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13 USJ + Harry Potter World Insider Hacks To Make Your Trip To Osaka Worth Every Knut


Universal Studios Japan Insider Information

 

harry potter theme park osaka japan

Confession: I've been to Osaka twice in the past year, once for a holiday and a second time - this trip - specifically to visit Universal Studios Japan. Most Singaporeans would have only been to Universal Studios Singapore (USS), but if you're using USS as a gauge of what to expect like I did, you'll be in for a shocker.

To compare their top 3 attractions, Universal Studios Singapore has

  •  Battlestar Galactica,
  • Revenge of the Mummy,
  • and Transformers: The Ride

Which, to be fair, are amazing rides, but Universal Studios Japan has

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (!!!!!),
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (!!),
  • and The Flying Dinosaur (also known as The-Best-Ride-In-The-Universe #truestory)

Yes, I get 500% more excited when talking about USJ - there's a legit case to be made for it being the best Universal Studio park in the world, especially when their Wizarding World features a Black Lake, like it does in the Harry Potter books:

universal studios japan harry potter black lake wizarding world

Before you grab your tickets, here's what you need to know about USJ:

 

1. Wednesdays and Thursdays have the least crowds

 

universal studios japan osaka queue

If you don't like crowds, you should already know to avoid theme parks on weekends - that's when tourists AND locals come out to play. Surprisingly, when we spoke to one of the staff, she told us Mondays and Tuesdays can be more crowded than usual too as Japanese schools sometimes send their students on excursions on Mondays and Tuesdays. Yup, Japanese schools send their students to USJ for school trips. Step your game up, Singapore schools!

We visited on a Wednesday, and there wasn't much of a crowd - you know it's a good size when there wasn't even a need for timed tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - anyone could come and go as they wanted all day.

universal studios japan osaka students school

 

2. Tickets aren't cheaper at the gate, so book in advance

 

universal studios japan osaka

If you're planning to get a ticket on the day itself, expect long queues. Park entrance prices are regulated by Universal Studios to be around ¥7,600 (~S$95), which is the price stated on their website. If you see deals too good to be true, they probably are.

There are a few different ticket types you need to take note of:

1) Universal Studios Japan Ticket
2) Express® Pass - Universal Studios Japan
3) USJ VIP Wristband + HARUKAS 300 Observatory Pass

The differences between each pass are a little technical, and I'll talk more about them at the end, but you can also check the differences out at the links above, as Klook (the authorised reseller we used) does a decent job at explaining what each does.

Note: Do NOT buy tickets from unrecognised retailers. Your tickets WILL be nullified. You're in Japan, dealing with the most high-tech people in the world. I don't even know how they'll find out you got a resale ticket, but they will. Saving $5 then getting your ticket nullified at the gate is 100% not worth it.

 

3. Get free stickers from the staff

 

universal studios japan free stickers from the staff

This is a lifehack I haven't seen online at all, and I researched Universal Studios Japan thoroughly before going. Basically, the staff want you to have an awesome time, and some of them have goodies to give out!

As my friends and I were walking around with our Minion popcorn containers, an excited staff member came up to us and gave us all a Minions "We are the Best Team" sticker each. After talking to her a little, we asked if she had other stickers, and she gave us our first visit sticker and 15th anniversary stickers. Too bad none of us were celebrating our birthday or we'd have gotten a birthday sticker as well!

sticker for first timers team work 15th anniversary sticker for being a friendly guest

Clockwise from left, sticker for first timers, sticker for "team work", 15th anniversary sticker for being a friendly guest

The trick to this is be friendly with the staff and tell them it's your first time at USJ, or that it's your birthday. Not all of them carry the stickers around though, so pro tip: look out for those with fanny packs! They're more likely to carry the goodies.

Note: The staff aren't obligated to give you the stickers, but they probably will if you ask nicely!

 

4. They'll lend you rubber bands for loose shoes or slippers

 

free rubber bands for shoes theme park japan universal studios

This is the most Japanese thing I noticed in USJ: they provide rubber bands for your shoes if they're too big and might fall off. The attention to such a minor detail helps you skip the troublesome remove-your-shoes-and-look-for-it-later portion of the theme park experience, and perfectly encapsulates what the Japanese are famous for.

You can use them for slippers too, which give your humji friends no reason to bail on thrill rides.

 

5. Take single rider queues whenever you can

 

single riders theme park japan universal studios

Whenever you see a single rider lane, take it. Queues in USJ can get so long that if you combined the time saved over all the rides, it'll be in the hours.

 

6. When in doubt, take the left seat, especially for Jaws

 

universal studios japan jaws

As anyone who's ever sat at the front of a roller coaster knows, where you sit can make a world of difference to your experience. Instead of telling you specific seats for specific rides, I'll give you a general tip: sit on the left of any ride you go on. The left side was more *exciting* for Jaws the ride, and more dramatic for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

jaws japan universal studios

Me recreating a scene in Jaws as the shark.

 

7. Universal Cool Japan: a dedicated anime pop up every January to June

 

anime pop up theme park japan universal studios

Because it's not Japan without giant mecha robots. Universal Studios Japan hosts a mega anime event once every 6 months, for 6 months, featuring both the best and the most recent hits in the anime world. This year, Godzilla, Attack on Titan, and Evangelion took centre stage, with their own 4D shows, giant exhibits, and XR rides respectively.

Note: You'll see the term XR quite a bit in Universal Cool Japan, and the best way to describe it is Virtual Reality (VR), but Xtreme.

attack on titan life size theme park japan osaka

 

8. There are an INSANE number of characters

 

despicable me minon japan theme park osaka

Hello Kitty, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Rilakkuma, Peter Pan, Shrek. The characters found in Universal Studios Japan include the most popular from both the Western and - including the characters in Universal Cool Japan - Eastern hemispheres. We spent a full day there, and left thinking that it still wasn't enough. To not miss out on anything, make sure you plan your day well and mark out every attraction you want to see in advance.

There are 10 existing themed areas, with 2 more opening soon: Minion Park in April 2017, and the recently-announced Super Nintendo World (Opening in 2020)!

 

9. Join in the free parades

 

universal studios japan free reborn parade

universal studios japan free reborn parade

Just for 2017, the Universal RE-BOOOOOOOORN Parade will be held once daily to celebrate Universal Studio Japan's 15th anniversary. It's colourful, crazy, and has its own infectious music and signature dance sequence. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it too much because "it's just a parade", but the infectious energy from the performers won me over.

There's even a segment at the end where the audience can join in the parade! Check out the map to find out where you should be standing to join the parade. Yup that's me on the right:

reborn parade japan the smart local

reborn parade japan universal studios

The Reborn Parade is crazy, and you'll be able to join in!

Besides the Reborn parade, there are a few other parades you need to catch, including the Minion Super Greeting where you'll get to take pictures with these cuties.

despicable me minion japan osaka theme park

despicable me minion japan

 

10. The quickest way to get into Harry Potter World

 

universal studios japan

hogwarts harry potter wizarding world universal studios

If you paid attention to point #1, there's a chance you wouldn't need this portion. When I visited on a Wednesday, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was open to all without a timed ticket the whole day. But if you got a fixed date ticket that falls on a weekend, here's a trick.

universal studios japan map

Follow the brighter red arrow, not the darker one. The high quality map can be seen here.

When the gates open, unless you're among the very first people in line, don't run straight for Harry Potter World - there's a high chance you'll be denied entry at the gate. Instead, follow the map above and look for the ticket machine. You'll see signs like this nearby:

theme park hacks

Head straight for these ticketing machines! That's where you get your timed tickets that will guarantee you entry without needing to queue.

 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

 

Arguably Universal Studio Japan's biggest attraction, you won't need a map to find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter if you're early - all you'll have to do is follow everyone who's running. The magical land is beyond the Sundial Garden (look for a "mini Stonehenge"), and through the Forbidden Forest where Arthur Weasley's crashed Ford Anglia's alarm is *still* beeping.

universal studios japan harry potter ford anglia wizarding world

There'll be a line of people waiting to take a picture with the Ford Anglia!

 

11. Start casting spells after you get a wand at Ollivanders

 

universal studios japan harry potter wand slytherin gryffindor wizarding world

Fauzi's in Gryffindor and I'm in Slytherin! #represent

All over the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are magical spots where you can cast spells such as Incendio, Cistem Apero and Meteolojinx. Get a Magical Wand at Ollivanders, where Harry, Hermione and Ron got their wands in the books, and you'll find a map that comes in the box with locations and spells to guide you along. Take note that only Magic Wands cast spells - souvenir wands won't work!

incendio spell fauzi harry potter theme park

Fauzi with a spell master teaching him the proper technique of casting Incendio.

There will be spellmasters at some spellcasting locations to guide you along, but the trick is simply to swish your wand clearly, and say the incantations with purpose.

hogsmeade real life harry potter wizarding world japan

There's a quaint wand shop outside Ollivanders that you can purchase your wands from if Ollivanders is too crowded.

Note: if you've done your research, you'll find some sites saying you'll get a wand if you get picked by Ollivander in the store. We've clarified this with the staff, and found that you'll have to purchase the wand after the show.

universal studios japan harry potter spell map wand wizarding world

The spellmap you'll find along with the wand.

 

12. Here's how you skip the queues legally

 

Getting your Butterbeer

harry potter world japan osaka butter beer

The most popular spot for Butterbeer is the Three Broomsticks as it's the most visible location to grab a pint, but you can head over to Hog's Head, where there's barely a queue. Unfortunately, there's no seating in Hog's Head, so head on out and take a picture of your Butterbeer in natural light!

Seasonal flavours

There are 3 types of Butterbeer, and only 2 are ever served at any point in time, which means you'll need to come back to try all three flavours.
Cold Butterbeer - Available all year round
Frozen Butterbeer - Available in the summer
Warm Butterbeer - Available in winter

Walk around the castle without queueing for The Forbidden Journey

universal studios japan harry potter entrance wizarding world

Keep an eye out for this entrance

If you're not keen on queueing for hours for the Forbidden Journey ride - which, by the way, is absolutely worth it - you can still take a stroll around Hogwarts Castle, exploring iconic places like Dumbledore's office, the Defence Against the Dark Arts and Herbology classrooms, and walk through a corridor of moving portraits.

 

13. Best spots to see the Castle

 

universal studios japan harry potter black lake wizarding world at night

Day vs Night at the Three Broomsticks' alfresco area.

Okay for all you people who live the #IGlife, the Three Broomstics' alfresco area is where you can go for the least crowded + most gorgeous shots of Hogwarts. And if you're not planning on grabbing a bite, you can still get here - look for a small doorway on the right of the main entrance to Three Broomsticks.

harry potter wizarding world japan

Lunch is served!

Alternatively, for a more up close and personal shot with Hogwarts, you can filter left on the path up to the castle to a tiny ledge that leads to the lake, which I assume serves as the Apparation point to Hogsmeade!

Bonus: Send your best friends some Owl Mail!

universal studios japan harry potter restaurant bar wizarding world

If you're shopping for magical goods to send back to your Potter-loving friends, don't miss this postbox outside of Dervish and Banges. Here, you'll be able to send postcards to your friends, complete with a Hogsmeade postmark. You'll have to grab some postcards from the Owl Post first though!

Tip: if you don't have a pen, you could borrow one from the staff beside the mailbox who will lend you her black-feathered quill pen.

 

Getting your Universal Studios Japan tickets

 

universal studios japan osaka

This is perhaps the most important tip in the whole article. As mentioned in point #2, Klook was the official reseller we used, and our transaction with them was entirely fuss-free. Klook's like an AirBnb for experiences, except instead of offering accommodation, they offer discounts for attractions and conveniences like WiFi devices and airport transfers.

There are a few things I like about Klook: their prices are clearly stated in SGD, they regularly offer discount codes on their Facebook page, and they are incredibly responsive on Facebook private messages. There are also no hidden costs, and the prices you see are all you'll have to pay - no sneaky booking fees or GST tagged on top of the listed price!

Here are 3 ticket types you need to pay attention to:

 

1) Universal Studios Japan Ticket

 

despicable me japan universal studios

This is the basic ticket that you need. Without this, all other tickets are worthless as you wouldn't be able to enter the park to use them at all. If the VIP Wristband (#2) is silver and the Express Pass (#3) is gold, the USJ Ticket is air. You need air to breathe otherwise silver and gold are useless.

In fact, you can survive on air alone. So if you're on a budget, just get this, camp outside USJ super early in the morning, and rush in the moment the gates open.

Book your USJ Admission tickets ($95) here

 

2) USJ VIP Wristband + HARUKAS 300 Observatory Pass

 

harry potter wizarding world japan osaka universal studios

There are a few things you can get with the VIP Wristband, including a discounted stay in downtown Osaka, but here are the main advantages you'll get with a VIP Wristband:

You'll be informed of the exact opening time of the park (the park's opening time changes every day, depending on crowd size)

You'll be able to enter the park through a VIP entrance before anyone else.

We've heard of VIPs who managed to squeeze in 2 rides before the doors were opened to the public, but you have to be there early, otherwise you'll need to queue with everyone else. This pass also allows you to enter Harukas 300, an observation deck on the tallest skyscraper in Japan. The normal entry fee is ‎¥1,500 (~S$19), so you'll be effectively paying an additional S$19 to ride 1-2 rides in USJ! #worthit

Get your USJ VIP Wristband ($38) here

 

3) Express® Pass - Universal Studios Japan

 

Express passes are the most important thing you can get at USJ as they allow you to skip the queues. You'll need to buy these on top of your USJ Ticket, as getting an Express Pass does NOT guarantee you entry into the park.

There are a few types of Express passes, and unfortunately none of them allow express entrance to all the attractions. Instead, look at the numbers at the end for how many rides the pass allows you to skip.

Note: all the express passes except The Flying Dinosaur provide timed tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Fast Pass for 4 rides (S$110 each)

Standard 4

  • A: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D
  • B: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man - The Ride 4K3D
  • C: Backdraft OR JAWS
  • D: Terminator 2: 3-D OR Jurassic Park

The Flying Dinosaur 4

  • A: The Flying Dinosaur
  • B: Hollywood Dream - The Ride
  • C: Backdraft
  • D: JAWS OR Jurassic Park

Fast Pass for 7 Rides ($178 each)

The Flying Dinosaur 7

  • A: The Flying Dinosaur
  • B: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D
  • C: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man - The Ride 4K3D
  • D: Flight of the Hippogriff
  • E: Terminator 2: 3-D
  • F: Hollywood Dream - The Ride OR Backdraft
  • G: JAWS OR Jurassic Park

Backdrop 7

  • A: Backdrop
  • B: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D
  • C: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man - The Ride 4K3D
  • D: Flight of the Hippogriff
  • E: Terminator 2: 3-D
  • F: Hollywood Dream - The Ride OR Backdraft G: JAWS OR Jurassic Park

XR Ride 7

  • A: Evangelion XR Ride
  • B: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D
  • C: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man - The Ride 4K3D
  • D: Flight of the Hippogriff E: Terminator 2: 3-D
  • F: Hollywood Dream - The Ride OR Backdraft
  • G: JAWS OR Jurassic Park

For what it's worth, The Flying Dinosaur 7 looks the most value for money as it includes everything I want: The Flying Dinosaur, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

Grab your USJ Express Pass ($110/$178) here

 

Universal Studios Japan lifehacks

 

harry potter cosplay japan universal studios japan

If you're planning on visiting Universal Studios Japan, keep these tips in mind to get maximum enjoyment from your day. You're already spending over S$90 on the ticket, so get the most of it!

roller coaster theme park japan dinosaur

The Flying Dinosaur!

A final plug: make sure you ride The Flying Dinosaur! It doesn't matter how long the queue is, trust me it's 100% worth it. It's not as scary as it looks, but the thrill factor is totally off the charts. It's the best ride I've ever taken, and I've taken Kingda Ka and El Toro, both considered among the best rollercoasters in the world.

Book your tickets to Universal Studios Japan here

This post was brought to you by Klook and Universal Studios Japan.

 

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