15 Essential Tips for First-Time Visitors to Universal Studios Japan


Universal Studios Japan is one of my favourite theme parks worldwide. If you’ve been an Explorer with us for a while, then it is no surprise that I always recommend the park to anyone visiting Japan’s Kansai region. The varied offerings from limited-time anime collaborations, family-friendly entertainment, and the incredible Super Nintendo World make this park one of the best.

Knowing where to start with your planning is overwhelming if it’s your first visit to Universal Studios Japan. As a regular visitor to the park, I’m here to give you essential tips for your first visit.

Read through all these tips, and you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else.

Once you’re done, I recommend our comprehensive digital guidebook on Universal Studios Japan to take your travel planning to the next level.

Always Buy Tickets & Express Pass in Advance

Universal Studios Japan Park Tickets

While you can attempt to buy tickets at the ticket booths, I don’t recommend that at all. Not only do you risk tickets selling out, but you’re also wasting time getting into the park to beat the crowds.

Tickets and Express Pass are available two months in advance.

I have a complete guide on buying your tickets and Express Pass in our tickets guide, so read that article at least three times. If you know you want tickets right now, then I recommend buying your tickets and express pass through Klook.

Express Pass is Worth Splurging

The Express Pass allows you to skip the lines for select attractions and the options to enter Super Nintendo World. It’ll save you time from waiting in the regular standby line.

The Express Pass is worth the splurge if you cannot visit often or if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. In most cases, the cost per person is more than a day ticket, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Read my guide on Express Pass to learn how to buy them.

Arrive at the Park Early

The Flying Dinosaur Universal Studios Japan
The Flying Dinosaur is my favourite rollercoaster (be warned, it’s quite intense)

The worst-kept secret is that Universal Studios Japan opens the park before its advertised opening time. That means if the park hours say 8:00 AM on the website, the park could open as early as 7:00 AM. The kicker is the time isn’t publicly announced.

A good rule of thumb is to be there an hour before opening. Most major attractions are open so that you can knock out a few rides with minimal wait. Sometimes, you can walk right into Super Nintendo World, but this isn’t always the case; see our guide for more details.

Stay at a Universal Studios Japan Hotel

It’s much easier to arrive at the park early in the morning if you’re staying at one of the Universal hotels at the park. I recommend staying two or three nights in a hotel. Here are my recommendations:

HotelBooking Website(s)
The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios JapanKlook | Booking.com
Oriental Hotel Universal CityKlook | Booking.com
The Singulari Hotel & Skyspa at Universal Studios JapanKlook | Booking.com
Liber Hotel at Universal Studios JapanKlook | Booking.com
Klook is a trusted service that we’ve been recommending for over five years.

Universal Studios Japan is accessible to all the hot spots in Osaka, so it’s not out of the question to use your Universal Hotel as your home base if you don’t want to bounce around hotels. Each hotel gives different benefits, so it’s best to check with them directly.

Download the Universal Studios Japan App

Having the Universal Studios Japan app makes your day easier by seeing the wait times for attractions and the park map. The app makes getting a timed entry for Super Nintendo World easier.

There’s only Wi-Fi at the entrance to the park, so I recommend a portable Wi-Fi device or an e-sim to stay connected in Japan. Also, you’ll need to keep your devices charged, so a portable power bank is essential.

You Can’t Simply Walk into Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World Guide Universal Studios Japan
The iconic Peach’s Castle inside Super Nintendo World (taken during previews)

Super Nintendo World requires an additional reservation called a timed entry (free of charge) to get into the area. Without one, you’re unable to enter the area in most cases. Here’s a quick rundown of how to get into Super Nintendo World:

  • Buy an Express Pass that comes with a timed entry.
  • Get a timed entry after you’ve scanned your park ticket into the park through the app.
  • Somedays, if you’re inside the park before the official opening time, you may be able to enter the area without a timed entry ticket.

Read our comprehensive guide for more details on getting into Super Nintendo World. You can also watch our video below!

Visit During the Week

The park is known for being busy and crowded, so the best way to avoid crowds is to visit during the week and skip national holidays. While you can consult with a crowd calendar to check your dates, I advise you to choose a day or two that works best with your plans.

Stressing over visiting on a Wednesday or Thursday isn’t worth the stress. Pick one that works best and go with that. You’ll be fine if it’s not a national holiday.

Don’t forget to check attraction closures and consult our best times to visit guide (it’s for Tokyo Disney Resort, but the same idea applies).

One Day is Enough

In most cases, one day is enough to enjoy Univeral Studios Japan, even more so if you opt for the Express Pass. For a more relaxed pace, then go with 1.5 or 2 days.

Use the Single Rider Lines

Some major attractions have a Single Rider line, and I cannot stress enough that you should use them. This allows you to have a shorter wait, but the only downside is you’re separated from everyone you’re with (in most cases).

When it comes to saving time, it’s worth ditching everyone! Ask any of my friends who visit with me. I do it all the time.

These rides have Single Rider lines that you should use:

  • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
  • Space Fantasy – The Ride (and its overlay)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D – The Ride (closing permanently in 2024)
  • The Flying Dinosaur
  • Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge
  • JAWS
  • Elmo’s Go-Go Skateboard
  • Hollywood Dream – The Ride
  • Jurassic Park – The Ride
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Check the Seasonal Event Calendar

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan has special seasonal events, most of which are included in your ticket, throughout the year, from its popular Cool Japan to Halloween Horror Nights. While the events aren’t announced far in advance, I recommend checking the events calendar to see what’s happening during your visit!

Also, check attraction closures too.

There’s No Rentry

One thing that catches people off guard is no re-entry with a day ticket. If you leave the park, you won’t be allowed back in on the same ticket; you’ll have to buy another one. The only exception I’m aware of is if you have an annual pass.

Don’t Worry Too Much About the Language Barrier

You can navigate most things at the park if you don’t know Japanese. The park map, signage, and restaurant menus are in English. However, don’t expect all Team Members to speak English. While they’ll do their best to help you, knowing a few pleasantries and having Google Translate on your phone help. Also, most of the shows are only in Japanese.

Some things, like limited-time events and offerings, are inaccessible if you don’t know Japanese. An example is the Spy x Family treasure hunt is only in Japanese and no other language.

Expect Waits for Food

See my food and restaurant recommendations.

Expect restaurant and food booth lines to become long during meal times. Try to eat before noon or later in the day for shorter lines. You may need a “timed ticket” to stand in the queue for some limited-time food. An example is the Pokémon snacks, where on busy days, you’ll need to get a timed ticket and return later, which are first-come-first-served.

On most days, Kinopio’s Cafe in Super Nintendo World requires you to get a return time as you can’t make a reservation ahead of time. You’ll get this return time from the front of the restaurant.

Get a Spot for the Parade Early

No Limit Parade Pokemon Universal Studios Japan
“No Limit” Parade featuring Pokemon, Mario Kart, and tons more characters!

The “No Limit!” Parade is worth waiting for, and I recommend getting a spot no later than an hour before it starts. While it typically begins at 2 PM, check the schedule. It’s a ton of fun, and you won’t regret it.

Travelling from Tokyo is Possible

There’s a good chance Universal Studios Japan is part of a larger trip, and you’ll come from the Tokyo area. If you have the JR Rail Pass (or buy a ticket a-la-carte), hop onto the Shinkansen, aka bullet train, between Tokyo and Osaka (or vice versa). It’s about a 2.5-hour train ride and is a popular route, which means there’s a lot of signage in English.

Remember to Enjoy Yourself

It’s easy to get overwhelmed while sticking to your carefully laid-out plan. When I feel overwhelmed, I slow down, take a few deep breaths, and remind myself we’re here to have fun! The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re doing your research, and I’m here to reassure you that you’ll be fine. All your plans may not work perfectly, but it’ll all work out in the end.

Now, go and have fun and ride The Flying Dinosaur for me! For more on Universal Studios Japan, see our dedicated page and digital guidebook!

More on Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan Guidebook

Are you planning a trip to Universal Studios Japan? If so, you need our digital guidebook! Our guidebook is the most comprehensive resource available, covering everything you need to know about the park, including Super Nintendo World, Express Pass, hotels, restaurants, attractions, shows, seasonal events, and more! With our guidebook, you’ll be an expert on Universal Studios Japan before you even set foot in the park. You’ll know what to expect, where to go, and what to do. You’ll also be able to avoid the crowds and make the most of your time at the park.

TDR Explorer Guide to Universal Studios Japan 2024 Cover

GET YOUR GUIDEBOOK NOW

Book Your Flight

I use Google Flights & Momodo to find affordable flights. Another great way is to sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights to get notifications of cheap fares, which happens often in Japan. You’ll sometimes stumble on cheap flights to Kansai International Airport.

Buy Your Shinkansen Tickets (Bullet Train)

Getting around Japan by the world-renowned bullet train, known as the Shinkansen, is incredibly fast, reliable, and affordable for visitors. You can travel from Tokyo to Osaka in just over 2 hours. Get the JR Rail Pass to save a ton of money on the bullet train for your trip.

Book Your Hotel

Universal Studios Japan has affordable accommodations that are steps away from the park and have easy access to Osaka. I recommend checking prices through Booking.com followed by the hotels directly. Sometimes you’re able to score some incredible deals. Here’s a short list of hotels at Universal Studios Japan I recommend.

  • The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios Japan – You’re directly in front of the Park gates and have instant access to Universal CityWalk Osaka. The rooms are gorgeous, with restaurants and even a Lawson (Japanese convenience store).
  • The Singulari HOTEL & SKYSPA – Attached to the train station is a fantastic hotel for those who want a comfortable, clean, and stylish place to sleep. After a long day at Universal Studios Japan, the rooftop sento (public bath) is excellent for unwinding and relaxing.
  • Hotel Universal Port – This is an excellent hotel for the Minion fan in your family, only a 5-minute walk from Universal Studios Japan. It also boasts the largest breakfast buffet in Japan, a must during your visit.

Buy Your Tickets & Express Pass

In advance, save time and stress by buying your tickets and Express Pass for Universal Studios Japan.

Stay Connected

Universal Studios Japan only offers free Wi-Fi at the entrance to the Park. That’s not enough to stay connected and share your day with everyone back home to give them FOMO on Instagram. Here’s how you can stay connected while travelling in Japan.

  • Pocket Wi-Fi – If you’re travelling with a group or have multiple devices, this is your best and most affordable way to stay connected to the internet. Pick up and drop off at the airport. Easy.
  • Japan SIM Card – If you have an unlocked phone and need a Japanese phone number, this is the best and easiest way.

Get Yourself Travel Insurance

While travelling aboard, having travel insurance protects you against injury, cancellations, illness, and other things you can never predict. Whenever I travel, I always budget for travel insurance to protect myself. I’ve used it, and I’m so glad I had it. My recommended companies are SafteyWing and  World Nomads for travel insurance.

Learn More about Universal Studios Japan

Don’t forget to study our in-depth destination guide on Universal Studios Japan for more information on this beautiful park in Osaka.

Some links may be affiliate links to services I recommend. Buying services through these links at no extra cost to you help support TDR Explorer. Please read our full disclosure for more details.


4 Comments

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  1. Melanie Marie

    Hi! This is great! I’ll be visiting Japan for the first time in the fall and the first part of our trip is at USJ. We have the Park Front Hotel booked and tickets for a Thursday and Friday. Questions about Express Pass- what do you think they’ll replace JP The Ride with on the UEP 7? We will be going after it closes. I see the UEP includes the timed entry for SNW but it’ll assign you a time automatically or do you get to pick it? And for HHN, is there a separate Express Pass?

  2. Denise

    Hello! We managed to secure express passes for November, but our timed-entry schedule for SMW is during the evening. We’re wondering if it’s possible to use the USJ app to try for a different timed entry slot and still make use of our express passes, or if using the express pass for SMW counts as our one-time entry for the day?

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