Our latest trip to Universal Studios Japan was a bit of a spontaneous decision. When we heard about their “Cool Japan” event, we knew we couldn’t miss it! Cool Japan 2018 had special rides, shows and merch from Sailor Moon, Final Fantasy, Monster Hunter & Detective Conan which will only be at the park for a limited time. I can’t even tell you how quickly we put this trip together. In one week we had airfare, hotel and park tickets all ready to go. Never underestimate the power of enthusiastic geeks. So if you’re a geek like us, here are some tips and info that I hope you find helpful in creating a USJ trip of your own.
BUY TICKETS ONLINE
To save time, buying park tickets online before your trip is always the way to go. You can print them or use the QR code on your phone like I did (way less hassle). Unfortunately, their English site doesn’t actually allow for ticket purchases and instead tells you to purchase tickets through a travel agent if you want to get them in advance. What the heck?!? However, if you happen to wander over to the Japanese site, not only can you purchase park tickets, but also a bunch of special packages like Birthday Passes, Gift Passes and a ton of different Express Passes. It’s amazing!!!
If you’re not fluent in Japanese, never fear! With the help of google translate and THIS AMAZING POST, you can gradually work your way through the online purchasing process. I’m not going to lie, it is a bit time consuming, but totally worth it. I bought 2 Express Pass 4’s (¥ 4,815 each), which came with express admission to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Minion Mayhem, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man OR Jurassic Park and Jaws OR Terminator 2: 3-D OR Backdraft. Four Rides total, thus “Express Pass 4.” There is also an Express Pass 7 if you’re feeling really spendy.
I also got 2 of the Sailor Moon Standard Express Passes (¥ 1,852), which came with express admission to Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Miracle 4-D and an adorable souvenir Luna P case with ramune candy. I’m glad I got these, not just because of the adorable souvenir, but because the show completely sold out by mid afternoon the day we went. So to avoid FOMO, I recommend picking this pass up.
Please keep in mind that these passes are all purchased in addition to the actual 1 Day Studio Pass (¥ 7,315). It does add up considering you’re spending all this money before you even step foot into the park, but it made a huge difference for us. Although the park was totally packed and we had to wait in lines for absolutely EVERYTHING, having a reduced wait time really made our experience more enjoyable and less stressful.
STAY AT AN OFFICIAL USJ HOTEL
Unlike Hong Kong Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan has 28 official, alliance and associate hotels to choose from. Since the main purpose of our trip was USJ, we decided to stay at The Park Front Hotel. This hotel not only put us right in front of the park entrance, but also right on Universal City Walk. We had an amazing view of the park and easy access to all the shops, restaurants and convenience stores. What’s even better, is that since we stayed at an official USJ hotel, we were allowed to leave the park and come back when we wanted to unload some of our shopping bags. Typically visitors are not allowed to reenter the park once they leave, so this was a great perk for us since we bought a lot of stuff.
DOWNLOAD THE (UNOFFICIAL) APP
When it comes to theme parks, I always recommend downloading the app. It’s just overall an easy way to navigate and plan your day without having to constantly whip out a map or worry about losing it. Unfortunately, USJ’s app is only in Japanese! Bummer, right??? Fortunately, we were able to find an unofficial app that gave us accurate waiting times for rides along with show schedules and restaurant info. It’s not the best theme park app, but it gets the job done. You can download it HERE.
THE MUST DO’s (AND DON’TS)
The park is pretty well organized and easy to navigate. It’s generally quite easy to plan your day if you have your rides prioritized and keep an eye on the wait times. To be honest, we didn’t really find ourselves rushing to be anywhere though I think that was also partially due to our hand dandy Express Passes.
We decided to start our day off with one of our favorite rides, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. It’s all in Japanese, but still hands down one of our favorites. The overall concept is a fun throwback to the cartoon Spider-Man we grew up with as kids. Even the walkthrough areas are awesome! Plus, the ride is just incredibly well designed. It’s an interesting combination of 3D and animatronics.
As I may have mentioned (on several occasions), my hubby has a deathly fear of heights. So, when we visit theme parks, most roller coasters are a definite no-go. On our last visit, however, he caved into his inner fanboy and decided to ride Jurassic Park with me. I’d say it’s only 1/4 rollercoaster, the rest is just good ole fashioned dinosaur fun. It really is like experiencing a small part of the movie.
The newest and by far most popular part of the park was Minion Park. Although I’m not exactly a minions fan, there was no denying how cute and immersive the area was. Of course, the highlight of the area was the Minion Mayhem ride and we already had an Express Pass ready for it. I’ve got one thing to say about this ride, if you value your spinal alignment, DON’T ride it! It was the most unenjoyable ride I’ve gone on in a long time. It was clunky, jolting and just generally felt like someone had thrown my in the spin-dry cycle of a dryer. We walked off the ride, bodies aching and with a bit of a headache. The concept was cool, but the execution was awful! I recommend rinding absolutely anything else.
Whenever we go to USJ, a good chunk of time is automatically set aside for the incredibly immersive Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This time around, we picked up a “magic wand,” which allowed us… or rather me, to cast spells in certain areas. This may sound like something for kids, but really everyone was running around looking for the special spell locations, regardless of age. I know I had a ridiculous amount of fun “casting spells” and my hubby had lots of fun watching me act like an unbridled dork. If you’re a fan, definitely try it out. Also, the wands work at all Universal Studios theme parks, so if you already have one… bring it along and get your wingardium leviosa on.
Of course, the best part of this area would have to be Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. On our last trip, we rode it when it had just opened and at the time it had some 3D effects. While we absolutely loved the ride, the 3D made us incredibly queasy by the end. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who felt that way because eventually they took the 3D part out of the ride. It’s so much better without it! The ride is way more enjoyable and somehow a bit scarier. Those dementors really go after you, ya know? All Harry Potter biases aside, this is my favorite ride. An absolute must do!
Now, with Cool Japan being a limited time event, I would say that these rides should take priority if you’re a fan of any of the characters. I’m a HUGE Sailor Moon fan, so Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Miracle 4-D was a must for me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t everything I’d hoped for. What I got was a 20 min 4D show that was basically an advertisement for the Sailor Moon wands they were selling in the gift shops. It looked cool, but honestly it was just a long commercial. I’m kind of kicking myself for not going on Final Fantasy XR instead.
Anyhow, about an hour before closing, people start lining the streets for the parade. At this time the wait times for almost all the rides drastically drop. So, if you don’t mind missing out on the parade, you can use this time to ride something that typically takes hours to get on… we chose Jaws. The last time we visited USJ, this ride had an insanely long wait time. We found it kind of curious since it was more of an iconic ride rather than a popular ride back in California. So, this time we made sure to indulge our curiosity.
I don’t want to give away too much, but it was totally different from the ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. We were totally surprised! Let’s just say it’s was like a thrilling version of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise. It was surprisingly fun and we could totally see why it usually has such a long wait time. Be sure to check it out if you visit USJ.
Like with most places, for me it’s all about the themed foods! Adorably, delicious, Instagram worthy treats that would put a smile on anyones face.
The first thing that caught our eyes were the Chocobo Popcorn buckets filled with caramel popcorn. When going to a theme park in Japan, popcorn buckets are a must! Stuffing your face with delicious popcorn is a great way to pass the time as you wait in a 3hr line (IMHO). There are a few buckets to choose from scattered throughout the park, even a super cute Sailor Moon purse, but in our house, Chocobo reigns supreme. Oh, did I mention that it makes sounds? Yeah, super cute!
As if that weren’t enough, we also had to pick up one of the Cactaur “Thousand Needle” Churritos. It was the perfect way to start our day!
Every time we visit, we always have to swing by the “Amazing Hot Dogs” stand for some Spider-Man steamed buns. The last time we went, there were 2 buns to choose from, original Spider-Man (Chinese filling) or Black Spider-Man (pizza filling). This time they only had regular Spider-Man. I guess the best description for this filling would be similar to chow mien or japchae and it’s delicious!
As lunch time approached, we decided to stop by the Beverly Hills Boulangerie for an unintentional ALL Sailor Moon lunch! The Sailor Moon Cafe Plate we got came with a crescent-shaped croissant, corn soup with a Luna crouton, and a grapefruit and shrimp salad. To wash it down, we got the Sailor Moon Drink which was a strawberry lemon soda with tapioca pearls in it. And for dessert we indulged in the Sailor Moon Compact Cake which was probably my favorite out of everything. I thought it might be too sweet, but it was perfect. The best strawberry shortcake parfait ever!
Over at the Pink Cafe, there’s bunch of cute minion themed desserts to choose from. We got a Minion Cream Puff which came with not 1, but 2 different fillings! It’s the best cream puff I’ve ever had, even the hubby loved it! I mean, banana and choux cream… what’s not to love?!?
At Minion Park, we were overwhelmed by the variety of themed food and snack options. I wanted to try it all, but unfortunately there was just no way my stomach could handle it all. So, we settled on a Minion Pizza Bun (formerly the Black Spider-Man Bun) and the Trio De Minion Custard (Mochi with frozen custard in the middle). All delicious! No regrets.
Finally, for dinner we really wanted to eat at the Three Broomsticks since we missed out on it on our last trip (closes at 7pm). The food was good, but nothing too special. We shared an order of fish & chips and got a Frozen Butterbeer and Hog’s Head Brew (actual beer) to wash it all down. The beers were pretty good, but the best part of eating there was the gorgeous view of the castle when you eat outside. Plus you get to watch cute little ducks swimming in the lake. It was a nice little break from the hustle and bustle of the park.
If you’re a Sailor Moon, Final Fantasy, Monster Hunter or Detective Conan fan definitely do not miss out on this year’s Cool Japan. Though I was disappointed by the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Miracle 4-D show, all the cool merch and adorable snacks more than made up for it. This year has been so popular that parts of Cool Japan 2018 have been extended for an extra month. So, check out those dates, grab some Express Passes and head over to USJ!