Wanderlust: Japan

Universal Studios Japan: Harry Potter Edition

15:57




That's a nice flag in the background to truly prove that this picture is taken at Universal Studios JAPAN.

Confession: I have been to USJ thrice by now. Once in 2011 on a Sunday in summer (crowds were bearable, surprisingly) and once in 2013 on a Saturday during the Halloween Horror Nights period (never again).

This year, I went to USJ on a Wednesday, for one sole reason only. The reason is stated in the post title.


My excitement levels hit a major high upon seeing this sight, before going into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (TWWHP).

I am, of course, a Harry Potter fan. The characters, the richness of its world, the mythology - I love it, just love it. While I am still not fond of the romance and some of the plot devices (Dramione please and thank you, Ginny ugh), as someone who is writing her debut fantasy novel I highly admire J.K. Rowling's ability to capture the world's imagination.

It helps that she's a nice person who donates generously to charity and seems pretty sassy on Twitter - the latter of which I am fond of.

So even though I am pretty much over USJ after visiting it twice (I am especially over it after waiting in line for the SpiderMan ride for three hours once), I just had to go again, to see TWWHP for myself. There was also Universal Cool Japan to look at, although that turned out to be a huge disappointment in the end.

The highlight of  USJ is definitely the TWWHP segment, now.

I picked a Wednesday to go to USJ in hopes of avoiding the crowds. USJ seems to be Osaka's premier theme park so everyone goes here... to line up. As it is, the crowds on the Wednesday morning was already swelling with each ticking minute.

Thanks to TWWHP, USJ upped the ticket prices from the previous years. They used to be around ¥6,700, I believe. Now they are ¥7,200, or RM214 as of current exchange rates.

So basically I am paying RM214 to see stuff and line up with other people, an amount of money that can feed me for at least two weeks.

Sometimes I question my own priorities.

Anyway.


Here's a quick picture I snapped upon going into USJ, because I was gunning for an OOTD shot (Outfit of the Day). I am quite pleased with my style coordination that day - black and white with hints of pink. Perfect.

After this I quickly rushed to TWWHP segment. First, however, I had to get a timed ticket from a ticketing machine. It's slightly away from the Harry Potter entrance, probably to avoid crowd congestion.

What you do is to scan your admission ticket at the machine. Then, you get to choose what time you want to enter TWWHP. I choose 10.30AM, the next available time slot.

TWWHP is located at the end of a trail. From the entrance near Jurassic Park, USJ staff will check your ticket. You will then get to go in on the trail. Make sure you are at the entrance during your ten minutes entrance slot, or you might have to go get another timed ticket again.

The trail is surrounded by thick trees, and props such as this.


Oh hey it's the Ford Anglia, I guess that means this trail is part of the Forbidden Forest.

... Luckily, there's no Aragog or Aragog's family in this trail.

At the end of the trail, one will reach the entrance of Hogsmeade, as above. One will then see this beautiful, beautiful sight.



Oh look, a bunch of Asians in Hogsmeade. Including me.

I am guessing by the decor that Hogsmeade is supposed to be in a state of winter. TWWHP was a lot smaller than I expected, consisting of Hogsmeade, the Black Lake, and the castle. That's... pretty much it. The castle was a lot smaller than how it looked like in the movie, too, though I suppose that is to be expected.


Anyway, just because it is small, did not mean it was disappointing. I enjoyed looking at the decor, taking pictures in it, and being in a general state of "LOOK AT ME I AM IN TWWHP". Seeing the castle made me extremely happy. Seeing as that I never got my letter from Hogwarts, I suppose this will have to do.

WHY YOU NO SEND ME MY LETTER HOGWARTS WHYYY

First order of the day was exploring the village, and then lunch. I walked into shops like Zonko's Joke Shop and Honeyduke, feeling way more excited than I should at my age about being in a physical place that looks exactly like one of my favourite fictional places.

I grew less excited when I saw the prices for the items. A Chocolate Frog, for example, costs ¥1,200. That's RM36 for a piece of chocolate. Sure, it's a big piece of chocolate, but come on now. I can buy imported chocolates at that size for half the price at airports.

My friend enlightens me to the fact that when TWWHP first started, people used to line up just to go into the shops. LINE UP TO GO INSIDE SHOPS.  Luckily, we did no such ridiculous thing. We could just walk into the shop, look at the decorations, gasp melodramatically over the prices, take pictures, and move on.

Here's a few pictures from Honeydukes.




I liked the attention to details in the shops. If you ignore the crowds of tourists, and find a quiet spot, you can almost... pretend you are in the real Hogsmeade, in some amazing parallel universe where Hogwarts and its world does exist.

Almost.

Before lunch, we went to line up for the Ollivanders shop attraction.


Please note that it is not this one. This is only a shop front. I did not break into Ollivanders. Also, just to be nitpicky, Ollivanders is not located in Hogsmeade... but ok.

It took us about 20 or so minutes to get in after getting on the waiting line, which is bearable waiting time if you ask me.


It's not a ride - you just go into the Ollivanders shop in a group. The bookshelves move to reveal an inside room, where a Caucasian man pretending to be Mr. Ollivanders (he speaks in both English and Japanese) welcomes us.

He was a bit too young to be Mr Ollivanders, but I suppose you can't go around finding people in their 70s to play a theme park shopkeeper. Mr Ollivanders then picks a 'special' person from the crowd. This 'special' person gets to wave wands around, until they find the right wand (ala Harry in the first book).

The 'special' person in our group...

happened to be the only Caucasian guy...

who also happened to be my friend.

I think I found it vastly hilarious that my friend had a 'please help me' expression on his face all the time, which made this excursion to Ollivanders even more fun than it should have been. Mr Ollivanders made him swish and flick different wands, resulting in things like a wilting flower and thunderstorms inside the shop.

Then, when Mr Ollivanders uttered "I wonder..." and handed my friend THE wand that was right, I lost it. As soon as my friend was made to swish the wand, an illuminating light came down from above and I couldn't stop snickering as Mr Ollivanders made a big show of giving the wand to my friend.

So there you have it. To make the trip to Ollivanders' shop more fun, have your friend get picked to be 'The Chosen One'.

Oh, and if you are wondering if we got to keep the wand... no, we did not. We went out and a staff immediately approached us, asking us to give the wand back... with tons of apologies on her part. It was all a bit sudden after leaving the shop, so I totally forgot to take a picture with the wand before giving it back.

Meh.

My tummy growled in anger, and therefore we made our way to...

The Three Broomsticks. 


Me! Dining at Three Broomsticks! Me! *goes into spasms of joy*



If you come in a group of four or more, you should order The Great Feast as it is a great photo prop. If, however, there are only two of you, you are better off ordering ala carte. I got myself the fish and chips ( ¥1,500) and of course, the ubiquitous...


BUTTERBEER (¥1,200).

There are two types of Butterbeer to be sold, namely the liquid version and the frozen version. The liquid version is cheaper, but I have also heard that it is sickly sweet and bad. Thus, I opted for the frozen version, even though it was pretty chilly and windy in mid-April, especially sitting next to a lake.

I could have opted to sit inside, but the view outside was prettier and so I braved it.


I got to see this as I dined.

Parfait. 

Food verdict: Well, the food is nothing to shout about, and I certainly wouldn't recommend this place outside of a theme park setting. If it was located outside, it'd be like my trip to the Alice in Wonderland restaurant in Ginza: a one-time only experience. Still, it is the only place to sit down and eat at in TWWHP, so as far as theme park food goes, this is not bad at all.

As for the Butterbeer... you can get your Butterbeer in a flimsy plastic cup for ¥500 less, but... that won't make the photo look nice, will it? Of course, I opted for the mug version. I have heard bad reviews of Butterbeer (like cream soda with half a cup of sugar in it), but I find myself quite liking the frozen Butterbeer. Please note that I have a high tolerance for sweet food, however. I think the frozen Butterbeer would have served me better in summer than a chilly spring afternoon.

You get to keep the mug (unfortunately you cannot buy just the mug), so if you ask me, Three Broomsticks needs several basins located at the entrance. People will want to wash their mugs clean. You can however easily go to the restrooms to wash your mugs.

I adore the details in the restrooms. I find it especially bone-tickling funny that Moaning Myrtle keeps talking in Japanese from time to time, her voice blaring from hidden speakers.

Finally it was time to get on the main ride attraction of TWWHP - Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey. It's a thrill ride that has your legs dangling, while you follow Harry Potter and friends on a, well, Forbidden Journey through Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, and so on.


It's located inside the castle itself, so while you wait in line you get to see the Herbology greenhouse, Dumbledore's office, and so on. My waiting time... was an hour and twenty minutes.

I have always said that waiting in lines at theme parks is a test of friendship.Yet another place that proves that we are vastly overpopulated; just hang out in a popular theme park in Asia.

We finally got on the ride, which uses a mixture of real machines and 4D screens to simulate an actual ride through the skies. We follow Harry and gang while they ride on their broomsticks, hence the 'dangling legs' aspect of the ride. I like that they alternate the screens with 'real' stuff, so as to give my eyes a break from the glare of the screen. The ride ended all too soon mere minutes later.

I would have liked to gone back on it again, but this time the estimated waiting time went up to two hours. Jeez people. Other rides also had overly long waiting times, and so... I went out of TWWHP to go explore Universal Cool Japan instead, at around 3PM.

Big mistake.

First, here's a picture of me with the Hogwarts train. The Owlery in TWWHP is a cool place to hang out too, complete with a real life owl (along with mechanical owls above us). They even painted on bird poop stains on the walls, to make it seem real.


Take me to your world, Hogwarts train...

Okay, so I am out. I am fairly excited to visit Universal Cool Japan, mostly because I am an Attack on Titan fan and I really wanted to see the 3D model of Levi.

In the end, all I get to see of Universal Cool Japan is this. No rides, nothing. Just this.

NO LEVI. *rages*

Why? Let me tell you why.

Turns out 'Attack on Titan: The Real' needed a timed ticket too. Timed tickets that were 'SOLD' OUT by the time I got there.

*mutters unflattering stuff underneath my breath about how I needed to pay ¥7,200 to get in and still couldn't access all rides just because I didn't know one of them needed a timed ticket too*

I could not go back into TWWHP anymore after coming out too. The other rides, well, let's just say that I have been on the good ones already, and I didn't want to stand around for another two to three hours waiting for a ride.

So I went and watched this, instead, where I could sit down.


Water World!

The amount of people in here have visibly lessened from the last time I was here - everybody seems to be stuck waiting for rides, so they don't get to come see the Water World show. I recommend this place for families though. This has to be much preferable than waiting in line with a bunch of easily bored children and pre-teens.

Then I went out to check out the new Universal Wonderland... and left USJ at almost 6PM because there was nothing else to do unless I wanted to do more waiting... which I didn't. I have watched the Magical Starlight Parade before, and while it was a visual beauty, it had nothing on my favourite night parade - Fantasmic! in DisneySea.

So that was basically it. I paid RM214 for that. The whole experience also stopped being 'new', so I was not much inclined to go around looking at stuff. It just was not that kind of theme park.

 Crowds have significantly damaged the appeal of USJ for me - the waiting in line thing is horrifying for one ride, let alone doing it over and over again for other rides. Paying more for express passes may be the only way to make USJ palatable, but honestly, the entrance ticket pricing itself is already horrifying enough.

I pretty much only wanted to go this time thanks to TWWHP. Been there, done that, and honestly... TWWHP is not enough of an attraction to make me want to return again just for it. I much rather go to Universal Studios Orlando to check their version of TWWHP out (WHEN WILL I GET TO GO TO AMERICA? T_T)

Conclusion: I will recommend USJ only if you are a theme park lover, if you have not been, and if you are willing to shell out at least ¥15,000 for an entrance ticket, the Express Pass 5/7, as well as for food in the theme park. This is basically the only way you may be able to enjoy all the rides fully in one day, without waiting too much.

Even the most hardcore Harry Potter fan, I think, will find it annoying to be only allowed in to TWWHP at a certain time, and still have to wait. Apparently on weekends the wait for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride  can go up to four hours.

FOUR HOURS.

So yeah. Express passes is the way to go, I suppose, if you want to brave the theme park. Or you can test your patience level and see how long you can wait in line before you feel like going bat-shit crazy.

The end.

Wanderlust: Japan

An Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) Afternoon

11:30


After a morning spent at the Osaka Mint Bureau cherry blossom lane, I made my way to another touristy spot in Osaka.

As the title suggests, I went to the Osaka Aquarium.

I love aquariums, I truly do, especially well-kept ones that look after their captive animals well. There is something therapeutic about seeing fishes, particularly big ones, move around in their environment.

I left Tenmabashi Station, and made my way towards Osakako Station on the Chuo Subway line. This is why you definitely need an Internet connection in Japan to not waste time - I had to change trains for this, and Google Maps helpfully guided me where and when to go.

Unfortunately Google Maps could not help me locate the Osaka Aquarium once I arrived at Osakako Station. Oh, there was a bunch of directions from the station towards the aquarium. I followed the signs, and ended up at the bottom of a staircase exiting from the station.

Then... what? 

I could not see a sign for further directions towards the aquarium. I could not see the aquarium either. Google Maps was now saying that it could not locate me.

SIGH.

So I did what every solo tourist in my situation would do. I followed the crowd of people who were clearly tourists.

Unfortunately... the crowd (of four other people) was wrong. We walked a huge circle looping AWAY from the aquarium and then back again. We asked a a few directions along the way, some of us banded together to find the aquarium. Luckily, it loomed ahead of us after a bout of walking. I recognised the distinctive building, as I had Googled how it looked like before.



I ended up walking towards this building on its left side, when I could have just saved myself the time and distance by walking towards its front side.

***

PRO-TIP FOR MY READERS

Once you have arrived at Osakako Station, follow the signs that have pictures of aquatic animals plastered over them. You will cross a bridge path and end up exiting through a staircase.

DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT DO AN ABOUT-TURN AND CROSS THE CROSSROAD BEHIND THE STAIRCASE.

The staircase will be located on the left of the street. Please cross the street towards your right. Once there, keep going down the street where the exit is facing (do not cross any more streets). The Osaka Aquarium will be to your right.

***

Anyway, all is well, I got there and lined up for the ticket. You can get discounts if you come in a group of 15 (for foreigners), but alas, it was just me, and the price was ¥2,300 (RM70).

*grasps at wallet tightly as it grows slimmer over my trip in Japan*

I mean, I suppose the price can be considered reasonable for an aquarium of its size - eight well-organised floors of aquatic life must need a lot of money to keep running in a place as expensive as Japan.

Digression: It's cheaper that the S.E.A. Aquarium in Singapore, which costs around RM103 to enter (what!?). Aquaria in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia costs RM53 for foreigners, and it's probably around the size of two floors. I went to Aquaria once at a discounted price of RM28, and sorry to say, I did not even find that worth it. I would go to Aquaria more if tickets were sold at RM10 or even RM15,  but I suppose it is not my money they are after.

As I paid, I briefly remember the amazing Taipei Zoo, which is open to the public for RM7 per adult ticket, with large swathes of areas to keep guests entertained.  Good job, Taipei Zoo, for making your establishment accessible to people from all walks of life.

The way the Osaka Aquarium works is that one must start one's journey from the topmost floor, and walk down in a circular motion towards the bottom. On the way I passed by a tunnel filled with sharks, and shrieks of 'kawaii!' can be heard from excitable teenage girls.

Yeah, sharks are pretty much kawaii... when they are behind a tank.

The topmost floor is a small area, with not so much tanks but an open layout made to look like a forest. There are animals like the following just chilling in their respective spots, ignoring the sightseers and lazing away.


I believe these are otters.

After this floor, most of the animals seen will be enclosed in tanks. The aquarium hosts an impressive amount of marine animals from around the world. They are mostly animals that can be found in the Ring of Fire area in the Pacific Ocean.

All in all, visitors can expect to while away two to three hours in the aquarium as they make a slow descent down the aquarium. It is impressive how much is inside that building above. Visitors will be making circular loops in a downward slope, and before you know it you will be arriving at the bottom floor.


 It did not feel like I was walking down eight floors while I was in it. While walking, I passed by tanks after tanks hosting different animals. This one hosted a capybara, and as I stood there watching it, I could hear Japanese mothers telling their kids about "capybara-san". The "-san" suffix made me giggle a little inside.

I wish there had been more than one capybara, though. It must get lonely in there without another of your species with you.

However, some of the tanks seemed more than a little overcrowded, such as this.


"Oh hello penguin-san. How are you today?"

There were quite a bit of poop on the tank glass, hence the spots you can in the picture. These penguins did not seem inclined to move, just standing there with their wings held slightly up and an "Oh my God, what are all these idiot humans doing staring at me?" look on their faces.

Not that there was much space for them to move on land, even if they wanted to.



Talk about overcrowding. These king penguins were just all casually standing on their spot, too, barely moving. Sometimes one or two will go for a swim in the waters below, before resuming a standoffish stance on land again.

The tanks are not all different on each floor. Some of them are the same tank with the same animals, but with different eye-view points for visitors. So one may be able to see dolphins pop up from time to time on the surface of the water, but see them swimming and racing through water when one is on a lower floor.


Oh hello. I am a terrible learner, so I can only tell you that this is a fish, yes, a fish. I had pretty much forgotten all the names of the animals I saw when I walked out the exit, never mind tell you what they are apart from their general names.

My favourite tank for first sight impressions was the Great Barrier Reef tank - it was just so colourful with the tiny bright and multi-coloured fishes swimming away. It was pleasurable to watch the fishes darting from place to place.

 However, the highlight of the aquarium is definitely the tank of The Pacific Ocean. It is set in the middle of the Osaka Aquarium, and is the biggest tank there is in the aquarium, spanning several floors as visitors make their way around it.

It has to be big, because it hosts manta rays, bluefin tunas, other large fishes, and most notably, this.



HELLO, GORGEOUS. Everyone please say hi to the whale shark!

I mean, when I thought of the word 'whale shark', all I can think of is a Great White Shark that is the size of a whale like the one in Pinocchio that swallowed Geppetto.

Seriously, no thank you.

Mother Nature appears to be in a good mood for this creature, though, because the whale shark is simply... therapeutic to look at, as it swims around the tank.

I mean, I assume I would be screaming and swimming away in fear if I ever come across one in the ocean. They are, however, gentle giants, and subsist on a liquid diet that usually contains plankton and small fishes for them to get nourishment.

Also they have no teeth.

Thank you, Mother Nature. Thank you.

Technically there are places around the world where you can swim with whale sharks, if it so behooves you to do so. I am quite content to look at them from afar, however... and for long periods of time without moving, just focusing on the movement of fishes.

The Osaka Aquarium administration seems to know this, and have provided benches and other seating arrangements located on different floors directly facing the Pacific Ocean tank. As whale sharks have to keep moving in order to breathe, from time to time you will see it appear as it makes its way across the tank and back again.

After idly watching this tank for close to fifteen minutes as I fiddled with charging my phone, I felt a sensation close to restful serenity. It would have been totally serene to watch the tank and fishes without hearing crying kids from time to time, but I suppose you cannot have everything,

I made my way towards the exit, and passed by a diver feeding the manta rays in a show for the kids. I watched for a while, seeing manta rays block the diver from view as they gulp on fish bits, and wonder what it must be like to be a diver. I love the ocean, and I love looking at the ocean, but I cannot say I like being IN the ocean.

I have clearly never been a mermaid in my past lives.

That's not all for the aquarium folks, because there are still more animals to see even after you leave the giant tank. There are animals like jellyfish varieties and seals and this.


You are lucky you are in the aquarium and not in a seafood restaurant in Hokkaido.

There was an area on tropical animals as well, complete with a sloth that refused to look at any of us. As typical of aquariums, there was also an interactive pool for kids to play in, but I was more interested in this.


That side-eye skill is amazing. I think this is a rockhopper penguin, which explains what it is standing on.

After about three hours of gawping at animals, I finally found myself on the outside of the aquarium again. I passed by the aquarium shop and was PRETTY tempted to buy a cute seal plush, but then I reminded myself that "I HAVE A BUDGET AND I WOULD LIKE TO EAT DINNER" so I hurried myself out of the aquarium.

Also, if you are up for it, you can take the Santa Maria Cruise which docks right next to the Osaka aquarium. It will take you on a cruise around the Osaka Bay Area, where you can enjoy the scenery from the cruise. Day cruises will cost  ¥1,600 and night cruises will cost ¥1,900.

In my opinion, the Osaka Aquarium is certainly one of the best aquariums I have been to, but please keep in mind that I have not visited many to begin with.

Will I come back to the aquarium again? Probably, but only with friends who want to go or those who have not seen it before. I imagine if I lived in Japan and earned Japanese wages, that would make the fee more palatable. A ¥2,300 admission fee will be most likely seem okay against a general entry-level  ¥250,000 wage, rather than RM70 against a general entry-level wage of RM2,000.

However I am not earning Japanese wages, so yeah. It is not that great enough to warrant a return, unlike the Disney theme parks because I am a massive slave to the Disney corporation. It is definitely a good place to go to if you have kids, though, to keep the kids interested.

Up next will be about... Universal Studios Japan! I have mixed feelings about Universal Studios Japan this time around. On the one hand, I went because I wanted to go to Harry Potter World (and I loved it), on the other, the rest of Universal Studios Japan was...

Well. You'll see.

Until then, then.

Wanderlust: Japan

Osaka Mint Bureau Sakura Lane

13:11

*coughs from all the figurative dust that has settled on this blog since I last logged into Blogspot*

What can I say? I only feel like writing in here when I feel like I have 'material'. Luckily, I have enough material this month for about ten blog posts!

*perks up* 

Last month, I decided to treat myself to a nearly three-week long trip in Japan, from April 12th to April 30th. April is MY BIRTHDAY MONTH, and I get to do whatever the heck I want to in April, because MONTH OF MY BIRTH.

Well, at least, that's my excuse.

Anyway! Onwards to reminiscing about my trip to Japan. Please feel free to join me in wishing that I am back there on holiday.

***

"I love Japan so much that I am willing to sleep in a cupboard."

With this trip, I can finally lay claim to that sentence that I did not think I would ever say. I could afford to stay so long in Japan only mostly because I had a friend who offered me a place near Sannomiya, Kobe. Now, most Japanese apartments are pretty small, and this apartment already had three people living in it.

Being an addition, I could either choose to sleep in a) a cupboard which was about three inches longer in length compared to my height, or b) the living room.

Now, most people would choose the living room, but I did not want to wake up continuously due to the to-ing and fro-ing of people going to work in the morning. They chucked the futon (mattress) inside the cupboard, stuck a blanket and pillow on top, and it looked cozy enough, so...

A cupboard was my sleeping abode for most of my stay in the Kansai area. Thank goodness for being a small Asian female young adult is all I have to say. Hey, at least I am not sleeping in the streets.

"I love Japan so much that I am willing to sleep on the streets..."

Okay, maybe my love for Japan is not that great yet.

For my trip this time, I had a few agendas on my mind. One of the more important ones was... going to see cherry blossoms/ sakura.

However, I was in the Kansai area in the middle of April. All the Tokyo/ Kansai blooms mostly bloom around the end of March and beginning of April. It was the 13th of April. Scenic cherry blossoms places in the Kansai area, like Himeji castle or Osaka castle, were out of blooms by then.

I was getting quite desperate researching about cherry blossoms places in the months prior to my trip. I had the dilemma of not wanting to be caught in crowds during the school holidays (early April), but also wanting to see cherry blossoms.

I then found this on Japan Guide, and read this paragraph.

"But as much as for coins, the Osaka Mint Bureau is famous for the more than 300 cherry trees, which stand on its premises. Over 100 cherry varieties, mostly later blooming yae-zakura trees (with more than five petals per blossom) can be viewed on the premises. Every year, the gates to the cherry garden are specially opened to the general public during a one week period in mid April."

Mid April.

Mid April.

Mid April.

Hey, that's when I'd be somewhat near Osaka (from Kobe, it takes around 30 minutes to get to Osaka)!

The Osaka Mint Bureau decides each March when to open their sakura lane to the public, so it's pretty much a game of luck for people who have booked their flights early. Luckily for me, this year they were opened from April 9th to April 15th. I flew in on the 12th, and of course hurried to see it on April 13th. It was a MUST-do on my lax itinerary.

I researched how to get to Tenmabashi Station (on the Keihan Main Line/ Tanimachi Subway Line), and when I got to the station, it was pretty much a breeze to find the Osaka Mint Bureau.

The sakura lane is apparently a big deal - in fact, a much bigger deal than I expected. There were signs all over the station directing people to the "造幣局"/ Osaka Mint Bureau. Even if you could not read Japanese, there were scores of old Japanese people/ tourists who were there to view the cherry blossoms. You could simply follow them along the road.

I walked on a bridge, and my excitement grew as I saw this sight from the bridge.


I have only seen cherry blossoms in pictures and television, since I was never in Japan for spring before. The sight of those pink trees made my heart thump a little faster, in anticipation of what was to come.

And boy, what was to come was a thing to cherish in my memory indeed.

I got to the entrance of the sakura lane. The lane is only one way, so please ensure you do not end up at the exit! It will be pretty hard to end up at the exit due to all the directions they have, but apparently it has happened before.

The best part about this lane, by the way, is that IT IS COMPLETELY FREE TO VIEW. I've seen flower exhibitions charge exorbitant amounts of money in Japan, so props to the Osaka Mint Bureau for opening up private space for the public FOR FREE.

The unfortunate part will be that, as it is a lane, there will be no hanami-viewing picnics under the trees. This was fine by me, since I had nobody to picnic with anyway. I just wanted to see cherry blossoms, and see them I did indeed.

A gorgeous view of pink in varying degrees greeted me as I stood at the entrance, along with other colours like white and green. I was taking it all in slowly, tears threatening to prick my eyes as I looked in.

I was in Japan looking at cherry blossoms. 

Another thing off the bucket list, checked.


How does a sight like this not take your breath away?

I lingered at the beginning of the lane, taking selfies (as I was by myself), and asking other people to help me take pictures. Lots of tourists were there, with this one Hong Kong woman exclaiming that she had never seen cherry blossoms so beautiful before.

It was a test in languages for me too, because when people tried to get me to take their pictures, I got to bust out several of the languages I knew when they tried to mime what they wanted - Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, or English. The look of "Wow, you speak my language!" on the other person's face was satisfying to see for me. Multi-lingualism rocks, thank you very much.


As you can see, that's me looking absolutely blissed out surrounded by my favourite colour. Oh, and also trying to not look sleepy like I felt. Plane rides take it out of you for a bit.

It did not stop me from sighing over how sublime the cherry blossoms were in that 560m lane, though. It was only 560m, but I lingered along the lane for about two hours. I even made a friend from Hong Kong, who was there alone like I was. Ah, the beauty of travelling and meeting people from all over the world.



The day I was at the lane was sort of gloomy, and it drizzled from time to time (hence all the umbrellas in the picture). It was windy too, which shook the blossoms around from their branches. They danced at my feet before settling down, waiting for the wind to pick them again.

Here's an overload of cherry blossom photos I took that day from the sakura lane. Check out all the varieties and colours!










I... finally understand why the Japanese love their cherry blossoms so much, and will move out in droves to appreciate their beauty when they are all around. A cherry blossom tree on its own is a pretty sight to behold, but when you are surrounded by rows and rows of cherry trees that are blooming...

Magnificent is the only word to describe it.

I stood underneath one of those trees with hanging branches, hidden from the crowd as they passed by. At one point, I was the only one under the tree, surrounded by cherry blossoms hanging in front of me. It was blissful. I want one in my fictional lawn, with a rocking chair underneath said tree. I will read a book under its shade, and still look up to see beauty.

Maybe the beauty of cherry blossoms is that it is so fleeting. It blossoms for a few days, and then it dies off before it comes back the next year. We appreciate its fragility and beauty, but also its resilience in coming back, blooming even more captivating than ever.

(Something about cherry blossoms make me want to wax poetic about them, a sentiment many has felt before, I am sure)


I went to the sakura lane at 10ish in the morning, and left at noon. This tree was at the end of the lane, located near the Osaka Mint Bureau building. My experience at the lane made me feel serene, despite the crowds of people there. It was a manageable crowd, and nobody stabbed me with their umbrella, which I count as a successful outing.

(I was actually almost stabbed in the eye with an umbrella before, at Disneyland in 2013. Hmmph at people not looking before swinging their umbrella downwards.)


A blossom I picked from the ground. It had a bit of dirt from the ground on it, but no less beautiful. Such a short lifespan for something so exquisite... but perhaps that is what makes it beloved.


I am thankful I finally got to see cherry blossoms in Japan.

Unsurprisingly, it has now blossomed a wish in my heart - that I get to see all the hot spots of cherry blossoms- viewing in Japan in the years to come. There's still hanami to do, and also night-time cherry blossom-viewing.

I hope my wishes come true, just like this one has.