Asia, Review, Theme Parks

Universal Studios Japan may very well be the best Universal Studios park in the world. Featuring a great mix of exclusive attractions, spectacular entertainment and crowd favourites that have been killed off elsewhere in the world. This park even manages to have both Jaws and Harry Potter living together harmoniously. Whilst the language barrier may be daunting to some people, it is easy to see why this park has been voted for the last few years as Tripadvisors number one theme park in Japan and is definitely worth a visit (Even though our #1 in Japan would still have to be Tokyo Disney Sea).

Family Rides – 8/10

Universal Studios Japan has a great selection of rides that can be ridden by the whole family as well as some rides that will be the favourites for any young ones in your group. The main children’s rides are contained to a massive section called “Universal Wonderland” which features three distinct areas filled with some of your children’s favourite IPs including Sesame Street, Hello Kitty and Snoopy with the rest of the Peanuts Characters. This area features a number of off-the-shelf kiddy rides that have some great theming elements to really make them shine. There is also a huge, recently opened themed area based around Despicable Me, this area is filled with Minion Mayhem, a spinner flat ride and a ton of cute food, drink, merchandise and photo opportunities.

One of my favourite rides in the world and a perfect stepping-stone ride for getting your kids onto bigger, more thrilling rides,  “The Amazing Adventures Of Spiderman” is also at the park, though luckily I already knew the storyline well as the ride is completely in Japanese. We also experienced a recently opened Curious George show which had some really cool effects but went completely over our head as Westerners.

Thrill Rides – 9/10

There is a great mix of thrill rides throughout the park, including some all-time favourites and a selection of rides exclusive to here. Hollywood Dream the Ride is a really great fun smooth experience, but Backdrop is spectacular and worth the extra wait time in my opinion, even to just experience once. This ride also lets you pick your choice of music like Rip Ride Rockit in Orlando, nothing is better than riding through the park backwards with some Michael Jackson pumping in your ears. My favourite ride has to go to Jaws , Japan is the only place you can still experience Jaws and it’s still a spectacular experience, hopefully, it is here to stay for a long time and it’s great to see Harry Potter and Jaws living together harmoniously. The Flying Dinosaur is an incredible but overly intense experience that love but wouldn’t do more than once in a day but is a great Partner to Jurassic Park River Adventure next door. There is also the same Harry Potter as most other Universal parks, featuring Hogsmeade, Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Experiences – 9/10

Universal Studios Japan features a ton of special events that take place throughout the year. Including Winter Wonderland and Halloween Horror Nights. The last two times I have visited have been during the hotter months of the year which have featured Japan Cool Summer which in 2017 featured a really fun Monster Hunter The Real experience which was like a real-life video-game and was a lot of fun and a completely unique experience for me in a theme park. In 2018 when we went I also got to ride my first ever VR Coaster which took over Space Fantasy the ride – A really cool experience but it did give me a bit of motion sickness as I’ve never felt on a coaster before. Whilst a lot of the special attractions and entertainment throughout the seasons are only offered in Japenese they are still a completely unique experience I strongly recommend trying and don’t worry if you come in summer there’s plenty of chances to get wet throughout various shows, street-parades and pop-up installations.

Entertainment – 8/10

Entertainment for me is what can really make or break a great theme park experience and I’m happy to say Universal Studios Japan features an amazing selection of shows to see. This park keeps alive it’s Beetlejuice’s graveyard revue, which is great because it’s one of my favourite theme park shows, you can’t beat the high energy fun this show provides (and the Japenese version may even be the best one taking place in a full-scale theatre so is also a great escape from the summer humidity or winter chill). Waterworld is also featured, which is one of the best stunt shows in the world no matter how tacky the storyline is! There has also recently been a new Night Parade debut recently which is a really great experience and if you sit in the right areas the projection mapping on the buildings really does make this experience pop. I can see Parades featuring projection mapping on the buildings around the parade route really being the future of Parade Entertainment.

Staff – 8/10

The staff at Universal Studios Japan are great as expected, the people of Japan are incredibly welcoming and friendly and will always try their best to help you. Their understanding of English seems to be a little less than that at the Tokyo Disney Resort but it’s still easy enough to do everything you need to such as ask for directions, order food or buy any merchandise.

Theming – 8/10

The front half of Universal Studios Japan has an almost identical layout to Universal Studios Orlando featuring the same Hollywood, New York and San Francisco themed areas which are all great once you get past the big “Sound-Stage” styled warehouses. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is as spectacularly themed as always and requires a rather long walk through an area of dense foliage to get to the land, creating an ever deeper sense of immersion. Jurassic Park is also really nicely themed but unfortunately suffers from having safety nets all over the area now since the addition of flying Dinosaur, making it hard to even get a nice shot of the classic Jurassic Park gate.

Merchandise – 7/10

Merchandise is very clearly designed to appeal to a Japanese market but I’m sure everyone will be able to find something great to take home and remember their trip with. The merchandise selection is wide and covers a great variety of IPs, just be aware that certain items seem to be exclusive to certain stores, so if you see something you want maybe grab it while you can to save you from hunting for it later. This does also, unfortunately, mean that there is not a lot of specific merch for the resort and more just generic character merch featuring the IPs within the park, you can occasionally find a really nice resort specific item but it can often feel like finding a needle in a haystack. Also, don’t worry, you can get your family any of the abundances of little snack and biscuit packs that seem to be everywhere in Japan.

Affordability – 8/10

At first glance, Universal Studios Japan is incredibly cheap to visit for the day with a one day ticket only costing around $70USD. Of course, as this is a Universal Studios park you can expect the normal inclusion of Express Pass though interestingly here they have a ton of different tiers of express pass that each allows you to ride certain attractions only once, also they do seem to have a tendency to overestimate wait times so the express may not be as needed as you may think. Merchandise was relatively expensive with things like a simple T-Shirt often costing upwards of $40USD but thankfully food was affordable allowing you to try out a ton of different food options even if you are on a budget.

One upcharge experience we did purchase was VIP seating for the brand new night parade “Universal Spectacle Night Parade”, this was around $15 but gets you in an amazing spot to view the parade and all of the associated projection mapping and I feel was worth the price tag. Also if you are coming internationally I would recommend taking advantage of the 1.5-day ticket that is available on some websites such as Klook, this allowed us to get everything including many re-rides at a more leisurely pace getting us in at 3 pm on the first day and for the entire day the day after.

Atmosphere – 8/10

The park has an awesome atmosphere like most Japanese parks we have visited, the local guests always seem to be having a great time and that rubs off on you as a guest. Looking around and seeing tons of smiling faces even when waiting in a massive line really makes you appreciate how lucky you are to be visiting a theme park and allowing yourself to be absorbed into its world. Just be aware that Japenese guests will wait a long time for almost everything, so if you really want to see a show from a good seat make sure you grab your spot in the line early and come prepared to spend a lot of your day standing around in queues.

Services – 8/10

Even though most of the shows and attractions are in Japanese, it is easy enough to find your way around and do everything even as an English speaking guest. Just be aware that English maps and times guides are only available at Guest Relations which is on the left-hand side as you enter, guest relations is also your best bet for finding a team member who speaks fluent English if you ever get stuck.

Universal Studios Japan will often also open up the gates around 15 minutes before the advertised opening time, we recommend getting to the gates around an hour before opening and have a game plan for what attractions you want to rush too first. On our last visit, we managed to ride Flying Dinosaur, Spiderman, Jaws and Jurassic Park before the park had even been open for an hour by rushing to the back of the park first.

Final Thoughts

Universal Studios Japan is probably my favourite Universal Studios theme park, though it doesn’t have the historical tram tour of Hollywood or the expansive resort of Orlando, it does have a ton of unique experiences that make it a must visit theme park destination if you are heading to Japan. This parks future is also looking extra exciting with Universal Studios Japan is the first place in the world to open their Super Nintendo World and nothing is closing in its place.

Universal Studios Japan gets a Final Score of 81/100

 

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