Osaka’s Universal Studio Japan

Hooray! USJ time! It was raining but stopped when we left the apartment. IMG_1405

The magic is here! (Oops, wrong theme park! This isn’t Enchanted Kingdom)IMG_1407

So, we were able to buy tickets and enter USJ at 11am. There weren’t any express passes anymore. We weren’t planning to purchase them, but, just so you know, they were sold out by this time.

Our first order of the day was to look for the ticketing area where they give out passes to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. These are free but timed passes to enter the gates of HP. By the time we were there, there were only 3 schedules left. My sister told me when they went to USJ, they weren’t able to get tickets anymore.

After securing the passes, we listened to the band singing and dancing on stage. They were playing Taylor Swift songs, Shake It Off and Blank Space– the same songs we played the night before for Little A.

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Then, we decided to look for a place to have lunch. Funny story– I really don’t have a good sense of direction! We were looking for the Studio Stars Restaurant. DrG and Little A were behind me. I entered the restaurant. Scored a round table for the three of us. DrG went to line up to buy food. I look around and saw people were just eating sandwiches there. I thought this place served a popular roasted chicken dish. Then, I realized it was the wrong restaurant! We were in the Boulangerie! Ugggh!  I went to DrG and he said he thought I changed my mind about Studio Stars. Hahaha! So off we went to go to the correct one.

With the bellies happy, we went to Universal Wonderland.

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Hello, Kitty!

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Carousel fun! Little A was afraid at first but got some courage after a few minutes. Bravery was short lived though as the carousel started to turn. We just have to try and try again!

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View from the (carousel) high horse

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Elmo and Cookie dancing

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The Delorean

I wish the Back to the Future section was a lot bigger than this (one ride). The city square would’ve made a good theme park section, don’t you think? DrG said maybe because the movie isn’t as popular as I thought. Are there no BTTF fans in Japan?

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Mr. Walt (oops, wrong theme park again!) This is probably someone important

Little A was asleep; we were full; we already took photos (Jaws, Spiderman, etc). We were just killing time walking around the park waiting for….

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Harry Potter! Could hardly contain my excitement!

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Welcome to Hogsmeade Village

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All aboard the Hogwarts Express

But, didn’t see the platform in Kingcross anywhere! Maybe because we were already in Hogwarts?!

At the back of this area, people line up to have their photos taken (3000plus yen per!) on the train coach.

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It looks amazing! Just like in the movies/books/my mind!

There were long lines everywhere. So we decided to eat first at the Three Broomsticks.

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The great feast looks good! But seems to be too much for just the three of us!

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Three BroomsticksIMG_1544

We had to try the butterbeer of course! It tasted like the butterball candy and cream soda. The cold version tasted better than the warm one. I wish they served a frozen one, as well. I imagine that would taste even yummier! IMG_1545

Ribs and Corn

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Baby Mandrakes

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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

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A better view of the castle from this side of the Black Lake

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The Ride. 120 minutes wait if you don’t have express pass.

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We took the Castle Tour instead. 50 points to Ravenclaw!

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The password is Sherbet Lemon

You’ll be entering Dumbeldore’s office. Check out his pensieve, too!

IMG_1576Some of these are moving portraits!

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Dumbledore shows up

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His office window

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The trio in a classroom

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Souvenirs. The time turner is ❤

IMG_1599Even though we didn’t get to ride the main attraction, I was quite happy strolling along Hogsmeade Village. Hogwart’s choir also sang some songs a cappella (Can You Dance Like a Hippogriff?)

Don’t forget to check out the toilets to visit Moaning Myrtle!

Drop by Ollivander’s, too! You might be the lucky wizard/Muggle. Remember, the wand chooses the wizard.

Website here

Osaka’s Kaiyukan

USJ was my main destination in Osaka. Call me shallow but I have two words for you– Harry Potter!  But, we got to Osaka earlier than expected to so spent the late afternoon at Kaiyukan.

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Just in time for duck feeding!

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DrG’s favorite! He can impersonate ’em! 😉

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Happy Feet

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Under the sea (or is it freshwater?)

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Huge Aquarium in the middle!IMG_1337

The aquarium uses very thick acrylic glass!

Kaiyukan houses a whale shark, dolphins, sting rays, and lots of other fishes. Do visit the when you are in Osaka. It is completely baby friendly 🙂

Website here.

Kyoto with a Toddler (Arashiyama)

There were some other sites on my list but since we had limited time (and energy), I decided we would spend our last full day in Kyoto at Arashiyama.

How to get there? We took the tram! There are other ways to get there but I felt this was the least hassle way to get there. It was one train ride to the end of the line.

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This was what greeted us when we alighted from the tram. Kimono Forest. This lights up at night, too!

The station actually have loads of restaurants. You can stroll along the area and check out the little shops, too!

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Our first stop was the Tenryuji at Arashiyama. One of popular zen temples in Kyoto (there are many!) and a world heritage site. I wasn’t sure if Little A would enjoy the whole place so I limited our tour of the garden (500 yen). We walked along the pathways and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the temple. Brooks bubbling. Birds twitting.

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Zen Garden

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Pretty, huh?

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Just after the garden, you exit and walk through the Bamboo Grove. It is spectacular!

The sunlight that filters through the leaves are called komorebi 木漏れ日(no english translation). Whenever I see komorebi, there’s always a feeling of hope and wonder.

Now after this walk through, we should’ve gone (left) to see the famous 渡月橋 (Togetsukyō) but I made a mistake and went to the right side to take the Sagano Romance Train.

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Fellow tourists checking out the map

I had about on 45minutes to kill before the next train arrives. For the single adult traveling with kids, note that the Toroko Arashiyama Station doesn’t have elevators and you have to descend one long flight of stairs to get to the platform.

We took the open carriage for the first trip so we can enjoy the scenery without windows. It was cold! Brrrr! IMG_1162IMG_1183 IMG_1187

They take souvenir photos for a 1000yen.IMG_1212

Also, it would’ve been more “romantic” had it been autumn or sakura season or maybe even snowy winter. What we saw was the middle of winter and spring so it was just brown and a little patches of greens. IMG_1228

We stopped at this Saga station to  take the randen back to Shijo Omiya.IMG_1234

This gave us the chance to stop by this Train and Piano museum. Museum is a stretch. It was like a 19th century hotel lobby with musical and train displays. IMG_1236 IMG_1237

Nobody there. I asked if we needed to order to sit. We could use the facilities even if we weren’t buying anything.IMG_1239
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Trains but you can’t go up on

It would take 15 minute walk to go to the bridge from this point. I figured the bridge would be something we could back for in the future, along with the visit to Torii in Fushimi Inari-taisha.

Next stop, Osaka! 🙂

Kyoto with a Toddler (Toei Kyoto Studio Park)

On our third day, we decided to go to Toei Kyoto Studio Park. It is a place where they shoot japanese (Edo) period dramas. It is a fun place to spend an afternoon. You can play dress up (all ages!) and pretend to be ninjas/samurais.

If you noticed, we spend just half a day outside the previous days. I don’t think I could do multiple locations in one day that would involve navigating ourselves plus the regular stuff (like feeding, changing diapers and scheduling naptimes). That’s right! I can’t navigate and do other things! If you can just hear the conversations I’ve had with the hotel receptionists. I specifically ask where I should take the bus, what stops, how many minutes, where to find the next bus.  Directions have to be as specific as possible!

And no, I can’t read maps. Google or otherwise.

So, I was told that I can take the tram to the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Tram? I didn’t know Kyoto had trams! How fun!

IMG_0953This is the Randen station – Shijo Omiya stop. A 10 minute walk from the hotel.IMG_0954

This tram actually takes you to most of the sites!

Unfortunately, the receptionist forgot to tell me that I could buy a Toei Kyoto Studio Park ticket plus a round trip pass for the randen. I could’ve saved me some 300yen! Teehee!

As a side note though, you can buy an all day pass for the tram and use it to go to different stops. It goes all the way to Arashiyama where you can see the Bamboo Grove, ride the Romance car, go to the zen temple, etc. But, like I said, one location per day.

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Insides. Just one coach for the tram.

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The Studio is a short walk from the randen station (Uzumasa Koryuji). They play a song that is distinctly edo drama music so you know it’s your stop!IMG_0961

2,200 yen ticket

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 We got there close to lunch time so we decided we would eat first before exploring the park.IMG_0966

Themed menu

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Is that a famous character?

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You can explore and take photos all you want!IMG_0978

We decided to go inside the Trick Art museum (extra fee) but I had fun. Little A was a bit scared!IMG_0994

Giant and dwares

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They had shows almost every hour.IMG_1023

In this theater

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And outdoors

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Street performer of the olden timesIMG_1052

Location shoot preparationIMG_1058

Props!

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I saw these two guys earlier in the day wearing modern clothes. The next time I saw them, they were wearing these cool costumes.

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I asked if they wanted me to take a photo of them in their glorious outfits.IMG_1064

I took several photos using their camera. Then, I asked if I could take one on my camera. They obliged and posed for three!

There are many other attractions and shows in the Studio Park. There are samurai lessons, ninja lessons, behind the scenes talk, ninja shows, haunted house!, a mystery house, costume rental including hair and make up, a theater and multiple museums on wood prints, animes and Japanese super heroes (Voltes V and Shaider!)

The park is stroller friendly! You can even borrow a cart if you didn’t bring one. Baby changing rooms and nursing rooms are also available.IMG_1080

It was a very interesting afternoon for Little A and I. I just wish DrG was there with us! We probably would have much more fun.

Website here

Kyoto with a Toddler (Kinkakuji Temple aka Golden Pavilion and Ryoanji Temple aka Zen Rock Garden)

Day 2 was sunny although a bit colder than the first day.

We took a 30 minute bus ride to Kinkakuji as instructed by the very friendly receptionist. Since it wasn’t forecasted to rain, I brought along the baby car. It was easy enough to lift the car in and out of the bus. But, when it got a little bit crowded, I had to protect Little A from getting crushed by bags (also wished nobody would fart while standing near her– my worst fear!)

Since I will be riding the bus thrice that day, I bought an all day pass from the bus driver. 500 yen. All you can ride within the specific areas listed on the map. It’s great for tourists hitting many locations each day. The standard fee per ride is 230 yen.

The bus stops just across the Kinkakuji’s gate which was great!

After paying for the ticket though, someone approached me to inform me that there are several areas that have stairs and it would be difficult to maneuver the cart on my own.  I only wanted to show Little A the main temple anyway so it was fine by me.

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It is so pretty there!

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Heavier Snow Fall

After enjoying the Golden Pavilion, we headed towards Ryoanji Temple. It is just a bus ride away and it is pretty near by. When we got there, I was advised (once again!) that the temple isn’t wheelchair friendly. Uh-oh. I was told that I can’t leave the stroller anywhere, too. So, that meant carrying Little A and dealing with the baby car! Double uh-oh.

I found out that there are many steps before you could get to the Rock Garden, hence the warning. Lots of people asked if I wanted help which I think is great! I refused as I was pushing the cart slowly anyway and didn’t want to bother other tourists. But, still I was thankful that there are still friendly people (at least in Kyoto!).

IMG_0914Teenagers in traditional costumeIMG_0900

Meditating. Nah, just making sure her slippers won’t fall off her feet

On the way back down, you can choose to exit the same way you came or go through the scenic route via the pagoda but still…stairs! Anyway, it is only a problem if you’re on your own with a kid and you brought a stroller with you 😉

Afterwards, we took the bus back. A quick Takashimaya depachika tour for the hungry tummies were in order and someone promptly fell asleep soon after. Luckily, we found our way back to the hotel before snow fell again.

Kyoto with a Toddler (Gion and Nishiki Market)

I knew I was going to be touring Kyoto with just Little A so I listed down all the places we wanted to visit and divided it to a workable schedule that included late mornings, nap times mid day and snack times throughout the day.

Gion

We took the bus to Gion on the first day in Kyoto. Most of the shops are hidden away in old Japan facades but don’t be surprised when you see modern interiors.

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Gion by Day

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Gion by Night

Huge difference, yes? We did a quick walk through since we already ate. 20150308_183836But, it didn’t stop us from buying these ultra pretty sweets from Gion Sakai. Of course, we chose the shu cream (blog name!) because that’s my favorite.

You will also find the beautiful 1400 year old Gion Shrine at the end of the road.

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There are many flights of stairs, though. Little A and I just ended up looking from below.

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There are some stalls selling various food stuff after the first flight of stairs leading to the shrine.

IMG_0959Pancake Wraps

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Riverbank

Nishiki Market

About 10 minutes from the hotel, we spent the following drizzling afternoon at Nishiki Market.

20150309_123940There weren’t a lot of people (maybe due to rain) so Little A and I leisurely walked the alleyway. There were countless of shops and restaurants!

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Not so crowded (really, I’ve seen Nishiki on a crowded day) NishikiIMG_0794The alleyway.
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Fruit standIMG_0800

Fresh fishIMG_1007

Red orange carrots!IMG_0799

All sorts of fish stick goodnessIMG_0798

Flower ShopIMG_0795

Trinket shopIMG_0806Famous knife store

After a while though, Little A got a little sleepy (naptime!) so I had to carry her again. Instead of walking back to the hotel, we explored the other street where there were more shops and eats.

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The end of Nishiki

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Lord Stow’s Egg Tart

After a quick rest, we headed back to the hotel. First day done!

Kyoto with a Toddler (Hotel Unizo)

We had an opportunity to go to Kyoto for several days! How exciting to explore a new place.

DrG found a newish hotel at Shijokarasuma (四条) which is a very nice starting point to all the places we wanted to visit.

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Gion was a bus ride away. The hotel was also walking distance to Nishiki Market and the long strip of shops and restaurants in Shijo. Nearby are the tram and the subway stations. There were also convenience store and a small supermarket off the corner. Small restaurants and cafes are scattered here and there, too!

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The lobby staff spoke excellent English and are very helpful with information.

Housekeeping kept our room clean and well stocked. Wifi is available.

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Except for the broken bathroom door handle and busted light, everything else was peachy. They tried their best to provide for the extra blanket and pillows we asked for. They gave us…..extra *futon* and pillow. Worked out ok because the double bed sometimes only had room for one adult and Little A. Someone else was delegated to sleep on the futon…on the floor…(mostly DrG!)

The hotel has a Tully’s on the ground floor. We had breakfast and snacks there on several occasions.

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Tomato Pasta

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Hotel Unizo website