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Day 97-98: Himeji Castle & Oooosaka Wrap Up

Before off to Kyoto.


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9th March
Up early and breakfast eaten (it is so nice having our own little flat where we can store milk and cook, it feels like a treat) we were using our JR passes and on board a train to Himeji to see it's famous castle. We had planned to go the day before but with neither of us sleeping well we delayed it. When off the train and faced with a dull dark grey sky and rain we were regretting our choice. But in true British fashion we didn't let the rain, or the fact we were unable to go into any of the buildings due to the virus (again), put us off.

With the rain getting heavier we bought our tickets and competed a self guided tour of the castle grounds. It was definitely one of the more impressive castles/ shrines we had seen so far and we were pleased we could at least enter unlike Osaka castle. It was a shame we couldn't enter the main keep or the long corridor but the half price entry price was fair compensation. Also unlike they other buildings we had visited there were a more in-depth and exciting stories about the previous occupants. However like every old building in Japan, it seems, it was destroyed by fire a number of times and therefore has largely been rebuilt. Despite the weather it was time well spent and a good day trip.

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Before heading back we tried our hand at the strange, yet oddly addictive and fun, photo booths. These photo booths aren't the ones you get your passport picture done at in Sainsbury's. They were ones whereby you are encouraged to do cute and crazy poses and they make your eyes huge and apply make up in true Japanese style. Yes these are predominantly for groups of teenage girls, but hey I look good with a bit of blusher so we gave it a go. Money paid and poses competed we assumed that was it. Oh how wrong we were! After you have taken your pictures you take a seat at a computer screen outside and can edit the hell out of it; from changing your make up colour to adding stickers and of course random animal features. It actually was quite fun... However we got so carried away we didn't realise there was a time limit! This resulted in me somehow adding a random sticker over Izzy's face in one of the pictures (Doh!). Due to this and feeling we now had the hang of it we decided to try a different machine and have another go with much more success!

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With our new pictures in hand it was time for the train back. At the flat we spent the afternoon completing some admin; packing, blog, contacting airlines to try and cancel our South Korea flights and get refunds for China and booking our bittersweet flight home. One Corona perk amongst all the difficulties it is causing us is that we are getting to fly Emirates back to London from Singapore for around £500 for the both of us... Bargain!

10th March
Breakfast this morning was more exotic than our recent chocolate cornflakes. A Happy Pancake was coming up in lots of searches about good places to eat in oooosaka. Who’s turning down pancakes? Not us! The restaurant was so ‘Instagram worthy’ but that’s lost on two people who couldn’t care less about social media. It was a super cute decor though! We shared three ginormous pancakes (how are they so fluffy that big?!?) with whipped butter, ice cream and syrup- yum!

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Another Pokémon stop in Daimaru Umeda, although provided the same memorabilia as the Pokémon cafe a few days ago so we didn’t waste too much time here.

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After a few hours in a book shop we made our way to Umeda Sky Building. On the top is the Floating Garden Observatory, where Osaka's cityscape can be viewed from a height of 170 meters. Of course, this attraction followed suit with the rest of our trip- closed. We were really trying not to let all the closures get us down too much but when it’s every attraction, seems pointless saving three years to come to the other side of the world to do nothing.

We could still get the lift to the 38th floor and travel up the escalator in the middle of the donut hole shape at the top of the building. Turns out the only thing really closed was the very top floor outside, we didn’t miss out too much on this. The architect said he wanted the building to look like an alien spaceship had just lifted off... I kinda get that from the big circle. Time to head back to our little apartment and pack up for our trip to Kyoto in the morning! What excitement could kyoto hold for us, we had no idea!

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Posted by Bears on Tour 19:40 Archived in Japan Tagged osaka himeji himeji_castle umeda japan skyline corona umeda_sky_building pokemon a_happy_pancake Comments (0)

Day 87- Disney Sea & Geek Out on Tokyo Day 2


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28th February
Up and out... in to the blustery winter! First job for today- coats! Made our way to a huge Uniqlo. Being torn between needing a coat and not wanting to spend £50 on new coats that we wouldn't need past this month. Score! They had a sale. We found our respective coats but they didn’t have mine in the right size so we bought Andy’s and made our way to a different Uniqlo in hope of the same coat in the right size. The second Uniqlo of the day was tiny and definitely not the coats we needed. We seemed to turn the morning in to Uniqlo hopping. Our third one was more successful having the coat we were searching for (although still a size too small but better than nothing!).

Ironically, the second we stepped out of our final Uniqlo the sun belted down! We had a plan for the day so made our way to our first stop; Akihabara- the main pop culture area of Tokyo. Huge arcades 8 or 9 floors tall! Anime and Manga shops mixed in with grab machines and pocket ball machine. The whole area is crazy, bright flashing lights everywhere, the whole height of the buildings. We marveled at how quiet it was still. It’s a strange juxtaposition; the lights and shops so loud on the eyes but the area is almost silent on the ears.

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We’re assuming it’s quiet due to the Coronavirus, at a benefit to us. Having been expecting a fast pace, busy, bustling city- it was a nice surprise at the slower paced, quiet, peaceful city. This virus really is a being a double edged sword for us. As the benefits are heavily outweighed by the negatives we are trying to grasp any positives possible. We’d planned to see Hanazono Inari-jinja Shrine, located within a little city park but we spent so long meandering around Akihabara, gawking at all the shops and side streets we ran out of time. Instead we needed to head to our next stop of the day... DisneySea!! We were sufficiently prepared in our treat purchases from Manila that you can see in the first picture above.

We were both very excited about this! Tokyo Disney have a pass called ‘after 6 passport’, it does what it says on the tin. Access after 6pm for a cheaper price. Japan is the only place in the world with a DisneySea so we opted for that one over Disneyland. Having done some research we knew there was a Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast, very excited about both of these! We arrived about 40 minutes early, assuming they’d be a big queue to get tickets. We walked straight up to the ticket booth and again, assumed we must be so early we’d missed the crowds. It was interesting that we were the only foreigners, everyone else was Japanese- mainly 16 or 17 year old teenagers in school uniform. (How cool would it be to live in a place you can just go to Disney after school!). Was it tourist-less because of the virus?

Once in park, trying to contain our excitement, we went to watch the next show ‘Mickey and Friends visit New York’. Within a few seconds of the show beginning we came to the assumption they don’t get many tourists here, the show was entirely in Japanese. Too excited to care we could understand the gist of the story. Making our way to Toyville (Toy Story area), it felt christmassy being dark, cold and fairy lights everywhere. Since we missed a normal cold Christmas last year, we let ourselves indulge in the feeling for the night.

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Next up was Port Discovery and a ride similar to teacups but on water, we hadn’t planned to go on any rides- assuming queues would be an hour plus and only having 4 hours to discover the park. Since there was no queue at all we decided to hop on, what was interesting was there was two of the same ride. This seemed super efficient as it cuts the wait in half at busier times! We couldn’t come to this area and skip the Nemo stuff! Another queueless ride- StormRider, sounds adrenaline inducing... but it’s Nemo themed so couldn’t be too scary! We all shuffled in to a holding hall type thing where a woman explained the back story of the ride... we assume, again, it was in Japanese so we don’t actually know. In to the VR simulator underwater pod to follow the characters from the film on Some quest.. again, not really sure what’s going on as the characters are talking Japanese too.

The whole place is so quiet, compared to Disney in Paris where you can barely move around. Quick dash through the Lost River Deta, stopping off in the Coco area before making it to the Mermaid Lagoon. This area was incredible! The sets were unreal. It was actually like being in the film. The photos don’t do it justice. We took advantage of the lack of queues and jumped on a few more rides. Time to go and pretend to be Princess Jasmine. This area was even more impressive, it was like stepping in to an Arabian palace! One last ride, Aladdin carousel!

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We’d had a great first full day in Tokyo, it’s so fun exploring together, one of the reasons we work so we’ll together, we’re balanced in all the right places. We know appropriate times for quiet reflection while wondering around shrines but on the flip side, we can be children at Disney. We’ve spent the evening laughing together, running around, squealing and generally enjoying each other’s company. Also we have since found out that the Disneyland has been closed due to the virus and we went on the last possible day before the temporary shut down! Phew! Someone is giving us a bit of luck!

Small side note: they have a Disney character here called Duffy the bear- he’s taken over all shop merchandise and him and his friends suck!

Posted by Bears on Tour 04:17 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan akihabara disney corona disney_sea Comments (0)

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