Universal Studios Japan Guide

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  • Travel guide for Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, and recommended strategies on how to get on the popular rides and Harry Potter World.

    children standing in front of Hogwarts - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    When our children were younger, we loved visiting theme parks during our trips to Japan. We’ve visited Disneyland, DisneySea, Tokyo Dome, Yomiuriland, and Fuji Q Highland around Kanto area. One of the best memories we had was visiting Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka,.

    Before You visit Universal Studios Japan (USJ)

    We did quite a bit of research before visiting Universal Studios Japan.  Most of the reviews we read online cautioned on the long lines at the rides.  Based on Wiki, it’s the 5th most popular theme park in the world with 14.3 million visitors in 2018.  How to avoid the lines?  You can shorten the wait with express tickets but unfortunately, it’ll almost double or triple the ticket price.

    Map of USJ 2019
    Click to enlarge map

    Over the past few years USJ has updated their site to be more English friendly so please check their site for detailed package info.  If you are interested in express packages, remember to book them ahead of time in your country as you need to specify the visit dates. We work with a company called Voyagin (I receive a small % of sales) where you can book USJ tickets thru Voyagin and receive your e-ticket in minutes.

    Universal Studios Japan Review

    If you’ve been to the Universal Studios in Los Angeles, to set the expectation correctly, there is no studio tour at USJ.  It’s just an amusement park.  Compared to Disneyland, USJ targets a higher age crowd.  Many of the most popular rides require the riders to be 4 feet (122 cm) tall and Hollywood Dream/The Flying Dinosaur requires a minimum height of 4’4” (132 cm).  If you have younger children, many of the rides and attractions may not be suitable due to violent and graphic nature.

    It was the 15th anniversary of USJ when we visited

    The Park is divided into these areas and I’ll talk about them briefly later on:

    1. Hollywood
    2. New York
    3. Minion Park (wasn’t opened yet when we visited)
    4. San Francisco
    5. Jurassic Park
    6. Amity Village
    7. Water World
    8. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
    9. Universal Wonderland

    On the day we visited, it was raining and pouring at the time; nevertheless, it was still crowded.  The line was quite long even before the park opened.  As we had purchased express tickets, we were not in a rush get in the line for the popular rides. During the time we visited, Jurassic Park the ride was down for maintenance (check maintenance schedule).  Along with the height restriction with our children, we were out of luck with 4 of the most popular rides.

    I’ll take you briefly through each of the areas and I apologize beforehand for not having great pictures.  At times it was pouring rain like crazy and difficult to take good shots.

    spinning Universal globe at USJ - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    people in line waiting to get into USJ in the rain - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Before the park opened, there was a long line waiting to get in even on a raining day.

    Hollywood Universal Studios Japan

    Hollywood is the first area you’ll see when you enter through the main gates.  The buildings are shaped similar to Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills, and there are 15 shops for souvenirs and gifts you can browse in.  The main ride attractions in Hollywood are Hollywood Dream roller coaster and Space Fantasy.  During our visit, there was a special event and Space Fantasy was changed to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – a virtual reality roller coaster based on the Japanese fashion model and singer. The ride changes often and in the first part of 2019 Space Fantasy was changed to Lupin the Third: Car Chase XR Ride.

    Hollywood USJ - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hollywood Universal Studios Japan

    family posing with a minion - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Hollywood Dream ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    There is a 4D theater that rotates various movies in this area. However, the 4D movie showing wasn’t children friendly so we skipped.

    Cinema 4D - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Kyary Pamyu Pamyu ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Kyary Pamyu Pamyu XR ride was very interesting.  We thought it was a kiddy ride and didn’t have high expectation.  The ride is similar to a roller coaster ride, but throughout the entire ride, you wear a virtual reality goggle.  With the goggles on, you can’t really tell at all what the track looks like in real life.  The ride was a lot more fun than we expected as we glided and flew through a virtual world with dancing Kyary Pamyu Pamyu on digital roller coaster tracks.

    Kyary Pamyu Pamyu ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    New York Universal Studios Japan

    The New York area, in my opinion, had by far the coolest buildings.  The details were astounding and it was fun to just check out the faux storefronts.  The main ride in this area are The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man the Ride and Attack on Titan.

    New York area - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    New York USJ

    buildings inside New York area - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    buildings inside New York area - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Spiderman The Ride

    This ride is the same as the one at Islands of Adventure in Orlando built at a cost of $120 million.  The Spiderman ride is really super cool!  It mixes a roller coaster ride with 4D movie they’ve created so the car you ride in become part of the storyline.  Besides really cool vehicle motions, there are also heat, water, air elements, and villains in 4D chasing you that makes the ride intense and thrilling.

    exterior of Spider-man the Ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    As the visitors wait in line, you walk through the Daily Bugle office and Peter Parker’s cubical.

    Daily Bugle office inside Spider-man the ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    sitting in the car for Spider-man the ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    In the car getting ready for an adventure with Spider-man!

    San Francisco Universal Studios Japan

    As you go clockwise around the park, the next area is San Francisco.  I enjoyed the replica Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, but there is only 1 attraction in this area.  The Back to The Future ride has been retired so the only ride left is Backdraft.  It is based on the classic firefighters’ movie, Backdraft.

    The attraction walks you through 3 different room explaining how pyrotechnics in movies work.  In the last room, it’s where the audience experience one of the fiery scenes from the movie up close and personal.  If you love explosions, then you’ll really enjoy this attraction.

    child in San Francisco area - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    San Francisco Lagoon - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Backdraft fire show in San Francisco area - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Backdraft fire experience at USJ

    In this area, you can get Minion Churritos and Minion Pizzas (banana flavors… yay or nay?).

    chocolate banana and marshmallow pizza - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Jurassic Park Universal Studios Japan

    In Jurassic Park, there are 2 major attractions, Jurassic Park and The Flying Dinosaur.  The Jurassic Park the ride was under maintenance when we visited and our children were not tall enough to ride the flying dinosaur.  Flying dinosaur looked like a super fun ride, as the riders are strapped in a seat flying headfirst down the track.

    Flying Dinosaur ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Jurassic Park is a water ride where a boat takes you through a river surrounded by dinosaurs.  The many mechanical dinosaurs are lifelike as they move and make noises.  In the end, the boat enters the laboratory where the T-Rex is attacking, and to escape the boat plunge down a huge slide at the end.

    Amity Village & Water World

    Since Amity village also only has 1 ride – Jaws, I’ll combine it with Waterworld, another 1 attraction area.  Jaws is based on the scary 70’s movie, Jaws!  This classic universal attraction was a delight to everyone onboard and suitable visitors of all ages.  During the ride, the boat goes through a quiet town and is eventually attacked and chased by the shark.

    Shark at Amity Village - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Giant shark at USJ

    Neptune's Folly prop boat - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    JAWS the ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    On the lagoon during JAWS the ride

    It started pouring when we got in line for Waterworld so we skipped since we’ve watched the same stage show in Los Angeles Universal Studios. It is based on the action movie, you’ve guessed it, Waterworld! Actors play out a fighting scene with jet skis, gunfight, and explosions.

    Waterworld Show Universal Studios Japan

    By Freddo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

    The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

    Now the main event!  Enter the magic world of Harry Potter!

    Entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    The Harry Potter World isn’t too big, but there are many shops and buildings you can browse around.  It’s very hard to describe the feeling we had when we were there, but we definitely all felt we were in a magical area.  The decorations were amazing, the storefronts were authentic, Hogwarts Castle was breathtaking.  The main rides here are Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Ollivanders’ Wand Shop, and Flight of the Hippogriff.

    We subsequently visited Warner Bros. Studio: The Making of Harry Potter in 2017 when we were in London, and that experience was out of this world. We highly recommend it if you are a big Harry Potter fan.

    symbols and drawing on a rock at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    family posing in front of Ford Anglia at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Posing in front of Ford Anglia
    Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hogwarts Express

    Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    visitors walking around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Walking around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
    truck selling butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Butterbeer!

    What does butterbeer taste like? It’s similar to cream soda with a thick foam on top.

    boy drinking butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Flight of the Hippogriff

    The first ride we did in the Harry Potter are was Flight of the Hippogriff.

    children standing in front of Flight of the Hippogriff sign - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Flight of the Hippogriff is a pretty tame roller coaster and suitable for younger children.

    Flight of the Hippogriff roller coaster at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Hagrid's Hut at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hagrid’s Hut

    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    Inside Hogwarts Castle is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, without the express pass the wait was 2 hours.  We were also told it was a slow day at the park due to the rain, the regular wait is much longer. The cool part is the line goes through many rooms with cool props and decorations from the movies.

    Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hogwarts Castle at USJ
    visitors waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    The line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    The line goes inside a room with lots of portraits.  What’s really cool is the face and eyes in the artworks move.  How do they do that??  Definitely high on the cool factor!

    decorative paintings on the wall Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    You pass a room with the mighty Albus Dumbledore.

    Albus Dumbledore office at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    skeleton of dragon at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Dragon skeleton!
    Talking Sorting Hat at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Talking Sorting Hat

    So what was the ride like?  It’s impossible to describe unless you’ve ridden it yourself.  The roller coaster seats are on a track but you sit in them while you’re facing sideways vs. the front on a regular roller coaster.  The ride takes you on a 4D experience that has you flying on a broomstick with Harry through various adventures.  From Quidditch match to escaping dragons and creatures, the flight takes you up and down and you feel as though you are really flying.  It was definitely the best ride in the park but if you are prone to motion sickness, do avoid the ride.  Here is a YouTube video of the ride.

    Ollivanders’ Wand Shop

    children in front of wands inside a window at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    The last attraction we experienced was Ollivanders’ wand shop.  The line waiting for also over 1 hour.

    boxes of wands at Ollivanders' wand shop - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Inside Ollivanders’ wand shop

    The first room you enter has boxes and boxes of wands, after a while, the staff opens a secret door and you enter another room. They selected a volunteer (which happened to be our daughter) and she went through the experience of selecting “the one” wand.

    There are some cool effects in the room as the magician talks about the special power behind the wand.  When my daughter finally selected the “right” wand, the wind blew from underneath her and a spotlight shined on her in the dark room.

    child in front of wand master at Ollivanders' wand shop - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Harry Potter Gift Shop

    After the experience, the exit door opens into the wand shop.  There are 2 types of wand sold, one with a sensor and one without.  The one with a sensor gives you magical power in front of 6 store windows where you can make objects fly and move.  The regular wand is just for decorative purpose.

    Hogwarts cloaks in the gift shop - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Hogwarts cloaks in the gift shop
    Monster Book of Monsters - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Monster Book of Monsters that moves around
    brooms used in Harry Potter movies - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    You can purchase flying brooms used in Harry Potter movies

    owls perching on top of the gift shop - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Universal Wonderland & Snoopy Studios Universal Studios Japan

    The last 2 areas are more for little children, but my family actually had a blast because Snoopy Studios was indoors and we didn’t have to worry about the rain.  It was not crowded so they were able to ride the indoor roller coaster many times and enjoyed other attractions with very little wait.  There aren’t any major feature attraction in these 2 areas.

    sign for Universal Wonderland - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    children in front of Wonderland characters - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    children on snoopy ride - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    indoor roller coasters at Wonderland - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Hotel Universal Port Universal Studios Japan

    During our visit, we stayed at Hotel Universal Port.  The hotel is right next to the park and about a 5-7 minutes walk.

    view of Universal Studios Japan - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    View of Universal Studios Japan from the Hotel Universal Port

    child posing inside a hole in a wall at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Everything was Minions themed!

    lobby at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    The lobby at Hotel Universal Port

    aquarium behind register at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    elevator at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    The rooms were very clean, seemed updated and spacious.

    4 bed room at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    4 Beds!  No fighting over blankets 🙂

    The bathroom had nice amenities, including bubble bath which my children thoroughly enjoyed.

    hotel bathroom at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    night time view of Osaka from Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Night view of Osaka’s Minato Ward from the hotel room.

    Port Dining Rico Rico

    Rico Rico is a buffet restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, we enjoyed dinner there with Nami’s aunts and uncle from Osaka.  The food was fairly decent and we had a great time catching up.  If you are looking for different varieties of food, we recommend this restaurant for families.

    sign for Port Dining Rico Rico at Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    sushi buffet Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Sushi buffet
    steamed dumping and soup at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Assorted dumplings and soup
    Iberico ham slices at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Slice Iberico ham
    salad at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Salad and appetizers
    steak and entree at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Steaks and hot entrees
    desserts at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com
    Assorted desserts

    baumkuchen dessert bar at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    chocolate fountain at Port Dining Rico Rico inside Hotel Universal Port - Osaka Guide: Universal Studios Japan | www.justonecookbook.com

    Final Verdict and Recommendation for Universal Studios Japan

    Our family had a lot of fun in the park, I didn’t like the fact that we had to buy express tickets which increased the cost significantly.  I wished they had a similar system to Disney’s FastPass where you can enjoy express lines for free.  We were able to finish all the rides before 6 pm and left the park feeling thrilled.  Here are our recommendations on how to get the most out of the park.

    1. Go wait in line before the park opens, the park usually opens earlier than the advertised time.
    2. Run to the Harry Potter area and enjoy the Forbidden Journey ride asap.
    3. Wait in line for Ollivanders and experience the magical power of the wand.
    4. Move on to Hollywood Dreams Roller Coaster
    5. Ride the VR – Space Fantasy
    6. Fight crime with Spiderman.
    7. Soar with The Flying Dinosaur
    8. Get wet with Jurassic Park
    9. You can then slowly enjoy Backdraft, Waterworld and Jaws.  Those rides are more dated and capable of handling large crowds.

    Additional Universal Studios Japan Ticketing Options

    1. Get online tickets as the website is in English and easy to navigate, plus you don’t have to print out anything, just show your mobile QR Code at the entrance.
    2. Half of what express pass costs, the VIP Wristband grants you a grace period of 10-15mins to head into the park before its official opening hours to enjoy some of the popular rides minus the queue! or be the first one in the Harry Potter Area minus the crowd!

    Hope you enjoyed reading our review.  Have you been to Universal Studios Japan?  Which one was your favorite ride?  Let me know in the comment below. This post was an update of the original one we shared in 2016.

    Just One Cookbook Osaka Guides

    1. Tsutenkaku Tower and Shinsekai District 新世界・通天閣
    2. Dotonbori & Namba 道頓堀・難波
    3. Kuromon Ichiba Market and Kitchenware Street 黒門市場・千日前道具屋筋商店街
    4. America Village & Shinsaibashi アメリカ村・心斎橋筋
    5. Osaka Castle 大阪城
    6. Umeda 梅田
    7. Tempozan 天保山
    8. USJ ユニバーサルスタジオジャパン
    9. Expocity エキスポシティー

    If you’re interested in our travel guides on Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Kyushu, and more, please click here.

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