Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Osaka & Universal Studios : Japan Travel Diary Part Two

My Husband & I love a theme park. The rides, the atmosphere and the contagious feeling of absolute happiness is something I haven't found anywhere else. I have visited a few in my time (it's tricky for us Aussies as we have only a few small ones here!) and like to incorporate them into overseas travels when possible.

Universal Studios Japan
Hogwarts Castle at USJ

Arriving in Osaka
We flew Cathay Pacific (highly recommend) via Hong Kong from Perth & it was a hassle free & enjoyable (well, as enjoyable as a long haul flight can be), as most flights to a holiday destination tend to be. We arrived at Kansai Airport, Osaka around 9pm and reached our hotel (Hilton Osaka) by 11pm. We were up at 3am (there is only 1 hour time difference between Perth and Japan) so suffice to say we were ready for our bed!

Super tired faces at 7am

Kansai Airport is about an hour from Osaka City Centre, and I would recommend taking a 'Limo Bus'. They are easy and take you to many different hotel destinations around the city. They run regularly (every 20 minutes or so) and cost 1550 Yen per person. The stops are easily identifiable directly outside the airport, and if you research which line you need to take, all you need to do is look for the correct number.  A taxi is quite expensive, and although the rail system in Japan is amazing, you have to transfer, and doing that with luggage after a long day of travelling is not always the best idea.

We woke early the next morning and got ready for our day at Universal Studios Japan. I had travelled to Universal Studios in Florida a few years ago and was lucky enough to experience The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter just after it opened there. I must have done something to please the gods as the Japan version of the attraction had only been opened a few months prior to our arrival. Hubby hadn't visited before so I was just as excited for him as I would have been for my own first WWHP experience.

We didnt pre-purchase tickets for this park as that option is only available to residents of Japan. We aimed to get to the park half an hour before it opened to ensure we got tickets & the Fastpass to enter Harry Potter (more on that later)

Getting there:
Like I mentioned before, the rail system in Japan is faultless. The only tricky thing for foreigners is the language barrier & being able to figure out where to go. From the Hilton (located in Umeda) we needed to transfer once at Nishikijo Station to the JR Yumesaki/Sakurajima Line. This is a relatively easy tranfer at an above-ground station and you can't miss the train...

Our Universal Train. Kind of can't go wrong from this point 

...and the inside of the train will loo a little like this...

Once you exit the train, it pays to walk fast. We went with a brisk 'power walk' and passed many people  therefore making our wait in line shorter. It is about a 5 minute walk so expect to feel a little puffed once you reach the entrance.

Tickets & Getting in:
As mentioned before, we purchased tickets at the park. USJ has the option of purchasing an Express Pass, which ultimately gives you timed entry for all of the popular rides (including timed entry for WWHP). We decided ahead of time that we weren't going to purchase this, as all we were really concerned about was WWHP & a few other rides. However - once we reached the ticketing gate, we learned that they had sold out for the day already (the park had only just opened!) so it wasn't going to be an option anyway. These Express Passes don't come cheap (the 7 ride version costs as much as entry to the park) but if you were keen on experiencing all of the rides (there are a few exclusive to USJ & not found at any other Universal Studios) & only had one day dedicated to the park, I would suggest trying to get your hands on one.

Finding information on USJ online was about as hard as finding the perfect man (for some) and the little information I did find didn't include the newly opened WWHP area. Luckily I had stumbled across a review on trip advisor a few days before we left that was able that let everyone know that you needed timed entry tickets to get into WWHP (but this does not include a Fast Pass for the ride!!) as it was so popular it couldn't handle the crowds is everyone got in when they pleased. So we planned our first of many 'mad dashes' to get a fast pass.

Navigating the Park
Our first stop of the day was the WWHP ticket stations. This is located in the middle of the park but you basically have to go all the way around to get there. We got an 11:30am entry time which we were happy with as it was only 9am by this point. After a quick coffee and bite to eat (read : hamburger) we were good to go to tackle our first ride.

We had decided that where possible, to choose a 'Single Rider' lane option, as this cuts your wait time by half, sometimes thirds. You don't speak on the rides anyway and you are still experiencing the same thing, just not side by side. 

Nothing like a cup of sugar to start your day!!

First ride of the day

We rode 'The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman' first. For those that have been to Universal Studios in Orlando, it is the same as that ride, but in Japanese. At first I was concerned about not understanding what was going on, but you truly forget that a different language is being spoken & get immersed in the fun. There was a single rider line option for this ride and only took us 30 minutes to get through the queue, as opposed to 100...

Next ride off the ranks was Jurassic Park - again- the same as the Orlando version, but perhaps not as 'wet'. Again- a single rider lane was available for this ride - Hubby & I even got in the same boat for this one. 

First sighting of Hogwarts 

You can see the pole between the two queues - left side if single riders, right side is normal.
Although they both look the same, once you reached the end of this section, singles
went straight forward to the ride & normal weaved through another wait zone.
You end up doing a lot of this...

By the time we finished at Jurassic Park, our window for Harry Potter entry was about to open, so we started to head in that direction. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 
If you are a Harry Potter fan, there is no other feeling better than approaching the gates of Hogsmeade with the fantasmical movie theme song playing at perfect pitch as you enter. Serious goose bump material. Every second after that is just as exciting & the attention to detail is beyond perfection. Dare I say it is done just as well, if not better, than Disney... You truly feel like you have been transported to the world of Harry, Ron & Hermione.

Harry Potter
Where's Wally...
Harry POtter
People everywhere!
The Hogsmeade shopping strip is home to many familiar stores (Honey Dukes & Ollivanders just to name a few) and if it weren't for the queues, you could spend hours wandering in & out of each store and always see something new.

We headed straight for the draw card - Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey Ride which is located within Hogwarts castle. Again - it is a copy of the Orlando  attraction but those of you that have experienced that, will understand why. It is hands down the best ride I've been on. 
As we approached the castle, we saw that the line went all the way out the castle. I knew that the queue weaved through the inside of the castle, so predicted we would be up for a bit of a lengthy wait. Which was correct - over 2 hours!! The queue, however, is themed and detailed down to the last brick, and with good company, it is a bearable task.

Harry POtter

Harry POtter
The start of the queue. What else to do but take multiple selfies & photograph the experience?
about half an hour into our wait
After our Marathon (2 hours all up, including ride, which was shorter than predicted!) we treated ourselves to a Butterbeer. Don't let the name full you - there is nothing 'beery' about Butterbeer in the slightest. It is however a delicious butterscotch flavoured sweet treat (the frozen version is much better than the normal FYI) with the option to purchase a souvenir mug (and why wouldn't you, really). There was a show commencing as we bought our drinks so thought we would stick around and watch it. Tip for first timers : the Japanese People are possible the most thoughtful & considerate people in the world. Everyone sits for shows (unless you are at the very back) and all have purpose-bought 'Kawaii' mats to sit on. We learnt this quickly & I was promptly give a serviette by a sweet Butterbeer girl to sit on, as she seemed horrified by the idea of me sitting straight on the ground.

Harry Pottter

Harry Potter
My Frozen one on the left, Hubby's normal on the right.
harry Potter
Token shot
harry potter
Hogwarts Express! You will be lucky to see a shot of Hubby NOT doing this from now on.
We needed to leave the Park by 3pm to make get back to our hotel in time for a quick shower & meet friends by 4pm for drinks and dinner. After our epic WWHP wait time, we were only left with 40 minutes to explore the rest of the park. We had come to terms with the fact we wouldn't be able to fit in anymore rides, but were happy to just walk around and soak in the atmosphere.

Universal Wonderland was the Kid Area, and my wasn't it something! Colour and Kawaii everywhere!

Our Buterbeer mugs hung safe and sound.
Hello, Kitty!

I saw these bags everywhere and needed to have one. Not sure what for, but I needed it.
Tip: ask the sales assistant at the checkout for one as they are not stocked on the floor, only behind the counter. 
USJ still has the Jaws attraction. We didn't ride it this time, but it was very popular with long queues. 
How Long?
Since WWHP has opened, the traffic in the park has picked up a lot. I would recommend two days if you want to ride everything or revisit some areas. We only had 6 hours in the park & only managed to squeeze in 3 rides, so use that as a guide. Of course if you get the Express Pass, you are more likely to be able to fit everything in one (very busy!) day.

Is it worth it?
If you are visiting Osaka, a trip to USJ is definitely worthwhile. However - if you have visited any of the other Universal Parks, I would not suggest making a special trip to Osaka just for this. We had a great day, but in terms of comparability, the American Universal Parks are definitely superior. 

Stay tuned for my next instalment on Tokyo Disney Resort!


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...