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Ultraman & Trains – Adventures & Misadventures in Japan

Ultraman & Trains – Adventures & Misadventures in Japan

Old Apr 29th, 2007, 09:47 PM
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Ultraman & Trains – Adventures & Misadventures in Japan

There are two main reasons we came back to Japan for the fourth time. The first one was to see as many Ultraman heroes as possible and second to experience as many different types of trains for each leg of our journey. For this purpose, we got the 1-week JR Pass for 28,300 yen per adult.

This time we flew by JAL (economy). Standard wise, we love SQ food, MAS in-flight entertainment but JAL air stewardesses rate higher than the other two airlines, especially when dealing with children. But then, son complained of having no games where he can shoot at things, unless you count Disney shoot-the-can games. If you have children, do plan to bring your own portable games or things to keep him occupied.

From Kansai to Shin-Osaka, we had reserved seats on LEX Hakuba. Missed the connection from Shin-Osaka to Hakata, not because of limited time to transfer or because of late arrival, but because we stupidly assume the C22 on the ticket was the platform number. Got another seat reservation for the train coming in an hour’s time, so had plenty of time walking around Shin-Osaka station and going to different platform to look at Shinkansens. When a Nozomi pass through, you can feel the floors shaking.

HAKATA AND ULTRAMAN LAND

Arrive Hakata station just in time for lunch, then left our luggage at the hotel nearby before proceeding to reserve seat for our train trip to Beppu. The counter staff looked almost incredulous when we told her that we were only planning to be there for 2 hours before returning back in the evening. We took the Sonic Express to Beppu and return to Hakata via LEX Tsubame. Both trip were not as smooth as the trip from Shin-Osaka to Hakata via Hikari Railstar. Both trains sway too much for our comfort, and as a result we spent most of the journey sleeping. (What a waste!) Why go to Beppu? Because of the Sonic leather seats and we wanted to take pictures of steam coming out around the town area. Achieved both goals and got back late evening with son complaining that he’s almost dying of hunger. However, hunger didn’t prevent him to be picky and only wanted to eat at KFC. We had the garlic pepper fried chicken, which was quite delicious (by KFC standard). As son repeatedly reminded us that we will have no son if he dies of hunger / boredom / tiredness (in that particular order), we’d better go back to Tokyo now. By Tokyo, he actually means Toyoko-Inn where we’ll be spending all our nights while in Japan. DH took the opportunity to walk around the area leaving me to argue with son until bedtime.

Saturday morning, we headed off to Ultraman Land taking the LEX Tsubame to Omuta. From Omuta we took the Kintetsu bus to Verde Hotel, which is the last stop (after Mitsui GreenLand). Bus fare was 390 yen and took 20 minutes. For those unable to read Japanese, the bus to Verde Hotel has no number (the others has) and as all buses arrive punctually, just board the bus that arrive exactly as the time stated on the time-table at he stop. Other clues will be couples heading off to Mitsui Green Land and parents with kids to Ultraman Land.

The size of Ultraman Land is actually as big as my high school hall (yes, it’s that miniscule) and you probably finish looking at everything in less than half an hour. The main highlights (to us, anyway) were the stage shows. Entrance fee are 700 yen for adults and 500 yen for kids. (Attractions charged separately). There are several stage shows and even puppet shows. Lunch time shows has repeats. Lunch at the Ultra de Restaurant was a pretty average affair with Disneyland prices. Due to a mix-up in delivering the order, we had a complimentary ice cream that tasted like coconut ice cream. There were few lucky kids celebrating their birthdays at the restaurant, at 12.00pm, Ultraman Cosmos had the honour of bringing out the cake and presents for each of the kids and at 1.00pm, it was Zearth turn. Zearth came to our table and son had a poignant moment with Zearth. (Zearth wiping off crumbs from his cheek).

We were there from 9.30am until 5.30pm. I think that were the only ones who were mad enough to stay there the whole day. For our efforts, we managed to take pictures with Ultra Father, Mebius, Hikari, Ace, Jack, Max, Xenon, Tiga, Zearth and one unidentified heroes called mirror-man (I think). Another poignant moment when for closing show, Tiga walk hand in hand with son from stage area to the entrance. Son, by this time totally forgot all his Ultraman moves and just walk like a robot. (Star struck, Ultraman style).

Dinner was McDonald’s. Pretty lame, I know, but we chicken out from going into one of the shops that offered some delicious looking tendon dishes.

We have to mention that as Toyoko-Inn provide free Japanese breakfast to guest (onigiri & miso), the onigiris at Hakata eki-mae Toyoko-inn was the best we tasted during this trip. I think it was some on of bonito flakes (but drier and chunkier) and didn’t manage to find any sold at the shops.

Tomorrow, off to Shin-Osaka.

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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 01:48 AM
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OOPSS… TO KANAZAWA WITH VISITS TO HIMEJI AND KYOTO

From Hakata we board the Hikari train, stopping at Himeji for an obligatory photo op at Himeji Castle. My desire to be more acquainted with the more traditional side of Japan was cut short by two factors in this trip, the weather and a very opinionated 5 year old. It was drizzling when we were heading towards the castle but started to get heavy so we decided not to linger. To others amusement, son decided to sing Old McDonalds loudly and I had to do the quacking, mooing and god knows what other animal sound while we were hurrying back to the station.

From Himeji, we proceeded to Kyoto. I had planned to go to the Philosopher’s Path, but again weather and our precocious boy had the final say. Just managed to walk around the station, and luckily there were information boards with Astro Boy on top and posters that caught my son’s attention. Obligatory pose session with an obligatory “Cheezu” (demanded by dear boy). Had a suffering queue to use the ladies at JR Isetan (why was there only two stalls on the 1st floor toilet beats me) with mandatory argument with son, as he poked all the things in the toilet and insisting to use the flush himself. He was impressed with the fact that you wave your hand to the sensor to flush. Saw amused faces when we finally emerged from the toilets. (yes, this happens all the time even in Malaysia because all his life-changing questions will come out during these toilet sessions).

In JR Isetan, we got so much free onigiri sample that we had no need to buy o-bento for lunch. We bought a roll of maki-zushi for son, and o-bento for both of us. This was our first o-bento lunch that we ate in a train. I am so in love with takenoko now… I wanted to buy some furikake for onigiri, but the price was prohibitive. Guess, I am stuck using the cheap version at home.

Our journey to Kanazawa was using the Thunderbird. Lunch was eaten while gazing to the changing scenery of rows of houses and offices to open sea and agricultural landscape. It is quite pathetic that I had to go all the way to Japan to see paddy fields (very pathetic, agrees her DH). Kanazawa station was impressive and big. As weather did not permit us to venture out, we headed directly to the hotel. Hotels are located conveniently around the station so you do not have to venture far to find a hotel.

Next morning we headed off to Terai. Common sense will dictate that it is wiser to head to Komatsu and take a bus to Ultraman Stadium. But, we don’t do things the easy way, and after seeing the Tedori Fish Park’s ferris wheel from the train, we decided to walk to the place. It was 5-6km from Terai station to the Stadium. It was an interesting walk as we walk past not only residential neighborhood but also rows and rows of paddy fields and other vegetations. We were impressed that at times the plots (paddy, I think as it was submerged with water) were only few inches away from the houses, and it was just a few feet in size. Be warned, when traveling with a child and you do not have a stroller, please make sure you do have a pair of strong arms.

Ultraman Stadium was actually half the size of Ultraman Land. The shop was tiny and the main draw here was the stage show. There was a gym and a bouncy castle in the place that cost 300 yen for 15 minutes. We created quite a stir when asked to register my son’s name, I wrote his name in Romanji. That particular slip of paper was shown to all the staff there, and we found it quite amusing. I guess we were the only mad tourists who will scour the place for Ultraman. Our usually energetic boy was scared with the Kaijus or monsters on display so we did not take a lot of photos here. Here, we managed to take pictures with Mebius and Hikari (again) in various poses with the awestruck boy, Ultraman – waving at us from below until we reach the top of the stairs and Taro (highlight of the day, as we missed Taro at Ultraman Land). The toilet sign at the Stadium was just like at Ultraman Land – Ultra Mother for ladies and Ultra Father for Gents. Cute.

Our trip back was done partly on foot. As son dozed off while DH was carrying him, we stop in the next bus stop we saw. Looking at the bus timetable, and unable to read any Kanji, Hiragana or Katakana except for the word Urutoraman, we made a guess that the next bus will be around at 1.31pm. True enough, at exactly 1.31pm, there was the bus (the buses here did not have romanji). My limited Japanese only allows me to ask JR eki desu ka? Then came the answer with explanation, but as long as I hear hait, JR bla bla bla, I will board the bus. It takes a while to understand that he meant to say that the bus doesn’t go to Terai-eki, but will go to Komatsu-eki. From stop no. 28 to Komatsu station was 220 yen per adult. Took about 25 minutes, and apart from a couple of obasan, we were the only ones on board.

Bought o-bento at the department store nearby and ate it in the waiting room. Son, having had another near death situation earlier on, had mocha bread and bananas (155 yen for 3 bananas!) for lunch. The o-bento set came with wet wipes and toothpick. Nice….

Arriving Kanazawa, and while DH was making reservation for our trip to Shin-Osaka tomorrow, we realized that son left his jacket in the train. Off we go to get help at the Visitors’ center nearby and the nice guy helpfully called the Lost & Found office to report about the lost jacket. Description of an Ultraman Jacket-o was met with incomprehension, but once DH change it to Urutoraman Jacket-O, all confusion was cleared. Turns out the train are heading to Wakura-Onsen, so they can only confirm whether the jacket was still in Car no. 3 or not upon its arrival. While waiting, we headed off to Forus department store and went to the Cinema floor not so much to watch a movie, but to look for omiyage. DH bought a Shin-Chan chain for SIL and we saw posters for movie with all the Japanese folklore spirit(?) Son took particular interest with the one with massive eye-ball as its head. Half an hour later, we went back to the center and yes, the jacket was found, but we have to go the Wakura Onsen to get it or wait 2 days for it to be sent to Kanazawa station. DH headed off to Wakura Onsen, while me and son set off to buy Godiva chocolates for the nice guy who helped us. It took DH 4 hours return journey to retrieve the jacket, but he came back with pictures of retro looking local trains that he used.

This adventure cost me my trip to Konrakuen garden. Well, more reason to come back again…
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 01:49 AM
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SHIN OSAKA, OSAKA AND GETTING LOST IN YAO


The journey to Shin-Osaka was by LEX Raicho. Today, we aimed to go to Tsuburaya Jungle in Yao. We board the LEX Hakuba, stopping at Tennoji before transferring to a local train to Yao station. We thought the department store where Tsuburaya Jungle was located will be big enough for us to see from the station, but boy, were we wrong. We walked aimlessly for half an hour, and then decided to have lunch at Yoshinoya. Resumed our search but our efforts were futile. Suggestions to DH to ask for directions or perhaps take a cab were met with steely glance. Decided to get back to hotel and print out the map for our search later.

On our trip back to hotel, we made a stop at Osaka-jo-koen station for a brief visit to Osaka castle. There must be a concert to be held later in the evening there because the park outside the hall (dome) was filled with teenage girls, all wearing the same t-shirts and towels (why towels, I wonder?). Son was cooperating and behaving angelically, as he was able to run freely here and making cute poses for the camera.

We made our second attempt to find Tsuburaya Jungle later in the evening, after son made remarks about how he wished he could visit Tsuburaya Jungle. Turns out that JR Yao station and Kintetsu JR station were not at the same place. We were walking around following the map and deciphering the translated instructions for almost an hour before finally finding the place as we stopped at JR Yao station. By right we should have used the Kintetsu line instead of the JR line.

It is my pet peeves to wonder why Tsuburaya Corporation placed Ultraman attraction in the middle of nowhere. I mean, in the middle of a village, paddy fields and now 30 minutes away from JR station! By the time we reached the place, the car ride & jungle gym were already closed. So we just spend time buying Ultraman merchandise. Luckily there was a Lego shop opposite and son met a couple of new tomodatchi to play legos with.

Dinner was at KFC (it was late, and we had no energy to find decent restaurants). They had coloring page and crayons available, so son was happily coloring while I shoved food into his mouth. Another stir was created as the staff took his colored pictures (with his name clearly written in Romanji) and post it on the board. For his efforts, we got complimentary soft drinks and fries vouchers. Not bad…
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Old Apr 30th, 2007, 01:58 AM
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OFF TO TOKYO

Our journey to Tokyo was by Hikari. Our seats located at the right side of the trains did not provide view as interesting as on left side, IMHO. It was pretty uneventful, with son spending the next 3 hours perfecting his Ultraman battle styles (with the requisite sound effect to boot).

We had seat reservation for N’Ex made to be used upon our arrival to Tokyo from Shin-Osaka simply because we had never used N’Ex, preferring the less expensive Airport Narita Limited Express. The train was quite empty, so I guess (and hoped) we were not depriving anyone of their seats and had a nice bento lunch on the train.

For the first time, we realized that there was an interesting clockwork display of crane dancers, dragons and the portable shrine at exactly 10.00 am at the Asakusa Visitors’ information center (right across Kaminarimon Gate). Son absolutely loved the 3 minutes display.

We met an online friend of mine for the first time in Tokyo. Son and her two kids were quite shy at first but thanks to Ultraman (or Ultraman statue & Ultra Monsters display) at Bandai office, they were best of friends in no time at all. While I did have an idea of how small Japanese apartments can be, I was quite surprised at how small her home was. That’s why everything in Japan was cute and small / compact, I guess. We really had a nice time with her family, and she was quite pleased (I think) with the Malaysian made soy sauce that I brought along. Also, had natto for the first time during dinner with her family. Interesting taste, but DH liked it.

We headed off to Narita Airport for Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, this time using the Keisei Limited Express (1,000 yen). It is slightly cheaper that JR Airport Narita (1,280 yen), because our JR pass expired on our second day in Tokyo.

The JR line and Keisei line offers different view, with Keisei more on ground level and you can see fields, homes and roads at a much closer view.

Time for us to head home, with heavy hearts. Again, on board JAL, we were greeted by cheerful air stewardesses. Requests for cards, pencils, juices were always made with enthusiasm and dealt with promptly.

We are missing Japan already, and who knows when we can come back to the Land of the Rising Sun again. L

Arriving at KLIA, our reserved and confirmed airport limo was nowhere to be seen and staff at the counter were unhelpful. Hmpph! Back to reality now, I guess… and back to my grumpy old self. J
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