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So I read @Jinifer’s blog about her virtual tour in Japan and it has made me miss the place even more. So here I will be sharing some of the fondest memories that I have when my friends and I got to make this dream travel a reality back in 2018 (Also in response to one of @meitanteikudo ‘s #promptfactory which is to describe your dream vacation)
Being the biggest Harry Potter fans, when the news about the construction of the Asian counterpart of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the United Kingdom is announced back when we were still students, we made a promise to ourselves that one day we will get to visit this magical place.
This is because visiting the UK is still a pipe dream (at least at that time) and the probability of getting to visit Japan (as it is also in Asia) is higher. We were like, it doesn’t matter how long it’ll take but the seven of us will make it happen. Fast forward to five years after we made that promise, through God’s endless provisions and us helping each other, we did make it happen.
I realised that even though we are earning just the bare minimum then, it is still possible to save up without needing to work abroad and it is possible to work through achieving our goals.
We applied for a VISA and got approved and the next thing we know we are heading to the place of our dreams and will be exploring for seven days! It is the tail end of the winter season at that time and we did get to experience snowfall (albeit just light). Imagine residing from a tropical country all your lives, seeing the snow for the first time is like giving a candy to an expecting kid. It’s like hitting two birds out of a stone on our bucket lists.
Instead of getting off at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, we opted to head to Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka as our entry point (because it is closer in vicinity to the main reason for the said travel).
We arrived late at night so we spent our first night at the airport which is conducive in itself with all of its stalls and facilities. It is one night off our lodging expenses because we get to stay in for free. (I have no idea if it’s legally allowed to stay overnight in an airport but maybe it is since no one said a word to us and there are a lot who are staying overnight in the local airport’s cafeterias, too.) The following morning, we headed off to the place of our dreams.
Temperature check: It was so cold outside. Our thick coats and OOTDs could not have prepared us for it. The temperature is ranging from 0° to 10° Celcius and it has prevented us from trying out some of the other rides in the amusement park. We did enjoy all the amenities, the castle rides along with Hagrid’s Dragon ride.
We also tried drinking the iconic Butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks pub and explored Hogwarts mini-marketplace, Hogsmeade.
The Hogwarts castle is more than we can ever imagine. It’s like the whole 1-2 hours that we spent in queue is all so worth it upon entering the said structure. Getting to try the 3D (or was it 4D?) ride inside the castle is everything that we can ever hope for. The Harry Potter fan in all of us sure is fed to to the brim with moments that we will definitely keep until the grave.
Hogwarts really felt like home.
While visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the main reason of the trip, we also took the chance to explore Japan and its hidden gems. We tried to fill our itinerary with a good mix of famous establishments and tourist attractions and some classic and unique places.
Our Osaka/Kyoto itinerary includes:
The Satsukiyama Zoo, which is located in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan. It is a 15-minute walk from Ikeda Station on the Takarazuka Main Line of Hankyu Railway.
One thing to note, though: don’t trust these walking distance thingy because Japanese people love to walk and what feels like a short distance to them can mean differently to some who are not so used to walking a certain distance. This is also the reason why we feasted on carbs at that time because you will be able to burn it easily, for sure.
We saw alpacas for the first time in this zoo. The place is relatively small and is made for the youngsters (I think there’s even a group of kindergarten students who are having a field trip the same time that we are there) but the way the animals are being so well-tended is quite impressive.
The Cup Noodle Museum in Osaka in which we did get to try to customize our very own cup noodle for free, from its packaging to its actual flavor and content. What a unique experience!
Osaka Castle, it took us a long while to reach its location by walking but seeing its beauty up close is just so worth it!
Fushimi Inari Shrine — This shrine is considered as the most well-known and most visited shrine in Japan and we didn’t miss the opportunity to visit since we are already in Kyoto.
The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice and sake. White foxes which can also be seen everywhere in the place are considered to be messengers of the gods. The torii gates which are prominently vermillion (red orange) in color can be considered as the trademark of any Inari Shrine and is believed to be a protection against evil forces.
There’s a trail to be followed although some of us didn’t go to the top most area (because we were wearing heels…. Oh well, OOTD purposes. “Tiis-ganda” because we wanted to look better in photos. Another thing to note for future travels: choose comfort.)
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is another well-known tourist spot in Kyoto. It is free of charge and is easily accessible. It is one of the well-photographed area along with the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
We also visited the Umeda Sky Building (Kuchu Teien Observatory) which gave us an impressive view of Osaka’s skyline. Aside from its beautiful architecture highlighted by a bridge and escalators connecting two 40-storey towers in the atrium-like center, it is the nineteenth tallest building in the said prefecture.
Dotonbori canal is probably is one of the most crowded area in this prefecture. This is where you can find the iconic Glico man billboard. We also tried some ramen in this place.
We also didn’t miss the chance to visit Tsuruhashi, one of the many Korean Towns in the country. Tsuruhashi gives off a local Korean countryside vibe compared to Shin Okubo in Tokyo (which we visited as well) that radiates a buzzing Seoul/Myeongdong-like aura.
To be totally honest, Kyoto is the least place that we have expected for it to snow. In fact, we were all wearing extra light clothes at that time because we are expecting a brighter weather per the forecast. So imagine our surprise when it snowed lightly while we are on our way to Toei Kyoto Studios? Priceless moment. It isn’t a “let’s build a snow angel” situation that we would have wanted to experience (it has something to do with the temperature being hotter than usual that the snow is melting easily as it hits the ground) but it is still one for the books.
Anyway, TOEI Kyoto Studio Park is the only theme park in Japan that lets you experience jidaigeki (period dramas).
The film set depicts streets from the Edo period, and is used to shoot more than 200 films per year. Exploring it does have that ancient Japan vibe and we also get to see a samurai show and took photos with staff dressing up as a geisha or samurai. I even had a photo with someone dressed as a ninja!
There’s a huge area of souvenir shops and an anime gallery that has fed the otaku in all of us.
We also visited an adult manga shop as a dare and it is such a one of a kind experience.
It is in Nishiki Market in Kyoto where we experienced a longer snowfall at night. We also tried Udon in this place and be one with the locals.
Riding the night bus to Tokyo, we get to save another lodging night (see, it is a well-planned and budgeted trip so we can maximize our seven day-stay in Japan.) We then met up to some of my friend’s siblings who are working/living in Japan. It’s been a blessing in disguise because they treated us free lunch/dinner and we get to explore freely on some locations with their help. We wouldn’t worry about getting lost in the city because they lowkey have become our tour guides.
Because of their help we get to experience the night life (Tokyo’s underground food hall where we drank local drinks and ginger ales and tried out their street food and other delicacies), visited the iconic Odaiba place where the huge Gundam robot can be found and went to LINE Friends Tokyo (it is under renovation at that time). We also had minimal to zero mishaps encountered as we crossed the very crowded Shibuya Crossing and waited for our turn as we took photos with the Hachiko sculpture. We also took time to check out the Statue of Liberty replica and visited the ground area leading to the Tokyo Skytree (where I saw this lovely Ghibli-themed souvenir shop)
We then visited Akihabara and Don Quixote shops for our mementos and “pasalubong” for our loved ones.
Some of our friends went to Tokyo Tower for the One Piece showcase while others went shopping in Shinjuku (I went with the latter). We were supposed to go skiing but we were not prepared with the chilling bites of winter. We also skipped the usual Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea.
It maybe is not as grand as the other locations but visiting Yebisu Garden Place where the wedding scene of Hana Yori Dango was shot is one of the highlights of our Tokyo escapades. The girls are such huge Arashi fans so it is definitely one off our bucketlists too.
There are still a lot of places that we would like to explore still. I’d like to experience full winter in Sapporo and try some skiing. We also would love to go hiking in Mt. Fuji. There’s also this cafe that offers a vast variety of matcha ice cream of varying percentage that I would like to try. God-willing, we’d get to come back when the situation is better.
Praying for your dream travels to come true as well,