Monday, 6 October 2014

Chuseok | Osaka Day 4

It's not CG! They just film this thing. Honest.
Our last full day in Osaka! We weren't really sure what to do, other than sleep a lot. But that would have been a waste. We ummed and aahed debating whether we should catch a train to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, or just go to another place in Osaka. The Kansai region is way too big and interesting to spend just a week there. It's heartbreaking!

After far too much deliberation, Nick suggested we go to Universal Studios. There were quite a few adverts around the area we were staying in, and in the tourist brochures we had. Me, being the tight-fisted person I am, refused and insisted it was too much money, but after seeing how little a dent we'd made in our spending money, I guess he twisted my arm. The main reason we found it was because we'd read about an Attack on Titan exhibition there, but it won't make an appearance for quite a few months. Booooo.

So, we got dressed, hopped on a train and...promptly got lost and missed our transfer station. Oops. Having too much fun staring out the window. We had a bit of a freak out, after realising we should have corrected our mistake about 20 minutes' journey ago, and now had to hope we could get the right train back. The big clue should have been that the bay area is only really about 30-45 minutes away from our train station. So, it was actually kind of late in the day by the time we managed to fix our mistake, but it was a nice train ride, the weather was good, and we still had plenty of time to play.

Firstly, the area around the station for the park is similarly USA-themed, with pseudo-American style buildings in various wacky colours and proportions selling all kinds of food and souvenirs. This included a Shounen Jump store, which I got very excited by until I realised I don't actually have any kind of emotional investment in any of the SJ shows any more. Well. Nothing they were selling, anyway. But it was still cool to see Luffy and Naruto hanging out, taking over the world together.

Toto, I don't think we're in Japan any more...
 It's really strange, riding through very distinctly Japanese cityscapes, to then arrive in a small chunk of what many people perceive to be North America. I went to Orlando, FL when I was about 4, and I'm probably a lucky one. I'd assume a lot of people only know about that part of the world from what they see on TV, so despite Nick telling me this was all a bit of a caricature, I couldn't help but feel I'd somehow touched down somewhere in California.

We had a quick lunch at Mel's Drive-In, which was really quite lovely and looked great. We shared our table with a little bright blue damselfly. I think he just wanted some fries.

So, as should be obvious to you all, my main attraction to this place (aside from the sadly-absent Kyojin) was Hogwarts. Aw yeah. It was SUPER busy that day, probably because that week coincided with several holidays in quite a few Asian countries. So, they had restricted access to a lot of the big attractions and of course this included the Harry Potter section. Come on, people. This is my thing. It's my home. Let me innnn.

After a confusing wander and some vague directions (bless the ushers, their faces when a giant person with minimal Japanese knowledge approaches and tries to ask for help. They tried so hard but it was still confusing at times. Ugh why did I not study harder.) we found a machine that scanned our entry tickets and spat out a reservation slot for us. Luckily, it was in about 5 minutes' time. Considering you could choose your own slot, and all of them were available, I'm not really sure how this was supposed to help, other than extend the queue by making everyone wander off to another part of the park to get the reservation ticket and come back again. Hm.

ANYWAY. We got in, and all of a sudden we're surrounded by pine trees and some eerie tunes from the HP soundtrack waft over from some hidden speaker. It's yet another glorified queue system, but it's a clever one, because I just felt a bit like I was in a scene from a movie.

Finally the gates to Hogsmeade appeared and all my 13 year old obsessions burst forth. Internally. Honest.

okay maybe not so internally.
Confusingly, the buildings are all made to look as though they're covered in snow, which didn't really gel with the surrounding tourists on this hot, sunny day, but it's impressive nonetheless.

There were people everywhere. Queues everywhere. Queues to get past queues so that you could join another queue. It was like I was actually back in England.

The owls did actually twitch and move while you sat there. The guano was a nice touch.
I think most of the queues were to get inside the shop buildings, which were decked out to look like the ones in the films. Considering I'd already kind of seen that in the Warner Bros. tour in the UK, that didn't bother me so much, so we headed straight for one of the rides, proudly proclaimed on the map as being voted Number 1 ride in the WORLD. High acclaim. And a long, LONG queue to back that up.
Thanks, once again, to the extra wide angle selfie lens on my phone. Hello Brucie.
 There it was, in all its cleverly-proportioned glory. It looked huge and tiny all at once, and the lake around it was a wonderful addition. The visitors that had gone to the effort of dressing up in various Harry Potter outfits really made it for me, haha. Too cute.

Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, teach us something please.
Whether we be old and bald or young with scabby knees.
Anyway, this supposedly incredible ride really was incredible. It was a weird mixture of a rollercoaster where you're strapped in at the shoulders - legs dangling (under the pretense of it being a hexed bench) - and those strange simulator rides, where you're in a cabin that moves around to match what's being played on a giant screen. So, we'd rush off and be physically whipping around various parts of Hogwarts and the wizarding world, next minute we've wheeled around to take in a lovely view of the castle or a mountain or something before rushing "towards" it, narrowly avoiding decapitation. It's a clever way of making a ride scarier without actually making it more dangerous. When the ride made us rush almost straight down (a la Wronski Feint) towards some rocks, my stomach would lurch, my arms would flail and you'd never think that really I was just in a glorified chair that had tipped forwards. Very, very clever.

The merch scattered around was pretty much exactly the same as the UK tour, but in prettier surroundings. I saw people in cool sports tops and other things but could never actually see them on sale. Also, distressing lack of Ravenclaw representation, come on, what is that?

We bought a chocolate frog because omg it's SOLID CHOCOLATE. SOLID. Incredible. Good, too!
Next, we moved onto Jurassic Park, which was a little lost on me as I hadn't seen it at the time (don't worry, I've since fixed this, it was great) but Nick was pretty excited and I appreciated the level of detail based on what I knew about the film.

The restaurants for this area were made to look just like in the films, but sadly they were closed for the day by the time we got there. I saw people walking around with huge "dino legs", I have no idea what meat it was but it looked like some kind of monster chicken leg from The Flintstones.
I am embarrassed to say that this ride did actually scare me quite a bit.
Nick's sweet new ride.
From here on out it started to get darker, and the lights started to come on. A lot of the park is based around a large, still body of water, so it allowed for plenty of points where they were mirrored perfectly as the sun went down.

We decided to fit in one more ride before heading home, ideally before the "hey, the park is closing, everyone get out" time. We had to squeeze past a slightly terrifying parade of floats covered in lights. Some of it was very pretty, but a lot of it was mostly alarmingly similar to something you would see in another famous theme park beginning with D and ending in Y. The most difficult thing here was that the streets next to the road were either cordoned off for the floats, or absolutely crammed with people trying to get a good sport for taking photos. We really did choose a busy time to visit.

It's not Japan unless there's a Hello Kitty plastered somewhere.
Once we got to our final ride of choice, we realised that it wasn't just - as we'd been hoping - covered in sparkly lights, it was also one of those rides that travels exclusively in reverse. Um. No.

So, with our hopes of one last adrenaline rush shot to pieces we decided to leave before the thousands of other people got the same idea, alas we got lost and somehow ended up in Hello Kitty's back garden. Or something. Who knows any more, I've had trouble trusting her since all that foofaraw about her not actually being a cat. I feel betrayed.

There was a swathe of sickeningly cute pink buildings covered in bows, polka dots and any other motif that screams "adorable". Sadly, the fashion exhibit was closing for the day just as we got there.

The ushers in this area were all wearing cute Hello Kitty themed outfits and kept beckoning me over to ride in a teacup ride that was definitely meant for small children (as made obvious by the fact it barely came up to my hip) but something that I really enjoyed about Universal was that everyone smiled and give you a double-handed wave, regardless of if you needed their help, or were visiting their section. I couldn't help but smile and wave back, at which point their smiling would INCREASE. It was just so bloody friendly. I don't remember feeling this welcome at the theme parks back at home (Jenny, you should be taking notes).

Thinking we'd finally found the way out, we trotted into the next section to discover how terribly wrong we were. Seems like we made a wrong turn at Quinoa Avenue and stumbled onto Sesame Street. Again, we were greeted by the ushers who, despite clearly being used to customers under the age of 6, seemed ecstatic to see us and gave us...the exact same treatment as their usual patrons. So, we ended up dancing and clapping with them as we walked along trying to find the exit. It was surprisingly fun to act like a kid again, running around like an idiot and dancing for no reason.

The best thing about this area was the giant cookie slide, where you...are apparently something that has upset Cookie Monster's perpetually empty stomach, and must ride an ejected cookie down the slide of what I assume can only be solidified monster vomit, and put the cookie into the jar at the bottom of the hill.

Maybe we're meant to be stealing the cookies from him, but either way it's not exactly a good message to be sending to children.

Alas, despite our efforts we ended up falling in with the thousands of other guests all trying to leave at the same time. It was a bit terrifying.

Not wanting to contend with those crowds on the subway, we took shelter in a buffet restaurant, before shopping for souvenirs in "Little Osaka". Typical tourist trap tat and I love all of it. I would buy all of it, but what on earth would I do with it all?

I found some pretty questionable t-shirts. For the uninformed, hentai is a word generally reserved for Japanese anime of the adult type. VERY adult. Hm. not kick butts?

Anyway, Universal Studios was a pretty good day out, (especially if you can grab a day when there are fewer queues!) and I'm sorry for spamming you with all of these photos.
I'm going to leave you with these "paperchild" keychains because SHINGEKI ALL OF THE THINGS _o /

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