Trip to Japan (Part II)
As mentioned in the previous part, we stayed in Osaka for six days. Besides visiting various cool places, one memorable experience was funny adventures we had navigating the intricate maze of the subway system. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that on some days we spent more time in the underground world than above ground. Despite having Aunt Anna, a knowledgeable guide who speaks Japanese, we could not be certain that we would effortlessly find the right trains, exits, or elevators. At times, it was quite comical for me, but also interesting because even the subways have shops and plenty to see. Of course, the travel show “Kaks Kanget Jaapanis” on TV3 came to mind. Teet and Kristjan were adventuring there in a similar way. By the end of our stay in Osaka, we realized that using buses might have been better as they are more easily accessible.
The first place we visited was Nara Park. It is a public park located at the foot of Mount Wakakusa in the city of Nara, Japan. It was established in 1880 and is one of Japan’s oldest parks. The park is designated as a “scenic beauty” spot by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.
What made this park special for us was the opportunity to see and touch wild deer that come down from the mountains to the green area in the city during the daytime. Over 1000 deer have become symbols of the city, and they are even designated as a natural treasure. In the surrounding areas of the park, deer crackers are sold, and some deer have learned to bow to visitors to ask for food. The Nara deer are surprisingly docile, although they can become aggressive if they think you have food. So, we also bought deer crackers several times and gave them to the persistent ones. Lucas even tried to give them directly from his hand, but he was a bit afraid of these horned creatures, although they had beautiful and large antlers. One deer was so bold that it snatched crackers from the bag hanging on my wheelchair. I also had a funny encounter – Mari put a cracker between my toes, and I gave it to one of the hungry deer.
These deer are quite unique and bold. We don’t encounter any such things in Estonia. Our hunted animals are more likely to hide in the forest than walk among the people. But it was a pleasant and interesting experience for all of us.
In Nara Park, we also tried udon noodles. It is a soup-like dish with noodles and various toppings. It seemed to have some meat in it. It was a very delicious food eaten with chopsticks. Lucas also used chopsticks and followed the local custom by putting the ends of the noodles in his mouth and slurping the rest.
The place where this food was served had a traditional Japanese atmosphere. There were low platforms where you could sit without shoes and enjoy your meal.
Lucas and Mari had a chance to ride in a rickshaw. A rickshaw is a beautiful small carriage-like vehicle pulled by a man dressed in Japanese traditional attire. Two people sit on it, and the rickshaw coolie puts a bright red blanket over their knees, and the half-hour ride can begin. The carriage also has a retractable roof that protects against the sun.
There are many rickshaws moving around in these national culture heritage places. The coolies are very strong and extremely friendly young men.
Neon Lights’ Radiance
The next place we went to was Dotonbori. It is a lively entertainment district and Osaka’s most famous tourist destination, known for its dazzling neon lights, extravagant shops, and a huge number of restaurants and bars.
The name “Dotonbori” generally refers to both the Dotonbori Canal and Dotonbori Street, which runs parallel to the south bank of the canal. It is one of the most colorful areas in Osaka and a must-visit place when traveling through the Kansai region.
As we wandered around, an unexpected incident happened to me. I was riding through the crowd, trying to catch up with Mari and Anna. Lucas was sitting on the lowered backrest of my wheelchair. Suddenly, a very familiar-looking woman appeared before me and asked in clear Estonian, “Are you Meelis?” I nodded in response. It turned out that our family acquaintance from Rapla was also in Osaka with a tourist group.
The place itself is incredibly vibrant, especially at night. The walls of buildings are filled with all sorts of colorful neon advertisements. It’s a real feast for the eyes.
This park is full of temples and sacred sites, but the most famous attraction is the renowned Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Arashiyama is located north of Osaka, at the foot of the Arashiyama Mountains (which means “Storm Mountains”). The main street, along with the famous Togetsu-kyo Bridge, which forms the heart of Arashiyama, is always bustling with tourists. If you want to get away from the crowds and still see the highlights, it’s worth taking a walk through the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, where the best route is indicated. This grove reminds me of a multitude of organ pipes. When standing amidst those tall bamboo stalks one feels like being in a different world.
Of course, we also visited some temples and enjoyed the beautiful nature. There were also many rickshaws moving around the area. Interestingly, they were traveling on the roads, amidst regular traffic. One rickshaw ride even took us through the bamboo grove.
Visiting the place took a whole day because navigating the metro system once again took quite a long time.
One of the most memorable places for me and Lucas Nikolas was the Osaka Universal Studios theme park. It opened on March 31, 2001. It is one of six Universal Studios theme parks worldwide and was the second one to open outside the United States. The park is structured similarly to Universal Studios Florida and includes selected attractions from both Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood, along with a small number of unique attractions.
As of 2019, USJ is the fifth most visited theme park in the world and the third most visited in Japan, following Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.
The park spans 54 hectares, so it’s impossible to see everything in one day.
We encountered various familiar characters from movies there. Shrek and Fiona, Puss in Boots. The Minions wanted to “dance” over me right at the gate. Fortunately, security guards helped me get away from their way. Lucas got to ride a carousel, drive a car on a circuit, visit Spider-Man’s house, and meet big, colorful, and furry creatures that he was a bit afraid of. We participated in all sorts of other attractions.
At 2 p.m., the No Limit Parade started in the park. Friends from the worlds of Super Mario and Pokémon danced together in this parade, while grumpy Minions, our friends from the movie “SING,” along with Elmo, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and others appeared one after another on colorful platforms to take part in captivating and fast-paced dance routines. We were captivated by the “Wow!” moments of these unique worlds. It felt like we were in a fairy tale land.
Visiting the Harry Potter world was very interesting. Tall snow-covered roofs, stylish buildings, a steam-emitting locomotive. A concert of frogs.
This place left an indelible impression on me because I had never been to such theme parks before, neither Disneyland nor the local Lotteland. It’s fun to visit such places even at an older age.