Day #7: Universal Studios Japan

Ok guys, this is the final post about our trip to Osaka so bear with me, LOL. There's a saying 'leave the best for last' and I couldn't agree more. The highlight of our trip is none other than to visit Universal Studios Japan (USJ)! *lompat2 kegembiraan*

I've been to USS (Universal Studios Singapore) before but I still look forward to USJ simply because they have this:

Harry Potter!

So now you guys know, the main reason I was super excited about going to USJ. I'm a big fan of Hogwarts and being able to experience Hogwarts in life is something that I've always wanted to do. 

On that day, we woke up early despite reaching home late last night as we anticipated there will be long queue. Luckily, my sister had bought USJ tickets online so we could skip the ticketing counter line. We stopped at Universal Studios Japan station and immediately saw a huge billboard of Harry Potter in front of Hogwarts Castle. Yup, we've reached USJ :)

To our delight, the queue wasn't so bad. A friend warned us that they had queue up as early as 6am due to the long queue but during our visit, there was just normal queue. Yeay!


In front of Universal Studios landmark - the revolving planet

Just us :)

Universal Studios Japan
Guys, I gotta warn you - USJ is really HUUUGEEE! So if you only have one day (like us) to enjoy the park, then you gotta plan where you want to go and how long you should be there. USJ attractions are arranged in nine areas / theme of the park. Basically we covered only these areas:

Area #1: Hollywood 

Entering USJ, the first area you will be in is Hollywood. There's something about the excitement and glamour of Hollywood which is so infectious. The moment we saw people queuing up for Hollywood Ride, we forgot being parents and joined in the fun, LOL! We just dumped our kids with my sister to take advantage of the short queue (by the way, we queued up for 30 mins, but that's short by USJ standard!)The last time I was on a rollercoaster was a month after getting married, so that's how long ago it was! 

Each train has four seats and each seat is equipped with headrest stereo sound system to heighten our experience. Riders could choose one song to play during the rollercoaster ride. Not that we could pay attention to the song as we were busy screaming at the top of our lungs! We could pick either going facing forward or facing backward, so I picked facing forward. It was less nerving to anticipate when we would plummet down, than suddenly being jerked back into a free fall! *shudder*

Luckily the ride lasted only 2 minutes or so, but boy, was I woozy after that! That was then I decided that I am too old for rollercoaster, LOL!

Area #2: Universal Wonderland

Khayla enjoyed herself being in Wonderland - it was all she talked about for days after we returned to Malaysia, LOL! Unfortunately for Khadeeja, she was too small to enjoy many of the rides in this area (which explained why 3 years old are not charged entrance fees).

Welcome to a world of Hello Kitty and Sesame Street!

Before we came in,  we stopped by to buy popcorn because the girls wanted the Minion case that came with the popcorn. Khadeeja was more interested in her popcorn than on any of the rides in the park, LOL!

I love popcorn! Omnomnomnom!

Hello Kitty's Fashion Avenue

While we were busy pretending to be young again, my sister brought our girls to Hello Kitty's Fashion Avenue where they had fun taking photos :)

So happy about their Hello Kitty stickers on their face

Khayla impersonating a lady in pink

Khadeeja :)

Same or not? LOL!

Sesame Street Fun Zone

First ride was on the Hello Kitty's Cupcake Dream...

The girls had a turn on Hello Kitty's Cupcake Dream

Followed by a ride on Elmo's Merry-Go-Round:

Khadeeja didn't go on the merry-go-round because she was busy enjoying her popcorn LOL!

Then the girls got a turn driving electric toy car on Sesame's Big Drive. Although Khadeeja qualified for the ride, she was too short and couldn't push on the pedal so the staff had to push her car instead, LOL!

Getting ready to 'drive'

Khayla wanted to take a photo with the Cookie Monster but she was really shy. Eventually she managed to overcome her shyness and took a photo with the costume character:

Smiling shyly as she was being hugged by Cookie Monster

Area #3: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Expect a lot of exclamation marks!!!! We are in Hogsmeade Village finally! Woohoo!

The archway going to the magical world of Harry Potter :)

We got to see EVERYTHING! Even the Flying Car in the Magical Forest! (Sorry no photo, we forgot to take it LOL!)

Of course, before we reached Hogswart we were bound to pass by the charming village of Hogsmeade! Cute buildings with cobbled street and snow-covered thatched roof! I wanna live here!


Hogsmeade Village looks like it comes straight out of Christmas card

My sister :)

There was even the Hogwarts Train! And look!

Butterbeer!

Butterbeer! We had to taste the famous butterbeer in order to get the feel of being part of Hogwarts!


Cheers to being in Hogsmeade!

Butterbeer tastes of butterscotch and honey, so yummy!

We had fun browsing the shops which were based on the Harry Potter series:

This shop sells wizarding equipment which are basically souvenirs :)

Gilderoy Lockhart's books with moving pictures!

This is really cute - a poster with moving picture

The signage shows Hogswart is just ahead

And finally we were on Hogwarts ground! So. freaking. EXCITED!


Hogwarts School of Withcraft and Wizardry behind us!

Since we couldn't bring strollers inside due to the large crowd here, hubby volunteered to look after the girls while my sister (who is equally ardent fan of Harry Potter) and I went inside the castle:


Griffin statue awaits us at the end of the hall

We thought they were normal oil paintings, until the subject started to move about :o

In the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom

We decided not to go on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey because the queue was too long and we wanted to cover other areas in USJ. Plus, I still didn't get over my headache from the rollercoaster ride in Hollywood!

Due to time constraint, we skipped Hagrid's Hut and so with heavy heart, we left the charming Harry Potter's world behind to explore other areas in USJ.


Area #4: Amity Village

If you are from my generation who was raised to fear the man-eating shark, you would remember the highly acclaimed movie 'Jaws'. Yup, Amity Village is featured in USJ and there was even a boat ride where we got attacked by robot sharks! Khayla was really terrified because she thought they were real sharks. Kids can be so funny! Sorry no photos because we were not allowed to snap any photo for our phone's safety, LOL!


The robot shark on display

Area #5: New York

By the time we reached this area, it was already night time and the park was almost closing. Still, we managed to squeeze in one more entertainment in our 'been there, done that' list - The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman!

Basically, it's a motion-based 3D dark ride based on the adventure of Spiderman. We asked Khayla if she wanted to go and she agreed, so hubby accompanied her. I decided to follow suit on single rider, because I was concerned that Khayla might get freaked out by the ride. I was freaked out! Although it was just a 3D ride, it felt too real as we 'fell' straight down from a tall building to the ground! 

Too my surprise, Khayla enjoyed herself though! So don't underestimate a 5 years old huh? LOL!


We are in New York, peeps!

So, there it was our adventure in USJ. It was super fun but super tiring as well. I felt sorry that we didn't manage to cover the other 4 areas, but maybe that's an excuse to make our way to Osaka again in the future? *wink wink*

Since we were going back the next day, we stopped by a souvenir shop just outside of USJ to buy mochi, Kitkats and other souvenirs to bring back to Malaysia. Thank goodness for the stroller's roomy underneath compartment that can carry lots of stuffs!

So there you go. Our trip to Osaka in 11 parts :) It was fun, beyond my expectations. I wouldn't mind going to Japan again, that's for sure!
Finally, we are in Osaka - woot woottt!

Day #6: Osaka
Everybody woke up late since we had a really tiring day the day before. By late, I mean 7.00am LOL. We had nasi ayam bento for breakfast then off we went to Kaiyukan!

1st stop: Kaiyukan Aquarium

This is a MUST-GO place in Osaka if you have kids. All kids love watching fish and penguin and dolphin, 'nuff said. In Osaka, fish watching is taken to another level - in one of the biggest aquarium in the world. How cool is that?

In front of Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

By the way, we didn't buy the Kaiyukan Pass because our Kansai Thru Pass also covers Kaiyukan area so it wasn't necessary to purchase the pass. It was cheaper to buy the admission ticket on its own. 

To get here, we boarded the train to Osakako station and then followed a clear direction to Tempozan Harbour Village, where this Aquarium is located. 

Other things of interest in this area is Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Legoland, but due to time (and budget) constraint, we didn't go to Legoland.

It's a really tall giraff made of lego bricks!

Gigantic Tempozan Ferris Wheel behind us
Before we headed to Kaiyukan Aquarium, we decided to go on the Ferris wheel since it was still early and there was no queue to be seen (it was 10am, if you are thinking to skip the queue come around this hour). Oh, have I mentioned that it used to be the biggest and tallest Ferris wheel in the world before London Eye came along? Yup, checked this off our travel bucket list!

The fee was ¥800 per person but we got 10% discount which was out of the privileges of our Kansai Thru Pass. 

We were given the option of boarding the normal car or the see-through car, so of course we gotta try the see-through one!

I admit the view was pretty impressive - we could see the sea, Mt. Rokko in the far distance and the whole Osaka city spread below us (and I was surprised to find that Osaka had quite bad haze but we didn't notice coz the air felt quite clean to me).

View of the Akashi Straits Bridge on our right

At over 100m above ground level in a transparent car. Whee!!!

We made it!

The Ferris wheel done, next we were off to Kaiyukan Aquarium.

Entrance fee was ¥2300 per adult and ¥600 for preschool children (4-6 years old). Khadeeja got in for free because she's considered 3 years old.

Although we could bring our stroller if we wanted to, we decided to leave it at the customer service counter (they have a dedicated stroller storage room) and explored the place on foot.

The first thing we saw was this tunnel which gave us a feeling of being under the ocean with the fish swimming above our heads:

In front of the underwater tunnel

Immediately the girls got all psyched up and excitedly went about looking at all the fish and other aquatic animals.

The aquarium was divided into several zones from all over the world such as Japan Forest, Pacific Ocean, South America, etc. All in all, there are about 30,000 creatures from hundreds of species in the aquarium.

Khadeeja admiring the seals

Look! Big fish passing by!

Us in front of a gigantic aquarium 3-storey high where they kept various ocean fish including whale sharks

Visitors were also allowed to pet some of the marine creatures (shark and stingray) provided they wash their hands with sanitisers prior to touching the animals. I only dared to touch the stingray but not the shark! Khadeeja amazed me because she dared to touch a stingray, but then again, she's being her curious self. Khayla didn't want to touch anything because 'they are wet' (well, she's always the prim and proper type!)

Khadeeja got ready to touch a stingray

Pretending to be scared of a 3D shark

Our tour of the Kaiyukan Aquarium took about 4 hours, and by the time we finished it was almost evening so we quickly performed our solat outside of the building (at an open area but we picked a secluded spot with few passersby). We had late lunch / early dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant which costed us almost ¥60,000 (which made me think that anyone can open an Indian eatery in Japan regardless of whether they can cook authentic Indian cuisine or not).


2nd stop - Osaka Castle

Next, we made a quick stop at Osaka Castle because well, it's Osaka's must-visit spot and it was in my bucket list of places to visit too. It took us longer time to reach here compared to actually being there because it was a long walk from the train station and we had to change train as well.

Osaka Castle's construction started in the 15th century and was the largest castle at that time. It miraculously survived wars and air raids and underwent major repair works to preserve its glory and gave it a modern touch inside (where I read they even installed elevator inside the castle). However we were only there to take a photo from the outside just as a proof that we covered the Osaka Castle - checked!

The Junaidix clan was here!

3rd stop - Dotonbori (Namba)

Remember my post that I wanted to go to Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street, the longest shopping street in Osaka? Come to think of it, I don't know why we didn't end up there and instead, ended up at Shinsaibashi. It wasn't totally a disappointing experience because I'm telling you - this is a MUST visit place if you want to experience the exciting bustle of a night life in Osaka! Basically, Osaka is divided into two major city centres - Minami (South)  and Kita (North). We decided to forego Umeda Sky Building which is located at the Kita district to go to Osaka Castle, which is nearer to Namba, since we couldn't cover all places in one day. So in return, we got to spend a few hours exploring Osaka's most famous entertainment district.

The crowd here was understandably humongous and we had to be careful pushing our strollers to avoid running into other people. But we really ENJOYED feasting our eyes here!

Khayla & Khadeeja was awe-struck to see a mechanised giant crab adorning a crab restaurant, which is one of the famous landmark in Dotonbori. Sadly, we didn't get to try the giant crabs because they were SUPER EXPENSIVE! (we were running out of cash by now). Ambik gambar giant crab pun jadilah.

Kani Doraku Giant Crab that actually moves!

The busy sights of Namba city filled with giant billboards everywhere

We strolled along the long streets until we reached Ebisubashi Bridge (local people nicknamed the bridge as the 'pick up' bridge because this is where young men always pick up young girls!) overlooking the Dotonbori canal, to snap another photo of a famous landmark in Dotonbori - the Glico Man. The giant neon billboard of an athlete running on a blue track was installed in 1935 and was originally a symbol of Glico candy. Somehow along the way it became a symbol of bigger things such as the World Cup and baseball sports team the Hanshin Tigers not to mention, a famous landmark for Dotonbori area!

Trying to pose like the Glico Man behind us

Family photo at the Dotonbori canal

My sister recommended us to try a popular snack in Dotonbori - takoyaki (octopus dumpling). True enough, there's a long queue of people wanting to buy takoyaki but it was worth it. The piping hot dumpling tastes heavenly especially when you eat outside in the cold weather! I really like the seafood (dried fish?) shavings on the dumplings because not only it's delicious, it was also fun to watch the shavings shrivelling up on the hot food as if it was something alive.

Gotta try this takoyaki (octopus dumpling) which they made on the spot and is oh-so-yummy eaten in the cold weather

Takoyaki experience ended our adventure for the day and it was time for us to go back to our place because the next day, we are going to Universal Studios Japan (USJ)!