Let’s get down to business to defeat the Huns… And by Huns, I mean the crowds that come every day to experience the magical wonder of Universal Studios Japan! No matter your age or which wizarding house you belong to, Universal Studios Japan will appeal to all who are looking for a bit of fun.
Universal Studios Japan opened in Osaka in 2001 and receives roughly 14 million visitors a year to experience the worlds of Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, Minions and its exclusive Cool Japan. If you’re anything like me then you can’t resist a good theme park (mainly because we are completely lacking good ones here in Australia).
Theme parks are the place where the whole day revolves around having fun, that can be from screaming on crazy rides, taking photos with your favourite characters or eating enough themed candy to give you a sugar high until next year. These 10 Tips on How to Maximise Your Day at Universal Studios Japan will help you plan your way around the park so you can get the best it has to offer whilst avoiding all the rookie mistakes!
TIP #1 – Use a crowd predictor calendar to pick the right day to visit
Before you even think about buying your ticket to Universal Studios Japan please look at the Crowd Predictor Calendar. The calendar is a true godsend because it shows you exactly which days are going to be at maximum capacity (using data from previous years). We were visiting in mid-April and found that the best day to go was on a Wednesday. Always avoid the weekends when Japanese families and kids like to visit! Just a heads up that the website is in Japanese so you will have to use a Google Translate extension.
TIP #2 – Pay the extra and get a fast pass
Too many times I’ve heard people who have complained about visiting Universal Studios Japan all because they waited until the day to buy their ticket. This is such a rookie mistake, even on days that are going to be quiet. Think of it this way, if you don’t live in Japan and you literally have one day to experience it wouldn’t you want the best chance possible of doing everything?
Your average ticket costs around $70 with no guarantees of getting on all the rides. Pay the extra $50 and you can fast passes for up to 7 rides! That’s around $7.00 a ride and you skip the hour-long queues. Personally, I believe that’s a bargain.
My recommendation is to book through JBT as you can secure your fast pass well in advance. (Don’t worry I’m not an affiliate, I just trust the company).
TIP #3 – Get to the park one hour before opening
The early bird gets the worm and in this case, you can get crowd-free time to go on all the rides. We arrived at 8 am to Universal and there was already a queue, we were about a good 20 people behind. To kill the hour wait time bring some of those Japanese coffee cans and a deck of cards. Or use Reddit and Instagram for an hour (like you don’t already do that!).
Getting to the park early is honestly the biggest pay off and you won’t regret it. As soon as they open the gates everyone will start running like lunatics to get a ticket to Harry Potter World. While those suckers are running it’s time to go on all the rides!
TIP #4 – Secure a timed entry ticket to Harry Potter World in advance
As I mentioned before getting a Fast Pass prior is important because it also gives you a timed entry ticket to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At Harry Potter World they only allow a maximum number of visitors at a time hence the timed tickets. This is the reason everyone runs in the morning to score a timed ticket but if you get the fast pass in advance they will allocate you a time so you don’t need to worry.
Please note: The Harry Potter timed ticket was a part of the Fast Pass when we purchased with JBT. I’m unsure if other travel agencies allocate the same.
Tip #5 – Do the Biggest and Popular Rides first
The gates have been swung wide open, it’s time to run for your life and get on all the good rides first. When we visited we managed to go on 8 rides before 10 am! The best strategy is to go on the biggest and most popular rides first thing in the morning to avoid queues later on. Later on the day, you can go back on your favourites using your Fast Pass.
The most popular rides at Universal Studios Japan are as follows:
- The Flying Dinosaur at Jurassic Park
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman – The Ride in New York (this was our favourite ride!)
- Hollywood Dream in Hollywood
- Cool Japan XR Ride (changes each year)
Tip# 6 – Go on the exclusive ‘Cool Japan’ rides
The Cool Japan special event is exclusive to the Universal Studios Japan park and brings to life the most popular anime and video games. I’m an immense anime fan and was positively thrilled to see Attack on Titan, Evangelion, Conan the Detective and Monster Hunter. Even if you aren’t into anime there’s something about getting swept up in the excitement and love of these huge blockbusters.
Cool Japan is also home to the XR Ride which is out of this world. A virtual reality rollercoaster that takes place inside one of the biggest stories of the year (this year it’s Final Fantasy). When I got off this ride I was blown away and knew that this is what the future of rides will be like.
TIP # 7 – Buy a limited edition popcorn bucket – it’s worth it
Popcorn is such a popular thing in Japan and I didn’t really understand why until I came to the theme parks. Popcorn is bloody delicious and especially when it comes in delicious flavours like caramel latte and chocolate coconut.
With this popcorn, you need to snag yourself a limited edition popcorn bucket which helps you transport your kilo of popcorn around for the day. Seriously if you can only buy one souvenir for the day get this. We got an Evangelion Robot Head popcorn bucket that now sits on our shelf at home. It’s a good conversation piece!
Tip #8 – Take a secret tour through Ollivander’s Wand Shop
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a dream for so many 90s kids and it’s kind of crazy that they make full-scale versions of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Exploring this area made me feel so nostalgic I think I ended up shedding a tear as I listened to the Harry Potter theme song being played overhead.
Nostalgic emotions aside you will have so much fun exploring this area with rides, shows and shops filled with magical wonders. One of these magical wonders is a secret tour you can go on when you visit Ollivander’s Wand Shop. A lucky witch or wizard will be picked and taught some magic spells in the shop. Just go into the Wand Shop and ask if you can meet Ollivander!
TIP #9 – Eat at least one themed snack! (Or eat all of them)
Theme park food is expensive but bloody delicious and amazing! There’s nowhere else in the world where you can eat buns shaped like cartoon characters or oversized turkey legs. At Universal Studios Japan there are so many themed snacks on offer that you need to try at least one (and of course for the Instagram!)
My themed snack recommendations are:
- ‘Dinosaur’ turkey leg at Jurrasic Park World
- Snoopy, Elmo or Hello Kitty steamed bun
- Minion steamed bun
- Minion dango
- Butterbeer at Harry Potter World
- Chocolate Frogs at Harry Potter World
TIP #10 – Get your tax back at the end of the day
This might not sound very exciting but trust me it’s a rewarding tip for you all. After your long day head towards the exit and you will see the Tax Free Shop. Basically, take all your receipts and your souvenirs to this place and you will get all the tax back on the items you paid for.
It works as following:
Universal Studios Japan offers tax-free services to visitors from overseas.
Our Tax Refund Counter is located in Studio Gift West.
- Applies to foreign tourists staying in Japan for less than six months
- Tourists are required to present a valid passport.
- Confectionary and other consumable goods: total amount: 5,000 yen to 500,000 yen (without tax)
- Souvenirs (not including confectionary): total amount: 5,000 yen and higher (without tax)
- The total tax refund is 6.9%. We receive 1.1% of the total purchasing price of duty-free products as a handling charge (starting July 20, 2017)
* The following items are not included: Studio Pass, Express Pass, foods, souvenir items such as popcorn buckets, photo service, postage stamps, and home delivery service.
* The product(s) purchased along with their receipts (tax-free service will only be offered if both item and receipt are presented)
We got around 5000 yen back at the end of the day which went straight back into our wallets. Pretty neat hey?
Are you planning a trip to Osaka?
- 10 Reasons Why I Love Osaka: My Favourite City
- The Ultimate Bucket List for Japan [Free Downloadable]
- When is the best time to visit Japan?
- The Ultimate Guide to Anime Shopping in Den Den Town, Osaka