Japan 2017 – Day 9 and 10

Day 9: Universal Studios Japan

Imagine if you had a theme park like Universal Studios just a bike ride from your house. That is the situation in Osaka. Universal Studios Japan is 2 train stops away from the Osaka loop line via the Sakurajima line. You know you’ve transferred to the right train (at Nishikujo station) when you encounter a train covered in cartoon characters. Even on a cold February Wednesday morning, the park was packed. It took 30-45 minutes just to get in the park even though we arrived at the entrance during the opening hour. Its smaller than the theme park in Orlando but it’s large enough to take a full day to cover it. And it’s the 15th year anniversary of this theme park! My advice other than getting there early on a weekday is to get a fast pass, otherwise your day will be 50% waiting on a line.

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What separates this theme park from the one in the USA are 2 major things:

 

  • The rides are in Japanese. Elmo and Cookie Monster are speaking Japanese only as Erumo and Kuki Monsuta. Even Harry Potter and the gang have become Japanese. But it doesn’t really matter, a ride is a ride.
  • Universal Cool Japan. It’s a suite of Japan-only rides/attractions that outclass most rides in my opinion. Also, they are anime themed, so extra points right there. The rides for 2017 were Godzilla, Attack on Titan, Evangelion XR, Detective Conan (didn’t do this one), and Monster Hunter. The first 3 are perhaps the best rides I’ve been on period.

 

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Additionally there are the common areas like Harry Potter world, Jurassic world, and such.

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Remember when I said to get a fast pass. Look at these record-breaking wait times!

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After being there for hours and seeing the multitude of young locals in groups and dressed up in park-bought attire, I believe that the theme park is a big after school hang out spot. The 3pm parade was quite impressive, they know how to throw a party.

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You may get hungry by the end of the day. Conveniently placed right outside the park is an avenue full of shops and restaurants. This was our last day in Osaka. As we headed back to our Kyoto hotel, we realized that it was also our last night in Kyoto. Time to pack and get ready to catch that early morning bullet train back to Tokyo.

Day 10: Back to Shinjuku, last day in Tokyo

Finally, a much-needed rest day. After arriving back into the madness that is Tokyo station via the bullet train, we hopped on the local train back to Shinjuku station (once we were able to actually find that train platform). Checked into the hotel and had a good 8 hours to spend eating at places, last-minute souvenir shopping, and spending the remaining coins at the arcade. We did not stay up too late since we had an early morning flight back to NYC. I have to admit, it is hard to say goodbye to a this place, this country. The food is great, the people are nice, so much to see and do, and I only managed to cover a fraction of it. Arigato and sayonara Japan! Maybe I’ll see you again during Olympics 2020.

Seaworld and Universal

Its been quite a while since I went on vacation. Before the review and recommendations, there are a few announcements. Not too long ago, I was convinced there would be no more full marathons after I complete my first. Somehow, I signed up for the Disney marathon in January 2014. Also, all shin splints and pains are gone ever since I’ve switched to minimalist sneakers. And finally, NYC marathon training is in full effect!

Day 1: Seaworld
Me and my wife took an early JetBlue flight to Orlando during the climax of tropical storm Andrea. We checked into Loews Royal Pacific hotel (on-site). The package deal came with park tickets, transportation, early entry to Harry Potter world, and fast passes. With most of the Seaworld parking lot empty, the non-stop pouring rain did not kill the experience at all. Good thing we packed rain jackets although walking around in swim trunks would’ve worked as well. Seaworld is a combination of aquarium, amusement park (rides), and circus (shows). Water animals are my favorite so I was looking forward to this place.

Shows:
Obviously, you can’t go to Seaworld without seeing the Shamu show. Orcas are bigger than I thought. When finding a seat prior to the show, make sure you sit in the “splash zone” seats on purpose. It didn’t make sense until the orcas were lined up with their tails in the air.
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Another must-see show is the Dolphin show; a combination of human and dolphin acrobats. There was someone who rode 2 dolphins by standing on them, which I didn’t think was possible before.
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And 3rd, the pirate/seal show is a good one, quite funny.

Rides:
The 2 big ones: Manta and Kraken; coasters with big drops, loops, and twists. If you’ve been to 6 Flags Great Adventure, then Manta is like the Superman and Kraken is like the Medusa. Due to the heavy rain, these rides were down for most of the day. Eh, maybe next time. I’ve been on enough coasters. There is a log flume ride (every park has one) but we were already soaked. And avoid the Wild Arctic helicopter simulation, it will get you sick, trust me. Just take the “walk” option to arrive at the same Beluga whale/Polar bear/Walrus area.

Aquariums:
They were really good. The best place to be when its pouring rain outside.
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Food:
All I have to say is: BYOL (bring your own lunch). Unless you like amusement park hamburgers and fries all day.

Interaction:
The Stingray Lagoon was pretty cool. Just stick your hand in and you can feel them all up. Feed them at your own risk though, they have strong suction and your fingers can easily strike their teeth, which can hurt. Feeding dolphins at the Dolphin Cove was great. First time I touched a dolphin, their skin feels like rubber. $7 for a handful of sardines. Out of all the dolphins, the fat one kept eating all our sardines.
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It was the grand opening of the Antarctica exhibit. Imagine wearing shorts on a 80+ degree day and walking into a huge room full of king penguins, but its 32 degrees.
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We had the unique behind the scenes experience to speak with the penguin caretakers and actually got to hold a baby penguin. This dude was the fluffiest thing you could imagine. I think his parents were behind the gate monitoring us.
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Day 2-A: Islands of Adventure
The most important thing… get a fast pass. Don’t even bother going without one. The best thrill ride is skipping 60 minute lines. The ideal strategy is to start with the Islands of Adventure and then head for Universal Studios. I had no idea how crazy people get for Harry Potter world. We were there 10 minutes after the park just opened and somehow a 35-40 minute line formed for the Harry Potter ride. The ride was worth the wait and the world itself was quite impressive. I hear that its expanding too.
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Next stop… Jurassic Park land. T-Rex caught the Shoryuken uppercut. The River Adventure log flume ride was cool. You’ll get sick and tired of the theme song which is played in a loop the entire time though.
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Next stop… Toon town. All I have to say is… Popeye water ride. Not a dry spot on me and more soaked then the day before. If you wear a lot of make-up, good luck. The best part was finding the tugboat with the water guns to get my revenge on the kids who were shooting me. I wasn’t the only one who had vengeance. Firrre!
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There were other opportunities to get wet on a water slide or a log flume but I was not dressed for the beach.

Next stop… Lost Continent, only good thing here was the Mythos restaurant. Just like rides, there were lines for this restaurant, but not for us since we setup a 12:00 reservation (great idea wife). Great food and big portions.

Next stop… Marvel world. I just had lunch so no Hulk coaster for me. However, the Spiderman ride was awesome. 

Day 2-B: Universal Studios
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With the fast pass, it was a non-stop 5-6 hour blur of rides. I’ll just discuss my top 3. Right at the entrance, we skipped a 45 minute “Despicable Me” line. It was for kids but it was still fun, and I’m a big kid. The MIB (Men in Black) ride was so cool that I did it twice (fast pass remember). 6 people to a moving pod and you get a laser gun to shoot all aliens that pop up. With an almost empty pod, I took 2 guns and blasted away. Finally, with luck on my side, it was the grand opening of the Transformers ride; my favorite. Trust me, go on this ride even if you don’t have a fast pass.
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And I bumped into a mad scientist who drove this DeLorean car.
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And yes, Simpsons world just came out. I had to try the “Flaming Moe”.
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Night 2: Citiwalk
There is a long strip of restaurants, night clubs, and shops right outside the parks. We ate at Latin Quarter and called it a night. Resting was much better than partying after being on your feet all day and getting shaken up from all the rides. How do the parents do it with all their kids!?

Day 3-9: Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean
To Be Continued…