A Travellerspoint blog


Universal Studios Japan

sunny 23 °C

Sunday and Monday had been overcast and bleak. Rain washed intermitently acrosses the gray streets as a parade of coloured umbrellas spun in the long shadows.

I pulled out my mobile and jumped on the internet. Tuesday - 23C Fine. After the London weather, and lack of school holidays, we expected USJ to be quieter midweek.

K. and I caught the train out early. Hankyu to Umeda, Osaka Loop Line, and a switch to a local. At the final station, we departed from a packed train and wandered past Western stores; McDonalds, Hard-Rock Cafe, United Bentton. The crowd accompanied us down towards the large gateway and we joined one of the quieter lines near the giant rotating world globe; golden letters sparkling across its equator as mist danced beneath it.

After 40 minutes shuffling forward we paid the 5800 yen, grabbed an English and Japanese park map and wandered through to another world.

Large mascots of Popeye and Cats wandered around will over-enthusic staff snapped kodak moments for family and kids. It was Halloween time and the park was liberally littered with grinning pumpkins, ghosts and witches. The Addamms Family tune with trademark clicking seemed slow as we dashed for the Spiderman ride.

Spiderman Entrance

We walk through the entrance and weaved our way to the back of a 70 minute queue, inching closer and closer every few minutes. The path was splashed with Japanese speaking cartoons, telling of Spidey's woes and the menacing close-ups of four villians bent of control. Donning our super cool blue 3D glasses, we joined another 9 people and were tossed and turned in our efforts to help save the city.

Next up, the Waterworld show.
Waterworld Entrance

Costumed performers stood near the stage filling bucket after bucket of water. Judging from the first ten rows covering themselves with plastic, ponchos and anything else, we were in for a wet action adventure.

Waterworld Show

Off to the animatronic log ride of Jurassic Park ...

... and back to the central plaza for a musical dance of the dead.


We made a quick trip through time with the help of Doc Brown going Back to the Future; were attacked by a shark hell bent on human blood in Jaws and zipped around a cartoon on the Snoopy rollar coaster.

As the day drew to a close, we jumped on some flying bicycle and flew on a midnight journey across a cityscape and amoungst the stars with ET.

Before the ride, we were required to get a "passport", a credit card which required our name. I was told I need this to visit ETs homeplanet. I never imagined how musical it was with singing plants and dancing mushrooms. Towards the end, ET personally bid us all goodbye by name, although he had a Japanese pronunciation and didnt quite nail mine "Goodbye Shi-nen"

We bolt back to grab another trip an Spiderman and we relieved to fine the queues down to a brisk 25minute wait. Everyone was grabbing good seats for the Neverland night show. We got to it just as Peter was waking up.

USJ Entrance - Nite

We left the park after and wandered back through the streets to go to a local Takoyaki museum. There were 8 or 9 resturants with various octupus dumplings flavours. We bought a ticket from a vending machine and shared a coke, and good food before returning to Juso for a well earned rest.

Posted by ImpBob36 20:49 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Summer Festivals - Part II

Fireworks in my backyard (5/8/06)

semi-overcast 33 °C

Yodogawa Fireworks
My first glance of the riverbank was soon after I arrived. With the chill of winter dancing with the wind, the cold grey water and grassless gravel flats were bleak and depressing.



As the spring marched across the lanscape, greenery moved from the shallows, across the rocky bank and onto the plains. Large triangle outlines etched in white powder appeared and on weekends the cheers and jeers of pre-pubesent youths could be heard as future Baseball League players bested each out in their glare-catching whites.


The river had become a friend. Its murky depths glisten at night as we drank on the wateredge, trains rushing past us, the skyline alight with dedicated Salarymen completing their 10 hour days. As summer hit, couples and groups ventured down with armfuls of alchohol, food and fireworks. Explosions erupt every 50 meters and clouds of smoke stumble across the foreground like Sunday bests in a tumbledrier.

Tonight was the Yodogawa Hanabi. The posters had been plaster and hung across the neighbourhood, a giant red fireflower exploding across the river.

With the promise of over 1/2 a million people lining the riverfront, I wandered down 3 hours before the big event. The grounds swarmed with thousands and thousand of people. Old men and young children. Granmothers and young lass dressed in finely woven Kimonos and Yukkata. Every inch of the area was awash with faces. Every inch of the ground covered in blue tarpe, cartoon motiff blanks and bodies.



A wall of Portable Toilets had been setup near the bridge, the last dozen had their doors removed and service as express urinals. As I walked pass them I glanced back across the crowd. Japanese people were surely less selfconscious about emptying their bladders then I, with thousands of eyes on my back, I would need to return to my apartment to empty myself for the nights festivals.


I return to the grimy streets and neon of Juso. My local bar had invited me and a handful of close friends and customers to view the spectacle from their roof. A dozen or so of us walked up to the forth floor and had a perfect view between the skyscrapers. For 2 hours I enjoyed another amazing display of colour and sound.




Posted by ImpBob36 19:49 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The difficulties of Teaching English

part 53 - Complaining

sunny 34 °C

The lesson looked like it was going to be fun.

A whole forty minutes, teaching and talking about complaining using "I don't like something because ..."

We raced through the structured excercise and found ourselves with a full 20 minutes left for Talk Time.

So, what do you want to complain about today? People, places, politics?

"Eeto, anything ok," said one student.
"Politics is happy. I hate erection campaigns."

Umm ... practise L / R sounds

Posted by ImpBob36 18:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Summer Festivals

Part I

sunny 36 °C

Summer has hit in full vengence.
The last 2 weeks, the minimum has been at least 27C, the max, 39C. Factor in the humidity and its been a sticky hot summer. Its 3:30pm and 35C, overcast and dry. The mountains which usually hit in a haze on the horizon and now shrouded in low cloud. It suggests rain is coming but the dry air says otherwise.

I'm now 1 week into a 2 week summer vacation. In this heat, I'm a hermit, hiding in my aircon room, venturing out only to restock the milk for coffee.

Tenjin Summer Festival - 24 July
One of the most famous festival in Japan saw me in good company. Akira, the co-manager of my local had offered to take me and a friend out to the festival and the chance to see it through the eyes of a local was enough to entice me outside.

We headed out to Umeda station and met up with some of his friends at his previous bar. With a couple of drinks under our belt, we hiked for 30minutes towards the shrine. The streets, usually filled with suits at this hour, were quickly filled with traditional Kimonos and Yukkatas as we got closer and closer.


Roads we blocked, shopping malls clogged with festival stalls, the smell of cheap beer and fried food filled the air. We wandered into the shrine grounds and payed our respects with a bow. Traditional dancers filled one corner as the crowdeds shuffled slowly around the small gravel square.



We headed down towards the river and grabbed some food. Fried noodles with mixed vegetables, coated in a sause that was more hotplate scrappings then flavour. It went down well. For the next 3 hours we wandered past stall after stall, stopping only to regroup for a beer before continuing.

At one point we stopped at a bridge which over looked the river. Night had settled across the sky. A boat covered in torches meandered up and down the river, the flickering flames illuminating the 8 drummers singing out the heatbeat of the night.


I stared at the black sky searching for stars but its curtain was drawn.
"It that rain I feel?" asked our female companion .
"No," we said, "its someone peeing off the bridge." We sniggered at the thought. Perhaps it was rain, the humidity surly cant keep up without breaking. One of our party stepped out from under the bridge to look at the imaginary peeing.
"No seriously, it is someone peeing," he squealled with a cheesy grin. I stepped back to catch a mysterious man take a final shake before popping his member back in his pants and staggering off into the black. He wasnt joking.
"Well," she said with a sigh, " was he good looking?"

PL Fireworks
At 120,000 fireworks in a little over an hour, PL Fireworks is the biggest display in the world. We headed down to Tondabayashi-city on the south side of Osaka. We caught the Nankai-Koya line from Namaba and I watched as the cityscape quickly metamorphed in country. Large grey buildings gave way to rice fields and tree covered hills.

I watch the scenery past by, lost in memory. This was my old neighborhood. Sakai-higashi and Mozu past by and I remembered my old days as a Nova teacher.

At our final station, the train emptied and we were herded into a marching snake of people and wandered through the streets. Food stall chefs called to the crowd enticing their wares - Okinominyaki, Takoyaki, fried chicken, ice cones, grilled corn.


As we marched up the hill, people were camped across the road and empty carparks. We found a spot, merely meters from where I had witnessed the sight over nine years ago.

We waited on the hot bitchimin for almost 30 minutes before we were treated to the show. The sky was bombarded with colour for 80 minutes. Green, red, orange and blinding white. Even with closed eyes, the colours burnt through my eyelids. Couples around us clapped and cheered, gasping in awe as wave after wave exploded above us. Each outbreak echoed across the sky and reverbrated in our chests. As the helicopers circled over head, the climax saw over 7000 red fireworks released in rapid succession. The crowds stood us as the black gave way, and the lanscaped was bathed in a brilliant red glow.

Some video footage of this years display is available here

Posted by ImpBob36 23:32 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The difficulties of Teaching English

part 34

sunny 32 °C

What did you do on the weekend Yuki?

"I went to the local temple and crapped."


Um, I think you mean clapped .

Posted by ImpBob36 23:29 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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