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We’re going out with a bang for the last stop on our trip and what could be better than all the fun and craziness of a movie studio theme park!

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Universal studios is just across the bay from the Osaka Aquarium so if you time it right you could easily do both in the one day if you kept the aimless wandering to a minimum. Like most major theme parks its a breeze to get to, just one change of trains from Osaka station (approx. 10-15min) and a short walk along “Hollywood Boulevard” (a bunch of familiar western and westernised eateries) will have you in front of the famous rotating Universal fountain globe in no time. Check their website for transport options.

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Travel tip: Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate for around $60-70AU for a standard adult fare. There doesn’t seem to be any difference between online and gate prices so we chose to grab them at the gate. There are so many manned booths that there were no lines at all, unfortunately this is the only place that didn’t have lines!

Travel tip: Lockers are located on the outside of the park before you go through the gates, so dump your gear first as there are no pass outs once you enter the park.

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Once inside the park, its the usual constant battle for just about everything, having a map handy and some kind of game plan certainly helps. The website tries to assist with two recommendations, one for the littlies to chase down their fave characters and one to experience the featured rides.

Instead, we chose to hit our “must-dos” first, see how we were going for time then fill it with whatever was left. It’s a good theory till we arrived at our first ride at Jurassic Park and the posted approximate time was 45min. Damn. It’s a slow saunter through the obligatory zig zag maze but they try to ease the waiting and build the illusion of being immersed in the movie with authentic reports and warning sounds from monitor screens above the cattle run. As you’d expect the buildup of tension continues with a first person feel of traveling through the movie. I’ll hold back on the spoilers but will mention, about 10min later you more than certainly will be a little drenched!

Travel tip: take a disposable rain poncho if you want to keep dry. They’re available for purchase on site at a premium so a stop at a daiso for a 100Y special could be in order.

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One of our other fave rides would be the Back to the Future ride – a mechanical ride coupled to an imax sized screen to create a virtual environment, it was great but was over far too quickly.

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The entertainment is never short even if you’re not queuing for rides, parades are regularly scheduled as are the high flying shows on the main stage. Food, merch and souvenirs are also readily available in appropriately themed shops scattered throughout the park.
Being Japan it would almost be a crime if there wasn’t Hello Kitty and she doesn’t disappoint with regular stage shows (complete with backup dancing girl band) and her own section of the park drench in pink and nausea inducing cuteness.

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As you would expect features change semi regularly depending on what movie/franchise is big at that the time like Pirates of the Caribbean making way for Harry Potter. Its also not uncommon to see patrons cosplaying like they’re part of the show too. Not sure if creepy or awesome.

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So with tummies full of Hello Kitty pork buns and arms full of things like DeLorean model kits and Spiderman mugs, this closes our final entry for our epic Japan trip. While it only took us two weeks travelling, its taken closer to two years to write about it! So its probably best we didn’t make any promises on how long the next installment (Tassie 2014) is going to take :p Of course, we’re hoping sooner than later!

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If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on our Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Greetings!

It was our last day in LA so we thought we’d see it off in style… from the sky!

Orbic Air is a helicopter tour company running out of Van Nuys airport – one of the biggest airports for private aircraft in the states so you may even catch a glimpse of a celeb stumbling out of a fictional “G6″ clutching a bottle of Don P. dregs 😉 There is a wide range of tours to suit any budgets and interests with selected scenic spots like the Getty Museum or LA Live arenas or you can go all out with an “ultimate” tour which covers all the major highlights. There are also dinner packages which include meal vouchers at the luxury restaurants in and around the airport. That said, there was really only one thing we wanted to see and that was what makes LA, LA…. Hollywood!

The process is very straight forward. After arriving, you get to wait in very nice waiting room before a short brief then a golf buggy ride out to the runway. Our pilot was very friendly and explained everything clearly and simply.

Los Angeles - its flat

LA Freeways

LA Valley college

The tour obviously focused mostly on Hollywood however you could easily see the downtown area and further. It begins with a view of some of the many snaking freeways that spaghetti the LA landscape. As the pilot said, if only he could take the helicopter home to avoid that infamous LA traffic! Universal studio city was next which looked like a permanent circus from above if it wasn’t for the War of the Worlds jumbo jet wreck and drive in movie screen sized blue screens.

Universal City

Universal City back lot + War of the Worlds plane crash

Next is the iconic Hollywood sign, you thought it was pretty cool looking up at it from Canyon Lake road? Its nothing compared to looking at it front on from about 50 metres away.

The postcard at the start of this entry was taken @30mm on FF, yep, THAT close!

Hollywood Blvd, downtown LA in the distance

Hollywood walk of fame, Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood and Highland

It was cool to fly over the main tourist spot of Hollywood Blvd and be able to pick buildings that we had visited earlier. Being the focus of the tour, you get a nice slow circle of this area before heading over to Beverly Park (Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Hollywood hills are also covered) where hundreds of the most famous and disgustingly rich celebs are out admiring their gold plated shark tanks or are building a guest house for their guest house or simply tearing down the original house and building a new one – I’d probably do the same if it was previously occupied by one of the Kardashians.

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Beverly Park

Overall it was an amazing experience (more so if you’ve never flown in a helicopter before) made even better by the very friendly and professional staff. Special thanks to Merlinda for making the booking and admin process a breeze.

If you’re reading this Merlinda, hoping you kept that (modest) tip for yourself! We all know those pilots already get paid too much 😉

Photo tip: if you’re quick on the lens changes, take a long lens to pick off sites on the horizon. Generally I would recommend a wide to mid-range zoom to capture the vastness as well as zooming in on some of the luxury homes, cool movie back lots and landmarks.

Los Angeles 2011 part #1 – Arrival, Melrose Trading Post
Los Angeles 2011 part #2 – West Hollywood shopping, Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles 2011 part #3 – Downtown shopping – Fashion District
Los Angeles 2011 part #4 – Downtown shopping – Japantown
Los Angeles 2011 part #5 – Steel Panther @ The House of Blues 17/5/11
Los Angeles 2011 part #6 – Hollywood sign, Farmer’s Market
Los Angeles 2011 part #7 – Peterson Automotive Museum
Los Angeles 2011 part #8 – Greater LA area shopping
Los Angeles 2011 part #9 – Hollywood sight seeing with Orbic Air
Los Angeles 2011 part #10 – Driving in Los Angeles/California

Complete Los Angeles 2011 photo gallery here