Day twenty-two – Nara to Tokyo

This was another one of those transit days. I was at least comforted that it was our last time switching cities. Our last time on a shinkansen.

To get from Nara to Tokyo we took three local trains from Nara to Kyoto, because the shinkansen doesn’t go there, and we got on the local which requires a transfer, and then we got on a regular local line and after a few stops the conductor suggested we switch to a rapid. Once in Kyoto we secured reserved seats on the Mt Fuji side of the shinkansen to Shinagawa station, Tokyo.

I tried to use the 2.5 hour trip to catch up on my physical travel journal, which is somewhat neglected because of this one but I’m still keeping it all the same. But once again I got motion sickness… I think maybe I’m too old now to shinkansen and write? I’ve never had trouble before, and I was sitting right at the window, so I don’t know what else it could have been. Staring out the window helped, and I saw a collection of neat things out the window…

  • a dirt path up a low hill into the forest, with a stone Torii gate on it
  • a toddler and parent meeting school kids on the raised path in the middle of a field. The toddler was running towards a kid with a school bag, who had crouched and opened their arms
  • a daring soul who had extended their balcony washing line out over the street, past the railings of their balcony (no one does this)
  • a woman who had just got off the train doing the ‘oh god do I have my glasses?’ panic dance, patting pockets, head, sides, and then finding them in her bag
  • Mt Fuji playing peekaboo

 

By the time we got to Tokyo I was feeling pretty wretchedly tired and over it all. Too much dragging suitcases, too much trains, too much feeling grimy from travel, etc etc.

We got a taxi from the station to Ariake, and the driver got lost a couple of times and I had that ‘oh god is he scamming the gaijin?’ but when he dropped us off he apologised profusely and took a third off the price of the fare, so I think he just genuinely didn’t know the area. Tokyo is so huge, it must be easy to have places you’ve just never gone before, even as a taxi driver.

Our hotel in Ariake was gigantic, it had a convention centre in it, two different restaurants, a big konbini and a package sending service. We had dinner at one of the restaurants, and made use of the giant bath in the room.

I got to the ‘overtired and emotional’ stage when I couldn’t get to sleep instantly, but thankfully Headspace for sleep sorted me out eventually.

 

Day nine – Tokyo to Osaka, Universal Studios

This morning we packed up and left our hotel in Shinjuku, dropping off a case full of purchases (and clothes we don’t need) with the hotel for when we check back in at the end of the month.

We have two day passes to Osaka Universal Studios, but it’s not as good a park as Disney, so we weren’t too incredibly fussed about getting there first thing. Lucky we weren’t because with the JR pass you can’t take the fastest bullet train for free. We had to commuter train from Shinuku to Shinagawa and then book tickets for the less fast bullet train ( less fast because it makes more stops, I don’t believe it’s actually a slower train.)

Anna and I made the rookie mistake of not eating breakfast before we went out, which meant we were both a little snippy in the station but we worked it out and apologised to each other. Travel is a great test of a relationship and how much you communicate tbh. I think we’re handling it well, but it’d be so easy not to handle it at all.

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Shinkansens are lovely beasts. However today for the first time, I got pretty motion sick on it.

I blame this on sitting right at the front of the carriage. And the guy who was sitting in the window pulled the blind down so he could sleep. I’ve always been sat where I can see out the window. Today I spent a half hour writing postcards and not looking up, and I started to feel seriously gross. I couldn’t look out the window to see the progress, all I had was a blank white wall and the rolling motion of the train. I had to get up and use the bathroom, and walking down the aisle was a major challenge, I felt like I was at sea. Much harder than moving down a plane aisle.

Once I’d been to the bathroom (and didn’t throw up) I felt a little better, but it wasn’t until the guy in the window seat got off and I shifted over to watch out the window I started to feel properly well again. Not fun, but I did manage a nap after that, which felt very much like I know my way around and can just sleep on trains like the locals but actually is just a testament to how sleepy I am. Also I had lots of nightmares about the world ending last night so maybe that was a factor as well.

Once we landed in Shin-Osaka station Anna looked up the directions to our new hotel and it was going to involve three trains and probably some walking between stations. We decided to make it easier on ourselves and take a taxi.

Unfortunately our taxi driver didn’t have much English and had never heard of our hotel, but he got us to Universal Studios all right. And once we were at the park entrance we saw our hotel, which is very close indeed. In fact we have a view over the park itself from our room, which is very cool but also means I can hear people screaming on the roller coaster from bed. Thankfully the park closes soon so it’s not going to affect my sleep tonight.

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View from the hotel room includes some behind the scenes stuff, Hogwarts castle to the right and various roller coasters.

Hotel Universal Port is right on the water beside Universal Studios and we can see Kaiyukan aquarium from our room. Kaiyukan is my favourite place in Osaka, it has whale sharks. Our room is very large and fancy, we have a proper king sized bed, which is very unusual for Japanese hotels.

Once we’d switched some things between bags and found our tickets for the park we headed over. It’s about a five minute walk to the main entrance.

It’s a busy park and it was mid afternoon by the time we got there. Lots of people in all sorts of costumes, because although Disney is very strict that you must dress as a Disney character, Universal has no such rule. There were lots of horror costumes, as Universal is big on Halloween. There are multiple horror mazes and street shows with zombies.

However we were there for none of that, we had one destination: Hogsmeade. There are only two rides and they had long wait times, so we spent our time eating at the three broomsticks, shopping, watching the street shows and doing magic at the magic stations in the park.

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It’s seriously the best British pub food I’ve had, I think. Just delicious, and the butterbeer is so good!

Some of the wands they sell in the park allow you to perform magic tricks. There’s a bunch of spots around Hogsmeade, and the wands that have the sensor bar in them come with a neat little map showing them all to you, in English and Japanese. I used Alohamora to unlock a fancy gate, and made it snow. Anna did incendio to make a fireball come out of a burning brazier and moved a bunch of luggage near the Hogwarts Express. It was surprisingly fun, even when you can see the sensor lights you should be aiming at, there’s a staff member there to guide you in how to do the spell, and the special effects are very cool.

Hogsmeade is Disneysea levels of immersion and attention to detail, but the rest of the park isn’t as good. We spent almost no time there today, actually, although on the way out we did see a zombie street show. A bunch of zombies in prison gear or asylum patient outfits were stalking the streets and scaring people. We saw one take advantage of two girls watching another zombie to sneak up and scare them, and they ran screaming!

Then the zombies did a choreographed street dance, because why not? I guess? It was very popular with the crowd watching. We bailed to rest, and because over the last few days I’ve been planning a new novel and today I worked out the approach for the first chapter. Trains are always good for my creativity, but the themeparks have helped as well.

So we bailed around 7pm and came back to the hotel to rest and chill out, and it’s been very pleasant indeed.

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a little towel Snoopy and a congratulations card from minions?