Okay, wow, this installment of #IKansaiClearlyNow is so late. I’m so sorry. You know how it is. Academics, work, social life – sometimes I wonder how I’m still alive, haha.
For our third and fourth in Japan, we explored our “home base”, Osaka. We didn’t have as much activities planned for these days, so we could afford to chill a little. (Figuratively and literally, because the temperature dropped to 11 degrees. I know some of you would pooh-pooh at that temperature, but yours truly is an island girl, through and through. The cold always bothers me.)
We started relatively late, since we didn’t have much to do. For our third day, all we had planned was a visit to Osaka Castle, and then shopping and dinner in Dōtonbori (yes, again – out of all the places we went to in Kansai, Dōtonbori just might be our fave!). We left our AirBnB at around nine and had brunch at a nearby cafe – where, thanks to the cheesy omelettes we had, we learned that the word for cheese, チーズ, is pronounced chee-zu.
From there, it was a quick train ride to Osaka Castle. It’s a major landmark of the city, so it’s quite easy to get there.There are several train stations in the area, so you can be assured of getting there no matter where in Osaka you’re coming from.
In 1583, Toyotomi Hideyoshi started construction on the castle. In 1600, the castle was attacked by Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had started his own shogunate in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). This was the infamous Siege of Osaka, which lasted fifteen years. In the summer of 1615, the castle fell and the Toyotomi family was extinguished, beginning the famous Tokugawa shogunate.
The castle park is open to the public, while the castle itself was turned into a very informative museum. I don’t have many pictures inside, except for a couple of shots of me, my brother, and my mom on the viewing deck at the top (which has an amazing view of the Osaka skyline).
The castle grounds are beautiful, and we were lucky enough to be there at the golden hour, just before the sun set, so the lighting was absolutely perfect.
We also had our fill of my absolute favorite takoyaki, which can be bought at the stalls outside the main gates. I firmly believe that this is the best takoyaki in all of Osaka. (FIGHT ME.) We also had green tea ice cream! (The matcha sundaes from McDonald’s can’t compare, I’m sorry.)
For dinner, we returned to Dōtonbori, in particular a conveyor belt sushi restaurant called Genrokuzushi – yes, that place marked with the statue of a giant hand holding sushi.
After dinner, we decided to go shopping at Don Quijote, the biggest discount shopping group in Japan. The Don Quijote branch in in Dōtonbori is quite big, and very overwhelming. Here, we bought KitKats (of course) and other brands of chocolate, skincare (thinking of making a post just for the skincare stuff that I bought in Japan, to be honest), and some clothes. I also bought myself an Anello bag, which cost me JPY 3,900, which is only Php 1,800 (For comparison, I checked out the exact same bag at the Anello store in UP Town – it was a whopping Php 2,800. The one I bought in Japan was a whole Php 1,000 cheaper.)
The following day was Halloween, my favorite holiday! As an added bonus, that day was our Universal Studios day!
Apparently, USJ is a popular destination in Japan on Halloween, so we bought our tickets and express passes on Klook. To make sure we could maximize our stay, we also left our AirBnb at 6AM (quite an accomplishment for us, to be honest). When we got to USJ, it was only 7AM, but there was already a long line at the entrance and at the ticketing stand. It pays to plan, folks!
They let us in at 7:30AM. I’ve never been to an amusement park at opening time, so it was absolutely magical. Every staff member greeted the guests with a cheery, “Happy Halloween!” as we passed by, and This Is Halloween from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack was playing over the speakers. The whole day, Halloween music was piped throughout the park. My favorite was Time Warp from the infamous Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have no photographic or video evidence because we were too excited, but a crowd started dancing when the Time Warp chorus came on, and we joined in! (it’s just a jump to the left, and a step to the ri-i-i-ight! Put your hands on your hips, and bring your knees in tight! But it’s the pelvic thru-u-ust, that really drives you insa-a-a-a-ane. LEEEET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAAAAAAAIN.)
(Can you tell I’m a fan?)
Our Express Lane passes got us access to the Spider-Man ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Hollywood Dream – The Ride, Hollywood Dream – The Backdrop, the Jurassic Park ride, and the Jaws ride. But because we really wanted to ride it and it wasn’t on our Express pass access, we headed first for The Flying Dinosaur.
That ride made me see my life flash before my eyes. You’re in the prone position attached to the bottom of a roller coaster and zoom and zip and loop-de-loop all over the park. Imagine going up the traditional slow incline up a roller coaster, but face-down and seeing just exactly how far you could fall, with nothing between you and certain, splattery death but a roller coaster harness.
Nice, isn’t it?
After The Flying Dinosaur, we rode Spider-Man and Jaws, which, though simple, was a classic – and of course, Jaws is one of my favorite movies. We really got into the story, despite not knowing how to speak Japanese. My sister even screamed when the robot shark came out of the water and “attacked” the boat.
After the Jaws ride, we headed for the one place in USJ we all absolutely, positively, really wanted to go. I’m a die-hard Potterhead, so you can only imagine how hella stoked I was to finally go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Our passes said we could ride at 10:30, so we spent half an hour wandering around Hogsmeade, taking pictures and tasting butterbeer. (The verdict? Butterbeer is good, but I wouldn’t want to shell out another JPY 600 for another one.)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was amazing. I never thought of the dementors in the movie as particularly scary before, but boy did I change my mind after going on this ride.
We finished up with the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which was one of those chill roller coasters for kids, then had lunch at The Three Broomsticks. On our way out of the Wizarding World, we took photos at the site of the crashed Ford Anglia!
After lunch, we rode the Jurassic Park ride – another classic which had my brother screaming at the top of his lungs, both Hollywood Dreams – the Backdrop is a must; it’s exactly what it sounds like, a roller coaster where you sit facing the back instead of the front, and the Minion ride – which was really weird.
We caught the USJ Halloween parade, had a quick snack of ice cream, rode the Spider-Man ride again (my brother really liked it), and then headed home.
It was a hella tiring day, but we went home very, very, very happy! It was a good thing too that our day in USJ was a good one, because – cue tears – it was our last in Japan.