Mitaka Round One/Harajuku Part Two

Today was to be the day for us to head to the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan. We started our morning normal and collected all our things and headed out into the wild Japanese sea of people. Finding the best JR train route to Mitaka, we easily maneuvered our way to the new town, now becoming pros of the railways and subways. We took a beautiful walk along a canal until we arrived at the Studio Ghibli Museum, filled with anticipation.

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Mitaka!

Once we got to the gate, we quickly noticed the lack of people and found a sign at the gate that stated they were closed on Tuesdays. Doh! Turns out we bought our tickets for Monday and well… we failed to update our itinerary…. Ahhhh!! Can’t have a trip with out some swift change of events.

We gathered our wits and headed back to our AirBnB where we started game planning how we were going to go see the Museum the next day.  The new plan cost more than the original, but it included some places we did not have on our itinerary to visit…Whew crisis adverted!

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Studio Ghibli museum from the outside… We’ll back for you tomorrow.

Since we were back in Shibuya earlier than expected we decided to go on a mission where we walked two miles one way to Harajuku for the Sailor Moon Makeup store and the One Piece Official store, it was a night of bright lights and massive landmark fashion department headquarters!

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Tokyo is embracing the Akira / Olympic 2020 connection strongly

Plenty more pictures below from our urban adventure, next up is ACTUALLY going to the Studio Ghibli museum, along with a few other sites around the city such as Hotel Gajoen Tokyo and the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum!

Nara, Nara, Nara

Nara, so far is number one on our list for this trip.  We highly recommend anyone traveling to Japan staying in Kyoto or Osaka to make sure this is on your itinerary.

Nara was Japan’s first established Capital in year 710.  As Buddhism grew and posed a threat to the government the Capital was then moved to Kyoto, which we visited the day prior.  Because of the extensive history we knew this had to be on our list to visit, plus deer.

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Oh, Hai!

We visited Nara on our own via a recommended site seeing path we obtained from the information center near the Nara JR station. First we walked through the downtown area where you could see their love for the deer that roam free throughout the town.

The next stop was Kofuku-ji Buddhist Temple we went to had an epic spire near Nara Deer Park…oh and deer were there too.  These ones were docile compared to the ones at the park, so we bought some wafers and fed them.

Then Kyndra made the mistake of feeding the ones at the park…

The deer were literally all over the city, so you will most likely see them from time to time throughout our Shinto Shrine and Buddhist temple excursion.

Next we walked to Todaiji Temple also known as “The Great Eastern Temple”.  This was an incredibly enlightening moment for the both of us.  The pictures do not depict enough how massive the Daibutsuden was that housed a 15 meter bronze statue of a seated Daibutsu (Buddha).  It was absolutely breathtaking.

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From Todaiji we walked the hills of Nara to the Shinto Shrine Kasuga Taisha.  Most famous for its hundreds of stone lanterns donated by worshipers that lead the path throughout the park.

Oh and what do you know, more deer.  The deer are believed to be messengers from the Shinto Gods and that is why they are considered sacred.

After soaking in the beauty of Nara we headed towards the station to go home, when we spotted an owl cafe that was nearly unoccupied!!  It was on our list of things to do in Japan, so it must of been destiny we stumbled upon Wata Wata Owl Cafe in Nara!

Upon entry we were greeted by an English speaking caretaker who introduced us to the owls and the process of interacting with them.  We were able to pick one to take pictures with of the many different species they cared for.  It was a hard decision but we went with Yuki and Yuri the barn owls because they had an adorable love story and just look how kawaii they are!

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They love each other and hated to be separated!

Well guys, might have rambled a bit again, but Nara is definitely a tough day to beat.  We saw some of the most amazing sights in Japan and got to pet freaking owls at an owl cafe!

 

Go Go Kyoto

Kyoto was up next on our list of places to visit and we booked a small group walking tour for a few hours to get a glimpse of as much of the city as we could in one day. The only downside was that it basically rained the entire day, only stopping for brief intervals. However, we made the best of it and plowed through it and it didn’t seem to bother our tour guide Yuta much either!

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Kyoto Tower and our first view of the city

Our guide had a few set destinations for us to visit, including various Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and some local spots famous to Kyoto. The first thing we did was visit a Shinto shrine and I did a small prayer.

From there we then headed to the Buddhist temple Tōfukuji… One thing that has impressed me is the amount of meticulous dedication to the landscape, architecture, and everything about this area. Every single blade of grass to even the toilet are arranged and placed in the utmost particular way to ensure everything has the appropriate placing to just look good.

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At the first temple, our guide paid the fee to get us in and we had to remove our shoes and we got our first close-up view of the intricacy that the Buddhist monks will put into decorating their landscapes with very specific ideas in mind.

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You spin me right round, baby

From there, we then headed to the Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha which is famous for its red gates. There were many people vacationing there, and many of the locals and those on vacation liked to dress up in more casual geisha wear.

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The first of many red gates

After exploring the red gates in detail, and viewing many of the ceremonies you can partake in there – we headed to Gion Koubu, one of the geisha districts in Kyoto and one of the most exclusive and popular districts. Unfortunately since it was raining so much, we didn’t get to see any geisha. Our guide did take us to a location where maiko or geisha in training get their hair done, but it was closed at the time we stopped by. For shame.

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Rain, rain, rain.

After that our guide pointed us to the direction of a local bus and we took the bus back to Kyoto station where we could catch a train home. That’s about it for Kyoto! Plenty more pictures below and next is our trip to Nara!

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Our guide was pleased to show us one of the oldest toilets in Japan. Nice.

 

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Osaka was a full day of fulfilling our child hood dreams including, but not limited to; Terminator, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, Final Fantasy, Jurassic Park and Minions…lots and lots of Minions from Despicable Me. Did I mention lines? Yeah, those too.

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This was Acea’s first time attending any Universal Studio and being a movie buff he was super excited. I myself, on the other hand, was super excited for the Harry Potter portion of the amusement park.  So graciously Acea, let us go there first for lunch.

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Chow time!

We just wondered around a bit in the Harry Potter zone, taking in some little live shows they had going on and just absorbing the atmosphere. It was great.

The lines were extremely long and we only had a day pass so we opted to just marvel at things, buy at Honeydukes and eat some lunch at the Three Broomsticks before heading to our next area….Jurassic Park.

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Yo dawg, we heard you like lines so we put a line in your line for your line.

Jurassic Park ride was amazing, and definitely worth the wait – if nothing else for drop picture was a true beauty to witness. After Jurassic Park we visited the insanely crowded massive Minion portion of the park to buy our nephew’s some souvenirs. This minion craze is no joke, I know they’re popular in the States and it’s clearly translated over here as well…. They knew what they were doing when they designed those little guys, and they’re doing what they intended – selling boat loads of merchandise.

After Minion Park, I got to fulfill a child hood dream of becoming a Sailor Scout! (be prepared this picture is horrible)

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Moon Make-Up Activate!

We went on one last final ride before we would be leaving the park, jumping on the Terminator 2-3D ride. It was a funny realization when we got through the line and quickly discovered the whole story-based ride would be in Japanese, something to obviously be expected but it just slipped our mind. Luckily, the not so complex story-line was easy enough to follow.

Acea then got to shop and visit with some of his Shonen Jump buddies…. One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Hunter X Hunter… YES! He even purchased the newest issue of Shonen Jump, while he can’t actually read it – it’s a nice souvenir and it even has the newest issue of One Piece inside which was actually a very pivotal issue.

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Newest issue of Shonen Jump…. Plus foot.

After the Shonen Jump shop it was time to go home, we were exhausted…time to sleep it off before Kyoto. Look below for more pictures and the like.

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Panoramic shot of the park

 

The Path to Osaka

After an eventful and vibrant few days in Shinjuku, Tokyo – it was time to move on to our next destination. While we stayed at a business class hotel in Shinjuku(albeit it was TINY, but cozy) this time we were trying something different and using an AirBnB. AirBnB was technically a gray area and not fully legal in Japan until last year, although many were still operating “unofficially”.

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Goodbye City Hotel Lonestar, it’s been fun!

Accommodations aside, we had to get there first. Osaka isn’t exactly close to Shinjuku(about 300 miles away, in fact) but luckily Japan is equipped with its own very advanced bullet train system called the Shinkansen and we purchased a “JR Pass” in advanced. The JR pass basically lets you, as a foreign tourist, travel easily over many of the rail systems in Japan. We were a little intimidated at first, but it turned out to be pretty easy and actually went incredibly smoothly! Some of the Shinkansen ride below….

We arrived rather smoothly to be honest, the Shinkansen was amazing. We need these things in the States! Once we finally arrived to our AirBnB in Osaka(which our host gave us a detailed PDF with screenshots and red circles directing us and everything) we were dumbfounded and impressed. The setup was fantastic! It seems so authentic, even with us needing to remove our shoes and put on slippers they provided for us in the accommodations.

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Sitting comfy

We made it safely, and began to prepare for our next week in Japan with our homebase in Osaka. We’re loving our new location, and we can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming days!

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The only toy we won at arcades in Shinjuki, that Kyndra won completely randomly.

See below for some shots of our Air BnB!

Day Four – Kabukichō

Greetings, this is Kyndra from the Shinkasen on our way to our AirBnb in Osaka. While we have nearly a 3 hour train ride I figured it was a good opportunity to share yesterday’s unique experience in Kabukicho.

Kabukicho located in the heart of Shinjuku is most famously known as Japan’s largest entertainment and red-light district.  I think Taki described it perfectly as being the “Manhattan Times Square” of Japan.

The only plan we had set for the day was the Robot Restaurant, so we headed out early to explore the area.

The first thing we did was find our favorite Japanese pop-culture icon.

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GOJIRA!!

From there we had lunch at our first authentic ramen shop.  Most restaurants in Japan you place your order and pay at a kiosk before sitting down where the chef will gladly take your receipt and make your meal.

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After lunch we went to the SEGA store that was filled with claw games that were on a whole different level of difficulty, but out of pure luck I was able to get a hello kitty. ^_^

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Soon after gambling on claw machines it was time to go to the robot show, I think it is best if we just drop some photos and videos below to best describe the sensory overload.

During the show Acea made a friend, his name was Ben who was from Perth, Australia.  We went out for a drink to talk about the show and our experience so far in Japan.  After a few more drinks we decided it was time to brave the ultimate Japanese Karaoke experience and found a nice place called Big Echo.  The English song choice was limited (they didn’t even have Bohemian Rhapsody!) but thank goodness they had Smashmouth….

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Anyhow, sorry for dragging on…yesterday was a great day to break us out of our shells. Tomorrow we plan to explore Osaka, until then thanks for reading!