Universal Studios Japan & The Social Distancing – Reopening Day Report
Universal Studios Japan began its soft opening of the park on June 8, 2020. For the first week, only Annual Pass holders living in Osaka Prefecture are allowed entry into the park.
Below are my experiences on the first day of the park’s reopening. There were many new rules and safety guidelines put in place, although they may change throughout the duration of the park’s reopening.
Watch the Reopening of Universal Studios Japan
We have a lot of photos below and share the experience of attending the reopening. You can also watch our full video of the reopening of Universal Studios Japan too!
Masks in the Park
Before going into the park, guests must have their temperature checked. This was fairly easy, and the staff checking temperatures wore a mask, face shield, and gloves. Also, guests are required to wear masks all day except when eating or drinking. The staff also tell guests to use hand sanitizer before entering any ride, restaurant, or store.
People in Japan are accustomed to wearing masks and have done so for decades, especially during flu or allergy season. However, it’s less common to wear masks in the summer, and I did see a few people pulling down their masks outside. This was especially true when I waited in line for Hollywood Dream the Ride, the second tallest roller coaster in the park. The line was about an hour-long, almost no-one was social distancing, and many people had their masks pulled down.
Aside from that ride, guests seemed to wear their masks properly throughout the rest of the park. There were no designated rest areas that allowed guests to take off their masks, and only a few smoking sections were open. Since the crowds were so light, I did see some guests take off their masks in secluded areas of the park, most of the time to take some selfies.
Masks are required on every ride, even Jurassic Park, where many guests complained about their masks getting wet. Even though this was the first time I had been to a theme park with a mask on, it felt fine for the majority of the rides.
However, on the Attack on Titan XR ride, the VR goggles on top of the mask made it quite difficult to breathe. I’ve been on the XR rides before, but this time it made me feel very claustrophobic because I couldn’t move my mask at all. The mask also fogged up the goggles, and also did so on the Spider-Man ride with the 3D glasses. On that ride, I found that pulling down the mask to the very tip of my nose helped prevent the glasses from fogging up.
As for the shows and character greetings, only the performers at WaterWorld wore masks. There are only a few face characters at the park, most of the time just Fiona (from Shrek) and Marilyn Monroe. These two came out from a balcony located near the entrance to wave to guests and weren’t wearing masks.
Overall, aside from the Attack on Titan ride, I had no problem wearing a mask the entire day at the park.
Social Distancing in the Park
In the majority of the park, there were plenty of social distancing marks on the ground to indicate where to stand. But it was unclear whether you were supposed to stand on the marks, or between them. At the outdoor shows, longer marks were laid out, and the crew members directed guests to stand directly on them. For the marks around the character greetings, guests had to stand behind the marks.
In the lines for rides, shops, and restaurants, most people stood between the small marks on the ground. Crew members only occasionally told guests to make more space between different groups of people. This wasn’t a problem for most places, but on rides with longer lines that moved slowly, many people crowded together and didn’t social distance very well.
The social distancing rules on the rides themselves seemed a bit counterproductive. On ride vehicles, every other row was closed. However, guests were seated next to each other in the open rows, even if they weren’t in the same group. This seems to be a problem, as the seats on some rides like Jaws and Jurassic Park are very close, and it’s very easy for people to bump into each other.
Crew members tended to seat single riders with other guests. On Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, I was in line with two other single riders behind me. We were all put on the same car, even though groups of two were given their own cars. And on Hollywood Dream the Ride, I was seated next to a group of two people who didn’t even put a seat between us.
So while social distancing markers were well placed throughout the park, guests didn’t social distance much in longer lines, and the crew members didn’t help separate groups of riders. We will see soon if any of these rules change in the future.
Since it was the first day of the park’s reopening phase, the crowds were relatively light. The longest I waited for a ride was one hour for Hollywood Dream the Ride, even though the wait time was posted at only 35 minutes. For the rest of the rides, the wait times were posted 30 minutes or less for most of the day. At most of these rides, I only ended up waiting for about 10-15 minutes.
The main thing holding up the lines were the cleaning and sanitation processes. On Jurassic Park, I noticed that they stopped loading guests, and wiped down every boat and sent them through the ride without and passengers. While waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the line unexpectedly stopped for a few minutes, and I assume it was for cleaning.
The restaurants seemed crowded, but only because about half of the chairs were taken away from the tables. The shops were practically empty, likely because everyone at the park was an Annual Pass holder from Osaka and probably didn’t need too many souvenirs. I picked up some things for my friends since Annual Pass holders receive 20% off food and souvenirs until this August.
Super Nintendo World
Universal Studios Japan still hasn’t announced an opening date for the highly anticipated Super Nintendo World. Aside from the previously announced “Summer 2020” opening day that has changed due to the extended closures. Construction has continued in the new area, and there it’s possible to see the new rides and buildings from many parts of the park. These were the best viewpoints I had of Super Nintendo World:
- From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it’s possible to see the tops of some of the buildings from Super Nintendo World. Since the buildings are taller than the trees around Harry Potter, some metal walls were built and painted with leaves that looked like they were from a Donkey Kong game. It takes away from some of the magic of stepping into the more secluded Harry Potter area.
- On Jaws, it’s possible to see the bridge that will eventually lead to Super Nintendo World, and you can also see the top of Peach’s Castle and the Yoshi attraction.
- Hollywood Dream the Ride offers sweeping, but quick, views of the park. It was possible to see Peach’s Castle, Bowser’s Castle, and the Yoshi attractions from the ride. This was when I was able to see just how spectacular Super Nintendo World is going to be, and how similar it looks to the promotional pictures released by the park.
- It’s possible to see the leaf-painted walls and the top of the Yoshi attraction while viewing WaterWorld. You can also see some Mario coins spinning on top of the attraction. Some people found it a little distracting while watching the show.
Overall, I had an amazing time at the park. I’ve never seen the crowds so light, and likely never will again. The new social distancing guidelines were hit-or-miss, and wearing a mask all day long obviously wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. I hope the during the park’s reopening, staff are trained to enforce the social distancing and mask policies even more, and that the social distancing rules on the rides are rethought. But in the end, I have to applaud Universal Studios Japan for successfully reopening the park, with a majority of its health and safety guidelines working well.
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Now that the travel between prefectures is allowed again, would be ok to visit Osaka and go to Universal? Should be a good time to go since the wait times should be shorter now.
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