Osaka: Universal Studios Japan

Located at the Osaka Bay Area, the Universal Studios Japan (ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ジャパン Yunibāsaru Sutajio Japan) is just one of the four Universal Studios theme parks in the world and the first one in Asia. Opened in 2001, it is said to have been visited by 8 million people yearly.

Very early in the morning we prepared ourselves for this unusual and thrilling experience. We first bought our food at the convenience store to save more. Though we went early, there are already long queues to the ticket booth. Most of the fellow visitors we’ve seen are young people, and some of them are students in their school uniforms.

Upon entrance, you will be having a hard time deciding where to start because of the vastness of the theme park. It has more than 39 hectares of land area and the most visited amusement park in Japan after Tokyo Disneyland. It has eight sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A single day will not be sufficient to go to all of the rides and attractions so we will be listing just some of them that we actually went:

Space Fantasy – The Ride
We felt a very eager childlike excitement so we went to one of the theme park’s most famous rides – the Space Fantasy. It is a space-themed indoor ride where you will be riding in a “rotating spacecraft”. The spaceship is just right for four of us and we’re seated behind each other. And because it is space themed it has a dark setting and you can see the stars floating as you fly. While the spaceship is “flying” (running actually) you will be rapidly passing by the colorful planets, stars and comets while dodging the asteroids. The spaceship will bring you at the middle of the universe and will show you its beauty. The most thrilling part is towards the ending where you are being plunged straight into a worm hole while being blinded by its radiance. We liked the experience so much that we went here again that afternoon.

The Amazing Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D
This ride will set your senses tingling. You will be riding on a mini-coaster (can fill six persons) and while it is running you will see yourself caught at the middle of a fierce battle between Spidey and the Sinister Syndicate. Each villains interact with the ride: Electro jolts it with electricity, Hydro-man splashes it with water and Hoboglobin throws pumpkin bombs (which will be caught by Spidey) which will be thrown off-course and you will feel its shockwaves.

The most exhilirating is the final act where Doc Ock will fire an anti-gravity gun to the ride and you will be floating mid-air. While Spidey fights the villains your ride will fall but will be saved by Spidey.

We were so enjoyed with the immersive experience that we went back here again (fortunately the queue lines are much shorter). We returned that afternoon to repeat the almost 5-minute ride. Now I know why this is called the world’s best attraction and the first to win the world’s best ride award for seven consecutive years. For us, this ride is the winner.

Back to the Future
In this ride you will be riding in a DeLorean, a car turned into a time machine and you will be brought to the future while narrowly avoiding the buildings. And when the flux capacitor became damaged you wil be brought back to the prehistoric era where you will be avoiding the dinosaurs and erupting volcanoes until reacing the ice age. At the end you will be returning to the present after the five-minute journey. Though this is not as thrilling, you shall still feel the excitement because of the iconic Back To The Future theme that is being played throughout the trip. And what’s amusing is Doc Brown’s message dubbed in Japanese. At the front of the ride is a DeLorean replica where you can take photos.

Jurassic Park
This will be an unforgettable experience because of its extremely long queue line and we were caught in a rain while waiting. The coaster will lead to a peaceful river where you will encounter different dinosaurs that are brought back to life through animatronics. The most exciting part is the climax where a raging T-Rex will eat your ride and you will be plunging into a 25-meter drop. We want to repeat this 7-minute ride because of the lively dinosaurs but the queue lines are very long.

Hollywood Dream
Actually there are two rides here – one going forward and another one going backwards. This roller coaster was developed jointly by USJ and a leading roller coaster manufacturer using original and cutting-edge technology to give guests an exhilirating and thrilling ride. What’s unpredictable is the inverse or backward because you have no idea what will go next. The coaster will be pulled 43-meters upward and will plunge while you’re facing forward and looking at the sky. You will definitely have to grip yourself while feeling the rush of wind from behind while plunging, giving an ultimate thrill. Because this is located near the park entrance the queue line here is normally long.

Shrek’s 4-D Adventure
If you’re a fan of the green ogre named Shrek then this must not be missed. You will be accompanying Shrek and Donkey in a thrilling adventure through a 3D movie. The presentation was added with additional external dimension – smoke from Dragon will be felt, as well as the water splashes and the spiders at the footsteps. The presentation lasts 25 minutes.

I was a child when I first watched “Backdraft”, a film about the firefighter’s heroism. It is not really a ride, but rather a walkthrough of some important scenes in the film where you will be overwhelmed with the fire scenes. You might panic from the exploding oil drums, pillars of fire, walls of flame and enveloping hot blasts. The place will be filled with raging inferno and you will feel the heat. There is also a walkway where it will suddenly split. But later on the fire will be extinguished.

Terminator 2:3-D
Inside the Cyberdyne the battle between humans and cyborgs can be witnessed. While watching this super-3D movie “Arnold Schwarzenegger” (who almost looks like real him) will appear on-stage. Some of the scenes in the world of “Terminator” will appear him but with added reality. This presentation lasts 30 minutes and we dozed off at some point.

Universal Wonderland
Actually we just take our snacks at this section aimed at children and families. It contains three zones including Snoopy Studios, Hello Kitty’s Fashion Avenue and Sesame Street Fun Zone. This is perfect for the whole family for the children will surely be enjoyed. The rides are intended for kids like Flying Snoopy, Snoopy’s Great Race, Hello Kitty’s Cupcake Dream and some Sesame Street rides.

Magical Starlight Parade
In evenings, shortly before the park closes for the day, there is a Magical Starlight Parade. The parade is illuminated with lights of different colors. It gives life to the characters in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” “Arabian Nights” and “Cinderella”. Also appearing are Elmo, Hello Kitty, Snoopy and other fairy tale characters dancing along the music. We also noticed that some of the Western characters became Japanese.

A single day is not enough to experience all the rides and attractions so we choose the ones that are exhilirating and thrilling. Too sad we’re unable to get in the Resident Evil: The Ride and Waterworld as they are both under construction. The Jaws attraction has long queue lines especially in the afternoon. And the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was set to open the following day so it’s closed, either.

As a whole, the thrilling rides and attractions offered by this park gave us a very exciting and enjoying experience. For us, this is absolutely a winner!

Adult: 6,980 yen (12-64 years old)
Children: 4,880 yen (4-11 years old)
Seniors: 6,270 yen (65 years or older)

By train
The entrance gate of the Universal Studios Japan is located a five minute walk from Universal City Station on the JR Yumesaki Line (also referred to as JR Sakurajima Line). From Osaka Station, there are several direct trains per hour (15 minutes, 180 yen) and many more connections that require an easy transfer at Nishikujo Station. From Kansai Airport, take a JR airport rapid to Nishikujo Station and transfer to the JR Yumesaki Line to Universal City Station (75 minutes, 1190 yen).

By bus
Universal Studios Japan is connected by bus to Kansai Airport (35-75 minutes, 1550 yen, about 1 bus/hour) and Itami Airport (45 minutes, 930 yen, about 1 bus/hour). Some overnight buses from other cities across Japan also stop at the Universal Studios Japan.


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