My next few blog pieces will make up a series on Osaka.
You can find different articles about Osaka such as places to go and things to do below. For now, this article will consist of transportation and Universal Studios Japan! In these blog pieces I’ll tell you how to get around Osaka and show you some of the cool spots to visit in the city from going to Japan’s Harry Potter World, to seeing a live whale shark, to finding pretty authentic Mexican food in Japan.
Before all of that, however, you need to know HOW to get around Osaka.
OSAKA AND THE SUBWAYS:
There are two main ways I recommend getting around Osaka, via the subway lines. All of these lines are exceptionally punctual and can get you anywhere in the city within minutes. I will always recommend that a person starts their day in Osaka in the Namba area. This area is a huge center for the major shopping areas like Ebisubashi and Dotonbori. In addition, it houses the Namba line which heads most everywhere out of the city, including the Kansai International Airport (KIX) and the Nankai line.
But wait, there’s more: the subway is within walking distance from Namba station and give you access to all of Osaka. The city is in the palm of your hands at that point!
Now, the lines you will probably spend most of your time on are the Midosuji Line (Red), the Chuo Line (Green). Midosuji will take you up to the mega shopping districts like Umeda and Dotonbori, while running North to South. The Chuo Line runs East to West and gets you to Osaka Castle, another shopping mega called Cosmosquare, and the Kaiyukan Aquarium.
WARNING: Most line’s maps will not be in English. If you are purchasing a subway ticket each trip, look up above the ticket machines and you will see a map of Osaka like the one above. This will tell you what the number of the station is and how much the fare will be for that distance.
When you try to purchase the ticket, IGNORE almost everything on the screen. Just insert your money and press the fare that then lights up next to the money slots and is the same as the bubbles on the map (where you want to go).
Also, starting from Namba Station, you will see signs like the one below that give you directions to Universal Studios Japan: follow them!
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN & HARRY POTTER WORLD:
First off, let me state that I have almost always disliked Universal Studios. Living near California, I had access to Disneyland and Universal Studios, and Studios just never compared. It always seemed like a somewhat lousier or more run-down version of a theme park. However, the Universal Studios in Japan (USJ) is pretty incredible.
USJ does a fantastic job of creating a theme park that rivals Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom, with 8 distinct areas to visit, dine at, and tour. Tickets cost 6,980 yen for adults – around $70 USD. It’s worth it.
AMITY ISLAND – A.K.A. Jaws
UNIVERSAL WONDERLAND – SNOOPY STUDIOS, HELLO KITTY FASHION AVENUE, SESAME STREET FUN WORLD
HARRY POTTER WORLD
Each location is distinct from one another and has clear signs of its namesake. However, there is no masking the fact that this is in Japan. This was evident by the ONE PIECE anniversary going on while I was visiting.
ONE PIECE is one of the most popular manga in Japan and it also happens to be my favorite manga. It takes place in a fantasy world almost entirely covered by oceans, where people live on islands scattered across the seas. The only way to travel is by boat, and as such pirates are a constant threat.
The main protagonists are a crew of altruistic pirates called the Straw Hat Pirates, led by Captain Monkey D. Luffy, trying to find a fabled treasure called ONE PIECE, left behind by the deceased Pirate King Gol D. Rogers.
It’s a goofy, action-adventure manga and I was ecstatic to see so much paraphernalia for it at USJ.
But the real treasure at USJ is, of course, Harry Potter World and the journey to Hogsmeade from the rest of the park.
Before you can enter Hogsmeade, you take a good 3-5 minute through a dreary forest accompanied by the famous Harry Potter movie music and a few surprises ;). It truly makes you feel like you’re that eleven year old first year about to make their first step into the Wizarding World.
Upon entering the Hogsmeade gates you are greeted by the Hogwarts Express and the traditional British style A-frames many associate with Harry Potter. Each roof is littered with “snow” and towering above them all, in the distance, is Hogwarts itself.
This would be a sight to make anyone giddy, if it wasn’t for one thing…remember how I said USJ tries to limit the number of people in Harry Potter World? Well…
It does NOT work.
Instead of being able to enjoy the, now classic, Harry Potter movie music echoing throughout the village, a visitor must focus on pushing and shoving their way through throngs of park goers just to peer into a shop, let alone enter one. But its ok. I’m lucky enough to be a fairly large man, and living in Italy taught me how to navigate through a crowd. Walk like you’re on a mission, a mission from God! People will move not by you, but around you.
Due to this I was able to see a lot of Harry Potter World. Places like Ollivander’s Shop, where I waited in line for about 10 minutes to purchase my very own willow-core magic want for 3,000 yen.
I was even able to visit most of the stores like the 3 Broomsticks, where they serve traditional British cuisine like Shepard’s Pie, Bangers & Mash, and other meaty things like pasties…
And the Owl Post, where you can see mechanical Owls hooting and moving around above you, ready to deliver the many packages within the store…
I also could not leave without trying some butter beer; Lexi convinced me. It was worth the wait in line to reach the massive keg in the center of the village. A Frozen butter beer made everything seem right, it is basically a frozen cream soda slushy, after all.
Unfortunately, the main ride through Hogwarts Castle, the Hippogriff ride around the Hogwarts Grounds, and entry into the Candy Shop were not an option. Each had a wait of about 3 hours; that meant no Bertie Bot’s Every Flavored Beans :(. But its ok, it was an awesome experience regardless. USJ really pulled out all the stops to make you feel like you are in Hogsmeade Village and the Wizarding World.
Also, this is apparently the place to go for Halloween so I’ll be back to see how Hogsmeade is done up then. I’m sure USJ won’t disappoint.