Universal Studios Japan
“One of the most complete theme parks on Earth”
When talking about movie-themed amusement parks, Universal is one of the first things that comes to my mind. That’s no coincidence: Universal has created stunning theme parks all over the globe. The company possesses world-famous movie franchises and they’re not scared to push the limits of theme park attractions. As a result, Universal theme parks always guarantee a great experience. But what happens if you combine Universal quality with Japanese efficiency and friendliness? I travelled to Universal Studios Japan to find out.
In 2015, Universal Studios Japan offered a total of four roller coasters and two of them were very unique. The first one is called Space Fantasy – The Ride and it’s an indoor spinning coaster built by Mack Rides. The actual coaster part isn’t that intense, but this ride includes stunning theming and beautiful music. The ride simulates a magical journey to outer space and it blew my mind in every possible way. Despite its height of 19 metres and a track length of less than 600 meters, Space Fantasy became one of my favourite roller coasters on Earth. Unfortunately, I noticed that it’s almost impossible to experience the original Space Fantasy nowadays. The ride is often used for VR overlays and that’s a shame.
The second unique coaster was Hollywood Dream – The Ride. This miniature B&M mega coaster was constructed next to the park’s main street and it even soars over the entry plaza. It’s kind of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit of Japan, but better. Hollywood Dream offers a fabulous ride, especially because of the great on-ride music system. We ride Hollywood Dream backwards in a red train, an experience which was recently added and named Backdrop. And believe me… a backward B&M ride is certainly exciting.
Universal theme parks are known for their screen-based attractions, with or without 3D glasses. That isn’t any different here in Osaka: this park offers Japanese versions of multiple Universal classics. I rediscovered Back to the Future (an old-fashioned motion simulator that will soon be replaced by a Minions attraction) and I saw Spider-Man in his amazing 3D ride. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is one of my favourite rides at Universal Studios Japan, but I didn’t understand a word of it since it’s in Japanese. Everything else is nearly identical to the version in Orlando and that’s a good thing. I’m still impressed by that final scene…
Universal Studios Japan still features Jaws, so don’t miss this classic attraction. It’s especially fun if your boat is filled with screaming Japanese school girls, by the way. Another legendary Universal ride is Jurassic Park River Adventure. This huge attraction simulates a visit to the world’s most famous dinosaur theme park and it’s one of the most immersive experiences Universal ever created. Unfortunately, the Jurassic Park section was under refurbishment during our visit. The ride remained open, but most of its surroundings were hidden behind green construction walls. On a positive note… those walls were there because Universal was building The Flying Dinosaur, a breathtaking B&M flying coaster. I’m very curious about the ride experience, so I hope to visit Universal Studios Japan again soon.
Whoever talks about Universal theme parks, talks about Harry Potter. Universal Studios Japan added The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014 and it has been a smash hit ever since. The Japanese absolutely adore this area and queues get ridiculously long. Even on a regular weekday, the wait time for Forbidden Journey reached the 2-hour mark and shops/restaurants were filled to the brim. Talking about Forbidden Journey: this might be an unpopular opinion, but I’m not overly fond of this ride. Despite its spectacular transportation system, it seriously lacks detailing and some scenes look unfinished. Not interested in an hours-long queue? Then just skip this Japanese version and ride Forbidden Journey in Orlando, where queues are generally shorter.
BEAT THE CROWDS
Talking about queues… Universal Studios Japan attracted more than 10 million people last year, which means that the park is often packed. However, I’d definitely recommend a visit, even if you hate big crowds. Ride capacity at Universal Studios Japan is very high. Besides, the park has Universal Express, which allows you to pay for shorter queues. We used the most expensive Express option and that made our day a lot more enjoyable. Be sure to buy your Express passes well in advance, as they sell out almost on a daily basis.
WORTH A VISIT?
Universal Studios Japan is one of Asia’s must do theme parks: Space Fantasy, Hollywood Dream and Spider-Man are awesome rides and the overall atmosphere is simply breathtaking. There’s also a good amount of kiddie and family rides in an area called Universal Wonderland. This may be considered as the Japanese alternative to Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure. On a side note, I’d like to add that Universal Studios Japan isn’t the most stunning Universal theme park. There’s a strange clash between old and modern rides, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as Universal Studios Singapore or Islands of Adventure. Still, I had a great day full of world-class attractions and I met some of the friendliest, most efficient theme park staff in the world. Universal Studios Japan… you were amazing.
Universal Studios Japan
Photo Gallery 2015
UNIVERSAL PORT HOTEL & CITYWALK
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER
Do you think that Jaws should be replaced by Diagon Alley? Do you like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey? Do you think that Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit should’ve actually been a B&M like the one here in Japan? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.