Lights! Camera! Action! Or not. Today, we’ll take a step into the world of movie-making themed rides at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, with one of my friends who was studying abroad in Japan the same time I was.
My friend and I had a few problems finding the park. It was a bit out of the way and required multiple train transfers. However, we knew we were on the right track when we transferred at a station with trains that had, “UNIVERSAL STUDIOS” written in big font and covered with dinosaurs, sharks, the Terminator, Elmo, and Hello Kitty (this is starting to sound like the start of a bad joke, “A tyrannosaurus rex, Jaws, Elmo, the Terminator and Hello Kitty walk into a bar…”). We boarded the odd train and within a few minutes were at the concrete station leading to Universal Studios Japan. The train was full of excited kids and their exasperated parents. When the train doors slowly slid open, the kids bolted out like the fate of the world depended on them getting to the park entrance before anyone else. And their parents walked quickly behind them, knowing fully well that their children and fate of the world will have to wait until after they pay the entrance fee. My friend and I waited for the crowd to pass before slowly making our way up the stairs to reach the entrance way.
When we reached the entrance, we were not greeted by Universal Studios, but the shopping area in front of all Universal theme parks, CityWalk. While there we passed by many restaurants, convenience stores, and a few regular shops as well. We made a stop at the Takoyaki Museum (a small museum dedicated fried octopus balls (they’re better than what they sound like)), and the Jump Shop (a shop dedicated to all things Shonen Jump like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and all the other major blockbuster shows aimed at tween and teen boys). And after browsing a bit, we made our way over to the entrance way of Universal Studios Japan theme park.
Then came the wait. The godforsakenly long wait, just to get the bloody tickets! I won’t lie, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with waiting an hour just to get tickets to enter the park. So word to the wise, if you plan on going to a theme park in Japan (or anywhere really) try to get your tickets in advance. Sometimes it isn’t possible, but if you can, do it! You should be waiting an hour to go on your favorite ride, not to get tickets to enter the park! Anyway of ranting about that, now let’s head the park and see what it has to offer.
Unlike most of the regular theme parks, Universal Studios Japan isn’t really organized into larger “themed” areas. Instead, it’s more of a hodgepodge of rides, restaurants, and shows. The only areas that have some slight theme to them are the restaurants and shops outside of the most popular rides like Jurassic Park and Jaws. Anyway, the rides are what more people care about in a theme park, so here’s the lowdown. My friend and I went on the main two roller coasters, Space Fantasy and Hollywood Dream. Space Fantasy is a spinning indoor roller coaster and Hollywood Dream is a standard outdoor roller coaster. I was starting to feel ill after these two rides (I guess I hit the age where roller coasters become less fun and more like vomit comets), so we then went on a rides that were slightly less illness inducing, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman and Back to the Future, which are both indoor “movie rides.” These rides also made me feel ill so my friend and went on the Jurassic Park ride (an outdoor/indoor get wet ride) by herself and neither of us were too keen on the Jaws ride (an outdoor, animatronic shark attacks your boat ride).
My friend and I weren’t too interested in participating in the shows, so we skipped most of them, but we did participate in Backdraft, a fire effects show. The other shows include Terminator 2, Shrek, Animation Celebration, and Sesame Street (3-D (or as they like to call them 4-D) movie shows). Then there is the main stunt show, WaterWorld, which is based on the not-so-successful movie, and features many water stunts and explosions (like most good stunt shows). The Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show is exactly what it sounds like, a rock and roll show featuring the famous Universal monsters hosted by Beetle Juice. And finally there is the Magical Starlight Parade, which is a light parade with floats that go through the park.
And like most good theme parks, there are plenty of shops and restaurants with overpriced food and goods that are there to suck away your money! I slightly exaggerate, but the only restaurant my friend and I stopped at in the park was The Dragon’s Pearl, which is was a good Chinese Restaurant. I’m sure there are plenty of other good ones, we just never got around to eating at them. And since my friend and I were only poor college students at the time, we didn’t shop around to much either, so I don’t have many details about the shopping options. But there are plenty of options for the interested shopper.
And that sums up me and my friend’s outing at Universal Studios Japan. For those interested in visiting, the park is open 7 days a week with various hours. But the park is usually open from roughly 9 AM to 10:30 PM (check the website for exact hours). For a one day Studio Pass (which is all you really need to see the park) it costs 6,400 yen for adults (12 and up), 4,300 yen for children, and 5,700 yen for seniors (65 and up). There are also 2 day passes available for 10,900 yen for adults and 7,400 yen for children. There are group discounts available, but you need at least 200 people (no, that’s not a typo, 200) to get a discount. You can also purchase express passes that give you priority access on some of the rides, but that’s another 3,200 yen or 4,900 yen depending on which express pass you buy.
Universal Studios Japan is right next door to its main train station, JR Universal City. Right outside the station, you are immediately at CityWalk and from there it’s about a 5 minute walk to the park entrance.
And for future visitors, the park is going to have some additional features available soon that weren’t there when me and my friend visited. Some of the new additions include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and rotating shows like One Piece and Monster Hunter.