So Five wasn't really sold on the whole Japan thing. She had a bad experience one time in Narita which sort of put the kibosh on her desire to actually enter the country. However, knowing how much I love it, she was willing to give Japan a chance. And then I uttered a phrase that changed her level of enthusiasm for the trip: "Hey, you're a Harry Potter fan, right?"
When I was here in October, I argued a long time with myself about whether or not I should go to Universal Studios Japan. I really wanted to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but I thought it would be kind of lame to go to a theme park by myself, and in the end I was way too busy. This time, upon uttering the magic words, there was no going back. Five was all about it.
We each did lots of research about USJ and we agreed that we would get our entry ticket for later in the day, but when we got there, we couldn't help ourselves. We wound our way through the Forbidden Forest to the gates of Hogsmeade, where we commenced to indulge our consumeristic impulses and made like rich people, buying overpriced food and dope yolo swag because it's really easy to justify it when you're on vacation.
Five was more into the merch, and picked up a wand and a scarf. Meanwhile I fell in love with butterbeer. It tastes a lot like cream soda, but that foam on top makes it. I obviously don't know what is in it. If I had to guess, I'd probably say crack. I don't even care. It is everything I imagined it would be. Besides tons of butterbeer and lunch in the Three Broomsticks I picked up a cauldron cake from Honeydukes, and that was tasty, too.
|As an art teacher, I thought the portraits were particularly good|
Eventually we headed out of the village towards the school. Hogwarts offers two options for people interested in checking it out...the castle walk or the ride. During the morning we tried the walk. It was nice, because you kind of had the place to yourself and got to see lots of things, like the entrance to Dumbledore's office, the portrait of the Fat Lady, etc. And we thought that was pretty cool until we saw where the ride finished: in the Great Hall, with all the candles over the ceiling. So we decided that when we came back later we'd put up with the long line and do the ride. The line was bad. Not the worst in the park - one ride reported a 300 minute wait - but we were in line for an hour and 20 minutes. Most of which we spent discussing which attractions we needed for Middle Earth, our Lord of the Rings theme park (aka, plan z...in case the Tolkein estate or Warner Bros. happen across this post, these were some of our ideas: a Barrel Ride, a dragon roller coaster - there should maybe be some fire in it? - an electric parade and fireworks for the eleventieth birthday party, a haunted house for Orthanc, and a finale walk through in 3 stages where you beat Shelob, rescue Frodo from the orcs, and throw the One Ring into Mt. Doom. Make it happen.) We almost fell out over creative differences a couple of times - I still say LOTR is not a children's franchise - but thanks to that conversation, the time actually flew by.
Even if it hadn't, it was SO worth it. You legit feel like you're riding a broomstick. It is scary and magical and fun and the minute we finished the ride we went and got back in line AGAIN, wait or no wait. That's how good it was. Unfortunately, just as we were getting close to the front of the line the second time, the ride had to shut down temporarily. Five thought someone threw up - I believe it was probably someone losing something because their dumbass took their phone or their keys or something with them. Whatever the case may be, we sat there for at least 20 minutes waiting for the ride to start again before Five took pity on me and decided we should go; I was hoping to hit the Jump Shop in the shopping area outside the park on our way home, and I'd already suffered one crushing disappointment for the day.
We did more at USJ, of course, but I'm saving that blog for tomorrow, cause I gotta write one of my signature angry blogs and I need to properly wind myself up for it. Instead, I'm going to rewind to a related experience from Kyoto - our visit to the Owl Forest. Now Harry Potter world has an owlery in Hogsmeade full of packages and toy owls, but since I knew the Owl Forest was in Teramachi Arcade (at the south end, if you're interested in checking it out), I was sort of hoping Five would want to do that, too.
The Owl Forest is a fairly small attraction, although there is a second forest in the same building under the same management with bengal cats. It offers the opportunity for visitors to see and - in most cases - touch different species of owl. I'm fairly certain most people haven't seen owls in real life, them being nocturnal and all, so this is a pretty cool thing. Especially when you're able to touch a snowy owl named (surprise!) Hedwig two days before you visit Hogwarts.
Both of us had some reservations about the experience, particularly after that one time we went dogsledding. For starters, owls are nocturnal, and the owl forest is open during the day. There's also the fact that they are tethered, although that one concerns me less, since I've seen eagle hunters and know that this isn't necessarily harmful.
On a scale of one to ten, I'd give it a 5.5. Owls are wild animals, and are probably not as happy as they could be tethered indoors for the amusement of humans. At the same time, they all seemed to be extremely well cared for - their feathers were soft and glossy and they overall seemed to be in good health. The people who visited while I was there all seemed to be very careful and I'd even say they had a kind of awed (or is it awwww-ed?) expression on their faces, and I think that's a valuable point. If we as human beings have a chance to interact with animals we might be putting in danger with our actions, maybe we'll be a little more careful. Maybe I'm just justifying it, but I don't think it's totally a bad thing.