Last weekend my friend and I went to Osaka. Our main purpose was to go to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) but we also managed to see a bit of Osaka and visit Himeji Castle. And, of course, we found time for some takoyaki, too!
I went to Gifu on Saturday night and stayed at my friend’s house (after an amazing Mexican meal!), then on the Sunday morning we got up ridiculously early, after not much sleep at all, and took local trains to Osaka. Normally I’m really lazy and splash out on the bullet train, but it is a lot more expensive than the local trains. The trouble with local trains is that they take a lot of organisation and sometimes it can be hard to read the signs etc. Anyway, we were lucky (well, my friend had already figured it all out) and we got to Osaka in one piece! We were staying at J-Hoppers, but it was too early, so we just dumped our stuff in a locker and headed straight for USJ.
USJ was, I’m glad to say, a lot less hectic and crowded than Disneyland was when we went last November. I don’t think we waited much more than an hour for anything, which meant we could go on all of the main rides, and even went on the Hollywood Dream roller coaster twice!
This was probably the most awesome ride I’ve ever been on! It was very fast and really exciting!
The Spider-Man ride was pretty cool…
Back to the Future was quite fun…
E.T. was a bit lame, but I was amused to see that it was sponsored by Docomo (the big phone company!)…
Jurassic Park was more exciting than the movie (I don’t like that movie!)…
The Land of Oz had the most interesting vending machine I’ve ever seen…
…and it also had these cool wish plaque things, which are like the ones you get at shrines…
Just like Disneyland, USJ has an illuminated parade at night. It was pretty cool, although very crowded. I was surprised to see so many Disney characters there though (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin…).
Overall, I thought USJ was better than Disneyland, simply because we were actually able to go on more rides and move around freely. I’m sure it’s a different story in the summer though!
After we left USJ we watched a great street entertainer called Riki:
I wanted to mention him because, not only was his act very fun and entertaining, his Japanese was also fantastic! He was from Canada (I think), but had clearly been in Japan a long time I was quite jealous of his language skills!
The next day, Monday, we decided to go to Himeji Castle. Neither of us had been before, and it’s supposed to be a pretty big deal so we thought we should take the opportunity and see for ourselves. I wasn’t disappointed.
Himeji Castle, sometimes called the ‘White Heron Castle’ because of its white exterior, is pretty impressive. I imagine it would look even more so during cherry blossom season, but even on a random March Monday it looked pretty cool.
Himeji Castle is famous for a couple of reasons. One is that it is one of the few remaining original castles (not a reconstruction). Apparently it’s the most visited castle in Japan! Another reason it’s famous is that it’s been featured in a number of movies, including The Last Samurai (one of my favourites!).
I’m not a massive castle fan, to tell the truth, but I do like the good ones. Nagoya Castle is alright, but Inuyama and Himeji’s castles make Nagoya’s look like it was built by monkeys! And the fact that Nagoya Castle has an elevator just ruins it for me, I’m afraid! In Inuyama and Himeji’s castles you have to take off your shoes – that’s how it should be!
One of the best parts of climbing up to the top of a castle is always seeing the view:
After Himeji, we headed back to Osaka, where we took in a whirlwind tour of the main sights. I’ve been to Osaka before, and expect to go again, so I wasn’t too bothered about what we had time to see this time.
We started with the Umeda Sky Buillding, which is an amazing piece of architecture.
There’s the Statue of Liberty…
An amazing takoyaki souvenir shop, which even had a theme tune!! (“Ta-ta-takoyaki..”)
Naturally, we stopped (in the rain) for some takoyaki…
Dotonbori was, as always, filled with amazing things I had to take photos of!
And, despite the rain, it was excellent fun!
Osaka is a great place to visit, but I’m not sure if I would want to live there. Maybe it’s just a little too crazy for me! Mind you, they do have some of the best food in Osaka (takoyaki, okonomiyaki…). However, I was very disappointed to discover that Osaka doesn’t have its own Kit Kat flavour!!! Where are the takoyaki flavoured Kit Kats, huh??
I did find these takoyaki flavoured lollipops though:
I took them into work and tried one, but actually I couldn’t finish it! It was very peculiar tasting!!!
I’ve realised recently that travel has become all about the food for me! I think, to quote one of my school’s textbooks, I’ve become a “food tourist”. Well, at least I didn’t become a train spotter! It could be worse… 😉