Japan Diary: USJ and Himeji Castle (Day 8 + 9)

Our plan for the day was to spend the day at Universal Studios in Osaka. We'd already pre-purchased some tickets in Adelaide, but after some umm-ing and hmmm-ing for a while the previous night we decided to get an express pass. Looking back now I'm so glad we did as some lines for some rides were at least 2 hours long.

We visited the wizarding world of Harry Potter first which I was soooo excited about! It was already so packed at about 10am in the morning but totally fulfilled one of my childhood dreams of visiting the Harry Potter set/world.

Luan bought this chocolate frog because he wanted the holographic card inside but ended up getting a really dodgy one :') He tried to feel better about it by taking a bite of the chocolate frog but what we didn't realise was that it was a solid chocolate frog! RIP teeth.

We used our express pass to go on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride which was 4D. I'm not really a rides person but this was definitely one of my faves from the day. I'd never been on a rollercoaster but I felt like I had to after spending so much on tickets. Conveniently for me, we started on a Harry Potter ride which was the Hippogriff one which was probably targeted at children or perhaps adults who are scared of rollercoasters (me). It was nothing very exciting and lasted a couple of minutes only (not worth lining up >1hr if you don't have the express pass). 

We then went on the Spiderman 4D ride which wasn't too bad but Harry Potter (4D) was definitely better. The next one we went on was the Backdrop. I felt so nervous going on this ride because it was a much bigger rollercoaster with lots of dips and drops. In the end I actually really enjoyed this ride, perhaps because it was backwards and I couldn't anticipate which way we were going to go next. 

The next ride up was the Hollywood Dream which was essentially the same route as Backdrop but going forwards instead. This one wasn't too bad! We wondered for a little while afterwards and decided to go on the Flying Dinosaur.

Unlike the previous rides we'd been on, the Flying Dinosaur was a ride that wasn't covered by our express pass. We ended up lining up for 1.5 hours for the ride. It was one of the biggest roller coasters at USJ and I was waiting with the group but I wasn't planning on going on the ride. As we were waiting longer and longer in the line I was thinking to myself - once we get to the top, I'll just take the stairs back down and meet the guys at the bottom. But....... to my dismay at the very top, I noticed that to get to the other side of the platform where the stairs are to the bottom -  you had to go on the ride. Thankfully it was dusk which means that I could barely see anything on the ride (only time I'm glad I can't see well @ night) which I'm not sure if it made the experience a bit more enjoyable cause I couldn't see how far off the ground we were or anticipate twists and turns OR if I just felt like I was falling into a black hole :')

This was the Backdraft ride (or show... since nothing too eventful happened) that Wilson was mega keen to go. It was literally just about things being set on fire??

This was the Backdraft ride (or show... since nothing too eventful happened) that Wilson was mega keen to go. It was literally just about things being set on fire??

Day 9 - Himeji Castle & Koko-en Garden 

Luan and I decided to go on a day trip to visit Himeji castle and Koko-en garden. I remember feeling pretty tired from all the walking we'd done the past few days and I guess a few things must have slipped my mind. When we got to Himeji castle (about 1.5 hours away from Osaka), I was about to take my camera out to take a photo.... but it wasn't in my bag!

It turns out I left it at the airbnb :( so the rest of the photos in this post are iPhone shots.

The view was pretty amazing from Himeji castle which Luan said was apparently a lot better than Osaka castle. Our next stop was the Himeji / Koko-en garden. It was much bigger than I'd anticipated and this garden was separated into many small gardens. There were also koi fish and they were huge!

We left the gardens in the late noon and around 3pm had our first proper meal of the day. We visited My Farmer's Daughter and they were able to make a few of their salads vegan. Luan had this pasta dish which he seemed to enjoy. I'm not normally one for salads but this was literally the best salad! It looks quite plain but was packed full of flavour! 

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Afterwards we stopped at soft serve place where they had vegan soy ice cream options and I got the black sesame. It was so delicious and from what I can remember it was about 550 yen which is pretty good.

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On our way home, we stopped by a shopping mall close to JR Himeji station and there was this store called Tokyu Hands which sold a lot of nifty things. I ended up buying a lot of washi tape- which is a special type of tape made in Japan with funky prints/patterns and its also tearable. When we got back to our airbnb, we met up with Alex, Vivian and Wilson and went to the AEON shopping mall which was close to where we were staying and had dinner there.

Japan Diary: Kobe (Day 7)

We woke up at 7am (again, another early start) to visit Kobe which the guys wanted to visit as its known for its beef. I wasn't too keen to go there but before heading to the beef district we visited the Herb Gardens. We got a little lost on our way to find the Herb Gardens but once we got there we took the cable cart up. 

Unfortunately we didn't have enough time (I guess we got more than a little lost) to venture down the mountain like we'd planned as Luan had made a booking to go to Royal Mouriya which is a place specialising in Kobe beef.

To our surprise this place was pretty dang fancy and I was so surprised that they catered for vegans too! The chef made this amazing garlic fried rice which he prepared in front of us and it smelt so fragrant. I also ordered a salad which was pretty nice considering I'm not usually a leafy person.

I was even more surprised when I found this vegan bakery which specialised in waffles closeby. The name of the bakery was Kanauta. I got the chocolate and matcha one and it was a yum! The texture is different from a typical waffle, it tasted spongy and light with the texture similar to a muffin but fluffier. 

Afterwards my friends felt pretty peckish and wanted to consume more Kobe beef skewers so we walked around to find some. It was a bit of an awkward time to have a snack as it wasn't lunch time because it was too late, but also too early for dinner. So most places weren't open. We finally tracked down this beef skewer place (thanks to Google for the lil tip) but once we got there it was closed!! We did a bit more walking a found a place opposite China town. I was pretty full and didn't feel like eating anything (and they probably didn't have any vegan food besides rice) so I didn't order anything. The rest of the guys ordered meals. The waiter started bringing out the dishes which was part of the set. He started bringing out soup and even gave me a serving. My friends and I thought it was oddly nice that they brought it out. Then suddenly they brought out individual bowls of salad. I was starting to feel pretty suspicious and felt that this was oddly too kind... especially for free..? Then the waiter came back and with a plate of meat and plonked it on the table and I was so shocked!! It turns out Luan had double ordered two :O (Don't worry I didn't eat it).

On our way home we dropped by the supermarket and got some snacks and decided to call it an early night because we were planning to visit USJ the next day.

If you want to read more about this trip or this day in particular, visit Luan's blog here.

Japan Diary: Nara Deer Park (Day 6)

One of the highlights from this trip was visiting Nara Deer Park. I was so excited to go and it was my first time going there. I would highly recommend getting a one day pass for visiting Nara and getting around to the deer park and to the temples. It was definitely worth it (500 yen!!!) as you could catch public transport as much as you want. Our first stop was at Kofukuji temple.

Our second stop was Yoshikien Garden which was a short walk from Kofukuji Temple. 

We made our way towards the deer park afterwards and there were so many deers! I was so obsessed and kept taking lots of photos so be prepared for the spam below :')

It was pretty difficult finding vegan meals in regular Japanese restaurants  - but theres always rice and salad! This was the standard:

We went back to Osaka and went on the ferris wheel at Osaka Aquarium.

Our plan afterwards was to go to this cafe close by called Kuma cafe as its apparently owned by an Aussie and they had really good reviews for food, but when we arrived they told us they were closing. So we headed back to Dotonbori to find a place to dine. There were only a couple of places that had vegan options (as stated on Happy Cow). We went to El Pancho which was a Mexican restaurant.  We were all so hungry as we only had 1 meal quite early during the day too.

It ended up being a long day, but one of my favourites!

Japan Diary: Osaka (Day 5)

December 18th 2017 - Day 5 in Japan

When we arrived in Osaka from Kyoto, we were greeted by slightly warmer temperatures and it felt less cold. 

Our plan today was to visit Osaka castle which was walking distance from the train station. Who would've thought there'd be a castle in the middle of the city?

There were also little food stalls but unfortunately there was no vegan food :(
But luckily I packed a salad!

We headed to Dotonburi. Dotonburi is packed with street food like takoyaki which actually originated from this city.

There wasn't much vegan food in Osaka that I could find, but I used the Happy Cow app on my phone which displays all restaurants that have vegan options. As a group we decided to split up and Luan and I went to find food I could have, then we found a place for him to eat at as he didn't feel like vegan food. We visited Cafe Atl and we got a potato tart, a risotto and a green tea banana cake which was so delicious. Afterwards Luan had food at an okonomiyaki place and he said it was quite nice.