Travel

Our Travels: Mbithe in Japan | Finale

(Read Part Three here!)

My two weeks in Japan ended pretty much as soon as they began. I met so many people,ย did so many things, went to so many places, and still… I wasn’t ready to go home. ๐Ÿ™ But the sad goodbyes will come later… for now, I’ll share about myย last few days in Japan, which were, in many ways, some of the most memorable days of my life. ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S: Brace yourself! Lots of pics and videos in this post! ๐Ÿ˜€

Sunday, August 30th

Do you know about Universal Studios? You’ve probably seen its logo and heard its little tune at the start of many, many movies. Well, Universal Studios has a few theme parks around the world, including in Hollywood, Singapore, and (you guessed it!) Osaka, Japan!!! Now the story about how I ended up going to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is kinda interesting.

When I learned I was going to Japan, I spent a lot of time Googling attractions and places I should visit. That’s when USJ got on my radar. You see, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan – the books, of course. When The Half-Blood Princeย was released in 2005, and later The Deathly Hallows in 2007, my sister and I were one of the many people lining up at the (now defunct) Nu Metroย bookshop to get ourselves a copy! So yes, the love runs deep. How is this relevant? Well, among the many attractions at USJ, is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which features an actual Hogwarts Castle replica, and a Hogsmeade with shops and restaurants you can enter, and a few cool Harry Potter-themed rides too! I’d seen and heard of other people’s experiences at theme parks and I wanted in, too!

Once I got to Japan, there was a bit of a hitch: none of my new friends wanted to go to USJ!!! ๐Ÿ™ They had various reasons… it was too expensive (7,200 yen for a day’s ticket), it wouldn’t be worth it, and some just weren’t interested at all. The thought of going to USJ all by myself wasn’t appealing. Can you think of anything sadder that going to a huge theme park, alone? Taking solo selfies? Standing alone for hours waiting for rides? Not having anyone to share the excitement with? So I figured USJ would just have to wait for my next trip to Japan.

Well, one Sunday at breakfast (which just happened to be our very last free day in Japan, ever), we were busy trying to decide how to spend our day. A popular contender was going to Kobe (a city about an hour by train from our Rinku Town). Anotherย attractive option was going to Osaka again to visit all the places we hadn’t been, like Denden Town. Suddenly, all the way across the table, I heard the magic words “Universal Studios Japan”. Was someone actually planning to go to USJ?! Yes!!! Ludwing from Guatemala was. It ended up being just the two of us, but I was extremely excited!! USJ is just one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you grab with both hands!ย It should be noted that I am generally a very organized person. Spur-of-the-moment decisions are usually not my thing, and I really don’t like surprises. I had been anticipating a rather free day, so my phone was only halfway charged, which meantย I couldn’t take as many photos and videos as I would have liked. Further to that, I had read online that USJ is the kind of place where you want to arrive as early as possible, so as to experience everything! We ended up leaving the centre at around 10 am. So right off the bat, it wasn’t the mostย ideal of situations, but I didn’t even care!!! I was way too excited!! ๐Ÿ˜€

USJ is basically amazing. Other than Harry Potter, there are other places to explore, like Amity Village (the fictional town where the movie Jaws was set), New York City (home to the Spiderman ride), Hollywood (where you can walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and Racoon City (Resident Evil, anyone?). And each place looks completely realistic… you would be forgiven for thinking you are actually in New York or Hollywood or Hogsmeade or Amityville. The restaurants in each place are in line with the theme, and the staff at each place also look the part. Sugoi, ne? OK, enough stories, here are some pictures!ย ๐Ÿ˜€

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At the Universal City train station. Pretty obvious what the main attraction is, huh? ๐Ÿ˜€ The train to Universal City was also completely branded with Harry Potter pictures.

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Walking in Universal City before we actually got to USJ. It was a pretty gloomy day, drizzly and cloudy, but not too cold.

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We stopped by this Shonnen Jump Shop in Universal City and found these awesome models of Naruto and Luffy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Then we remembered we were already late and rushed to USJ. ๐Ÿ˜€

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This is how you know you are officially at USJ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Buying tickets! The line was relatively short and pretty fast-moving… little did we know the true waiting time begins inside!

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And we’re in! USJ was pretty big, and even though we got a map, it took us a while to figure out where Harry Potter was! That was obviously our first stop! ๐Ÿ˜€ Until we learnt that you had to get a timed ticket first before you could even enter… oh well.

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This board showed all the attractions and their waiting times

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Somewhere in Hollywood…

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A restaurant in Hollywood, Mel’s Drive-In. Channeling a 1950’s atmosphere (check the vintage cars parked outside!).

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Inside Mel’s Drive-In…

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Enjoying Hollywood! Check out the Walk of Fame ๐Ÿ™‚

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Somewhere in New York City…

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Sesame Street!!

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Hanging out in Amity Village, where we tookย the Jaws ride (our first ride – waiting time: 50 minutes) and had lunch. ๐Ÿ™‚ Check out the shark on the bottom right having HIS lunch! ๐Ÿ˜€ In the Jaws ride, we (the riders) are tourists being taken on a boat tour of Amity Village… and we get attacked by (you guessed it) SHARKS! It was quite enjoyable and really well-done because ย it was an actual boat ride and there were realistic-ish models of sharks popping out of the water every so often! ๐Ÿ˜€

hollywood-ride-the-dream

This roller-coaster was called Hollywood Dream – The Ride. Waiting time was 90 minutes. It was my first roller-coaster ride EVER and boy was it a crazy experience!!

Ludwing and I discuss our experience on the ride in the video below:

After that, we went on yet another ride! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Our thirdย ride was this one – Space Fantasy! It was INCREDIBLE!!! Waiting time was 120 minutes, but it was well worth it! We got to take an indoor spinning roller-coaster ride through a fictionalized version of space!! If you go to USJ, you HAVE to take this ride!!!

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Finally, the time came for us to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This was taken as we were walking through the Forbidden Forest on the way to Hogsmeade. Anticipation building…

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Look what we found! The Weasleys’ flying Ford Anglia in the Fobidden Forest!

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Hogwarts!!!! And the Hogwarts Express!

We were treated to a show by the lovely ladies fromย Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. ๐Ÿ˜€ Enjoy!

Later that day, a group called R&B The Mix treated us to a live show at Mel’s Stage (a stage just outside Mel’s Drive-In)! It was amazing, especially since it had been a while since I’d danced quite so hard!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Somewhere in the middle of all the dancing and singing along, I filmed a few snippets of their performance. (After which my phone battery promptly died. ๐Ÿ™ ) Enjoy!

Subscribe to our Youtube channel here for more fun videos! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tuesday, September 1st

This was the day of our Farewell Party, as we would all be leaving the following day. We were asked to wear our national costumes if possible. Well, Kenya has no official national costume, so I wore a custom-made khanga (lesso) skirt and some Maasai jewellery. Our host families attended the party and some participants made presentations.

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Group picture! All of us posing in our various national costumes ๐Ÿ™‚

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With Arden from Tonga (left), Alain from Ivory Coast and Yakubu from Ghana (top right), and with Noha and Passant from Egypt, and Kibrom from Ethiopia (bottom right).

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With Federico from Uruguay and Natsya from Belarus (right), with Israk from Bangladesh (centre), with Melissa from the Dominican Republic (top right) and with Giang from Vietnam (bottom right). ๐Ÿ™‚

This video was taken and uploaded by one of the host dads present. I sang “The Circle of Life”… and attempted to make it more Kenyan by scattering a few Swahili words in the middle of all the Zulu. ๐Ÿ˜€ I may regret sharing this video (I’m pretty sure I got some Zulu words wrong – oops!)…. but oh well here goes. *hides*

Wednesday, September 2nd

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I took this picture from my bedroom window as I was packing to go home. Such a beautiful last day in Rinku Town! ๐Ÿ™

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On the flight back home. Tired AF, with bags under my eyes heavier than my luggage (and that’s saying something!!)… but really happy and grateful for my two weeks in Japan. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ooh check out my custom made “Hakuna Matata” hoodie ๐Ÿ˜€

This was the saddest day, for obvious reasons. Some people had to leave the centre as early as 7 am, so we were at the reception early to say goodbye (despite having slept really late the previous night, having a karaoke party and chill out session at the lounge). My flight was at half past eleven at night, so I had all day to pack and say goodbye to everyone.

This concludes the series. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was an incredible two weeks, and even though I’ve written so much I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the entire experience. Thank you to the embassy of Japan in Kenya, and to the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai, for sponsoring the entire trip, and for giving us amazing freebies like dictionaries, textbooks, and a long list of websites and apps to help us keep learning Japanese!

Speaking of learning Japanese, this trip has really motivated me to keep at it and improve! Meeting so many people from other countries whose Japanese was so good, has motivated me to keep working at my Japanese. Others ย in addition to learning Japanese were also self-taught English speakers, which I thought was amazing! With all the resources from the centre, I feel like I can take on the world! (Or at least, Japan. :D)

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Mbithe is a software developer at Andela and loves all things tech! You can probably find her sitting barefoot somewhere writing beautiful code while singing along to really loud Japanese music. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Tonnie Newton

    This is a great piece Mbithe.It seems one can not get enough of JP,right? Oh,and the picture of Rinku town is breath taking!

    • Thanks for reading, Tonnie-san! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Gillian

    Noooo…I don’t want it be over ๐Ÿ™
    The series was quite a joy to read!

    • Aww thank you Gillian! โ™ก Xx

  • zawadi wangui

    Wow!! The videos are great!
    Now, why am I beginning to feel jittery about Nodo-jiman contest? ๐Ÿ™‚

    By the way, have never been to USJ, but this write-up has made me feel that I should definitely include USJ on my list of must-visit places…thanks for sharing.

    And you look awesome in the African outfit too..

    • Thank you Wangui-san! ๐Ÿ™‚

      USJ is absolutely incredible… but we only got to experience about an eighth of it thanks to arriving late and long waiting times. I’d recommend getting the express pass… it’s a bit expensive but worth it as you get to skip the queues of the popular rides (which have the longest waiting times). If I ever live in Japan, I’ll even get an annual pass!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • JOkoth

      USJ just took a spot on my bucket list too.

  • JOkoth

    What a delightful series! Of being wistful, you are not alone. Seeing Japan through your experience(and bag laden eyes lol) was a nonpareil treat; echoes of NHK’s Somewhere Street, only way better. Arigatou gozaimasu.

    Powerful conclusion in that last paragraph. Feeling inspired to improve my Nihongo too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Such a lovely comment! Thank you, JOkoth-san! ๐Ÿ™‚ ้ ‘ๅผตใ‚Šใพใ‚ใ—ใ‚‡ใ†๏ผ

  • Looked like a lot of fun. Glad you made the most of it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Aww thank you for reading! โ™ก Xx

  • ใ™ใ”ใ„ใญใƒณใƒ“ใƒ†ใ•ใ‚“๏ผๆ—ฅๆœฌ่ชžใฏใŠใ‚‚ใ—ใ‚ใ„ใงใ—ใ‚‡ใ†๏ผŸใŒใ‚“ใฐใฃใฆใใ ใ•ใ„๏ผ

    Good read! USJ might be a bit expensive, but the good is thing is that you can spend the whole day there, depending on your schedule. In that case, you better have a USJ day fully dedicated to the amazing, crazy, and ones-in-a-lifetime experiences!

    SIDE COMMENT: I am totally in love with your designer/IT guy. Your blog/blog posts are always beautiful; good work.

    • ใƒ–ใƒญใ‚ฐใ‚’่ชญใ‚“ใงใใ‚Œใฆใ‚ใ‚ŠใŒใจใ†ใ”ใ–ใ„ใพใ™๏ผ

      Our designer/IT guy is actually a girl… *drumrolls* ME! ๐Ÿ˜€ I work for a start-up software development company called Henga Systems, where I am a front-end web developer (hence the credit at the footer of this website). ๐Ÿ™‚ You can find more of our work on http://hengasystems.com/portfolio. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Wow…amazing Mbithe san! I should hire you to re-design my blog soon!