I’ve just returned from an incredible trip to Osaka where I was immersed in magic, movies and manga at Universal Studios Japan. If you’re a fan of that famous wizard or avidly read Japanese comics, Universal Studios Japan brings them to life in ways you could never imagine.
You don’t have to be a massive Potter-head to be thoroughly enchanted by The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™. A spell is cast as you walk through the enchanted forest and find yourself in such a realistic Hogsmeade™ you’ll have to blink twice. No detail is spared, from the steaming Hogwarts™ Express bursting through the entrance, to the rolled up scrolls and fancy looking cakes in shop windows.
Drawing gasps from everyone who glanced at it is the imposing Hogwarts™ Castle. Only at Universal Studios Japan is the castle surrounded by the Black Lake, which provides a perfect mirror image. Inside the castle is the Wizarding World’s most spell-binding ride –Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™. The paintings come to life as you make your way towards the bookcase that will transform into a broomstick when you don the glasses on this spectacular 4K3D attraction. If you’re afraid of heights you might want to close your eyes as the ride whizzes you high over Hogwarts™ and then plunges deep into the underworld. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ has won multiple awards and is rightfully one of the park’s most popular attractions. I was lucky enough to ride it twice (the queue towards the end of the day said 30 minutes but took only 10) and discovered new visuals that made me gasp each time.
Elsewhere in the Wizarding World you can practise Wand Magic, sip a hot Butterbeer™ and little ones can learn to ride a Hippogriff™. Every inch of the studio has been thoughtfully crafted, from the creepy old toilets to the beef roasts at the Three Broomsticks™ Restaurant. In short: it’s a magical immersive experience.
At Universal Cool Japan 2017 you can immerse yourself in popular Japanese movies and manga. You don’t need to understand the language to be thrilled by these brand new rides where you’ll be chased by the likes of human-eating giants! The stand out ride for me was Evangelion XR, which uses 360 virtual reality technology and the power of gravity to make you think you really are being pursued by giant angels. At Godzilla: The Real 4-D you’ll watch the God Of Destruction tear through Osaka and you’ll find yourself wanting to duck from the ‘blood’ that spurts into your face during Attack On Titan: The Real.
For those who like a more hands on experience you can play the part of Detective Conan in a real life escape game*. There is a lengthy performance at the start and finish of the game that non-Japanese speakers won’t understand but all the puzzles you have to complete are on an iPad in English so you can still work your way around the challenges within the 1-hour deadline.
*Additional fees apply
To match these brand new Cool Japan attractions the park has created snacks including a pork bun that looks like Godzilla’s paw and a crackling hot honey and yuzu drink as seen in Monster Hunter. There are also souvenirs to match all the major rides including snowy owl and Godzilla hats, which other visitors pulled off with more aplomb than I could!
I’d recommend at least 2 days to explore the whole of the park. I was incredibly lucky to experience the Harry Potter and Cool Japan attractions as part of a press day but I went back the very next day to explore further on my own. My top 2 rides in the rest of park (if I had to pick just 2) would be the Jurassic Park themed The Flying Dinosaur, where your soar around a rollercoaster dangling on your front, and The Amazing Adventures Of Spiderman, a 4K3D ride so realistic I thought I was about to plunge to my death in NYC!
Planning Your Visit
To shorten your wait time at some of the parks more popular attractions you can buy a Universal Express Pass for 3, 4 or 7 rides. USJ are currently offering a 15th anniversary Special Express Pass for 3 rides (including The Flying Dinosaur and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™) for 3,900yen with tax (approx. 45AUD).
A 1 day Studio Pass costs 7,400yen for adults and 4,980yen for kids.
It’s easy to reach the park by public transport as the Osaka Loop line runs directly to Universal City, taking about 30 minutes from the centre of the city. There are a number of restaurants just outside the park at Universal Citywalk Osaka where you can grab the likes of a Mos Burger or MOMI&TOY’S crepe on the way home.
I stayed at Hotel New Otani, an elegant hotel with views of Osaka Castle.
More details on my 48 hours in Osaka to follow shortly!
Disclosure: I was invited to visit Universal Studios Japan as a guest of the park. All opinions and squealing are my own.