Trip Report: Universal Studios Japan

Disney is King in Japan - movies, merchandise, and theme parks. It's a distant number two, but Universal Studios Japan gets the silver medal for popularity in the country of cute.
 I arrived in the late morning on a rainy day, starting with a stroll from the train station down City Walk. It's similar to the American versions, with restaurants and shops selling souvenirs and brand goods. The takoyaki (octopus ball) "museum" (collection of restaurants) is on one of the upper floors.
 After spending the past two years at non-themed amusement parks, it was nice to be fully immersed in a fantasy world.
 Universal has hotels, too - this is Hotel Kintetsu.
 Finally, the entrance!
 There's the familiar globe!
 The main entrance street is covered, which was great as the rain started to pass.
 Hollywood Dream is the park's premier coaster, but due to the weather it was closed at this point in the day.
 That's okay. There is plenty more to explore in the park.
 I really enjoyed just wandering around taking pictures of the buildings!

 I didn't see any of the shows. I had a fairly limited time at the park, and many of them I have seen before.
 I found myself in the kids area as I worked my way around the park.
 Spinning Snoopy!
 This looked pretty fun. I think I wouldn't have made the height requirement.
 There's a large building with several attractions in this portion of the park.
 One of those attractions is a small but fun coaster! This was my first coaster in the park, and for a kids ride it was enjoyable.
 The sun was out and started drying everything up, making this Hello Kitty-themed portion of the park stand out even more.
 Driving School!
 I'd like to drive on that course! The coaster isn't running yet, though.
 A small portion of the park looked a bit like San Francisco.
 Fisherman's Wharf?
 Hey! I bet I know what's back here! But something's missing...
 Ahh, there's the DeLorean.
 Yes, Back to the Future, The Ride. Dubbed in Japanese.
 I ran into Shrek and Fiona!
 Jaws still exists here!
 Photo op.
 Yeah, Amity looks safe.
 Shark for dinner tonight? Sure.
 Welcome.. To Jurassic Park! High schoolers on a field trip? This can't be good.
 Due to the rain, people didn't want to ride the water ride. I don't understand.
 It's pretty fun, similar to the US versions. Maybe it's the same. I'm not a Universal Studios addict, after all.
 Let's go on a water ride and wear our rain coats! It amazes me how many people go on water rides but avoid getting wet. I ended up riding several times without a poncho, and other than a single rogue splash on one of my go-rounds, I just got a light shower each time.
 New York City!

 Random street performance!

 New York has the Spider-Man attraction, like the US version. It's not my favorite ride, but it is fun.
 Are those buildings real or just paintings? You decide.
 I don't remember the Brooklyn Bridge looking like that.
 I managed to catch the Spidey photo-op alley from behind... on accident! There was a surprisingly long line of people who wanted a photo with a statue.
 The theming here is great, just like Universal in Orlando and Los Angeles.
 I skipped the Terminator 2 show too, because I saw it in the States.
 Space Fantasy is a spinning roller coaster ride, and it was fun enough that I rode it at least half a dozen times. They have a single rider line so I was able to bypass the 30-minute queue over and over again.
 What's that I see? Is Hollywood Dream running? Yes, it is!
Does something look wrong here? It should. The train's going backwards. Due to its late opening, the ride had a very long line in the afternoon. I waited about an hour for the forward-running ride; the backwards seats had a wait time at least double that. No single rider line here, which is a shame - I would have totally gone on this coaster a dozen times or more.

One thing about USJ and several other theme parks in Japan to make note of: lots of people come early to see the shows and ride the rides, but a second wave of admissions happens when the park's "night time" discount kicks in (this may not be available anymore), and by about 5 PM the park was pretty crowded. I had more experiences to have anyway, and I saw and did everything I intended, so I bid the park adieu.

Universal Studios Japan will have a Harry Potter world with another family roller coaster and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, taken from the US parks. This portion of the park opens in mid-July. Expect massive crowds, especially because it's right in the middle of summer vacation!

Tickets at the time of this writing are around 7000 yen for one day, 12,000 yen for two days. There are "front of the line" passes for 4 or 7 rides (~3000 and 5000 yen additional, respectively). The park has varied hours based on how busy it expects to be. Access is via JR's Universal City Station on the Yumesaki Line; some trains on the Loop Line from Osaka Station go to the park (about 10 minutes), or transfer at Nishikujo Station (5 minutes).

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