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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Japan - An Itinerary - 17 days - Week 2

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

If you've not seen the first blog, check it out here. We are currently in Osaka, hypothetically, and we kick things off with..

Day 8

Universal Studios, Osaka, one of the top 5 most visited parks in the world.. or so we gather! For me, this is all about stepping foot in to the reasonably new Super Nintendo World. As a kid of the 90's, walking in those aesthetics alone is enough, I don't even care if the rides are a bit crap and geared more towards a younger audience. I'm not even sure my nephews have much of a handle on Mario world as they're 00's babies, but I believe Universal has several themed parks within the main park, one such being Harry Potter - something I've never seen. In fact, i've not really done any research on Universal at all, aside from knowing that I really want to see Super Nintendo World. My only other 'research' is from the last time I went on a plane a couple of decades back, that was to the one in Florida. Marc and the nephews have been to Universal Florida far more recently, and they've suggested that the Harry Potter rides were some of the better attractions at the park, so I'm happy to go with the flow. I'm sure you can't go too far wrong with a Universal park, as the Florida one was far better than the Disney parks in my opinion. Unfortunately, however, it's not quite that easy unless you buy fast track passes. The more popular segments such as Super Nintendo World have cap limits and require timed entry. These can be bought in advance at more expense, or you can get them on the day for free from machines within the park, but in doing so you risk it selling out and not getting in if it's super popular. Fortunately, as tourists, we can go on a Monday and avoid the weekend, plus the one bit of trivia I do know about Universal, is that, in Japan, if it says it'll open at 9am, often they'll open it at 8/8:30! It's recommended as a result that you get there an hour and a half early, and go straight into Super Nintendo World before the timed entries kick in or everyone else jostles for the machine for the remainder of entries not sold in advance. Universal will take up the best part of a whole day, allowing us to do some more night walks, I imagine when we're back by the hotel.

Day 9 & 10

We somewhat chill. On Day 9 we have to travel, of course, a 2-3 hour journey. We'll stay with the monks in a Ryokan style accommodation (tradition Japanese inn, paper doors, straw floors etc) practically with in the temple grounds I believe.. if not, at the temple. "Originally developed as a lodging for the temples’ pilgrims, it conducts Buddhist services every morning that guests can attend" - I'm hoping they allow me to photograph one of these.

There are seemingly an infinite amount of temples in the area, so after the hustle and bustle of shrines in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo to come, I imagine these will offer a more traditional, and quieter look at shrines, and hopefully as a result, a more photogenic one due to fewer crowds. It's a small village and mountainous region, quite away from everything else, and it's considered the holiest part of Japan.

Day 11

Back on the bullet, we head the 5 or so hours back to Tokyo.. and when I say these times by the way, and as suggested previously, often they account for walking between changes/locations, and possible buses too. The reason this journey is as long as the first is because of our detour to the monks. We need to head back to Kyoto to take the same costal journey we took the previous week, but obviously in reverse.

We stay in Tokyo for the remainder of the holiday, more specifically, Akihabara, the 'Otaku' town - it's basically the electronics and geeky anime district. Tokyo is vast, but it's also pretty cheap to travel around. You can get on a train for 20-45 minutes and still be near central Tokyo, but it's only a few quid to get about on the metro. After 5.5 hour journey, I'm sure we'll be up to little else other than exploring shops before they shut and having another night walk.

Day 12

The last of the bigger journeys, we head 2 hours to Fuji Q Highland and hopefully the Chureito Pagoda with amazing views of Mount Fuji.

Fuji Q Highland is a theme park with more adrenaline based rides than I imagine Universal has to offer, which will be massively aimed towards the family market instead. It's a little more rough and ready, and said to be quite a small footprint as far as theme parks go, yet with 6 coasters, it impressively packs loads in. I gather in its time it's had Guinness World Records for various rides.

Day 13 Long journeys are done! We can hop on a local/metro line and head to various parts of Tokyo for 20 mins or so and witness some must see districts. As it's now the weekend, first on our list is Harajuku. It's like the Amerikamura of Tokyo, but it features heavily on the cosplay fashion side of things. People typically get dressed up on the weekend to hang out, so this is where you'll get the quirkier people in costumes, or at least I hope! Street photography legalities in Japan are a bit hazy as they're a bit hot on privacy, which is why you often see blurred faces in videos on YouTube and what not, but asking permission is fine, so I'll be sure to ask people if they're wearing awesome outfits. I probably wouldn't approach random people on the street in the UK, but when you're in a different country and all that, you kinda get a 'Gaijin' pass, and part of the fun is mixing with the culture and trying out some Japanese while having that awkward interaction between two wildly different languages.

Technically, I think Harajuku is part of Shibuya, a district of a district if you like... how Tokyo as a city divides itself and quantifies those districts is confusing to me, but hey! Anyways, It's another major player in the Tokyo 'must see's and is famous for the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, where at any one time, 3000 people can cross in all directions - you've probably seen it in movies, most notably, for me, the Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift just prior to Han meeting his fate. Shibuya is only about 15 mins from Harajuku on foot, so it makes sense to do them both in a day. There's also Shibuya Sky, shops, more neons etc etc. I really fancy doing at least one crazy cafe too, the micro pig one appeals, even if they are questionable in terms of morals. I did fancy doing a maid cafe too, just for the crazy, and I gather there's plenty back in Akihabara, but I also gather they're pretty strict on photography, so that's a bit boring to me. These day trips to districts will be more chilled and less structured, so we can wander and just dip in and out of shops and cafes at our leisure.

Day 14 I've got a collaboration shoot today with a local model or two! I couldn't come to Japan without collaborating on a model shoot! It'll be amazing to shoot a native in their own country and add that to the portfolio, or even just for the experience of it to be honest. Fortunately, I've been chatting and made friends with a couple of girls whose English is great, and their vocabulary is insane by the way! I'm out here relying on Google to correct my dyslexic spelling mistakes, and they're knocking out words like 'aesthetics', which I can never spell without Google, no matter how many times I write it! With collab shoots, you can never be 100% reliant on people, but as I've befriended Nami on socials, I'm confident one of the planned shoots will go ahead. The plan is for some natural light street fashion as i'll be light on lighting (I'm still debating whether I bring a speedlite or not), so we'll do a bit of greenery around the Imperial Palace with one model, bumping it up to a duo shoot with Nami, and then finishing up back in Akihabara with Nami for some night neon stuff. It's about a half hour walk, or two stops on the train between the two locations. In the morning to early noon, I quite fancy the Art Aquarium Museum. I think in its self it would be awesome for some portraits too.. if you know me, you know I love my colour!

The guys on the other hand, i'm not sure if they're coming with me here in the morning, but in the afternoon they're doing 'Mario Kart' - I don't think it's legally allowed to be called that, but famously you can dress up as a character and ride go-karts around Tokyo. You need an international driver's licence, but apparently they're easy to get hold of and pretty cheap. I don't drive full stop, so it made the most sense to do this while I was out photographing with the girls.

They've also highlighted the Sensō-ji temple, so maybe they'll do that instead of the fishes, it's only a short walk or train from the hotel too. Stay tuned for the blog of week 3! It'll only be three days of activities, but I'll chat about some things we fancied but just couldn't fit in. You could do a month in Tokyo alone! I guess it'll give me an excuse to go back one day! And if you missed it up top, here's a link to week one.



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