Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Brother in Japan - Take Two, Part Two!

Hello, and welcome to part two of my travels with my brother in Japan! You can read part one here.

On Friday, it was time to go south for the next part of the holiday. We caught a few shinkansen (bullet trains) from Utsunomiya to Hiroshima, my personal favourite place in Japan. The trip takes around six hours one way, so by the time we arrived it was pretty late. We found our hotel, had a rest (somehow, travelling by train can take it out of you a bit), then headed off to eat tea and find the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park. By that time, it was dark, so I was interested in what the A-Bomb Dome would look like at night. It's lit up very effectively, and very striking. The whole park had a really nice calm atmosphere, and somebody was playing a violin in the distance. We walked around for about an hour. Unfortunately, the museum was already closed. By the way, most of the photos in this post were taken by my brother - they are really amazing, and I want to say thank you to him for sending them to me!

Stunning photos of a A-Bomb Dome taken by Edward.
The lighting set-up on the dome was spot on, and allowed us to see everything just as easily as we would have in daytime.
The details of the dome were extremely striking at night.
The next day, we had decided to watch a baseball game. We got up, and went to the nearest 7-11 to buy tickets. Unfortunately, the game was completely sold out! I was really surprised, as I had read online that you can usually buy baseball tickets at the stadium on the day, unless it's a big team, or an important game. I assumed this wasn't either, but it seems I was wrong. We were both quite disappointed, and went back to the hotel to decide what to do. I looked up a few more baseball games online, and found one on the next day in Osaka, which is where we were planning to go anyway. We went back to the 7-11, and were able to sucessfully buy tickets for that game. Yay! We still didn't have any plans for that day, so we decided to go to Miyajima, a small but quite famous island off the coast of Hiroshima. I had been there once before, but I was really looking forward to going again.

Miyajima is home to a famous torii gate, a beautiful shrine, and a large population of deer. Three things which are definitely worth a visit! 

I finally got to take a photo of the torii gate with the tide in!
Why hello deer.
This time, we went to an aquarium. Miyajima has a great aquarium, and it was very fun. The aquarium has a few different shows schedules throughout the day. We got there in time for the seal show, which was very entertaining. After that was seal feeding, but since we'd just watched the seals, we decided to skip it. Later on, there was a kind of otter show which I watched as well. There were some really amazing tanks, filled with everything from the craziest looking fish, to crabs, giant sea turtles, jellyfish, eels, and more. They even had some wee penguins! It was a lot of fun.

Check out this Finding Nemo themed tank! Such a cool idea!
So many nemoooooossss!
The next day, as I said, we went to a baseball game in Osaka. The Osaka Hanshin Tigers were playing the Chunichi Dragons. It was my first time going to a baseball game anywhere, let alone in Japan! Luckily, my brother was very good at explaining the rules to me, and I found it easy to follow along with. The atmosphere at the game was really fun. Just like the Tochigi SC game I went to with my other brother, each team had a designated area for its most dedicated fans, and those areas were packed with fans singing songs and cheering not only for their team, but every player that came up to bat. Each player had their own individual song, and most of the fans knew the words to it! By the end of the game, I probably knew a few of the songs myself, haha. Another fun thing, was that in the 7th inning, all the Hanshin Tigers let off balloons to celebrate. We hadn't known about this, but some friendly fans we were sitting next to gave us some balloons :)

It was wonderful weather for the game.
Everybody blowing up the funny balloons.
It's such an impressive sight when they all go off! 
Unfortunately, the Tigers lost, but it was a really cool game. Afterwards, I bought this wee Hanshin Tigers bear:

He's number 8, Isn't he adorable?!
The game went quite late, so after that we went back to the hotel. The next day, we went to Universal Studios Japan! We had decided to go on a weekday, because we thought it would be much less busy than usual - but the whole theme park was still really busy. The lines for rides, shops, and even just restaurants, were all insane! It was during the Halloween season, so I wonder if that was why. We arrived early, but fastpasses were already sold out, so we had to wait in line quite a while to go on any rides. As it was, we still got to ride the Back to the Future ride, Spiderman, and Jaws. We also got to go into Harry Potter World, which was amazing! Hogwarts Castle looked huge, and very impressive the way it was lit up. The lines in Harry Potter World were even worse than around the rest of the park, so we didn't go on any. There was even a crazy line for butterbeer, so I didn't try any. I guess I have to save something for next time! I was really tempted to buy some Harry Potter souvenirs - the house jumpers, scarves, and the wands at Ollivander's wand shop were all really cool, but I decided to save my money for the moment. It's getting quite cold in Tochigi these days though, and I really wouldn't mind a scarf about now!

It was hard to get a good picture of the castle, but Edward managed to get this great one.
The day after that, we had to head back to Tokyo, but we decided to get tickets for a train later in the afternoon, and spend most of the day in Osaka. The hotel we booked online came with free tickets to the Umeda Sky Building, which was such a cool bonus! We walked to it in the morning, and enjoyed seeing the view out over Osaka. The Umeda Sky Building is really impressive, and I recommend visiting it. It's not very far from Shin-Osaka station, so it's easy to get to.

The mirrored exterior and design of the building is really futuristic.
Nice views across the city.
It was another beautiful day. We were very lucky with weather.
These are the escalators you take up to the viewing platform - rather scary!
The Umeda Sky Building from afar.
Afterwards, we still had a few hours before our train, and we had seen a bowling alley the day before, so we went bowling. I was pretty terrible, but Edward got a great score, and I did get some spares, so I was happy. We got into Tokyo that evening, and went to buy some CDs and have another go at Oslo Batting Centre, since we had enjoyed it so much the first time.

Such a big difference in scores, hahaha!
The next day was Edward's last day in Japan. His flight wasn't until late that night, so we still had the day to enjoy. Edward had searched for roller coasters in Tokyo ahead of time, and found one at the Tokyo Dome City Attractions theme park that we decided to go to. We checked out of our hotel and headed over in the morning. The theme park seemed a little quiet, and we began to wonder if it was even open. We saw a few rides going, so we were optimistic...but as we walked up to the roller coaster (called Thunder Dolphin), we saw a terrible sign: "Thunder Dolphin is closed for maintenance". Noooooooooooooo!!! It was so disappointing! We had been pretty excited about Thunder Dolphin, and didn't really have any other plans for the rest of the day. I went and asked one of the ticket officers if they knew when it would be going again, but they didn't know. What were we going to do? I didn't want Edward's last day in Japan to be really lame, and looked online to see if there were any other roller coasters close by, but I couldn't find much. There were a lot of shops and food places at Tokyo Dome City, so we decided to go and get some food, and look around the shops a little bit. We spent about an hour doing that. Afterwards, we were sitting down eating some snacks and watching a musical fountain show, when suddenly, we saw the roller coaster go right over our head! At that time, we weren't sure if anyone was on it. We waited, and it went by again, this time accompanied by the sound of screams. The roller coaster was going, and it had passengers on it! I was so surprised, especially since the ticket officer made it seem like the roller coaster might be under maintenance for a long time. Anyway, we happily went and got tickets, and went on the ride. The first drop was really thrilling, and it was very cool how the coaster goes through the middle of a Ferris wheel, and through a hole in a nearby mall! Thunder Dolphin is currently the 7th highest roller coaster in the world - 80 metres at its highest point, and it reaches a speed of 130kmh. I really recommend it for all the other roller coaster enthusiasts!

Just look at that climb to the drop!
Here you can say it going through the Ferris wheel in the foreground, and the hole in the mall, in the background.
Well, not long after leaving the theme park, it was time for Edward to go to the airport. I went with him, and we had a sad goodbye. I had a really good time exploring Japan with my brother. We did heaps of fun things I hadn't tried before, and probably wouldn't have tried to do by myself. Thanks so much for coming Edward, I hope you enjoyed Japan, too!

- Annabelle.

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:
 
 
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