How to Buy Universal Studios Japan Tickets for 2020 plus BONUS Definitive USJ Guide!

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When planning our recent trip to Japan, a visit to Universal Studios Japan was one of the very first experiences included on our itinerary. We had already visited Universal Studios Osaka once before, however did not realise that Express Passes existed until a few days prior to our visit. Unfortunately the Express Passes were already sold out by the time we looked into it. While we still had a lot of fun, we went on a very busy day and missed out on a lot of rides and attractions due to seemingly endless queues for the most popular experiences. This trip we were determined not to repeat our previous mistake and made early arrangements through Voyagin to buy our Universal Studios Japan tickets and USJ Express Passes for each of us.

To help you plan your visit to USJ we have detailed below the different ticket and Express Pass options to help you choose the best option for your visit.  And as a free bonus to help you to plan your visit we have also included our definite guide to USJ to help you learn more about the different rides, where to eat and shop and how to get there.  This is a long article, so make sure you use the Table of Contents below to skip to the sections of interest!

Note that our Universal Studios Japan tickets were sponsored by Voyagin but our opinions are our own.

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Universal Studios Japan Tickets

USJ tickets can be bought when you arrive at Universal Studios Japan. However, unless you love queuing, our pro tip is to buy your tickets online ahead of time. You can buy your tickets through the USJ booking site but it’s quicker and easier to buy them through a reputable online travel agency.

Our preferred online ticket provider is Voyagin. Voyagin is an internet-based travel agency that helps travellers book a huge range of Japanese tours and activities online. They are owned by Rakuten which is a massive Japan based e-commerce and internet company. Voyagin is an official partner of Universal Studios Japan.

Voyagin has a great Universal Studios Japan page where you can enter the date you plan to visit and it will show you all of the Express Passes and Special Events still available for that date.  You can then select the Express Pass or special event of interest, and once you have placed it into your shopping cart Voyagin then offers add ons including your entry pass and other available options.

Click here to check out and purchase your Universal Studios Japan Studio Pass and skip the queue Express Passes through Voyagin

Universal Studios Japan Price

Studio Pass (park admission) tickets are based on a three-tier (A, B and C) pricing structure. A, B, and C passes are identical except for seasonal pricing differences:

  • Category A passes are for non-peak times. They cost 7 400 yen for adults (12 and over) and 5 100 yen for children (aged 4 to 11).
  • Category B passes are for shoulder periods and cost 8 200 yen for adults and 5 600 yen for children.
  • Category C passes are for peak periods. They cost 8 900 yen for adults and 6 100 yen for children.

There are also 2-day passes if you want to spend longer at Universal Studios Japan.

Check out the official Universal Studios Japan Studio Pass Price Calendar to help you work out when Category A, B and C pricing applies.

NOTE: Studio Passes don’t include Universal Express Passes which need to be purchased separately. They also don’t include Timed Entry Tickets for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which comes as part of most Universal Express Passes).

Studio Pass
Studio Pass

Buy Your USJ Studio Pass Through Voyagin

We recommend buying USJ passes through Voyagin rather than buying tickets at the gate. The ticket price through Voyagin is the same as buying at the gate but you will get instant confirmation of your purchase and will then receive an e-ticket within minutes. By buying tickets in advance, you won’t have to spend time queuing to buy tickets which can be a big headache, particularly on busy days. Instead, all you have to do is show your e-ticket when you arrive and stroll straight past people lining up to buy tickets.

USJ Express Pass Guide

Universal Studios Japan doesn’t have a free line-skipping system such as the Fast Pass at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Instead, USJ has various Express Passes which need to be purchased in addition to a standard Studio Pass. An Express Pass on its own doesn’t give you admission to Universal Studios Japan.

An Express Pass is a fantastic queue-jumping tool. With an Express Pass in your hand, you will spend far less time waiting in seemingly endless lines and far more time enjoying the various rides and other attractions at USJ. An Express Pass not only significantly shortens wait times in queues but it also includes a timed entry ticket to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You can buy express passes at the park or from USJs partner hotels. However, it makes the most sense to buy the Express Passes in advance as there is only a limited supply of Express Passes for each day. It is very likely they will have been sold before you visit particularly if you are visiting at a peak time. Express Passes will not be available on the day from ticket booths or partner hotels if they have all been sold out beforehand.

Looking down Hollywood Boulevard
Looking down Hollywood Boulevard

How does an Express Pass work?

The Express Pass ticket can be printed out and includes details of the attractions included, timed entry ride details, conditions associated with the pass, and QR codes. Not all rides on the express pass have a timed entry window. The time windows for timed window rides are automatically generated.

You have to visit timed-entry rides within the time windows on your Express Pass and each person in your group must have an Express Pass. Express Passes can’t be shared with other people. When you arrive at a ride’s Express Pass entrance, you present your pass to am attendant who will scan the QR code and you can then join the Express Pass queue. Close to the boarding point of the ride, the express pass queue will merge with the regular line. As a rough guide, by taking the Express Pass line you can expect at least half the wait time or better compared to the normal line.

Express Pass Cost

The pricing of Express Passes can be quite confusing. Firstly, there are different types of Express Passes that cover anything from 3 to 7 attractions. The more expensive Express Passes cover more rides. Secondly, during peak periods you will pay more for an Express Pass compared to off-peak periods.

If you buy a 2-day Studio Pass as well as an Express Pass, the Express Pass is only valid for the day printed on the Express Pass ticket, not both days of the Studio Pass.

USJ Express Pass Options

There are three main types of Universal Studio Japan Express Pass: Universal Express Pass 3, Universal Express 4, and Universal Express Pass 7. Not all express passes include timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

TOP TIP: If you buy an Express Pass, you could get two timed entries to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You get one timed entry with most Express Passes. Then, you can also get an additional timed-entry pass when at Universal Studios Japan by showing your Studio Pass at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Numbered Ticket Booth in the San Francisco section of the park.

Express Passes normally become available two to three months ahead of when you want to visit USJ. Voyagin has a great Express Pass Demand Calendar which includes pricing information for each Express Pass types as well as advising whether certain passes are sold out.

NOTE: The included attractions in each Express Pass can change over time. Check the Express Pass you are interested before you buy to make sure it includes the rides you want. Also, visit the USJ attractions page to see if rides and attractions you are wanting to try are temporarily closed.

Universal Express Pass 3

Universal Express Pass 3 shortens your waiting time for three attractions:

  • The Flying Dinosaur
  • Space Fantasy – The Ride. When we visited, Space Fantasy had been temporarily transformed into Lupin the Third Car Chase XR Ride as part of Cool Japan 2019.
  • Either Jurassic Park: The Ride OR Jaws OR Backdraft.
Welcome to the Flying Dinosaur
Welcome to the Flying Dinosaur

It doesn’t include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It also doesn’t include timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Express Pass 4

There are four different Universal Express Pass 4 choices. Three of these (Express Pass 4 Space Fantasy, Express Pass 4 Minion Ride and Express Pass 4 The Flying Dinosaur) share three common ride options:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman OR Hollywood Dream – The Ride
  • Jaws OR Backdraft OR Terminator 2
Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Entrance to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman

The only ride that varies for these three Express Pass choices are:

  • Express Pass 4 Space Fantasy – Space Fantasy – The Ride
  • Express Pass 4 Minion Ride – Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Express Pass 4 The Flying Dinosaur – The Flying Dinosaur

The final Express Pass 4 option (Express Pass 4 Sing on Tour) differs quite a bit from the other Express Pass 4 options. It doesn’t include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It also doesn’t include timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Express Pass 4 Sing on Tour includes: (1) Sing on Tour + (2) Despicable Me – Minion Mayhem +  (3) The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman OR Jurassic Park – The Ride + (4) Backdraft OR Terminator 2.

Universal Express Pass 7

There are four different Universal Express Pass 7 choices. Six out of the seven rides are the same for every type of Express Pass 7. The common ride options are as follows:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman OR Jaws
  • Hollywood Dream – The Ride OR Backdraft
  • Jurassic Park – The Ride OR Terminator 2
Hagrid's motorbike in queue for Flight of the Hippogriff
Hagrid’s motorbike in queue for Flight of the Hippogriff

The only ride that varies for the four Express Pass 7 options are:

  • Universal Express Pass 7 Space Fantasy – Space Fantasy – The Ride
  • Universal Express Pass 7 Backdrop – Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop
  • Universal Express Pass 7 The Flying Dinosaur – The Flying Dinosaur
  • Universal Express Pass 7  Sing on Tour – Sing on Tour

Harry Potter Premium Set

Another interesting Express Pass option if you are obsessed with Harry Potter but aren’t particularly excited by the other rides and attractions at USJ is the Harry Potter Premium Set. This package includes a:

  • 1-day Studio Pass
  • Express Pass access to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as well as Flight of the Hippogriff
  • A magic wand from Ollivanders
A wand selecting a wizard at Ollivanders
A wand selecting a wizard at Ollivanders

Royal Studio Pass

If cost is no issue but you are time-poor, another Express Pass type is the Royal Studio Pass. Unlike the other Express Passes, it includes a Studio Pass. It includes timed entry to the following rides:

  • Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Flight of the Hippogriff
  • Space Fantasy
  • Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop
  • The Flying Dinosaur
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

You can also enjoy unlimited priority access to the following rides:

  • Hollywood Dream – The Ride
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Terminator 2
  • JAWS
  • Backdraft
  • Jurassic Park – The Ride

The Royal Studio Pass also provides VIP entry to the WaterWorld show and Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show.

Unlike other Express Passes, with a Royal Studio Pass you are given individual tickets for the timed entry rides which must be removed by ride attendants before joining an Express Pass queue.  In the below image you start from the bottom and then work your way up!

Royal Studio Pass Timed Entry Tickets
Royal Studio Pass Timed Entry Tickets

For the rides with unlimited priority access, you simply show a Royal Studio Pass wristband to the ride attendants.

Royal Studio Pass Wristband
Royal Studio Pass Wristband

Is a Universal Express Pass Worth It?

When deciding whether to buy an Express Pass you have to consider the importance of your time versus the cost of the Express Pass. Travelling can be expensive and almost everyone will be looking to save money whenever they’re able to. On the other hand, most of us only have a limited amount of days we can go on holiday and so want to make the most of our time. Express Passes are a method to save you a lot of time but they can also cost quite a lot of money.

Therefore, it’s important to know when it makes the most sense to buy an Express Pass. There are two situations where an express pass should almost be a mandatory purchase:

(a) Extremely busy days

An Express Pass is close to a mandatory buy on a busy day at Universal Studios Japan unless the cost of an Express Pass is beyond your budget. You will not regret buying an Express Pass as you will experience so much more with much less stress and they can turn a potentially frustrating day into an amazing day.

Universal Studios Japan is one of the popular theme parks in the world. On busy days, you can easily spend 3-4 hours in a queue for the most popular rides. On our first trip to Universal Studios Japan we didn’t have Express Passes. We got to the park before 8:30 am and went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had a 30-minute queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and then had a 60-minute wait for Flight of the Hippogriff.

When we finished that ride, the wait times for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey were nudging four hours. By 1:30 pm, the crowds at USJ were becoming pretty intense. Over the next six hours, we managed to go on two more rides – Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: 3D and left at around 8 pm. We spent over 11 hours at Universal Studios on a busy day and experienced four attractions plus a parade.

The day was still magical because of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter but without our Harry Potter experience, we would have left USJ feeling disappointed.

Queuing for Forbidden Journey
Queuing for Forbidden Journey

You can check out how busy USJ should be by using a crowd forecasting calendar such as this one or this one. Otherwise, try to avoid peak times such as school holidays, public holidays (such as Golden Week) and weekends. Monday is the worst weekday to visit and Tuesday to Friday are generally the best weekdays. Here is a link with details for public and school holidays.

(b) If you can only spend one day at USJ and you want to fit in as much as possible

Our second visit to Universal Studios Japan was on 24 April 2019. Using the past congestion calendar, the day of our visit was a very quiet day.

If we had more time we could have managed without an express pass. However, in our case, we wanted to fit in as many rides as possible into a very short amount of time (about 5 hours) because we had a long train ride ahead of us that afternoon. With our Royal Passes, we experienced 10 attractions in a very short amount of time including almost all the most popular rides. We never felt stressed, we still managed a pretty leisurely amount of time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we had time to buy snacks, lunch and souvenirs.

We went on easily more than double the amount of rides and attractions than we could have possibly managed without the Express Pass.

Is an Express Pass still worth it in other situations

Regardless of whether you visit Universal Studios Japan in a low, shoulder or peak time, a USJ Express Pass saves you time. I did some number crunching using past congestion calendars for August/September 2019 combined with graphs that showed average wait times for USJ rides over three weeks from 25 August 2019 to 14 September 2019 for seven more popular rides. For a pretty busy day, an average crowd day, and a quiet day this is what I came up with:

  • Pretty busy day (26 August 2019, 66 points) – Combined average wait time for seven rides was 679 minutes or 11.3 hours.
  • Average day (31 August 2019, 53 points) – Combined average wait time for seven rides was 440 minutes or 7.3 hours.
  • Quiet day (4 September 2019, 28 points) – Combined average wait time for seven rides was 381 minutes or 6.35 hours.
USJ Rides and Shows Wait Time Sign
USJ Rides and Shows Wait Time Sign

Looking at this data, even on a quiet day, you could easily spend 6 or more hours in queues. An Express Pass on a quiet day could easily halve the amount of time spent in a queue. However, on a quiet day, you should still be able to experience a lot even without the Express Pass. Here’s what one of our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group members had to say about visiting USJ on a quiet day without an Express Pass, “I definitely recommend being strategic about the time of year and the day of the week you go. We went mid-August on a Thursday. We didn’t have the express but we managed to ride all rides and our favourite ones twice (Harry Potter and Flying Dinosaur).”

In summary, I feel that Express Passes are totally worth it in most cases if you can afford it but the case for buying becomes more marginal on quieter days. Here are some other recent comments from some of our Facebook group members about their experience with an Express Pass:

  • I totally recommend the Express Pass. Today the park was super crowded and if we didn’t get the Express Passes we would have only ridden 2 rides.
  • We purchased the Express Pass when we visited and were so happy and relieved that we had done so! The queues are just incredible.
  • Express was definitely worth it, then do the ones you didn’t have a pass for in the afternoon, the lines go down heaps.

Here’s a quote from someone who didn’t have an Express Pass:

  • The wait time was crazy for so many of the rides! We went on Tuesday and it was so busy. We thought it would be quiet after the public holiday on Monday. We’ve been to the one in LA and the longest we had to wait for a ride was about 30 mins…most were around 15 mins. I kind of wish we hadn’t wasted a day at the Japan one.

Are There Other Ways to Save Time at USJ?

While I strongly recommend buying an Express Pass, there are other ways to save time at USJ.

Buy your tickets ahead of time

If you buy your Studio Pass ahead of time through Voyagin you don’t have to waste any time standing in line to buy tickets when you get to the park. You can then use this time saved to dash to the ride you want to try the most before it gets too busy or get a free timed entry pass to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Arrive at Universal Studios Japan before the official opening time

The gates at USJ often open before their official opening time which is what happened on our first visit to Universal Studios Japan so make sure you arrive 30 minutes or more before the official opening time. Getting in early before the official start time means that you can get a headstart on other people and make the most of your time.

Universal Studios sign at the park entrance
Universal Studios sign at the park entrance

An even better option is to buy a Studio Pass bundled with a VIP wristband which will allow you to enter the park 15 minutes before everyone else, even those people who arrive early. Entering 15 minutes before everyone else will allow you to visit at least one or two rides before they get busy and/or give you time to pick up a timed entry to Harry Potter.

However, be aware that if you are planning to arrive early and race to your favourite ride, the most popular rides get busy quite early. For example, on 14 September 2019 (a slightly below-average crowd day) here were the wait times at 9 am for three of the more popular rides:

  • The Flying Dinosaur – 85 minute wait time at 9 am.
  • Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop – 90 minute wait time at 9 am.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – 54 minute wait time at 9 am and a 75 minute wait time at 10 am.
Hollywood Dream
Hollywood Dream

Use the Single Rider lines at Universal Studios Japan

Think about using the Single Rider line if you don’t mind splitting up your group. Six of the more popular rides at USJ have Single Rider lines which could save you a lot of time. The rides that have single rider lines are clearly marked on the Universal Studios Japan map.

Use a wait time app to plan your day

There are a number of wait time apps for Universal Studios Japan that can help you make the most use of your time. This strategy is not foolproof as some rides can stay busy throughout the day, and it can also be hard to get your timing right. However, wait times for rides do ebb and flow throughout the day, particularly later in the day. By keeping an eye on ride wait times, you can sometimes get in the queue for a ride when it is less busy.

Here are two wait time apps that we have used:

Child Switch

This is not really a time-saving idea but it might save your sanity. Twenty-two rides and attractions at Universal Studios Japan offer Child Switch. Child Switch allows one parent or carer to ride an attraction while the other person stays in a special waiting area to look after your child. Then, when the ride has finished, the other person can ride the attraction without having to go back to the start of the general queue. Check out the park map to find out which attractions offer Child Switch.

How to Order Universal Studios Japan Tickets through Voyagin

The first step to order your Universal Studios Japan tickets through Voyagin is to click on the link below.  After you click through, also keep an eye out for the regular Voyagin coupon code deals which could make your tickets even cheaper!  Below is a screenshot of the main Voyagin USJ page.  First enter your planned to date to visit USJ, and you will then be able to quickly see the prices for studio entry for that date, plus which Express Passes and special event passes are available for that date.

Click here to check out price and availability of Universal Studios Japan tickets through Voyagin

Voyagin USJ Studio Entry Pass and Express Pass Purchase Page
Voyagin USJ Studio Entry Pass and Express Pass Purchase Page

BONUS! Definitive Guide to Universal Studios Japan

In this section you can learn more about Universal Studios Japan to help you plan your visit.  The sections include an overview of how to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, other USJ rides, where to eat, where to shop, what shows to watch, and how to get there from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka!

How to Buy Universal Studios Japan Tickets plus BONUS Definitive USJ Guide!
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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Japan

A visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter should be a must for all Harry Potter fans (die-hard or casual). Even if you are interested in nothing else at USJ Harry Potter is a good enough reason to visit Universal Studios Japan. Our family love theme parks are we are also massive and unashamed Harry Potter nerds, therefore it was inevitable that we were going to visit USJ on our first trip to Japan. On our first visit to USJ, we didn’t manage to get Express Passes because we tried to buy them after they had already sold out. Therefore, on arrival at the park, we immediately went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and managed to get in without timed-entry tickets.

The entrance to Harry Potter World Japan is very cleverly designed to make it feel like a completely different place to the rest of USJ and certainly built our level of anticipation even before entering Hogsmeade Village. With the mystical music of Hedwig’s Theme wafting through the air, we first passed the Stone Circle.

Stone Circle
Stone Circle

Our excitement built further as we continued along the tree-lined path before coming across the fantastic Flying Ford Anglia, complete with flashing lights, used to rescue Harry in the Chamber of Secrets.

Ron's Flying Ford Anglia
Ron’s Flying Ford Anglia

We then passed through the archway to Hogsmeade and saw the Hogwart’s Express train on the right and the snow-covered village. The moment when we first saw Hogwart’s was pure magic, a moment I will never forget. I was like a little kid all over again. This was just the start of a fantastic 4-5 hours enjoying everything that Harry Potter Japan had to offer.

Timed Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You can enter Harry Potter World when the park is quieter without a timed entry pass. However, when timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in place because the park is busy, it’s not possible to enter without a Timed Entry Ticket. You can pick up free Timed Entry tickets from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Numbered Ticket Booth in Central Park which is within the San Francisco section of the park.

However, waiting to get Timed Entry Tickets at the park can not only waste time, particularly when queues are long, but there is also a chance you can miss out. There are only a limited number of Timed Entry Tickets per day in order to manage crowds. It’s so much easier and safer to get Timed Entry Tickets in advance as part of an Express Pass or the Harry Potter Set to give you guaranteed entry to Harry Potter World Japan.

Welcome to Hogsmeade Village
Welcome to Hogsmeade Village

We haven’t tried it but you also might be able to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice if you have a Timed Entry Pass as part of an Express Pass. You could collect one Timed Entry Ticket from the Harry Potter ticket booth by showing your Studio Pass, and then use the Timed Entry ticket that comes with your Express Pass to re-enter a second time. You could then visit Hogsmeade and Hogwarts in the morning and again in the late afternoon or evening to catch the sunset over Hogsmeade or watch the light show.

Head to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

My top recommendation when visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is to race to the rides, particularly if you don’t have Express Passes.

On our first visit to USJ, it was tempting to first wander around Hogsmeade Village and this is what many people do. However, we went straight to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Even though we got in before the park officially opened, we had a 30-minute wait before getting on this ride (without an Express Pass). We then lined up for Flight of the Hippogriff which already had a wait time over 60 minutes, even though it is a less popular ride. When we finished Flight of the Hippogriff, the wait times for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey had soared close to four hours.

Queuing for Forbidden Journey
Queuing for Forbidden Journey

If you have an Express Pass and get to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey quick enough, you might be able to score two turns on this fantastic ride, the first turn without using an Express Pass and then using your Express Pass for a second turn.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, you really cannot miss Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. While “The Flying Dinosaur” and “Hollywood – The Dream” were standout rides, the Forbidden Journey was our best overall ride experience. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a five-time winner (2011-2015) of the Golden Ticket Awards best dark ride and is most definitely one of our all-time favourite theme park rides.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is one of those very rare rides where I am happy spending time in a queue to enjoy the many faithfully recreated areas in Hogwarts Castle. Some of the sights you can enjoy include the beautiful house point hourglasses, Dumbledore’s office, the Defence against the Dark Arts classroom, Gryffindor’s common room, the talking portraits and the Sorting Hat. Two of my favourite areas were the Gryffindor common room and the moving and talking portraits. I particularly liked the Fat Lady’s portrait played by Dawn French, one of my favourite comedy actresses.

Hogwarts
Hogwarts

The ride itself is brilliant. The robotic ride vehicles, detailed sets, sophisticated animatronics, sound and 4d effects, video projections and incredibly smooth motion simulation technology combines together to create a fantastically immersive ride. You also no longer have to wear 3D glasses. The ride uses 4K-HD film projecting at 120 frames per second which makes for much sharper and more realistic video imagery.

During the ride, you will swoop over Hogwarts Castle, zoom down towards Black Lake, get far too close to an enormous dragon, have an up-close encounter with Aragog and his family, narrowly miss getting smashed by the Whomping Willow, become part of a Quidditch game, and finally get chased by dozens of devilish dementors.

Flight of the Hippogriff

Flight of the Hippogriff is a much tamer experience compared to the Forbidden Journey. This junior coaster provides family-friendly fun but doesn’t get your heart racing. The ride provides some swoops, twists and dives but for me, the best part was the views over Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village. You can also take plenty of good photos such as Hagrid’s motorbike and sidecar while queuing. If it’s part of your Express Pass, give Flight of the Hippogriff. Otherwise, it’s not worth queuing much more than 30 minutes for.

Flight of the Hippogriff
Flight of the Hippogriff

Black Lake

A feature unique to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USJ is the Black Lake. It is impressively atmospheric and makes for great photo opportunities, particularly when you are lucky enough to have clear blue skies and still water so Hogwarts can be reflected in the lake. It also provides a physical barrier that separates Hogwarts Castle from Hogsmeade Village which makes the castle look even more impressive. There are various places to get a good view of both the Black Lake and Hogwarts castle. One great spot is the eating area at the back of Three Broomsticks for a fantastic view while enjoying your meal on the lakeside patio.

Hogwarts Reflected in the Black Lake

Hogwarts Reflected in the Black Lake

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Food and Beverages

There are a limited number of places to get food and drinks at Harry Potter World Japan. You can eat at Three Broomsticks (a traditional English tavern), drink at Hog’s Head pub, or grab a Butterbeer from the two barrel-shaped butterbeer stands in Hogsmeade Village.

Butterbeer Stand
Butterbeer Stand

Butterbeer

Butterbeer is in my view the most popular and iconic wizarding beverage. Butterbeer is a non-alcoholic drink and can be bought from Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head or the two butterbeer carts and can be enjoyed in a number of different ways:

  • Cold butterbeer is available all year round. It has a butterscotch flavour with a wonderfully smooth and creamy foam on top. However, it is very rich so you will see quite a lot of unfinished cups around Hogsmeade. Share a mug first if you are unsure whether you’ll like it.
  • Frozen butterbeer is a warm-weather drink. It tastes like regular butterbeer and has a smooth texture. It’s noticeably less icy than many slushies or other frozen drinks.
  • Warm butterbeer is a cool-weather drink. We haven’t tried it yet but apparently it has a different taste to cold or frozen butterbeer. I’ve heard that it is thick and creamy, with a taste that is a mix of butterscotch and pumpkin cider laced with cinnamon and ginger.
Time for a Butterbeer
Time for a Butterbeer

You can buy butterbeer in a disposable plastic cup or a souvenir plastic mug. Regular butterbeer costs 600 yen (US $5.50) in a disposable cup or 1 100 yen (US $10.20) in the souvenir mug. You can also buy butterbeer in a premium stein but it is more expensive at 4 000 yen (or US $37).

If you absolutely love Butterbeer, you can also buy butterbeer ice-cream from the butterbeer carts, as well as butterbeer potted cream at Three Broomsticks.

Three Broomsticks

If you need to refuel while getting your fix of all things Harry Potter, head to Three Broomsticks. It is an English-styled tavern with hearty and tasty food like shepherd’s pie, cornish pasties and fish and chips. You can eat indoors and enjoy the interior design of the tavern, or take your food to the outside eating area, if the weather is good, to enjoy great views of Black Lake and Hogwarts Castle.

Inside Three Broomsticks
Inside Three Broomsticks

Hog’s Head Pub

Hog’s Head offers a wide selection of drinks including Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. They also have a specially brewed signature Hog’s Head draft beer if you are wanting something alcoholic.

Hogsmeade Village Shops

If you are a Harry Potter fan it’s difficult to leave the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without buying souvenirs. On our first visit, we left with gowns, multiple wands, lollies and chocolates. There are plenty of places to buy Harry Potter Merchandise such as Ollivanders, Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Ollivanders and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment

The first shops you should visit are Ollivanders and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment which are side-by-side. In Ollivanders, you can join in one of the wand selection show which is not very long and normally has a short wait time. If you’re lucky you might be selected by the host wizard who will try to choose the perfect wand for you. Between the two shops, you will also discover a massive variety of wands including Ollivanders wands, character wands, collectable wand sets and much more. Try to get at least one of slightly the more expensive interactive wands so you can cast spells around Hogsmeade Village.

Ollivanders Wands
Ollivanders Wands

Wand Magic

If you bought an interactive wand from Olliveranders, test out your spell-casting skills at eight different locations around Hogsmeade. You will get a map in your interactive wand box which shows the Wand Magic stations in Hogsmeade. You can identify the locations by the bronze symbols on the ground and the helpful staff ready to teach spells to willing wizards. Our youngest son tested out his spell-casting skills which definitely added an enjoyable interactive element to our time spent in Hogsmeade Village.

Spellcasting
Spellcasting

Honeydukes

Don’t visit Honeydukes on an empty stomach as you spend far too much money as the shop is filled with goodies from the Harry Potter books. It’s almost as much fun just browsing the shop to discover all the sweet treats on offer. On our most recent visit, we walked out of the shop with just some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and a Chocolate Frog which was a miracle of self-restraint.

Honeydukes
Honeydukes

Other Shops to fulfil your Wizarding Needs

In addition to Ollivanders and Honeydukes, there are plenty of other shops that can help meet all your wizarding requirements including Zonko’s Joke Shop, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Gladrags Wizard Wear, Dervish and Banges, and Owl Post and Owlery. There are also various false storefronts which you can’t enter but which add to the atmosphere of Hogsmeade.

Street Entertainment

There are three street entertainment performances in Hogsmeade Village: Frog Choir, Wand Studies and Triwizard Spirit Rally. We have now seen the Frog Choir perform twice over our two visits but have missed out on both the Wand Studies and Triwizard Spirit Rally both times. In the Wand Studies show, Hogwarts students demonstrate their developing magical skills. During the Frog Choir show, a choir of Hogwart’s students perform various songs accompanied by some very talented frogs.

Frog Choir
Frog Choir

The Triwizard Spirit Rally features students from Durmstrang, Beauxbaxtons and Hogwarts dancing, as well as performing acrobatics and simulated martial arts. Each of the three shows occurs roughly every hour or so. Check the show and attraction schedule when you visit so you don’t accidentally miss out on performances like us.

Evening Light Show

The current evening light show is Hogwarts Magical Celebration to coincide with the 5th Anniversary of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan. It opened in Spring 2019 and should finish on 4th November 2019. The projection mapping technology in the show turns Hogwarts into a spectacular display of house pride with lights, music and special effects. The show happens 3-4 times a night and start times vary so check the show and attraction schedule to confirm when the castle projection show is happening on the day of your visit.

Top Photo Spots

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has plenty of places to take some fantastic photos. These are some of my favourites:

  • Hogwarts Castle, particularly from across the Black Lake. When the sky is blue and the water is still you can get some fantastic pictures.
  • Hogwarts Express for an iconic image from the world of Harry Potter.
Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express
  • Hogsmeade Archway is impressive in its own right but it can also frame the rest of Hogsmeade Village.
  • Flying Ford Anglia for another classic image.
  • The interior of Honeydukes for some literal eye ‘candy’.
  • Sirius Black Poster which works great as a photo but even better as a GIF.

Other Universal Studios Japan Rides

In addition to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, there is a wide range of other rides at USJ ranging from thrill rides to family and child-friendly rides.

The Flying Dinosaur

My son and I had visited Fuji Q just before we visited Universal Studios Japan and we experienced some of the most thrilling rollercoasters in the world so I was expecting to be a little disappointed by “The Flying Dinosaur” but this was far from the case. For pure fun, “The Flying Dinosaur” is easily in my mental list of top 10 rollercoasters and nudges my top 5.

The Flying Dinosaur
The Flying Dinosaur

The feature that sets this rollercoaster apart is its unusual ride position. Once you are strapped in, the seats pivot back and you are suddenly facing the ground. The Flying Dinosaur is currently the longest, tallest and fastest ‘flying’ rollercoaster in the world.

Flying Dinosaur - Downward Facing Position
Flying Dinosaur – Downward Facing Position

When my children and I took our seats we were happy and relaxed, but then we were suddenly facing downwards and our hearts started pumping faster. The Flying Dinosaur started with a climb up a 46 metre (151 feet) hill. The face-down position magnified how far above the ground we were. After cresting the peak, we plunged 38 metres (125 feet) down towards Jurassic Park which was the highlight of the ride for me because the sensation of flying was uncanny and exhilarating. Another nerve-wracking moment occurred when we navigated a pretzel then plunged through a tiny space under the pathway.

The Flying Dinosaur
The Flying Dinosaur

The ride is relatively short but loaded with action including five inversions, corkscrews and sweeping turns negotiated at a top speed of 100 km/hr (62 miles/hr). The Flying Dinosaur is smooth, fast and almost worth every bit of the park entry cost on its own.

Jurassic Park – The Ride

Jurassic Park – The Ride is the second ride in the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studios Japan. I have visited quite a lot of theme parks and it’s definitely still one of my favourite flume rides.

Jurassic Park - The Ride Sign
Jurassic Park – The Ride Sign

The ride starts off in a leisurely fashion with a river cruise through Jurassic Park, surrounded by tropical trees and impressive animatronic dinosaurs. The cries and groans of the dinosaurs echoed around us. The ride took a turn for the worse when we entered the prohibited area and the emergency lights started flashing. The dinosaur sounds became more animated as we first saw raptors fighting over the remains of a dinosaur handler’s shirt. We then entered a dark control room which had been destroyed by an oversized dinosaur. With emergency warning systems blaring, we heard the deep, guttural rumble of something very big. A large T-Rex was looming overhead so we had to take a 26-metre plunge down into the river to avoid becoming its next meal.

Jurassic Park - The Ride - Splashdown
Jurassic Park – The Ride – Splashdown

Hollywood Dream – The Ride

“Hollywood Dream – The Ride” is actually a set of two rides. There is a forward-facing version as well as a backwards-facing version called “Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop”. The two Hollywood Dream rides are not particularly tall or fast, nor are they particularly steep and there are no inversions, but the experience of Hollywood Dream is much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Hollywood Dream
Hollywood Dream – The Ride

One feature that sets Hollywood Dream rides apart is that you can choose an onboard song which plays while you are racing around the track. The songs we could choose from including ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Happy’, and ‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson. The songs change over time so if you visit USJ again, you are likely to have a fresh set of songs.  The trains have a stereo system built into the head of each seat. A lighting program animates LED lights on the sides of the train with different lighting patterns for different sections of the track. It was a blast to race around a track with the sounds of ‘Bad’ in my ears and disco lights flashing around me. The soundtrack seemed to synch perfectly with the movements, twists and turns of the track.

Both versions of Hollywood – The Dream start with a 44 metre (144 feet) climb, followed by a slight right-hand turn and a series of peaks (known as camelback hills) that lifted us out of our seats. The camelbacks are the main feature of the ride, mixed in with other features like fast left and right turns and an upward-spiralling helix just before returning to the station. There isn’t much variety in the ride, but it’s fast and smooth and the high-speed camelback hills do a great job of lifting your stomach towards your throat. Hollywood Dream is also quite a long ride, with a track length of 1.2 kilometres (0.75 miles) and a total ride time of two and a half minutes. This gives you heaps of time to enjoy the song pumping in your ears.

Onboard The Hollywood Dream
Onboard The Hollywood Dream

The Backdrop version of Hollywood Dream – The Ride is the more exciting of the two rides because you can’t see or anticipate what is coming up next. I would suggest doing the Backdrop version first because if you start with the forward-facing version first you will have a pretty good idea of what’s coming up when you ride the Backdrop which reduces the excitement a bit.

Hollywood Dream – The Ride – Backdrop is covered by one Express Pass 7 option, Universal Express Pass 7 Backdrop while the forward-facing version is only available through the Royal Studio Pass. You can use the single rider queue for the forward-facing version of Hollywood Dream, but there are no single rider queues for Backdrop.

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman – The Ride 4K3D

Make sure you don’t miss The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman when visiting Universal Studios Japan. It won Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award in the Best Dark Ride category twelve years in a row from 1999 to 2010.

The plot is a little hard to follow as the actors speak in Japanese, but you can easily get the gist of what is happening. There is an incredible amount of action as you escape evil villains like Doctor Octopus and Hydroman. You will be tossed into sewers and rivers, have pumpkin bombs thrown at you, and be hurled high above the city before plummeting back to earth but then Spiderman saves your lives and the day.

John Jonah Jameson
Sign in the Spiderman queue – Words of wisdom from John Jonah Jameson (editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle)

The 4K3D visuals used in this ride are stunning in their clarity and detail. They are so impressive that they blur the boundaries between physical sets and the 3D projections. The ride also uses an armada of special effects like water spray, wind and lighting, heat, fire and fog. The ride vehicle is extremely dynamic and makes extremely precise movements. It can also rotate 360 degrees. Spiderman – The Ride is further enhanced by a fantastic soundtrack. The awe-inspiring visuals, special effects and high-tech ride vehicle make you feel part of the action, not just a passive observer.

Watch out for the Stan Lee cameos as he appears at least two times during the ride.

Space Fantasy – The Ride

Space Fantasy is USJ’s main indoor rollercoaster. The premise behind the ride is that you are on a spaceship undertaking a mission to save the sun. While saving the sun you fly past various planets and comets while dodging asteroids. The ride climaxes with your spaceship plunging into the sun.

We ran out of time to try Space Fantasy on our first visit and only indirectly experienced the ride on our second visit this year so it’s hard to comment too much on Space Fantasy. While we went on the indoor coaster itself, it had been given a VR overlay for Cool Japan 2019 which ran from January 18 to June 23. For Cool Japan, the ride had been renamed “Lupin the Third Car Chase XR Ride”. The ride placed us in a car with Lupin and his crew making a getaway from a crime scene while being chased by Inspector Zenigata.

Lupin the Third
Lupin the Third Car Chase Ride

It’s the third year in a row that Space Fantasy has been given a VR overlay as part of Cool Japan, so it will most likely happen again for Cool Japan 2020. As I write this article, Space Fantasy also has another seasonal overlay for Halloween 2019. It currently has a horror theme and has been renamed Space Fantasy – The Ride – Black Hole where you can experience pure darkness when your rides vehicles sink into a black hole.

Cool Japan
Cool Japan

JAWS

Jaws is now only available at Universal Studios Japan after it closed down at Universal Studios Florida in 2012. If you want to try an old-school ride that you won’t find anywhere else definitely give Jaws a go.

Welcome to Jaws - The Ride
Welcome to Jaws – The Ride

The premise behind the ride is that after Jaws was destroyed, Captain Jake Grundy opened a boat tour to visit shark attack sites.

The Jaws queue - Getting ready for a close encounter
The Jaws queue – Getting ready for a close encounter

The ride started at a relaxed pace with a scenic cruise on Amity Harbour but then a distress call came in and we saw another boat submerging under the water. For the rest of the ride, we were either trying to shelter from, evade or blow up a massive shark. Along the way, there were many near misses and an impressive fire/explosion. Eventually, the shark managed to electrocute itself so we managed to escape with our lives.

Jaws
Jaws

The animatronics and special effects look dated and the acting is corny but full of enthusiasm, but this doesn’t detract from the experience. Jaws is a nostalgic and fun experience, a bit like rewatching Friends on Netflix. I hope Jaws survives as Universal Studios Japan creates new rides.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is a ride that people of all ages will enjoy. It’s jam-packed with fast-paced action and the slapstick humour has been turned up to 11.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

The pre-show experience was almost as much fun as the actual ride. The premise of the preshow is that you are being convinced to undergo the Minion transformation process and then the process of transformation is explained. The pre-show stars Gru, his three daughters and heaps of Minions and is full of comedy. Expect to be shot by a fart gun … which smells like bananas.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Express Pass Queue
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Express Pass Queue

The ride began with everyone being turned into Minions. The ride was incredibly action-packed and included falling down chutes, jumping over a cactus, dodging lasers, just missing getting squashed by a massive boxing glove, and narrowly avoiding being cut in half by an oversized buzz saw.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem isn’t an aggressively physical simulator like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and it doesn’t have the same jump scares. What it does have going for it is an overload of action, comedy and cuteness. It’s a ride that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Freeze Ray Sliders

Freeze Ray Sliders is a traditional teacup ride that’s been dressed up Minion-style. Each ride vehicle (or slider) holds four people. The story behind the ride is that the Minions used Gru’s freeze ray gun to turn Minion Park Pool into an ice rink.

Minion Park Pool
Minion Park Pool

When we tried out the ride, our vehicle slid around the ice rink occasionally being blasted with cool mist from the oversized Freeze Ray Gun. It would have been nice to be able to spin our slider faster by manually rotating a central steering wheel (a feature of most teacup rides). The mist from the freeze ray gun would probably feel great on hot days in Osaka.

Freeze Ray Sliders
Freeze Ray Sliders

It was definitely one of the tamer rides at USJ but it would be perfect for families with young children.

Universal Wonderland

Universal Wonderland is a large section of the park for families with younger children. Universal Wonderland has three main sub-sections: Snoopy Studios, Sesame Street Fun World, and Helly Kitty Fashion Avenue.

Universal Wonderland
Entrance to Universal Wonderland

We only had time for a quick explore as there are over 30 types of entertainment in this area alone including rides, street performances and interactions with the characters. If you have younger children, you could easily spend half a day in this area of the park alone.

Be aware that the wait time for some of the rides can be quite long. As I’m writing this article, I checked the wait times for some Universal Wonderland rides using the USJ Alert app and these were some of the wait times: The Flying Snoopy (70 minutes), Snoopy’s Great Race (80 min), Elmo’s Go Go Skateboard (55 min), and Elmo’s Bubble Bubble (90 min).

Universal Wonderland
Universal Wonderland

If you will be visiting Universal Wonderland, make sure to use the Yoyakunori reservation system which is like the Disney Fast Pass system and is only used in Universal Wonderland. You just go to the ticket machine near the entrance to each ride with your Studio Passes, select the time and take the Yoyakunori ticket. When your reservation time comes, go to the ride’s special entrance for people with Yoyakunori tickets.

Here are photos of some of the rides in Universal Wonderlands.

Elmo’s Go-Go Skateboard

The only ride that we tried out was Elmo’s Go-Go Skateboard. Our ten year old described it as a pretty mild experience with some fairly gentle up-and-down and sideways movements.

Elmo's Go Go Skateboard
Elmo’s Go Go Skateboard
Elmo's Go Go Skateboard
Elmo’s Go Go Skateboard

The Flying Snoopy

Flying Snoopy
The Flying Snoopy
Flying Snoopy
The Flying Snoopy

Hello Kitty’s Cupcake Dream

Hello Kitty's Cupcake Dream
Hello Kitty’s Cupcake Dream

Big Bird’s Big Top Circus

Big Bird's Big Top Circus
Big Bird’s Big Top Circus

Elmo’s Little Drive

This ride is mainly for 3 to 5 year olds. There is a similar ride in Universal Wonderland called “Sesame’s Big Drive” for elementary school children.

Elmo's Little Drive
Elmo’s Little Drive

Moppy’s Balloon Trip

Moppy's Balloon Trip
Moppy’s Balloon Trip

In addition to the rides shown above, there are a couple of additional rides we don’t have photos for. The first of these rides is Snoopy’s Great Race which is a small, indoor rollercoaster. The second ride is called Elmo’s Bubble Bubble.

Other Universal Wonderland Attractions

In addition to the rides in Universal Wonderland, there are plenty of other attractions and experiences for families with young children to enjoy.

Elmo's Imagination Playland
Elmo’s Imagination Playland

Universal Studios Japan Shows and Entertainment

In addition to the rides, there are plenty of theatre shows, stage shows and street entertainment to enjoy. There are also a number of opportunities for character greetings. Over time, we have watched quite a lot of theatre and stage shows including Backdraft, Terminator 2: 3D, Waterworld, Shrek’s 4D Adventure as well as a number of street shows and parades.

Unfortunately, this time we didn’t have the time to watch Sing on Tour and had to leave before the Universal Spectacle Night Parade.

Backdraft

Backdraft is a fire special effect show which you can now only watch at Universal Studios Japan.

Backdraft
Backdraft

In the first section of the show Ron Howard, the director of the movie Backdraft, talked about the making of Backdraft. Unfortunately, the video was dubbed into Japanese without subtitles. In the next stage of the show, we learnt how the pyrotechnics were made and experienced fires and explosions first hand.

Terminator 2: 3D

Terminator 2 is yet another old-school Universal Studios experience that you will only see in Japan. Terminator 2 debuted at USJ in 2001 and is still going strong 18 years later. While parts of the show now feel a little dated it’s still action-packed and immersive. The videos and presentations are in Japanese but it’s easy to get the idea of what’s happening.

The show was set after the movie Terminator 2 finished. John and Sarah Connor, played by live actors, rushed on to the stage, pursued by a T-1000 Terminator (the liquid metal Terminator from Terminator 2). A T-800 Terminator (AKA Arnie) then burst through the screen to take John back to the future, closely followed by the T-1000 terminator. After overcoming the T-1000, John and Arnie breached Skynet where they battled an upgraded version of the T-100 Terminator shaped like a massive liquid-metal spider. Arnie then sent John back to the present before the show ended with the destruction of Skynet.

For an 18-year-old show, the 3D effects are still fantastic. The 3D footage in the show is presented on three massive wrap-around screens which make you feel part of the experience like when the liquid metal spider oozes straight towards you. Another fantastic feature is how the live-action sequences merge seamlessly with the 3D video. One great example of this is when the T-800 terminator on his motorcycle comes flying towards the audience and then bursts out of the screen on to the stage.

If you have never watched this show before and have even a passing interest in the Terminator movies, check out Terminator 2: 3D while it is still around.

Waterworld

Before I review the Waterworld show I need to let you know that we didn’t watch Waterworld in Japan as we had just watched the show a couple of weeks before at Universal Studios Singapore. The photos below are therefore also from Universal Studios Singapore. However, the Waterworld shows in Japan and Singapore are practically identical.

The Waterworld show is based on the 1995 movie of the same name starring Kevin Costner. The movie was a very expensive ‘flop’ but the show itself is fantastic. Like Terminator 2, the events in the show take place after the movie. The story revolves around an attack by the Smokers (the bad guys) on the base of the Atollers. There were plenty of battles throughout the show. The good guys emerged victorious and then escaped before the whole base exploded.

The show features a tremendous amount of action. There was a constant succession of stunts on both land and water as well as in the sky. There were heaps of special effects including explosions, fire and water effects. We all loved the dramatic crash landing of the seaplane near the end.

If you are looking for a show with an overload of action make sure you watch Waterworld. As a little tip, if you visit Universal Studios Japan on a hot day, position yourself in the Soak Zone (the first five rows). Our children sat in the Soak Zone and managed to stay dry but plenty of other people got quite wet.

Sing

Sing on Tour is a 20-minute show which follows on from Sing the Movie. The storyline begins at the Japanese premiere of Sing on Tour and is led by the lovable show director, Buster Moon the koala. The stars of Sing perform hit songs from the movie and audience members get to sing and dance along. The show includes leading-edge animatronics, lighting and a huge LED screen.

Sing on Tour
Sing on Tour

Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show

Prepare to be entertained by the singing and dancing performances of Beetlejuice and his friends.

Universal Monsters Show
Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show

Shrek 4D Adventure and Sesame Street 4D Movie Magic

Shrek and Donkey were much-loved movie characters when our children were younger. Therefore, we made sure not to pass up a chance to watch a new short Shrek movie in 4D. Our children are now aged between 10 and 14 and still very much enjoyed the experience. The movie only goes for about 25 minutes but is full of fun. As with Waterworld, we also watched Shrek 4D Adventure at Universal Studios Singapore but the photo is from USJ.

The movie is set after Shrek and Princess Fiona have married. Lord Farquaad has died but that doesn’t stop him as he makes his henchman Thelonious kidnap Princess Fiona. He plans to make Princess Fiona his queen so they can rule together over his ghostly realm so Shrek and Donkey must save the day.

4D Cinema
Universal Studios 4D Cinema

I would definitely recommend watching Shrek’s 4D adventure particularly if you have pre-school or elementary-school children.

We didn’t watch Sesame Street 4D Movie Magic but I’m sure it would be equally as enjoyable as Shrek but would be most appropriate for pre-school or young elementary school children.

Malevo de Argentina

Malevo de Argentina
Malevo de Argentina

Sesame Street Bollywood

Sesame Street Bollywood
Sesame Street Bollywood

Universal Spectacle Night Parade

Our family were really disappointed that we had to miss out on the latest USJ night parade on our most recent visit to USJ. Unfortunately, we had to leave by mid-afternoon to get to Imabari that evening. We had enjoyed a day-time parade on our previous visit to Universal Studios Japan but have not yet seen a night parade.

It would have been great fun to experience the world of Harry Potter, see the world’s first transforming float from the Transformers universe, encounter some Jurassic World dinosaurs, and experience the chaos of some Minion Mayhem. Apparently the projection mappings used on buildings during the parade are also fantastic.

Here are some photos of the day parade from our first visit to USJ.

Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade
Universal Studios Day Parade

Universal Studios Japan Food

There are lots of restaurants at Universal Studios Japan and an overabundance of snack stands and carts so you will never go hungry. As with most theme parks, don’t expect a fancy, fine-dining experience and the food is also quite expensive. However, the food is normally tasty and will help refuel you so that you can continue having fun at USJ.

We have now eaten at three restaurants: Three Broomsticks, The Dragon’s Pearl and Amity Landing Restaurant. Of the three restaurants, we enjoyed Three Broomsticks the most, partly because of the restaurant design but also because the portion sizes were quite generous and tasty. The food was also pretty solid at The Dragon’s Pearl and Amity Landing Restaurant.

Three Broomsticks

Three Broomsticks
Three Broomsticks

The Dragon’s Pearl

Dragon's Pearl Restaurant
Dragon’s Pearl Restaurant
Lunch at Dragon's Pearl
Lunch at Dragon’s Pearl

Amity Landing Restaurant

Amity Landing Restaurant
Amity Landing Restaurant

Discovery Restaurant

Discovery Restaurant
Discovery Restaurant

Mel’s Drive-In

Mel's Drive-In
Mel’s Drive-In

Azzurra de Capri

Azzurra de Capri Restaurant
Azzurra de Capri Restaurant

Park-Side Grille

Park Side Grille
Park Side Grille

Beverley Hills Boulangerie

Beverley Hills Boulangerie
Beverley Hills Boulangerie

Universal Studios Japan Cafes, Snack Carts and Stands

There are snack carts and stands everywhere in USJ. We loved the Chocolate Rose Churritos from the Lupin the Third Snack Stand. By the end of our visit this year we wanted something that wasn’t fried so the fresh fruit from the food stand near the entrance to Jurassic Park couldn’t have been timed better. Here are some of the cafes, snack carts and stands around Universal Studios Japan.

Lupin the Third Popcorn and Churittos
Lupin the Third Popcorn and Churittos Stand
Jurassic Park Food Stand
Jurassic Park Food Stand
Churittos Food Cart
Churittos Food Cart
Detective Conan Popcorn Cart
Detective Conan Popcorn Cart
Hello Kitty Cafe
Hello Kitty’s Corner Cafe
Minion Popcorn Stand
Minion Popcorn Stand

Universal Studios Japan Shops

There is a great mix of speciality shops and more general merchandise shops at Universal Studios Japan. Many of the shops are near the entrance to Universal Studios Japan. There are also merchandise stands throughout the park.

Speciality Shops

Some of the speciality shops are linked to particular characters such as Hello Kitty, Minions, Minion Unicorn, Peanuts and Sesame Street which are all located together near the park entrance. There are further speciality stores linked to rides which are scattered throughout the park. Examples of these shops include The Amazing Spiderman Store, Jurassic Outfitters, and Amity Island gifts. Here’s just a small sample of some of the speciality shops and merchandise stands at USJ.

Studio Style Minions Shop

Studio Style Minions Shop
Studio Style Minions Shop

Peanuts Corner Store

Peanuts Corner Store
Peanuts Corner Store

Hello Kitty Design Studio

Hello Kitty Design Studio
Hello Kitty Design Studio

The Amazing Spiderman Store.

Amazing Spiderman Store
The Amazing Spiderman Store
Merchandise Stand
Merchandise Stand

General Shops

There are also more general merchandise shops that stock a wide ride of Universal Studios products and souvenirs. These are located both inside the park and just outside the entrance to the park.

Universal Studios Store
Universal Studios store -Outside the park entrance

USJ Opening Hours

The Universal Studios Japan opening hours vary a lot from month to month. For example, in late October 2019, the official park hours are 8:30 am to 10:00 pm. As a contrast, from mid-January park hours are from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Because the opening hours change so much, make sure you check the official USJ website for the most up-to-date details.

Admission can also start earlier than official park opening times. This means that you might get to the park for the official opening time, and lots of people are already inside the park. If you want to know the exact USJ opening time of USJ for the day of your visit, a great idea is to purchase a VIP Pass along with your park entry ticket and Express Pass.  If you purchase the VIP pass, you will get an email the afternoon before your visit with a link to the secret web page which advises the exact opening time for the following day.

The VIP pass also gets you into the park 15 minutes before everyone else and includes entry to the Hurakas 300 observatory. You have to collect your VIP pass from Harukas Observatory.

How to Get to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka

Universal Studios Japan is located on the outskirts of the city of Osaka. This section explains how to get to USJ from Tokyo, Kyoto, Kansai Airport, and various Osaka train stations.

How to get to Universal Studios Japan from Tokyo

Universal Studios Japan is about 500 km (315 miles) west of Tokyo. Total travel time using the bullet (shinkansen) train to Shin-Osaka Station or Osaka Station and then local trains from Tokyo Station to Universal City Station is between 3:10 to 3:30 hours.  The bullet train section of the trip takes about 2:30 hours.

Typical trip price from Tokyo to Universal City Station is about 14,500 to 15,500 yen, which includes a reserved seat on the bullet train.  If you have a Suica card or ICOCA cardyou can use these for local Osaka travel and local Tokyo travel so you only have to buy the bullet train ticket. If you have a Japan Rail pass you may be able to use your JR Pass for the trip.  Not all shinkansen are covered by the JR pass so check before booking.

How to get from Kyoto to Universal Studios Japan

When we visited USJ we did it as a day trip from Kyoto with an early start.  It was a very long day but it meant we didn’t have to move hotels.  The travel time from Kyoto Station to Universal City station is about 45-55 minutes and you have to use 3 or 4 trains to get there.  We found this option to be reasonably easy to get around. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you may be able to use it for part of the trip.

How to get from Kansai International Airport to Universal Studios Japan

There are three main ways to get from Kansai Airport to Universal Studios Japan. If you are arriving for the first time in Japan and have luggage I would recommend using either a private transfer option or the Airport Limousine Bus. With these options, you will get to your hotel quickly and not have to immediately learn the Japan train system.

The main transfer options are as follows:

  • Catch the train from Kansai International Airport Station to Universal City station. The trip takes about 60 minutes and you will need to catch three different trains. This could be tricky if you are tired and have your luggage with you. It would also make sense to pre-purchase your ICOCA train card so you can use public transport in Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and many other locations.

  • You can use the Airport Limousine Bus Transfer service from Kansai Osaka Airport. To get to USJ, use the Nanko/ Tenpozan (Kaiyukan)/ Universal Studios Japan route which takes about 1:10 hours. This bus doesn’t need reservations, and you pay in cash on boarding.  A one-way ticket is 1,550 yen for an adult and 780 Yen for a child, or pay 2,700 yen for a round trip ticket.
  • You can pre-book a private airport transfer from Kansai Airport to your hotel for up to 8 people per vehicle.

If you are arriving at Kansai International Airport from another country, I recommend that you pre-order a Wifi Router and a mobile phone or cell phone sim card that can be picked up at the terminal after you arrive.

If you are going directly to USJ after arriving at Kansai Airport, there are large size coin lockers that are only outside the park entrance, so store your luggage in these lockers before you enter.

How to Get from Osaka Station to Universal Studios Japan USJ Train Station

People typically arrive in Osaka at either Shin-Osaka Station, Osaka Station, Namba Station, Nishikujo Station, Nipponbashi Station or Shinsaibashi Station. You should expect to change trains 2-3 times before arriving at Universal City Station.  You can use an ICOCA card to tap on and off each train.

USJ has a good graphic which shows the specific trains and travelling time required to get from the Osaka or Kyoto to Universal City Station. Go to the lower section of the webpage to see the better picture. All the train stations are easy to navigate with the help of online tools like Google Maps.

How to Order Universal Studios Japan Tickets through Voyagin

The first step to order your Universal Studios Japan tickets through Voyagin is to click on the link below.  After you click through, also keep an eye out for the regular Voyagin coupon code deals which could make your tickets even cheaper!

Click here to check out and book your Universal Studios Japan tickets through Voyagin

How to Buy Universal Studios Japan Tickets plus BONUS Definitive USJ Guide!
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Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group

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