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. 🙂
I don’t usually go to theme parks when I travel but your tips are awesome!
This is one of thousand places I would love to visit. 🙂 THank you for sharing this post with us.
Yes, I don’t usually go on weekends on parks and so, most of the people are there. 🙂
This is certainly at the upper half of my must-see list in Japan! And, OMG, ang daming tao!!!
Melissa the Mermaid ♥
Konti pa yan girl! haha! My officemate went on sakura season and 2 rides lang nasakyan niya buong araw and plus 4 hours papasok sa HP World.
Wow, this is like a one stop shop, everything is already here. I like how you relay your thoughts and how you make your Travel Guide, very concise, but informative and complete. I would love to try all the rides in there if I get the chance, for now I am enjoying seeing your photos and your beautiful smile on your photos.
Aw thanks Lai! Your travel guides are better!! And thanks for being sweet.
Your photos are so beautiful! I’ve always wanted to go to Wizarding World of Harry Potter so I’m so jealous! Hopefully someday I get to visit Universal Studios too. And I didn’t know they had New York and Hollywood parks, that’s amazing and yes, super instagram-worthy!! <3 -Dems | Electrick Cities
Actually most people go to theme parks without even knowing what to expect. I remember how naive I’am on my first theme park – Universal Studio Singapore, I didn’t got the chance to ride all the attractions. Kaya I did this so people can plan well. 🙂
I’ve been to Universal Studios Singapore years back and it was fun! USJ is a lot different and i think it was even more exciting! Would love to visit it too with my kids. I think i would love the Harry Potter World!
Japan ❤❤❤ there’s a special place Japan has in my heart. Been there for an exchange but I wasnt able to visit USJ. Looking forward to comeback and pay a visit for it. Been to USS and looking from your photos, USJ is better.
This is great! You just helped me talk my husband into go to Osaka in January. I hope we have as much fun as you did!
Love how detailed this post was! Universal Studios / Disney World / any big amusement park can be very overwhelming. It’s good to be able to prepare properly! Looks like you had a great time. 🙂
I agree with you,I am not fond of going to theme parks on weekends too! I find that theme parks are usually cramps during weekends and holidays and it will be more of a hassle than of a fun experience. I prefer to go on weekdays too, less people means less time wasted on lines 🙂
This is literally mind blowing I’m definitely sharing. I had no idea there was a Universal Studios in Japan let alone a Wizarding World!
I can’t believe how realistic everything looks! Now you are in Harry Potter’s world, next you find yourself in San Francisco… while you are in Japan! To be honest, I have never visited a theme parked before because all of my friends think it’s stupid. And I really, really want to go to Disneyland at least. But next year I am planning to visit Japan and alone or not, I have to visit the Universal Studios park. It looks awesome!
This will be my reference when I go to Japan. Thanks a lot for the info! Great shots by the way.
Thank you for sharing tips in USJ. We’re not really a fan of thrilling rides or exciting rides but whenever we’re out of the country, theme park is included in our itinerary. We’ve been to USS but we also want to visit USJ, we would love to see the Harry Potter too. I can relate with the shows because we went to Tokyo DisneySea last summer, there is no English version of the shows but we still enjoyed it. hehehe!
I’m 45 and LOVE theme parks! I have been to Universal Studios in Orlando, LA and Singapore. I was in Osaka and went to the city walk area and HRC but didn’t have the time to do the park justice. Keep riding those roller coasters!
Aaahhhh!!! Hoping I can experience Universal Studios in Orlando and LA. I saw Orlando’s HP World and they even have diagon alley. I really should start saving for a US trip. 😂
I love this post. Very comprehensive guide i must say. I was enjoying it as if I was there with you as i read it. Been to USOrlando last summer and took that unforgettable Harry Potter ride too. I’m not into RIDES co Ive got motion sickness, Iwas with my husband and we had to take turns since we have a baby with us, so you can just imagine how scary it was for me to be out there on my own. But the ride was worth it.
Does US Orlando has the Forbidden journey ride too? That ride is one of the books. Theme park is harder with a baby that’s why I wanted to visit it all while I’m single. 😂😂
I totally love theme parks. I mean the experience you just shared is so fascinating. I would totally love to visit one. Disney land obviously is on number one on my list.
Bucket list… I am headed there to Osaka in March and I hope to be able to go here too… it is so impressive… but before that, let me head over to USS Sentosa again next week for my 3rd time… LOL… Thanks for this… I do so need this and noted on going on a weekday…..I missed my chance at Disneyland Tokyo the last time because it was a Sunday… huhuhu
You’re going to osaka on March. Please don’t miss this. I enjoyed USS as well esp. the transformer ride. I’ll be going back there next year too.
USJ is and will always be one of my favorite places in Japan <3 This post pretty much reminded me that I need to go back soon!!!
This is definitely part of my bucket list! When baby number two is out and we can already travel, we will visit Japan soon after HK. I just hope things will fall on its proper places by that time. This place really looks very interesting especially for the kids.
Aw congratulations on your baby number 2!! It will. The kids will love the wonderland. It has Hello Kitty & sesame streets.
I think we will have died and gone to heaven if we get a chance to go here. I already see what we would prioritize. You give such excellent tips that I’d like to see your other travel posts. The price is a hefty one but seeing all your pics is no wonder. It’s like you actually stepped into those places. So awesome!
Aw thank you Louisa. It is really expensive that why we must experience it to the fullest. 🙂 what would you prioritize?
Ahhh ang ganda! Haaay hanggang tingin lang muna ako kasi di pa afford mag travel abroad. Haha!
Soon girl. Soon. When baby boy is bigger na. 🙂
I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve been to Universal Studios in Florida two years ago. And I would really like to visit the other Universal studio parks as well. I really like the Jurassic Park movies. I’ve been in the Jurrassic Park ride as well in Forida. SO I would love to try this one as well. And wow… A back to the future ride. I would love to see that one so much!! Great.
I love theme parks too and the last time I was able to check out Universal Studios Singapore was almost 5 yrs ago. I was lucky enough to visit there and shoot an engagement session. It was both work and play for me so we did try a lot of the rides there and skipped some too unfortunately. Back then though, there weren’t any Harry Potter castle (Hogwarts) yet and it has been a long time since I checked out USS. Hoping and praying I get to bring my family there someday.
Let’s just say Php4000 in total (rounded off), I guess it’s enough as a reward for a once in a while experience. It’s just that, only if it is just easy to make that happen. Oh well, Universal Studios is just one of the theme parks not just kids but also kids at heart would love to see. Only if I can make an instant visit, I’ll surely won’t think twice visiting Japan!!!
The theme park is huge, I think it’s worth the money. A very insightful and amusing guide, I’m grateful as we will be going to theme parks in Gold Coast this weekend. Very clear photos too, nicely done!
Is it worth it if we will visit USJ and Tokyo Disneyland on the same week? Also, some have been recommending Disney Sea, while some says Disneyland. It’s hard to choose! Hahaha. Reading your post makes me want to go there already. And great pictures!
It is worth it! The two is so much different naman. If I could, I would but it is holiday and weekend in Tokyo nung pumunta kami so I doubt na I’ll be able to enjoy Disney with all the people. Always go on a weekday and I vote for Disney Sea! 🙂
I remember when I was super excited to visit Japan, and I’m really following your posts about your trip then biglang naging Korea ung plan namin, tapos na-cancel din. Hahaha! I want to visit Japan talaga. Huhuhu.
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