choose adventureAaron Pylinski | Community Writer
February is the second coldest month in Japan behind January. But just because it’s a tad chilly (calling out all the West Coast folks), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t slow down exploring Japan. Braving cold temps and the cultural and language rifts in Japan is no small feat. It takes planning, discipline, and courage. Through this article, you’ll be able to choose how you wish to create an adventure for yourself or allow MCCS to help along the way.
Whatever happens, good luck!
Wanna do Universal Studios Japan on your own? Self-reliance is great for adventures in Japan. Don’t be intimidated by the language and culture barrier. Getting to Universal Studios may not be an easy feat to accomplish, but it isn’t unattainable either. Purchase gate tickets online or at the door. A one-day pass is ¥8,200 for ages 12 and older or ¥5,600 for ages 4-11.
Steps to Board Your Pet
If you have a pet and need a place to board them, look no further than the Barking Lot. The Barking Lot’s friendly staff is here to assist you with boarding your pet while you’re away. Plan accordingly, though. To board your pet you need to make reservations at least 45 days out.
Before boarding your pet at the Kennel, the first thing you must do is download the boarding agreement, vaccination agreement, and the reservation form from mccsiwakuni.com or come by the kennel to pick them up. Once all the paperwork is completed and submitted, come by the kennel or call them to make a pre-board deposit (equal to a one-day boarding fee).
The MCCS Barking Lot provides an outstanding service to our community. Rates are very reasonable compared to any other pet boarding facilities off base. They have 20 dog kennels, and each kennel is equipped with air-conditioning and heating. They also have cat kennels and eight brand new cat condos.
All of our staff are friendly and love providing services for your pet.
If you’re planning on driving, stop by Typhoon Motors for a quick inspection of your automobile. Our professional and knowledgeable staff know how to keep your car running smooth. Call to schedule an appointment today. How do appointments work? Drop off your car in the morning, and depending on the inspection and services needed, you’ll be able to pick up your car before the end of the day.
Got the car, kids, and all packed? Great! Enjoy the trip and expect about a 5-hour car ride! Now you can plan your adventure in the park. For the thrill of it all, start at the Hollywood Dream The Ride: Backdrop. From there, make your way to the Harry Potter Timed Ticket at Central Park and get a late afternoon slot. Cruise over to The Flying Dinosaur and then hit up Jurassic Park: The Ride. Once your adrenaline has settled, head to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, spend some time exploring Minion Park and then find a bigger boat to ride the Jaws ride. Round out the day with Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey and explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Taking the Shin to Osaka is an adventure in itself. The trip runs you roughly ¥10,880 one-way. Start by heading down to the Iwakuni train station and picking up the JR San-yo line to Hiroshima. Grab your Shin ticket at Hiroshima Station and be ready to be zipped to Osaka at the near speed of awesome! It is best to go online and reserve a seat for your Shin ride beforehand.
It’s a gamble on whether or not you can reserve enough seats to accommodate you and your family. So, plan ahead. Talk to IT&T about reserving discounted shin tickets on the Kodama Shin line. The trade off with the discounted tickets is you hit every stop along the way.
Once you’re at the Osaka Station, it’s a two-minute walk to the local train line. Take the Sakurajima to Universal-City Station, hop off, and go for the gate. Prepare for fun memories.
Travel Gear at the MCX
Gear! We have gear for you at the MCX! Need luggage, comfy kicks, or hydration systems? Yep, we have all of that. What do you need to get from A-to-B and back again on this Universal trip? Let’s take a look.
Day Pack - The be-all-end-all to a successful Universal Studios Japan trip is the day pack. You’ll need something that can handle your gear comfortably, but still be compact enough that you’re not over ladened. Here’s an excellent choice for the trip:
The North Face Jester Backpack. Roomy and comfortable, this 28L bag of holding keeps your gear organized and protected.
Retail at the MCX: $52.99.
Water Bottle - Hydration is essential, even in the colder months. Here’s a great option available from the MCX:
The HydraPak Stash 1L flexible bottle can hold enough water and collapse down to fit just about anywhere.
Retail at the MCX: $29.99
Comfortable Shoes - Nothing beats a good pair of shoes, especially when you know you’re going to be on your feet all day.
You can’t go wrong with a pair of Merrell MQM Flex. Lightweight and flexible Gore-Tex keep your feet warm and dry. And since these are cut low like a running shoe, you can easily slip them on and off when entering places where you have to take off shoes.
Retail at MCX: $88.99.
For the thrill of it all, start at the Hollywood Dream The Ride: Backdrop. From there, make your way to the Harry Potter Timed Ticket at Central Park and get a late afternoon slot.
Cruise over to The Flying Dinosaur and then hit up Jurassic Park: The Ride. Once your adrenaline has settled, head to the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, spend some time exploring Minion Park and then find a bigger boat to ride the Jaws ride.
Round out the day with Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey and explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Universal Studios is one of my favorite trips. I love the Harry Potter ride.
Top 10 To-Do in Japan in February
When the summer hits in Japan, it really hits. Take some time to enjoy the chillier side of Japan by exploring these options and traditions:
- Sapporo Snow Festival - February 4-11: This year marks the 70th anniversary. Enjoy ice and snow sculptures, food, and fun.
- Otaru Snow Festival - February 8-17: The streets and canals of this Northern seaside city are illuminated with candlelit snow lanterns.
- Asahikawa Winter Festival - February 7: This is the second largest winter festival behind Sapporo. The mountains of central Hokkaido provide a picturesque backdrop for this winter matsuri.
- Akita Prefecture Snow House Festival - February 15-16: This 400-year-old festival showcases kamakuras, or Japanese igloos.
- Okayama Hadaka Matsuri - February 17: Take pride in your hide at this festival bent of blessings and good luck.
- Nagasaki Lantern Festival - February 5-19: Taking place on the first 15 days of the Chinese New Year, this festival showcases over 15,000 paper lanterns, fireworks, acrobat performances, parades, beauty contests, and much more.
- Shigisan Tiger Festival - February 23-24: Parade that features 50 boys and girls born in the year of the tiger.
- Miyajima Oyster Festival - February 9-10: Eat some of the best oysters in the country at ¥100 a pop.
- Zao Snow Monster Festival - February 1-3: Festival featuring natural snow features that are illuminated in the evening. It also showcases a night skiing parade and fireworks.
- Hakodate Russian Festival - February 9: Festival celebrating the connection between Hakodate and Russia dating back to the Meiji period.
New Reoma is on the island of Shikoku. To some, that may seem like an entirely different country outside of Japan, but with a little planning, you can get to the park and back with little effort and maximum fun. By comparison, New Reoma is a smaller venue than Universal Studios, but it’s a great family destination for those looking to enjoy a more Japanese-esque theme park.
The easiest way to get there is to drive.
Getting There: Rail or Road
A road trip to Shikoku is an adventure in itself. Depending on the route, you’re looking at crossing some picturesque bridges.
The fastest route takes you along the San-yo Expressway, past Hiroshima and up to Nakasho where you’ll pick up the Seto-Chuo Expressway. From here, it’s island hopping over long bridges and an almost straight shot into New Reoma World.
The roundabout road trip adds an hour but takes you over the Shimanami Kaido Expressway. These bridges take you through some of the more beautiful islands in the Seto inland sea. Cross over six islands before making it to Shikoku and meandering your way North to the park.
There are a few train routes if you don’t want to drive. The shortest trip is roughly 3 ½ hours where you start on the San-yo line to Hiroshima station and pick up the Shin to Okayama. From there, pick up the Dosan Line - Limited Express to Kotohira Station. At the station, the Takamatsu-Airport Limousine Bus gets you to the park.
Don’t want to put all the time and effort into planning and executing a full-blown Universal Studios trip? Don’t worry, let IT&T do the hard work for you.
Stop by IT&T and sign up for the trip. There’s a bus fee of $50 per person. This covers your ride there and back. This fee doesn’t include entry fees or food.
No lie, it’s going to be an early day going up and a late night coming back, but with all the fun to be had at the park, a world-class tour guide experience, and not having to drive or take numerous trains, it’s totally worth it.
5 AM - Depart from Bldg. 411
10:30 AM* - Arrive at Universal Studios. Spend the day in the park, or enjoy exploring Osaka City.
8 PM - Depart Universal Studios
1:30 AM* (next day) - Arrive at Bldg. 411
* Times tentative based on travel
Don’t wait, these trips fill up fast. Come to IT&T and sign up. We’ll provide you with a great experience to enjoy Japan, especially if it is your first time here.
Sign up for the IT&T New Reoma Resort trip by coming to Crossroads and speaking with our friendly staff.
The fee is $38 per seat on the bus. You’ll purchase gate tickets when you arrive and don’t forget yen for food and souvenirs. Ticket prices are ¥3,900 (ages 12 and older) and ¥3,400 (ages 3-11).
Trips like this are usually an all-day affair getting you back to the air station early the next morning. But, with all that New Reoma has, it’s totally worth the time and effort.
7 AM - Depart Bldg. 411
11:30 AM - Arrive at New Reoma Resort
Enjoy lots of free time in the park. There are options for lunch that IT&T suggests:
11:30 AM - 2:30 PM - Lunch Buffet at Hotel Reoma no Mori
Price: ¥1,700 (Ages 12 and older), ¥1,200 (Ages 6-11), and ¥900 (Ages 3-5)
11:30 AM - Lunch Buffet at the resorts onsen*
Price: ¥2,100 (Ages 12 and older), ¥1,500 (Ages 6-11), and ¥1,200 (Ages 3-5)
*No Tattoos Allowed
8 PM - Depart New Reoma Resort
1 AM (next day) - Arrive Bldg. 411
Sometimes taking a trip with IT&T requires extended periods on a bus. When considering these trips, it’s a great idea to follow these easy tips for an enjoyable ride.
- Arrive on time for the bus. We’re all connected to the military in some way, so you know that if you’re on time, you’re late. Show up 15 minutes early.
- Typically when you sign up for an IT&T trip, you select the seats you want to occupy, please stick to the seating chart.
- Bring headphones, especially if you’re bringing your kiddos. Most folks have their portable movie and listening devices, but IT&T usually plays movies on these trips, so it’s good to bring headphones.
- If you require a car seat for a youngster, bring it. IT&T does not provide car seats.
- Alcohol consumption and intoxication are not authorized on the bus. These trips usually are family friendly and not frat house forays to Panama City Beach, so please act accordingly.
- Any inappropriate behavior is not tolerated and may subject the offender to the appropriate action. The last thing you need is PMO coming in and handling something we should all be able to do as adults.
Employee Spotlight - Ami Okido, Tour Guide, IT&T
Ami has been with MCCS since April 2016. She’s an Iwakuni native who worked in the airline industry before becoming a tour guide with IT&T.
She loves to travel and enjoys her position, “It’s fun being a tour guide for the American families who take our trips.”
The Single Marine Program has a Tokyo Fun Trip scheduled from FEB 27 - MAR 4. The trip is bookended with a 12-hour bus ride, but there are numerous stops and enlightening information along the way.
10 PM - Depart from Hornet’s Nest
10:15 PM - Arrive at Bldg. 411
10:30 PM - Depart from Bldg. 411
8 AM - Breakfast Stop at Asigara
11:30 AM - Arrive at Odaiba Mall for shopping. Take the time to check out the insanely tall Gundam statue.
2:30 PM - Depart Odaiba Mall
3 PM - Arrive at New Sanno Hotel
4:30 PM - Free Time
Free time in Tokyo
Points of interest: Shinjuku, Sky Tree, Toraya Asakusa, Tokyo Disney Sea, Toyosu Fish Market.
8 AM - Meet in hotel lobby with room key
8:45 AM - Depart hotel
11:30 PM - Arrive at MCAS Iwakuni
Usually I go to the library on the air station and pick up DVDs of locations in Tokyo that the servicemembers may like to visit while they are there and show them on the bus ride up.
Before a servicemember can attend, and depending on their unit, they need to be on special liberty or leave. Once you’re approved for the trip, make sure to attend the mandatory trip and safety brief held at the Hornet’s Nest on February 19 at 5:30 PM.
Once you’ve received your safety brief, start looking up things to do in Tokyo. You’ll be staying at the New Sanno hotel in Hiroo. The train station is walking distance and is a hub to get you anywhere you need to go in the city. If you have an ICOCA card, bring it. It will work in Tokyo.
Employee Spotlight - Tabitha Blanco & Shanae Anderson
The SMP’s dynamic duo is in the business of providing quality amenities to our men and women who come here unaccompanied or single.
Tabitha is the Recreation Assistant at the Hornet’s Nest, she’s been there for a year and a half and comes to Iwakuni by way of 29 Palms.
I love the opportunity that I get out of putting together itineraries and chaperoning trips. I like sharing information with our servicemembers, so they have a great experience on our trips.
Shanae is the Admin Specialist at the Hornet’s Nest. She’s been on staff for almost two years now and came here from Cherry Point.
The Single Marine Program team is amazing. When we work so hard together and for so long, we all start to feel like family.