Tuesday

We ♥ Kansai : What's It All About!?

Welcome Welcome いらっしゃいませ!(●´-`●)


January 09, 2014
Time for another update! Three years later, no less (weird phrasing there). It's been fun! So let's keep the good times rolling.

We ♥ Kansai is my small portion of cyberspace where I try to share as much information (remembered) about my life and time here in the Kansai area of Japan. Whether it's food, attractions or the language, I do my best to share and to be as honest and sincere as I can. I won't recommend places that aren't worth the time or money, but I also definitely want everyone to make their own decisions about where they would like to visit. I'm just playing devil's advocate I suppose. :)

11th Nipponbashi Street Festa & Cosplay Festival 2015

Note the silicon wristband.

11th Nipponbashi Street Festa & Cosplay Festival 2015


The street festival is back for 2015! This time, it will take place on a Saturday, March 21st!

Originally, I wasn't going to post information in regards to the festival, and then I realized there is almost no information on sooo.. I'd better get to it.

If you're looking for a place to get some cosplaying done in Japan, this is it! Nipponbashi Street Festa is an annual festival that takes place in Osaka's Nipponbashi area (not to be confused with the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo). This area is commonly referred to as Den-Den Town as it used to be filled with electric shops, though now it is the anime and gaming hub of Osaka. Here, you'll find maid cafe's, maid and cat cafes, and garcon (butler) cafes! OH, and shops stocked with all the latest new and used anime and video gaming goods.

During the festival, a section of Sakaisuji is closed to automotive traffic, and participants and sightseers are allowed to roam the streets and through shops freely. There are also many booths set up by various companies and at the main stage of the festival, there is a super sentai show. I won't translate everything going on (there is A LOT of written info), but I'll try to hit on the important points.

When
March 21st, 2015
Opening Ceremony is from 12pm
There will be booths for changing into cosplay, as wearing cosplaying in public comes very close to breaking Japan's obscenity laws, where staff members will check cosplays for appropriateness. I would assume these are open much earlier than 12, but the headquarters is only from 11am so... be ready for a queue if you plan on cosplaying.

The changing rooms for cosplay will be open from 10am until 5pm.

Showing up to the festival already in cosplay is not allowed, so please use the designated changing areas to change into your cosplay.

Where

Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to put in the map widget! ;n;

大阪市浪速区日本橋5-8-21NTT日本橋ビル1階
Osaka-shi, Naniwa-ku, Nipponbashi 5-8-21 NTT Nipponbashi Bldg. 1F
TEL 06-6655-1717
Hours of Operation: 11:00~19:00
Official Website

Here is the address of the area that will be operating as the headquarters for the event. The festival itself is pretty easy to find from any of the nearby stations, like Nipponbashi Station or Ebisucho Station, as it covers most of Sakaisuji and its surrounding blocks.

Events

The 3 main events are divided between the Higashi-hiroba Schedule (東広場スケジュール), Parade Schedule (パレードスケジュール) and Stage Time Schedule (ステージタイムスケジュール), which you can see highlighted in orange on the map above (Jpn only). Most of the events will occur between 12pm and 3pm.

Higashi-hiroba Schedule Page (東広場スケジュール) (Jpn)
Parade Schedule (パレードスケジュール) (Jpn)
Stage Time Schedule (ステージタイムスケジュール) (Jpn)

There are also tons small events going on in the cafes, clubs, and event spaces in the area, which you can view under the Route Event Page. These events are divided into areas A through J.

Route Event Page (沿道イベント紹介) (Jpn)

I think these events are by far the most interesting, and include things like voice actor events, so you'll definitely want to go through these pages.

Cosplay Festival Participation Rules

Though this event is all about having fun and experiencing anime and gaming culture, there are some important rules in place to make sure things run smoothly and that the event can continue in the future.

Cosplay Participation Wristband

  • Those interested in cosplaying or taking photos of cosplayers at the event are required to buy a Cosplay Participation badge. It's a red silicon wristband that can be purchased before the event from a number of stores for 1500 yen, and is to be worn on the day of the event.
  • As mentioned before, cosplayers are required to use the changing rooms set up by the event so that staff can check that costumes are suitable for being displayed in public. If your costume is deemed unsuitable for the public, you will not be allowed to leave the changing rooms with the costume on, so dress accordingly! (Also, there a ton of kids at this event to see the sentai performances so let's just be nice and spare their parents the birds and bee convo for now).
  • Don't put on make-up or fix wigs and such in the changing rooms (too many people obvs).
  • Do not wear your cosplay to the event, please use the changing rooms for changing into your cosplay.
  • No taking up space at places of business (don't make a photoshoot out of your cafe visit). It happens.
  • There are a lot of cameramen at the event, but if you feel like someone is being icky or creepy, feel free to report them to a member of staff .
  • No costumes that play music.

Rules Regarding Costumes

  • The following are considered indecent exposure (and thus not permitted to leave the changing rooms): Not wearing underwear, Short costumes with no undershorts or drawers, Costumes that are just like swimsuits or underwear, Costumes that are just body paint, Swimsuit or bloomer-type shorts that don't have tights underneath.
  • These items are also prohibited: Costumes that could hurt other people, costumes with powder, costumes that haven't dried completely, bloody costumes, costumes that emit strong lights or smells.
  • No costumes that look like police officers, nurses or doctors, security officers, or other uniforms designated by law. Obviously, cosplays like MGS or Trauma Center are fine, but don't come in with an exact replica of an actual police uniform, and expect to be let outside.
I have seen Silent Hill cosplays before, so I think as long as the blood isn't dripping across the ground everywhere, you're safe.
  • Fake weapons (buster swords, staffs, etc) are allowed, but they ask they you stay aware of your surroundings and not flail around.

Rules Regarding Photography

  • Always ask for permission from the cosplayer before taking photos.
  • Taking photos without some kind of recognition from the cosplayer (via eye contact, etc.) is prohibited and staff may ask to check your photos (to make sure you're not an creeper perv).
  • Do not take photos that may cause trouble with traffic. If staff decide that your photoshoot is disrupting traffic, they may ask you to stop.
  • Taking low-angle photos are prohibited. If caught taken these kinds of photo, they will check your data and report you to police. Also, the use of any lenses that can peer up skirts will be subject to the same rule (basically, don't be like those creepy train molesters).
  • Erotic photos of the chest, etc., even if OK'd by the cosplayer, are prohibited.
  • If they think you've broken any of these rules, they can confiscate your electronic devices for a content check. If caught will illegal material, you'll be handed over to the police.
  • Please wear the silicon wristband during the festival.

Rules Regarding the Changing Rooms

  • It's gonna be pretty busy, so please change as quickly as possible. No exchanging business cards or hanging out in the changing rooms.
  • Please change between 10am and 5pm.
  •  Any items stolen will be the sole responsibility of the owner. There is a space for placing luggage near the changing rooms, however keep all important items on your person.
  • Changing rooms close at 5pm, and at the time of closing, there may be a long line, so please change as soon as possible.
  • Please do as instructed by staff.
  • After changing, waiting around the changing area is not permitted.
  • Not photography is permitted in the area around the changing rooms.
The street will be closed to traffic from 12pm until 3pm. Photography in the streets outside of that time frame is prohibited. Because you could be hit by a car (let's be smart).

It seems like a lot of rules, the event is still pretty laid back. Just be smart about what you wear and what you do, and you should be fine!

Also, this is my third year going and I'm finally cosplaying. So excited!! :D

Questions, Comments or Concers? Just ask below!
I'll get back to you ASAP!

★Peaces★

Friday

Universal Cool Japan The Information



Universal Cool Japan Express Pass Information

YOU SHALL NOT PASS-- ER, RIDE... UMM.. WATCH?

Express passes are available for purchase separate from park passes, and are divided into Express Pass 5 ~Resident Evil Set~ and Express Pass 4. Normal express passes at USJ are used to skip the queue for the rides designated on the express pass ticket, but these are special express booklets separate from the ones that include the standard rides at USJ (like Hollywood the Dream and Jurassic Park) and are limited to rides within Wizarding World of Harry Potter and limited-time only events like Evangelion and Attack on Titan (these events are part of the Universal Cool Japan campaign).

Universal Cool Japan Express Pass 5 ~Resident Evil Set~ includes:
  • Wizarding World of Harry Potter Area Timed-Entry Pass
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Express Pass
  • Evangelion The Real Express Pass
  • Attack on Titan The Real Express Pass
  • Resident Evil The Escape Pass 
  • Monster Hunter Drink G Present
Universal Cool Japan Express Pass 4 includes all of the above except for the pass for Resident Evil The Escape.

Pricing
The prices for this tickets vary depending on the day. Busy days, such as national holidays, are more expensive than off days. Express Pass 5 starts at 5,500 yen with tax, while Express Pass 4 starts at 3,500 yen with tax, with the former reaching up to 6,700 yen and the latter reach up to 4,700 yen

The cheapest days are in February, weekdays only, while weekends and holidays start 5,900 yen and 3,900 yen for the 5 pass and 4 pass sets respectively. After the first week of March, the booklets jump to 5,900/3,900 yen until the end of the event in May. The most expensive time to purchase the booklets would be during Japanese holidays like Golden Week, and the week-long period between the end of the school year and the beginning of the next one (end of March, beginning of April). Booklets around this time are at the top tier prices of 6,700 yen and 4,700 yen.

Of course, nothing about the event changes during the more expensive periods and you may have a longer wait on your hands, though it will be nothing quite as severe as people without express tickets, of course.

Choosing Express Pass Times

Unlike the regular express pass booklets, the entry times have been predetermined for each event. When purchasing your booklet, you will be asked to pick from patterns A through E (A through D for the Express Pass 4 booklet). The entry times for the events will vary depending on the day you choose.

Time Chart for Express Pass 5 ~Resident Evil Set~
The express pass pattern chart from USJ's site.
Time slots available for pattern A.

If you look at the chart, you'll see that the days are color-coded. These colors correspond to a pattern from A to E. So when purchasing your express pass booklet, if you've already decided that you'll be at the park on February 20th, you'll see that A pattern is available for that day. A pattern only consists of 3 different time slots to choose from: 10am - 15:30, 10am - 16:00, and 11:15-16:30. Please note that the park closes at 18:00 (6pm) during the winter, except for weekends where it is open until 20:00 (8pm). As you can tell, this tight schedule leaves very little room for, well, anything else, but if you've purchased this express pass booklet, it's probably safe to assume that you only came for these events, right? No? ...Well, oops.

Also, you'll notice that towards the end of the event period, only green and light green patterns are left. These time slots start earlier and run later, giving you more time between attractions to check out other events, but these are also the more expensive booklets and during the crowded period (national holiday), so even with the extra time, it'll be difficult to ride much of anything else because of the wait times. And, as you'll see later on, all of these are sold out for Express Pass 5.

The Express Pass 4 booklet time slots have more variations than Express Pass 5, so you'll be able to start and finish early or start and finish late. Most of these booklets are still available for purchase but do not include entry into the Resident Evil event.

Wait Times

So exactly what kind of wait times are we talking about? Well, mainstays like Hollywood The Dream may have 180-minute waits for an entire day in mid-winter. And though, I feel like sometimes these numbers are inflated a bit to dissuade more people from riding, almost all the (grown-up) rides at USJ seem to have an average wait time of 100 minutes or so. You can check real-time updates of the ride wait times at USJ from this link. The information on this site appears to be available only in Japanese, with ride names written in Katakana, but there is also an smartphone application for the park which might be available in other languages (I haven't tried it myself).

For the Universal Cool Japan events, expect even longer wait times. There was no sign at the Evangelion line when I went, but a quick Twitter survey had users mentioning wait times in excess of 220 minutes (this during a national holiday). Even for areas that aren't an attraction, like photo opportunities with the AoT sculptures, you might have a bit of a wait on your hands.

One event that was virtually empty, however, was the Monster Hunter The Real attraction. Admittedly, there isn't much to it; you're basically walking through 2 or 3 recreations of sets from the game, which is very cool to see, but also finishes very quickly. More on that on my review post though!

Same-Day Availability

So let's say you had no idea any of these ticket systems existed before your trip to USJ. Don't despair quite just yet! You might have a chance to get in! Attack on Titan The Real tickets are handed out (for free) from Stage 14 within the park as soon as the park opens. So if you make a collective mad dash with the rest of the customers to that location, you should be able to get your hand on some tickets. However, you cannot collect tickets for other people, only 1 ticket is given to each person, so if you're trying to go as a group, your entire group must get your tickets together, at the same time.

If this ticket distribution system goes the way of the Halloween Resident Evil event, distribution can finish shortly after the park opens on a busy day, or they'll have tickets available by the early afternoon at the latest. 

If you are unable to get your hands on the free tickets for Attack on Titan, you can purchase the express pass booklets at the park, but those can sell out rather quickly too (most of the advance sale tickets that included entry to RE are sold out).

Evangelion The Real 4-D has no ticket system, so anyone eager to see that event can just wait in the event line or purchase the express pass booklet for expedited entry.

If you only came for the Monster Hunter The Real event, then you're in luck! There is virtually nothing to wait for with the Monster Hunter event, though it seems to cater more to customers that are playing the game in the park (wat??) so expect a lot of people standing off to the side with their DS's out. The goods line for MH goods was a little lengthy, but that seemed to be about it.

I noticed no line for the Resident Evil The Escape event. There was a booth near the entrance selling tickets, and it appeared sold out, but I didn't bother to investigate. 

According to the website, it's a 60 minute event that requires participants to escape from a fictional TV station while pursued by zombies (if the game works similar to its previous incarnations, then all the game dialogue will be in Japanese). I don't know if the weapon set up is similar to the Halloween event (i.e. the weapons do nothing and the actors just respond to the noise of the weapons), but I dearly hope not because that would be a dick-move on USJ's part. This is the only event that requires a separate ticket to be purchased for a fee of 3,000 yen the day of (2,500 yen in advance). Tickets can be purchased online from this page, but when I clicked BUY link (ダイレクトイン(前売り)で購入), I got a missing page error page. Uh, okay then?

Links

Here are links to pages on USJ's site with information on the event. Most of these pages will be Japanese, but I'll be sure to indicate the language when writing the links.


Note: The English page for Monster Hunter contains no info on the DS related event.

Universal Cool Japan Japanese Site
Info on Time Attack for Monster Hunter The Real. Nintendo 3DS and Monster Hunter 4G Required. Info in Japanese only.

Universal Cool Japan Express Pass Page (Jpn Only)

Express Pass Booklet Inventory Status (Jpn Only)
  • As of today, the only days left for the Express Pass 5 ~Resident Evil Set~ are 2/14, 2/15, and 2/16. The rest of the dates until the end of the event are SOLD OUT.
  • When checking the purchase link for just the Express Pass booklet, it was not functioning (as of 2/13). The only other method for acquiring the tickets as of writing this post is by purchasing them at the park (you might be able to pick them up at convenience stores, but I haven't been able to confirm that).
  • The web function for purchasing booklets online with a park ticket does not appear to be functioning either. 
There are quite a few points related to booklet purchase that are not translated (like if events should run late), so if at all possible, talk with the company you're making your purchase through and try to get in contact with the park (there are English-speaking staff available sometimes, I can't comment on other languages though).

Helpful Japanese Terms

Here I thought I'd list a few terms that might help anyone interested in looking up information on their own or for those interested in communicating with park staff in Japanese.

販売していますか。 (hanbai shiteimasu ka) - Are they for sale? (lit. are you selling (it)?)
This is pretty useful when asking  about goods or tickets as some things have to purchased in advanced or pre-ordered (capes from AoT are not sold at the park and have to be sent out for. but the quality isn't that great, so you're probably better off buying it from a cosplay shop)

待ち時間はどのぐらいですか。 (machijikan wa dono gurai desu ka) - About how long is the wait time?
I don't think you'll need to ask this as it's written in a few locations throughout the park, and there's an app you can download on your phone for checking wait times.

もう終わっていますか。 (mou owatteimasu ka) - Is it already over?
Great for asking about the status of events when hunting for tickets.

写真を撮ってくれませんか。 (shashin wo tottekuremasen ka) - Could you take (my, our) photo?
Great when you're trying to get a photo op with the fighting titans!

写真を撮ってあげましょうか。 (shashinn wo totteagemashou ka) - Shall I take your photo?
Great if you want to return the favor ;D

写真を撮っていいですか。 (shashin wo totteii desu ka) - Can I take your photo?
There are quite a few cosplayers at these events, so if you're interested in taking their photo, just ask! Many are happy to have their photos taken!

Let me know if there are any other phrases you're curious about. :]

Thoughts, Concerns, Comments?

Leave them below, and I will try to answer ASAP. I hope you guys find this useful! Have fun!

★Peaces★ 

Thursday

Kansai & its 'OMOTENASHI Meter'



What is ‘Omotenashi Meter’?

'Omotenashi' was a part of the campaign used by Japan during their presentation for the 2020 Olympics. It was based on the excellence of Japanese customer service, and while it’s pretty good, it can also be pretty lacking in certain places. 

This meter is my way of rating the customer service level of various attractions and sightseeing spots in Kansai Japan from the lens of someone who is not Japanese (and does not work for the tourism bureau). It’s based on my personal experience with the staff, the availability of information (Japanese in most cases as this is a country where the national language it Japanese), and other common tenets of CS. As this is something I made, you don’t have to take it seriously, but I think it could provide a nice, personalized view of what’s worth seeing in Japan, and what is not.

That's the short version, if you're interesting in the ideas and concepts of 'Omotenashi' you can venture beyond the cut, but I'm warning you, it gets a little abstract (read: rambly) at times. Oops.

First (well, second) Visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter



I put first in the title because, well, it was my first time actually doing anything in the Harry Potter area. The first first time I went, the crowds were so thick that waiting in line for anything would’ve lost us One Piece Premiere Show time, so we only gave it a quick look around before heading over to Waterworld.

Anyway, as it was also my birthday that day, I went full on Hogwarts student (Ravenclaw, despite whatever that site says) while Shota suffered silently by my side (actually, he wanted his own uniform although he knows almost nothing about the series).  I think I got the skirt, sweater, and tie from a Chinese wholesaler via eBay, while the cape is from the official shop in Hogsmeade (omg $$$$). I would recommend, especially if you’re going with small kids, that you just get them a cape from one of the Harry Potter Halloween costume bags, it will save you money and the eventual argument you will get into with your kid after they see every other kid in the park with one.



We got to the park pretty late in the day since I was only interested in Harry Potter land, and if you enter the park after 3pm or so (I can’t find it written on their site), you can get a pass at a discounted price. Luckily, there were still tickets available to get into Wizarding World of Harry Potter that day, though it probably helped that it wasn’t a holiday or the weekend.

Although, for a day that was neither the weekend nor a holiday, it was still hella crowded. To be quite honest, I’ve never been to USJ on a day that it hasn’t been crowded, but I still think that day exists... somewhere. Maybe in leap years.


After getting into the area, we made a bee line to the Flight of the Hippogriff, the only roller coaster in the area. The wait time was 70 minutes, which isn’t bad for USJ, a little lower than average, but while we were moving through the line, the ride was shut down (due to high winds I believe). For about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, though, most of the patrons had already left to find something else to enjoy, so once the ride was back up, it was only another 20 or so minutes, and I got to ride in the front (obviously, I turned 9 this year…).

Inside the attraction area of Ollivanders Shop.

We did stop for one of the street shows, the Frog Choir, but sitting on the cold, hard ground is not much fun, so we didn’t stay long. Shortly after, we wandered into Ollivanders Shop, which includes a short show (of sorts) before entering the shop. You can also skip the mini show and go straight into the shop from another entrance as well. Unfortunately, there’s always a ridiculous line for Zonko’s Joke Shop, so we skipped that, and headed for the castle.

Decorations leading to the Forbidden Journey.

I was hoping there would be another coaster inside, and though there wasn’t, I wasn’t completely disappointed. Within the castle is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was an interesting mix of 3D graphics and... flinging? Be careful with this one as there is a lot of jerking around and spinning in the attraction, though it’s not scary. It reminds of a better Amazing Spider-Man ride.
Unfortunately, with rides like the Forbidden Journey, there are lockers for your bags before you can get into the line for the ride (actually, it’s between the line to get into the castle and the line to actually get on the ride). This means that everyone and their moms (literally) are pushing, shoving, and running to get to the locker’s and back into the line for the ride while there are people coming off the ride to get their things from the lockers or run back into line. What I’m saying is that it’s a clusterf*#$ of magnificent proportions in the tiniest of spaces. And the poor staff, bless their hearts, just kind of look on in silent horror. After one round on the Forbidden Journey, we wanted to take a look around the souvenir shop connected to the ride, but that was so crowded as well that it made any kind of browsing impossible.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still in its first season, and still very popular in USJ, so I can only suggest that anyone coming to USJ just for Harry Potter should be prepared for the worst. And if you’re coming for USJ’s Universal Cool Japan events, then prepare for even worse and bring extra cash (the Resident Evil attraction requires an extra 2500 yen or so). 

OMOTENASHI METER 3
おもてなし度★★★


Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you get 3 stars out of 5. You aren’t terrible, but I’ve had much better and you almost always have me leaving the park feeling rather unsatisfied. While your staff seem really motivated and into their roles at the park, they often turn a blind eye to kids/parents that cut in line or do things that could cause trouble to other customers. You also make it incredibly difficult to find information, whether it be on your site or at the park. Although, when you finally locate a staffer to help you, they’re incredibly nice and polite. 

Also, whenever you have large events like the Christmas musical or the zombie Halloween event, your crowd control seems to cause more harm than help (I’ve been pushed and kicked way too many times to count), and while you’re not directly to blame (really, shitty people are), I feel like you guys have to take steps for better crowd control (ala Disneyland ::cough cough:: ). What really brings down your Omotenashi meter is the obvious cash grab in your “express pass” booklets. 40 extra bucks per person is a lot to pay for express entrance to Backdraft or Back to the Future. Maybe try implementing a timed ticket process similar to what they offer at Tokyo Disneyland ::cough cough:: where customers can get a ticket for timed entry later at no extra charge. I feel like that would improve the overall sense of worthlessness that usually comes around at the end of the day.

TL;DR Version:

  • Make your information, whether in Japanese or English, more readily accessible. Info for popular events should be the first thing you see on your site, not buried in a series of clicks.
  • Watch out for wayward kids and unobservant parents.
  • Unless you have a ticket with your ticket, you’ll probably miss that special event you went to USJ for.
  • On the plus side, USJ has a plethora of seasonal events that make a season pass very much worth it.
  • Tokyo Disneyland is probably a better deal, all things considered. :<

★Peaces★



What is ‘Omotenashi Meter’?

Omotenashi was the slogan used by Japan when they did their presentation for holding the 2020 Olympics. It was based on the premise that customer service is the best, and while it’s pretty good, it can also be pretty lacking in certain places. The meter is my personal way of rating the customer service level of various attractions and sightseeing spots in Kansai Japan. It’s based on my personal experience with the staff, the availability of information (Japanese in most cases as this is a country where the national language it Japanese), and other common tenets of CS. As this is something I made, you don’t have to take it seriously, but I think it could provide a nice, slightly less biased view of what’s worth seeing in Japan, and what is not.
 
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