I would consider Japan as one of the most visited East Asian countries these days. The country is known for its unique culture that somehow still manages to mix the past and the present. And unlike other Asian countries, Japan was able to merge their cultural heritage to the technological advancement their country is going through. You gotta admire the Japanese’ sense of nationalism.
And finally, being on number five on my travel bucket list, I was able to visit Japan this February. And honestly, I have no plans of scratching it off my list since I have more than one plan of visiting it again. 🙂
So here’s what happened on our 8-day adventure in Japan plus some tips on their transportation system.
Since we’re staying for 8 days with Osaka and Tokyo on our itinerary, we decided to claim a JR Pass for our travel within the country. JR Passes could be ordered through various travel agencies in your country or through the JR Pass website. It would be delivered to you 2-3 days via FedEx.
Our point of entry was Narita airport and Osaka has been a spur of the moment decision just because we wanted to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios.
We ordered a 7-day JR Pass so that we could utilize it on our stay in both Osaka and Tokyo. The time covered would start on the day you have it activated. It is very much advisable to get JR passes if you’re travelling from one prefecture to another since it has no limits of use as long as the date on it is still valid.
The JR pass is acceptable in all JR Lines in Tokyo, Osaka and other prefectures, the Narita Express Line and the Shinkansen lines. These passes are not re-loadable. You pay for it on a one-time only basis and you’re free to use it on all accepted lines for the number of days you choose. JR Passes are only sold to foreigners.
Upon arrival on Narita Airport, we had our passes exchange for the card ticket that you show to the train guards. You don’t need to pass through the turnstiles, just show them to the window and they’ll let you pass.
Don’t lose your ticket! The unlimited pass starts from $250. It’s like losing a plane ticket
We used our JR Pass on Narita Express going to Tokyo Station, from Tokyo Station we headed for the Shinkansen lines and traveled to Shin Osaka.
Narita Express have stops to Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro. As for the Shinkansen, if you’re traveling to Osaka using the JR pass, always head for the Hikari, Sakura, Kodama and Tsubame trains. Ask around, most Japanese guards knows English and there are always people willing to help you when you’re lost.
Oh, and by the way, Tokyo station is a maze of people of gates. Don’t get lost. Find the nearest Information desk and ask immediately. You’ll walk close to a kilometer if you entered the wrong gate.
The Shinkansen was amazing. Its form, its interior were all superb. Plus, it’s really super fast. The trip from Tokyo to Osaka only took us 2 1/2 hours. You could also bring food and drinks in the train. You may eat during the journey. The seats are very comfy and they have places for you to leave your luggage. Cars 1-5 are non-reserved cars. I think that there’s no need to reserve seats on off-peak seasons, the trains usually get jam-packed during Sakura season (spring). Check the JR East website for their timetables and schedules as well.
Upon arrival in Osaka we went to our apartment and roam around the neighborhood in Nishikujo. Nishikujo station is a 5 minute ride to Universal City Station and 7 minutes away from Osaka Station. There are a lot of restaurants around and supermarkets as well.
Our main goal in Osaka, as earlier mentioned, is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so Universal Studios had been our target for the next day.
Universal Studios Japan is directly connected to Universal City station that works under the JR Line.
Upon arrival, the Universal Citywalk would welcome you. It is almost the exact replica of the one in Los Angeles. There are though, a few additions like the anime stores, the Takoyaki Museum and some other Japanese inspired shops.
The day we visited USJ, it was raining and the temperature was close to 1 degree Celsius but that didn’t stop us from having fun!
Of course, as soon as we came in, we started looking for the Wizarding World. But you see, the USJ is built in a way that you won’t miss any attractions. The streets all lead to the same places. So we just roamed around and stopped by stores and attractions that we find really nice.
Here are some photos of our adventure:
And finally, here are photos from our Wizarding World experience. I’m a huge, huge Potterhead so I guess, it just goes without saying.. 🙂
There’s usually a long line but we just waited for around 20 minutes to order and get seated. Their ordering and seat schemes are orderly and very effective so you won’t wait long to be seated.
Go shopping at Ollivanders, Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes. I was really looking forward to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes but they didn’t have in Universal Osaka.
Ollivander’s have a little show before you buy your wands. It’s a little re-enactment of the scene from the movie. 🙂
Don’t miss out on Butterbeer. Even if blogs tell you that it doesn’t taste good, you’ll miss a lot if you just decided not to buy one. Since it was winter, they offered a hot version of the drink and I think that it was okay. It’s more like caramel-y in taste but it’s not as horrible as other said it was.
You could choose from a plastic cup, a heat resistant souvenir mug or a tin can type of mug. I got the second one since it’s less expensive than the third plus, I want a souvenir. 🙂
Just go enjoy the grounds. Roam around, check out every shop. We weren’t able to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff because it was raining so hard so we just decided to head to the Castle.
The Hogwarts Castle is not far. In fact, you could see it anywhere in the park. 🙂
The Hogwarts Castle houses the Forbidden Journey ride. It’s the most famous ride in the Harry Potter Theme park. The waiting line though could take from 70 to 90 minutes. The ride also only have Japanese language but don’t fret, the ride is still awesome! 😀
Here are a few more stills inside the park:
We spent majority of the day in the Wizarding World but that doesn’t mean that we forgot the park in general. There’s a lot to see and experience. Even just by walking around, you’ll get to experience new stuff.
Plus, if you’re an Anime fan like me, drop by the Cool Japan Area in USJ . They have the Evangelion XR Ride, Godzilla, Attack on Titan and Detective Conan. The Evangelion ride has probably the longest queue but it’s worth it.
Plus, you’ll never miss the “life-size” Armoured titan from Shingeki no Kyojin anime where you can have your photo taken. 🙂 — I lined up for this!
And by the end of the day, if you’re done with the whole park, go around City Walk and try some of their souvenir shops. We also tried the takoyaki museum and grabbed some awesome takoyakis. — This is a must try so don’t miss out on this. 🙂
We left Universal Studios at around 5pm and we headed back to Osaka Station. Osaka Station is a spot as well. It is surrounded by neighboring malls and hotels and food strips. A 10-15 minute walk away from Osaka station is the Umeda Sky Building.
Try roaming around Osaka Station at night and look for a good place that serves Okonomiyaki. 🙂
Visit the Umeda Sky Building. If you have time, you could also go up the building’s viewing deck for 1000yen ($8).
Since our Osaka visit was a last-minute decision, we only get to stay in the place for a day and a half.
So the following morning, we boarded the Shinkansen once again and traveled back to Tokyo.
The travel time back to Tokyo was shorter than our first time since the train has lesser stops. We also get to see snow-filled neighborhoods on the way.
Osaka was a very unique place. Even for a day and a half of stay, I loved the place. I still haven’t been to other places in the prefecture and I would love to see more of it. As per my experience, it’s not as crowded and fast-paced as Tokyo. Plus, it’s near Kyoto, the cultural capital of the country.
Hopefully, next time, I could explore more of the Kansai Region.
Tokyo adventure would be on Part two of the Japan visit which would be available very soon! 🙂