Universal Studios Japan (USJ) – with the addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – is a place not to be missed if you are visiting Osaka.
For most people who have done their research online, you will learn that queueing and waiting in line for hours is the norm when you visit USJ without an express pass. Why? Japanese loves theme parks and most of them purchase the 19,800Y annual passes. Furthermore, USJ is conveniently located, just 20 minutes ride away from the city via the JR trains. Unless you are visiting USJ on a super off-peak timing (maybe exam period or on a cold winter day), chances are you will spend more time in the queue than on the ride.
Before you decide on whether you want to splurge on the express tickets, you have to ask yourself 2 questions:
(1) Do you want to visit Wizard World of Harry Potter?
(2) Do you want to take the highly recommended ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey?
(3) Have you visited other Universal Studios Park and how much do you want to sit the other rides?
If your answer is “Yes” to all 3 questions, yes it is recommended to buy the express pass. Otherwise, you don’t really need to splurge that extra 4,700Y.
There are only 3 options you can choose from:
- Buy the express pass (min. express 5 for Forbidden Journey).
I. Buy on the day itself at USJ but it is usually sold out very quickly.
II. Buy online using the Japanese USJ website (use Google Chrome for translation).
If I have time in the future, I will do up a step-by-step guide but I found this guide which looks
** Do note that you will have to choose your preferred entry-timing for Harry Potter. It is recommended to book way in advance as by the time I booked mine, we only had the 18:30-18:45 option left. Sometimes, express passes are even sold-out one month in advance!!
- Visit the park very early, maybe one hour before opening time, buy your tickets and prepare for the SPRINT of your lifetime, to enter Harry Potter park before it closes the gate. Success story.
- If you fail to enter Harry Potter before the gates close, run to the ticketing site and obtain a timed-entry ticket. Do note that there are limited tickets available each day and there’s a possibility of not being able to enter
So if you have bought your tickets online, you will be given a QR code. 1 for entry to park, and another for the Express Ticket. You can flash the QR code to the staff using your handphone, or a printed copy.
You can now buy USJ Tickets + Express Pass + VIP experience @ KLOOK!
Alternatively, you can purchase your tickets from Voyagin
- Instant Confirmation: Book Now and receive your e-ticket in minutes
- 6 Month Ticket Validity – Book now and go anytime in the next 180 days
- With VIP Wristband, Guest can entry the park before it opens to enjoy the rides and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
What does the express pass 5 contain:
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™
2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D or Space Fantasy – The Ride
3. Hollywood Dream – The Ride or Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic™ or Shreks 4-D Adventure™
4. JAWS® or Back To The Future® – The Ride
5. Jurassic Park – The Ride® or Terminator 2:3-D® or Backdraft®
The rides that we have taken is highlighted in red. Don’t be fooled by the word “Express”, it is not very express as you think it is. If I don’t remember wrongly, we had to wait approximately 30 to 45 minutes for Spiderman & 30 minutes for Hollywood Dream.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride was really cool, somewhat similar to the Transformers ride we have here in Singapore. It has 4D effects which involves not only wearing 3D glasses and elements of heat/smoke/water. The only downside of ALL the rides in USJ is that it is in Japanese and I was clueless 99% of the time due to the language barrier. That aside, the ride was good.
Hollywood Dream – The Ride was a roller coaster which felt scarier than it looks. Well, I’m not a fan of roller coasters but I always sit them due to peer pressure :/ The last time I sat a scary ride was in 2013, Hair Raiser in Ocean Park, Hong Kong. Alright so for this ride, you’re supposed to choose your 1 out of the 4/5 songs available. The chosen music will accompany you through the ups and downs of the rides. I was kind of too anxious before the ride and did not select any music.. and they chose the SMAP song for us. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this ride a scare factor of 3.8/5. There were moments that I felt like I was flying off my seat and your safety belt only covers your waist, leaving your “heart” unsecured. I was screaming so badly that my voice was a little hoarse towards the end :/ Maybe I’m just getting a little too old for roller coasters..
We didn’t manage to try the backwards ride as it was not included in Express 5 (It is included in Express 7). The wait time was displayed to be 240 minutes and nope we did not queue for it.. I’ve heard reviews saying that the backwards ride was less “heart-dropping” compared to the forward ride, but the suspense that you get because you don’t know where you’re heading to makes it quite scary.
Back to the future ride was a simulator ride in a room. It is similar to the Simpsons ride that I have taken back in USA. Once again, the language barrier discounted the entire experience for us. Same case for Terminator. There was a long interaction between the crowd and the presenter (in a format similar to Shrek) where everyone stands at gathers around. The presenter was hilarious even though I don’t understand anything at all. The show was not bad, with a lot of effects and a cool interaction between live actors/actress and the screen. It was 3D as well, but I got a little dizzy halfway through. This attraction was the longest that I’ve experience. All in it was about 15 to 20 minutes?
Besides by the rides we took, there were also cutesy and expensive food available in the park. I’m not kidding when I say you have to queue like 20 minutes to buy a Turkey Leg. Back in USA, there was barely even a queue when I wanted to buy food.. We queued another 10 to 15 minutes for Baskin Robbins as well. We even had to queue for Churros (about 10 people in the queue?). The last time I ate Churros in USS, there wasn’t even anyone in line..
The minion show has yet to begin when we were there at March. However, we had to face a tough battle of dilemmia at the Minion Mart. There was simply too much temptation to resist against the items of 0 utility. Goodbye Agnes and her unicorn. Maybe next time when I have a daughter..
Apart from the usual gift shops, they have a sure win lucky dip whereby you pay 600Y or 1000Y for 2 tries to get a mystery prize. I was aiming to get the towel but I ended up with a tote bag and a plastic file. Elmo tote bag is useful but the file.. is useless now that I’m no longer a student =/
JAPANESE with their school uniform and coordinated outfits mystery.
Have you ever wondered why they are so many Japanese students in places such as Disneyland/Universal Studios? I used to think that they skip school and visit the theme parks.. but.. during the time when I visited USJ, it was the school holidays. Right. So why are so many of them still wearing school uniforms?
Read this article to understand more: http://asia.nikkei.com/Life-Arts/Life/High-school-grads-take-to-wearing-old-uniforms-while-at-Tokyo-Disney-Resort but in summary, a majority of those wearing high school uniforms are not high school students but young adults wanting to re-live their school days. “Wearing something unusual makes the visit more exciting”
So.. what about coordinated outfits? “Wearing the same outfit shows their unity, and posting photos on social networking sites sends strong visual messages”
Alright.. so please don’t assume that the “students” that you see in the theme parks are all naughty students.
Like.. seriously? It’s kind of interesting to see different fashion statements of people visiting such places..
Even though it was getting late, the streets were still packed with people.
There was an exhibition which features this super huge “Attack of the Titans” figurine which I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS except that it’s a rather popular anime.
Anyway, the park is so huge that we didn’t even finish walking everywhere..
Okay I wanted to try my luck to act blur and enter early at 18:00 even though my designated timing is 18:30.. So we went to the Harry Potter entrance (yes this area with all the random rocks which is a feature of something but I can’t remember the name rightnow..) Well, mission failed. The staff did not let us enter before our designated timing.
After you enter the area, there’s this portion of forest trail which kind of gets you into the mood of Harry Potter. You will chance upon the wrecked flying car as well before you reach Hogsmeade.
I really love the lake.. The still water makes the reflection shot perfect.
Alright so after entering the castle, we had to go for our long-awaited Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride from between 18:45 to 19:00. I’m not sure how strict they were on the timing as we went on time. Even though we were on express queue (overheard some singaporeans in our queue line too), the entire wait took about 30 minutes. However, it was not boring as you will get to walk through various backdrop which includes the talking paintings on the wall, Dumbledore’s office etc. Some of these backdrop looks familiar to me as they were modeled after the actual film set which I’ve seen back in UK.
Halfway through the queue, you will have to keep your bags in the lockers provided (Usually, we determine the scare factor of the ride based on whether we could bring our bags along with us.. So there was a random fear inside me that this ride might be more thrilling than what we expect). The lockers are free and you have to bring the key with you for the entire ride. I obediently left my camera and hand phone in the lockers, for fear that it may fly out.. but trust me, if you have a pocket, you can just bring it with you; it is not that scary/thrilling/heart-drop.
I am.. not going to talk more about the ride because my friends who have taken the ride refused to tell me anything about the ride, as they did not want to spoil it for me. All I have to say about the ride is that it is somewhat different from most of the other rides that I have taken. It is a dark, fun and 4K imaging which is damn good graphics. Some elements of sensory was included as well if I don’t recall wrongly. In conclusion, the ride is awesome and you should take it. If you are not convinced that knowing about the ride will spoil your experience, you can google it on youtube to get a POV. I did eventually watch a POV after my trip because.. Harry Potter and characters spoke Japanese in the ride =s Makes me want to visit Florida ASAP D:
After the ride ends, you will be back at your lockers to collect your belongings, following which, you will enter the giftshop which sucked all my money away =/ and the only thing I bought were nanoblocks.. and the only reason why I bought the Hogwarts castle was because it was the last box left and I like the feeling of buying limited edition items. In reality = the box is still untouched because I haven’t figured out a place to display it once I’m done. After I’m done, it will be the biggest nanoblock project that I have done my life. Till then, it remains in the box collecting dust =/
Butterbeer – a lot better than the one we had at the Harry Potter studio tours in London, back in 2012.
This butterbeer – we got it in 2 versions, cold and hot. I prefer the cold one to the hot one as the hot one was too sweet. It has a somewhat gingery taste which lingers in your mouth. You can choose to get the drink in a normal cup, or the plastic mug as seen below.
(Random) I wonder how it feels in summer when it is so hot and the roofs are still “snowing”. I guess people visiting in Winter would have the best experience.. Well, going in spring/autumn is not too bad as well as you can still feel the chill in the air. heh.
Anyway, I repeat again – the gift shop in Harry Potter is really a killer. My friend ended up buying a wand and a scarf and the prices are really nojoke. Bring all your money and leave your credit card at home. As much as you want to buy the whole shop done, you need to be realistic..
We left USJ at about 9+PM because we were starving at the restaurants at Harry Potter were closed for the day as we spent a lot of time taking photos in this once in a lifetime opportunity, with the stunning castle as our backdrop.
This was the final photo I took before we left.. less than one hour to closing and the streets are still packed.
Because of our late entry to Harry Potter, we missed the evening parade. Neither did we queue in line to take photo with any mascot characters (done that in Hollywood & USS). To be honest, Japan has one of my lowest record of theme park efficiency (did the least things) as we simply spend too much time queuing.
Above all, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, especially in Harry Potter Wizarding World. Japan has this A-star courtesy and service which makes you feel good despite the 3209872467 mins queue because they want to wrap everything neatly for you, give you extra paper bag, charge for re-usable bag, count your money and change at least twice. Then I will tell myself to take a step back, “you are on a holiday” and that you should chill and wait patiently for your turn..
Just providing more options for my readers. I’m not sure which prices are the cheapest since it changes all the time with the exchange rate.
Check out the other entries:
- JR Pass – To buy or not to buy & other train tips
- Tokyo – Tsukiji Fish Market
- Tokyo – Tokyo Dome and SHINee World Concert Special Edition in Tokyo Dome
- One night in Tokyo – Oedo Onsen Spa
- Half Day in Kyoto – Yasaka Shrine + Kiyomizudera
- Universal Studios Japan Express 5 – March 2015
- Free bicycle rental in Himeji + Kobe
- Osaka Aquarium
- Eating & Shopping in Osaka