I grew up reading Harry Potter and my love for the entire series never faded. That’s why, I was so thrilled when JR Mortel, Order of Merlin, first class, Husband of the Year, surprised me with plane tickets to Japan for my 27th birthday. My loving husband knew that one of the reasons I wanted to go there was Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We arrived at around 9:30 on a Sunday morning and the crowd was already insane! It’s a good thing we booked our tickets and express passes in advance. Otherwise, lining up to buy tickets would have made us cranky even before entering.
TIP: As weekends are expected to be full of people, go there on a weekday, if your schedule permits. You may also check out this crowd prediction website. Just hit the translate button for your preferred language.
As soon as the gates opened, we headed straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Many muggles were also walking (and running) in that direction. We, on the other hand, took our time strolling around Hogsmeade first, since our express passes included a timed entry ticket to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
We lined up to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at 10:15 AM for less than 20 minutes. The ride was only 5 minutes but it certainly hit the spot! It was a bit weird to listen to a Japanese speaking Harry and Hermione though. Unfortunately, our express passes only covered one ride for this attraction. Without an express pass, the waiting time would have been around 90 minutes at 10:45 in the morning. The staff said that it reaches up to 240 minutes in the afternoon. Yikes!
TIP: Purchasing an Express Pass saves you time in lining up for popular attractions throughout USJ. We purchased ours via Klook. It might be a bit expensive, but believe me, it’s worth every penny.
We weren’t able to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff, a 16-seater roller coaster, because of its 60 minute waiting time (well, patience is not my strongest virtue) but it looked fun. I noticed that it mostly catered to families with kids. It had a height requirement of 92 centimeters for accompanied children and 122 centimeters for unaccompanied.
We spent the rest of the morning in Hogsmeade and enjoyed our butterbeer. You can have it hot or cold and we chose the cold one. It tasted like caramel with a hint of vanilla; perfect as my birthday drink!
Walking around Hogsmeade was breathtaking because the details of every shop were amazing. The atmosphere was also incredible, as if I was in a completely different world. I found myself suddenly waiting for my Hogwarts letter again.
TIP: The robes cost a whopping ¥14,000. If you want to save on
galleons money but want to feel like a Hogwarts student, you can still try on one from your favorite house and take pictures (just don’t go out of the shop, of course). The staff are all friendly and they won’t mind you posing around while wearing the robes. However, as a courtesy, it’s best to ask for permission first. You can also do the same with wands, priced at ¥4,900.
Our favorite shop was definitely Honeydukes! Our hungry tummies couldn’t resist the colorful treats that were waiting inside. It was a sweet tooth’s paradise; every corner of the shop was filled with goodies! A middle-aged woman “accidentally” opened one of the candy dispensers and the candies spilled on the counter and floor. We thought she would immediately move away from the mess she made, but lo and behold, she started tasting the candies!
We decided to skip the Three Broomsticks as the food was expensive. The price per head was around ¥1,750 – ¥2,000 and ¥7, 600 for The Great Feast (Platter for 4).
TIP: As with any amusement park, the food here tends to be expensive. Bringing food inside the park is prohibited but we managed to sneak in a few packs of onigiri *hush hush*. If you plan to bring food, I suggest to avoid bento boxes to be on the safe side and stick with small food items.
We couldn’t leave The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the mandatory picture at the Hogwarts Express! You can have your picture taken with the conductor but he was pretty busy at that time so we just took pictures of ourselves.
Roaming around Universal Studios Japan
After spending a good 3 hours inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we roamed around Universal Studios Japan. Our express passes included a timed entry at The Flying Dinosaur (to my dismay). Since we still had time before our schedule, we decided to check out other attractions before going there.
For the other included rides, we could choose among JAWS, Terminator 2:3-D and Backdraft. We didn’t want to get wet from JAWS nor be exposed to the heat from Backdraft so we used our express passes for Terminator 2:3D.
After lining up for a few minutes, we were brought into a room for a skit and then seated at a theater for the 3D experience. We were seated fairly close to the screen which gave us headaches after the show. Everything was in Japanese but it was pretty easy to follow. It was okay, but we realized that we should have chosen JAWS instead and bought raincoats even if we had to spend an extra ¥400 each.
Terminator 2:3D. Image courtesy of USJ
TIP: Be prepared to get wet if you will ride JAWS or Jurassic Park: The Ride. We saw vending machines inside USJ selling raincoats for ¥400 but you may also bring your own.
Since JR was such a darling for giving me the best gift so far, I had no choice but to ride The Flying Dinosaur with him. With a first drop of 37.8 meters face first, it was no wonder that at 1:30 PM, this ride had a 240-minute queue full of adrenaline junkies. Again, thanks to our express passes, we only had to line up for less than 30 minutes.
The staff didn’t allow us to bring anything because we wouldn’t be able to retrieve anything that was dropped during the ride. They even asked JR to take out the handkerchief from his pocket so he left it behind along with our bags.
We were suspended in the air with our chests down and were plunged face-first. Throughout the ride, I could hear my dear husband laughing while I screamed my lungs out for 3 minutes.
TIP: If you’re going to ride The Flying Dinosaur, I highly recommend to avoid wearing loose shoes. Don’t hesitate to remove and put them in the holding area (located at the ride platform) even if they are only a tiny bit loose. A teenager in front of us had his sneakers barely hanging on his feet after the ride. Yes, it was that intense.
I felt the need to rest for a while after that extreme ride. We were sitting on a bench at Jurassic Park when this big guy appeared and took a stroll (video below – 13 seconds).
There were a lot to see in this area and we spent more time than we initially planned.
Last on our list was The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: The Ride 4K3D. This was the ride where we had to wait for longer than 30 minutes even with our express passes. For regular riders, the waiting time was at 240 minutes at 3:00 PM.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: The Ride 4K3D. Image courtesy of USJ
I would say that this was my favorite ride next to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey! The waiting time was worth spending for this 5-minute awesome ride. No wonder this ride was awarded with Amusement Today magazine’s Golden Ticket title of Best Dark Ride for 7 consecutive years!(source)
TIP: Some attractions offer a Single Rider line (Spiderman included) which lets you cut down a large amount of time by riding with strangers. If you don’t mind being on your own (see you later, spouse!) for a while, you might want to consider this.
Purchasing a Studio Pass: Since we had plans to travel to other parts of Japan, our itinerary only allotted a day at the Universal Studios. I personally only wanted to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter so the 1 Day Pass was sufficient. Getting the 2 Day Pass would depend on your length of stay in Japan.
Price list as of June 2017. Image courtesy f USJ
Purchasing an Express Pass: First of all, expect to still line up even with an express pass. A frustrated couple was behind us when we were in line at Spiderman and they kept on complaining about having to wait for 30 minutes in the express pass lane. What they didn’t realize was it could have been a lot worse. The waiting time for regular passengers was 240 minutes.
We decided to buy the passes for PHP 2,512 each after reading several reviews and getting the opinions of our friends who had been to USJ. As you have read throughout this post, our express passes saved us a lot of valuable time.
The Express Pass 4 – The Flying Dinosaur can be used for the following rides:
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (timed entry)
- The Flying Dinosaur (timed entry)
- Choose between Spiderman and Hollywood Dream the Ride – Backdrop*
- Choose among JAWS, Terminator 2:3D, and Backdraft
*This was the option we purchased in April 2017. Upon checking USJ’s website, it was changed to a choice between Spiderman and Jurassic Park: The Ride as of June 2017.
Where to buy:
We bought our Studio and Express Passses via Klook. You may also check with your travel agency if they sell USJ tickets or purchase them at USJ on the day of your visit (which I strongly discourage, given the amount of people).
As a Potterhead, visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was enough to make our trip to Universal Studios Japan worth it. Nonetheless, there are many other good rides throughout the park so go ahead and explore! It is best to study the studio map well before making your trip and to book your tickets in advance.
In addition, keep these useful tips in mind:
TIP 1. Go on a weekday if you can, weekends tend to be extra crowded.
TIP 2. Purchase an express pass to shorten the waiting time.
TIP 3. Most of the souvenirs are expensive but you can take good pictures with them. Just ask permission from the staff.
TIP 4. If you plan to sneak in food, stick to small items.
TIP 5. If you will ride JAWS or Jurassic Park: The Ride, buy a raincoat from one of the vending machines in USJ or bring your own.
TIP 6. Wear comfortable shoes but avoid wearing loose shoes if you will ride the Flying Dinosaur.
TIP 7. Take advantage of the Single Rider lane, especially if you don’t have an express pass.
TIP 8. Have fun at Universal Studios Japan!
Do you have other tips that you can share with us? Leave them at the comment section below!
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
Operating Hours: 9:00AM – 9:00 PM (varies, please check the official website)
How to get there:
From Osaka Station: JR (Japan Rail) LINES – Ride the Osaka Loop Line(Inner loop) bound for Sakurajima at Platform 1 and alight at Nishikujo Station. Transfer to the Yumesaki Line bound for Sakurajima and alight at Universal City Station. USJ would be a short walk from there. Fare from Osaka Station: ¥180