Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Universal Studios, Osaka

Universal Studios

Right from Day 1 - since we started planning for Japan - Universal Studios was firmly on the list!! Ajey and I had been to the one in LA many, many years ago - but he really wanted to take Manasi, she's old enough to go on all the rides now! As for me, I was so glad to have dodged the Tokyo Disney bullet, that I would have agreed to anything! Besides, with my itinerary chock-a-block with all the things I wanted to see, I guess Ajey and Manasi deserved a day of fun! So Universal it was!!

Getting there wasn't a problem - remember our magic key, the JR Pass? Working out the logistics - from the Shin-Kobe station where we were staying, we could only get to the Shin-Osaka station. The Metro line for Universal was from Osaka station - so we walked from our hotel to the Sannomiya station and then took a JR train to Osaka, and then the Metro to Universal. Of course, we could have saved ourselves the walk, gone to Shin-Osaka, then a train to Osaka and then Universal - which is what we ended up doing on the way back! That morning, however, we still hadn't discovered how awesome the train network really was!

It was a Monday - so we weren't too worried about the crowds. Although, when we bought our tickets, the FastPasses were all sold out - that should have been enough to warn us!! The biggest attraction was the Amazing Spiderman ride - we figured we should get that one off the list, before exploring the rest of the park. The boards outside said the waiting time was 2 hours - but all the other rides we had passed also had similar waiting times - so we decided to go for it. And then we were in line...waiting, waiting, waiting.... oh, look, we're entering the building now....and then back to the waiting!!! 4 hours - I kid you not - 4 hours we stood in line for this 'Amazing' ride!!

Amazing Spiderman....

...even more amazing was the line!

It wasn't too bad when the line was outdoors - but once inside the building, it had been decorated to look the Daily Mail offices - which meant narrow stifling corridors winding through and TV screens with snippets of the Spiderman cartoons - too bad they were in Japanese! As if the wait wasn't bad enough, the corridors really got to me - at one point, we were single file, no windows and low ceilings - deep breaths, push that claustrophobia down!! Seriously, someone needs to check the fire codes for this building!! Was the ride finally worth it?? Well, yes and no - it really was awesome, the effects are amazing (cliche, much?) - the best part is the freefall from a New York skyscraper at the end, with Spidey's web to the rescue at the last minute - but I kept thinking, 4 hours, I waited 4 hours for this??!!

Just 1 ride in, and we were all kind of exhausted! At this rate, we would be lucky to even get couple more rides done before closing time! It did get a little better - we didn't have to wait more than 90 minutes for any other ride! And surprisingly, we checked off most of the ones we wanted to go on!! The best ones, of course, are the 4D - Terminator and Shrek were the next on the list after Spiderman! Seriously, how awesome would it be to watch full length movies in 4D? Amazing what can be done with puffs of air, water droplets and moving seats! Those spiders scurrying along the floor in Shrek? - even I pulled my feet up for a second!!

The Jaws ride is more for laughs, and so is Backdraft - although, Manasi was a bit scared by the pyrotechnics! I begged off Jurassic Park - 15 years later, I still remember getting drenched, and then having to walk around in wet jeans for the rest of the day - instead I enjoyed a nice quiet hour with a cup of coffee and a book, while Ajey took Manasi to see the giant T-Rex before plunging 30m down a water slide! Shivers!! Of course, we skipped the whole Snoopy-Hello Kitty-Sesame Street part of the park!! The evening ended with the Magical Starlight Parade - in my opinion, this is easily the best part of the day! The floats are really so magical, fun for kids and adults alike!!

 In a million years, I would have never imagined I would go to Universal Studios in Japan!! Seriously, I could go to Universal Studios any time - no reason to add that to Japan! Also, most of the shows are in Japanese - of course, we've seen all the movies, and we don't really need to understand the dialogue, but still - it would be nice to know what the entire room is laughing at!! And a strange thing - there didn't seem to be too many tourists around - most of the crowd was Japanese, no Caucasian faces, no SE Asians (apart from us, of course)! The food turned out to be another surprise - for the last 4 days, we had managed to eat like kings - so it was a bit of damper to be faced with a choice of hot dogs, hamburgers or pepperoni pizza!!

To be honest, I would have preferred spending the day actually in Osaka - but Manasi was so happy, that it made up for missing the sights of Osaka! Another sign our little girl is growing up - an entire day at Universal Studios, and she did not ask to buy a single souvenir! The last couple of times at Disney were a nightmare - with her asking for anything and everything that she could see, and then pitching a fit when she didn't get it! This time it was all about the rides - and that made Mom and Dad really, really happy! So, not a bad day at all!! Now if only I can find the time to squeeze in a visit to Osaka Castle...oh well, another one for the 'Next-time' list!!

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