Sunday, July 9, 2017

Travel: Universal Studios Osaka

Today is the day we go to Universal Studios and I’m so excited! We walk the 15 minutes to Kyoto station and along the way we drop into 7-11 to pick up some breakfast to eat on the way to Osaka. We come across the strangest thing, bananas. Not any bananas but ones in plastic packaging. It’s like these bananas don’t come with their own natural packaging?! And the eggs and oranges!

We hadn’t pre-purchased our tickets, so we needed to line up when we got there. It really didn’t take long to buy our tickets, maybe 20 minutes, but then it took another 30 minutes to scan our tickets and get through the gate.

After we get inside the park, we make a bee-line for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I need to pick my jaw up as I am just so amazed by it. Diagon Alley is so much better than I imagined it would be, and Hogwarts is mind blowing for a Harry fan, like me.

I get Kate to go on the Flight of the Hippogriff with me. The line is short and moving really quickly until we get to the front of the line and then the ride brakes down! We wait over half an hour for it to be declared ok and then we hop on. The ride takes all of about 30 seconds and then it’s over! Not to worry, it’s still fun.

Afterwards, we get some Butterbeer. Warm for me and cold for Kate.  Mine tastes really yummy, although a little bit sweet. Kate’s cold Butterbeer is not nice at all and we end up throwing it out.

We then wander around the park a bit until we come across the Jurassic Park ride and we figure since the line is short, we may as well go on it. Considering it’s a cool day, there’s probably a really good reason why the line is short… and of course not knowing what the ride is like, we get wet!

I really want to go on the Flying Dinosaur, I’d even watched some YouTube videos before we left for Japan so I knew what it was all about. Kate decides it’s not for her, so I jump in the single line and I only have a 15 minute wait. During this time, Kate rides the Jurassic Park ride three more times and she now declares it her favourite ride. Anyway, the Flying Dinosaur is even better than I thought it would be. It’s awesome.

I did read that these parks are famous for their popcorn in Japan, so when we walk past a Minions popcorn stand, we can’t help but be curious about the chocolate banana flavoured popcorn. It was delicious!

We wander around a bit more and go on a few more rides and then the evening parade commences and we take a break to watch it.

Then we decide it’s getting quite cool and we decide we’ve had enough… but not before I get Kate to have a photo with Elmo and co!

We make our way back to Kyoto and decide to find somewhere to have dinner. Underneath Kyoto station is a shopping centre called CUBE. We find a ramen restaurant and we settle in for dinner. Chicken for Kate and pork curry for me.

Dinner is so good and we figure since we’re still out and about we might as well go across the road to Kyoto Tower and check out the view. Those who know me know I love fairy lights, so you can imagine my delight in seeing the city lights that seem to go forever. They are so pretty and mesmerising.

And then, after one very long and tiring day, we shuffle back to our apartment and sleep really soundly as we’re both exhausted.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Travel: Arashiyama and the Iwatayama Monkey Park

After the Sagano Romantic Train, we catch the train back to Saga Arashiyama station and we make our way towards Togetsukyo Bridge and Iwatayama Monkey Park. It is still raining but it’s not too heavy, so we keep going as we are looking forward to seeing the macaque monkeys.

After walking for about 10 minutes we get to the main street of Arashiyama. It is so quaint and there are so many gorgeous shops that we stop and look in along the way.

We even find a store that’s dedicated to cats. As a cat lover, Kate is in shopping heaven. She buys a bag and some bandaids with cats on them.

After we come out of the cat store, the Togetsukyo Bridge is quite close and we continue towards it. The Katsura River is so pretty, but unfortunately, it is such a grey and dull day with the rain, that it doesn’t look as beautiful as it normally would.

Once we’re on the other side of the river, we follow the sign to Iwatayama Monkey Park. There’s a shrine just outside the entrance. I don’t think I could ever tire of looking at tori gates.

We pay the entrance fee and we start the climb up to the top of the Mt Arashiyama. It is not an easy walk and whenever there is a seat along the path, we stop and have a drink and catch our breath.

We finally get to the top after about 30 minutes and we are amazed at how many monkeys are just hanging about.

At this park, you’re able to hand feed the monkeys. You have to go inside the building to do this though and you feed them through the wired windows. You buy a bag of apple pieces or nuts for 100Y, which is a great price for a little bit of fun. It was amazing to watch the relationships between the monkeys and working out the hierarchy between them.

We hang around the monkeys for about half an hour before we decide to get going. But before we head back down the mountain, we catch a glimpse of these sweet monkeys cuddling up.

Today has been an awesome day. It has been so full of different sights and experiences. Here’s one last photo of the Katsura River that I took on our way back to the station. So pretty.

And then we make our way back to the Saga Arashiyama station and then to Kyoto so we can go back to our accommodation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Travel: Sagano Romantic Train

We make our way from the Bamboo Forest to Torokko Arashiyama station, where the Sagano Romantic Train will depart from and make our way to Kameoka Torokko station.

We get here early and purchase our tickets, which costs us just under 1000 Yen for the two of us. We are able to book a seat on the open carriage, but it quickly sells out after us and then there are standing room only tickets left.

We decide to wait the time out by browsing the gift store and buying some lunch. We have a good giggle at the Caution Crow sign, crows seem so tame to us in comparison to magpies!

When it’s almost time for the train to arrive, we are allowed down onto the platform. The train arrives at the platform and everyone is so efficient at getting on the train.

We settle in and the trip begins. Not long into the train ride, it starts to rain! Surprisingly we don’t get wet as there is some shelter. The scenery is amazing and I’m quite disappointed with the way my photos turned out as it doesn’t do the trip justice.

We stop briefly at Torokko Hodukyo Station, but I’m not sure why as there appears to be absolutely nothing here, except for a bridge across the river into the wilderness.

Oh look, here’s Kate and I. The lovely couple across from us took this photo as we’d taken one for them.

I wish this photo showed the true colour of the water. It’s was beautiful and aqua. So pretty! You can catch one of these boats back, but Kate gets motion sickness quite easily, so I wasn’t going to chance it!

After we disembark at Kameoka Torokko station it is raining quite heavily. Luckily for us the gift shop are selling umbrellas as there’s a 10 minute walk to the JR Umahori station to get back to Arashiyama.

 We get back to Arashiyama and then make our way towards Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Travel: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Tenryuji Temple

The taxi from Kinkakuji Temple drops us off right at the entrance to the Bamboo Forest at Arashiyama. The first part of the forest isn’t as heavily wooded as I thought it would be, and there aren’t a lot of people here either.

We come to a fork in the trail and we head off towards Tenryuji Temple as this was somewhere we had on our itinerary. We pay the admission and proceed onto the grounds. The grounds here are beautiful. They are possibly my equal favourite of the whole trip, equal with the grounds at Ginkakuji Temple.

After we have finished here, we only spent 20 minutes walking through the gardens; we head back out into the Bamboo Forest. Here the forest is much denser and so it feels colder. It is also very crowded with tourists, but that’s to be expected as it is a very well know tourist destination.

With that part of our day complete, we point our feet in the direction of Torokko Arashiyama as we are going on the Sagano Romantic Train.