Universal Studios Japan is great. For someone who doesn’t like all the frou frou of Disney and prefers roller coasters to joy rides, USJ is my choice – and best of all, it’s in Kansai, where I live. #KansaiPride. But because others love it just as much as I do, it can get crowded. So if there are only 5 rides you have time for at USJ, these are my picks. In increasing order of MUST RIDE-ability.
1. The Amazing Spiderman
I think USJ revamped their Spiderman ride recently (maybe last year or something) and it’s one of those simulation type rides. But in 3D…well, kind of 4D. It’s really impressive the mix of ride and 3D video and the timing of everything. It’s a good thrill ride! During the wait you’ll be led through the office of The Daily Bugle!
This was ranked higher but then The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened and their simulation ride beats this one hands down (though I might be biased since I really like Harry Potter).
2. Jurassic Park
Update: The Flying Dinosaur has opened in USJ as of March 2016, and BOY DOES IT LOOK LIKE ONE HELLUVA RIDE. Unfortunately that meant 5 hour long queues so I never got to give it a try, but I’m sure it would make this top 5 easily.
You don’t have to be a fan of the movie or books to enjoy this ride but if you don’t like getting wet you might want to buy a poncho or try your best to get seats in the middle. It’s a boat journey through Jurassic Park and then something goes terribly wrong! I LOVE sudden drops and adrenaline rushes and the fear of getting soaking wet just makes it all the more enjoyable for me. Keep your eyes open and don’t cower in fear of the inevitable for the full experience.
Sit in the middle if you don’t want to get wet. It’s the front and the sides that will get the brunt of the water!
3. Space Fantasy
Update: As of Jan 2016, the Space Fantasy ride is currently not available. In it’s place is the new Kyarypamyupamyu ride as part of their “COOL JAPAN 2” series of attractions.
The premise is you have to save a Princess or something or other by harnessing the energy of the sun or something or other well I never paid much attention to the story but what I do know is you have to press the button on the console at some point so a cool thing will happen. It’s well, yet another roller coaster type ride that involves a lot of spinning round and round so someone who gets dizzy easily might want to give this a miss. That said, it’s a really pretty ride since you’re supposed to be in space so think glittering stars and planets. Just whoosh, whoosh and AWAYYYYY!!
4. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
You will probably have to grab a time entry ticket to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and if you’re a fan this ride will be THE BEST ride of the entire theme park (even if you’re not it’s really good). It’s within Hogwarts itself so while you wait the line will meander within Hogwarts and you’ll pass by Dumbledore’s office, the Defence Against Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room and other areas. In the words of Ron Weasley, “Bloody Hell”. When you do reach the end of the line, the Sorting Hat will be there to send you on your way. AND THEN YOU’RE IN FOR THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE. No spoilers but it clearly beats all the other rides in the park asides from my all time favourite (which you’ll read about next) and it was so much better than I thought it would be.
Update: In May 2015, the ride was upgraded to 3D!!!! Personally I didn’t think there was a huge difference between the two but it’s still just as fun!
The other ride, ‘Flight of the Hippogriff’ is tame when compared to other roller coasters but the best part of it has to be the breathtaking view of Hogwarts and the Great Lake. Take it at night while having the Harry Potter theme song playing in your head. Magical.
Oh yeah, all the voices are dubbed in Japanese, of course. Took me a while to get over that.
5. Hollywood Dream/Backdrop
Ok so I’m cheating by listing them together but hey, they are technically the same ride. Except Backdrop goes well, backwards of Hollywood Dream. And they are both amazing for the views over Osaka you’ll see and the thrill of screaming your lungs out and that zero gravity OMG I’M FLYING feel. If there is one ride you get on at night before leaving, make it Backdrop. I had the chance to try it right at the front (so you’ll have no idea when the drop comes) and it’s terrifying and amazing at the same time. I was clinging on for dear life but damn, those twinkly lights and skyscrapers – WORTH IT.
Though once you’ve ridden on Backdrop it spoils your experience of Hollywood Dream because you need bigger, better thrills. Sit right at the front for the best experience.
P.S. If you’re there during the Halloween Horror Nights period, stay till past 6pm for the Zombie Walk. You’ll have to be early to get the time entry ticket for the Biohazard attraction or be prepared to wait up to 4 hours for the others.
P.P.S. Get the Universal Studios Japan app for your smartphone. It tells you the wait times and show schedules which will save you lots of time!
HOW TO GET THERE
To get to USJ, take the Osaka Loop Line (Platform 1) from JR Osaka station and alight at Universal-City station.
Some trains do not directly go there (the ones that do will say ユニバーサル・シティー) so you’ll have to change at Nishikujo and take the train in the middle platform.