Universal Studios Japan (USJ) currently features nine (9) main areas: Hollywood, New York, Minion Park, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Amity Village, Waterworld, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Universal Wonderland.
SEPTEMBER 2018 UPDATE:
Universal Surprise Halloween is back!
This year, from September 7 to November 4, 2018, Universal Studios Japan has added new exciting horror experiences to its ‘Universal Surprise Halloween’ tradition.
There are four (4) Express Pass tickets to choose from to shorten your waiting to the park’s horror-themed attractions:
- Express Pass Halloween Full Set
- Express Pass Otona Halloween Premium
- Express Pass Otona Halloween Standard
- Express Pass Horror Scream Halloween
UNIVERSAL COOL JAPAN SEPTEMBER 2018 UPDATE:
Two confirmed Universal Cool Japan Rides still running until September 30, 2018–Evangelion XR Ride and Sailor Moon The Miracle 4-D.
There are two Express Passes available:
Getting to Universal Studios Japan
Traveling to Universal Studios Japan is super easy. Go to the Universal City Station through the JR Yumesaki Line covered by Japan Rail Pass and 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 City Walk – the entrance plaza to the Universal Studios Japan Park.
Here are my 4 Tips To Get The Best Out of Universal Studios Japan:
Tip #1: Time Your Visit.
Planning and timing is the key to get the full experience of the 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. You might as well consider the price of admission since it can end up costing an arm and leg.
To get started with planning, I found a crowd prediction calendar where you can check the congestion forecast of the USJ Park. However, the website is in the Japanese language, and no longer receives regular updates as it used to.
To save you from the troubles of navigating a Japanese website on top of their confusing charts, let me summarize them for you.
One strategy is to concentrate on visiting the park on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays of the following months: Early April to late June and November to January.
November to January is the least congested months and the best months to visit in my opinion, because of milder temperature and lessened humidity. Just be sure to bundle up because the weather can get very cold at night.
Dates to avoid in 2019:
In addition, avoid visiting the park during attraction refurbishments.
USJ shows temporary closure dates as of September 2018:
Tip #2: Choose The Right Hotel.
Once you have the right dates for your visit, it’s time to decide on which hotel to stay.
Going for a nearer hotel will save you from the hassle so, I highly recommend staying overnight if you are coming from Tokyo or overseas rather than visiting USJ on a day trip.
Universal Studios Japan has partnered with over 20 hotels all over Osaka and Kobe so that guests can fully enjoy the park and its surrounding tourist attractions.
Sitting right at the entrance of the park, The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios Japan is the official and the closest hotel you can get by. It features American-style entertainment and offers spacious Time Machine-themed guest rooms.
The rooms with the highest demand are the Superior Rooms. These give you a glimpse of the city skyline. However, if you are on a budget, savvy visitors can also enjoy Standard Rooms with partial park view. Furthermore, families with small children can choose access to the hotel’s baby and child-friendly facilities and rental items for a more comfortable stay.
On the other hand, The Singulari Hotel & Sky Spa is another official hotel located at the exit of Universal City Station. It may take at least an extra 5-minute walk to the park.
From the name itself, it boasts an open-air bath for all its guests. In here, you can expect sparkling clean and comfortable rooms because The Singulari Hotel & Sky Spa just opened last August 2017.
Below are other Official Universal Studios Japan Hotels that sit right at the entrance of the park:
- Hotel Kintetsu Universal City
- Hotel Keihan Universal City
- Hotel Keihan Universal Tower
- Hotel Universal Port
- Hotel Universal Port Vita
If you are not a registered on Airbnb, you should sign-up using my link. That way, you’ll get 33 USD Airbnb travel credit which you can use on your first stay.
However, when deciding on a hotel that goes farther away from the park, make sure it’s easily accessible from a train station that is covered by your train passes if you have one.
For example, if you have a Japan Rail Pass ticket, choose a hotel that is accessible from a JR line station.
JTB Corp. offers a fantastic Universal Studio Japan Package for visitors from Tokyo. The package includes a roundtrip bullet train, stay at a hotel of your choice, and Studio Pass Admission ticket to the park.
You get to choose from 4 hotels, one of those is The Park Front Hotel and the other 3 are within a 5-min walk from Dotonbori Station in Osaka, that is about 25-minute train ride to the park’s nearest station–Universal City Station. The price is a huge bargain for visitors who want to save time and money from planning the trip.
Tip #3. Know The Types of USJ Tickets and Buy Them In Advance Online
First-time visitors are often confused by different types of tickets released by Universal Studios Japan. This section is here to help.
Universal Studios Japan has partnered with several online booking agencies to help visitors to get tickets in advance.
USJ only accepts tickets from its partner travel agencies. They can nullify tickets if they found out that you purchased it from an unauthorized third-party seller.
There are many ways to buy the Studio Pass and Express Pass tickets both offline and online, which is why I have created a dedicated blog post about it.
In the meantime, get acquainted with the different types of tickets released by Universal Studios Japan as well as where to buy them.
1. Studio Pass
This is the general admission ticket that you get to enter the park. Choose from 1-Day Studio Pass, 1.5-Day Studio Pass, or 2-Day Studio Pass. The 1.5-Day Pass allows you to enter the USJ park after 3:00 p.m. on Day 1 and use it on the following day all day.
Side note: Only Klook sells the 1.5-Day Studio Pass. However, you need to pick it up at Osaka Kansai Airport or Namba OCAT Station.
For visitors already in Japan, you can make the advance purchase through Lawson convenience stores. The big downside of getting your Studio Pass from Lawson is that you need to key-in the exact date of your visit. This means hassle and inconvenience should you have an emergency to deal with because tickets are non-refundable.
For visitors overseas, I highly recommend booking your tickets online through official travel partners of USJ such as Klook or Voyagin. You will get a flexible ticket that is valid for use within 3-6 months from the date of your purchase.
Unlike Tokyo Disney tickets, USJ tickets are nonrefundable, no matter where you buy them. So, make sure you’re going to be able to use them. In addition, USJ does not issue re-entry tickets or stamps, so there’s no going back once you leave the park.
2. Universal Express Pass (starts at 4,200 JPY)
The Universal Express Pass is a separate park ticket that allows you to skip the long lines to ride the popular attractions inside the USJ Park.
Top attractions like The Forbidden Journey 4K3D Ride, The Flying Dinosaur, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D Ride, by far have the longest waiting time, between 2 to 4 hours on average.
Yes, there are actually 4-hour long waits and having an Express Pass will allow you to skip those lines.
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.
You can choose from 3 Types of Express Passes:
Universal Studios Japan releases a limited number of Express Pass tickets per day and tickets get sold out quickly. You cannot simply walk-in on the day of your visit and expect to get the Express Pass ticket at the entrance.
If there is one reason you wouldn’t want to get a pass, it would be the price, which, for a family of 3 or more, can really add up.
However, if you come to weigh things in, the price will worth it because won’t have to wait for hours just to experience those 5-minute rides.
Side Note: Personally, I would purchase an Express Pass and I can tell you from my experience that it was, indeed, worth it. I visited during the weekdays and offseason, and although the USJ Park wasn’t super crowded, it allowed me to skip long lines at top attractions giving me the best time of my visit. If I were to visit USJ for the second time around, I would definitely buy an Express Pass again.
To use your Express Pass, simply look for the “Express Pass Lane” in every attraction.
Express Pass is different from Disney’s FASTPASS. While FASTPASS is free and gives you a specific time to ride an attraction, Express Pass allows you to skip lines.
The Express Pass will not give you ‘unlimited’ rides.
For example: if you’ve already used your Express Pass on The Forbidden Journey Ride, you cannot 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 wish 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 date and can only be bought from the mentioned online travel agencies.
Compare Royal Pass Prices Here:
3. 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 by making the entry of visitors time-designated.
This means that visitors need Timed Entry tickets to enter the Wizarding World attraction.
Timed Entry Tickets are free, and without one, you cannot enter the Wizarding World.
There are two ways to get Timed Entry Ticket:
- Either you get it from the Harry Potter ticket booth located at the Central Park of USJ or
- Buy an Express Pass ticket that lists The Forbidden Journey Ride as one of the attractions.
I had both when I first visited USJ. Aside from the Timed Entry on my Express Pass ticket, I also got another from the ticket booth.
That way, should I leave the Harry Potter World after using the Timed Entry on my Express Pass, I would be able to enter again with my second Timed Entry ticket.
4. VIP wristband
USJ Park opens between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M. However if you have a VIP wristband, it will give you the privilege to enter the park before it opens.
Should you decide to buy a VIP wristband, make the most out of it by using your fast-track entry privilege and visiting the park as early as 7 a.m. exclusively and without the crowd.
The VIP wristband also allows you to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and ride The Forbidden Journey 4K3D without waiting in line since the entrances are not manned with staff this early.
To buy the VIP Wristbands, you either go to Abeno Harukas 300 Observatory the day before your park visit or buy it online through Voyagin.
Tip #4. Plan Your Route in Touring USJ
This tip is optional. However, sometimes, the crowd can make you feel a bit of panic as soon as you enter the gates of Universal Studios.
There are two possible case scenarios when planning your USJ route: (1) If you have an Express Pass and (2) if you don’t have an Express Pass.
If you have an Express Pass
Touring around USJ with an Express Pass gives you the freedom to ride all your top attractions included on your pass. I highly suggest riding them all consecutively as soon as you enter the gate.
Skipping the long lines granted by that pass and going about those rides for 3-5 minute long will give you a whole lot of time after by which you can explore the USJ Park at your own pace while relaxing.
If you’re only there to visit Japan, then chances are, you will only be visiting USJ once. Take this time to see the sights and try riding any remaining attractions which tickle your fancy.
Explore the entire Park in clockwise, in counterclockwise, or in a zigzag direction.
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 prefer not getting an Express Pass because, according to them, they will only visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, in my experience, you will be missing a whole lot of fun if you don’t have an Express Pass, especially when visiting during peak seasons.
But then, you can have it your way.
At any rate, going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and riding the blockbuster Forbidden Journey Ride is still possible without an Express Pass. It’s just going to be really challenging.
Pro Tip: Consider Getting the 1.5-Day Studio Pass.
However, if this is not an option, read my tips below on how to maximize your day inside the park:
- Arrive at the park as early as you can, say 7 a.m.
- As soon as the gates open, run quickly to the 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.
- To use the Timed-Entry ticket machine, simply scan the barcode of your admission ticket and select the time you desire to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I suggest getting the earliest time slot available.
- Should the machine give you a later time slot, explore other attractions of the park and consider queuing on attractions with “Single Rider” lane whenever available. If you’re in a group, Single Rider shortens your waiting time by taking separate seats on the ride.
- Once the clock hit the time on your Timed-Entry to the Wizarding World, immediately run to Hogwarts Castle because that is where The Forbidden Journey Ride is.
When you’re done with The Forbidden Journey Ride, that’s the time when you can start exploring the entire Wizarding World.
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.
Do note that Timed Entry tickets can also run out within the day.
Remember that Universal Studio Japan has only 9 areas, therefore, it is very easy to get around.
For families with small children, you might end up spending your whole day between Universal Wonderland and the Wizarding World.
In the end, it’s really up to you on how you want to prioritize your time within the park.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which Express Pass should I buy?
It depends on your budget and your preference. Ask yourself this: What are the top attractions you would like to ride?
Personally, 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. However, if you’re simply visiting USJ for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I don’t think getting an Express Pass is necessary in your case but then again, you might be missing a lot of fun.
Kindly review all types of Express Passes below or visit the USJ website for full details.
2. Should I get an Express Pass or VIP Wristbands, or both?
If you are visiting USJ during the weekends or the holidays, then getting an Express Pass is a highly suggested otherwise you won’t be able to ride as many attractions due to the hours of wait you will be spending lining up for your turn.
Get the VIP wristband if you, not only can wake up really early but are also interested in entering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the crowds.
3. The Express Pass is sold out! What should I do?
I am sorry if Express Passes are no longer available on the dates you have chosen because they really do get sold out! You are left with no other option but to move your travel date to USJ. Make sure to book in advance next time.
4. Can I bring food inside?
Technically, bringing your own food inside the park is not allowed. However, due to long lines at the entrance gates, the staff may no longer be checking on every bag. Just make sure to put your food on the very bottom of your bag just in case the staff checks on you.
5. What are your recommended attractions?
Other than The Forbidden Journey Ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride, there are lots of other great rides. I, personally, liked the Amityville’s Jaws and the Jurassic Park rides.
Take note that when you take a ride, you will see signboards that warn 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.
6. 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, however, this only means that the system allows 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.
7. 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 25 minutes. I was actually surprised to find out that USJ is 3x smaller than Tokyo Disneyland since they pack so much into each attraction.
8. 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 the 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.
In fact, when I was walking around the park, I noticed that the lines to popular attractions like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D Ride and Backdrop had shortened waiting time with 30 minutes the longest.
Take note, however, that if you have the Twilight Pass, you can not use an Express Pass.
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 because just so you know, Timed Entry also gets run out.
9. It’s my birthday! Can I have a birthday discount?
Yes. Just register on the website of USJ and make sure to register your entire family with 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 the Japanese language.
The ticket is valid from the first day of 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 as well.
If you need further help, I suggest asking for help from a Japanese friend.
10. How are restaurants inside?
I personally don’t like eating at restaurants inside amusement parks. They tend to be very expensive and are usually pretty bland. However, the usual park food 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 food offered in the park (this rule can often be applied to most food actually). Even the butterbeer from the Wizarding World didn’t taste any special.
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, located 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.
11. 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 other parts of Osaka, not just USJ.
Please leave your comments below if you have any questions.
About Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is a Universal Studios-themed park situated in Osaka. Established on March 31, 2001, which, at the time was third—of now four—theme park based on Universal Studios, the Japan offshoot is under the ownership and operation USJ Co., Ltd which, as of 2017, is completely-owned by NBCUniversal.
By comparison, the Japan branch is likened to its sibling, Universal Orlando Resort, for their similarities in an eclectic choice of attractions that cater for people’s amusement. The same is also said when comparing Universal Studios Japan to its other sib, Universal Studios Hollywood.
When the park first opened in 2001, an estimated 11 million people had visited the park in its first year of operation alone. At the time, it held the record for being the world’s first theme park to hit the 10 million milestones within a year.
The Universal Studios Japan maintained its number of visits per year with a steady 8 million guest visits annually.
Most of the guests in the area are comprised of native Japanese in addition to its neighboring countries such as the South Koreans. But even people from the West, particularly expats, make regular visitors as well.
After 10 years since having started operation, the Universal Studios Japan celebrated the occasion by holding various events which, apart from having survived a decade in the business, had also achieved more or less 88 million number of visits.
While the amusement park has maintained a stable growth by having an average of 8 million visits per annum, the Japan branch continually strived to do better whose fruit had transpired in 2012 when it reached around 9.75 million guests.
One of the major driving force for this growth is the opening of the family-oriented area called “Universal Wonderland” in March 2012.
The year 2013 was yet another year of success for Universal Studios Japan as it progressed 10.5 million visits, likely influenced by the introduction of more entertainment to its valued guests.
These new attractions include the “Hollywood Dream – The Ride: Backdrop” and the “New Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D” which opened in March and July, respectively.
Known to incorporate “pop culture” as part of its marketing ploy, the Japan fork of Universal Studios is prominent for running limited-time promotions involving popular video game franchises, like Biohazard and Monster Hunter, as well as anime like One Piece.
The year 2014 was another major breakthrough for Universal Studios Japan as it launched the Harry Potter film-themed area called “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” which highlights one of its many popular rides, namely The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
To its credit, the Universal Studios Japan ranked 5th among the top 25 amusement or theme parks across the globe, based on the 2014 Theme Index Global Attraction Attendance Report.