- Review: United 787-8 Dreamliner BusinessFirst SFO-KIX
- Review: Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
- Highlights from Osaka
Universal Studios Japan
I really wanted to go to Harry Potter World. So we went to Universal Studios Japan on our first day in Osaka, because the crowd forecast calendar for Sep. 30th was “I am quite hungry”.
I interpreted that to be below-average in terms of crowds, which was accurate. We bought our tickets directly from our hotel concierge the evening before and arrived half an hour before the opening time, which is when the gates opened.
USJ front gates, half an hour before opening time
Harry Potter world is the most popular area in the park; on normal days, you must get a timed ticket entry to enter the area. However, if you’re among the first people in the park, you can run straight to Harry Potter world and get in without a ticket. So we ran, which turned out to be completely unnecessary. We had very short lines at all the attractions and left the area at 11am, at which point it was still free entry into HP world.
USJ Wizarding World of Harry Potter entrance
The best ride is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a 3D immersive ride. To enter, you must walk through Hogwarts Castle, which features moving paintings of all the popular characters speaking Japanese.
Besides the rides, there’s butterbeer (which tastes like cream soda and is disappointingly non-alcoholic) and plenty of shops. My favorite was Honeydukes, where I got a chocolate frog.
After leaving the Harry Potter area, we walked around the park a bit. There was a Jurassic Park ride, rollercoasters, a San Francisco area and a Hollywood area. It’s all stuff Max and I have seen before, but Max noted that USJ is probably “America, the theme park” which is why people are probably interested in those areas.
Inside Osaka Food Tours
After our day at USJ, we booked a food tour with Yuki of Inside Osaka Food Tours. We met Yuki at the JR Temma station, and he showed us around the neighborhood while explaining local Osaka life.
He took us to a Michelin-listed stand that only serves takoyaki, which is a dough filled ball with octopus inside.
Takoyaki in the making
Yuki also took us to a local izakaya where we were the only foreigners. He explained the drinking culture in Japan and taught us how to drink sake. After drinking, he took us to another izakaya, where we ate a variety of dishes including raw chicken sashimi.
Salarymen in an izakaya on a Friday night
We found out that Yuki is putting his food tour business on pause because he is opening a guesthouse in the area. He had just received news that his permit was approved, so we took him out to another bar to celebrate with more sake.
One of my favorite days on this trip was our day trip to Nara. Only 40 minutes away by train, Nara is famous for its deer! We spent the morning feeding deer and walking around Nara Park, which is full of beautiful temples.
We also purchased a guoshinchou – a notebook that you can take to any manned shrine or temple and receive a calligraphy stamp. By the end of the trip, we had 12 pages filled.
guoshinchou calligraphy note
After our day trip to Nara, we headed to Sanai for dinner. Our hotel concierge made the reservation for us, and we selected a $98 course meal. Here are some photos:
The meal was delicious, but we probably would have enjoyed it more if we weren’t so tired from our day trip.
Ōkunoshima (Rabbit Island)
We ambitiously took a day trip to rabbit island from Osaka. It involved taking five trains.
Unfortunately, at Fukuyama station we got on the wrong train and ended up at Hiroshima station. We had to turn around and take a local train to rabbit island, which added another hour and a half to our journey. Luckily, the shinkansens had power outlets and we were content to relax and simply sit and read while riding trains for almost 5 hours.
We finally made it to the Tadanoumi port, where we bought tickets for the ferry to rabbit island.
We also discovered that the ferry timetable that we found online was very out of date, and luckily the ferry ran more frequently than we thought.
Ōkunoshima used to be a remote location where Japan manufactured chemical weapons. All the factories and facilities are now abandoned and the island’s visitors come for the rabbits.
Abandoned chemical weapon facility
We also ran into these two Japanese filmmakers who interviewed us for a local TV network and asked us why we came to Japan.
Finally, we took the ferry back to the pier and rode trains for 3 hours to get back to Osaka.
YUM. I loved this market and all the street food for sale. My favorite food was this octopus with a quail egg stuffed inside.
We also had delicious scallops:
All the fruit was perfectly shaped, which meant it was ridiculously expensive. We didn’t buy any, though they were nice to look at.
Those green grapes are $25