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Vampire Cafe

I thought Vampires were supposed to dislike crosses?

I thought Vampires were supposed to dislike crosses?

The Vampire Cafe in Ginza is another fabulous entry in the themed restaurant series in Tokyo. The head vampire here is called Rose, and he is fantastic on every level. He also happens to have his own band, and is an avid twitter user. Most of the patrons in this establishment are female, and they come here purely to see Rose. The waitresses are also pretty adorable, with their custom fangs and red contact lenses as well as cute french maid uniforms.

A goth's wet dream.

A goth’s wet dream.

The decor makes great use of red velvet curtains, where tables for 2 are separated from the main room. The biggest table is a glass top set over a coffin. The 15 year old goth in me died a little here.

IMG_5909Like other theme restaurants this one boasts some great theme drinks and food. Expect crosses, bats, and anything else associated with vampires before Twilight went and ruined it for an entire generation.

IMG_2742They definitely put in a lot of effort into the presentation, and there are some satisfying beverages with fabulous names to choose from.

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There is a 500 yen table charge, and the prices are not the cheapest but pretty standard for a theme establishment in Tokyo. I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit for any goth, current or former as well as someone just looking for something different after spending a day gawking at overpriced department stores in Ginza.

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Biohazard The Escape

All roads lead to Raccoon City.

All roads lead to Raccoon City.

As with all the previous Biohazard attractions at USJ, I made my way to Osaka one fine weekend, and this time it was seriously worth the trip. What makes Escape different from the previous 2 installments is that it is an escape game, where you have a time limit to solve the puzzles through a series of clues and escape Raccoon TV Station. That time limit is 1 hour, but with the intro and the finale, the total time spent in the attraction is about an hour and a half. It’s definitely the best value for money for someone who travels half way across the country just to go to this.

IMG_7512Because of the length of the attraction, the number of visitors is even more limited than before, and you need to purchase an extra ticket in order to participate. The cost is 2500 yen in advance and 3000 on the day. Advance tickets can be bought here, but you’ll need to be able to read Japanese in order to buy them. If you’re planning on buying them on the day in the park, I’d recommend getting there before opening time as they sell out pretty quickly.

The only tour you'll ever go on in Raccoon City.

The only tour you’ll ever go on in Raccoon City.

At the beginning, you are given the studio map, a locked box with a number combination lock, and an iPad that you can take photos with and through which you receive the clues.

What's in the case?

What’s in the case?

After a dramatic intro that includes lickers dropping from the ceiling (it’s a really high ceiling!), you are free to go into the facility in order to solve the puzzles, which there are several of. What I wasn’t expecting is that you can change the language on the iPad to English as well as a variety of others, so it’s a lot more tourist friendly than the website information would let on. Having a literate best friend, we decided to continue in Japanese to save us time on the iffy translations. Most of the puzzles require you to visit 2 rooms, on different floors – the studio is huge, and there are 4 floors in total. This along with the fact that there are hundreds of people trying to do the same thing as you make completing this under the time limit pretty difficult. Still, we managed to do better than some others. Out of the 5 or so total puzzles, we solved 3 – we got access to the director’s office and claimed the sticker that supposedly grants you immunity, got the code for the laser room and disabled the lasers.

Got the survival patch - did better than 1 guy!

Got the survival patch – did better than 1 guy!

We didn’t manage to open the case, get the gun or solve the final puzzle about what was going on. All in all though, we did much better than I was expecting, and considering that only 1 group solved everything, I’d say it was a solid effort. It was definitely a lot of fun, and I would recommend anyone to do it. You can enjoy it until May 10th this year!

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Nemesis was always my favourite!

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As well as the attraction itself, USJ gets in on the hype with some themed food and drinks. They were actually pretty good, and somewhat made up for the lack of good souvenirs this time around.

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WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Studio Map

Studio Map

For those of you that want to attempt to get further than we did, here are the solutions to the puzzles. The first one is where you have to enter a series of symbols into your iPad. The symbols, from top to bottom, are: moon crescent, spade, star, star in hexagon. This will grant you access to the director’s office, where you will be able to receive your patch. After you get the patch, you can go to the sub-control room where you’ll need to solve the puzzle by looking at the map. The answer is RAIN. This will disable the lasers. 7369 will unlock your case, which contains a key card and a locker key. You can use the key card to access the stairwell from the 1st floor and the key to unlock the locker at the top and get a gun. Finally, proceed to the 4th floor and look at the zombie guard for the code to the laser corridor. It’s 9152. After you go through the lasers, you will have a chance to go into an area we didn’t get into and shoot something exciting. I’m guessing it might be Nemesis because he’s the only one we didn’t see from the previous times. I’m not sure exactly what happens after as we didn’t get that far, but I believe you will be given an envelope containing the final puzzle. The solution is basically that you need the immunity patch with zombie blood on it in order to survive. Good luck!

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Fuji Q Highland

Welcome to Fuji Q!

Welcome to Fuji Q!

Fuji Q Highland is the best theme park near Tokyo, if you’re a roller coaster junkie and judging it purely on the rides. If you’re not, however, this is the wost place on earth. Personally, I am a huge fan of roller coasters, but even then this place tested my patience, and let me tell you why.

The waiting time is insane. I went to Fuji Q on 2 weekdays in September, after the kids had already resumed school. The waiting time for all the big rides (there are only 4 of them, excluding the haunted house) was between 2 and 3 hours. Granted, the waiting time was shorter than the signs posted at the queue entrance, it was still way too long than even I would want to wait for a ride. The waiting was so excruciating that by ride number 3 we had exhausted any desire to play charades or word games to pass the time and were sort of just slumping around like a bunch of zombies. And god help you if you get stuck in front or behind a group of yankiis, because those little delinquents will consistently annoy the crap out of you for the whole 2-3 hours you’re there. Now you might say that I should have waited for the university students to go back at the end of the month, but they already have so many holes in their schedule I doubt that it would have helped. You can also buy fast passes for rides if you’re rich (they’re 1000 yen per ride), but they sell out within the first few hours of the park opening and you have to wait in line for them for about an hour too, so…

I had to go to Fuji Q twice just to get on all the rides, so here is how I would rate them:

Having fun yet?

Having fun yet?

1. Eejanaika.

Eejanaika is a 4th dimension coaster, which means that the seats spin while your legs dangle helplessly. By the time we got to this ride, it was already dark, and this made it all the more terrifying. You literally can’t tell which way is up or what the hell is happening because you can’t see anything except the occasional support beams that flash by as your spinning seat flies through the night. I’m not a screamer, but I screamed from the second this ride dropped to the second it was over. It was definitely the most intense ride I’ve ever been on. If you want to experience it in the dark, I’d recommend going to queue 3-4 hours before the park closing time, because that is around the time they start closing the lines. Or do this one first thing in the morning to get it our of the way.

2. Takabisha

This ride is the newest coaster in Fuji Q, and is a lot of fun. It’s famous for a 121 degree drop, which may or may not still hold the world record. It has a lot of nice inversions, and the length of the ride almost makes waiting for it worthwhile. Almost.

3. Fujiyama

An oldie but goldie, this ride combines height, speed and length to create a really enjoyable experience. I think because it’s been around for so long, the queues for it are shorter than for the others, so it would be safe to say that the queue for this one closes the latest, but the view from the top might be worth going earlier on in the day for, especially on a clear day.

4. Dodonpa

For all you Brits out there, Dodonpa is just a shittier version of Stealth from Thorpe Park. It does go fast, but it never manages to achieve the same momentum as Stealth. If there’s one ride you skip on your visit, and there will be because you won’t have time to go on all of them, make sure it’s this one! The awful queue to ride time ratio doesn’t help either.

Special Bonus: The World’s Longest Haunted House. Ha.

Now, I love haunted houses. I really do. The park site and everyone I’ve ever talked to say that this attraction lasts about an hour. If you’re walking with a zimmer frame maybe (don’t go here if you have mobility issues, there are too many stairs). We were in and out of there in 20-25 minutes max. And that includes about a 10 minute explanation of what to do, watching a video and getting your photo taken. I know that we were walking faster than average, because at one point we caught up with the group in front of us, who turned around and proceeded to scream at me for about 2 minutes because apparently a white girl is more terrifying than the bros in hospital gowns and bloody make-up. Anyway, this valiant, brave group of male university students proceeded to let us go first so they could stay back and watch what happens. And go first we did. The end of the attraction is pretty fun, so I won’t spoil that for you, but the best part for me was the beginning, when they’re just building atmosphere and throwing some nice sound effects around just to mess with you. You have to pay an extra 500 yen to do this, and at almost 3 hours this was the longest line we stood in, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to go. This still wasn’t as scary as the Tenjin Horror House I went to in Fukuoka a few years ago. That one was around 8 minutes long, but those guys really knew what they were doing.

IMG_6632There are some smaller rides that can be quite fun, like the giant spinning pizza, so if you’re not a coaster junkie you can avoid the ridiculous lines and maybe actually have some fun. There’s also Evangelion World, so if you’re a fan of Evangelion this place was practically deserted!

Om nom nom!

Om nom nom!

If you do plan on going, there are combination tickets for the bus to and from the park and entree to the park that save you a bit of money. You can buy this at the convenience store terminals if you possess some knowledge of Japanese, or at the bus station west of Shinjuku JR station if you do not. I’d bring one of those folding camping chairs if I were you though!

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Biohazard The Real 2: A Review + Biohazard: The Escape

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The reason I started this blog was to tell people about Biohazard The Real, an interactive haunted house attraction in which you get a gun and shoot zombies and creatures from the Resident Evil game series. It was pretty damn awesome, so when USJ announced a sequel for this year, a trip to Osaka was automatically added to our calendars. We were not disappointed.

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The process for getting tickets is the same as last year. Even though we arrived around park opening time, we only just managed to get 2 tickets for an hour before the park closed. This might have been because this time the attraction was longer and didn’t contain separate routes, so the number of tickets available each day was lower. It might have also been because it was a national holiday in Japan, and everyone had gathered to see the new Harry Potter addition to the park. Avoid national holidays like a zombie plague.

Officially employees of the Umbrella Corporation!

Officially employees of the Umbrella Corporation!

The attraction itself was so, so much better than last year. For starters, you got a shotgun. A pump action shotgun. How awesome is that? Extremely awesome! There were also green herbs that healed you if you shot them, and the attraction itself was longer. The best improvement for me was the decor. Instead of a narrow corridor painted black and filled with some lazy barrels, these guys went all out. The rooms were wider, to make space for all the shotgun blasting, and the sets were made to look like actual Umbrella labs, including a room with 3 live  Tyrants standing in those glass cylinders looking out at you (best job ever, totally applying for that next year).

Nemesis will always be my favourite!

Nemesis will always be my favourite!

You were guided through the rooms by members of staff and told exactly where to stand before the monsters would pop out at you, I’m guessing for effective time management. An awesome moment was when a licker crawled across the floor right in front of me. I shot it right in the head. When the staff left us to our own devices though, hilarity ensued. The couple leading our group of 8 went through the wrong door and we ended up in the behind the scenes staff area. This area looked pretty cool too, so it actually to us a while to realise what had happened, and when we did we didn’t know what to do so we kinda stood around for a bit until a member of staff came by, and completely in character asked us what the hell we were doing and told us to be on our merry way. So there you have it, VIP backstage access for the low, low price of stupidity and confusion.

Biohazard themed food served in bloody newspapers for authenticity!

Biohazard themed food served in bloody newspapers for authenticity!

The end of the fun ensures the 0% survivor rate by splitting up the people that have green health (2 in our group, including Becca), and those who were not as fortunate. Becca swapped shotguns with me so I got to go into the special room with some t-virus vials and a keypad asking for a 4 digit code. We could see the other group through the glass, and I was told that the code might have been in their room, but everyone was too busy staring at us, so the guy I was with ended up punching in some random numbers, and… everybody died. It was pretty cool because we got to see fire effect on the glass of the room of our group members, and Becca later told me that the room actually got hot. So I guess they all burned to death? And we got infected with the t-virus? Or maybe we set off an explosion? Who knows! It was definitely an experience that went above and beyond what they did the previous year, and for this I applaud them.

The eye is watching you eat it!

The eye is watching you eat it!

A new Biohazard attraction has already been announced for next year, running from January 23rd until May 10th 2015. Entitled Biohazard: The Escape, this attraction seems to be a little different, in that it is an escape the area under a time limit type of game, which have become increasingly popular in Japan recently. Expect key hunts, puzzles and code doors – if they use some of the puzzles from the Resident Evil series, this is sure to be a blast. Watch this space for more info.

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With Bunny Cafe & Museum

Bunny snuggle time!

Bunny snuggle time!

With Bunny “Museum” is another variation on the popular animal cafes around the city. A fluffier spin on the usual cat cafe, With Bunny actually lets you pick the bunnies up, put them on your knees, and hug them. So if you’d like a more snuggle filled experience than with cats who ignore you unless you buy them some food, this is the place to go.

So cute!

So cute!

Located a 5 minute walk from Asakusa station, and pretty close to one of Tokyo’s main attractions – Senso-ji temple, it is easy to fit this cafe into your visit. It’s open from 12 to 7 daily. The cost to enter the place to look at the bunnies is 500 yen. If you want to get a bunny to play with, you have to pay depending on how long you want to stay, starting with 1000 yen for half an hour per bunny. They have various floors and rooms, so you can pay extra if you want access to a specific room, but you can play with the bunnies on the first floor for free. The place is pretty tiny though, so on weekends be prepared to wait. They also have a menu of optional extras, like drinks and a photo with the bunny. We thought this meant a commemorative polaroid, so we got it, but it was just a member of staff who took a photo of both of us with the bunny using our phones. Since you can take as many photos of the bunny yourself, I’d suggest not bothering with this one.

Look at my adorable legs!

Look at my adorable legs!

They have a huge selection of bunnies of all colours and fur length, and you can choose any one you like. This is like playing Russian Roulette though, as you can’t really predict their behavior. The bunny we got was friendly and quiet but curious. He was a lot of fun to play with. Unfortunately for the couple across from us, their bunny kept trying to escape as well as pooping and peeing everywhere, so they spent most of their visit trying to placate it and clean up its mess. So I guess you never know until you try. Regardless of their behavior, I think that hugging the bunny and spending time with it is definitely worth the visit. Just wear some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty! And if you enjoyed yourself so much you don’t want the fun to stop, you can even buy a bunny to take home with you. Maybe this is the place where you’ll meet your dream pet!

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Biohazard The Real 2

You heard it here first!

Biohazard the Real, a live action Resident Evil attraction at Universal Studios Japan is coming back on August 8th 2014.

USJ tweeted:
最強の武器 ショットガンを手に、ゾンビに立ち向かえ!生還率、限りなく0 %の興奮と絶望、再び。【バイオハザード・ザ・リアル 2】、8/8(金)より期間限定開催決定!詳細は⇒ eng.mg/1c385 #USJ pic.twitter.com/caZMEEc62L

If you don’t read Japanese, the only thing you need to know is that this time, YOU GET A SHOTGUN!

Time to start planning my next trip to Osaka! More details as they come.

If you want to catch it this time, I advise travelling in September or October, as the school holidays are in August, so it will be extra crowded!

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Tax Increase Warning

I wanted to write a quick post about the tax increase that went into effect on the 1st of April 2014, taking it from 5% to 8%. Unfortunately, taking advantage of this, many establishments have raised their prices by up to 20% or more because they think they can get away with it. Most notable offender is the Robot Restaurant, which now charges a 6000 yen entrance fee as well as 1000 yen food fee, which may or may not be optional. Some bars have also raised drink prices from 800 yen to 850 yen which may not seem like much, but the reality of the situation is that everyone is using the tax increase to rip you off just that little bit more. If you want some help staying on the cheap side, check out Tokyo Cheapo, and have some help drinking your troubles away. *Prices have probably increased since the article was published. Good luck to us all.