For my 30th birthday, I decided on a trip to Osaka and Kyoto. It all started with my boss and I talking about visiting Japan, with her wanting to go to Universal Studios Japan, and me wanting to go to Tokyo. However, I’d no idea USJ was in Osaka, but once I knew that, I figured visiting Osaka and Kyoto would be a good opportunity and it’d satisfy the Hakuouki/Shinsengumi fan in me, haha! My boss left most of the planning to me, and after much researching, our itinerary consisted of:
January 16: Arrive in Osaka and explore Universal City Walk.
January 17: Go to Kyoto to check out Nishi Hongang-ji, Nishiki Market, Shosei-en Garden, and Pontocho.
January 18: Go to USJ, Animate Tennoji, and Namba area.
January 19: Fly back home.
That was our basic itinerary. The following below was what really happened :D
My trip started with 95% of people telling me that my suitcase was too big. One co-worker even asked, “Are you moving to Japan?”. Only one person made no comment about its size since she knew my reasoning for taking a huge suitcase. Let’s just say, I got tired of explaining my reasons. Anyway, we headed to Incheon International Airport to catch our afternoon flight. My boss’ husband drove us there, and when we arrived, we did all the check-in procedures and transferred over to Concourse A. We flew with Peach, a low-cost carrier based in Osaka. Our flight was a bit delayed, but otherwise we had no issues at all.
At Kansai International Airport, we did all the fun airport-related tasks (hello, evil lines!), and we had to transfer from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 to get to the JR trains. Before that, though, I picked up my temporary LTE SIM card for my phone. I paid 3,000 yen for 1GB of data for my phone. We stopped by the ticket office, and I got my handy ICOCA card, which is usable for all trains, subways, and buses in the Osaka/Kyoto area. The card cost 2,000 yen. Then we took the JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service to Nishikujo Station, and we transferred to the JR Yumesaki Line to Universal City Station. This train ride took about a good hour.
We checked into our hotel, Hotel Universal Port. I liked our room, liked how the toilet, the shower, and the sink were divided into three areas, and I thought the size was fine. Our room was bigger than the room I had during my last Tokyo trip, so I was pleased by it. After we made our acquaintance with our room, we headed to Universal City Walk, which was two minutes away, for a late dinner, only to discover that most of the places there closed at 9:00pm. On a Friday night. Oiiiiii. I’d told my boss I didn’t want anything western here, but we’d no choice but to go to Hard Rock Cafe . . . which was fine since this ended up being my first Hard Rock Cafe experience. They plunked us right in front of a live band. The lead singer pulled out my seat and high-fived me. That was pretty cool. I had a delicious strawberry basil lemonade and Cobb salad. Yum! We even got a free cup! After we were happily full, we stopped by Lawson to get some of my favourite royal milk tea drink, which I introduced to my boss, who ended up loving it, too!
Saturday morning started off with us having breakfast at Starbucks. We then took the train to Kyoto. When we got to Nishikujo Station, I told my boss to let’s just get on the train. I got on, but she didn’t hear me, so she tried to get on too late . . . but the door closed on her. Luckily, because of the LTE SIM card I bought, I was able to contact my boss and told her to meet me at Osaka Station through Facebook. From Osaka Station, we travelled on to Kyoto Station, and the first thing I see upon exiting the station was Kyoto Tower.
Next, we walked for about fifteen minutes to . . . Nishi Hongang-ji, a Buddhist temple that was featured in Hakuouki! It was amazing to see this place in person, and I recognised a lot of the places in the temple from the game and anime. What a wonderful fan experience for me!
Our next item on the agenda was Nishiki Market. We headed back to Kyoto Station, and we took the bus (my first time taking the bus in Japan!) to the market. There were so many vendors, and this was where I did a bulk of my shopping — I bought so many yummy snacks! We shopped around until we were starving for food. We weren’t keen on trying something we couldn’t translate, so we walked around looking for something we recognised. We finally decided on this restaurant that specialised in noodle and rice dishes. I got myself some oyakodon. It was good, but nothing WOW-worthy. Then we walked around trying to find Nishiki Market and ended up getting lost in Teramachi shopping street X_X; While lost, we did find this shrine that I’ve yet to figure out the name of . . . then we continued to walk around in circles until we found Nishiki Market. Once we found our way, we took the bus back to Kyoto Station.
My boss wanted to visit Hoshakuji Temple near Yamazaki Station outside of Kyoto. I meant to go with her all the way until I discovered that I had to climb a bunch of stairs to get there. This was where we separated. She continued onto the temple and some beer distillery, and I returned to Osaka to Tennoji Station to go to . . . ANIMATE! I took a couple photos of the station area, and then I got on the crazy walkway to go to Animate. There, I saw their current promotion on some series I’ve no clue on, a series with a bunch of bishounens that made me swoon :D I did my otaku shopping, but I spent a lot less than I thought. I didn’t buy any doujinshis because this branch didn’t have the series I wanted. This was when I sorely missed Tokyo’s Otome Road.
My boss and reunited in our hotel. She’d already had dinner, but I hadn’t, so we returned to Universal City Walk to find a place to eat. Unfortunately, everything was packed and crowded with lines. We ended up checking out Oriental Diner, one of the few places that didn’t have a line. There I just got some Oriental curry set, which I didn’t get a photo of, but I did get a photo of this onigiri snack I bought in Lawson! This is a rice cracker snack that’s very savoury. Not to mention, it was cheap. Why did I not discover this deliciousness sooner?! After dinner, we went more souvenir shopping in one of the stores called Little Osaka.
Sunday started off with me having a Japanese breakfast in my hotel’s cafe. It was pretty good and filling. I now want to eat more Japanese-style breakfast, haha! Then it was Universal Studios Japan time! Unfortunately, we bought the wrong “ticket”, so we had a bit of an issue getting into the park, but with the helpful park attendants, we had things sorted out . . . only to find out that we couldn’t go straight to Harry Potter world. We had to get a separate timed entry tickets (which were free), and our time wasn’t until 1:20pm.
We killed time by riding the Jaws ride (of which we waited over an hour to ride it), then we rode the Jurassic Park ride, then we went to Wonderland and checked out Snoopy Studios. There I met a costumed Charlie Brown. I tried to get a photo with him, but he totally ignored me :( Inside the studios, I discovered Lucy’s booth, which made me LOL so hard.
Finally, we made it to Harry Potter world. The first thing I saw was the Ford Anglia, which made me squeal in happiness. I was amazed by the details that went into this world. I really did feel like I’d enter Hogsmeade. Everything was fabulous! My boss and I got butterbeer, my first time trying it, and it tasted good! I paid extra for the cup :D We then waited in a super long line to get on the Forbidden Journey ride. Afterwards, we shopped. I bought some Chocolate Frogs (they were like 1120 yen a piece!!!), Fizzing Whizzbees, and a Slytherin keychain. While there, I kept getting complimented on my Slytherin scarf that my friend knitted for me :D
After Harry Potter world, we went to Mel’s Drive-In to get a super late lunch. There we devoured our burgers and enjoyed the music selection. Next, we rode Space Fantasy, where I encountered a very stubborn locker that I’d no idea I had to pay for it to work. Grrrr. Then we just walked around and shopped. I was all lined out. I left USJ earlier than my boss to turn in my ICOCA card and get refund back! I had 1800 yen on the card, but I got 2100 yen back. The cancellation fee was 200 yen, but the deposit was 500 yen . . . so in essence I gained 300 yen. Anyway, my boss and I had dinner at the ramen place in Universal City Walk, and I also ordered some takoyaki from room service. Then it was time to pack all those souvenirs I bought . . .
And that’s pretty much it. The next morning, we took a cab (another first for me!) at 5:00am. The cab ride cost us about 13,000 yen. Then it was time for us to board and go back to Korea. And that was my birthday trip. It was super exhausting, but I had a blast. I only wished I’d stayed there longer. Guess that means I’ll be planning another trip to Japan again!