Retro Otaku’s Japan travel tips

Soba noodles

I don’t claim to be a guru about traveling over to Japan having only had the opportunity to visit last year for the first time, but figured I’d add something to the sea of information out there based on our experiences last year.

Language

Do not bark at people in English. While English is widely taught in school, it doesn’t mean everyone is suddenly completely fluent in it. In Australia most high school children learn a language, but that in no way guarantees they’ll be able to use it outside the classroom. If you’re traveling to Japan, read up on at least some useful phrases and grab an app for your smartphone/tablet or a pocket phrasebook so that you can express how amazing the ramen you just ate in a tiny neighbourhood eat-in really was. Japanese is built on phonetic patterns of vowels, and pay attention to softening said-vowels. Probably influenced by North American pronounciation, too many people seem inclined to harden their vowels when they speak the language – listen closely to when native speakers fire out the language and take some inspiration.

It probably won’t hurt to learn some hiragana and katakana as well (and if you’re feeling adventurous, add some kanji into the mix). Even if it’s just some basics – being able to read references to your choices of travel (100-yen shops, arcades [Game Centres], anime or manga stores, book shops, budo shops, ramen, takoyaki, okonomiyaki) will make it easier finding the places you always wanted to go visit and stumbling along other opportunities!

You’ll also find language will vary from location to location – Tokyo has a fair whack of English translations against its signage to make it easier to get around, though the further out you go it starts getting a bit more sparse (Ohta, where we visited the Sega building, didn’t have much English signage and both Miitaka and Takao were a bit limited in parts as well). We found that Kyoto needed a bit more attention when getting around in comparison, same with Hiroshima and Osaka. Don’t stress if you get lost though – the locals were always amazing when we asked for help, but just make an effort to meet them half-way by speaking a bit of Japanese ?

Food

Get adventurous when you go to Japan! Ramen, udon, sushi, takoyaki, izakaya fare, okonomiyaki – these are just scratching the surface of all the amazing food over there! While it’s fun to take some time to check out the Japanese take on Western cuisine and take-out food, don’t chicken out and miss out on the fun stuff. One of the most memorable meals while we were away was hitting the neighbourhood soba place near Sega in Ohta – the meals were less than $3 each and it was absolutely delicious! Beer is also delicious off the tap in Japanese pubs despite being dirt cheap, and keep in mind that a number of places will actually have a vending machine out the front you use to select and purchase your meals (including note and coin slots), then you take a seat and wait for your meal to be finished up, collect and then return to your table to tuck in (or they’ll bring it out to you). Feel free to try some unusual gear from the armies of vending machines dotted around cityscapes too, and indulge in Japanese iced tea (hint: they’re not loaded with sugar).

Crime and safety

Don’t be an arsehole and you’ll probably be fine in Japan. The place was incredibly safe compared to home – people would leave handbags and shopping on tables in food courts when they went off to grab food from one of the outlets, prams were left loaded with personal goods outside stores and in amusement parks without the need for supervision. It was a nice change from back home. While we didn’t push any buttons while we were over there and can’t speak from experience about getting out of trouble, if you find yourself in a bad situation be nice and polite. Do not be a tool and get drunk, pick a fight with the locals while being filmed and getting it uploaded into YouTube.

Appearance

Gaijin could do a bit better in Japan. I’m not saying you need to set the pace when visiting the likes of Shibuya or Harajuku, but don’t dress like you’ve just woken up and walked out the door in a pair of baggy trackies (sweat pants to those not used to the Australian vernacular) and a t-shirt that’s seen better days, or making your way around the Tokyo train system dressed like you’re heading out to climb a mountain in a third world country (I’m not kidding – spotted a guy in the Shinjuku Station cranking a small backpack with several water bottles and hiking boots dressed in khaki like he was about to leave civilisation). I certainly didn’t set any precedents over there so it might seem a bit hypocritical, but it’s as good an opportunity as any to take some pride in your appearance ?

Mind, I’m doing this from my perspective as a guy – my gender limits me to being in the thick of things with the same appreciation for social norms as the opposite sex, but the etiquette research beforehand and what we noticed over there suggests that legs are fine to show off and crazy heels are an amazing idea, but perhaps be a touch conservative with your chest for the daily grind. Mind, a plunging v-neck on a guy sporting a hairy hipster chest won’t exactly win you any awards (you might be able to get away with it if you’re making a statement in Yoyogi Park on a Sunday with a crepe though!).

The art of walking

Did you know that we don’t know how to walk in public? I guess when you have that level of population density it comes part of the routine. It doesn’t mean that everyone walks fast, it’s just everyone knows how to bob, duck and weave through the human sea and be comfortable with cramming into the subway in sardine-like conditions (which, to be honest, isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be). Just be prepared to go with the flow – it’s a pretty interesting experience and when you get home (assuming you don’t live in a super high-density city, which we haven’t noticed in little old Australia), it adds some perspective!

Inside voice

My speaking voice is loud. In Japan, you don’t speak loudly, so be considerate of others, and if I can get into the habit of not being a noisy pain in the arse, anyone can. This is especially prominent on trains – even when they’re packed, they’re quiet, at least in most cases (they were a bit noisier in Osaka!). By extension, note the decorum in public when it comes to your phone as well – don’t speak on your mobile phone when on public transport, but texting, listening to music and gaming’s okay as long as you’re wearing earphones or headphones. At least that’s what we noticed in our travels and from all the stuff plastered around the place.

Arcades

Here’s a tip – if you find yourself playing a round of Street Fighter, BlazBlue or Virtua Fighter against a fellow gamer and find yourself getting your arse handed to you on round 1, winning round 2, then getting torn apart in round 3, you actually weren’t amazing in round 2, you were being treated to some local hospitality (thanks Steve at Super Gaijin Ultra Gamer for the tip!). In addition, it’s a bit of a faux pas to take photos or videos in arcades over there (though Wifey took some photos and videos while I was gaming without incident). Just be subtle about it and be aware you’ll be asked to leave if staff catch you. The same goes for video game stores – I would have loved to have taken some video footage and recorded my nerdisms when wandering around Super Potato or Mandarake, but IIRC there are plenty of signs warning that photography is a no-no in shops as well.

Shopping

Customer service is pretty awesome in our experiences. Granted I didn’t understand everything at the checkout since my Japanese is a bit rubbish, but it was at least polite! The handy bit is that most cash registers will display the amount owing in Yen (I’m bad with numbers in Japanese!), but remember to use the little tray they provide to plonk your cash in. The operator will then take the cash, count it back, take the money and put the change in the plastic tray for you to take and you’re good to go.

This leads onto the next shopping bit – go with cash as your primary means of spending where possible. We found most of the 7-Elevens had ATMs that accepted foreign credit cards and we used our travel Visa cards to withdraw cash in chunks as we went through the trip. On a couple of occasions I was caught short (the one I remember most is in Mandarake in Akihabara on the second visit towards the end of the trip, who handily had credit card facilities), but most of the time cash sorted stuff out. The exception to this rule is with hotels (all accepted credit cards) and I’m pretty sure the big department stores will also take credit cards (well, Visa and MasterCards anyways).

Internet access

Wifi access was intermittent when we were over in Japan – some had free wifi, some had limited wifi access, some none. We didn’t have a lot of luck hopping onto hotspots while we wandered around the place, but at the same time internet access was a bit of an optional perk rather than a necessity when we were there.

However, if you want to get online in Japan, some of my friends (thanks Kate and Sly!) have suggested grabbing a pocket wifi device when you get into the country and use that. You’ll get access to Japan’s comparatively excellent (compared to Australia :P) mobile network speed/coverage and since it’s a pocket wifi device you can attach anything with a wifi connection (thus great for consoles, smartphones, tablets and laptops).

… well, that’s it for now. I’ve probably missed some stuff as I’ve gone back and added to this a couple of times already, but it’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog ? Hopefully this will mark a more sporadic blogging habit rather than the long awkward pauses over the last few months!

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 12

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We were up early and rearing to go in order to catch an early train to start our commute back to Tokyo, with the added challenge of an extra full sized piece of luggage in addition to our two existing pieces. With the help of a generous baggage strap I hauled two of the luggage cases (each weighing a fair bit a this point!), with Wifey carrying the other. We ended up walking from the hotel to catch the train from the Universal City Station to Osaka Station, transferring from there to catch another train to Shin-Osaka, then from there we boarded the Shinkansen to go to Tokyo Station.

Once we arrived we found our way to the Keio Line and hauled are arses down to catch the rapid train that dropped us off at Maihama, with some signage confirming that we were walking a kilometer or two in the train station as we made our way to where we needed to go. We exited the train to the trill of Disney-themes on the PA, then wandered down to the Bayside Station to jump on the monorail (giving our Pasmo IC cards a wake-up run), then walked from the stop to our final destination, the Hilton Tokyo Bay. If we used our brains a little bit more by this stage we could have waited a couple of minutes to catch the shuttle bus, but we saw the pearly lights of the hotel and walked over to it without thinking.

Since we arrived prior to the room being available we left our extensive pile of stuff and headed back out into the city to do some more shopping. The original plan was to finish up the souvenir shopping in Harajuku with a combination visit of the Oriental Bazaar and Daiso, but with culture day happening on this day, we ended up only getting to the Oriental Bazaar. After a thrilling/exhausting fight through the human sea that was choking up everywhere from the train station to well past the bridge, we crossed to hit up the Bazaar.

The Oriental Bazaar made for an awesome stop to grab some souvenirs for ourselves and friends/family back home. Prices were pretty reasonable and we picked up some fantastic goodies. It was a bit embarrassing seeing some of the other gaijin mulling about being loud and obnoxious (there were at least a couple who were getting antsy that not all the store staff could speak English), so we did our best to get what we were after and tried our best Japanese wherever possible – one of the ladies who helped track down a happy coat for Wifey said she thought it was very nice of me to use Japanese to practice while shopping in there. Gotta love those nice touches 🙂

By the time we were done the sun was beginning to set, so the combo of human sea and an early start encouraged us to head home since the train ride combinations were going to take 30-60 minutes before we made it to the hotel.

By the time we arrived at the Maihama Station our bellies were ready for some love, so we ducked into the food court in the shopping complex next to the monorail station to fill up on some delicious udon before heading back to our hotel. This time we were entirely sensible and waited at the bus stop at the bottom of the escalator to grab the shuttle bus back to the hotel.

The shuttle buses are an amazing homage to the classic chrome beasts of many years ago, although once you step on board they seem to behave like any modern bus, so nice and clean with air conditioning! Once the door closes Mickey greets you in Japanese which was hilarious because it just came out of nowhere, and it was only a few moments until we arrived at the hotel.

Things got a little interesting here, as the room arranged for us was a smoking room (even though we had stipulated a non-smoking room in our booking). After some discussion with the staff (a little tricky as my Japanese + English combination was fraught with incoherency), they were able to secure us a room at no extra charge that was in the non-smoking section. The catch was that it was on the same floor as all the family rooms, but that didn’t bother us at all. We got the access card and the porters arranged for our luggage to be brought up (very fancy by our standards!!), and lo-and-behold if we didn’t manage to get an awesome/amazing themed bedroom!!

Wifey was absolutely thrilled as she was secretly hoping the room was going to be themed, so it was a really nice way to finish up our first day on the final leg of the trip.

While the day wasn’t as productive as we hoped (it presented the challenge of adding in a trip to Daiso the next day, but we’re always up for a challenge :)), it was still good fun and the hotel made for an amazing way to rest and relax after a big day of travel.

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 10

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The first full day in Osaka was set as a half nerd/half not-nerd shopping day. Osaka houses the west-coast equivalent of Akihabara, Nipponbashi or Den Den Town, so we had planned to head over there in the morning and then jump over to the Dotonburi shopping district in the afternoon. To make things more time-efficient, I used Sebaattori’s excellent blog entry on retrogaming in Osaka as a base and headed to the Ebisucho Station via the Sakaisuji line, exit 1-B, and found Super Potato two meters to the right of the exit once we got out onto the street. We ended up crossing over the other side to check out the Sofmap over there only to realise the Sofmap on the same side of the street as Super Potato (and our other destination, Game Tanteidan) was where we needed to go.

Before going on, I have to say that Nipponbashi is a completely different beast than Akiba. Where Akiba is gaudy but full of life, Nipponbashi is gritty, grimy and dark; Wifey commented the same, and where in Akiba she felt pretty comfortable and found the spectacle entertaining, she felt a bit uncomfortable in comparison in Nipponbashi. We started off hunting for LDs in a store on the corner before starting the nerd run, and once again inadvertently walked into the porn section on the second floor (which felt a little more seedy than the other accidental walk-ins). Exiting, we headed to Sofmap and found their retro collection was located across 6 bins (3 x 3 – so two rows), where the whole thing was a bit of a mess. Games in there were certainly cheap enough (I grabbed Virtua Cop 2 for only ¥50), but it was a lot of effort for comparably little return time-wise, so we left after grabbing the above and headed to Game Tanteidan (or to use Sebaattori’s translation, Game Detectives).

The store isn’t massive, but the selection is fantastic and pricing wasn’t too shabby either considering we were shopping in an urban area – on the whole, it was probably 10% to 20% cheaper than Akiba, though in some instances it was also more expensive (consistently inconsistent then!). The bottom floor is where the hardware is (they had a set of boxed Virtual On Twin Sicks for the Saturn for only ¥960!!), as well as most of the software. The Famicom selection is extensive, but being conscious of time I wasn’t in a position to go through everything individually, and instead prioritised the Saturn and DC, and checked out a couple of Super Famicom games and some Mega CD titles. Upstairs is dedicated to MSX, collectible cards, game music and art books (and probably guide books as well). Up here I was fortunate enough to find a copy of the Phantasy Star Compendium art book for around ¥3500 and snapped it up, then grabbed some titles from downstairs on the way out, with my amazing and patient wife helping by holding onto games while I shopped (and by now I’m sure you’ve noticed that Wifey being amazing and patient has been a continuing motif throughout this entire trip!).

I was debating whether to go to Super Potato as I heard the prices there were really expensive, but Wifey said I should still go in, and as always she was right 🙂 We skipped the bottom floor as per Sebaattori’s advice and went straight to the second floor where the retro love is. Since the shelves weren’t quite as packed as Game Detectives, more games were facing with the label-side visible rather than the spine, so it made it faster than relying on my not-so-speedy ability to read Japanese to trawl though carts 🙂 I ended up buying some more gear from there, as price-wide they were often similar to Game Detectives, with some titles more expensive and some gear cheaper (they had piles of Model 1 Mega Drives for around ¥1500 a pop which was pretty cool, and Saturns for ¥3500), but of course the selection was a bit different which was great. We passed a couple of other gaijin in the shop taking turns playing Super Mario Kart which was pretty awesome too.

Where this Super Potato really came into its own were some readily accessible premium titles I was after – I snapped up Radiant Silvergun for a shade under ¥8000, Asuka 120% Final Burning Fest. for under ¥5000 (closer to ¥4500 I think) and a few other titles I hadn’t seen elsewhere (like Dead of Alive on the PSone for a cheap price too). Wifey, again being amazing, pointed me in the direction of the bargain bins towards the back where I snapped up a whole heap of goodies for ¥50-¥200, including a boxed Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and some loose Sonic carts for the Game Gear, Godzilla Generations and a few other DC games and a DC lightgun as well.

After exiting Super Potato, we headed back to Ebisucho Station and took the Sakaisuji Line up to the next stop (Nipponbashi) and jammed the nerd stuff into a coin locker (note to all tourists – coin lockers are amazing and should be utilised to reduce shopping fatigue!), then walked out and passed a couple of dodgy looking pachinko parlours (pachinko is huge in Osaka) before arriving at the start of Dotonburi, which signalled the end of nerd shopping and the start of food and Wifey-friendly shopping!

The general perception is that in Osaka you eat and drink your fill when you’re out, and the proliferation of so many places to grab a bite down this street was impressive and set your belly rumbling. We passed all manner of cuisine, but being Osaka we knew we had one destination – takoyaki.

We ended up stopping off at a place with an impressive line-up considering the time of day (close to 3pm if memory serves), so I jumped in and managed to order a small selection of takoyaki to share with Wifey. As much as I enjoyed the goodies from the night before, I’m pretty confident that these topped them and were mouth-burningly delicious. With our belated lunch sorted out, it was time to work off all that yummy batter with more shopping.

Doutonburi is a long and densely-packed open-air mall, with shops initially sitting along the main street when you enter it from where we came from. As we progressed though, the foodie haunts gave way to all manner of shops and amusement centres, and these eventually gave way to labyrinths of other enclosed strip malls spidering off the main street. The scale really was impressive and we barely scratched the surface, instead prioritising a visit to H&M across a bridge that showed off some amazing views of the concrete jungle that is Osaka (no H&M locally and the EU sizes meant it wasn’t too tricky to work out what to buy).

As the afternoon wore on, the middle and high school students hit the pavement and Doutonburi became alive with a sea of people. Apart from catching up and going shopping they were also checking out some live performances on one of the bridges that lead over to H&M and all manner of other gear was happening in the area. We ended up doing some shopping and purchasing around this part of Doutonburi, and I have to take this spot to give huge credit to the incredible pride the Japanese guys put into looking the part when they head out. I felt comparatively under-dressed sporting jeans and a t-shirt (the humidity meant I couldn’t layer stuff otherwise I would have become a sweaty gaijin, which isn’t a good look!), but it was great to see pride in appearance and passion in the stores with guys out shopping in force. There was also an abundance of headwear that I picked up while we were over there (one of the catches with being a ranga with a thinning hairline means hats are a bit of a necessity these days!), and they’ve certainly been put to use as the Australian summer kicked in locally.

After finishing up there we wandered our way to the nearby Tokyu Hands department store at Wifey’s very sensible insistence (passing a Konami fitness club on the way!).

I didn’t know much at all about Tokyu Hands before we visited, but I cam away really impressed with it! It’s a multi-story department store with a tip towards the more affordable end of the spectrum, and while we were there we bought a couple of souvenirs and a lightweight piece of luggage to accommodate all the crap we had bought to date (I can’t recall the cost, but it was incredibly lightweight and strong, with four wheels on the base for easy movement and was extremely good value). The only trick with purchasing the luggage was that I got my Japanese mixed up, but between my command of the language and a touch of English, everything got sorted out and after 5-10 minutes a staff member brought out a fresh, new piece of luggage from the storage area out the back. With the new luggage in hand, we headed back via the train station to grab the nerd haul from the coin locker to take home with us. Turns out it all fit quite nicely inside the new piece of baggage too and made it very easy to take all our shopping back to our hotel!

We dropped our collective haul off at the hotel before hitting the Universal City Walk again for dinner (yes, we were being a bit lazy by relying on going somewhere so close to the hotel rather than exploring more of Osaka at night!), settling for Mos Burger as Wifey was interested in more comfort food as she continued to fight off her cold, and then picked up a banana and strawberry crepe from the crepe stand and more drinks from Starbucks (being the manly-man I am, I continued my addiction to their mango passion iced tea, while Wifey grabbed a mocha espresso to warm up) to finish off at our hotel.

Osaka continued to gel with us after a day of shopping – while not as clean as the other cities we visited, the place was full of life and everyone seemed to be milling about with purpose. The nerd run to Nipponbashi blew a reasonable wad of cash, but it was so much fun and while you’re paying a bit extra for the convenience, when you’re strapped for time it’s a pretty good compromise in my opinion. Time’s the central key point here I guess – there was so much more to explore in Osaka and we only touched on Nipponbashi, Doutonburi and the immediate surrounds of our hotel during the day. We also needed bigger gaijin appetites to take advantage of all the amazing street food, and that’s not even counting the copious flow of cheap and tasty beer on offer either!! I have a feeling we’d have trouble keeping up with the locals, but I’m sure if Wifey and I get back to Osaka in the future we’ll be ready to give it another crack!

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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Japan 2012 Travel Diary, Day 9

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The original plan for Hiroshima was to head to Miwajima in the morning before jumping on another Shinkansen to Osaka, but Wifey was still struggling with her cold/flu bug so we decided to have a bit of a sleep in to rest up, had the hotel hold our bags then went to spend some more time exploring around where we were staying in Hiroshima.

It’s a pity we only stayed overnight as Hiroshima is a beautiful city that balances the new and the traditional sides of Japan, with an amazing social history and is super clean and pristine. We went for another wander down Hondori and a few other spots locally, stopping for lunch at a Doutor for a lunch of lettuce dogs (!), matcha cake (again) and some tea. While we were there an old lady wandered up to our table for a chat – turns out her son and his family live in Canada and we had a chat that intermingled between Japanese and English, and at the end of it she also passed along an English guide map of Hiroshima for us. It’s things like this that really make stints overseas memorable, and certainly solidified Hiroshima as a city we wish we had more time enjoy. If we have the opportunity to return to Japan in the future, I know we’ll be earmarking more time to spend here – the city and its people are wonderful, and the Book Off was well-stocked and full of awesome 🙂

After lunch we picked up our luggage and jumped on the train back to Shin-Osaka and managed to get in by late-afternoon. Transferring from Shin-Osaka through to Osaka Station we had our first experience of Osaka people – people were actually having animated conversations on the train! In the other places we traveled, the advised maxim of being quiet on public transport (and in public in general) was shunned by a city’s occupants who seemed naturally more boisterous in public than we had noticed elsewhere. Was very interesting and certainly rides home the difference between east/west in Japan!

After arriving at Osaka Station we found our way to the JR Line to take us to our hotel, the Universal Port Hotel located near the Universal Studios amusement park and the adjoining Universal City Walk. Dodging the allure of the Universal City Walk, we exited the station and turned left to take a pedestrian road to get to our destination. The hotel was all sorts of awesome – a porter took our luggage up to our room (I helped her load the bags though, as by this stage our bags were hitting around the 20kg mark and the girl helping us looked like she was going to struggle!), showed us the amenities and complemented me on my command of Japanese; while I think she was only being polite, it was a nice gesture nonetheless!

The hotel room itself was also incredibly spacious – as we went from place to place In Japan the rooms seemed to be getting bigger, and what I loved about this room was that the bathroom was very Japanese – sink grate on the floor with a stool to sit on with the shower head mounted above to wash yourself, and then a full separate bath next to it to unwind and enjoy a furo Japanese style 🙂 Truth be told, I got a little carried away with the bath thing while we were in Japan – most nights after we got back to the hotel I ended up scrubbing down and then relaxing in the tub afterwards 😛

But the real magic was the toilet – I’ll let the panel above espouse the majesty (and complexity) of the thing. It was even fitted with an infrared sensor that automatically opened the lid when you entered the separate toilet room. Very 2001/HAL. Oh Kubrick, you so visionary.

Now being Australian, the whole Halloween thing isn’t much of a deal down our way, but in Osaka it was on. Probably due to where we were staying, we noticed when we were coming to the train station that the carriages soon became packed with teens and uni students dressed up and ready to have a good time. While Japanese girls generally show off a lot of leg here, everything was out there for Halloween – boobs and legs were equally at ease with some amazing and elaborate costumes.

While the guys didn’t seem to get into it as much as the girls, we saw an amazing Edward Scissorhands there, and another dude looked like a stripper cop, complete with fake gun and smoking a cigarette, with his girlfriend also dressed like a stripper cop (the fake gun would also have been a faux pax back home considering how realistic it looked!).

Universal City Walk is an amusingly Japanese take on the boardwalk – neon and LCD screens line the multi-story shops, and we checked out the Jump Store (Shounen Jump goodies therein), a collectables shop full of all sorts of Japanese and American paraphernalia (Batman, Superman, Ben 10, Garfield, Aliens, Back to the Future, Astro Boy, etc) which also housed a museum of classic Japanese and American properties. There were also clothes shops selling new and vintage clothing, and plenty of places to eat. After a stop at the awesome Takoyaki Museum (highly recommended!) we tucked into one of the local takoyaki places to dig in while the hilariawesome Takoyaki Museum theme song played over the mall’s PA system. We had saved ourselves for takoyaki until we got to Osaka and the wait was worth it – we picked up a mixed plate of takoyaki with different toppings and washed it down with melon Fanta (tasted just like Midori, but without the fun alcohol content!).

After eating some food we ventured back out onto the street to continue checking out stores and go people-watching. There was a great Universal gift store with all sorts of gear – they had a pretty sizable collection of Peanuts goodies there, but that seemed to be common around the traps while we were in Japan, Snoopy & co were regulars on all sorts of gear, from bottled water to plushies. We ended up walking the length of the pedestrian street until we hit the Universal Studios Japan theme park entrance, but we had decided to skip visiting the park while we were in Osaka to occupy ourselves with other stuff. Still, it was cool to see that the theme park was also getting into the Halloween spirit!

We grabbed a couple of drinks from the Starbucks at the train station end of the Universal City Walk (noting the crepe stand along the way for another evening when we weren’t stuffed full of takoyaki) to take back to the hotel and were fortunate to have wifi in our room again, so we were able to drop family and friends a quick hello before getting some sleep. Osaka certainly put up an amazing welcome for us after day one.

Oh, and a quick update – the last couple of posts had the landscape shots a bit smaller than usual (500px wide vs 750px); I’ve re-uploaded them with slightly larger images and also re-uploaded some of the panorama shots from the Takao climb as well (1200px instead of the 750px versions added previously).

To view all posts on the Japan 2012 Travel Diary, just use the 2012 Japan Trip tag, as the whole series will be added to it over time.

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