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 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.
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
I’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.
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
Getting 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.
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
USJ 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.
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.
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!