The thought of heading to a theme park is always exciting. Who doesn’t love thrilling rides, spellbinding shows, enormous candy floss, and just being a little kid all over again? I for one, would never miss a chance to visit a theme park — especially a theme park like Universal Studios.
I visited my first Universal Studios as a 12-year old kid in Los Angeles. I remember the delight in watching my favorite movies come to life — and I will never forget how excited I was to sit in the DeLorean on the Back to the Future ride. Fast forward many, many years later; and my next Universal Studios visit was to the one in Singapore. This time, I got to visit my third Universal Studios — in Osaka, Japan; and I was just as excited as I was as a little girl. I would say, probably a lot more excited!
I was visiting Osaka, Japan with my mum and my teenage brother — and after exploring the city (read about Osaka here), and the nearby cities around Kansai (more here) and immersing ourselves in the Japanese culture for a couple of days, it was time to let loose and bring out our inner child (at least for my mum and I). We were staying a little out of central Osaka in Tennoji — but with the well-connected rail system in the city; our ride (with one station change) to Universal City Station took less than half an hour. From there, it was an easy stroll to the entrance of Universal Studios Japan.
Tickets and Express Pass
I’m glad I made the decision to buy our Universal Studios Japan tickets online at Klook (buy here). It saved us the hassle of lining up to buy them at the entrance, and guaranteed us a spot on the rides I wanted via the Express Pass. The Express Pass (for an extra fee, you can also buy it on Klook here) allows us to bypass the regular lines for selected rides, which means we get to skip the crazy queues and save a lot of time.
There are many different types of Express Passes — the Express Pass 4 allows faster access to 4 rides, and the Express Pass 7 allows 7 rides. The Express Pass 4 I purchased designated times for us to enter the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Minion Mayhem rides; and offered us the choice of two more rides — The Amazing Spiderman OR Jurassic Park Ride; and JAWS OR Terminator OR Backdraft. Limited number are released per day.
If you do not purchase the Express Pass — take note that during peak times, entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is by obtaining a free Timed Entry Ticket. You can get it inside the park at the designated ticket machines, and can only enter Harry Potter’s world at your allocated time. So head to those ticket machines first when you enter the park!
My Favourite Rides
Looking through the list of fun rides at the Universal Studios Japan — it was really hard to decide which rides I wanted to go to first! Since we had the Express Pass, I came up with a plan to leave the Express Pass rides for later; and line up for as many rides as we could in the beginning. I believe at the end of the day, we managed to get on most of the more popular and exciting rides in the park. Here are 3 of my favorites (excluding all things Harry Potter because that magical world deserves its own mention):-
Jurassic Park’s The Flying Dinosaur
I am a huge fan of roller coasters; and I have to say — of all the theme parks I have visited (and I believe I’ve been to quite a fair lot), this ride is most definitely my favorite roller coaster… EVER. Positioned at an angle as if I was actually flying, the roller coaster goes through loops and drops — and I have to admit that at the end of the ride, I was tearing. From the adrenaline, from the excitement, and because it was just so freaking amazing. I loved every minute of it, and if not for the queues — would have gone again and again.
Hollywood Dream – The Ride (and Backdrop)
This roller coaster gave me a rush of electricity through my entire body — it was so fast! I just went up and down and round and round and all I could hear was the wind and the Justin Timberlake song I chose from the list of 5 songs. I really Can’t Stop the Feeling of adrenaline that ran through my veins, really. There’s also a backwards version (called the Backdrop); but I was told (while lining up), that it really was your luck whether you get on the forward or backwards coaster.
I have to put this one on the list just because it is JAWS, and it brought back the memories of when I first sat on this (almost similar) ride during my childhood visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. We were ushered into a 20-seater boat and brought on a boat tour, until we get attacked by Jaws! The shooting and water-splashing effects are a little over the top — but what’s the movie business without some drama, eh? I had so much fun… laughing my head off.
The Amazing Spiderman and the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3D/4D rides were pretty enjoyable too — but the ultimate experience for powerful simulation effects goes to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Hands down.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
I’ve been a fan of Harry Potter for years and years and years — ever since I picked up that first book all those many years ago. So you can imagine my emotions as I finally made my way into Universal Studio Japan’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To actually see an actual Hogsmead and the magnificent Hogwarts Castle on the hill (other than the one in my head, and the one in the movies) left me gobsmacked. I was so thrilled to be able to visit a real Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes, drop by the Owl Post, choose a wand at Ollivander’s, drink a whole mug of Butterbeer, and explore the many mysteries of Hogwarts. I was finally a witch for 4 hours — wearing my self-knitted Gryffindor scarf, and armed with the magic of my childhood imagination from years ago.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
And of course, you have to sit on Harry Potter’s signature ride. The queue here is unbelievably long (at least a 2-hour wait), but thankfully we had our scheduled Express Pass to skip the lines. But even if you have to wait for this ride, you must wait. It is that good — and definitely the best ride in the entire Universal Studios Japan. I was left in awe as I spun and swirled around the state-of-the-art 4D effects that told the of the adventures of the ‘Boy Who Lived’. I felt like I was a part of the story, a part of the journey — from Dementors, to the Golden Stitch and all the characters I’ve come to love from the books. They were right there in front of my eyes. I didn’t want the ride to end!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the highlight of my day — and I stayed from daylight to night, just so I could witness the lights come on at Hogsmead. It just felt wonderful to be within the magic of the place. Oh, and if you’re looking for the most beautiful view of Hogwarts Castle and its glistening reflection in the lake — head to the outdoor area of the Three Broomsticks Tavern, via the gate just next to the restaurant. Trust me, you don’t wanna miss this photo-op!
My USJ Itinerary
The huge Universal Studios Japan sees constant updates, different parades and themes, as well as new ‘lands’ being introduced year after year. We visited in the autumn of 2017 (a month or so to Christmas so it was already pretty Christmassy) — and the Minion Land was the latest land to be introduced in the park. With our Express Pass in hand, this was our day’s itinerary.
9am – JURASSIC PARK
Upon entering, we headed straight to the Jurassic Park Land for the Jurassic Park Ride.
After the ride, I queued up for the Flying Dinosaur (making use of Single Rider).
11am – NEW YORK
Took some time to walk around the New York area for pictures, and a little shopping.
12pm – MINION PARK
Headed to the Minion Park, as our Express Pass for the Minion Mayhem ride was from 12:20-12:50.
It was fun to be surrounded by the Minions for the Minions Hacha Mecha Time.
LUNCH at Happiness Cafe for Minion Burgers and Omelette.
2pm – NEW YORK / HOLLYWOOD / AMITY VILLAGE
Just opposite the cafe was the Backdraft ride, so we went for it after lunch.
Headed back to New York for The Amazing Spiderman ride with our Express Pass.
Walked to Hollywood for Hollywood Dream The Ride (using Single Rider).
Watched the Parade as it made it way along the streets of Hollywood.
Dropped by Amity Village to sit on the JAWS ride with Express Pass.
4pm – THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
Express Pass entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was at 16:00.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride via the Express Pass was scheduled from 16:20-16:50.
Spent the rest of the evening inside the world of Harry Potter.
8.30pm – HOLLYWOOD
Performance and fireworks to end the night.
I had a fantastic time in Universal Studios Japan — from drinking butterbeer, to kissing Spiderman and my encounter with Jaws; it’s always a fun time being sucked into the world of the movies we love. If the opportunity ever arises and I find myself back in Osaka again — I’ll be back for sure!