Today I wanted to start my blog posts on theme parks in Japan, and how to get the best out of them. One of my favourites is Universal Studios in Osaka, mainly because I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd and it’s a must-visit destination for anyone that’s a fan. That being said, there is a lot to see and do at USJ, and while it’s not a traditionally ‘Japanese’ type of activity it’s still a fun day trip particularly if you have a reasonable amount of time in Japan (2.5-3 weeks.) Kids would love it too!
I would recommend buying USJ tickets in advance if possible, which are available on the Japanese version of the USJ website. There is an option to print out your tickets so you can avoid queues at the park entrance to buy tickets. Also, I highly recommend buying a form of the Fast Pass – this will allow you to join a Fast Pass queue for certain rides and allows you to make the most of the park especially on busy days. If you don’t speak Japanese you can try and fudge it with Google Translate. It’s a little complicated and long winded, so I’ll try and create a guide for it in the future, but I do believe it’s worth the effort.
There are a few exhibits on right now such as the Sailor Moon 4D cinema experience and a Monster Hunter walkthrough that are available for a limited time, and they often do seasonal events like this so be sure to check the website in advance to optimise what you’d like to see!
My top tip for going to USJ is check the crowd calendar! It’s in Japanese but you can translate it, and it really helps to avoid days where the park is likely to be jam-packed.
USJ is easily accessible from Osaka Station, and is about a 15 minute train journey. You get off at Universal City Station which leads you right up to the park entrance.
On arrival, you just need to show your ticket at the gate (or queue to buy one if you don’t have one!)
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your view) the weather was pretty terrible for us when we visited, and it was a weekday, which meant the park was very quiet indeed. Being from England, a bit of rain didn’t deter us and we were armed with our raincoats as planned. Also, we had a fast pass which sped things up even more!
The first thing we did was head to Harry Potter world – access to the area is time stamped most of the time, so you need to visit the kiosks outside to get a ticket with a time slot. Once you have the time slot, you simply return at that time and you’ll be granted entry! We used our Fast Pass to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride! It was super fun until the ride did an emergency stop RIGHT before we were about to be whomped by the Whomping Willow, and then unfortunately the ride wasn’t properly functional after that so part of the experience was lost… you think they’d let you have another go after that but they didn’t! 😦
Nevertheless, the area is a fantastic recreation, and includes the Hogwarts castle, the train and various shops from the series. We also went on the Hogwarts Castle tour which was great too, very authentic! Plus, Dawn French dubbed over in Japanese is very comical.
Merchandise in the various shops is of course, extremely expensive, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get myself a nice Slytherin scarf, which I still use even now!
I’ve been to the Harry Potter section of USJ twice now, the first time was so crammed there was no hope of getting in any of the shops or eateries, but this time we managed to get a seat at the Three Broomsticks and pick up a well-deserved Butterbeer! Which was delicious by the way – and non-alchoholic, definitely didn’t want a beer before my next set of rollercoasters.
At the time, the park also had a Monster Hunter exhibit which was very cool. I knew nothing about Monster Hunter then but it was still super impressive, and now I’m a huge fan of Monster Hunter World so have a deeper understanding of each monster and armour set!
The park also has an area dedicated to Hello Kitty, in which you can view various Hello Kitty fashion items and even get a picture with Hello Kitty yourself! They also did a steamed bun in the shape of Hello Kitty’s face… biting into it felt a bit brutal, but it sure was tasty!
The park has lots of different areas including a Jaws section, a Jurassic Park section, and then a bunch of other sections such as San Francisco, Hollywood and New York. They are honestly just fun to stroll around in and soak up the atmosphere! (Even if it is raining…)
I did the ‘Backdraft’ experience as it wasn’t busy, and that was fun as well. It’s like an interactive experience where stuff sets on fire! I had no idea what Backdraft was, my Mum said it’s an old film. (Sorry if you’re a fan!)
I also got to experience the Kyary Pamyu Paymyu VR Ride which was so fun – was super immersive and hilarious! I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it’s no longer available but you can see my snap of the fountain from outside, haha.
As I mentioned, USJ at the moment has something called ‘Cool Japan’ which is an exhibition featuring a few limited edition experiences, including a Final Fantasy VR Ride, a Detective Conan escape the room experience, a Sailor Moon 4-D Cinema and of course, a Monster Hunter World experience! I am going on my next trip, so I’ll be sure to update you on these new features!
If you do go on a hot day, especially if it’s crowded, please remember to take care of yourself! Wear suncream, drink plenty of water and stay in the shade if you need to for a while. It can get a bit much at the height of summer!
Overall, if you have quite a bit of time in Japan I’d recommend USJ especially if you are going to Japan as a family. Kids will surely have a fun time, and with the fast pass in hand you’ll skip the queues which can take hours otherwise. Save your precious time in Japan!
Hope this helps, and if you have any questions about USJ, ask away!
Ganbatte Girl x