Universal Studios Japan was the 5th most visited theme park in the world in 2018 (according to the AECOM’s Theme Index and Museum Index Reports). While only a single park, it’s jam-packed with plenty to do that warrants even more than one day to visit! From the epic seasonal event that has included Sailor Moon & Final Fantasy in previous years to world-class attractions worth the long wait.
The Kansai region of Japan is popular with visitors with the historic cities of Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kobe, and I could go on forever. While there’s an endless choice for activities, there’s a good chance you’d like to escape reality for a day and immerse yourself in the wonders that is Universal Studios Japan.
This year Universal Studios Japan opens the world’s first Super Nintendo World, which in itself is enough to book that flight without even looking at the price. 2020 is the year to visit this fantastic Park and I’ll give you all my reasons why I think you should. After I’ve convinced you to visit, perfect your itinerary and planning with our comprehensive premium travel guide on Universal Studios Japan.
Super Nintendo World
Opening in Summer 2020 (no official date yet) is the highly anticipated Super Nintendo World. Universal Studios Japan is the first Universal Park to get such an area, which makes sense since Nintendo originated from Japan. With a flagship Mario Kart attraction (I really want to throw a blue shell!), Yoshi ride, restaurants, and shops, this new area sounds incredibly promising.
As a lifelong Nintendo fan (I was 5-years-old when I got my first NES), words can’t explain how much this is a dream come true. When the area opens and you see a 35-year-old balling his eyes out, that’s probably me.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The best version of Hogsmeade lives at Universal Studios Japan in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. From the impressive entrance leading up to the best reveal of Hogsmeade to the picturesque Black Lake in front of Hogwarts Castle. Similar to the other versions in Hollywood and Orlando, you’re able to get your Butterbeer fix and use your interactive wands.
While it doesn’t have Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure like Orlando, this version in Japan offers Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (which has intensified effects) and Flight of the Hippogriff along with seasonal and year-round entertainment.
Protip: If you’re after Butterbeer sneak into Hog’s Head to avoid the long lines at the outdoor wagons.
Universal Spectacle Night Parade -The Best of Hollywood-
The best way to close out the day at Universal Studios Japan is with their nighttime parade. It features Transformers, Harry Potter, Minions, and even Jurassic Park. The best part is the projection mapping alongside the buildings as the parade moves down. Also, how can you not get excited for seeing the Hogwarts Express roll down the parade route?
Protip: Get the Express Pass for the best seats for the show or get a spot in front of the Terminator building (you’re able to watch it twice from here)
The Flying Dinosaur
Hands-down my favourite roller coaster at any theme/amusement park. It’s a flying coaster with the perfect mixture of extreme thrills and smile-inducing fun. Whenever I visit Universal Studios Japan, it’s the one thing I always have to experience. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you’re wanting a thrill, then you won’t be sorry. You’ll have to get there early (or buy an Express Pass) to beat the long queue. This has the longest waits in the Park almost every day (even weekdays).
Protip: If you’re not using an Express Pass use the Single Rider line FIRST THING in the morning to avoid long waits.
The most insane indoor coaster I’ve ever ridden. While it’s not intense compared to most roller coasters, it’s pure fun and, without giving too much away, it reminds me of the Pokemon episode that wasn’t aired outside of Japan. During Cool Japan and Halloween Horror Nights, this attraction becomes a themed overlay.
Protip: Use the Single Ride line and if you’re worried about fitting there’s a test seat at the entrance to the queue.
Throughout the year Universal Studios Japan offers a variety of seasonal events to add even more value to your day-ticket! That means it’s all included with your studio’s pass (some special attractions are extra, however). These events include Cool Japan, Halloween Horror Nights (yes, it’s not an extra cost like the US Parks!), Christmas, Easter, and Summer!
Cool Japan and Halloween Horror Nights include special attraction overlays during the events. Again, this doesn’t cost you anything extra (except a couple of experiences) and is included in your ticket. The best thing about Halloween Horror Nights is it happens every evening during the event, unlike the US Parks where it’s select evenings.
Protip: Express Pass for seasonal attractions makes the day much smoother because these attractions usually have the highest waits in the Park.
Over-the-top Popcorn Buckets
Popcorn buckets are Universal Studios Japan specialty. Endless Minions-themed buckets and seasonal buckets (they’ve done a talking Chocobo in the past!) are a sure way to separate you with your money. You’ll find them all around the Park and they’re always changing that it’s hard to keep up!
Protip: Wash out your bucket and it doubles as a cute bag to store stuff in.
Cute & Delicious Snacks
When it comes to food, Osaka takes it seriously. In turn, Universal Studios Japan appeals to the food culture with not only delicious but cute food. Snoopy and Hello Kitty steamed buns, Final Fantasy-themed churros, and even a Jaws roll cake. There’s plenty of options for snacks while you’re at the Park.
Protip: Get the classic Jaw roll cake from Amity Landing Restaurant.
The beloved JAWS attraction still terrorizes visitors to Amity Village at Universal Studios Japan. This is the last surviving version at a Universal Park, so best ride it while you can! Even if you don’t understand the Japanese dialogue, it still holds up.
Protip: Single Rider line, enough said.
Your wallet takes a hit any time you walk into any of the shops. Harry Potter, Sesame Street, Hello Kitty, Minions, and Peanuts are some of the franchises you’ll find on the shelves.
Protip: Take advantage of tax-free shopping to save some money when you spend ¥5,000 or more.
Easy to fit into your itinerary
You’re travelling all the way to the Kansai area in the middle of Japan. Take a break from all the gorgeous sites and spend 1 or 2-days at Universal Studios Japan. It’s an easy park to squeeze into your itinerary.
Protip: Visit between Tuesday and Friday for the lowest crowds.
Universal Studios Japan is one of my favourite theme parks to visit anytime during the year. Chances are if you’re visiting Japan, you’re off to Kyoto and Osaka, so make a stop at Universal. While the Park is quite busy on most days, you’ll have a wonderful time. When you visit make sure to have a frozen Butterbeer for me.
More on Universal Studios Japan
Book Your Flight
I personally 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 a lot to Japan. You’ll sometimes stumble on cheap flights to Kansai International Airport.
Buy Your Shinkansen Tickets (Bullet Train)
Getting around Japan by the world-renown 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 yourself 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 with 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 shortlist 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 and have restaurants and even a Lawson (Japanese convenience store).
- The Singulari HOTEL & SKYSPA – Attached to the train station is this simple hotel fantastic 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 great to unwind and relax.
- Hotel Universal Port – For the Minion fan in your family (I’m looking at you Mom and your Minion memes you share on Facebook) this is a great hotel only a 5-minute walk from Universal Studios Japan. It also boasts the largest breakfast buffet in Japan that’s a must during your visit.
Buy Your Tickets & Express Pass
Save yourself time and stress by buying your tickets and Express Pass for Universal Studios Japan in advance. The less time you spend in line buying tickets the more time you have to enjoy everything in the Park!
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 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’re never able to predict. Whenever I travel, I always budget for travel insurance to protect myself. I’ve had to use it in the past and I’m so glad I had it. My recommended company is World Nomads for travel insurance.
Learn More on Universal Studios Japan
Don’t forget to study our in-depth destination guide on Universal Studios Japan for even more information on this wonderful park in Osaka.
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