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Universal Studios Japan Ultimate Trip Planning Guide 2024


Universal Studios Japan (ユニバーサルスタジオジャパン), also known as “USJ,” is one of the four Universal Studios theme parks in the world. Universal Studios Japan opened in Osaka, Japan, on March 31, 2001. The park offers unique attractions like “The Flying Dinosaur” and select attractions from the other Universal Studios theme parks, such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Since 2021, Universal Studios Japan has become a must-visit destination with the opening of the world’s first Super Nintendo World. In this guide, I’ll show you the best times to visit (and when not to), what to eat, how to experience all the best attractions and how to buy your park tickets and express pass.

Take your trip planning to the next level with our Universal Studios Japan digital travel guide. It covers everything mentioned here plus tons more in one convenient package.

If you’re only looking for tickets, I recommend buying your Park tickets and Express Pass in advance to save yourself time and frustration.

Essential Items

TDR Explorer Globe Universal Studios Japan

Before you head to the park, here’s a list of essential items for the park and travel within Japan and Osaka.

Use offer code KLKTDREX to save US$4 off your first order through Klook.

It’s worth noting that while USJ does offer free Wi-Fi, it’s only under the canopy in Hollywood and for 15 minutes (3 times a day). You’ll have to rely on your Wi-Fi device or get a SIM card for your smartphone.

The JR Rail Pass is worth it if you’re travelling between Tokyo and Osaka on a round-trip. It’s the perfect way to save money on transportation if you plan to visit Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan in a single trip.

The written guide to USJ is only in Japanese but has a ton of photos, which makes it fun to browse through before your trip (Google Translate on your smartphone works well). More importantly, there are photos of food and snacks. It also makes for a unique memento of your trip.

If you spend time in Osaka (you should) before or after USJ, I recommend the Osaka Amazing Pass and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

For more items, refer to my packing guide for theme parks in Japan.

Klook and Voyagin are authorized sellers of park tickets for Universal Studios Japan. All links are affiliate links; we receive a commission for each sale. Read our disclosure.

When to Visit

Butter Beer Universal Studios Japan
No matter when you visit, Butter Beer is always in season

Like Tokyo Disney Resort, there are excellent and not-so-excellent times to visit the park. You’re in good shape if you apply our advice from Tokyo Disney Resort to Universal Studios Japan. But let’s recap, shall we?

Generally, you’ll want to avoid weekends and Japanese Public Holidays. The best days are Tuesday through Thursday. The reason for not going on a Monday is to avoid the chance of running into school groups, which is a popular day to do so.

Crowd Calendar

This is the best crowd calendar for Universal Studios Japan. It’s only in Japanese, so check out our How to Use the Universal Studios Japan Crowd Calendar for how to read it and some extra tips too.

Best Times to Visit

The best times to visit takes into account the crowd levels, weather, and Japanese Public Holidays.

  • January
    • Anytime starting after the second week of January (this is after the New Years Holiday and everyone goes back to school and work)
    • Lower crowds
    • It’s cold so better bundle up
    • Average temperature: 6°C (43°F)
  • April
    • Anytime before the end of April, so you can avoid Golden Week (which is one of the biggest holidays in Japan)
    • Average temperature: 15°C (59°F)
  • May
    • The weather is the most comfortable all year
    • Visit after Golden Week after everyone goes back to school and work
    • Average temperature: 20°C (68°F)
  • September
    • Back to school for kids
    • Halloween starts this month
    • The summer humidity begins to fade away and leaves cooler weather, but still relatively warm
    • Average temperature: 25°C (77°F)
  • November
    • Christmas begins at the park
    • The weather is nice and cool
    • Average temperature: 14°C (57°F)

If you have to choose one time to visit, I’d go with the first half of April or the second half of May. You’ll miss Golden Week and experience some of the best weather in Osaka. This also works with Tokyo Disney Resort (if this is part of a bigger trip), as this is also one of the best times to visit Tokyo.

Worst Times to Visit

Universal Studios Japan can get busy, and by that, I mean The Flying Dinosaur reaches 4-5 hour waits at peak times and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey up to 3-4 hours, arguably worse than Tokyo Disney Resort.

To help avoid that, here are the worst times to visit.

  • Any Japanese Public Holiday
    • Avoid the days on either end of a holiday, especially if it lands on a weekend (meaning Friday and Monday are likely busy, too)
  • End of December into January
    • New Year is a huge holiday in Japan
  • June
    • Rainy season
    • Average temperature: 24°C (75°F)
  • July & August
    • The hottest time of the year
    • Summer vacation for students
    • Obon Week
    • Average temperature: 29°C (84°F)
  • February & March
    • Cold weather
    • Spring break for students in March
    • Average temperature: 6°C (43°F)

How Many Days

With the Express Pass, you can easily complete everything in a single day. I recommend buying the Express Pass to maximize your one day at the park (it’s doable without it, but more on that later). I’d only recommend two days (or 1.5 days) if you are visiting during a busy period.

Park Tickets

You could buy your tickets at the front gates, but that wastes valuable time. The official website sells tickets and ExpressPass, but it’s only in Japan. So what do you do?

I recommend getting your tickets and ExpressPass through official partners, Voyagin or Klook. Buy your ticket online and go directly into the Park with your direct entry ticket. It’s that simple.

Use offer code KLKTDREX to save US$4 off your first order. See our travel resources for more discount codes.

Express Pass

The Express Pass allows you to bypass the standby line for select attractions once (depending on your ticket option). This is crucial for saving time in the park. You can buy these at the park (or online in Japanese only from the official website), but there is a limited number per day. To avoid disappointment, I recommend buying them in advance.

I prefer the “Universal Express Pass 4” as it covers Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (comes with your assigned timed entry) and The Flying Dinosaur. I’ve saved over 3 hours without having to wait in the standby lines. The extra cost is worth it, without question. Unless you want to ride every major ride in the park with no wait, the Express Pass 4 is a more viable option.

It is possible to do the park without any Express Pass if you go on a weekday, are vigilant in the morning, and take advantage of the single rider lines. Throughout the year USJ offers Express Pass for their Cool Japan and Halloween Horror Nights attractions.

Hotels

Hotel Keihan Universal Studios Japan
Hotel Keihan

Universal Studios Japan offers official, alliance, and associate hotels, which cover every type of budget.

Official

The official hotels are right on the property and are only a couple of minutes’ walk from the park. The hotels offer ticket sales, easy access to/from the park, the latest park information, and merchandise available in the gift shops.

Alliance

These hotels are not on property but offer easy access to the park via the train or free shuttle service. I recommend staying at these hotels if you plan on experiencing more of Osaka before or after Universal Studios Japan. You’ll find the full list on the official website.

  • Regal Hotel (Free shuttle to the park)
  • Osaka Mariott Hotel
  • The Ritz Carlton Osaka

Recommendations

If you’re on a budget, I recommend Hotel Keihan which is right on property and only a two-minute walk from the park. While the hotel is a bit dated, it’s clean and comfortable. Another option is the cheaper Airbnb properties nearby.

Getting There

Universal Studios Japan Train Station

Universal Studios Japan is right in Osaka, making it easy to get to via train. The JR Rail Pass covers the routes to Universal City Station. Get yourself to Nishi-Kujo Station (西九条駅), then transfer to the JR Yumesaki line. There, you’ll go straight to Universal City Station (ユニバーサルシティ駅).

I recommend using Google Maps to plan your route.

From Shin-Osaka Station

If you’re arriving via Shinkansen (bullet train), then this is the station you’ll arrive at.

  • Shin-Osaka to Osaka Station
  • Transfer at Osaka Station to the JR Osaka Loop Line
  • Transfer to the JR Yumesaki Line at Nishi-Kujo Station
  • Direct to Universal City Station

I recommend having an IC Card (Suica or ICOCA) to pay for the local trains. It’s easier than buying single tickets. If you’re arriving in Osaka (as opposed to Tokyo),, I recommend buying a pre-loaded card from Klook. For more ways to get there, consult the official website.

From Kansai Airport

You can take the bus to USJ or the Nankai Line Airport Express to Namba Station. You’ll go there to Nishi-Kuji Station, then Universal City Station.

1-Day Itinerary

Jaws Cake Universal Studios Japan
Keep room for this JAWS roll cake at the Amity Landing Restaurant

Here’s a quick 1-day itinerary for Universal Studios Japan. This assumes you want to experience all the best attractions and entertainment. This itinerary also assumes you don’t have an Express Pass. I created this so you can drop/add items as you see fit and adjust for the crowds.

If you have an Express Pass, you’ll have assigned time slots to ride the attraction, so adjust accordingly.

Morning

Get breakfast at McDonald’s or Lawson convenience store before you get in line for the park. There’s also Starbucks when you exit the train station.

  • Line up at least an hour before the park opens (even on weekdays)
  • Standby for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Grab yourself a Butterbeer
  • Single Rider for The Flying Dinosaur
  • Single Rider for The Amazing Spiderman The Ride 4K3D or Jurassic Park

Afternoon

  • Lunch at Louie’s N.Y. Pizza Parlor, Discovery Restaurant, or Mel’s Drive-In
  • Catch the afternoon parade if there is one (Check the schedule)
  • Watch the afternoon show of WaterWorld
  • Single Rider for Jaws
  • Single Rider for Hollywood Dream — The Ride

Evening

  • Head back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to enjoy the atmosphere
  • Dinner at the Three Broomsticks
  • Single Rider for Space Fantasy

Attractions

The Flying Dinosaur Universal Studios Japan

The best advice I’ll give you is to use the Single Rider lines. As fun as it is to ride with your friends and family, saving yourself hours is worth the separation for a short period. Let me reiterate that again — use the single rider lines.

Here’s my list of recommended attractions that you shouldn’t miss. The full list of attractions is also on the official website.

The Flying Dinosaur

It’s one of the best rollercoasters I have been on. And if you only ride one attraction, make it this one. I recommend the single rider or Express Pass option.

Universal Studios Japan takes safety seriously, and you’re asked to empty all your pockets and remove any loose articles. You’ll be kicked out of the park if you’re found with anything while the ride is in operation. It’s happened to a few people already, so don’t be that person.

Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey

It’s easy to take a pass on this one if you’ve done it before, but I recommend you don’t. The movie quality is higher and much crisper. Also, how can you resist being inside Hogwarts? Other than that, it’s a clone of the other versions but with Japanese audio.

Space Fantasy: The Ride

I’ll admit that I thought about skipping this attraction because I knew nothing about it and the building is unassuming. There are times in my life I am glad I am wrong, and this was one of those times. This indoor coaster is — pardon the pun — out of this world.

You board your vehicle on a moving platform (think Haunted Mansion or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters), and you’re off into the galaxy. Your vehicle spins and rotates almost every way possible (there are no inversions) with an ending that reminds me of this Pokemon episode. In other words, there are intense strobe and lighting effects.

This ride sometimes overlaps with the Cool Japan promotions throughout the year.

Hollywood Dream — The Ride

Two versions of this roller coaster are called “Hollywood Dream — The Ride” and “Hollywood Dream — The Ride ~Backdrop~.” The coasters are on the same track; the only difference is that the “backdrop” is completely backward. Choose the version you want and get in line. It’s not an intense rollercoaster like The Flying Dinosaur, but it is fun. I recommend the “backdrop” version.

Honourable Mentions

If time permits, then I recommend hitting these attractions up.

  • JAWS
  • Amazing Adventures of Spiderman The Ride 4K3D

The new Minions ride was not great and was the former Back to the Future attraction. I only recommend it if you have children who are fans of the franchise or if you ran out of options for your Express Pass. It’s the same ride system as The Simpsons in Orlando, Florida.

Single Rider Attractions

When using the single rider line, you are split up if you’re with multiple people. The single-rider line isn’t always available due to crowds and high wait times.

  • Space Fantasy – The Ride
  • Hollywood Dream — The Ride (Doesn’t include the Backdrop version)
  • The Flying Dinosaur
  • Jurassic Park – The Ride
  • JAWS
  • Elmo’s Go-Go Skateboard

Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World opened in 2021 at Universal Studios Japan and is likely one of the main reasons you wish to visit. Read our entire in-depth guide to learn about Super Nintendo World.

Entertainment

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

Take a break from the thrill rides and take in some of the shows and entertainment throughout the park. Here’s my list of recommendations.

The “No Limit!” Parade is their daytime parade that includes Pokemon, Mario Kart, Peanuts, Hello Kitty, Sing, and Minions. If you see any form of entertainment, make it this parade. Check the app for times.

WaterWorld is just plain over-the-top ridiculous fun. I don’t remember the last time I saw the movie, but the stunt show, while corny in the dialogue, is worth watching. Just avoid the front rows if you don’t want to become drenched.

Minion Hacha-Mecha Time and Greeting are fun for the kids or anyone who’s a Minions fan. I’ll admit that I am a closet Minions fan. I can’t help but smirk when they speak in their Minion gibberish.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Evening Universal Studios Japan

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened on July 15, 2014, and is a themed area for the Harry Potter franchise.

The entrance is a wooded path that builds up the anticipation into the area and is filled with music and a few recognizable elements from the movies. Once you reach the end of the path, you’re greeted with a grand reveal of Hogsmeade. The quality of the theming is easily the best in the park.

Hogsmeade has several interactive wand areas, where you’ll see other wizards trying out their wands (they also garner long lines). You’ll find a variety of shops that carry Harry Potter merchandise (wands, robes, candy, etc) and, of course, everyone’s favourite (mine included), Butterbeer, which you can get frozen if you prefer, too.

Hogwarts Castle has a walkthrough experience and the 4K3D attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You may want to skip this attraction if you’re prone to motion sickness. I get motion sickness easily, but I found while I got dizzy, it’s not as bad as other attractions (the high air conditioning in the summer helps reduce motion sickness). Then, you have the Flight of the Hippogriff, a fun, family-friendly roller coaster.

I highly recommend doing the castle walkthrough to soak in all the gorgeous detail.

Timed Entry

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter may need a timed entry to get into the area. But I’ve seen it used maybe once in 2019 and never since. So, in my experience, the likelihood of needing it is slim. If you need one, you can get it for free through the Universal Studios Japan app the day of your visit or have an Express Pass with a timed entry.

Food

Louie's Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan offers counter and table service restaurants and an abundance of adorable snacks. You’ll find a variety of cuisines that should satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Burgers, fries, spaghetti, pizza, chicken, Japanese, and Chinese are just available samples.

The official website has a full list of restaurants (no online menus in English), which you can easily look up. I’ll give you my recommended places and snacks to eat in the park to make things easier. Table service restaurants don’t require reservations, but you may wait a while if the park is busy.

Check the operating hours for each restaurant because they do vary. This prevents you from becoming “hangry.” (Not that I have had that experience or anything.)

Recommendations

  • Louie’s N.Y. Pizza Parlor (Pasta and Pizza)
  • Discovery Restaurant (Chicken and Hamburgers)
  • Amity Landing Restaurant (Fried Chicken)
  • Three Broomsticks
  • Mel’s Drive-In (Cheeseburgers)
  • Studio Stars Restaurant (BBQ Roast Chicken & Minion-themed food)
  • Happiness Cafe (Minion-themed burgers and dishes)

Snacks

Similar to Tokyo Disney Resort, there is a variety of cute snacks that changes regularly. The ones I list here are regular menu items, which means they are available year-round.

  • Minion Cookies (Delicious Me! The Cookie Kitchen)
  • Banana Churro (Minion Park Area)
  • Turkey Leg Popcorn (Jurassic Park Area)
  • Soda Roll Cake (Amity Landing Restaurant)
  • Butterbeer (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter)
  • Elmo Steamed Bun with Teriyaki Chicken (Universal Wonderland)

Read our best snacks at Universal Studios Japan to plan your meals!

Shopping

Universal Studios Japan Merchandise

There are a ton of shopping opportunities throughout the park. There’s even a small shop just outside the park gates (but with a smaller selection). The Universal Studios Store is where you’ll find the most items, including Harry Potter. The stores in Minion Park are where you’ll find Minion-themed goods.

You’ll find t-shirts, key chains, accessories, and omiyage (souvenirs usually in food) in various characters from Sesame Street to Hello Kitty.

The park doesn’t have external batteries to charge your smartphone. They do have charging stations, but they are a bit annoying to use. I highly recommend this external battery to ensure you aren’t left with a dead phone.

Other Resources

Supplement your trip planning with excellent resources:

Explorer Thoughts

Do you have any more tips to add? Share them in the comments!

Ultimate Guide to Universal Studios Japan Pinterest

More Things to Do in Tokyo

My recommendations for things to do in and around Tokyo! Plan a day at the Hello Kitty theme park, Sanrio Puroland, and an afternoon at the popular TeamLab Planets TOKYO. Take a tour around Tokyo with the convenient hop-on and-off bus. Spend a rainy afternoon inside Japan’s largest indoor theme park, Tokyo Joyoplis, near Tokyo Disney!

More on Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort Guidebook

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Get tickets for Tokyo Disney Resort

Buying your tickets for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea ahead of time is vital. Read our comprehensive guide on tickets to learn how to purchase tickets. For recommendations on SIM cards, portable Wi-Fi devices, travel insurance, cheap flights, and hotel bookings, read our travel resources page.

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