(Read Part Three here!)
My two weeks in Japan ended pretty much as soon as they began. I met so many people, did so many things, went to so many places, and still… I wasn’t ready to go home. 🙁 But the sad goodbyes will come later… for now, I’ll share about my last few days in Japan, which were, in many ways, some of the most memorable days of my life. 🙂
P.S: Brace yourself! Lots of pics and videos in this post! 😀
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 Prince 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 Metro 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!!! 🙁 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). Another 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! 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 meant 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 most ideal of situations, but I didn’t even care!!! I was way too excited!! 😀
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! 😀
Ludwing and I discuss our experience on the ride in the video below:
After that, we went on yet another ride! 🙂
We were treated to a show by the lovely ladies from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. 😀 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!! 😀 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. 🙁 ) Enjoy!
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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.
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. 😀 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
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. 🙂 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 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’s ideal life would consist of an infinite loop of travelling to beautiful, idyllic locations with breathtaking views, amazing food, and nothing on her to-do list but relaxation and rejuvenation. Mbithe’s actual life involves a lot of proposals, research papers, and code, with just enough travel to make up for the rest of it.