Japan Winter 2022/23 Trip Report (TDR, Kamakura, Tokyo, Universal, Osaka, Nara) Complete!

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
Went to Shibuya on the 2nd and it was bustling! First stop was the Nintendo Store at the Shibuya Parco. We needed a ticket for a return time later, so good thing we went there first. Was happy to find a Pokemon Center on the same floor. They weren’t controlling entry and it was PACKED. We went a bit crazy there. While in line to pay, I saw there were some racks I didn’t even see due to too many people. Didn’t want to get out of line, so oh well lol.

They have a gashapon machine with exact replicas of the Pikachu and Eevee plates at the Pokemon Cafe. We got lucky and got those exact 2. So cute! We would go on to eat those same plates at the Pokemon Cafe in Osaka lol.

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Next day was more shopping at Tokyo Station at Character Street and Gashapon Street (not as big as I thought it would be). There was another Pokemon store here. Then on to Akihabara, where the kids had fun in the arcades and shopping in the many anime stores (some selling secondhand figurines). Wandered into a yakiniku place (grill your own meat) for dinner and it was good. Menu had pictures, so ordering wasn’t too hard.

I tried out the tax-free shopping for the first time at the Pokemon Center in Shibuya. That store processes them at the time of purchase. I just had to give them my passport and the tax was taken off the total. Your total needs to be over 5000 or 5500 yen depending on if the store prices are tax inclusive. Very easy! Wish I had done it for our purchases the day before.

At Tokyo Station, they have a counter where they process it. You need to go there first to get a slip that you show to the stores that participate in tax-free shopping. They then scan that slip and attach the receipt to the brochure (you still need to pay the tax). You then take those receipts at the end to the same counter to get your tax refund. This needs to be done the same day. More hassle, but the nice thing is you can combine receipts across stores to get to the over 5000 total. Unfortunately, we forgot to do this as we left for Akihabara and missed out.

Consumables (food, cosmetics, medicine) are only tax-free if they’re not consumed in Japan, and they need to meet the minimum separately. It’s supposed to be packaged differently to make sure you don’t consume it, but I don’t know what that looks like since we didn’t do it. You’re supposed to keep your receipts and even the items with you at the airport, but all I had to do was scan my passport at a machine and the agent waved us through.
 
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Crazed4DisneyinSC

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Went to Shibuya on the 2nd and it was bustling! First stop was the Nintendo Store at the Shibuya Parco. We needed a ticket for a return time later, so good thing we went there first. Was happy to find a Pokemon Center on the same floor. They weren’t controlling entry and it was PACKED. We went a bit crazy there. While in line to pay, I saw there were some racks I didn’t even see due to too many people. Didn’t want to get out of line, so oh well lol.

They have a gashapon machine with exact replicas of the Pikachu and Eevee plates at the Pokemon Cafe. We got lucky and got those exact 2. So cute! We would go on to eat those same plates at the Pokemon Cafe in Osaka lol.

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Next day was more shopping at Tokyo Station at Character Street and Gashapon Street (not as big as I thought it would be). There was another Pokemon store here. Then on to Akihabara, where the kids had fun in the arcades and shopping in the many anime stores (some selling secondhand figurines). Wandered into a yakiniku place (grill your own meat) for dinner and it was good. Menu had pictures, so ordering wasn’t too hard.

I tried out the tax-free shopping for the first time at the Pokemon Center in Shibuya. That store processes them at the time of purchase. I just had to give them my passport and the tax was taken off the total. Your total needs to be over 5000 or 5500 yen depending on if the store prices are tax inclusive. Very easy! Wish I had done it for our purchases the day before.

At Tokyo Station, they have a counter where they process it. You need to go there first to get a slip that you show to the stores that participate in tax-free shopping. They then scan that slip and attach the receipt to the brochure (you still need to pay the tax). You then take those receipts at the end to the same counter to get your tax refund. This needs to be done the same day. More hassle, but the nice thing is you can combine receipts across stores to get to the over 5000 total. Unfortunately, we forgot to do this as we left for Akihabara and missed out.

Consumables (food, cosmetics, medicine) are only tax-free if they’re not consumed in Japan, and they need to meet the minimum separately. It’s supposed to be packaged differently to make sure you don’t consume it, but I don’t know what that looks like since we didn’t do it. You’re supposed to keep your receipts and even the items with you at the airport, but all I had to do was scan my passport at a machine and the agent waved us through.
Ahh, I love this review. I can’t wait for all the Shibuya shopping… I think that’s gonna be one of my favorite parts actually! Planning to hit up the Nintendo store also, along with the Disney store, Pokémon store, Sanrio store in Asakusa, and many gachapon halls. What is everyone’s souvenir budget?! 😂 cuz I’m thinking mine is not enough.
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
Ahh, I love this review. I can’t wait for all the Shibuya shopping… I think that’s gonna be one of my favorite parts actually! Planning to hit up the Nintendo store also, along with the Disney store, Pokémon store, Sanrio store in Asakusa, and many gachapon halls. What is everyone’s souvenir budget?! 😂 cuz I’m thinking mine is not enough.

The Disney Store in Shibuya is cute, but on 3 floors up narrow spiral staircases with people going up and down. I thought the one at Ikspiari at TDR had more things (and more space!). I forgot to mention the Mega Don Quijote in Shibuya. We bought a lot there. They do the tax-free at the top floor registers, very easy!
 

Crazed4DisneyinSC

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
The Disney Store in Shibuya is cute, but on 3 floors up narrow spiral staircases with people going up and down. I thought the one at Ikspiari at TDR had more things (and more space!). I forgot to mention the Mega Don Quijote in Shibuya. We bought a lot there. They do the tax-free at the top floor registers, very easy!
DEFINITELY hitting up the Mega Don Quijote as well. I need to bring back kit kats in all flavors, lol. Anyone bring chocolate back? Any issues with melting if I have them in our luggage as we travel across Japan for a week?
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
DEFINITELY hitting up the Mega Don Quijote as well. I need to bring back kit kats in all flavors, lol. Anyone bring chocolate back? Any issues with melting if I have them in our luggage as we travel across Japan for a week?

We bought almost all our food souvenirs at the duty free store past security at KIX airport. Everyone had the same idea and it was a zoo in there! HND or NRT should have the same type of store, though I guess the challenge is finding out what flavors they have. We bought the Tokyo Banana flavored Kit Kat (not bad). I think they had a couple other flavors, but I was too frazzled at the store to remember what they were.

On the subject of Tokyo Banana, I bought a box since they seem so famous. But we're eating them now and I don't get the appeal? It's like a very soft Twinkie. Hope I'm not offending anyone lol.
 

Crazed4DisneyinSC

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
We bought almost all our food souvenirs at the duty free store past security at KIX airport. Everyone had the same idea and it was a zoo in there! HND or NRT should have the same type of store, though I guess the challenge is finding out what flavors they have. We bought the Tokyo Banana flavored Kit Kat (not bad). I think they had a couple other flavors, but I was too frazzled at the store to remember what they were.

On the subject of Tokyo Banana, I bought a box since they seem so famous. But we're eating them now and I don't get the appeal? It's like a very soft Twinkie. Hope I'm not offending anyone lol.
Good to know about the Tokyo Banana. I planned to bring a box back too, but if they’re no big deal then I may pass, or just see if I can buy a single one to try, lol. I did read they are like a sponge cake.
 

Haley R

With all the strength of a raging fire
Joined
Sep 3, 2017
We bought almost all our food souvenirs at the duty free store past security at KIX airport. Everyone had the same idea and it was a zoo in there! HND or NRT should have the same type of store, though I guess the challenge is finding out what flavors they have. We bought the Tokyo Banana flavored Kit Kat (not bad). I think they had a couple other flavors, but I was too frazzled at the store to remember what they were.

On the subject of Tokyo Banana, I bought a box since they seem so famous. But we're eating them now and I don't get the appeal? It's like a very soft Twinkie. Hope I'm not offending anyone lol.
Have you tried peanut butter in Japan? I tried getting a peanut butter sandwich and it was so weird lol. It was like peanut butter whipped cream on bread.
 
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wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
Have you tried peanut butter in Japan? I tried getting a peanut butter sandwich and it was so weird lol. It was like peanut butter flavored whipped cream on bread.

How interesting! But nope, never came across peanut butter in Japan. DD is allergic actually.
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
From the Andaz, we took a taxi to Tokyo Station to catch our shinkansen to Osaka. Taxi fare was 1700 yen. Driver didn’t speak English, but understood me when I said, “Tokyo Station”. He then asked me something in Japanese and I heard what sounded like “hall-ru”, which I took to mean which hall at the station did I want. I then said “shinkansen”, which he understood, and all went smoothly. 😊

I wanted to go to the large ekiben (station bento) store, but we were running late and didn’t have time to look for it. Bought them from the nearest stand and they were all delicious. My favorite was the tonkatsu sandwich, wish we’d bought more than one lol.

I had bought shinkansen tickets in advance and booked seats on the Mt. Fuji side of the train. But DH saw a model store he wanted to go to that wasn’t open until noon that day, so I changed the tickets the day of to a later train. I could only get seats on the other side, but it was easy to do online. The website says that they will refund and recharge for changes, but that didn’t happen (luckily, since the exchange rate was less favorable). Maybe it’s only if the fare changes.

We used the QR code for the shinkansen ticket. You have to look for the ticket gates that take QR codes. The transfer at Shin-Osaka station was also a little confusing. Since I only bought the shinkansen tickets to Shin-Osaka and was using Suica for the local trip, we needed to scan the QR code first and then immediately tap the Suica. Basically, tap out and tap in at the same ticket gate. Maybe sounds obvious now, but I was confused then!

We stayed at the Hotel Universal Port for USJ. It’s across the street from Citywalk. The room had 2 twin beds and additional 2 twin converted from sofas. I booked it because it was the cheapest option at the time. The hotel was clean and comfortable, but if I had a do-over, I’d try harder for a hotel in Citywalk. When we arrived, it was windy, which made me not want to go out for dinner. If we had stayed in Citywalk, I would have been more likely to go to one of the many restaurants there.

There is a Lawson next door at the very similarly named Hotel Universal Port Vita.

Instead of holding luggage for you, the hotel has many free lockers available to use (just need a 100-yen coin as a deposit). The big ones fit a carry-on suitcase and 1-2 backpacks. There is also a rack with locking cables. I think those can be used for large luggage, or maybe the front desk can hold those. We just had our carry-on and backpacks.

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Haley R

With all the strength of a raging fire
Joined
Sep 3, 2017
How interesting! But nope, never came across peanut butter in Japan. DD is allergic actually.
Idk if all peanut butter is like that or if I was unlucky lol. I’m planning to ask our Airbnb host if she knows where to get “normal” peanut butter 😆 We eat a lot of it
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
For Universal, I bought the Express Pass 7 Flying Dinosaur through Klook.com, which I regret because you can’t choose your times. I got antsy when the USJ Japanese site opened up, but my cc failed. Thought I’d take a chance with Klook and ended up with a very disadvantageous 5:50 pm Super Nintendo World entry time.

We ended up entering USJ about 9:30ish and I immediately tried for an Area Time Entry Ticket. Got 4:40 pm for Nintendo World. We didn’t end up going in until 5:10, but it helped. The Express Pass I got included all the rides we wanted to go on except the limited time 4D movie (Jujutsen Kasen) and Space Fantasy, so we did those 2 first. Posted times were 30 and 50 minutes, respectively, but I think it was shorter than that. It ended up mostly working out since we got to do all the rides we wanted to, plus eat at both the Happiness Café (Minion themed) and Kinopio’s Café in Nintendo World. It felt a bit rushed though (several times we were just in time) and there were several stores we wanted to go in but ran out of time.

The wait for Happiness Café at lunch was maybe 20 minutes. The food is already prepared and the CMs plate it as you pick it up. The fried chicken would have been better if it was fresh. Each lunch and dessert set includes all you can drink soft drinks and tea/coffee. We were told that each person must order an item or set, I was a little confused about that point. In any case, we ordered 2 meal sets and 2 dessert sets.

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The wait for Kinopio’s Café at dinner was longer. I think we got in line about 5:15 and finished eating right before the end of our Mario Kart entry time at 6:40 pm (about an hour and a half total).

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Super Nintendo World was extremely packed when we went. Mario Kart was fun, but a bit of sensory overload, plus the visor was heavy and would slip down. The theming, especially in line, is super cute. Yoshi’s Adventure is just like it looks (slow, kiddie ride), but gives nice views of the world.

The kids got Power-Up bands and earned 3 keys to enter the Bowser Jr. Boss Battle. They made it just in time and was one of the last people let in. The Japanese are very punctual and closed off entry at 8:55 to end on time at 9 pm. There were lines for each of the challenges of around 10-15 minutes. Around 8 pm, I happened to notice that the Mario Kart line was already cut off. Very different from the US parks where you will be let in as long as you enter the line before closing.

The Space Fantasy ride reminded me of Guardians Cosmic Rewind since it’s an indoor coaster, space themed, and had a rotating ride vehicle (made me a little nauseous again). Flying Dinosaur was intense! DH and I agreed that it’s the most intense coaster we’ve ever been on. You’re in a Superman position (with legs bent) and it’s fast! DS liked it though, so maybe we’re just old lol. Hollywood Dream was a lot of fun, very smooth, and you can choose your own music (speakers at each seat). It’s very LOUD! DD bought her Harry Potter wand that we got at Universal Hollywood, and we were able to use it at USJ. Much longer line at USJ though, so she only did a couple.

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wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
We shopped at CityWalk and had lunch at Sushiro before moving on to the Conrad Osaka (review). Sushiro is a conveyor belt (kaiten) sushi place that is almost all automated. We got a number first and when it was up, scanned our ticket and got our table number. Ordering is then via a tablet and the food is delivered to your table on a dedicated lane on the conveyor belt. Usually, there is also food that you can take from the conveyor belt, but they only had 1 special rotating when we were there. When you’re done, just scan your ticket again at the payment machine near the entrance to pay. We stuffed ourselves full and only spent $55. The best thing I had was the tempura shrimp (head on), which was so crispy that even the skin was delicious.

The next day, we went shopping in the Namba area and then Pokemon Café in the afternoon. The original plan was to go to the Pokemon Café in Tokyo, but I dropped the ball on those dates. Luckily, we still had the Osaka dates! Plus, reservations are a little less competitive for Osaka. Reservations open 31 days in advance at 6 pm Japan time. Would recommend doing a test run to familiarize yourself with the website as all slots can run out in a couple minutes. You can buy some exclusive merch during the reservation process, so good to decide on that beforehand as you can’t add or change your order without canceling your reservation.

There are slots for A, B, and C seats (and D counter seats in Tokyo). I think it refers to areas in the restaurant, but I couldn’t find a seating map. I picked A since the first letter must be the best, right? It turned out great because we were the closest table when Pikachu came out. He came out towards the very end of the 90-minute slot. We were starting to question if he or any other character always come out. He did a little dance with audience participation. It was really cute. The food was super cute too! I felt so sad eating Pikachu’s face! 😅

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I also tried to get Kirby Café in Tokyo but failed. The entire month opens up on the 10th of the month before (also at 6 pm Japan time). When I tried it, I got confused when every slot I clicked on got a pop-up. I think that just means the slot is gone by the time I clicked it. What I should have done is to systematically click each one on my dates until hopefully one went through. Since the whole month is released at once, no second chance on this one. Oh well.
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
Went to Nara today. We had fun feeding the deer. They are everywhere and there are vendors selling 200-yen packets of 10 deer senbei crackers. They bow if you bow at them, or some will bow to ask for food. The hungrier ones would head nudge us or try to eat our jackets lol.

Isuien Garden was closed for New Year’s, so we went to Yoshikien Garden next door instead (free). Then we went to Todaiji Temple. There was a line to pay, but it moved fast. The Great Buddha here is bigger than the one at Kamakura. The “Buddha’s Nostril” (hole in a column) is closed due to Covid. It’s said that you’ll achieve enlightenment if you can fit through. We wandered into Azekuraya restaurant where we had various type of mochi desserts (yum).

Before we left, I made sure to buy some persimmon sushi, which is Nara’s specialty. The shopkeeper told us not to eat the leaf, which was a good reminder since I’d forgotten reading that. They only had mackerel left, which I don’t usually like since it can be fishy, but these weren’t. It’s a pressed sushi and the fish was thinner than the usual nigiri. The taste is a bit more vinegary, but not in a bad way. I enjoyed it.

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Yoshikien Garden:
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Todaiji:
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wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
We left for home the next day, flying out of KIX. 😭 So much left undone and uneaten. Already planning to go back next summer!

Thought I’d include some logistical stuff -

We used Ubigi, which I saw mentioned on Reddit r/JapanTravel. It's an eSIM so we could set it up on our phones in advance. Very inexpensive at 10GB/30 days for $17, data only. It worked well except on our day at TDL for some reason. Connection cut in and out. Seemed to be around crowded areas. Next trip, I think we’ll get Ubigi for one phone and another service for the other. If one isn’t working well, we’ll have a back-up.

If you have an iPhone, you can have a Suica (transit pass) in your Apple wallet and can reload with cc. That worked well for me. Just tap the phone to the reader, don't need to have the screen on. It’s more convenient than having to reload at a ticket machine with cash.

For ATMs, some do not take foreign cards and will say so somewhere on a sign nearby the machine. Some say they take foreign cards but would spit out my Schwab ATM card. The ones that take foreign cards will have an English option. The 7/11 ones worked fine. I was confused at first because it said they charge a 3.5% foreign exchange fee, but that's only if you pick the USD option. No exchange fee for the JPY option. Most seem to have a 220-yen transaction fee, but the Schwab rebates (plus no foreign transaction fees), so I wasn't worried about that.

And that concludes my TR. For anyone going soon, have a great trip! We sure did!
 
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Crazed4DisneyinSC

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
If you have an iPhone, you can have a Suica (transit pass) in your Apple wallet and can reload with cc. That worked well for me. Just tap the phone to the reader, don't need to have the screen on. It’s more convenient than having to reload at a ticket machine with cash.
Did you use one Suica pass for everyone? Then for example we'd just tap it twice for DH and I?
 

wanderlust7

DIS Veteran
Joined
Mar 10, 2015
Did you use one Suica pass for everyone? Then for example we'd just tap it twice for DH and I?

No, everyone needs their own. I didn't know how well it would work, so got DH and DS the physical card. Next time, I think I'll have them use their phones. DD has a child Suica (50% fare), so she'll still need a physical one.

The physical Suica's require a 500 yen deposit and 220 yen fee to refund when you return it. The mobile Suica eliminates that. But I think you can't get a refund without a Japanese bank account, so you'd have to spend it down instead (can do that at some stores and vending machines).
 

afan

Honorary Bus Driver
Joined
Dec 30, 2014
No, everyone needs their own. I didn't know how well it would work, so got DH and DS the physical card. Next time, I think I'll have them use their phones. DD has a child Suica (50% fare), so she'll still need a physical one.

The physical Suica's require a 500 yen deposit and 220 yen fee to refund when you return it. The mobile Suica eliminates that. But I think you can't get a refund without a Japanese bank account, so you'd have to spend it down instead (can do that at some stores and vending machines).

I'd have to search through all my bookmarks but it seemed like I remember reading about one without a deposit but it might've been pasmo vs suica, basically the same thing.
 

AndyR

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
We're still using our physical Suica cards initially purchased 7yrs ago. At the end of our stay we gave them to our daughter to spend whatever balance was on them.
 









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