John’s Favorite Japanese Theme Park: Universal Studios Japan

We’ve written about Japanese theme parks a few times before. I mean, Fuji-Q Highland is pretty cool and all, but it’s about time we gave another park some attention. Universal Studios Japan, or USJ as it’s affectionately known, is the second most visited park in Japan after Tokyo Disney. And that’s not without good reason. It’s the first Universal built in Asia and since I’ve been to USJ myself, I can tell you that it’s pretty awesome. If you enjoy the Universal Studios in your home country, you’ll love USJ.

About the Park

usj-globeUSJ opened in March of 2001. Located in the Osaka Bay Area, the park spans 39 hectares. If you’ve ever been to another Universal Studios before, you’ll feel right at home at USJ. The only other Universal Studios I’ve been to was the one in Orlando, Florida, but much of USJ was eerily similar (just in Japanese instead of English, sometimes resulting in mass hilarity).

Like other Universal Studios parks, USJ features tons of rides and attractions ranging from kid friendly rides to thrilling coasters. These attractions are all based on popular movies such as Spiderman, Back to the Future, Terminator, and Jurassic Park. USJ will also be getting a Harry Potter attraction come 2014.

mount-usj

There are plenty of mascots wandering around the park as well. From what I remember, I didn’t see Hello Kitty when I was at the one in Orlando, but you’ll see her everywhere at USJ. USJ is also much bigger on Sesame Street characters for some reason.

My Visit to USJ

at-usjI’ve written a bit before about my adventures in Japan, but going to USJ was definitely one of the more surreal experiences. Like I touched on a little before, it was really weird at times experiencing the exact same Universal Studios experiences I had in America, only in Japan. For example, rides like Jaws, Spiderman, and Terminator are so incredibly similar to the ones in Orlando, I would almost forget that I was outside my home country. And then they’d start speaking in Japanese.

I’d also be inclined to say that you’d get more out of the USJ experience if you’ve already been to a Universal Studios in your home country. It was just so entertaining for me to see things I’d already seen before but in a new language. I don’t know if everyone will think this sort of experience is as cool as I did, but I think it was awesome.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap4micAe1zM']

USJ also had a few things that the one in America didn’t. There was an indoor spinning roller coaster called Space Fantasy, and then there was a musical roller coaster called Hollywood Dream that let you choose which song you wanted playing out of your headrest speakers as you flew down the track. From what I remember, the choices were two Japanese songs, Eminem, or The Beatles.

Getting to USJ

usj-theme-trainGetting to USJ is pretty easy and you can get there one of three ways. You can get there by train on the JR Yumesaki/Sakurajima Line and then it’s just a five minute walk from Universal City Station. All the trains in this area are USJ themed. It’s pretty cool.

usj-train

You can also get to the park by bus or ferry. USJ is connected with Kansai and Itami Airport, but some overnight buses from other cities in Japan make stops at USJ. There’s also a ferry service by the name of Captain Line that connects USJ with the Osaka Aquarium.

I don’t know if I’d recommend one service over the other, but when we went we took the train and it was super easy. You can always count on the Japanese train system and USJ is no exception.

Expenses and Hours and Such

enter-usjUSJ doesn’t have any closing days and is typically open from 10:00-17:00 during the slow season and 9:00-21:00 during the busy season. A one day pass is about $60 or so for an adult and around $40 for kids.

tickets

We went to USJ in the spring and the weather was gorgeous. Just like with any amusement park, it makes more sense to go during the nicer months as the park probably isn’t that much fun when the weather is really chilly.

The only lame part about USJ was that it didn’t have an Islands of Adventure like the Universal Studios in Orlando does. Islands of Adventure has a lot more thrill rides and coasters and stuff than the normal Universal. While USJ did have those two coasters I mentioned above, they definitely weren’t the caliber you’d expect from a traditional thrill ride.

USJ_map1

All in all, USJ is pretty great and is a really cool experience especially if you’ve already been to another Universal before. But if you’ve already been to a Universal before and you didn’t like it, chances are USJ won’t treat you any better. I just hope it never turns into one of Japan’s creepy forgotten amusement parks. USJ’s too good for that.


So tell me, have you ever been to USJ or any other Universal Studios parks before? How did you like it? Do you think you’d enjoy going to USJ? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Sites Referenced:
Japan-Guide
USJ Wikipedia

  • DAVIDPD

    I have been fortunate enough to visit the California, Florida, and Singapore locations. All have been a blast. Especially the Singapore one. Seeing other’s experience “America” was a fun experience. The wonderment in people’s eyes, it makes you feel strangely proud to be an American.

  • http://www.vietamins.com Viet

    I have to disagree. It’s all about the Fuji-Q!

  • Applesauce 21

    Has anyone on the tofugu team been to disneyland in tokyo? I’d be really interested to know about it, especially since I’ve heard that if you get a job as a face character (like, Snow White or Peter Pan) they pay for your flights to Japan!

  • Mescale

    It seems there are only Universal Studio Theme Parks in America (Florida and California) Japan, and Singapore.

    So its kinda hard to go to a Universal Studio in your home country unless you’re from America, Japan, or Singapore.

    I’m just sayin’ (I’m so so sorry)

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    The vast majority of Tofugu readership comes from one of those three countries (mostly the US, but Japan and Singapore are both in the top ten), so odds are good!

  • Johnist

    Irrelevant comment: John looks better in his profile ‘selfie’ picture than in the picture with his friends. Keep Ohio and Seattle/Portland strong!

  • http://giannii.com/ Michael Giannii Calvert

    Theme parks in Florida are cool but the rest aren’t what they used to be.

  • simplyshiny

    And soon to have Harry Potter world!

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I agree with this, Fuji-Q or go home.

    Waterworld’s pretty amazing, though…. the movie, I mean.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    I think that’s standard for a lot of jobs – moving costs, yeah?

  • Applesauce 21

    Seriously? I never knew that! Well, as far as disney goes the deal I heard is that you live in apartments with all the other staff and get your flights. The apartments //do// cost money, but they deduct it automatically from your wage. So if you think about it as a low paid job, then it’s like free accommodation haha.

  • John

    I need to go to Fuji-Q and Tokyo Disney sometime.

  • John

    It’s true – I look better with facial hair.

  • Mantoss

    Why the need? Ecstacy from thrill rides?

  • simplyshiny

    you look good no matter what, John, no worries.

  • John

    Mostly Fuji-Q, I’ve been to Disney in America so at least I have some idea of what that’d be like. Fuji-Q is just so new and exciting!

  • John

    What a kind soul you are.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Although I live quite close and I know a lot of people who went there I’m just not interested.
    In general I’m not really a fan of any amusement parks or anything like that. I’ve never been to any here in Japan. Would also never go to Tokyo Disneyland! ;)

    But I’m glad to see that you had fun! :D

  • Alastor

    Me and some friends went to the New Years party there this year, it was a pretty surreal experience. You paid for 24 hour access from 8pm on the 31st until 8pm on the 1st, we got there on time and I think we finished up around 8.30 am,when most of the people inside the park had fallen asleep inside restaurants, presumably gearing up to make another run at all the rides when they came to. It was pretty fun, if not quite the ‘party’ atmosphere we had hoped for. Really long queues for food when all we were trying to do was get more beers. Definitely could use an Islands of Adventure, I need to check out some of these theme parks in Japan that actually have some thrill rides.

  • Mantoss

    Nice. Hey John, if you ever going to be in Tokyo check out the Rick Owens Store. He’s an avant-garde fashion designer. If that is what you are into. :)

  • Mantoss

    Get out of your comfort zone and just do it!! I order you.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Good advice, but I constantly get out of my comfort zone.
    I just don’t see why I should stand in line for hours for something I don’t even want to do. And in worst case I’ll be there all alone. No, thank you! ;)

  • Mescale

    Oh I see its ok because you only cater to stupid americans, angry gaijins in Japan, and cool pirates on shore leave in Singapore.

    What kind of attitude is that?

    This isn’t good enough Hashi, I demand this article is changed to accurately depict the true distribution of Universal Studios Parks in the world, maybe just maybe you think its ok, but what if this post was the only thing to survive the future apocalypse, and the archaeologists of the future used it to rebuild a picture of our society?

    What then?

    And what about people who have been to a Universal Studios which wasn’t in their home country, what about them? Will they like USJ, will they not, should they just bugger off because we don’t care about them.

    I will not stand for this discrimination!

    Equal rights for people without Universal Studios in their home country!

    DOWN WITH HASHI, DOWN WITH TOFUGU, FIGHT THE TONGUE DEPRESSORS!

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    My god . . . if only I’d known the consequences of our Universal Studios-based discrimination! Forgive me!

  • Mescale

    Oh Hashi, I never could stay mad at you for long.

    Please give my regards to your wife.

  • Mantoss

    Alright. Didn’t know that :O Hohohoho

  • John

    I’ll keep that in mind – thanks!

  • Koichinist

    WIFE??? Hashi, you are so young. :O

  • SkyDash

    If you’re looking for a job at Tokyo Disney, I would suggest trying to become a character at Disneyland or WDW first and then trying to get transferred. I know an important person at WDW who was asked to be Peter Pan in a show at Disney Tokyo for 3 months when he was just getting started there. =)

  • Applesauce 21

    How did I never reply to this?? And that’s amazing! Sadly, I only have three months in which to work in Japan :( It’s my year between high school and uni, and we get just under three months off, but I would have to come back to the UK on results day, so I might only be able to work for two months arrghghgeggg >__> I am having trouble working out what to do and how to finance it as you can probably tell XD

  • Henriquette

    I went to Japan for the first time ever in June (finally!!!) and went to USJ. I didn’t think I was gonna enjoy it as much as I did but yeah, amazing! Not so keen on rides but these were really fun, especially with it in Japanese ! Don’t know if its the same in other universal studios , but I found the staffs acting so over the top it was hilariously fun especially in Japanese as well =) would love to go again, the spiderman ride was under renovation =(

  • Chungs

    Great blog! I’ve been to Universal Studios singapore and i think of it as a halfsize of USJ although some attractions are unique and originally designed to suite the park. I can say singapore staffs are not that friendly compared to japanese one, good thing about it is you can understand the whole story line on every rides, No more whats next and what the heck is going on scenario. Both parks have unique representation of Universal Studios and you’ll still had fun afterwhile so its worth every penny.