I’m maybe 23 but I still won’t miss going to the theme parks when I travel abroad. I’m a sucker for roller coasters and any thrilling rides. I have been to multiple theme parks in different countries already that I knew how long queues can eat my time but also, through experience, I learned some skills on how to maximize my time inside. So here’s my experience, and somehow a guide, on how to do Universal Studios Japan (USJ).
Note: If you’ve been to Universal Studios Singapore, you’ll definitely have an advantage!
How To Get There:
Ride a train to Nishikujo station via the Osaka Loop Line. From Nishikujo station, transfer to Yumesaki Line bound to Sakurajima and go down at Universal City Station. Here’s a link to how to go there from different areas.
You can also read my previous post Japan: Airfare, Visa, Budget & Travel Guides.
Things you need to know
When to go. Number one rule: never go on a weekend. I picked Tuesday and it’s a wise decision. If you’re going on sakura season, I advised you to get an express pass.
Where to buy passes. It is always better to purchase your passes in advance to avoid long lines. But unlike other theme parks, you can’t buy a USJ 1 day pass online. You can only purchase it on the theme park’s Japanese website. But don’t lose hope, you can purchase passes ahead of time with these accredited travel agencies. (Pinoy travelers, get yours at Reli tours) Or you can just allot some time before the opening hours to buy.
How much. A 1-day pass costs 7,400 yen. (approx. 3,100 pesos or $75) Additional cost will be added to the 1 day pass if you’re availing express passes. Types of express passes can be seen here. So if you’re getting an Express 7 for 6,900 Yen, you’re total ticket will cost 14,300 yen ($143). Expensive I know.
What time to go. You can check their website for the park hours because it varies every day. I advised you to go there one hour early because most of the time its already open before the said opening hour.
PREPARING FOR USJ
Before even setting foot on USJ, I know the place already by heart because I’ve downloaded the map and did my research on the attractions. I wanted to make the most of my P3,000 by riding and experiencing everything.
People have this habit of riding all the minor attractions first then leaving the majors in the afternoon. Break that. By experience, thrilling rides are mostly the ones who have the longest waiting hours and that afternoon is the most crowded time. So, prioritize this major rides first early morning (45 minutes maximum waiting time). By afternoon, it will increase to 2.5 to 4 hours waiting time. Don’t waste your time in that and come back for it before the closing time when people subside. In USJ, the major thrilling rides are Hollywood Dream, Harry Potter the Forbidden Journey & The Jurassic Park Dinosaur Ride.
Skipped all the theater and street shows because there’s no English version of it. But if you don’t mind watching even you can’t understand, prioritize Terminator 3D and Backdraft. If you’ve been to USS before and saw Waterworld, you can skip that too because it is exactly the same.
Take note of the parade route and time. The parade is done around Hollywood and New York. Watch it in front of Spiderman 4D ride and a few minutes before its end, when everyone is still busy with the parade, sneak your way to the ride.
UNIVERSAL STUDIO JAPAN AREAS
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This Harry Potter World in USJ is the most accessible place for Asian Potterheads to be like real wizard students of Hogwarts. I grew up with Harry Potter, sometimes I write stories of me being the fourth main cast (haha). So seeing the Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade made me emotional. My 9-year-old self-had surely died.
Harry Potter World is the most famous area that has an admission control where people need to get tickets of the time they can enter. So the first thing I did when I set foot to USJ is run for my tickets. Luckily, it is not crowded enough for admission control. And that is one reason why you need to go on a weekday.
The long walk to the gates of Hogwarts, with the Harry Potter theme song as background music, already gave me goosebumps. What I didn’t know is something more magical awaits behind the gates. I was transported to Hogwarts, an Asian edition. It’s hard not to go door to door with the shops but I remained focus on my goal to ride the major attraction of Forbidden Journey. (30 minutes waiting time is a score)
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 4k3D is inside the meticulous recreated Hogwarts castle. All your things will be asked to be put in their provided lockers hence my no photos. I pass through Dumbledore’s office, common rooms and classrooms before finally reaching the ride. It is a lot like Transformers 4D of USS. The ride will complete your Hogwarts experience with all its realistic journey. MUST. NOT. BE. MISSED.
There’s another ride, Flight of Hippogriff, that I didn’t ride because it’s a family-friendly ride and has 45 minutes waiting time. I decided to just explore Hogsmeade.
The Amity Village is the next area after Harry Potter World. I was supposed to skip this first and go directly to Jurassic Park’s Flying Dinosaur. But my dad insisted on riding the Jaws attraction given that it only has 15 minutes waiting time. Jaws is a boat tour ride where you have to escape from an attacking shark. It may sound boring but their special effects are good that it entertained me. (given that I can’t understand our guide)
I don’t have any photos in Jurassic Park because it’s already noon and I’m starting to be hangry and people are starting to double. There are two attractions in the area – The Flying Dinosaur and Jurassic Park The Ride. I skipped the Jurassic Park the Ride because I rode it back in USS. It exactly the same ride where you will get wet. I went straight to Flying Dinosaur but it already has a 2 hours waiting time. Lesson learn? Skip Jaws and go straight here first.
San Francisco area has a lot of restaurants and goods store. I saw my first and last street show here – Minions Boo-yah Repairs. People of different ages are flocking around them laughing and I stood there clueless on what’s happening. Maybe I should consider learning Nihongo. The two rides, Back to the Future and Backdraft, are both okay to miss but the queue is not the long to not try it. After all, most of the attractions are already 2 hours+ waiting time.
My favorite area will be New York because it’s so Instagram-worthy and it’s my dream American city. We decided to wait for the Reborn parade here and met a fellow Filipino family to watch it with. Their parade is actually a party turned into a flash mob. They encouraged people to dance with them and their lively song made it hard to resist. While people are still busy with the parade, we sneaked out to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 4k3D ride. The concept is the same with Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey except that here you’ll be Spiderman swinging around New York.
You’ll never miss Hollywood because it’s the first thing you’ll see upon entrance to USJ. With its iconic palm trees and Wall of Fame, Hollywood offers the two major attractions in the theme park – Hollywood Dream Ride and Backdrop. No one wants to ride it with me so again I rode it alone. (I’m an expert on riding exhilarating rides alone haha) Both rollercoasters have a waiting time of 3 hours so I settled for the single rider line (only Backdrop has it) which is a lot faster, only 10 minutes to be exact.
Backdrop is a freaking bad choice because it is a backward rollercoaster and I can’t see if I’m already on top so I can prepare for the fall. The seat even has a speaker where you can hear heartbeats making me question my decision making skills. So with a stranger-I-can’t-hold-hands-with beside me, I just focus on the view of whole USJ. Until I’m dropped. The difference here is that I’m looking at the sky as I fall which made me imagine I’m an angel falling. The fall is not as high as the Hong Kong’s Abyss and Seoul’s T Express that I recover instantly after the first fall. I got to enjoy the view and promised myself a solo travel soon in the whole ride. Yes, I do reflect on myself on rollercoasters.
I skipped Waterworld because I’ve seen it in USS, Universal Wonderland because I don’t have a kid that will play with the sesame street, and Universal Cool Japan because I don’t know the anime featured.
At night, check out Hogwarts again with its magical glow and don’t miss the A Magical Starlight Parade too. Also, you can also go check out the attractions you missed because of long lines since people are lesser at night.
I know this has been a long post and I wanted to show you guys more photos but I haven’t purchased Fufi (my Fujifilm X-A2) that time yet. But I hope you got a glimpse of Universal Studios Japan and an idea on how to plan your time inside.
Summary of Expenses (in pesos)
Train to Universal City Station – P85 (included in JR Pass)
Breakfast at Mcdonald’s – P250
USJ 1 Day Pass – P3,100
USJ souvenir – P250
**Food inside the theme park is 3 times expensive so we brought some Mcdonald’s burger inside. I’m not quite sure if it’s allowed or not but I hid it inside my bag. (#ninja moves)
If you’re going soon, you can hit me up on comments for questions. 🙂