ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン – Universal Studios Japan (USJ)

Whenever I ask my students about their favorite places to travel to in Japan, they always mention Universal Studios.  Having never been to the original park in America, I was curious to see what kind of attractions it had to be popular with so many people.  So during my first day in Osaka, I decided to pay the famed amusement park a visit.  Getting to the park from Osaka Station was extremely easy and was under 200 yen.  Much cheaper than booking a flight or driving there in America from Michigan, my home state.  When I entered the park, cheery Christmas music played and giant buildings decorated in bright colors and ornaments appeared.  All of the trees had Christmas lights in them and the staff by the doors were all wearing Santa outfits.  I had arrived just in time for the start of the Christmas events!

A monkey tamer had a monkey on a leash and was making it do tricks outside of the entrance to the rides.  I had a lot of fun snapchatting it to all of my friends back home while they were sleeping.  I made my way through and decided to stop by Space Fantasy: The Ride since it was the very first ride that I saw.  I waited in line for about 2 hours people watching and playing Yokai Watch on my 3DS.  The wait was long but honestly not that bad considering it was a holiday weekend in Japan.  The ride itself was really well done with stunning visuals, stage lights, and a lot of planets and comets that you saw as you rode down each hill.  The next ride I rode was called the Backdrop, which had a crazy range of motion you could adjust to make the ride more or less intense (on a scale of 1-5).  I put mine on 3 and had a pretty intense ride.  The Japanese people I rode with were super nice and around my age.  We made some small chat before we were launched into the air at full speed and started screaming.  There was a One Direction song blaring from the speakers of the ride to soothe us.  Overall it was probably one of the best rides at the park because it was adjustable and had one of the shortest wait times.  Afterwards, I decided to go explore more of the park.

I felt like I was traveling to different worlds as I strolled through the Spiderman, Jurassic Park, Minion, and JAWS areas.  Each was equipped with their own merchandise shops and food stands.  I picked up some JAWS glasses because who doesn’t love sharks?  Hilariously enough, the JAWS statue dawned a Christmas wreath and you could pay to have your picture with it.  Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I felt inclined to go to the Hogwarts world, but was politely told I would have to print out a timed ticket (for free) and wait for designated time to get in to prevent overflow.  I killed time by grabbing some ice cream and getting photos of the giant Christmas tree at the center of the park.  I was also lucky to catch the USJ Christmas parade!

After celebrating the miracle of Christmas a month early, I made my way to the Hogwarts gate.  The castle was secluded by trees to prevent lost muggles from wandering in, but given my wizardly powers, I was able to enter this time.  This part of the park was extremely awe-inspiring as expected.  The flying car that Harry and Ron crash was right near the entrance through the gates.  Carts of Butterbeer (which I highly recommend) were in the alleys.  All of the most famous shops in Harry Potter (Honeydukes, Hogsmeade, the Owl Post) had be recreated and were available for people to shop at.  I was impressed by how many wands were there!  The Hogwarts Express, Daily Prophet, chocolate frogs, and a bunch of owls were on display.  What a hoot.  After drinking my Butterbeer, I rode both of the Harry Potter rides.  My favorite was the 3D Forbidden Journey that took you on an adventure of flying on a broomstick and warding of dementors with Harry.  As you got close to the front of the line, you could see the wall of talking pictures and the sorting hat!  Hearing it speak in Japanese to me was surreal.

My review: Overall, I highly recommend this park if you’re in Osaka and have a day to kill.  On average, you will only be able to ride about 5 rides maximum with the amount of people that come to this park.   However, walking through the park is a pleasant experience and you will have a lot of photo opportunities.  If you have been to the Universal Studios in America, you will most likely find this park to be a bit smaller, but Japan’s version has slightly different rides so you will never know what kind of attractions and shows it will have next!  I think for 7200 yen, the park was worth it.  The atmosphere is so fun and cheery that you can’t help but smile!  I can see why a lot of my students really enjoy it and I hope to come back here during another season in the future.

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