Tag Archives: Osaka

Japan Top 10

1. MariCar

This was by far the most fun I had the entire trip

2. Nagashima Spa Land

I was able to fulfill a 17-year old dream of riding Steel Dragon 2000, plus the day was a lot of fun

3. Tokyo DisneySea

You kinda can’t beat Disney Parks

4. Tsutaya Daikanyama T-site

I could have spent an entire day their looking at books

5. Anata No Warehouse

The theming was great and the games were fun

6. Liberty Walk and RWB

Tied at #6 because of how similar the experience was, I was so grateful to meet Kato-san and Nakai-san

7. Gonpachi Nishi Azabu

Not only was it cool to be in a location that inspired a scene from Kill Bill, this was also my most memorable and probably best meal of the entire trip

8. The 5.6.7.8’s

I got to fulfill a long time goal of not only seeing this band, but seeing them in Japan

9. Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

Whale Shark, nuff said

10. Miraikan

The Art of Disney: The Magic of Animation exhibit brought me to tears

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure

Japan – Day 4: Osaka – Day 4

Tuesday – April 11, 2017

I started the day getting up early, as I usually do, and writing the blog post for yesterday. After that I woke up the boys and once they were ready, we figured out a game plan for the day.

We left the apartment by 10am and got breakfast at Y and A, our local breakfast spot. We then walked to the train station were, upon getting on the platform, we split ways. Pete went to the Glion Auto Museum and Dan and I  went to the Nara Deer Park.

Nara Deer Park

Our train ride took about an our and we arrived at 12pm. We then walked to the park. Along the way, as we got closer, we started seeing deer on the sidewalk. The closer we got, the more deer we saw. Eventually we reached a little stand where you could buy snacks to feed the deer. Dan bought a thing of snacks and was immediately surrounded by deer. He started feeding them the snacks but they were pretty aggressive; one even bit him.

IMG_5740Dan feeding the deer at Nara

After that we made our way into the park where we walked around for a bit. The one cool thing was that the deer are so accustom to seeing people bow at them, that if you bow, they will bow their head in return. There wasn’t very much to see there and the weather was kind of shitty so after a about an hour of walking around we were ready to go.

Tsutenkaku Tower

We got on a 12:56pm train back to Nippombashi. The ride back was only about 45 minutes. From there we took the train to the Tsutenkaku Tower

IMG_5756Walking from the train station to Tsutenkaku Tower

Though from the outside it looked old and cool, the tower itself was really tacky and filled with weird stuff. It’s hard to explain but I really didn’t like it. To top it off, the tower wasn’t very tall so the views were only ok.

Nanbayasaka Shrine

Dan and I basically raced through the place and the only thing I literally got out of it was a small box of Pocky. After that we made our way on foot to the Nanbayasaka shrine. There we met up with Pete. We also met these two Canadian tourists who were cool and whom we may meet up with again in Tokyo.

IMG_5779Lion’s head at Nanbayasaka Shrine

From there we walked to the subway Pete had taken to meet us. We took the train to Shin-Osaka to switch to the JR to Kobe. On the platform we were trying to to figure out which train we needed to take. A native must have seen that we were struggling and asked if we needed help. We told him we were trying to go to Kobe and he informed us that we we in fact at the right platform and that the next train would work for us.

Kobe

We took the train to one of the stations in Kobe and started to exit the station. However, I informed Dan of my game plan and so we then had to get back on a train heading in the same direction to get to the station we wanted.

When we arrived at Shinnagata station, we had one mission, find the Gigantor (from Tetsujin 28) giant robot statue. We started walking the right way, thanks to Dan, but then, thanks to me, we ended up going to the wrong way. Eventually, we got on track and found Gigantor.

IMG_5793Gigantor from Tetsujin 28-go Manga

We spent about 10 minutes getting pictures with him before splitting for food. We walked through one of the many shopping streets we’ve come across. We were in search of a spot to get some famous Kobe beef for dinner.

However, when we realized that we were nowhere near any of the restaurants we had looked up on Google, we made our way back to the train.

After getting off the train and walking a few blocks away, we found ourselves on a side street that was littered with restaurants. We walked to the one we had looked up but it was way too expensive. We walked to a second one but it too was pricey. We then just walked in the next place that looked decent and relatively inexpensive.

IMG_5820Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum

The place we found did serve beef, but it served all the parts that are unappealing. At least unappealing when you read it off a menu. I’m sure intestine and tongue are delicious, but I don’t want to know that’s what I’m eating. We eventually all found something on the menu that satisfied all of us and everything we ate was really good.

However, the pre-search for food combined with being hangry, combined with not being able to agree on where to eat had led to some tension. This however was solved at a nearby pastry shop Isuzu Bakery where we all grabbed a few items for dessert.

IMG_5819Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel

Next we made our way down to the port where we got great views of the Kobe Maritime Museum, the Kobe Port Tower and The Kobe Meriken Oriental Hotel. We walked around the port area for a bit, grabbing pictures of the aforementioned things lit up in the night. Pete and I even checked out the lobby of the hotel which was dope.

After chillin’ in the port area for a while, we decided to go back to one of the bars we had passed on the way to the port. The bar was called Brugge. Dan and I liked that they sold craft beer. He got in Asahi Dark and I got a Kobe Lager which was very light. I mainly got it because it was a local brew and because it was seemingly made just for the bar we were at.

After finishing our drinks it was kind of late so we went straight back to the Air BnB. I was cooked. Partially because we had had a long day and partially because beer makes me sleepy I conked out the second we got back to the room.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure

Japan – Day 3: Osaka – Day 3

Monday – April 10, 2017

We decided to mix things up a bit today, again getting out of the city to do something different. For those of you who don’t know, I used to be, and still sort of am, a huge roller coaster nerd. In the research I used to do, I would find theme parks in countries around the world and say to myself, if I ever go those countries, I am gonna go to those theme parks to ride those coasters.

As it turns out, Japan is one of those countries and located a few hours outside Osaka by train is none other than Nagashima Spa Land. Nagashima is home to several world class coasters, but the most famous is Steel Dragon 2000. Built in the year 2000, now 17 years old, I have been looking forward to riding it since I was 10.

Getting There

I woke up at 7am. After I got dressed I woke the other guys up at 8am and we were on the road by 9am. I was already a little upset because we were starting the day so late. Located in Mie Prefecture, NSL is a nearly 3 hour train and bus ride away from where we are staying. Additionally, because it is their off season, they have shorter hours; 9:30 to 17:00. I was afraid that the later we got there, the less time we’d have to go on all the rides I wanted to hit.

So for me, a perfect on the road time would have been 6 or 7. On top of that, the night previous, Dan started to question how we were getting there and was suggesting new/different ways than the ones I had painstakingly researched months ago. This threw a mental monkey wrench in my game plan, but also frustrated me because we have been executing our train rides flawlessly and I have given him no reason to doubt me thus far.

Because of this and the fact that I am really good a bottling and building my internal anger, the day started out with a lot of tension. We walked to Namba station took a train to Shin Osaka. There we switched to the Shinkansen to take us to Nagoya station. On that train, partially because it was crowded, partially because we hadn’t reserved a seat and partially because I was mad a them, Pete and Dan sat together and I sat by myself.

On the train I grabbed a drink and sandwich for “breakfast” and to break my 1,000 Yen note so I would have smaller Yen denominations to pay for the bus. At Nagoya station we we switched to a Kintetsu Limited Express train. This not only required us to tap on with our IC Card, it also required us to buy a ticked for that train. More money that I wanted to spend. We eventually figured everything out though, what train we needed to take, how to purchase the ticket, and got on a minute or so before it left the station.

Luckily ours was the first stop and it only took 16 minutes to get to Kuwana Station. There we were to board our final mode of transportation, a bus that would take us to the amusement park. However, we first had to make it out of the station.

I tried to use the card I bought to get on the express train to get through the turn style but all it did was eat the card and lock the gate. When I tried to tap my IC Card, it locked the gate again. Frustrated, I just walked through. Pete and Dan however went trough a different turn style, only tapped there IC Card and got through fine.

After figuring out where the buses were, we waited at our bus stop. We saw that the bus took IC Cards so we didn’t buy a bus ticket. When the bus arrived, I was the first to board. When I tapped my card, it made a weird noise and weird letters came up. When Pete and Dan tapped theirs however, they had no problem. This got me nervous that I would have a problem getting off the bus.

Being that there was still tension in the air, on our way to NSL I manned up and apologized to Dan and Pete for my shitty attitude. And though things were still sort of tense, I was forgiven.

When we arrived at the park I was the first to exit. I tapped my PASMO card and the screen said “Unable to use.” This bummed me out for two reasons, 1) I had to pay the fair out of pocket which took a long time and held up the line (something I HATE doing) and 2) it made me nervous I would have to forfeit my PASMO for a new card thus also forfeiting any money that was still on it.

Thinking of ways to rectify this situation was something that would plague my thoughts intermittently throughout the day. However, we were finally here and making our way towards the entrance so I couldn’t be too mad. We arrived at -near as makes no difference- noon.

Nagashima Spa Land

After paying 5,000 Yen (~$45) for a “passport” (unlimited ride) ticket and putting our things in a locker, we made our way to the crown jewel of the park, Steel Dragon 2000. As we entered the queue we found that there was virtually no line. We waited for the current train to come back, that train to board and were on by the third ride.

IMG_5610Acrobat (forground) and Steel Dragon 2000 (background)

I had not been on a gigacoaster (one with a drop over 300 feet) in a very long time, so by the time we got on the lift hill and started to climb, I was genuinely nervous. A feeling I have not felt on a coaster in some time. It was nice to have that “fear” again because I had gotten to a point where riding coasters was no longer thrilling to me.

In any case, we crested the 318 foot lift hill and dropped 306 feet to the ground below. We then went over the next hill and the helix and the bunny hops and 4 minutes later and over 8,000 feet of track (this is the current record holder for longest roller coaster in the world) behind us, the ride was over. We had conquered the Steel Dragon!

Psyched, any tension from the day subsided. We were all totally pumped on adrenaline. We ran back in line and immediately did it again.

IMG_5619White Cyclone

After re-riding Steel Dragon we made our way over to White Cyclone. Built in 1994, this wooden coaster is well known in the coaster community as one of the best reinterpretations of a classic wooden coaster design. Again we had virtually no wait for the ride and though it was rough, we all enjoyed it.

Next we made our way to the Looping Star, a cookie cutter single loop coaster. Though it was tiny and novice, it was smooth and a lot of fun. They placed cherry blossom trees on the sides of the track so it not only felt like you were going faster, but it added theming to the ride. Dan and I rode it again, there was no line, and Pete filmed us on it.

IMG_5625Looping Star

After Looping star, we took a break and grabbed a light lunch. We all got chicken tenders and fries. Once we were done it was back to action with the Shuttle Loop. Despite the fact that this coaster is basic with a launch and two inversions, one forwards and one backwards, because of the rapid fire action of the ride elements, it’s kind of intense.

We had been going hard since we got there and so after the shuttle loop we all decided we needed a break. We grabbed a drink at a classic Japanese vending machine and took a partial stroll around the park. Clearly we either getting old, or simply not accustom to these rides because the day was kind of kicking our ass in terms of headaches.

IMG_5646Shuttle Loop

We eventually made our way back to the Corkscrew roller coaster and checked it off the list. Pete then walked through the haunted house as Dan and I didn’t want to do it. Next we went to the locker to put stuff away and grab layers as it was overcast and chilly. We then banged out the Bobsled “coaster” -aka Bobkart- before walking around and exploring more of the park.

We then made our way back to the Acrobat, a flying coaster which is a carbon copy of Manta in Sea World. I let Pete and Dan do that one as I a) don’t really like flying coasters and b) though I’m sure I could have handled it, I was not feeling 100% enough to want to risk it.

IMG_5655I got a picture of them as they went swooping by

After Pete and Dan got off the ride, we all decided to do Steel Dragon one more time before heading back to Osaka. Riding that coaster was great every time. It felt like such and accomplishment and was the perfect ending.

Satisfied with our day, we started the journey home. First we purchased tickets at the ticket machine for the Mie Katsu bus. Then, since we had just missed one, we passed the time by going in the 7-11, getting snacks and hanging out. A few minutes later the bus arrived which took us back to Kuwana Station.

IMG_5687Steel Dragon 2000 flew by as we exited the park

There, Dan figured out that we could take a JR train, rather than a limited express train, to get back to Nagoya. Luckily, JR trains require the JR pass rather than the IC Card so my now defunct PASMO card would not be an issue.

However, before making it down to the platform, I tried an experiment. I tapped my PASMO on the same turn style card reader that Dan and Pete had when they were exiting earlier in the day. Low and behold, the screen read a balance and the curse had been lifted. All I had needed to do was to take the time and tap the right car reader. Oh well, the problem was solved and I was back in action.

We took the JR train to Nagoya and there switched to a Shinkansen bound for Shin Osaka station. We got on the first car and, because it was fairly empty, each grabbed a row to ourselves. On the way I listened to music, napped a little and tried to figure out the best plan of attack for the evening/tomorrow.

IMG_5729City Walk at Universal Studios in Osaka

Universal City Walk

After weighing my options I decided I wanted to go to City Walk, since I would no longer be going to Universal Studios to at least get my fix and to grab dinner. I pitched the idea to Pete and when we arrived at Shin Osaka, to Dan as well. Pete and I decided to go and Dan decided to head back to the room and grab dinner locally.

After reorganizing my backpack and giving Dan his personal affects, we parted ways. Pete and I hopped a couple of trains to get us to City Walk. Once there we walked around for a bit and took some pictures. Pete had been wanting something quick and easy; something he knew like McDonalds. I was hoping to get something a bit more Japanese. We found a perfect compromise in Mos Burger, Japan’s answer to Burger King.

After hanging around a bit more and looking at some of the shops and restaurants, we made our way back to the Air BnB where Dan let us in and we all went to bed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure

Japan – Day 2: Osaka – Day 2

Sunday – April 9th, 2017

Today was the first day that the group split up. Dan stayed in Osaka to see a bunch of sites in the city while Pete and I ventured out to Aichi Prefecture to visit a few car sites.

First however, we had to get there. Rather than go into the details of our travel, I’ll give you the cliff notes:

We got up around 6:30 and left the apartment by 7:30-ish. First we took the subway from Nippombashi to Namba Station (1). Next we took the subway from Namba Station to Shin-Osaka Station (2). Then we took a Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya Station (3). Here is where things got a little tricky.

In my notes it said to take the Higashiyama train from Nagoya to Fujigaoke Station. However, what I failed to add was that in order to access the Higashiyama train, you need to exit the station and enter at a different part that is, for whatever reason, not connected underground. This led to us going the wrong way a bunch of times and eventually asking an attendant where to go.

Once we figured it out, we stopped and grabbed breakfast at the Mermaid Cafe in Nagoya Station. After, it was back to smooth sailing and we took the subway from Nagoya to Fujigaoke Station (4). On the train, Pete and I noticed the guy standing in front of us had a cool design on his shirt. I told him so and at the next station we got out.

We then transferred to the Linimo train (light rail) -which also required us to get out of the station and enter a different one- and when we got to the platform, who was standing there but cool shirt guy. Somehow we got to talking and came to find out we were all bound for the Toyota Automobile Museum. We took the tram from Fujigaoke to Geidaidori Station (6; total number of trains it took us to get to the museum).

As we rode to the museum we basically became “single serving friends” (see Fight Club). He told us he his name is George and was/is from the Czech Republic and we commiserated over our love of cars.

This entire train process took about 3 and a half hours.

Toyota Automobile Museum

When we got to Geidaidori Station we walked to the Toyota Automobile Museum together and unofficially decided to check out the museum together. The first thing that stood out about the museum was that the employees, mostly female, were super traditional and respectful, bowing any time you did… anything. Next, for whatever reason, instead of it costing 1,000 Yen, it only cost 500 Yen (~$4).

IMG_5551Toyota 2000GT and a Sports 800

The museum was laid out in historical order ie. older cars first, newest cars last. While George and I were looking at an original Fiat 500L, an older gentleman/employee opened the door for us so we could see inside. He explained things about the car and would continue to do this -opening doors and hoods for us- intermittently throughout the museum.

Eventually we got to a Mercedes 300SL (Gullwing) and when George saw it, he turned into a little boy. He ran over and immediately started taking pictures. It was adorable. As we continued through the museum, the inevitable happened, I was at the end of the hall and moving on to the next and Pete was just beginning the hall; taking pictures and looking at EVERYTHING.

IMG_55411959 Cadillac

Because I knew we had one other thing to do in the area and because I wanted to get back to Osaka in time to get more than just these two things done today, I was sort of in a rush. Naturally however, Pete took his sweet old time.

I made the mistake of telling him there was an “Annex” too, and so of course he wanted to check it out. Then he want to shmy in the gift shop. Then he wanted to go to the car meet in the parking lot and had to have a super long conversation with the owners. Then he had to look at a classic Mini Cooper in the parking lot and had a chat with the owner. All of this led to leaving 2 and a half hours later than I wanted to.

Liberty Walk

Next we made our way to Liberty Walk, a wide body kit company that’s popular in the tuner car scene. Getting to LW involved taking the Linimo train from Geidaidori to Yakusa Station (the end of the line (7)). There we switched to the Aichikanjo Tetsudo train -for which we could not use our IC (PASMO) card and had to buy a regular ticket- from Yakusa to Setoshi Station (8).

Next we had to get out and change stations to take the Meitetsu train from Shinseto to Sango Station (9). From there it was a straightforward (12 minute) stroll to Liberty Walk. When we got there, I was wondering if Kato-san would be there. No sooner did I mention this sentiment to Pete did I look up and there he was talking with some kids a few cars away. I was going to walk over but I didn’t want to disturb him.

IMG_5579Liberty Walk Cafe

I kept looking at cars until an employee came over and asked if I needed help. I told him I was looking for Kato-san, and he brought me to the LW cafe. There he was, sitting with an older gentleman. I walked over and started chatting with Kato-san. He smiled but did not respond. Seeing this, the same employee came over to me. “He doesn’t speak english.” I had the employee translate and during our conversation, found out that he is Kato’s son!

Huma (pronounced Hue-mah) took a picture of me and Kato-san and then, after instructions from his father, gave us a drink on the house. After that he gave us a tour of the two LW facilities. We chatted and hung out and got pictures of the shops. Pete took his sweet time looking at everything and finally, after we both got some merch, we made our way back to Osaka.

IMG_5594Liberty Walk Garage

We went from Sango to Sakaemachi Station (10). There we switched to Sakae and took the train to Nagoya Station (11). From Nagoya we took the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station (12). And finally we took the train from Shin-Osaka to Namba Station (for a total of 13 trains in one day).

From there we walked back to the Air BnB and met up with Dan outside.

Dinner/Dotonbori

When we got back to the Air BnB, Pete took a nap, I organized some stuff on my computer and Dan did the same on his computer. After about an hour or an hour and a half of chilling, Dan and I were ready to go, so we woke up Pete and we headed out. Pete and I had only had breakfast and we were starving so we grabbed a bite at a greasy meat/noodle place down the street from our Air BnB.

When we were done, the game-plan was to go to Dotonbori and maybe to a bar. I was pretty chilly and had been to Dotonbori the night before so I deiced to go home and write this. Pete and Dan ventured into the night and I let them in about an hour and a half later. I then contined to write until I completed the day.

So, because of all this I’ve decided that on our next free day, I’m breaking away and doing my own thing so I can finally accomplish all of the things I’ve been putting off. If I don’t, I’m gonna start resenting people and that will put a dark cloud over the trip.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure

Japan – Day 1: Osaka – Day 1

Saturday – April 8, 2017

Being that we had such a long day yesterday, the plan was to sleep in, then start the day whenever we were ready. However, due to a series of circumstances we all were up by around 7am. This ended up being advantageous as we used that time to chat, come up with a game-plan, get showered/dressed and then start our day.

Breakfast

We began with breakfast at Y and A, a corner coffee shop at the end of our block. The place was quaint and the food was excellent. Pete and I had pancakes while Dan had a breakfast sandwich. It looked so good that Pete and I spilt one ourself. We finished breakfast a little after 9:40am.

Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium

After paying we went in search of a bank so we could exchange our larger bills for smaller notes (10,000 Yen for five 2,000 Yen notes; ~$100). However, when we couldn’t find one, we decided to just head to the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium.

IMG_5385Exterior of the aquarium

My directions were, as usual, perfect. To be fair, it was extremely easy to get to. We arrived there at 10:25am and when I was paying for my ticket, the attendant asked where I was from. I think they just like figuring out where they get their tourism from. In any case, being that this was a Saturday, the place was pretty crowded with families and small children.

We slowly shuffled our way through the exhibits, but there was one main attraction I was there to see… the whale shark! To my knowledge, this aquarium is one of only two in the world that has a (technically two) whale shark(s) in captivity. The building was much larger than I thought it was but eventually we rounded a corner to find the main tank.

IMG_5419Whale Shark… nuff said

I saw a large group of people crowded at one window and then, there it was. I could not believe what I was seeing. I knew that the it would be big but nothing can prepare you for just how big and how majestic an animal like this will be. However, despite their size, the whale shark is notoriously gentle. I was a kid again, captivated by the sight of it. I would go so far as to say I took too many pictures of the whale sharks.

After exhausting everything there was to look at in the main tank, we made our way to the rest of the exhibits. The one that drew me in the most, besides the aforementioned whale shark was one we actually almost skipped because it looked too childish. As it turned out, it was an unofficial Finding Nemo exhibit.

IMG_5424The tank from Finding Nemo

It featured the fish from the movie but the best part was the replica tank/aquarium from P. Sherman’s dentist office at 42 Wallaby Way in Sydney. Not only did it have most of the fish from that tank (Peach (the starfish) and Bloat (the puffer fish) were missing), it also had the props like the volcano, the pirate ship, the tiki gods, the diver’s helmet and the treasure chest. #mybubbles

Eventually, we wrapped things up and made our way to Osaka Castle. Along the way Dan bought takoyaki and, despite it being too hot to consume in one bite as I tried to do, it was pretty tasty.

Osaka Castle/Osakajo Park

When we got off the train near Osaka Castle, we realized that it was located in the middle of Osakajo Park. Rather than make a beeline for the castle, we decided to stroll through the park and take in some of the sights. I’m glad we did because we ended up walking through some cool nature, seeing some cherry blossoms (part of the point of our trip), seeing locals barbecue, and a run in with an older gentleman named Kenji who told us about growing up in Osaka.

IMG_5454Osaka Castle with Cherry Blossoms

Eventually we made it to the castle. We decided to wait in line to get tickets to enter the museum/castle just as it started to lightly rain. Admission was only 600 Yen (about $5). We took the stairs (the line was shorter than the line for the elevator) up through the museum, to the top of the castle where we looked out over Osakajo Park. After looking around for a bit we regrouped and formed a plan.

I forgot to mention that on our way out of the park we saw a temple. It seemed very quiet but there were people gathered around the entrance. As we approached, we found that there was a traditional wedding ceremony taking place… pretty cool.

Shitennoji Shrine

We decide to go to the Shitennoji Shrine which ended up being aligned with the first four letters of the shrine’s name. Not for any reason other than the fast that it had started to rain again and was closing by the time we got there. Plus, going to this one meant we had to bail on the other, and probably cooler Nanbayasaka Shrine. Oh well. After that failure we were beyond starving so we searched for a ramen place and hopped on a train.

Ramen Place

For lunch/supper we went to a ramen place near Dotonbori. I was so hungry (I had been hungry since the castle) that anything would have been good, but this place was really good.  Tiny spot on the corner of a back alley, it felt like it was right out of Blade Runner.

IMG_5475Ramen place

After that we went back to Air BnB to take a break and regroup. This meant naps for Pete and Dan and writing today’s blog so far.

Because I knew we were so close to it and because it was on our “to do” list, I decided to go to Dotonbori. I tried a few times to wake up the guys by calling their respective names but neither responded. I sort of felt like I was in a damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario.

Dotonbori

If I woke them they might be mad I did so but happy to join. If I didn’t they’d feel I’d left them out but be glad to have slept. I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and went by myself. I was glad I did because it meant I got to roam freely through the many streets and alleyways.

IMG_5493Dotonbori

This part of town is pretty hard to describe so I’m going to do it in stream of consciousness. River, neon, clubs, lots of people, covered shopping streets, arcades, restaurants, alleyways, fuck boys, escorts, red light district, traffic, sirens, late night, mayhem, vending machines.

I’m sure there’s more I could add but it was all really a blur. One thing I will point out is this vending machine I went to where I thought I was getting a can of chocolate milk and instead ended up with hot coco… from a vending machine… in a can!

I ended up having a good time and when I got back found myself “damned if you don’t” as Pete was pissed I hadn’t woken him up. Oh well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure

Boston to Tokyo to Osaka

It was late December of 2008 that I first took an international vacation by myself. I went with EF tours to London and Paris. While in Soho in London, I went to the Onitsuka Tiger boutique on Carnaby Street. There I purchased a pair of yellow and black Mexico 66’s reminiscent of the Tai Chi’s worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

At the time Onitsuka Tiger had a campaign called Made of Japan. The bag in which a got my shoes was a beautifully designed sneaker city of Tokyo. I think it was then that I realized I wanted to go to Japan.

I cut out a part of the screen printed brown paper bag and hung it on my wall. All it said was JAPAN. Now, nine years later, I’m on my way.

Thursday – April 6, 2017 – United States of America

Apartment to Sullivan Station (via bus; 10 min)

I left my apartment at 10:25am EST to catch the 89 Bus to Sullivan Station. According to my “Catch The Bus” app, I had 4 minutes until the bus was to arrive. knowing that it only takes me about a minute to get to the bus stop from my apartment, I took my time. However, as I rounded the corner onto Broadway, I saw that the bus was already at the stop. I ran and luckily the merciful bus driver waited for me. This was the first of several connections/forms of transportation I would have to take on what would be one of the longest days of my life.

Sullivan Station to Logan Airport (via subway (Orange line and Blue line) and shuttle bus; 40 min)

At Sullivan station I boarded the Orange line bound for Forrest Hills and took it to State Street. There I switched to the Blue Line. I took the Blue Line to Airport where I then boarded a shuttle to Terminal E. I arrived at the airport at 11:15am.

Logan Airport to Narita Airport (via JAL Boeing 787; ~14 hrs)

Once there, I checked in and got my boarding pass. After that I checked my phone and saw that the other guys weren’t far behind. A short while later I met up with Pete who then checked his bag. Then, after that we figured out that Dan was already making his way through security.

IMG_5364Japan Airlines B787 at Logan Airport

Pete and I followed suit. Apparently Thursdays at 11:40am isn’t a particularly busy time for Logan Airport’s International terminal, we basically just walked right through. After hashing a few things out, taking some pictures of the plane, using the restroom and grabbing food, it was time to board (1:00pm).

The boarding process was quick and hassle free. Our plane pushed back promptly at 1:20pm and after a short taxi to the runway, we were air-born. You don’t realize how cool all of the features of the B787 Dreamliner are until you get to experience them. The larger overhead compartments, the larger windows that dim rather than use a shade, the graceful flex of the carbon fibre composite wing once in flight.

I started the flight by listening to the latest episode of This Is Only A Test (Tested dot com’s podcast). Shortly after, or possibly right before the hour and 45 minute podcast ended, we were served our first meal. Dan and I (who were sitting next to each other) had the pork meal. Pete, who was sitting behind me, got the chicken. The meal was pretty big and pretty good, it filled all of us up.

IMG_5367Our first meal on the flight

After using the restroom and chatting with the guys for a bit, I started my first movie, the Academy Award Winning Best Picture -er sorry, that was the other one- La La Land. I don’t know if it was because I was on a plane or that I heard so much about it or that I had built it up too much but I only thought it was ok.

After the movie I stood and stretched for a bit, looked at maps, looked out the window, chatted with Pete and Dan, then watched the movie Allied, which was also only ok.This was then followed by a snack/meal service, more chatting, an episode of Star Wars Rebels, and a nap which was followed by our last proper meal of the flight.

An episode of Wheeler Dealers led us to a holding pattern where we made circles out over the ocean which ruined our initial estimate of an early (3:30pm instead of 4pm) arrival time. After a sketchy crosswind landing, we touched down at Narita Airport at 16:07 Japan time.

Friday – April 7, 2017 – Japan

One of my biggest fears upon landing at Narita was being able to get our JR Voucher converted to a JR Pass, book our Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo and get to the bullet train on time, as well as getting our PASMO card and our Japanese SIM card all while making it on time to our various connections.

I assumed that our biggest hurdle would be going through customs but the whole process, including Pete having to collect his bag at baggage claim, only took around a half an hour. Once we got through and made our way out to the lobby, we then scrambled to find where to exchange our JR Pass Voucher for a usable JR Pass.

IMG_0930Dan, Pete and I getting off the plane

Eventually, after asking a few people, we found the JR Pass ticket booth. There, not only were we able to get our JR Pass, we also got our ticket for the Narita Express train (#42 which left at 17:47 just as I had researched) and our ticket/reserved seat for the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka (#529 which departed at 19:10, also as I expected).

After getting all that we went over to the PASMO machine to purchase a PASMO card. PASMO is one of many “IC Cards” one can choose from while in Japan. It is a subway tap-card that works in seemingly all subway stations and most busses, not just in Tokyo. After sorting out our PASSMO, Dan and I went in search of a SIM card.

We went back upstairs and, using Pete’s phone, figured out which retailers sold the specific SIM card he was looking for. As I looked around the airport, amazingly I saw one of the retailers from the website. This was the first of many times that, as a team, we figured out where we needed to go. We grabbed our SIM cards and, after collecting ourselves, made our way to the platform to board the Hogwarts, er, Narita Express.

Narita Airport to Tokyo Station (via N’EX train; 52 min)

We got to the platform in plenty of time and as I expected, the N’EX showed up at 17:47, right on schedule. The first thing you notice after entering the spaceship looking train, is that the ride is not only very quiet, but also incredibly smooth. Additionally, despite the fact that it was not a bullet train, the N’EX hauled ass doing probably 80 kph.

IMG_5372Narita Express Train

As we entered Tokyo, Pete pointed out to me the Tokyo Skytree, which he mistook for the Tokyo Tower. Even from a distance you could tell it was massive. It dwarfed everything else in sight. Eventually we arrived at Shinigawa station where after a bit of fevered confusion, made our connection to the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen.

Shinigawa Station to Shin Osaka Station (via Shinkansen aka bullet train; 3 hrs)

I don’t know what made me think this was a good idea, a 3+ hour train ride after already being subjected to ~14 hour flight and an ~hour long train ride. Regardless, we boarded the train, which again was perfectly on time, and began our journey.

IMG_5374Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka

The three of us were miserable. Despite the relatively comfortable seats, we were all exhausted but yet could not really fall asleep. Despite travelling at ~274 kph (about 160 mph) the train felt like it was taking forever. I felt like I was on Snowpiercer. Eventually however, we made it to Shin Osaka Station.

Shin Osaka Station to Nippombashi Station (via Subway; 20 min)

Our journey was nearly over. There were only two more subway trains to take. Once we got to the station, I pulled out my itinerary and, thanks to its through detail, as well as excellent sign spotting by Dan and Pete, we found our trains without a problem and before we knew it, we were at Nippombashi Station.

Nippombashi Station to Air BnB (via walking; 10 min)

IMG_5378View from the 14th floor balcony of our Air BnB

Thanks to my Google mapping before the trip, I knew not only what exit number to leave from (#10) but also exactly where to go once we got out. The walk was very straightforward and, with help from Pete, we figured out out the exact location of the Air BnB and how to get in it. Once we did, we got settled and then, after admiring our accomplishments, all went to bed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel/Adventure