Saying ‘okonomiyaki is like pizza,’ is like saying ‘basketball is like Earth.’ They have a similar shape but otherwise have nothing in common. Telling tourists (foreigners) that it is like pizza will lead to immense disappointment. No cheese, no bread, no tomato sauce. Or, it is like pancakes? Don’t get me started.
I visited Osaka again this week, famous for okonomiyaki and tacoyaki. I have been there a few times but this time I visited Universal Studios Japan (USJ). An overall review would be that it is not a dreamland like Chiba Tokyo Disneyland and
Chiba Tokyo Disneysea but instead has some darker content like Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and Chucky’s Horror Factory and maybe less attention to detail around the park that I could tell. As a man I am more familiar and interested in this set of movies as well. And the plethora of Coca-Cola advertising over the 9 hours got to us buy one bottle at about 2.5X the regular cost of one outside of the park. I then craved another the next day but managed to resist the urge – not too difficult for someone who drinks less than 10 bottles per year.
My favorite attractions, because I am already a fan, were the Waterworld show, Jurassic Park – The Ride, and Terminator 2:3-D. Waterworld was a huge surprise. Big production, intense, epic, and made me want to watch the movie again. Very cool. Jurassic Park The Ride was short but awesome – perhaps supported by my watching the original movie more than a dozen times. Terminator 2, similarly, I have watched around a half-dozen times and have watched each of the installments more than once. This is quite an old attraction that probably came soon after the original movie release with original footage from the actual actors in their same ages at that time, but it was new to me and added a new layer to the story. And with a cool ending!
For ride enjoyment, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, The Amazing Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D, and Jaws were my favorites for the thrill (for a non-rollercoaster-rider). I had seen one Harry Potter movie, the second-last one, and felt that I had wasted my time. The ride on the other hand was pretty enjoyable despite me not being well versed in the story. The Spiderman ride was more themed in the level of animated comic books or perhaps a cartoon that I am not very familiar with. This ride was quite memorable where at one point it successfully tricked my brain into thinking that we were physically flying through the air. I have yet to see Jaws but will add it to the list now after the cool ride. For the other attractions, maybe next time! We had perfectly lined up the timing to do the Night Parade and Halloween Horror Night but out of travel convenience caught a flight back in the evening from the closer Osaka (ITM) airport (vs KIX).
I used my SPG/Marriott loyalty points to get one night at the Westin Osaka, as the lower level hotels around were the same pricepoint at 35,000, but the Westin was the closest in the hotel group to USJ. After vaguely recalling something about a pool in the hotel, I saw no mention of it inside of the hotel where I would normally look: the list of things on each floor, and all of the in-room paper materials. After checking out the gym, I found that there was indeed an elusive pool. I had to ask the staff whether it truly existed and it did, behind the locker room. While I had seen that the pool closed at 10:00pm, we arrived for a dip at 9:15pm only to find out that the last entry was at 9:00pm each night. I had even confirmed during the day by texting them through the app that we could rent bathing suits for less than ¥500. I refused to let this taper the excitement of our romantic birthday getaway so we proceeded to the in-room bathtub to learn that there was no bubblebath. It was BYOBB: Bring Your Own Bubble Bath to the Westin. This escalated to a complaint to the front desk. While the pool couldn’t be accessed (and also costs ¥4,000 per entry), nor could bubblebath be found, the manager offered an upgrade from our Deluxe room to an Executive suite with a jacuzzi and brilliant corner views of Osaka. We decided to forego the pool and Deluxe room, and make do with the Executive suite with a jacuzzi! We also decided to burn the candle at both ends.
The upgraded room was fantastic. If I had to make a comment it would be that it looked dated, especially the carpets, and turns out that it was built in 1993. And somehow, whether the furniture or the layout, something reminded me of the psychological horror movie 1408. Nevertheless, that is my first time getting a hotel upgrade, and a 100m2 suite, and it was thoroughly enjoyed.
Maybe there is a deeper level to this trip: Nostalgia. I grew up in the ’90s. The Westin Osaka hotel was built in 1993, USJ in 2001 (designed in the ’90s?), Waterworld movie released in 1995, Jurassic Park 1993, Terminator 2 1991. And while I had unfortunately missed Chucky’s Horror Factory, I had seen the movies back in the day: Child’s Play 2 1990, 3 1991, Bride of Chucky 1998.
I will have to brainstorm other ’90s-set travel excursions.