Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sakura Mankai: Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe Trip Part 3

Urghh, my long due post for the third part of my Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe trip! I'm sorry for taking too long to post this, but it's finally here, phew!

Well, on the fifth day, we spend one whole day in Universal Studio Japan (USJ). I believe this was originally been thought as the highlight of the trip but that was before I knew how looking at flowers can be so much joy! Hehe. I was excited of course because it’s Universal Studio. But I was feeling a bit gloomy at the same time because it was our last day in Japan!

We went there by JR line because it's more convenient than to drive there. We arrived at the Universal city station quite early. We bought food at the Lawson mart and brought into the park because there is no halal restaurant and the food there would be expensive! We bought the entrance ticket for 6600 yen on the day since we visit the park on Thursday. You might want to purchase it in advance if you are to visit the park during weekend or school holiday.

Queuing up for the ticket 

We got Mr Spidey's ticket!

The park was opened to public in 2001, so let me be honest. It was a little ancient. It was almost the same as one in the Singapore but twice bigger. The attractions are arranged in nine areas of the park: New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Snoopy Studios, Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue, Sesame Street Fun Zone, Water World and Amity Village.

Buy me this one please!

I was informed beforehand that muslim girl wearing head cover are not allowed to be on any rollercoaster ride due to safety reason. I brought along my hoodie; if I pulled over the hood covering my head, fully zipped it, there is no way my scarf will fly off, but they still refuse to let me. Whatever. I spend my free time (while waiting for my sister and Mr H to finish their ride) chasing the meet and greet characters wondering off the street.

Adorable me cookie monster!

Interrupting Shrek and Princess Fiona doing their window shopping for a picture  :DD

With Pink Panther and Elmo!

One thing that you guys should not be bothered is the estimated time wait sign because it normally took you half of the time they indicated on the sign. A 30-min wait could ended up being only a 15-min wait! So don't get fed up! Most of the the queues were constantly moving, so it didn't feel like a very long wait.

Now I'm gonna just list down some of the attraction that I got the chance to experience.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: Awesome man! I went for it twice. The high resolution animation, which use the 4K3D technology, was very very nice. And you could really enjoy all the quick acceleration, abrupt stops and rapid fall - they were really great!

Back to the Future – The Ride: They should close this one down, haha.  The film projection was very old. And the ride have more shake than necessary that it makes me go fuzzy, like seriously. Trust me, avoid this one.

Jurassic Park – The Ride: It was pretty fun. All of the robotic dinosaurs were in good shape. I was so ready to get drench by the end of the ride, but I got less wet than expected! It was sheer luck maybe?

Watching the ride before we decided to try it!

Total kids zone, Wonderland! The only place where you suddenly get a little more conscious with surrounding. Who knows you might into a kid holding chocolate ice cream, hehe. Though there was nothing much to do here, there was plenty to see! The decoration was pretty with vibrant colors and cute! It's really hard to resist some picture time!

This cutie was busy rescuing her ducks :D

Jaws – The Ride: It was an act that you have to participate in! We were taken on a boat ride to tour this Amity Village. The female tour guide feed us with an explanation about the village (I supposed, since it was fully in Japanese). And then the jaws came out of the water, trying to attack our boat but the guide managed to kill it. Lol, if the jaws might not entertain you, the panic act display by the tour guide might! She was really into it, haha!

The tour guide in charge!

Backdraft: I am just glad that we didn't miss this one. It is a fire special effects show that is based on the film of the same name. The show is full with realistic dramatic effects - the drums explode in flames, burning ceiling crash to the floor - how it is like to be inside a place that is catching fire. The US Singapore have one with major hurricane effect.

We managed to watch this awesome performance by Drumline Beat twice! They were very entertaining and fun! They really know how to work the crowd! Here is one song they covered that day - Little Mix's Wings!

And of course, getting merchandise! Maybe we spent a little to much time here - being torn in between what to buy. At last, I bought myself a cool glow in the dark Spiderman key chain and a cookie monster mug.

Found a bag for our little sister back home!

We didn’t bother to watch those 4D’s movie and Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show because it have the same show with USS. And it was fully in Japanese too! Walked by a building full with SM Entertainment artist posters, later I found out that it was a 3D hologram theater but it was closed.

Spot Shining Shinee!

And it was really a regret that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park will only be opened some time later this year. Urghh, we can already see the Hogwarts from far. This give me reason to come here again!

A windy evening

By 4pm, the weather was getting colder and it started to get windy. The cold was almost unbearable. It reminds me of my first day in Osaka, hehe. But we wait till night to catch the Magical Starlight Parade. It was magical enough to get me stay in that freezing cold, trying to capture everything on camera :DD I don't really understand why there were lots of Disney characters but oh well, it was lovely.

This girl was greeting me in Japanese, so cute!

Our flight back home was at 11 am the next day. We went to the airport hoping that we could have breakfast there but the queue up for MAS counter was too long! And then another long queue for security check. I don't know what exactly happen but when we were rushing all the way till the boarding time. Phew!

And as we were about to depart, I remember having a mix feeling. Half of me was ready to go back (I really missed my cats) and another half just feeling blue that we were leaving Japan. But we have a good memories  here in Osaka to bring back and cherish. I just hope that I'll have the chance to come here again one day~

And that was all about it. I hope you guys enjoy reading this entry! Till the next post! Sayonara!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sakura Mankai: Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe Trip Part 2

This is the second part of my Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe Trip, a continuous from previous post.

On the third day, we finally had the chance to explore Osaka by train. Of course, Japan has an efficient train system, but it’s a bit tricky. In Osaka alone, the train network is built upon a combination of Subways, Japan Railway (JR) line, and a few of privately-owned railways line. And these lines are connected at some point, making most area in Osaka accessible by train.

We bought Osaka Amazing Pass for 1 day for 2300 yen. This pass gives us unlimited use of subways and city buses. But it not just that! We also get free or discounted admission to various tourist attractions!

Today's first stop was Osaka Castle. The garden just outside of the castle area is known as Nishinomaru Garden. There’s a lot of Sakura here too, so I was truly happy as I haven’t had enough of Sakura just yet!

The castle itself stands magnificently on rock mount surrounded by moats and stone walls. The original castle has actually been destroyed and what stands now is a reconstruction. The interior is completely rebuilt and now it has been converted into a museum, housing a different showcase explaining the history of the Hideyoshi era, one of the greatest Samurai in history. With a comprehensive collection such as dioramas of Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s life, miniature models of the Summer War of Osaka, and a folding screen telling the story of the battles fought - by the end of the tour, I was pretty much samurainized~

Too bad they don't allow taking picture inside the castle. But one that left a big impression for me was the Samurai’s armour used during the era. It was somewhat creepy but fascinating at the same time. I couldn't look at the scary-looking mask for too long without having goosebumps. Well, they were made to be frightening, to scare the enemy. But the armour was a fine work of art. It seems like iron mongers, fabric expert, metal crafters and painters works together to create this stunning work piece. Just amazing.

No, no, this is not the real Samurai armour like I've mentioned above;
just a worker doing his job in samurai costume :D

We spent quite sometimes here, taking time reading the summary of everything we could understand. It was a blessing in disguise that there wasn’t much written in English, otherwise we could be spending half a day here. I found the life story of Hideyoshi was quite intriguing, how he rose from a commoner to a ruler.

And on the top floor of the museum, you can get outside to have a nice view of Osaka and the park beneath. For a while, I could imagine how it feels to be a king, watching over my own province and planning which region we should conquer, hehe. And this is the place where you can get a close-up look of the gilded shachihoko, a mythical creature, a fish with the head of a tiger.

And oh, there is also an area where you can dress up in a kimono, try on a Samurai helmet (look like the kind of what Lady Gaga had for red carpet) or some armour and then have your photo taken. But we had to let it pass.

Why in the world did I not capture even one picture of  shachihoko? T__T

Japanese bride and groom doing a ritual

After touring the castle, we had a taste of yummy Tako before we head to our next stop: Dotonbori! Dotonbori is a long shopping street, aligned with so many eateries, arcades and shops. It’s a busy, noisy, grubby-looking area; always full with people. Totally a hot spot for foodie and shopper. Although I was told that I could get cheaper stuff here, but the price is still a bit pricey for me T__T Nevertheless, Dotombori is a must visit place and I wish I could come at night too, just to see Osaka nightlife under those neon lights, heh.

Dotonbori street

Compulsory picture spot: Glico's running man!

We tried the Okonomiyaki here: Japanese savoury pancake or Japanese pizza. The base consists of shredded cabbage and batter, added with variety of ingredients like seafood or meat, and then cooked on an iron griddle ("teppan"). Then topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, shaving of smoked bonito “katsuobushi” and a sprinkle of dried seaweed. Delicious!

Our seafood Okonomiyaki! Yum!

Next, with a full stomach, we did the Dotombori River Cruise. The cruise took us to see all the landmarks building along the river. The tour guide, though I couldn’t understand a word he said, I could tell that he was funny since other people were laughing every time he speaks. Honestly, it could be a bit boring but remember that happiness spread like disease? The crowd were sporting especially when we were asked to do a series of clap at the end of the cruise. So I guess it was pretty fun? :D

Dotonbori canal

Since we didn’t get to ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, we compensate it with Hep5 Ferris Wheel. I know it will be nothing compared to the Tempozan’s but since we got to ride it for free, so why not? The ferris wheel is located at the top of the building, which makes it more exciting when you reach the top of the wheel. The view was okay but not spectacular. Life is too good here, there’s nothing that can disappoint me too much. Then, we went for a round of bowling (yes, yes, this is random I know) and dinner to conclude the day.

Hep5 Ferris Wheel and the view

Bowling time!

On the fourth day, my poor legs were dying because something happened to Mr H’s wifey, Mieyra and I had to explore the city by train, just the two of us. It was unexpecting, but lucky we had learnt how the train system works here just yesterday, so it was not a problem. Rather than worrying about getting lost, I was really excited and was mentally and physically prepared. We decided to go to Shitennoji Temple. Getting on the right train was easy but figuring out which exit you should take when we had to switch lines was tricky. But thanks to Mieyra’s basic Japanese (important word here: migi = right, hidari = left, doko = where) and poof, we were at the temple.

Managed to reach Shitennoji 's neighborhood, victory!

Shitennoji is the oldest temple administered in Japan (build in 593) but of course it has been rebuilt over the centuries, so it doesn't look that old. The temple complex is big with five story pagoda in the center. People say it was overrated (we took it off our itinerary because of the bad review on internet), but I personally thought that the temple is beautiful. And it was interesting how well they preserved the area in contrast with the urban city that surrounding it.

The main pagoda

And then we got a call from Mr H that his wifey is alright and that we could proceed with our original itinerary which is Kobe! The drive from Osaka to Kobe took us about 40 minutes on the crooked road. This city is known for its urban development, so it’s no surprised that our view was filled with somewhat European style of housing and buildings.

We first went up to Mount Rocco, to the Rocco Garden Terrace. It is a complex facilities consisting of cafe, restaurants, small shops and observation deck to view Kobe city. Near the area, there is a unique-looking observatory spot called Rokko-Shidare Observatory. It is a work of art and was designed by an architect, Hiroshi Sambuichi. Inside the observatory, there was a path spiraling down to a wind room with an opening in the ceiling and a small pool of water. Honestly, I was far away from understood (I'm not even trying!) the whole point of the wind room (and how the whole system work for that matter!) while I was at it, so I was looking at the details halfheartedly /sigh/. But check this fact out:

“The water collected here in the summer and autumn months will freeze in the winter. The ice will then be cut into small blocks and transported into the core of the building, where it is placed in small airtight compartments under the seats of a bench. Here it will stay throughout the summer, cooling the hot air, whilst slowly melting and dripping into small pools carved in the stone floor. Finally, it will evaporate back into the atmosphere, closing the circuit.” (

So this explains why there was a pool of water in the wind room! And also the fact that the outer structure is comprised of numerous metal hexagons, designed to attract frost in the winter to give the image of a frosted leaf. Coolio~

At Rocco Garden Terrace

On one of the observatory spot with Mr H

Rokko-Shidare Observatory

In the wind room

Next, we leave the mountain to visit Kobe Mosque. The mosque is the first one built in Japan, built in 1928 and opened in 1935. It survived the bombing during World War II in 1945 and the great Kobe earthquake in 1995 that nearly flattened the whole city. We took the chance to perform Asar prayer here. It just feels so good to be in there....

Kobe mosque

Across the road is a grocery shop, Kitano Groceries Store, that stocks halal goods and a number of halal restaurants. We had our dinner at Naan Inn and it was amazing! If you know how it feels after few days consuming fish and seafood and sticky rice and dried seaweeds, there is no word to describe my feeling to finally having chicken for dinner. And it;s not just chicken, it’s Tandoori! It was a food fest for us!

Siti Norhaliza was here in 2006!

And finally, you can’t say you've been to Kobe unless you have a proof picture of Kobe Port Tower. Since it was already late, we head straight to Mosaic Shopping Complex. Why? Because it’s the best place to snap a picture with the tower in the background. And the scenery here at night is really beautiful. And it was good too that we came here with full stomach because there are a lot of restaurants here! If not, the seafood buffet dinner might be a little too hard to resist!

At Kobe Harbour

One kawaii / flower face picture wouldn't hurt, hehe

With the picture of Kobe Port Tower, we end our day four and head back to Osaka. 

To be continued on the next post, my last day in Osaka! Till then, be good people!