a cute pic, and we look well rested, LOL.
snapping pics of unique Osaka architecture as we pass by.
on the right is the famous The Umeda Sky Building - which features a "floating observatory" in the circular suspended area - that you can just make out the escalators going up into.
Unfortunately, I never made it to the building during the trip. . but if I ever go back it will be a stop!
When we got to Shin-Osaka station, we headed to the Shinkansen booth and the ladies in the booth we extremely helpful in assisting us in booking round-trip Shinkansen reserved tickets to Himeji (it was meant to be, as there was a train leaving in ~20 minutes, and it had just enough reserved seats for our group). .
so we headed off thru the station the Shinkansen platforms.
tho not as big as some of the other stations, we'd been thru, the Shin-Osaka station isn't tiny, so lots of turns and steps to get where we were going.
I'm not a big enough Star Wars fan that I was tempted to go to this exhibit - but I *loved* the art direction in the posters, so stopped for a moment to snap a picture as we walked past it.
I also made note of the "Rainbow Festa" posters, that happened to be happening today (I'd assume the prior day's activities had been cancelled due to Typhoon), and pointed that out to the folks I was with. I ABSOLUTELY was curious what a Gay Pride event in Japan would look like, and expressed interest in stopping by there if we had time (and general consensus was that others were at least curious to take a look as well)
we had a little bit of time before train arrival as well, so we popped into a convenience store to pick up snacks for the ride.
up the stairs to cross over the regular train line track, and to get to the Shinkansen tracks
an approaching train zooming by, caught my eye
why yes, if you zoom on this pic, that IS a "Hello Kitty" wrap on this train.
gawd i love Japan.
and before too long, we were on our platform ready for our Shinkansen to arrive.
and here it comes.
most of the group posing for a pic William took
cept me. . I'm in the background taking a selfie with the engine of the Shinkansen
We had reserved seats, so no huge rush to get onto the train.
So we posed for a few more pics before getting on board.
and me. . in Japan. . about to ride a bullet train (again).
the Shinkansen we were about to get on
and just before we boarded, another Shinkansen pulled into the station to load from the other side.
thought it was interesting to see them side by side, and happy I got at least 1 pic where they are both kind of in the frame.
and then it was time to get aboard.
and thru the window, can see into the other Shinkansen that had pulled in next to us.
a couple of pics from the Shinkansen as we headed from Shin-Osaka, to Himeji
when we exited into the Himeji Station, there are several photo-ops. . .
yep, I wanted a picture. . LOL
Here's Tabatha, me, and Allison as Geishas and warriors
the Station also has a scale model of the Himeji Castle/White Keep grounds.
and this stunning carriage/royal chariot (?)
closer view of the model
not really sure what these were - they kinda looked like lanterns, but don't' think they were.
Maybe ceremonial storage canisters? or drums?
Stepping out of the station, you get an incredible view of the Himeji Castle, at the end of the street.
it's going to be a little bit of a walk, but such a gorgeous day, it makes no sense to hop on a bus. Let's walk it and experience the area!
Glad we decided to walk, as along the pathway to Himeji Castle, there's all kinds of interesting sights, and sculptures to take in.
as a huge KISS fan, these fanged fish/dragons, really intrigued me.
I'll bet these are exactly where Gene Simmons got his inspiration for his dragon boots!
very nice. .and I saw them represented several different times while in Himeji, but no where else in Japan.
while walking, was missing my spouse, Nick.
and then I got a sign from the universe, that all was good:
more wonderful sculpture work as we made our way up the street
Getting closer. . just across the street from the main Castle Grounds.
or as the guide books they handed us call it:
"World Cultural Heritage Site National Treasure Himeji Castle"
and I can absolutely see why it's so revered . . it truly is a stunning site, and it's awe-inspiring to see in person.
the nickname for the place is:
the White Heron Castle
Getting ready to cross the street to enter the Castle. . . there's Jon in a pic :)
but not before snapping a pic of a Rickshaw - and the "driver" was kind enough to stop for a moment and actually pose for my picture.
just look at that face!
the Rickshaws were doing very brisk business, but didn't seem to be among "tourists" . . at least not foreign ones. I don't think i saw any non-Asian riders in the rickshaws.
now on the same side of the street as Himeji Castle, a look over the water at the main entrance to the area
in this pic is the "Sakura-mon" bridge, and on the right is the "Ote-mon Gate" in the center is the spectacular Dai-tenshu (the White Keep)
(why yes, I do have my Himeji Castle guidebook out with me while working on this Trip Report update)
The 7 of us who formed the "Himeji Castle group" today, stopping for a group pic to share with the TPR Japan trip messenger (mainly to show we had made it here!).
another, slightly closer picture, of the bridge, the main gate, and Dai-tenshu (the White Keep)
Tourist version of a "Ride Sign" for Larry. . . :p
there were some boats (sorta like gondolas) giving rides in the water around the outside of the Himoji Castle complex. I didn't see any docks, but I'm sure that if we had walked around the outside of the grounds, we could have found them.
while it looked enjoyable, i wanted to tour the grounds, rather than just go around outside them. . so we headed inside, rather than look for the docks.
I have a suspicion that the hats & Robes everyone is wearing were provided by the boat guide.
better view of the Ote-mon Gate as we approach to head inside and buy our day pass tickets
once thru the gates and onto the grounds, you really get a sense of just how large the site is.
where one purchases tickets to actually get onto the grounds, is way back there on the left, where people are walking up the hill path.
but in this open area, which based on the site maps, appears to at one point have been: the San-goku-bori Moat"
you can get some fantastic pictures of Dai-tenshu (the White Keep)
another group shot, this time inside the man gate
site map (like a park map!), near where we bought our admission tickets.
the red arrow is where we are now, over on the left, you can see the walkway over the water, that we crossed on the Sakura-mon bridge
now on the main grounds, you can see the many directions the paths branch off to, depending on which part of the site you wished to explore.
we were all most interested in the Main Keep, so headed that way, although not everyone made the full climb up to the top, and a few split off to go see other parts of the site.
you can see some scaffolding on the right, as parts of the site are constantly undergoing restoration, but the vast majority of this site is ancient and that's why protected.
Castle history, if anyone is interested.
We ended up buying the combo ticket, since it was only ~.50 more to add the Koko-En Gardens (something that would have been much more if purchased separate).
tho we didn't know if we'd be able to have time to visit the gardens, as I believe we had scheduled our return reserved Shinkansen tickets for 2:30.
but for such a little upcharge, we went for it.
the admission tickets were beautiful too, and you bet I kept it as a souvenir.
starting the climb up some fairly steep pathways.
(and astoundingly, there were quite a few elderly folks effortlessly making this trek. . . in way better shape that those of us in other parts of the world, it would appear).
looking at Dai-tenshu (the White Keep) beyond the Hishi Gate, one of the famous spots in the Castle
a closer look. . .this is SUCH a stunner.
Dai-tenshu only looks 5 stories tall, but it's actually 7 (6 stories + a basement), and you're allowed to tour all floors except for the basement (but you can peek thru an area to see it).
the famous Hishi Gate (Hishi-no-Mon)
this is the largest gate in the Himeji Castle complex, and was built in the Azuchi-momoyama period - 400+ years ago!
yes, another pic of my smiling face, with the Dai-tenshu (the White Keep) behind me
apparently, looking at the site map, this is part of the San-goku-bori Moat, that sometimes has herons nesting there. This part of the moat still has water in it.
the back side of the Hishi Gate (I was coming back from the restrooms)
A bit of culture shock to come thru a 400+ year old gate, and next to them are modern toilets. . but what are you gonna do. Tourists gotta go. And at least they are discreetly designed to blend in with the area.
one more pic of the Keep before we head up the path that will take us to the base level of it.
it's a climb to get up to Dai-tenshu, but we all did it.
not sure if the fences on the left there are to protect the rock walls from touching hands? or more likely to supply a hand-rail of some sort for those that might need it.
some of the architectual details on the rooftops of some of the buildings on the castle grounds
you can see from the amazing detail, why I took so many pictures during my visit this morning.
everywhere I looked, was just jaw dropping beauty.
now headed into the guard post, that leads into Dai-tenshu (the White Keep)
(they route the tourists in thru this gate, and keep everyone going one direction thru the keep, and so everyone exits out a separate area)
again. . astounding detail.
bert about to head into Dai-tenshu. . I'm excited. . . I'll be walking in History.
Looking back to give an idea of the steepness of the grade -and how low the ceilings are - in this guard post.
William is taking an artsy pic down one of the canals thruout the keep. . no idea if this one was for transporting water, oil, or (possibly?) human waste.
getting closer to actually getting inside the keep
made sure to duck to pass thru this THICK metal door, which is the last big defense area before one enters into the actual keep
and here's where we encountered really the first "line". . . as this is the "real" entrance to Dai-tenshu, and once past thru this doorway, you are asked to remove shoes and carry them in a bag.
for the most part, everyone followed the request, and the line was a constantly moving one. tho I did see one or two non-Asian tourists here, completely miss the multiple signs and try to go up the steps with shoes on.
another super thick metal door, with a smaller metal door embedded in it.
thankfully they had the big door open, so we didn't have to squeeze thru the smaller opening :)
I tried to take pictures of the signs on each floor of the layout.
this was on the entrance floor, with this map posted of the "off limits" - but with a peek down into - the basement/cellar
they say that they don't know what the basement was used for, but note the platform was slanted - so whatever was done on that platform drained into the basement.
I would assume not human waste, as there are also toilets here. . so maybe blood from interrogating enemies? (but that doesn't make sense, as why would you bring an enemy past the thick doors, and into your keep?).
perhaps medical treatment waste (such as bleeding as was done in the middle ages?)
here's the map for the remainder of the 1st floor
and some pics of what the interior areas looked like.
some lovely architecture views from the windows on this floor, and even tho it's the 1st floor, you can see we're a bit high up.
all those slanted trails we took to get here!
From the first floor central window, overlooking the Bizen-maru Bailey
way down at the end of the street there is the Himeji Station.
they send you thru a marked path, as you go around the floors, and up steps (each set increasingly steeper), to the upper floors. You only get to see ~ 1/2 of each floor on the way up, as the other sides of the floors are used by the tourists coming down from the upper floors.
it's incredibly interesting, even without any furniture. and I could have spent HOURS here, reading every sign - but instead I took pictures of the signs to go back and read later, and continued on (we had limited time!).
this is a great pic, because I like how William and Alex appear to be discussing the historical aspect of the beams used to support the ceilings.
and I love that it gives a good pic of *everyone* carrying their shoes in plastic bags.
really like the detailed work on the ceilings, even tho I'm certain it's more "practical" than detail driven.
Up a level to the 2nd floor, and this was the armory area - where the walls were all set up to hold spears and swords.
as well as these beautiful latticed windows areas, that were used for lookouts.
the view from one of the windows
this pic is a bit blurry, sorry. . but it's a pic from the 4th floor (I was standing on a mid level "Stone-Throwing Platform", that was where warriors could "drop stones"). In this pic you can see the stairs leading up from the 3rd floor, and another set of stairs leading up to the 5th floor
this is from the queue on the 5th awaiting to go up to the 6th floor, the people exiting are coming down from the top floor above us.
now up on the 6th floor, the uppermost part of Dai-tenshu . . as would be expected, this is the smallest part of the keep, and is basically one large room -but with some stunning views of the surrounding areas.
the View out of the "front" window, looking towards Himeji Station.
and note the Fish/dragon gargoyle.
the 6th floor also contains the Osakabe-jinja Shrine (the shrine of Himeyama; a local deity)
there were people lined up here to make offerings.
a better view of the shrine
looking out a side window, at more of the views.
i believe these buildings are part of the Nishi-no-maru Bailey. .that runs around the entire outside of the castle, where the troops defended the castle.
on the way back down, on display is the scale model they built to understand / use, during the (2009) restoration of Himeji Castle.
Last edited by bert425 on Sat Jan 18, 2020 6:33 pm.
some more info they had on display about the restoration processes
and a large scale model on display of the full grounds of the Castle, and what it looked like back when in active use.
a few more snaps from windows on the opposite sides of the White Keep, as we headed down from our climb.
the area surrounding is so lovely (and there was a small - tourist trap, I'm sure- amusement carnival closeby too. . but no time for that!).
I believe only 4 of us made the climb all the way to the top, so we had to meet up with the rest of the group before heading back to the station for our Shinkansen.
exiting the keep, you come out on the Bizen-maru Bailey.
the fenced off hole on the right is one of the many wells on the Castle grounds
really nice views of Dai-tenshu from just underneath it on the Bailey.
Final pic I took that's good enough to share from Himeji Castle grounds.
we met up with the others, and while a few folks made an effort to quickly check out the Gardens (we only had about 40 minutes until our train, and we still had to walk back to the station), Jon and I did some quick souvenir shopping at a small shop just outside the gates.
it was off season / October, so I wasn't sure if anything would be in bloom, and didn't really have time to enjoy it. . . thinking back, I guess we COULD have just booked a later train. but there were things folks wanted to do - I certainly wanted to check out Rainbow Festa and I know some wanted to do some shopping in Dotonbori. . . so we had planned to leave at a certain time to make sure we'd be able to. Hence the return train time.
so instead of checking out the gardens, I bought some Magnets, and a Himeji Castle shirt (think Jon bought a fan). . the lady at the register gave me some lovely origami throwing stars she had made, that she tossed into my bag and said "for good luck!". . and then we booked it to meet up with the others at the main Castle entrance, and we started the brisk walk back to the Train Station.
we walked quickly, but that didn't stop me from taking a couple of pics down alleyways as we passed them in Himeji.
I saw tiles like these in several cities, and I love how they are "centric" to the cities
Himeji Castle is the White Heron. . so the tiles on the street?
we had walked fast, and timed it well, so we had a few moments before our train pulled in.
since most of us hadn't really eaten since breakfast, some of us took a quick trip into a station store to grab a snack for the Shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka
here's what I picked up to snack on:
Salmon Onigiri, pickled Plum Onigiri, and a "cake roll" that was mildly green tea flavored.
it wasn't hugely filling, but they were all good, and kept me happy until we'd have a chance to eat something later.
Jon got a bento box (as you can see in this pic, since he was sitting next to me).
he also used his phone app - which showed this Shinkansen from Himeji back to Shin-Osaka, was going 165 mph.
as Robb would say: "Wheeeee!"
to be continued (in the next few days), with a stop at Rainbow Festa - gay pride in Osaka!, and a quick visit to Dotonbori before we head to Nagoya.
Once we were back in Shin-Osaka, we exited the station and headed towards the park where the Rainbow Festa was being held (I can't recall if we had to hop on another train or not, but I think we left the Shin Osaka station to walk to the park).
This statue was near the exit to the station, and I saw him on a couple of buildings or billboards around while we were walking.
not 100% sure, but think maybe he's a mascot for one of the train lines?
We didn't know what to expect from a Pride Festival in Japan - let alone a pride festival that was supposed to have happened the weekend of a Typhoon hitting.
but the weather was still beautiful, and so on the assumption that day 2 of the weekend festival was going to be happening? we headed in the direction of the festivities.
we passed this truck/float on the street, which told us that we were going the correct direction. But there didn't seem to be a lot of activity, so I snapped a picture of it, just in case this was the full extent of "Rainbow Festa!"
not horrible tho. . I mean, I've seen way worse in local gay pride parades here in Texas :)
when we turned the corner and crossed over into the park tho, we saw there actually was a really decent set up for this Pride Event.
while it wasn't PACKED, it was an ok turnout (again, considering it was the day after a Typhoon hit).
here was the posted schedule for the day.
Based on the times, that "float" we had passed on the street had been part of the parade, that had wrapped up shortly before we had arrived.
we were going to be able to catch some performers tho (I'm assuming the Green Japanese text translates to "Rapping Grannies" - who were awesome, and I also got to see some of "Queen"s performance)
Here's a close up of the event posters, near the entrance to the area.
it was a free event (no admission), but I was surprised to see how "sponsored" it was, with almost every booth sponsored by a company, that was handing out swag emblazoned with the company logos.
or selling lots of merchandise that seemed to focus on the "i'm an ally" angle, rather than "I'm out and proud"
there were a lot of families there too, with many little kids roaming around in the park.
I was stoked to get to take a look around, I mean, it's a Gay Pride Festival in another Country! (and in this case, Japan. . . so of course I was thrilled).
After a quick peek, most in the group split off to do other things - some had their eyes on shopping/visiting Dotonbori area, I think someone wanted to hit a museum, or simply just to go meet up with others.
but William and I hung out at Rainbow Festa for ~40 minutes checking it out.
here we are showing off our Rainbow Festa! wristbands that I got for a donation to one of the booths.
are we SURE we're at a pride festival?
this was an interesting thing - in addition to the sponsored booths - in that many of the booths had "spokespeople" out front of the booths to pose with attendees for pictures. (and to hand out flyers advertising the business that sponsored that booth).
Most all of the "spokespeople" I met today spoke perfect English (several told me they were in Japan doing Expat work), and were very excited to chat with me and find out all about what brought me to Japan.
no i have no idea/recollection what he was promoting. . but yeah, he caught my eye :p
the Drag in Japan (at least on display during the daytime) wasn't as polished as I've seen in the USA, but the girls were all super nice, and as noted, spoke English very well.
oh.. like you thought I was gonna walk away from here without getting a pic with me in it?
have you MET me?
(and there ya go.. he was promoting "Beauty Blenda". .and made sure to get the product flyer in the pic too)
Coseup of the rubber Rainbow Festa! bracelet
and here they are, on the main stage: the Rapping Grannies
the "real" name of the group is: Obachaaan (a play on the word "Obachan" which means "older Women"), and it was formed in 2011.
The group has 7 official members, and these ladies are in their 60s & 70's and have a pretty large following as an Osaka Girl Group.
you can see from the crowd gathered how popular they are. . and yes, they were FABULOUS
I found a video from them online, that I'll post after this update.
A song they did in English to promote the G20 summit, called "Oba Funk Osaka"
a closeup of the "guide" flyer that I got with my bracelet purchase
not sure what they are promoting here. . .but as George Takei says:
that's quite the banana they are riding.
another shot of Obachaaan, as we headed towards the booths on the other side of the park
the booths on this side were mainly booze related
Such as this large Skyy Blue booth, which a lovely lady making sure her placard made it into my picture.
they were hard selling this too, but I agreed to buy one if she'd put down her sign and pose with me.
so she did. . then called over the other spokesmodel, to pose - WITH her sign.
LOL. . . drag-queens. . shady, shady, regardless of what Country :p
eh. .it was only $5
and it tasted just like Zima
I guess if I can't buy a T-shirt (they were all in teeny-tiny sizes), I guess I can be happy with alcohol.
see? look how happy?
none of the food was calling to me - and was particularly American festival food (hot dogs, funnel cakes). . . but I picked up some more branded "fans" swag (Ikea), and ran into this lovely lady who insisted I needed a rainbow face tattoo.
so I let her "unicorn" me.
we wandered the rest of the booths - strangely there were financial planning, and Breast Cancer screening booths mixed in with those selling sex toys (really. . I guess Japan isn't as hung up about this kind of stuff being around kids as the USA is), and some unique clothing/jewellery.
and then made our way back to the main stage as Obachaaan were finishing up their set
hell of a crowd, right?
the Emcee came out to do some crowd work between performers - and I think it's great there's a sign language interpreter on the stage. That's something that I love seeing, and wish more of the local Pride Festivals did that too.
She was *everything* I would have hoped for when I thought of "Japanese Drag Queen"
LOVED her, even tho she was a bit rough around the edges.
and the crowd really started to come in around the stage.
I thought Obachaaan had been a draw? This crowd was here to see "Queen" - whom I'm not 100% certain was a single performer, but I suspect a "group name" for several Drag Queens who are super popular in Osaka nightlife at club Explosion.
My suspicions seem to be confirmed by this pic I snapped backstage (we were off to the side near the front of the stage). .that shows the next batch of performers getting ready to go onstage.
yes, that queen who's blocked a bit IS dressed like a bunch of grapes.
ooof.. she was a little rough, but the crowd ATE. IT. UP.
tipping of Drag in Japan is not a thing, as I so *no one* with bills out to hand to her.
but she got a ton of applause and lots of folks snapping pics.
while the Drag performances were going on, behind us under a tent?
Obachaaan came out for an autograph session, and immediately drew a pretty substantial line.
um. . ok.
can't recall if this was a Breast Cancer booth, or a booth selling drag accessories (aka - that's a breastplate that can be worn under a bra for a performer). . but notice how many folks are sitting with the Met Life booth, doing financial planning/Insurance planning.
We'd done a lap of the Rainbow Festa!, so William and I decided to head back to the train station, to head towards Dotonbori and meet up with some folks. . maybe doing some browsing of stores along the way.
i really wanted to see the famous oval ferris wheel in Dotonbori, so was determined to make it that way. . but wasn't super interested in riding it.
Thought the design work on this building was interesting, so snapped a pic as we passed it.
whoops, forgot i had a rainbow unicorn on my cheek.
but oh well, it's Japan! I'm not taking it off and no one is even gonna look at me twice.
William and I wandered up and down some of the long shopping "alleyways" in Osaka - all covered so protected from weather, and all decorated for Halloween.
Even if we didn't buy anything, it was so interesting to window shop, as we passed tons of tiny restaurants, bars, pachinko parlors, and stores selling everything from sneakers, to cosmetics. . as well as Dentists, and Doctor's offices.
it's sensory overload, but it was so incredible to be in the center of it.
the smell coming from this place was amazing!
but with only 7 seats inside, and all of them full with locals? It didnt' seem like a good idea to stop in and grab something, even tho there are 4 stools outside that were open.
instead, we headed back to the train station - passing a McDonald's - which by now had started offering the Hello Kitty Happy Meal (that I was a little too early to get in Shinagawa at the start of the trip).
So we popped in and I ordered a happy meal (scarfing down the burger, which was just so-so sadly), and saving the sealed toy to give to my friend who collects Hello Kitty stuff.
while I was inhaling the snack, we got a text from Allison asking where were we, and were we coming to Dotonbori, as they were waiting for us by the ferris wheel.
so we said we were on our way, and quickly made our way back to the station, and hopped on a train to Dotonbori.
we exited the Dotonbori station, and using Williams app for directions, we found our way thru the huge masses of people in this shopping/entertainment area.
There were just so many people moving in every direction, it probably took us a good 25 minutes just to get from the station to the Ferris wheel. . but before too long, we were standing at the base of this beauty, and had met up with Alex, Zach, Jon, and Allison.
it was operating (which is fairly rare, since it sat not operating for a long time), but there was concern that if we took a ride on it, we might make it back to the station too late and miss our Shinkansen reserved tickets to get to Nagoya.
I wasn't super interested in riding it (as noted above). . tho it would have been fun, if expensive - but several folks on this TPR trip *did* take a spin on it, and I hope they post pics from that ride.
So I was ok, just taking pictures of it, and wandering around the Dotonbori area for a bit.
it reminded me very much of the San Antonio Riverwalk area. . tho packed with more people and floating barges.
there was also a Halloween festival going on today, that had tons of folks dressed up (many in anime costumes).. so the atmosphere down here really was electric toda.
see? "Water Taxis" just like at the San Antonio Riverwalk
I'm basically standing at the base of the oval Ferris Wheel building, just checking out the sights on the waterfront area of Dotonbori. . . there is a huge shopping/eating/entertainment section that all covered streets too, but the waterway seems to be the central artery of the area.
before wandering off? a couple more pics of the Oval Ferris Wheel
as noted, there was a festival going on. . so in this pic, in addition to some costumed folks, you can also make out a floating stage - where a brass band is getting ready to perform on the Canal.
the most touristy "Japanese" sign I could find on this trip, happened to be here at this Touristy Dotonbori area.
this sign has got it all: blue wave, temple/castle, tiger, geisha, cherry blossoms!
I snapped a pic of this without even realizing this is a huge tourist attraction!
after I got back and saw others talking about it, I pulled up Dotonbori on Wikipedia, and it turns out that I snapped pics of several "Landmark" attractions in my short time wandering this area.
this is the "Glico Man", take from just under the Ebisubashi bridge
here's an angle looking back down the canal, where you can see the Ebisubashi bridge (and Glico man on the right)
on the walkway along the canal - passing under the bridge as we were headed back along the Canal to get more central - so we could head to the train station for our Shinkansen to Nagoya.
"Hotel Rose Lips"
a Choir performing on another floating stage, as we headed up the stairs to go to the trains.
they were singing American Standards, in English (if I'm recalling correctly)
But first, we were going to pass back thru the shopping/dining area, and as we weren't rushing to meet up with others on this return trip back to the train station (as we had been from the train station to get to the Ferris wheel), I was able to take pics as we walked back.
This is a side angle of the "NamBa HIPS" building, as we passed by it.
it's got a super unique architecture with a keyhole cut-out in the center of the building, that features a "rock sculpture" and apparently used to feature a free fall drop tower thru the center.
I say apparently, as I don't see the top of the drop tower peeking out, and a check of the website for the building, doesn't show that as an "amusement option". . so it wouldn't surprise me if this thrill ride had been removed, or is simply not operating - since the nearby oval Ferris Wheel didn't operate for a long time.
the Giant Mechanical "Kani Dōraku Crab" on the billboard for the Kani Doraku restaurant.
built in 1960, this is another landmark (per Wiki) that I snapped a pic of without realizing
cool statue advertising Japan 2025 Expo
(and cool Alex near said cool sign)
closer pic of Kani Dōraku Crab. . I was trying to capture it moving, since the legs and eyestalks all moved.
the mascot was even out front snapping pics with tourists and kids.
we were walking fast, so didn't stop to get a pic with him, just of him.
down one of the streets crammed with restaurants and nightlife establishments.
if I ever get back, this area at night is a must do. I'll bet it looks incredible!
one doorway, can bring you to two separate worlds!
top level is Cat Cafe level below is Dog Cafe
The encourage pictures on the sign. I can see it with Dogs, but who needs pictures of a Cat glaring at you while you eat?
I have NO idea what this is
but it was big, and pulsed, and moved up and down.
something with bean paste?
the restaurant had quite the line, so it must have been good.
really loved a lot of the signage around here.
and yet another "landmark" attraction I happened to pass and snap a pic of:
the dragon sculpture on top of Kinryu Ramen
there are apparently 3 of these restaurants in the Dotonbori area - two on the canal, and one in the shopping area. . so we just happened to go the way that would bring us past the one in the shopping area.
it was really huge, and impressive in person.
one more pic as we walked along another covered street towards the Train Station.
a shot of the station across the street, as we waited to cross.
i think it was here where we saw the large group of motorcycle riders revving their engines, and traveling together as a pack. It wasn't a gang, just a bunch of enthusiasts out, showing off their bikes.
we came in on the wrong side of the station tho, and so we walked around the outside to get to the area we needed to be in.
I didn't mind, as it gave me an opportunity to see a few more very interesting buildings.
Red/White/Black. . . the signage here is just my cuppa. Really like it.
no idea what this building is (maybe a hotel?). . but really like the mix of classic Japan, and modern building.
before too long, we were back at Shin-Osaka station, changed to our Shinkansen - which we ended up taking a non-reserved car on a Shinkansen that left 30 minutes earlier, as we had walked so fast, we made really good time back to the station.
here's what Japan looks like when speeding to Nagoya from Osaka on a Shinkansen in the evening
and less than an hour later (if you trust the clock, I think it says 6:30), as we exited the Nagoya Station and crossed the street to our hotel.
Here we are standing waiting for the light to change, with a look at our Hotel from the Train Station exit:
Meitetsu New Grand Hotel.
Elissa & Robb had arrived earlier today, and had checked us all in, so all we had to do was pick up our bags in the lobby (they had arrived via luggage transfer from USJ Port Hotel), and check in at the front desk to get our room keys.
this hotel had much smaller rooms than the prior hotels had, but these were single rooms.
not capsule hotel, but rather just a small room with a bed, a dresser, and a bathroom. It was a fairly small room - once I laid my suitcase down at the end of the bed, I no longer had space between the bed and the window - but for a solo room? it was perfect. We were going to be here for two nights
I somehow never managed to take a picture of the room! I think maybe i just wasn't able to get an angle of the room? or I just forgot? weird, I know. . it's the only hotel I didn't take a picture of the room in. . maybe someone else got a pic?
but it was clean, and the bed was not uncomfortable, and I slept well here.
and I DID get a picture of the full moon from my room window. . so here's the view I had, overlooking the Electronic's store the Hotel is attached to.
it was still fairly early, and some of us were getting hungry, so after relaxing for a short while, we met up in the lobby and headed out to find a place for dinner.
this "twisted" building was so interesting, and it looked impressive as hell at night. Not sure that comes across in the picture, but it really is a "wow" sight to see.
we headed into the underground mall attached to the Train station, intending to eat at a sushi place that Zach had been recommended. It was a fairly small restaurant with the sushi coming across the bar on a conveyer belt - so it sounded fun.
but there were 6 of us, and only so many stools avail. at the bar, so we were going to have to wait (which was fine). . we got on the list and hung out, resting from all the walking we had done today.
and then it was noticed that the sushi coming down the conveyor belt was not covered - no protection from sneezing, coughing, etc, at all. That made some uncomfortable, so upon a group vote, we decided to go elsewhere.
we took ourselves off the list and headed out on foot to see what we could find. LOTS of folks on street corners, handing out coupons to entice customers into restaurants that are located on higher floors within office buildings.
One caught everyone's eye, and was almost directly across the street from our hotel anyways (location!), so we went up to check it out, and found a very traditional restaurant - shoes off, sit at low table near floor, with eating areas sectioned off with rice paper screens (tho many of the screened in rooms had TVs and we could hear groups cheering on the rugby games).
we were in, and they seated us pretty quickly.
I'm an adventurous eater, and was in Japan, so was willing to try things.
so when Jon spotted "Horse Sashimi" on the menu? I was all in. Both he and I ordered it to try (and I think a few folks tried a bite).
it tasted a little bit game-y.. kind of like Vennison, but it was very good. I don't know that I'd ever order it again, but I didn't leave any on my plate.
In addition to the horse sashimi, we also ordered several plates of Nigiri, and Gyoza for the table to share.
all were very good
here is one of the Nigiri plates. Everything was SO good.
and we had a wonderful time at this restaurant even with a couple of hiccups during the meal:
no names but this meal included:
- Someone leaning on the rice paper wall while attempting to sit down at the low table, and crashing right thru into the dining area next door - *freaking* out the diners there, who must have thought Godzilla was attacking. Everyone had a good laugh about it, even if the person from our side was a little horrified it had happened.
-- Someone on the way out deciding they needed to go to the bathroom (after putting shoes back on) and not realizing - until chased by hostess - that they needed to take shoes off if they needed to go back that way (lots of apologies, and all was good after)
-- SOMEONE forgetting to put up the coupon (the reason we were aware of the restaurant in the first place, from the guy on the corner), when we paid. . so we never got the discount that the flyer offered us. But the meal was so good, we didn't even consider asking about it, after we had paid.
full, fat, and happy, we popped into the 7-11 next door to get snacks for tomorrow's train ride / late night deserts, and then we all headed back across the street to our hotel. Where I called home took a shower, and crashed hard.
I had a fantastic day today, but tomorrow was gonna be a great one (and a LONG one) too. . we were headed in the morning to Nagashima Spaland. . . and to get a ride on Hakugei, the newest RMC in the world!
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