Me and my partner have started a bit of a tradition on our travels – every major trip we go on, we always visit some kind of theme park.
Why? It’s a bit of fun, and a great way to just forget about everything and enjoy ourselves for the day. Real life can seem pretty far away! In our opinion, it’s a perfect ‘life-getaway’ for little kids and adults alike.
Theme parks aren’t just about the rides, they’re about the experience too. Few do it better than Universal Studios.
On our last trip to Japan, we knew we just had to visit the Universal Studios located in Osaka. As a massive Harry Potter fan, there was no way I was missing a chance to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No way. We HAD to go.
If I’m totally honest, a lot of planning and research was poured into our day at Universal Studios. I made sure I was on top of everything. It might seem silly – it’s way easier to just wing it right? But given how seamless and stress-free our day was, it really was all worth it.
Nevertheless, there’s no need for you guys to devote so much time to planning when I’ve already done it all. So here are my tips for creating the perfect, stress-free day at Universal Studios Japan:
(*Please note everyone: Make sure you check the exact ticket types, prices and opening times PRIOR to purchasing your tickets. The ticket guidelines are given as a guide only to help with the organisation of your trip and are NOT official.)
Reading all the reviews on TripAdvisor, you notice a common theme: the queues. Most people comment on the long lines and how their day would’ve been better without them. I agree – but there are some things that you can do to minimize the amount of time you spend waiting in queues.
You can buy standard entry tickets as either a 1-Day or 2-Day Studio Pass. These passes allow you entry to the park and all it’s attractions. I’d recommend the 1-Day Studio Pass if you’re just travelling. Everyone’s different of course, so you might prefer a 2-Day experience (which is great!) but for us, as much as we loved the day we spent at Universal Studios Japan, two days might’ve been a bit much for us. Click here to find updated ticket prices for the Studio Passes.
You can also purchase an Express Pass, which allows you to skip the general queue and use the Express queues. It gives you much shorter waiting times, but it’s almost the price of another ticket.
I spent a lot of time weighing up whether or not the Express Pass was going to be worth it. It was definitely the more expensive option – almost the same price as entry. Would it really make a difference? Would the wait for attractions be that much shorter?
In the end, we decided that if we were going all the way to Japan, we might as well just purchase it. I can honestly tell you all that we are SO thankful that we did. It saved us hours of waiting and allowed us to both fit more in and do the things we wanted to do. Our day simply would not have run as smoothly as it did without it. We really didn’t have to wait very much at all. On the few occasions that we did need to wait, the regular queues were much, much worse.
Of course it depends on your budget, but if you’re able to do it – don’t hesitate to buy the Express Pass. I was very apprehensive at first (because of the price), but when we got there we both agreed it really does make a huge difference to the day.
I recommend buying your tickets before the day. There’s big queues if you don’t (and sometimes, even if you do!) so buy them before the day and try to get there early. Often the park opens slightly before the advertised opening times anyway.
When we visited, we had to buy the tickets on the Japanese website because there wasn’t an English option for buying tickets. With my limited Japanese, this made things pretty tricky. Now I believe they do offer English support though – so great news for all us English speakers, you can buy from selected travel agents, indicated on the Universal Studios Japan website. Make sure you do buy from one of the retailers authorised on this page to ensure that you receive legitimate tickets!
Everything we did at Universal Studios Japan was fantastic. The attention to detail is so great that each experience is realistic and a lot of fun. Having been to other Universal Studio parks (like the one in Singapore), we both felt that the 3D rides at Universal Studios Japan just seemed more realistic and life-like.
If you’ve only got one day, you might not make it through everything, especially if you don’t have the Express Pass. So here are my recommendations on the things you really don’t want to miss:
Lots of people said this ride was a little corny (and look, it probably was), but we loved it! I really recommend you visit this one. Let your little cart spin you round as you tour the universe and fly in and out of the glittering stars and sparkling planets. With all the glitter and sparkles, it’s such a pretty ride and a lot of fun too!
A must for any Spiderman fans out there, this 3D ride takes you into the Marvel Universe and lets you see it for yourself as you help Spiderman fight evil.
Part of the ‘Hollywood’ area, Mel’s drive-in sells American diner food like burgers, chips and milkshakes in a unique 50s-style atmosphere. Eating here is a lot of fun, the atmosphere is great and the food is really good too. There are LOTS of other dining options at Universal Studios Japan, but we loved this one the most.
One thing you probably know about Japan is how much they love to try odd flavours in all sorts of foods. We weren’t disappointed when we visited Universal Studios Japan and were able to buy all sorts of interestingly flavoured popcorn. You can even get black pepper popcorn (which we weren’t game enough to try – whoops).
There’s also a store just outside the gates in the Universal CityWalk called ‘Popcorn Papa’ – make sure to check it out on your way back to the station. They sell even stranger flavours (teriyaki flavoured popcorn, anyone?). One of my favourite things to do in Japan was to try all their whacky flavoured foods, so make sure not to miss this!
This ride is crazy! The Hollywood Dream and Backdrop rollercoasters run high above the park and offer great views of the rest of the park as well as the surrounding Kansai area. It’s pretty straightforward, the Hollywood Dream Backdrop is the same ride but runs backwards, definitely a lot of fun and worth doing both, though.
When we visited, the Jurassic Park area was being revamped, so I haven’t included it here because we didn’t experience it for ourselves. We also loved the Back to the Future ride but unfortunately this has closed down (*sadface*).
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is an absolute must see for ANY Harry Potter fan. It is so well done and seriously spectacular. You can plunge yourself into the world of Harry Potter by enjoying a butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, exploring Honeydukes or visiting Ollivanders Wand Shop.
To limit the amount of people in this area, visits to the WWHP require timed entry tickets during peak times. This means you can only enter at the specific time that you are allocated (but can stay as long as you like – YAY!). Be aware that you can’t leave the WWHP and come back at a later time. Unfortunately once you’re out, you’re out, so stay until you’re sure you’re done.
If you purchase a Universal Studios Express Pass, your timed entry ticket is included with your express pass. If you didn’t purchase an Express Pass, you need to arrive early at the park and then make a bee-line for the machines that spit out timed entry tickets to the WWHP. It’s no extra cost, but they can run out, so if this is on your must-do list for Universal Studios Japan (and it probably should be!) then make sure you go straight to these machines in the morning. You’ll probably be joining a herd of other people doing the same thing.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is just spectacular and the attention to detail is amazing. You can try all the iconic ‘Hogwarts experiences’ for yourself.
Along the tree-lined path to Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts theme is played and the excitement begins. Before you reach the park, you can see (and take photos with) the iconic Ford Anglia.
When you enter the park you’re greeted with the iconic Hogwarts Express and the snow-capped rooves of Hogsmeade.
As you walk through Hogsmeade, you can stop for a drink at the Hogs Head or the Three Broomsticks. I had butterbeer, but they also have a selection of other drinks (but how can you go to WWHP and not drink butterbeer?). If you’re wondering – no, there’s no alcohol in butterbeer – so everyone can enjoy this delicious treat!
We visited Honeydukes which has been a lifelong dream of mine after seeing the sugary sweet displays in the movies. They sell all sorts of sweets and lollies – a few of my favourites being the Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. The beans are GREAT for a gift to take back home. We bought some for ourselves and had a fun night daring each other to try all the flavours. They had all sorts of yummy flavours (like green apple and candyfloss) and disgusting ones (like rotten egg, earwax or earthworm). Strangely, I really loved the soap flavour. Is that weird?
I know, I know: I keep throwing around words like ‘amazing’ and ‘spectacular’. Seriously, they’re the only words I have to describe it! Nothing else really conveys how special this experience is for the HP fan.
We loved this ride, it’s great fun. It takes you past Hagrid’s Hut, which is a mirror image of the one in the movies.
I loved visiting both Ollivanders wand shop as well as Dervish & Banges. At Ollivanders, you can take a tour or buy your very own wand! If you’d rather remember your day with a Hogwarts uniform, head to Dervish and Banges. Here you can peruse the shop, looking at all the Harry Potter merchandise, including uniforms, scarves, and notebooks.
There’s regular performances from the Hogwarts choir students with their croaking frogs, just like in the movies. It really added to the atmosphere and made everything a little more special, and we really enjoyed stopping and listening every time we walked by.
We found that as the day progressed, it really got a lot better in terms of queues. I have heard horror stories of how busy it can get in this area – particularly in the middle of the day. Going at a slightly off-peak time (we went in the late afternoon), we didn’t find it overly busy in this area.
We made our way excitedly up to the Hogwarts Castle that looms over Hogsmeade, which is where the ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ ride is located. Although it’s all in Japanese, and we had no idea what was being said, it was still fantastic.
One of the highlights of the day, this ride allows you to walk the halls of Hogwarts, through Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom and the Gryffindor Common Room, before you get to the ride. The ride is in 3D and it really feels as though you’re racing your broomstick over the Hogwarts spires. It’s a whole heap of fun, and you recognise so many iconic Harry Potter locations. Because of its popularity, the wait times can be long for this ride. I would recommend either just waiting, or coming back at a later time in the day. Trust me – it really is worth the wait!
It’s super easy to get to Universal Studios from Osaka station, so I recommend taking the train. It’ll save you the stress of parking.
From Osaka station, you simply need to catch the direct train via the JR Yumesaki Line, in the direction of Sakurajima and hop off at Universal City Station. There are lockers if you have luggage or big bags (there are also lockers closer to the park). The whole area is very well signposted if you’re not sure where you’re going. It’s a pretty safe bet to just follow the hordes of people though as most will be heading for Universal Studios Japan. The train ride only takes about 15 minutes, and costs about 180 Yen each way. Side note – since it’s a JR line, you can use your JR Pass for this route if you have one.
If you miss the direct train, no fear! You can also catch the Osaka Loop Line to Nishikujō Station and then switch here to the JR Yumesaki Line.
As with most parks, unfortunately if it’s raining too much, a lot of the attractions won’t run. It’s really unfortunate for those who do purchase tickets, but it’s for everyone’s safety. To avoid disappointment, come on a day (if at all possible!) where the weather is forecasted not to rain. If you do experience unexpected rain, Universal Studios Japan has plenty of indoor attractions to keep you busy.
Universal Studios Japan is really such a fun day out and an amazing experience. If you do get the chance to go while you’re in Osaka, I absolutely recommend it. Whether you have kids or not, it’s a great day for all. Hopefully this advice reduces the stress of the day and makes it a memorable one instead!
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