By now, everyone was here, but we wouldn't be sticking around in Tokyo; we were headed to Osaka! We would eventually end our trip back in Tokyo, but for now, we'd be doing our business to the southwest.
And what better way to get there than by bullet train!?
Yeah, these things fly… but they're smooth as hell!
Oh, look! There's Mt. Fuji peeking down on us!
Just an absolute unit
While the city is great, the Japanese countryside is really somethin' else.
And here we are! City Walk at Universal Studios Japan!
Photo by Robb And this is where we'll be having our welcome meal!
It was all-you-can-eat! I had never been to one of these kinds of restaurants before, but it was cool being able to cook your own meat on the grill. Plus the food was great!
Photo by Robb None of us were particularly confident enough in our cooking skills to try our hands at the chicken, so we just stuck to the beef. Who could complain, though?
We headed to our new hotel to get settled in a bit. They had these lil jelly bois outside the elevators.
I gotta say, the hotel at Universal was probably my favorite!
After getting everything situated, a few of us decided to go to the Umeda Sky Building.
As you can see, the Umeda Sky Building is a massive Π-shaped structure that towers over its surroundings.
Looks like fun
Nice of them to give the water its own set of stairs
You see those beams spanning that gap up there…?
Those are escalators!
Ah yes, the second-largest Lego model of the Umeda Sky Building I've ever seen.
Up on top, in the open air, you get a stunning view of downtown Osaka!
Random giant Ferris wheel in the distance
Yeah, those escalators are nuts!
I happened to catch some fireworks going off waaaaaaayy off in distance
You get a great view of the Yodo River from up here
Here I am looking like a complete jabroni
After getting our fill, we headed back to Umeda Station to go to our next destination: Dōtombori!
There was a bunch of covered walkways on the way to the canal
And we're here!
Dōtombori is definitely the most famous area of Osaka with its canal and unique signage
I just love this place!
You can take a boat ride down the canal!
Like I said, they've got some unique signs here….
Of all the signs here, the most famous is almost certainly the "Glico Man." Different iterations of this sign have been up since 1935, with the current one having been installed in 2014. It's common to see people taking pictures posing like the man.
More crazy signs
In case there was any doubt, the Japanese do love their seafood.
"Come to our restaurant! We're the one with the evil baby!"
We started heading back around this time. Apparently, this used to be a drop tower, but it's now a rock climbing wall. Still cool, though!
Some nice art to accompany your commute
All in all, Osaka is every bit as vibrant as Tokyo and has tons of cool attractions!
Next up: Misaki Park and Adventure World!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
^Thanks! Those days were easily on par with the park days!
Day 6: Misaki Park and Adventure World
I had been in Japan for nearly a week, and today was finally the first official day of the trip! The plan was to head due south to two smaller parks: Misaki Park and Adventure World. Some people held back, preferring to get more time at USJ. I, for one, was excited to check out some lesser-known parks and all the quirks that come with them; however, things got off to a (literally) rocky start….
As we were on the train platform to head out of Osaka, I suddenly felt as though I were already on a train! I had gotten accustomed to that sensation by this point, so keeping my balance wasn't a huge issue, but if there's one thing I know, it's that train stations don't typically shake from side to side. I was listening to some music through my bulky headphones, but even through them I could hear some banging around; I thought a train was crashing or something! By the time I realized what was going on, it was over, leaving me to take off my headphones and say, "Was that an earthquake!"
Of course, it was an earthquake—a strong one at that! While it was a relatively modest 5.5–6.0 (depending on your source/scale), it was very shallow, and we were quite near the epicenter! The quake was evidently enough to warrant a Wikipedia article, and this one was apparently the first of its strength to be measured in Osaka Prefecture! (The Kansai region apparently doesn't get quite as many quakes as many other regions). Unfortunately, the quake did end up killing four people and injuring hundreds more, but in an area with millions and millions of people, I suppose it's a testament to Japanese engineering that there weren't more.
Although this was my first ever earthquake, I probably underreacted to the initial event; I had thought that something like this might happen, although I still probably should've been watching out for falling light fixtures, one of which did fall across the track from us. That being said, I did end up feeling a little unnerved for basically the rest of the trip. I frequently felt a slight swaying sensation, but I didn't know whether it was from real aftershocks, from being on trains all day, or maybe my mind was just playing tricks on me. There were actual aftershocks, though; I remember feeling a small swaying sensation at the hotel sink and then looking up to see the hand towels swaying too!
Anyway, back to the station: Only a train or two made it past over the next hour or so, but everyone was clearly hard at work to get everything up and running again. Overall, it took about two hours of sitting around on the platform for us to get out of the station. The turnaround was pretty damn impressive for what had just occurred, but it was now a race against the clock for us!
"So the legends were true…."
Misaki Park is in the southern reaches of Osaka Prefecture and was certainly the smallest and quirkiest park we'd been to thus far.
As you can see, the park was a little… homely?
Our first ride of the day was this really weird Hopkins coaster called the "New Wild Mouse Coaster", which is strange because there seems to have never been an old wild mouse. I really don't know what to make of this thing; it's like Hopkins had some spare track lying around and then cobbled together some pseudo-mouse coaster.
As was usual for this trip, the park was deserted (school was in session), and they had some creepy music playing over the speakers. I can only imagine how unsettling this would have been if I'd been alone!
Photo by Robb We then moved on to do some whoring on the Child Coaster! Obviously, the seating conditions weren't ideal.
Photo by Taylor Just smile and wave….
Children on the Child Coaster
Photo by Robb "What can I say? I needed the credit!"
Photo by Chuck The last credit was up the hill: Jet Coaster!
Jetto Kōsutā is the generic term for roller coasters in Japanese, and coasters with that name tend to be, well, kinda generic. That's not to say they can't be fun, though! This jet coaster in particular is the second oldest coaster in Japan, and it gives very nice views of the surrounding area!
Photo by Robb The ride's similar to Cyclone at Toshimaen, but it doesn't have as much airtime or speed. We didn't have much time to savor it, though; we had to move quick if we wanted to make it to our next park!
Photo by Robb Some decided to dip around this time, fearing we wouldn't make it to the next park in time. For us intrepid few, though, we didn't mind cutting it close!
Adventure Park was the southernmost park on the trip, and the trip from Misaki is a couple hours long.
I was totally fine with that, though, 'cause the trip through Wakayama Prefecture was stunningly beautiful! Most of trip stayed along the coast, with its several scattered villages and rias. Even if we hadn't made it to the park, the views on this train would've been worth it!
On the way, we passed by an amusement park across the water called Porto Europa. It turns out that its big coaster is SBNO, so no big deal passing it up.
There's something about industrial areas like this that I think's really cool
There's just something so comfy about these little towns with their rice fields situated in these green valleys
I would totally live here
As we neared our destination, we were treated to some splendid views of the Pacific!
Not so much of a beach, but still beautiful nonetheless!
And here we are! And just under the wire too! That being said, we only had about half an hour to get our rides in. As you can see, the park was celebrating its 40th anniversary. (Actually, a lot of parks/things seemed to be celebrating anniversaries….)
To tell you the truth, I don't think I'd ever heard of this park before, but I was immediately taken by its gorgeous location!
Sorry guys, we've got credits to get!
Photo by Robb For our first ride, we all flocked to Big Adventure, the park's biggest coaster.
Photo by Robb This is us in adventure mode. Truth is, Big Adventure is pretty much THE archetypal jet coaster, with not much in the way of forces, but a pretty nice ride overall.
Because one weird wild mouse in a day wasn't enough…. The panda theming (oh yeah, this park has pandas btw) was already amusing, but the ride itself was really odd, with not as much of the laterals as you'd expect on a mouse…
…but the brakes certainly pack a punch!
They also have a fun powered coaster for you whores out there
In the "never in America" section of the park…
Photo by Robb After getting our rides in, it was time to leave. Would've liked to have stayed longer, but clearly our circumstances weren't ideal!
Misaki Park and Adventure World kinda fill the same niche for a coaster enthusiast: they're small parks with average rides. But while they won't be most people's first choices when they come to Japan, they're nice enough for their charm.
After leaving, it was a quick cab ride back to the train station.
Adventure World really does have a surprisingly good setting!
As we waited for the train, we got to walk around this cozy little area and pick up some snacks before the long trip back.
Caught some surfers catching some waves!
The ride back wasn't without delays, but basically everything was up and running again by the end of the day, impressively. Arriving back at Universal, many of the stores were closed for the time being, but at least we wouldn't have to worry about any long train rides the following day….
Next up: Universal Studios!
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
^Thanks, Elissa! I'm glad we all escaped unscathed!
Day 7: Universal Studios Japan
After the craziness of the day before, this day came as something of a relief. We wouldn't have to worry about getting stuck on any platforms, and we didn't need to race anywhere; it was just just a short walk to the park! I was really looking forward to this, as I hadn't been to a Universal park in ten years!
Of course, things could never go that smoothly….
Runner-up in the 2018 "Sequels That Never Should Have Happened" contest
So, today was the first day we faced any real crowds on this trip. Being that it was a Tuesday, I'm willing to bet most of the other guests were tourists from other East Asian countries, and I did seem to hear a lot of non-Japanese spoken. Goes to show how big of a draw this place is!
Photo by Robb "Move out of the way, casuals! It's credit time!"
…Or so we thought. As it turns out, the park's major coasters were still shut down due to the earthquake, although the park issued no heads up about that. We hoped they might open up later in the day, but they never did. This lack of communication was compounded by the fact that the park offered no refunds for tickets that day. So while Robb dealt with this whole situation, the rest of us split off to make the best of our visit.
Luckily, the ride formerly known as Space Fantasy was up and running. This year they themed the ride to Final Fantasy. For this, they had VR headsets, which wasn't so bad because the trains don't stop in the station, so the line moved fine. Unfortunately, the cars didn't spin like usual, and only the front-facing seats were used. (And also I didn't see any Tifa, so I was disappointed, personally ).
Even if we couldn't ride the coasters, the view on the lake was pretty great! (Doug broke his head in the earthquake pls pray for him)
I remember us doing Terminator around this time. I had already seen it in Orlando, and it was exactly as I remembered it, but I gotta say, the hostess had the most impressively intense bow I've ever seen!
Okay, so the Flying Dinosaur wasn't open, but at least we had this classic to ride!
Of course the American's gotta ruin everything
Obviously, we couldn't go to Universal and not ride their Spider-Man ride.
It started to rain around noon, which is okay in a park consisting largely of indoor rides. (I mean, it's not like the coasters were gonna open anyway…). My group and I headed over to the Hogwarts area—something that was completely new to me!
I knew next to nothing about the Harry Potter ride, but I was pleasantly surprised! I probably would've appreciated it more if I understood what the hell was going on, but it was certainly an experience!
Luckily for us, Flight of the Hippogriff was open!
While we were in this area, we checked out the Wand Studies… "show," I guess? If you don't know, in this thing, one person in a small crowd is chosen to wield a wand. A wizard dude then instructs the "student" to cast spells on various things in the room. Hijinks ensue. Me being the young, bright-eyed lad I am, I was the one chosen to be the wizard in training. Looking back, I feel like I shoulda hammed it up a bit more, but I was probably too dumbstruck to really feel the performance, y'know?
The restaurant's really cool!
Leaked scene from the fifth Jaws movie, And You Thought the Last Three Were Bad.
After being thoroughly wizarded, a few of us went over to the Peanuts area to ride the looks-like-a-Vekoma-but-is-actually-a-Senyo kiddie coaster over there. Surprise, surprise, it was down! It had been open earlier, but, I dunno, maybe this indoor coaster doesn't run in the rain….
Heading back to the front gate, I spied an attraction advertising Sailor Moon. Now, I've never watched Sailor Moon before, but, c'mon, how could I pass this up?? The attraction itself is a 3-D movie wherein the theater is ripped out from the park and flung into space, and it's up to Sailor Moon et al. to save you! It was strange, but I would have regretted missing it.
At this point, I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the hotel and wait to hear if any of the rides open. And we all know how turned out. This day was by no means a bad day, but there was a palpable disappointment among our group, especially those who had visited before. But we'd get our redemption!
Next up: Washuzan Highland!
Oh yeah, they have a Minions area too…. Fuck that.
—Nick Z. Like a nun with a gun, I'm wonderful fun.
It's unfortunate how bad the guest service has become at Universal Japan lately. It used to be one of my top favorite parks in the world, but when you end up having a better visit to Fuji-Q than Universal Studios Japan... that really says something. The trouble I had with the park goes well beyond what Nick mentioned in the report, and while I won't go into many details, I will say that this was now my SECOND experience where things have most certainly gone south at this park, and some of the issues I encountered happened BEFORE the earthquake, so it wasn't just a one-off happening. I'm hoping that maybe the park will be able to redeem themselves during our upcoming October visit...
Last edited by robbalvey on Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:47 am.
Has USJ finally priced out their express passes to slow demand? It used to be I had to book months in advance and pray to the weather gods, but lately, I've been able to get them for 2-3days ahead of time. It's been a few years and I remember them being pricey even for not getting all the rides but I don't remember it being as much as 630 dollars for entry and a fast pass 7 for 2 people?
Garet wrote:Has USJ finally priced out their express passes to slow demand?
Let's just put it this way... we are about to spend around $400 per person for *ONE DAY* worth of Express Passes that will get us MOST attractions during the day of our next visit and in the evening of Halloween Horror Nights.
Note that $400 gets you MOST attractions... Not ALL...
I'm also not too pleased about that either...
Last edited by robbalvey on Fri Aug 16, 2019 6:58 am.
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