I know what brought you here. You want to know how to get inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction of the Universal Studios Japan, Osaka.
That said, this guide isn’t just for Harry Potter fans. I myself am somewhat indifferent to Harry Potter, but that didn’t make this attraction any less of a magical (pun intended) place for me.
So, you’re planning your USJ visit and you want to know how to buy tickets or discounted tickets maybe? (more on that later), the best time to visit, how to explore the USJ Park the recommended way, or if you really need to buy Express Pass tickets or VIP bracelets. I will do my best to cover all of these questions in this guide in order to give you the best experience as possible when visiting Universal Studios Japan.
The Wizarding World attraction took over 3 years to build, and I’ve always wondered what could have caused the construction to go so long. Especially when you consider that Japanese construction companies are known for their speed. Well, it’s because everything was made with real materials, rather than just plastic and concrete. The pine trees and those huge rocks that you see from the entrance are all real.
The Hogsmeade village itself has a real lived-in look and feel, utilizing materials such as artificially aged bricks, real wood, and rusty metals. These additions create a feeling of a living, breathing world, rather than a simple attraction. My entire time spent in the Wizarding World felt as magical as the books/movies it’s based on. And Hogsmeade Village was just so mesmerizing that I didn’t really want to leave.
Okay, I’m going to try and stop talking about the Wizarding World attraction now. This guide has much more to get to after all. The guide should give you a good starting point in which to plan the ultimate USJ experience with your friends or family.
To use this guide you can navigate using the Table of Contents below.
1. Time Your Visit
A few minutes of planning, which I believe what you are doing now, and timing is key to fully experience USJ park. As with any popular tourist attraction, you can’t simply walk-in with a crowd of tens of thousands of people and expect to see and do all you want. And along with you, you should keep in mind the price of admission, since it can end up costing an arm and leg. So that little bit of planning can really maximize your experience.
To help with planning, I found a website where you can check the congestion forecast of USJ park. However, the website is in Japanese, and not updated as regularly as it once was. But if you don’t want to deal with navigating a Japanese website and their confusing charts, I’ll just summarize them for you.
It really boils down to avoiding the following dates:
- Weekends (probably didn’t need me to tell you this one)
- Official and non-working holidays (visit the Time and Date website to check Japan’s holidays)
- Summer school break: late July – late August
- Spring school break: late February – late March
- Winter break: December 26 – January 6
- Golden Week: April 29 – May 5 (really, just avoid leaving the house during this week, it’s not worth it)
Whew. That’s a lot?
So, what’s really the best time to visit Universal Studios?
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, during early April to late June (with the exception of Golden Week), or October to January (with the exception of winter break).
October to January is the least congested months and the best months to visit in my opinion. Just be sure to bundle up because the weather can get very cold, especially at night.
But what if you can only go on weekends and/or holidays?
Well, then this guide is still for you. I’ll show you how you can make the most out of your USJ visit even on busy days, based on my own personal experience.
2. Know Before You Go (Types of USJ Tickets)
Before we continue, it’s important that you get you familiar with the different type of tickets that you might encounter while reading this USJ guide. It’s also very important to note that USJ tickets are nonrefundable, no matter where you buy them. So make sure you’re going to be able to use them.
1-Day Studio Pass (7,600 JPY)
This is the general admission ticket that you get to enter the park. Important: USJ does not issue re-entry tickets or stamps, so there’s no going back once you leave the park! Continue on to learn how to buy your Universal Studios Japan tickets in advance.
Express Pass (starts at 4,100 JPY)
An Express Pass is a separate ticket that allows you to skip the lines to popular attractions inside the USJ Park. To use the Express Pass, simply look for the “Express Lane” at rides, and feel like a winner as you enter the attraction without waiting 2 hours (yes, there are actually 2 hour long waits). I highly recommend getting Express Pass, especially if you are visiting during crowded days. Top attractions like The Forbidden Journey 4K3D Ride, Jurassic Park, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D Ride, by far have the longest waiting times, between 2 to 3 hours on average.
So if you are going to ride those attractions without an Express Pass, over 3/4 of your day would just be spent waiting in lines! The only reason you wouldn’t want to get a pass is due to the price, which, for a family of 3 or more, can really add up. So the price is worth it because won’t have to wait for hours just to experience those 5-minute rides. I will show you the link to buy an Express Pass later in the article. For now, focus on reading the next part.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Personally, I purchased an Express Pass and I can tell you that it was really worth it. I visited during weekday and offseason, and although the USJ Park wasn’t super crowded, it allowed me to skip long lines at top attractions thus, allowed me to maximize my visit. If I were to visit USJ for the second time, I would definitely buy an Express Pass again.
VIP wristband (3,000 JPY)
USJ Park opens between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. But if you have VIP wristband, it allows you to enter USJ before it opens. The VIP wristband also allows you to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ride The Forbidden Journey 4K3D (even without a Timed Entry ticket) without waiting in the long line since the entrance to some attractions are not manned with staff this early. So, should you decide to buy a VIP wristband, make the most out of it by going to USJ as early as 7 a.m. and experience the park without the crowd. To buy the VIP Wristbands, you have to go to Abeno Harukas 300 Observatory, the tallest skyscraper in Osaka to buy the VIP wristbands or buy it online which I will show you later in the article.
Timed Entry Tickets (Free)
Because The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction gets very crowded, USJ came up with a procedure to control the crowd and made the entry of visitors time-designated. Meaning, visitors need Timed Entry tickets to enter the Harry Potter attraction. Timed Entry Tickets are free, and without one, you cannot enter the Wizarding World. There are two ways to get Timed Entry Ticket.
The first is, to get it from the Harry Potter ticket booth located at the Central Park of USJ. The second is by buying an Express Pass ticket that lists The Forbidden Journey Ride as one of the attractions. Personally, I got both. Aside from the Timed Entry on my Express Pass ticket, I also got another Timed Entry Ticket from the ticket booth. That way should I leave the Harry Potter World after I used the Timed Entry on my Express Pass, I would be able to enter again with my second Timed Entry ticket.
3. Buy Your USJ Tickets in Advance Online
Now that you are familiar with the type of tickets, the next dreaded question is, where do you buy those tickets? (With the exception of the Timed Entry ticket because it’s free).
There are many ways to buy the 1-Day Studio Pass and Express Pass tickets both offline and online, which is why I have created a dedicated blog post. However, if you don’t want to read that page, I’ll just summarize its contents for you.
For those who live overseas, you can buy your tickets either from the Official Website of USJ or from an online Travel Agency that is an official partner of Universal Studios Japan.
Option 1: Official Website of USJ (Japanese skills required)
UPDATE: A reader informed me that buying from the USJ website is hit and miss, as some foreign credit cards don’t work.
For visitors with Japanese skills, they prefer booking with USJ website because you don’t have to deal with the currency exchange rate fluctuations and service fees of travel agencies. When you pay using your credit card with the USJ website, you’ll be charged with the actual ticket price based on your bank’s currency exchange, which always has a better rate. But the biggest caveat here is that the USJ booking page is entirely in Japanese! I eventually a found a way to book with the USJ website thanks to helpers like Google Translate. However, it still took me almost 30 minutes to finish the entire booking procedure. If you are up for that Google Translate challenge, go ahead and make your booking through the USJ website.
Option 2: Online Travel Agencies (Recommended way)
There are many travel agency websites that sell USJ tickets but only a few of them are official partners and recognized by Universal Studios Japan. For those who live overseas or who haven’t arrived yet in Japan, this is the best way to buy your tickets.
Who are these Official Sellers?
1-Day Studio Pass
Their websites are all in English. You can pay with your credit card and it’s an instant booking. Meaning, you will receive the e-ticket with the QR Code in your email immediately upon paying. There’s no need to print the e-ticket, the QR Code can be scanned by the entrance gate staff through your mobile device.
4. Visualize Your Route in Exploring USJ
This is optional but sometimes, the crowd can get you panicky as soon as you enter the gate of Universal Studios as most of them are all running. You will find out in this section why they’re all running.
If you have an Express Pass
It’s time to take advantage of your Express Pass! Ride ALL the attractions included in it CONSECUTIVELY. You see, you skipped the long lines because of that pass and all those rides were all just 3-5 minute long. Boy, you have a whole lot of time after that!
So at this point, you can now explore the USJ Park at your own pace. Relax. If you’re just visiting Japan then you may only visit USJ once. Take this time to see the sights and ride any remaining attractions which tickle your fancy. Explore the entire Park in clockwise or counterclockwise manner. Maybe even get a second Timed Entry ticket to go inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again.
If you don’t have an Express Pass
Some people justify not getting an Express Pass because, according to them, they will only visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Whether you buy a pass is ultimately up to you, but, in my experience, you’re missing a whole lot of fun! But that’s okay. Going to the Harry Potter attraction and riding the fantastic Forbidden Journey Ride is still possible without an Express Pass. It’s just going to be really challenging. Here’s my tip.
As soon as you enter the park, run quickly to Central Park (don’t forget to grab a map to avoid getting lost) and find the ticket booth where you can get the Timed Entry ticket for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Once you have it, run as fast as you can and head straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Running saves you time and increases your chance of queuing in a shorter waiting line.
Run once more. Once you’re inside the Wizarding World, run straight to the Hogwarts Castle because that is where The Forbidden Journey Ride is.
The places that you will pass by as you run are all magical like the Hogsmeade Village but don’t fall under its spell yet. Don’t take photos, don’t buy butterbeer, don’t stop, just keep running. Run to Hogwarts Castle and immediately look for the queue line of The Forbidden Journey Ride. The waiting times can be as long as 2-3 hours on most days, or as low as 1 hour if you’re lucky, but that’s what you get for not getting an Express Pass.
Whew. That’s a lot much running! I personally wouldn’t want to do that lol. But again, it increases your chance of queuing in shorter lines. This is why getting an Express Pass is highly recommended.
When you’re done with The Forbidden Journey Ride, that’s the time that you can start exploring the entire Wizarding World. Go back to Hogsmeade Village, take photos, buy a wand at Ollivanders, check out some souvenirs from the Owl Post, watch a Harry Potter theatrical show, buy a butterbeer at Hog’s Head Pub, etc.
Should you decide to leave the Wizarding World, you can go ahead and explore the rest of the USJ Parks and Attractions on your own. And if you feel like visiting the Wizarding World again, simply get a second Timed Entry ticket. There’s no need to follow a ‘specific’ route when you don’t have Express Pass. Make your exploration simple like in clockwise or counterclockwise manner. No need to make things complicated by following an “adventure” or “cute” itinerary route because visiting USJ alone is already adventurous and cute.
In the end, it’s really up to you on how you want to prioritize your time within the park. Remember that Universal Studio Japan has only 8 mainstay attractions, and it is very easy to get around.
If you don’t have an Express Pass but you have a VIP Wristband
Same as above. Just enter the USJ Park as early as 7 a.m. and skip going to the Central Park for the Timed Entry ticket.
5. Getting to Universal Studios Japan
Traveling to Universal Studios Japan is super easy. Just get off at Universal City Station through the JR Yumesaki Line (which is covered by JR Pass). You will know that it’s the right train when it’s covered in Universal Studios Japan advertisements. As you get out of the train station, walk 5 minutes through the Universal CityWalk, which is sort of the entrance plaza to the Universal Studios Japan park.
1. Which Express Pass should I buy?
It depends on your preference and your budget. In my experience, I got the Express Pass 4 Standard because I was only interested in The Forbidden Journey Ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man Ride.
I recommend that you get an Express Pass that includes The Forbidden Journey Ride since it’s definitely the most awesome attraction in USJ!
However, if you’re simply visiting USJ for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I don’t think Express Pass is necessary in your case but again, you’re missing a lot of fun. Please review all types of Express Passes on the table below or visit the USJ website for full details.
2. Should I get Express Pass or VIP Wristbands, or both?
If you are visiting USJ during weekends and holidays though, Express Pass is basically a requirement. Otherwise, get the Express Pass if you plan on riding several attractions because it will save you a lot of time by skipping those long lines.
Get the VIP wristband if you can wake up really early (unlike me) and are interested in entering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the crowds.
Personally, if I were to go to USJ again, I would just get an Express Pass without the VIP wristband, because I don’t really like waking up early. Besides, I’m not a youngster who likes running around just to get to an attraction. I just want to relax and savor the time that I have. If I want to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I would just get another Timed Entry ticket.
3. Is the Express Pass ‘unlimited’ ride?
The Express Pass is not ‘unlimited’ ride. Example, if you’ve already used your Express Pass on The Forbidden Journey Ride, you can not go to the Express Pass Lane of Forbidden Journey again. You will need to line up in the regular lane that has 2-3 hours waiting time if you want to ride it again. If you want an Express Pass with Unlimited Rides, consider getting the Royal Pass Ticket which is 24,100 – 36,700 yen (212 – 324 USD) per adult. The price varies depending on the day (still too expensive for me to ever want to buy) and can only be bought from the mentioned online travel agencies.
4. Is there a 2-Day Studio Pass in Universal Studios Japan?
Yes. Just like Disney Parks, USJ also offer 1.5-Day Studio Pass and 2-Day Studio Pass if you are addicted to fun!
5. Where can I get discounted 1-Day Studio Pass or admission tickets?
Recently, Universal Studios Japan has been cracking down on unofficial sellers claiming that they sell discounted tickets. Just be warned that USJ can nullify tickets bought from third-party or auctioned websites, leaving you out of luck, money, and a ticket. Fortunately, Voyagin and Klook which are official USJ sellers occasionally run promos in form of coupon code that can be used when booking on their website if you’re a first time registered user.
For first-time users of Voyagin, save 10 USD when booking your tickets. Use coupon code: BOOTSVOYAGIN10OFF
6. The Express Pass is sold out! What do I do?
I am sorry if Express Pass is no longer available on the dates you chose. Thing is, Express Pass does really get sold out! Are you okay with moving your travel date to USJ? That’s really the only option. Make sure to book in advance next time.
7. Can I bring food that I bought outside?
Technically, bringing your own food inside the park is not allowed. But due to long lines at the entrance gates, staff don’t check many bags anymore. Just make sure to put your food on the very bottom of your bag, just in case the staff chose you.
8. What are your recommended attractions?
Seriously, aside from The Forbidden Journey Ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride, there are lots of other great rides. I really liked the Amityville’s Jaws and the Jurassic Park rides.
When you ride, you will always see signboards with a warning that it isn’t for people with heart problems and abnormal blood pressure. These rides are extreme and you should definitely heed the warnings before going. If you like extreme rides, try The Flying Dinosaur, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Backdrop.
9. Is USJ stroller-friendly? Baby-friendly?
Like other amusement parks, Universal Studios Japan is a stroller-friendly and family-friendly place. For families with babies and small children, you are going to enjoy Universal Wonderland. This attraction has Family Service facilities where you can feed or breastfeed your babies privately. There are only two Family Service facilities in USJ. One that is near the entrance gates, and the second one, is inside the Universal Wonderland attraction.
Families with babies or small children also benefit from the Child Switch System. The Japanese translation is a bit confusing, but basically, this system allows for parents or guardians with children too small for certain rides to “swap out” (one rides while the other waits, then swaps) without having to wait in line twice. Most ride attractions utilize the Child Switch System.
There is also Pram parking at each attraction so you are free to park your strollers. Don’t worry, Japan is ridiculously safe. You have a better chance of forgetting your stroller than someone actually stealing anything from it. In fact, if you did forget your stroller, someone would most likely return it to you at some point.
10. How much time did you spend exploring USJ? How big is it?
I did a one roundabout exploration of the entire park and it only took me about 30 minutes. I was actually surprised to find out that USJ is smaller than Tokyo Disneyland since they pack so much into each of the attractions.
11. Any special type of discounted passes or afternoon passes?
Japanese amusement parks almost always have afternoon discount passes. With USJ, the afternoon pass is called Twilight Pass. Depending on the day, you can get the Twilight Pass for 1,300 – 1,500 yen less than the 1-day Studio Pass. This is a deal if you just want a glimpse of Universal Studios Japan at night; which is very nice by the way. This type of pass is not advertised on either the Japanese or English USJ websites. So to get this, you just have to be at the ticket booth of the park by 3 p.m.
The Twilight Pass is a great option if you are visiting during the off-season or less congested months. When I went on January 7th, I noticed the crowd started to thin in the afternoon as people started to go home around 4 p.m. Probably because it was getting cold. When I walked around the park I noticed that the lines to popular attractions like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D Ride and Backdrop, waiting times shortened to 30 minutes or less. However, if you have Twilight Pass, you cannot use an Express Pass because most top attractions close early.
So, if you still want to go to Wizarding World with the Twilight Pass, just hurry to the Central Park to get your Timed Entry Tickets (hopefully there are still some slots left) to ride the Forbidden Journey. Just so you know, Timed Entry also gets run out.
12. It’s my birthday! Can I have birthday discount?
Yes. Just register on the website of USJ and make sure to register your entire family and their birthdates. The Birthday Discount is 500 yen less than the regular ticket, which is applicable to the entire family.
You can buy the Birthday Discount Ticket online, but again, the downside is, the website is all in Japanese.
The ticket is valid from the first day your birthday month, until the end of the next month. Example, if your birthday is September 22, then your USJ ticket is valid from September 1 – October 30, and your whole family will get a discount too. If you need further help, I’d suggest asking for help from a Japanese friend.
13. How are restaurants inside?
I personally don’t like eating at restaurants inside amusement parks. They tend to be very pricey and are usually pretty bland. However, the staple amusement park foods like churros, turkey legs, and caramel popcorn are all very good. Be warned, if the food looks cute or Instagrammable, it probably tastes terrible. Trust me. I was fooled by many cute looking foods (this rule can often be applied to most foods actually).
If I were to visit USJ again, I would probably bring onigiri or a bento and eat them at the benches scattered around the park, and just save money for a turkey leg and churros. I’ve seen many Japanese visitors do this!
Restaurants outside USJ which are in the Universal CityWalk are worth trying, but remember, unlike most American amusement parks, there’s no going back in once you leave the park.
14. What if it’s raining during my visit?
Raincoats are definitely more preferable than umbrellas if you are visiting during rainy days. There are also several attractions that have splash zones, like Jaws, The Jurassic Ride, and the Waterworld Show. If you plan on taking those rides, buy a raincoat from 100 yen stores the day before your USJ visit. The raincoat from the vending machines inside USJ is 400 yen which can be expensive for the entire family.
I hope I was able to help you plan your ultimate Universal Studio Japan trip. Remember to also visit the other parts of Osaka, not just USJ!
Please leave your comments below if you have any questions.