A deer lab adventure
The week had just began and before I knew it was Friday again. Today was the day our lab will explore Nara, the place known for its high number of free roaming deer! Thus our adventure started by getting into my lab mates car and driving to Nara. After an amazing drive through a crowded highway and singing along Japanese pop songs. We arrived to the JR Nara station where we met with the rest of the lab. Once we were all together, our adventure began.
We first started with Nara park, which was surrounded with deer! We then went to get lunch at a nice restaurant in Naramachi that served Suchi wrapped in leaves. I do not recall the name of the dish but it is a traditional dish in Nara. After lunch we continue to Todaiji temple, where a giant Buddha statue resided. I could not tell you how big it is, but next to statue there was pillar with a hole the size of its nostril. It was said that if you fit inside, you will get good luck.
So, naturally I proceed to get myself through it. It was scary for I felt that I got stuck for a second, but I was successfully able to get out after struggling for a bit. I think the good luck worked. After heading out, I stopped at a vending machine to get a drink. After purchasing a drink, the machine starting beeping loudly and all the the buttons in the machine had smiley faces. My lab mate rushed to my side and said “Pick one! is free!”
Apparently this machine had a roulette that will play with every purchase. My other lab mate approach me and said “You are really lucky. I never seen that happen and I have lived in Japan my whole life.”
Once we were done exploring the we headed out for dessert. We had shaved ice, which is popular in Nara.
A man with a mission
After the great adventure in Nara, I had decided to rest on Saturday. I starting my resting day by calling my friend Quinn who is currently in Tokyo. We were talking about our adventures when the topic of fire in Kyoto came up. The great animation studio Kyoani had been the the target of an arson attack, killing at least 36 people in the incident. Being great fans of many of the works of the studio, we were sad that many of the people responsible amazing works were hurt.
During my discussion, my friend pointed out to me that since I live near Kyoto, I could support them by purchasing merchandise from their official store near the studio. Thus, my quest was decided, I would go to Kyoto and support the studio by buying merchandise. So, I put on some pants and walked to my nearest station to start my 2 hour train journey to Uji Kyoto.
Once in Uji, I made my way to the shop as fast I could, but my efforts were in vain. The shop was closed. I should have guessed so, the fire had happened three days ago. I decided to admire the close store for a couple minutes, I really had nothing else to do since I had gone all the way there without plan.
People came and went, and I just saw them take pictures and leave. A young man came by, took a look at his phone, and started crying. He looked inconsolable, but I decided to try to do so. I asked with broken Japanese “are you ok?” he responded with broke Japanese “I am Chinese.” We both looked confused for a second and he proceeded to speak in English.
His name is Yichang and he is a huge Kyoani fan. He had arrived to Uji a day before the fire with the intent to visit the Kyoani studio and explore Japan for locations that appeared on many of their anime. Since his main purpose was to visit Kyoani, he was devastated to hear the news and felt that his trip was ruined. We talked for a bit more and before we parted ways he asked me “do you want to explore Uji with me?”
I agreed and we embarked in a sight-seen adventure through Uji. We explored many places, but I think the highlight was the Byodon temple. Matcha in Uji was also to another level. I even tried Matcha Gyoza! Once we finish exploring, we parted ways. His last words to me were “you are the first western looking Kyoani fan I met, I am happy to meet you.”
Living up my dream
After coming back from Uji, I went directly to sleep. I had an adventure in queue for Sunday. At 6am, I woke up and made my way to Universal Studios Japan (USJ)! I took a long train ride and before I knew it, I found myself at the gates.
Once inside, I left my friends behind and rushed towards the nearest popcorn stand to buy the limited edition Evangelion Popcorn bucket! After that, I met up with my friends at the Cool Japan gift shop, were I proceeded to purchase most of the “Evangelion” and “Attack on Titan” items available at the store. For those who don’t know, during the summer, USJ has a special event called “Cool Japan” where they have special anime rides and merchandise available only during a limited time with a limited supply, thus my rush to buy everything before it sold out.
Once purchases were done, we proceeded to put our stuff in a payed locker and headed out to our first ride, “The Backdrop.” This roller coaster is right at the entrance of the theme park and it offers a magnificent view of the park, it is basically the same ride as “Hollywood Dream” but the twist is that you are seated with you back facing away the from the front of the roller coaster, thus the name “backdrop.” This ride felt surreal.
The only way I can describe it is as if you were in a Japanese Disco Pop Music video. It felt like a dream. It took me a moment to go back to reality after the ride, but once I was back on Earth, we headed to explore the whole park!
The Jurassic park rides, the Spiderman ride, and the Harry Potter ride were upon my favorites. I will say that the anime rides leave a lot to be desire, but the community around them was great. There were a lot of cosplayers (people dresing up as anime characters) waiting in lines. It was a mini game to spot anime characters throughout the park to take pictures with them. I ended my trip the same way I started, with a magnificent view of the park. I did rode the “Backdrop” again to end the night.