Hey, fellow Explorers! It’s Chris from TDR Explorer and today I am sharing our experience at Universal Studios Japan. Okay, that was my lame attempt to sound like the introductions we do for our YouTube channel.
Well, anyway, we took a short break from the Disney Parks and made our way to Osaka to play in the rain at Universal Studios Japan!
The month of June is the rainy season for Japan. There’s only so much an umbrella can do and I am against wearing a poncho (I end up a puddle of sweat and taking it on and off bothers me to no end). This meant that I had soaking wet feet all day, while Bryson was a bit smarter and wore sandals (or thongs, depending on where you are from). Although he did slip a total of 3 times throughout the day, so I guess that’s the trade-off?
Our packing list for Tokyo Disney Resort applies here, too, so give that a read, if you’re inclined.
What you’ll learn here is how not to handle the rain (I am not the best role model at times), whether I think the Express Pass is worth it, what we ate, and how the crowds were. A full planning guide is in the works, so keep an eye out for that in the near future.
Alright, let’s get to our rainy day at Universal Studios Japan!
Express Pass is Essential
Universal Studios Japan—also known as USJ—is a busy park even during the weekdays. The rain did keep the crowds low, but that didn’t mean there weren’t high wait times. Only 30 minutes after park open, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey hit 140 minutes (think of it as their Toy Story Mania at Tokyo DisneySea) and the newest attraction, Despicable Me Minions Mayhem held at 50 minutes most of the day. The outdoor roller coasters ranged from 30 minutes to an hour (The Flying Dinosaur and Hollywood Dream).
We got the Express Pass 7 (provided by Klook) which includes a number of attractions (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Flying Dinosaur were the biggest ones for us). The best and easiest way to buy your Express Pass and Universal Studios Japan park ticket online is through our affiliate Klook. They have a range of Express Pass options to choose from. Use promo code KLKTDREX to save on your first order!
Klook also offers a VIP Wristband that gets you into the park before anyone else (they email the time it’ll open as it’s different every day). I haven’t used this personally (if you have, let us know what you thought), but in lieu of the Express Pass, if you want to experience one or two rides, then this is a cheaper option. You’ll just have to hustle to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey then to The Flying Dinosaur.
The reason why I say this is the best and easiest is that the official USJ website only sells their park tickets and Express Pass tickets in Japanese, which is cumbersome if you can’t read it. Make sure to buy your Express Pass ahead of time, as they do sell out. Another option is to buy your park ticket and Express Pass at the ticket gate, but you waste precious time waiting in the line to get into the park (tip: get there an hour ahead of the park open). There’s also a chance the Express Pass may be sold out on that day (with park tickets you shouldn’t have to worry).
I’ll go into more detail in our planning guide.
Harry Potter and the Fo…
We got to the park gates at around 8:30, which was an hour before park open. Already there was a large line of guests, even with the rain. Once the park opened it was a mad dash for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (guests were in a full sprint). There was no timed entry for the area, so we were able to walk right in (the time for our Express Pass for Forbidden Journey was not until 14:00). Once we got to the attraction, it had a 30-minute wait already.
It took us about 20 minutes to get onto the ride. No sooner than the ride began, everything stopped. It was seconds after Hermione showers you in magical green dust—I want to say Pixie Dust, but you know. We sat there suspended at a slant for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, an announcement (Japanese followed by English) said the ride vehicles are now entering the evacuation and reset mode (not the exact name, but along those lines). Our vehicle reset into the front-facing position and we were able to see the backstage area to the left with the lights on.
All the ride vehicles were proceeding through the attraction. Once we reached the unloading area, the staff apologized profusely and we received an Express Pass to come back or use it for another select attraction. Not sure how long it was down for, but the wait time was at 140 minutes for the better part of the morning, then dropped down between 10 and 30 near the end of the day (the park closed at 19:00).
Note: You can’t set foot into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and not have Butterbeer.
Back to the Gru
We had to check out the newest area at Universal Studios Japan—Minion Park. The area itself is cute and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a theme park in Japan. Minion fans will love the area and all the little details scattered about.
The most popular thing there was not the “new” attraction but the King Bob popcorn bucket! The photo says it all. I wonder if Disney is taking any notes from this to step-up up their popcorn bucket game? Although, the Nemo Popcorn Bucket from Tokyo DisneySea is darned adorable.
The main draw in Minion Park is Despicable Me Minions Mayhem, which was the former Back to the Future attraction. I didn’t expect much from this ride and I am glad I didn’t. It’s just a re-theme (which is what they did with the Simpsons ride in Universal Studios Orlando) with cute Minions. Fans of Minions (and children) should enjoy this attraction, but I didn’t. The motion sickness I get from it is not worth the effort.
What I’ll give them, though, is the pre-show queue is entertaining and enjoyable (the entire experience is about 18 minutes). I appreciate that they have subtitles for most of the dialogue in the pre-show in English. This attraction is good to ride once.
A Water World in the Rain
I saw the movie Water World years ago and remember nothing about it, except that it’s set in a world full of water. Well, I had my memory refreshed with the Water World outdoor stage show. I appreciate that the show still went on in the rain. The disappointment factor could have been extreme if they canceled due to rain.
This was a lot more entertaining than I expected. While all the dialogue is in Japanese, you don’t need to understand what’s going on when there is fire, water, boats, guns, knives, and stunts. The splash zones are a bit misleading; they are more of a downpour zone.
Take time out of your day to see this: it’s mindless fun. Do take note of the themed vending machines, too (Tokyo Disney Resort could use more).
Evangelion XR Ride
USJ offers a range of limited-time attractions and shows called “Cool Japan”. The one I wanted to ride the most was Evangelion XR Ride, which is a VR overlay on the Space Fantasy roller coaster.
I’ve never done a VR roller coaster prior to this, so I had no idea what to expect. One thing to note is if you have glasses, they provide you a hard case to put them, which you put over your shoulder. Once you get into the vehicle, the staff give you the helmets to put on and you adjust it yourself (they provide you with English instructions on a card to read beforehand). If the image is blurry, then there is a slider to adjust the image.
The coaster wasn’t intense, but it was over-the-top fun. You fly through a city which is under attack and you fly every which way. I was concerned about motion sickness, but it was minimal, and I am one that gets motion sick easily. Overall, it was worth the 45-minute wait.
The graphics felt similar to the Playstation2, to give you an idea of the level of quality. You’re moving so fast that you won’t notice much anyway.
The Flying Dinosaur and the Unnecessary Anxiety
Our Express Pass time slot came and went for The Flying Dinosaur (the newest coaster at USJ) due to it being temporally suspended. My guess was the rain. I asked a staff member if we were able to still use our Express Pass outside our designated time and they said it was fine. For some of the attractions, when you buy the Express Pass, you are assigned a time slot to ride.
Now, I am anxious at the best of times and my anxiety for this roller coaster was high. Working myself up over nothing is one of those useless skills. So the delay in riding it didn’t help.
USJ takes safety seriously. You are told to take everything out of your pockets and they mean it. A staff member will ask you to pull all your pockets inside out, even your back pocket. If you’re seen with anything in your pockets while on the attraction, you’ll be booted out of the park. So do yourself a favour and take everything out and put it into your bag to make things quicker.
My worrying was all for nothing. This is now my favourite coaster and I am not a big coaster guy. While the G-forces are intense, it’s hard to deny how incredible this roller coaster is. But if someone like me (who gets anxious easily) can do it, you can! The fun factor outweighs everything.
That Food Experience
You thought I would have an entire report and not talk about the food? Of course not! Since the park closed at 19:00 that day we only had one full meal in the park, which was the pizza and pasta set at Louie’s N.Y. Pizza Parlor. Was it anything special? Not at all, but it did the trick. It’s hard to mess up pizza and pasta.
There’s a lot of cute Minion-themed food at Universal Studios Japan to choose from, like this ice cream sandwich. 🍌🍌🍌 We had the “Banana Ice Cream & Fruits” and “Marshmallow & Mango Mousse” and both were fantastic. The other flavours are Tiramisu, and the Fruits & Cream. Get them for ¥500-¥600 ($4 to $5USD) at Delicious Me in Minion Park! 🍌🍌🍌 Which of these flavours would you ❤️ to try? 🍌🍌🍌 #minions #universalstudiojapan #universalstudios #japan #Osaka #themepark #themeparkfood
The best part of the day was the snacks. We both tried the Minion Cookies in Minion Park—Banana Ice Cream & Fruits and Roasted Marshmallow & Mango Ice Cream. Not only were they cute, they were delicious.
Here’s a dessert I never knew I needed in my life: an adorable Jaws Soda-flavoured Roll Cake. Just look at the cute little blue fin!
I Feel a Backdraft
To get ourselves out of the rain for a bit (it didn’t let up all day) we got in line for Backdraft. The pre-show made me nostalgic for the “COMING SOON” screen that most people remember from the VHS and early DVD days. It’s a decent way to kill 30-minutes and was nice to dry off by the fire.
A Hollywood Dream Come True
Our final attraction of the day was “Hollywood Dream – The Ride,” which has two versions. The normal version goes forwards while the “Backdrop” is the same coaster, but you’re backward. Our Express Pass covered the normal version. Again, I was nervous about this coaster for no reason. While it’s nowhere near as fun as The Flying Dinosaur, it’s quite enjoyable and I have to give the Backdrop version a try next time around.
The skies opened up while we were on the coaster. As we were waiting for our vehicles to go back to the platform, we sat in the pouring rain (which was rather cold) and got soaked.
A T.G.I Friday’s Kinda Dinner
Once the park closed, we went over to T.G.I. Friday’s for dinner in Universal City. It’s an excellent choice if you’re in the mood for familiar Western food. It’s tasty, but you’ll pay a premium. We left paying around $70 USD for two people. We had two main courses and two appetizers.
There are a number of choices for places to eat in Universal City, so check out the website for a full list. They have a range of Japanese options, too.
Soaked feet aside, we got to do almost everything we wanted in a single day. We missed the Hollywood Dream: Backdrop and Spider-Man (it was closed for refurb). The rain and mid-week helped thin the crowds out, too. However, there was a fair number of tour groups there. One thing we missed that I’ll have to go back to see is the limited-time Expecto Patronum Night Show (it was closed).
I have grown to enjoy USJ as it’s a nice break from Tokyo Disney Resort, and with Super Nintendo World set to open in 2020, the park only gets better. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Flying Dinosaur are worth the price of admission alone, in my opinion.
In our upcoming Universal Studios Japan Trip Planning Guide, I’ll talk about park tickets, Express Pass, how to get there, when to visit, what to eat, and what to ride. So keep an eye out for that!