Japan 2014…Osaka for the Young, and Young at Heart

This is Part 3 of my Japan 2014 Pentalogy. So far I’ve been talking about castles, palaces, temples and shrines…interesting stuff for the culturally inclined, but I doubt any average kid will jump for joy at the sight of Osaka Castle, or a Shinto Shrine. However Osaka also has some stuff for family fun.

Universal Studios Japan

Perhaps the best way to convince a child (or child at heart) to join you in Osaka is a trip to Universal Studios Japan (USJ). It’s one of four Universal Studios theme parks in the world, and was the first one to open in Asia in 2001. Patterned somewhat after Universal Studios in Orlando, the park has some familiar sections like New York, San Francisco and Hollywood, and also has a kids area featuring Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street. Its also got sections featuring Jurassic Park, Waterworld and Jaws, plus a Citywalk and a large central lake not unlike the newer and younger park in Singapore.

It was a Tuesday when we were at USJ, so it was a slow day at the park, which also meant that it wasn’t too crowded and there were no long queues on the rides…good for us. The highlight of the park has got to be the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 3D ride. A combination of a 3D motion picture and a thril ride, it’s high tech and exciting yet mild enough for acrophobics like myself. For more adrenaline rush, there’s the Hollywood Dream rollercoaster and the Jurassic Park flume ride which features a near vertical drop.

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Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Tempozan

A little less spectacular and a lot less glamorous than the Universal, but equally awesome and definitely more educational, is the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in the quiet Tempozan neighborhood, not far from the USJ. The Aquarium displays acquatic animals from across the Pacific, including Sea Turtles, gigantic Manta Rays, a wide variety of sharks including big ones, giant crabs. There are also various aquatic mammals and birds like dolphins, seals, otters and different species of penguins.

The largest tank in the aquarium is an awe inspiring 30 feet deep, and wide enough that you will not clearly see the other end while looking through the glass. Viewers go down multiple storeys in a spiral to get from the top to the “sea bed”, and along the way one comes across various fish that are pelagic (eg. the Hammerhead Shark, the Manta Ray), and bottom dwelling. They also have various smaller tanks that simulate the various parts of the ocean.

Outside the Kaiyukan is the Tempozan Park, and the Tempozan Ferris wheel. While not as gigantic or eye catching as Singapore’s Flyer or the London Eye, it still looks like a good way to kill time (if you’ve got some spare), and see some views of the bay area.

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The Tempozan Ferris Wheel

*All photos taken June 2014, with an Olympus EPM-2 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm IIR (Universal)/M.Zuiko 25mm f1.8 (Kaiyukan).

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