The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide To Universal Studios Japan (2019)

     
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HUGE UPDATE: Universal Cool Express Pass are selling out fast because it’s summer season! Make sure to book your tickets now if you wish to see USJ’s seasonal attractions such as Detective Conan, Lupin the Third XR ride, and Attack on Titan Special.

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Japan (or USJ for short) for the first time, or even second time, this guide has everything you need to know.

If you didn’t plan ahead, you will be like these guys…

This traveler should have checked Universal Studios Japan refurbishments schedule before booking.
Or, this one probably didn’t have an Express and went on a Japanese holiday.

So, the question is:

How do you get the most out of your USJ park visit?

Let’s dive-in.

How to Time Your Universal Studios Japan Visit


Visiting Universal Studios Japan is much like visiting Tokyo Disney Resorts. Their popularity requires perfecting the art of timing.

Along with that, Universal Studios Japan admission tickets are just as expensive as Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea tickets—7,400 yen per adult person.

This is the huge reason why you should consider a trip to Universal Studios Japan a major purchase. Planned appropriately, you will fully experience the park’s attractions and make the most out of your money.

You can use two options (2) when timing your visit.

Option 1: Use the Universal Studios Japan crowd prediction calendar for 2019.

USJ Crowd Calendar
Link: USJ Crowd Prediction Calendar for 2019

Although not affiliated with Universal Studios Japan, this crowd prediction calendar updates the crowd forecast of the park for the current month.

So if you are visiting several months in advance, you will not get an accurate forecast.

Note that, the USJ crowd calendar is only an approximation.

Below the calendar, you will see the crowd congestion color coding.

And here’s exactly what the color codes mean:

  • Blue – Almost empty
  • Green – Lightest crowds
  • Yellow – Light crowds
  • Orange – Moderate crowds
  • Red – Heavy crowds
  • Maroon – Heaviest crowds
  • Black – Don’t bother going

Need I say more?

Option 2: Simply avoid weekends, Japanese school breaks, and non-working holidays.

Japanese schools have three (3) school breaks:

  • Winter Break – Starts from last week of December to 1st week of January.
  • Spring Break – Starts from last week of March to 1st week of April.
  • Summer Break – Starts from last week of July till the end of August.

While these are the non-working holiday dates that you should avoid for 2019 below (see photo):

Dates to Avoid When Visiting Universal Studios Japan
Click to enlarge. Source: timeanddate.com

The ultimate strategy here is to concentrate on visiting the park on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays of the following months:

  • Mid-April to late June
  • November to January

November to January are the least congested and the best months to visit in my opinion.

Just be sure to bundle up because the weather can get very cold at night.

It is also worth mentioning the park’s attraction refurbishments schedule which you can find here at the very bottom of the page.

Move your date should your favorite attraction be closed.

Types of Universal Studios Japan Tickets (Paid and Free)


First-time visitors are often confused by different types of tickets released by Universal Studios Japan. This section is here to help.

There are many ways to buy the Studio Pass and Express Pass tickets both offline and online, which is why I have created a dedicated blog post about it.

In the meantime, get acquainted with the different types of tickets released by Universal Studios Japan and know what they’re for.

1. Studio Pass

TypeAges 12+Ages 4-11Ages 65+
Notes:
1. Prices may differ depending on the date.
2. The Universal Express Pass is a separate park ticket that allows you to skip the long lines to ride the popular attractions.
1-Day Studio Pass¥7,400
(or 66 USD)
¥5,100
(or 46 USD)
¥6,700
(or 60 USD)
1.5-Day Studio Pass¥12,300
(or 110 USD)
¥8,400
(or 75 USD)
2-Day Studio Pass¥14,700
(or 132 USD)
¥10,000
(or 89 USD)
-

This is the general admission ticket that you get to enter the park.

There are 3 types of Studio Passes to choose from:

  1. 1-Day Studio Pass
  2. 1.5-Day Studio Pass – Enter the USJ park after 3:00 p.m. on day 1 and use it on the following day all day.*
  3. 2-Day Studio Pass
NOTE: The 1.5-Day Pass is not available to purchase at the park. Only Klook and Voyagin sell the 1.5-Day Studio Pass. However, you need to pick it up at Osaka Kansai Airport or Namba OCAT Station.
NOTE: Universal Studios Japan tickets are nonrefundable, no matter where you buy them. In addition, USJ does not issue re-entry tickets or stamps, so there’s no going back once you leave the park. So, make sure you’re going to be able to use them.

Where to Buy Studio Pass Tickets?

1. Lawson or park’s entrance gates (Not Recommended). Why? Read the pros and cons here.

2. Official USJ Travel Agency Partners (Recommended). For visitors overseas, I highly recommend booking your tickets online through official travel partners of USJ[2] such as Klook and Voyagin. You will get a flexible ticket that is valid for use within 3-6 months from the date of your purchase.

“Personally, I got my Studio Pass ticket from Voyagin. My booking experience with their website was seamless. I received my Studio Pass E-ticket in my email in less than 5 minutes. I highly recommend getting your USJ Studio Pass ticket from them.”

~ Ada Wilkinson

Studio-Pass-E-TicketThis is what my Studio Pass E-Ticket looked like when I bought it from Voyagin.

No need to print it. Just show the QR Code from your mobile to the USJ staff at the entrance to scan. As you can see, I got a ticket valid for 1 year!

Voyagin
What we like
  • Save with their seasonal coupon code.
  • Phone and chat support available.
  • Excellent customer service.
  • Specializes in Japan tours and experiences.
  • Flexible ticket.
  • Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan.

What we don’t like

  • Exchange rate varies.
Klook logo
What we like
  • Better value on your currency rate.
  • Flexible ticket.
  • Headquarters: Hong Kong.

What we don’t like

  • Email or chat support only.
  • Beware of their reputation on Trustpilot.
SCAM ALERT: Only buy from authorized sellers of Universal Studios Osaka, Japan tickets such as Voyagin or Klook.

Don’t be a victim like these guys…



2. Universal Express™ Pass Tickets (starts at 5,400 yen)

The Universal Express Pass is a separate park ticket that allows you to skip the long lines to ride the popular attractions inside the USJ Park.

You can choose from three (3) types of Express Passes:

  1. Express Pass 7 – Good for 7 rides
  2. Express Pass 4 – Good for 4 rides
  3. Express Pass 3 – Good for 3 rides
TypeAges 12+
Notes:
1. Prices may differ depending on the date.
2. The Universal Express Pass is a separate park ticket that allows you to skip the long lines to ride the popular attractions.
Universal Express Pass 7¥15,400
(or 138 USD)
Universal Express Pass 7 with Space Fantasy Ride¥16,800
(or 150 USD)
Universal Express Pass 4¥9,700
(or 87 USD)
Universal Express Pass 4 with Space Fantasy Ride¥11,800
(or 106 USD)
Universal Express Pass 3¥7,800
(or 70 USD)

Why You Should Buy an Express Pass?

Crazy line to The Forbidden Journey Ride inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Crazy line to The Forbidden Journey Ride inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

1. Skip lines. It’s ranked 5th among the most popular amusement park in the world. Saying that this park gets absolutely crazy during peak season is not an exaggeration. Attractions like The Forbidden Journey 4K3D Ride, The Flying Dinosaur, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 4K3D ride by far have the longest waiting times, between 3 and 5 hours on average. And Express Pass will allow you to skip those lines.

2. Save time. If you are going to ride those attractions without an Express Pass, over 3/4 of your day would just be spent waiting in lines. And you won’t be able to explore the rest of the park that much. Booo!

If there is one reason you wouldn’t want to get a pass, it would be the price, which, for a family of 3 or more, can really add up. However, if you weigh the pros and cons, the price is worth it because you won’t have to wait for hours just to experience those 5-minute rides.

Ada Wilkinson Ada Wilkinson

If you are visiting during weekends, peak seasons, or Japanese holiday, Express Pass is pretty much a requirement . Lines to top attractions during these days are massively long.

Check out: Universal Express Pass Tickets Price Comparison.

Why Book Your Express Pass in Advance?

Universal Studios Japan releases a limited number of Express Pass tickets per day and tickets sell out quickly.

You cannot simply walk-in on the day of your visit and expect to get the Express Pass ticket at the entrance.

This is why I highly recommend buying your Express Pass and booking it at least 5 days before your park visit. And the easiest way to buy it is through Klook or Voyagin.

To use your Express Pass, simply look for the “Express Pass Lane” in every attraction.

Check out: Universal Express Pass Tickets Price Comparison.

Is Express Pass Similar to Disney’s FASTPASS?

Express Pass is different from Disney’s FASTPASS. FASTPASS is free and gives you a specific time to ride an attraction, Express Pass allows you to skip lines.

Is Express Pass Unlimited Rides?

The Express Pass will not give you ‘unlimited’ rides. For example, if you’ve already used your Express Pass on The Forbidden Journey Ride, you cannot go to the Express Pass Lane of Forbidden Journey again. You will need to line up in the regular lane that usually has 2-4 hours waiting time if you wish to ride it again.

If you want an Express Pass with Unlimited Rides, consider getting the Royal Pass Ticket which is 24,100 – 36,700 yen (212 – 324 USD) per adult. The price varies depending on the date and can only be bought from the mentioned online travel agencies.

You can compare Royal Pass Tickets prices here or here.

3. Timed Entry (Free)

Timed Entry Ticket to The Wizarding World of Harrly Potter.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most popular attraction at USJ.

And because it gets very crowded, USJ came up with a procedure to control the crowd by making the entry of visitor’s time-designated.

This means that visitors need Timed Entry tickets to enter the Wizarding World attraction.

Timed Entry Tickets are free, and without one, you cannot enter the Wizarding World.

There are two ways to get Timed Entry Tickets:

1. From the Timed-Entry Ticket Booth. Located at the Central Park (refer to your map). To get a Timed-Entry ticket, simply scan the barcode of your admission ticket on the Timed-Entry ticket machine and select the time you desire to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

2. By Buying an Express Pass Ticket. When you purchase an Express Pass, a Timed-Entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is included on your ticket.

Is There a Limit on How Long You Can Stay Inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

There is no limit on how long you can stay inside The Wizarding World. You can stay inside The Wizarding World for as long as you want! However, once you leave, you need to get another Timed-Entry Ticket.

4. 15 Minutes Early Special Entry Pass (previously known as VIP Wristbands) (3,000 yen)

USJ Park opens between 8:30 and 9:00 A.M. However if you have a VIP wristband, it will give you the privilege of entering the park 15 minutes before it opens.

With the VIP Wristbands, you can enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter even without a Timed-Entry Ticket and without waiting in line since the entrances are not manned with staff this early.

To buy the VIP Wristbands, you either go to Abeno Harukas 300 Observatory the day before your park visit, or buy it online through Voyagin.

The Simple Strategy to Riding the Universal Studios Japan Attractions

The Simple Strategy to Riding the Universal Studios Japan Attractions
Guests check the Studio Map for their route.

This is the last section of this guide and is ultimately optional. The park is large and there is a lot to see and do.

Getting the most out of your time means coming up with a plan-of-action for what order to see and do things.

This is especially important because, if you arrive at the park at the opening time, as everyone literally sprints to their favorite rides in order to beat the long lines. And this can throw your plans into chaos and you into a panic.

There are two possible scenarios when planning your USJ touring route: (1) If you have an Express Pass and (2) if you don’t have an Express Pass.

This is why you need Express Pass.
This is why you need Express Pass.

1. If you have an Express Pass.

Touring around USJ with an Express Pass gives you the freedom to ride all your top attractions included on your pass.

I highly suggest riding them all consecutively as soon as you enter the gate.

Skipping the long lines with the pass at the start of your day will give you a whole lot of time. And after, you can explore the USJ Park at your own pace while relaxing.

If this just a stop while you visit Japan, then chances are you will only be visiting USJ once.

Take this time to see the sights and try riding any remaining attractions which tickle your fancy.

Explore the entire Park in clockwise, counterclockwise, or in a zigzag direction.

Maybe even get a second Timed Entry ticket to go inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Gallery

 

2. If you don’t have an Express Pass.

Some people prefer not getting an Express Pass because, according to them, they will only visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Or simply don’t have a budget for it.

However, in my experience, you will be missing a whole lot of fun if you don’t have an Express Pass, especially when visiting during peak seasons.

That’s just my opinion though, and it’s ultimately up to you.

At any rate, going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and riding the blockbuster Forbidden Journey Ride is still possible without an Express Pass.

It’s just going to be really challenging.

You should also realize that with this option there’s a high probability you’ll need to prioritize attractions since you’ll likely be encountering lines in excess of 2-3 hours each.

So, you’ll probably only get a chance to ride 2 or 3 of them.

Step-by-Step Strategy to maximize your day (if you don’t have Express Pass):

Strategy Route for Universal Studios Japan

  • Arrive at the park as early as you can. In my experience, 7 a.m. is hit the spot.
  • As soon as the gates open, sprint quickly to Central Park. Refer to the studio map to avoid getting lost. Find the ticket booth where you can get the Timed Entry ticket for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • To use the Timed-Entry ticket machine, simply scan the barcode of your admission ticket and select the time you desire to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I suggest getting the earliest time slot available.
  • Should the machine give you a later time slot, explore other attractions of the park while waiting.
  • Consider queuing on attractions with shorter lines or with “Single Rider” lane whenever available. If you’re in a group, Single Rider shortens your waiting time by taking separate seats on the ride.
  • Once it’s time to enter The Wizarding World, immediately run to Hogwarts Castle because that is where The Forbidden Journey Ride is. Expect to line up for 2-3 hours.
  • When you’re done with The Forbidden Journey Ride, that’s the time when you can start exploring the entire Wizarding World and the rest of the park.
  • Should you decide to leave the Wizarding World, you can go ahead and explore the rest of the USJ parks and attractions on your own.

Do note that Timed Entry tickets can also run out within the day. And during very crowded days, only one Timed-Entry Ticket is allowed per person for the entire day.

PRO TIP: Consider Getting the 1.5-Day Studio Pass. If Express Pass is just too expensive for you, the 1.5-Day Studio Pass is the next best option. Enter the park at 3 p.m., get the Timed-Entry Ticket (hopefully there are timed-entry tickets left. Then, line up for the Forbidden Journey Ride inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

On your second day, you are free to ride any attractions you feel like. But warning again, without an Express Pass, you are going to spend so much time waiting and waiting in line.

What Are the Top Attractions and Rides?

Universal Studio Japan has only 9 areas, therefore, it is very easy to get around.

These areas are:

  1. Hollywood
  2. New York
  3. Minion Park
  4. San Francisco
  5. Jurassic Park
  6. Amity Village
  7. Waterworld
  8. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  9. Universal Wonderland

And here are my top attraction rides in order of my own preference:

  1. The Forbidden Journey Ride – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  2. The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman 4K3D Ride – in New York
  3. The Flying Dinosaur – in the Jurassic Park
  4. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – in Minion Park
Studio Map

In the end, it’s really up to you on how you want to prioritize your time within the park and ride your attraction preference, but hopefully, this helps you to better prioritize your time at the park.

Personally, aside from the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I hang out pretty much all my time in New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, and Amity Village.

If you have small children, you will pretty much spend most of your time in either The Wizarding World, Minion Park, or Universal Wonderland.

How to Get to Universal Studios Japan (The Easiest Way)

How To Get To Universal Studios Japan from Osaka or Kyoto
If you’ve traveled to Tokyo, then you’ve seen how easy and convenient their train system can be.

But in Osaka and Kyoto, the train system is a bit more confusing.

Relying on train apps like Hyperdia or Google Maps is not the best solution at certain times.

So, if you don’t have WiFi to navigate, you may refer to these methods to get to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) from the major stations of the area.

By Train


By train, your destination will be Universal City Station, and from there it’s an about a 5-minute walk to the park.

From Osaka Station: Board the Osaka Loop Line (inner loop/counter-clockwise) towards Sakurajima for 5 stops to Universal City Station. Note that there will be a short stop at Nishikujo Station where this train will switch to the JR Sakurajima Line (also known as JR Yumesaki Line); remain on-board. This option costs 180 yen and takes about 12 minutes. Alternatively, board Osaka Loop Line (inner loop/counter-clockwise) for Nara or Kamo and stop at Nishikujo Station. From Nishikujo Station, transfer to JR Sakurajima Line towards Sakurajima 2 stops to Universal City Station.

From JR Namba Station: This one has a couple of transfers. First, board the JR Yamatoji Line and ride 1 stop to Shinimamiya Station. Next, take the Osaka Loop Line (outer loop/clockwise) to Nishikujo Station. Finally, take the JR Sakurajima Line towards Sakurajima 2 stops to Universal City Station. This option costs 180 yen and should take about 28 minutes.

From Kyoto Station: Take the JR Special Rapid Service for Banshuanko or Himeji and ride 3 stops to Osaka Station, then transfer to the Osaka Loop Line (inner loop/counter-clockwise) for to Universal City. Expect the ride to take about 48-minutes and cost 800 yen.

From Kansai-International: There are a few options for trains here, but the simplest (least amount of transfers) is to take the Kansai Airport Line towards Kyobashi and ride to Nishikujo Station. Then transfer to the JR Sakurajima Line to Universal City (2 stops). This option will have you remain on-board at both Hineno and Tennoji Stations while the train switches lines. The ride should take about 1 hour and 17-minutes and cost 1190 yen.

By Bus

The advantage of a bus here is that you have a guaranteed seat, which is helpful when your travel time will be over an hour.

From Kansai-International: Take the Kansai-Airport Limousine Bus from Kansai Airport Bus Stop No.1. This bus is a direct trip to Universal Studios Japan with 4 stops, and should take about 1.5 hours, and cost 1550 yen.

From Itami Airport Osaka: Take the Airport Limousine, or Hanshin Bus, or Kintetsu Bus from Itami Airport Bus Stop No.1. This bus is also a direct trip to Universal Studios Japan and cost 930 yen.

PRO TIP: Consider Getting A USJ Package.

JTB offers a cut-price Universal Studio Japan Package for visitors from Tokyo.

The package includes a roundtrip bullet train from Tokyo, stay at a hotel of your choice, and a Studio Pass Admission ticket to the park.

The price is a huge bargain, over 20% off. And the best package deal if you want to save time and money planning the trip.

If you don’t know JTB, they are the largest travel agency in Japan and they have several branches throughout the world.

And JAPANiCAN is their official booking website for non-Japanese customers.

Best Hotels or Areas to Stay


If you are only visiting Osaka for Universal Studios Japan, then it goes without saying that getting a hotel nearer to the park will save you time and hassle.

I recommend staying in the following areas:

  1. Around the Park
  2. Near Nishikujo Station

1. Around the Park

Universal Studios Japan has partnered with over 20 hotels all over Osaka and Kobe so that guests can fully enjoy the park and its surrounding tourist attractions.

Rooms at The Park Front Hotel

The Park Front Hotel. Sitting right at the entrance of the park, The Park Front Hotel is the official and the closest hotel you can get. It features American-style entertainment and offers spacious Time Machine-themed guest rooms.

The rooms with the highest demand are the Superior Rooms, since these give you a glimpse of the city skyline. However, if you are on a budget, savvy visitors can also enjoy Standard Rooms with a partial park view.

Families with small children can choose access to the hotel’s baby and child-friendly facilities and rental items for a more convenient stay.

Rooms at The Singulari Hotel & Skyspa.

The Singulari Hotel & Skyspa. This is another official Universal Studios Japan hotel located at the exit of Universal City Station; about a 5-minute walk to the park entrance.

From the name itself, it boasts an open-air bath for all its guests.

Here, you can expect sparkling clean and comfortable rooms because The Singulari Hotel & Sky Spa just opened in August 2017.

Below are other Official Universal Studios Japan Hotels that sit right at the entrance of the park:

 

2. Near Nishikujo Station

From my experience, Nishikujo Station is a great base not just when visiting Universal Studios Japan but when visiting and sightseeing Osaka.

Aside from budget-friendly hotels situated around the station, it’s only 2 stops to Universal City Station via the JR Sakurajima Line (covered by JR Pass if you have one).

So you will get to maximize your time and save your wallet at the same time.

Hotels near Nishikujo Station

 

Hostel Jin. This hostel is the top choice among budget travelers. Rated as having a very comfortable beds and very clean rooms. If you are a family, consider getting the private room with your own bath and toilet.

Business Hotel Urbanty. Business hotels are always an automatic choice for groups or family travelers on a budget in Japan. Located near Nishikujo Station, this hotel is rated as having very clean rooms and very friendly staff.

Briller Universal Japon. This hotel is in a great location; just a 3-minute walk from Nishikujo Station. All rooms are Western style, meaning you get your own private bathroom and toilet.

And a lot more…

I recommend Agoda.com or Booking.com when booking your hotel.

Simply key-in “Nishikujo Station” on the search bar and choose from the many hotels around it.

My Airbnb in Osaka
My Airbnb in Osaka.

Airbnb is also a great option, but make sure to search using the “map” instead of search results.

AIRBNB BONUS CREDIT: If you are not registered on Airbnb yet, you should sign-up using my link. That way, you’ll get 33 USD Airbnb travel credit which you can use on your first stay.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which Express Pass should I buy?

It depends on your budget and your preference.

Ask yourself this:

What are the attractions you would like to ride?

Personally, I got the Express Pass 4 Standard because I was only interested in The Forbidden Journey Ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man 4K3D Ride.

However, if you’re simply visiting USJ for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I don’t think getting an Express Pass is necessary in your case but then again, you might be missing a lot of fun.

Check out: Universal Express Pass Tickets Price Comparison.

2. Should I get an Express Pass or VIP Wristbands, or both?

If you are visiting USJ during the weekends or the holidays, then getting an Express Pass is a highly suggested otherwise you won’t be able to ride as many attractions due to the hours of wait you will be spending lining up for your turn.

Get the VIP wristband if you can wake up very early and interested in entering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the crowds.

3. The Express Pass is sold out! What should I do?

I am sorry if Express Passes are no longer available on the dates you have chosen because they really do get sold out!

You are left with no other option but to move your travel dates or just enter the park without it.

4. Can I bring food inside USJ?

Technically, bringing your own food inside the park is not allowed.

However, due to long lines at the entrance gates, the staff may no longer be checking on every bag. Just make sure to put your food on the very bottom of your bag just in case the staff checks on you.

5. What are your recommended attractions?

Other than The Forbidden Journey Ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride, there are lots of other great rides. I, personally, liked the Amity Ville’s Jaws and the Jurassic Park rides.

Take note that when you take a ride, you will see signboards that warn people with heart problems and abnormal blood pressure.

These rides are extreme and you should definitely heed the warnings before going. If you like extreme rides, try The Flying Dinosaur, Flight of the Hippogriff, and Backdrop.

6. Is USJ stroller-friendly? Baby-friendly?

Like other amusement parks, Universal Studios Japan is a stroller-friendly and family-friendly place. You can even rent a baby stroller for a day for 1,000 yen.

For families with babies and small children, you are going to enjoy Universal Wonderland. This attraction has Family Service facilities where you can feed or breastfeed your babies privately.

There are only two (2) Family Service facilities in USJ. One that is near the entrance gates, and the second one, is inside the Universal Wonderland attraction.

Families with babies or small children also benefit from the “Child Switch System.”

The Japanese translation is a bit confusing, however, this only means that the system allows parents or guardians with children too small for certain rides to “swap out” (one rides while the other waits, then swaps) without having to wait in line twice.

Most ride attractions utilize the Child Switch System. There is also Pram parking at each attraction so, you are free to park your strollers.

Don’t worry, Japan is ridiculously safe. You have a better chance of forgetting your stroller than someone actually stealing anything from it.

In fact, if you did forget your stroller, someone would most likely return it to you at some point.

7. How much time did you spend exploring USJ? How big is it?

I did a one roundabout exploration of the entire park and it only took me about 25 minutes.

I was actually surprised to find out that USJ is 3x smaller than Tokyo Disneyland since they pack so much into each attraction.

8. Any special type of discounted passes or afternoon passes?

Japanese amusement parks almost always have afternoon discount passes. With USJ, the afternoon pass is called the Twilight Pass.

Depending on the day, you can get the Twilight Pass for 1,300 – 1,500 yen less than the 1-day Studio Pass.

This is a deal if you just want a glimpse of Universal Studios Japan at night (which is very nice by the way).

This type of pass is not advertised on either the Japanese or English USJ websites.

So to get this, you just have to be at the ticket booth of the park by 3 p.m. The Twilight Pass is a great option if you are visiting during the off-season or less congested months.

Take note, however, that if you have the Twilight Pass, you cannot use an Express Pass. So, if you still want to go to Wizarding World with the Twilight Pass, just hurry to the Central Park to get your Timed Entry Tickets (hopefully there are still some left) to ride the Forbidden Journey.

Just so you know, Timed Entry also gets run out.

9. It’s my birthday! Can I have a birthday discount?

Yes. Just register on the website of USJ and make sure to register your entire family with their birthdates.

The birthday discount is 500 yen less than the regular ticket, which is applicable to the entire family.

You can buy the Birthday Discount Ticket online, but again, the downside is, the website is all in the Japanese language.

The ticket is valid from the first day of your birthday month, until the end of the next month.

Example, if your birthday is September 22, then your USJ ticket is valid from September 1 – October 30, and your whole family will get a discount as well.

If you need further help, I suggest asking for help from a Japanese friend.

10. How are restaurants inside?

I personally don’t like eating at restaurants inside amusement parks.

They tend to be very expensive and are usually pretty bland.

However, the usual park food like churros, turkey legs, and caramel popcorn are all very good.

Be warned if the food looks cute or Instagrammable, it probably tastes terrible.

Trust me.

I was fooled by many cute looking foods offered in the park (this rule can often be applied to most food actually).

Even the butterbeer from the Wizarding World didn’t taste any special.

If I were to visit USJ again, I would probably bring onigiri or a bento and eat them at the benches scattered around the park, and just save money for a turkey leg and churros.

I’ve seen many Japanese visitors do this!

Restaurants outside USJ, located in the Universal CityWalk are worth trying.

But remember, unlike most American amusement parks, there’s no going back in once you leave the park.

11. What if it’s raining during my visit?

Waterworld splash zones are the front rows.

Raincoats are definitely more preferable than umbrellas if you are visiting during rainy days.

There are also several attractions that have splash zones, like Jaws, The Jurassic Ride, and the Waterworld Show.

If you plan on taking those rides, buy a raincoat from 100 yen stores the day before your USJ visit.

The raincoat from the vending machines inside USJ is 400 yen which can be expensive for the entire family.

Final Verdict and Recommendations

USJ park was a lot of fun during my visit. It’s worth mentioning here that I was all by myself when I first visited, but still had a lot of fun.

I managed to experience pretty much all of the attractions I was interested in, and still have time to take in the spectacular views of the park.

This is because I visited during the least crowded season, around the first week of January, and had both a VIP wristband and Express Pass. I also managed to get a second Timed Entry Ticket to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But that was because it was less crowded.

I was able to finish all the attraction rides on my Express Pass tickets within just an hour of entering the park.

By 5 p.m., I noticed the crowd had thinned down and I was able to go on more rides not included in my Express Pass.

The lines had shortened to 15 to 30-minute waits. I left the park at 7 p.m. and hung around the Universal CityWalk before heading to the train station.

Here’s the final summary of my tips and recommendations to maximize your visit:

  • Get an Express Pass no matter what day of the year you are visiting, be it off-season or peak-season. Trust me on this.
  • Book your Studio Pass tickets and Express Pass tickets in advance.
  • The easiest way to buy tickets is through Klook or Voyagin.
  • If you’re a couple, or in the group, consider lining up for the “Single Rider” lane, so you will ride separately. This lane is shorter than the regular lane.
  • Arrive at the park with a full stomach or at least had a heavy breakfast. To save time from waiting at the restaurants. And to save your wallet from the high prices of these restaurants.

Final reminder

Amity Village

Tickets purchased through official partners such as Klook or Voyagin don’t require you to print out anything; just show the QR Code from your mobile and you are good to go.

Please leave your comments below if you have any questions.

Klook Logo

Klook

Better value on your currency rate.
Specializes in Asian Tours (SG and HK).
Headquarters: Hong Kong.
Flexible Ticket: Ticket valid for 3-6 months from the date of purchase.
Email or Chat Support Only.
Beware of their reputation on Trustpilot.

Price: 7,400 JPY

Book Here »

Voyagin logo

Voyagin: Sale! Get Up To 40 USD OFF *

 Save with their seasonal coupon code.
Phone & Chat Support.
Excellent Customer Service.
Specializes in Japan Tours and Experiences.
Flexible Ticket: Ticket valid for 3-6 months from the date of purchase.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan.
Price varies.

Price: 70-77 USD

Book Here »

References and Sources

[1] Universal Studios Japan (n.d.) in Wikipedia. Retrieved December 10, 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Studios_Japan
[2] Travel Agencies (n.d.) in Universal Studios Japan Official. Retrieved December 10, 2018 from https://www.usj.co.jp/e/travel/



19 thoughts on “The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide To Universal Studios Japan (2019)”

  1. Just sharing a tip as well for those who do not have an Express Pass or are not planning to get one:

    Just Chill!

    We went to USJ last spring and the crowd forecast on the day we went was Orange. We did not have an Express Pass so what we did was line up for the shortest queues first (60 mins or less) and then enjoyed the park by relaxing and taking pictures.
    It is also not necessary to always get a timed entry to Wizarding World of HP. Spring season and the crowd on our stay brought in a lot of crowds and we were readying ourselves to get a Timed Entry only to find out that no one was manning the entrance and that the park did not deem it necessary for that day. We also asked a staff if we need a Timed entry and she said no need. So just check first if there is a need for it before getting one.
    For the rides, we started lining up for the popular ones at 4pm where the waiting time has reduced quite drastically. The Forbidden Journey went from 180 mins to 50 mins. We even got to ride the Flying Dinosaur twice (our shortest queue was 10 mins, which is already near the ride closing time), and back to back ride with The Hollywood Dream – The Ride and Backdrop. Rides have an earlier closing time but the park is open until around 9pm as far as I know.
    You won’t enjoy the park if you line up on all of the popular rides once you get in. Just choose 1 or 2 and then take a little stroll then line up again around 3 to 5pm. Most people has now ridden the popular rides or are too tired already from the day. Most parents with small children are also leaving around this hour. This is what we also did on Disney Sea a few days before our trip to USJ and we thoroughly enjoyed both parks without wasting so much time in lines and weren’t energy drained from the queues. 🙂

    For us, we only wanted to ride specific attractions and the rest we just ignored. I’m also an adrenaline junkie. So kiddie rides are not an option for me.

    I’m returning in two weeks and the crowd forecast is Green all the way so I’m expecting a much easier experience than before. 😀

    • Oh my goodness thank you very much for sharing us your experience and tips! Hope others find this helpful too. And you must have lots of luck! That’s crazy! When I went during off season which was the second week of January, the staff at the entrance of The Wizarding World were very strict, but that was 2017.

  2. hello, I WOULD Like to know that if i buy the express pass ticket so that’s mean i dont have to buy the usj normal ticket right?

    • Hi Mike, if you read my guide, you’ll see that they are a separate ticket. That means you have to buy both Express Pass and Studio Pass.

  3. this is so helpful! thanks for the tips.

    just one thing to clarify… you mentioned that if i buy the express pass from klook or voyagin, the time-ticket to the wizard world would be included. do i still have to go get the time-ticket after i enter usj?

    pls advice. thanks again.

    • Timed-entry ticket is good for one entry. So if you want to go back inside, you need to get another one from the timed-entry ticket machine 😉

  4. Hi ada,

    thank you so much for the TIPS & tricks. i can’t wait to go to usj next year :). i have a question, is it necessary to get the timed ticket entry FOR HARRY POTTER at central park? if we did not get the timed ticket entry, ARE WE NOT ALLOWED TO RIDE the harry potter rides? need some clarificationS. thanks in advance 🙂

  5. mY son wants to go to the summer attractions at usj, like attack on titan, evangelion, one piece…are these included in the express passes?

    • You need to choose which Express Pass has them because not all Express Pass has Evangelion or Attack on Titan. As of today, they are sold out for the summer. I would say, wait until the day resets again and see if it’s available on Voyagin website to buy it

  6. Hi, we have already purchased USJ tickets online with klook and were intending to purchase the VIP Wristband and Harukas 300 tickets Also however They are now only selling the VIP Wristbands and Harukas 300 tickets together with the USJ entry ticket. I have contacted them and they advised that i cant add the tickets to our already purChased passes and that we should purchase a Harukas 300 ticket and then enquire when we visit whether we can buy the VIP wristbands there.
    I was hoping to find out if that is possible before we travel, My question is, are we able to purchase VIP wristbands directly from the Harukas 300? or online only?

    • Hi Wade, Voyagin has a similar VIP wristband for sale but it’s named differently. It’s this one. From the information I’ve gathered, only JCB members (Japanese only) can purchase the VIP wristbands directly from Haruka 300 tower.

  7. Hi Ada, great article! We are a party of 2 planning to visit USJ during the second week of December. We are still undecided if we should do a 1 or 2-day studio pass. Additionally, if we do a 2-day studio pass, in your view would it be sufficient to just get an express pass for 1 day? Appreciate your advice on this. Thanks!

    • Hi Mich! Just get an Express for 1 day ;-). Two days with express pass would probably be too much. You’ll be surprised that USJ is actually a small amusement park. Enjoy your USJ and Japan trip!

  8. hi ada,,

    Thanks for the Very useful
    Guide! Ive purchased an express tIcket and i nOticed there are tImings for each ride on my express tiCkets, do i have to follow the tImings on the ticket For each ride stated in there?

    Im going tomorrow and im so excited!

    Thanks!
    Erika

    • Hi Erika, I don’t remember having a designated timed when I used an Express Pass, but if there’s timing now, it’s best that you follow them 😉 Enjoy USJ!

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