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  • Vivian Teo

Taking your kid to Universal Studios Japan? Here're 15 things you must know

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Universal Studios Japan is loads of fun for kids and adults but planning a trip there can get rather confusing and daunting. Here are 15 tips and things you must know if you're heading to the theme park, with or without kids!

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World

We've just returned from our Osaka, Japan trip! Universal Studios Japan is definitely the highlight of our trip. It's all that it's hyped up to be with its newly-opened Super Nintendo World and the mesmerising Harry Potter world. The cheeriness and energy of the staff also added to the theme park's magical atmosphere.


I won't be reviewing on what the rides are like at Universal Studios Japan - Youtube and social media are great resources for that and videos do a better job than written reviews to give you a sense of what the rides are like. But I can tell you, yes, USJ is as impressive as what you see online. It's definitely a must-visit if you are in Osaka!

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Harry Potter world
Harry Potter world

That said, what many of these videos and pics don't show you is the blood, sweat and tears some go through when booking their trip to Universal Studios Japan, especially for the newly-opened Super Nintendo World. I found it really overwhelming when I first looked at all the different park entry tickets (called studio passes), express passes and timed entry tickets for Super Nintendo World (yes, you need separate tickets for this, more on that later). I just wanted to buy a ticket and go into the park but really, it's not as simple as that if you want to make the most out of your trip.


We were also planning to go on a Monday and Tuesday but express passes that included entry to Super Nintendo World were all snapped up about a month before - I wasn't expecting them to go THAT fast and I think it's because Super Nintendo World is newly opened and everyone going to Universal Studios Japan wanted to make sure they could enter Super Nintendo World, and also because many people are making a beeline for Japan this year after it reopened to tourists.


So, after nearly tearing my hair out figuring what tickets to get and the initial scare that we might not even get to enter Super Nintendo World when at Universal Studios Japan, I decided I have to write this blog about the things to know if you're planning to go to Universal Studios Japan. So here they are:


1) How advance do I need to book my tickets and express passes?

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka

Booking for park entry tickets and express passes open about 2 months ahead. Do note that park entry ticket and express pass are two separate things. Park entry ticket lets you enter the park while an express pass lets you skip the ride queues.


So if you are certain you're making the trip, I would advise booking express passes with Super Nintendo World entry once booking starts. I tried booking about a month before our desired entry date and the express passes with Super Nintendo World entry were sold out, so we had to rearrange our schedule and go on a Sunday instead of Monday. The express passes without Super Nintendo World entry were still available then but people are grabbing these express passes with Super Nintendo World entry because these passes guarantee entry into Super Nintendo World (more on that below). But yes, if you want to guarantee your entry into Super Nintendo World, get the express passes with timed entry into Super Nintendo World.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World Toad
Toad at Super Nintendo World

As for the park entry tickets, or studio passes, we had actually booked our second day entry to Universal Studios Japan a few days ahead of our entry date. Looking at the ticket availability, park entry tickets were generally still available if you book last minute and want to go the next day. But that said, we visited during June and this is the off-peak period for tourism in Japan. This might not be the case when you're going during peak season like July, August and year-end. So you might want to get your park entry tickets at least a month ahead or even once booking begins if you're travelling during peak season.


Tickets and express passes can be purchased from the USJ website and travel agencies like Klook and KKDay. We got ours from Klook but a quick check showed that prices do not differ by much among these sources. You'll see that there are Studio Passes A-E, these are just based on seasonality like weekdays, weekends, non-peak season, peak season. Tickets are cheaper on non-peak weekdays and more expensive during peak season. Don't panic if you click on Studio Pass A and see that there's nothing available, it could be the dates you are going is a B, C, D or E category. Just check the other Studio Pass categories.


2) Does the park entry ticket mean I can visit Super Nintendo World?

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World

Not necessarily. You need a Timed Entry Ticket to guarantee entry to Super Nintendo World. Timed entry for Super Nintendo World comes with certain express passes (see tip no. 3).


Another way to get a Timed Entry Ticket to Super Nintendo World is to apply for it through the USJ app or at park ticket kiosks. These are free but do note that you might not be successful getting the Time Entry Ticket as USJ says, "we may stop or temporarily suspend the issuing of tickets without notice on the day of your visit due to crowd conditions." Follow the instructions at USJ's website on how to apply for Timed Entry Tickets. Judging from the popularity of Super Nintendo World and the express passes with timed entry into Super Nintendo World, I think it's a bit risky to go for this option, unless you don't mind leaving it to chance and NOT being able to enter Super Nintendo World.


Another way to get entry into Super Nintendo World is to go and queue at the park super early like 7-plus am, before the park opens, and then make a dash for Super Nintendo World. (This, I read online and heard from other people.) You might be able to enter Super Nintendo World because capacity at Super Nintendo World is unlikely to be full this early. But again, entry is not guaranteed with this method as there are likely many who would be doing the same.


If you don't want the stress of rushing and queuing early at the park or leaving your entry to Super Nintendo World to chance, getting an Express Pass with Timed Entry to Super Nintendo World is the best way to guarantee entry to Super Nintendo World. Of course if you're unable to secure an Express Pass with Timed Entry to Super Nintendo World then the above methods would be your best bet.


3) There are so many different express passes. Which do I get?

There are Express Pass 4 and Express Pass 7. The former allows you to skip queue for four designated rides and the latter, seven. On which of the pass to get, it'll depend on what rides you want to go on because these are for designated rides. So research ahead via YouTube to see what the rides are like and if the rides in that particular express pass are what you want to go for. My kids do not want to go for the scarier rides like Flying Dinosaur and Hollywood Dream, so there is no point getting express passes with these rides in them.


The following rides are very popular and tend to have very long queues, so it'd be better getting express passes with these rides in them if they are what you and your kids wanna ride: Doraemon XR Ride; Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey; Flight of the Hippogriff; Minion Mayhem; Hollywood Dream; Backdrop; Mario Kart; Yoshi's Adventure.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Harry Potter world
Hogswart at Harry Potter world

We bought the Express Pass 7 which had all the rides we wanted to try out. Some friends also advised getting Express Pass 7 because Express Pass 4 is just for 4 rides and you'll have to join the normal queue for rides not covered by the express pass and normal queues can get pretty long for the popular rides.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World
Mario Kart ride at Super Nintendo World

Do note that you'll be given designated ride times in your express pass. That means if it says your ride for Minion Mayhem is at 1300-1330, you'll need to be at the ride entrance at this time. You won't be allowed into the express queue outside of the timing. But the fixed timing is nothing to worry about, the timings are well spaced out and the express queues really do move fast and the ride timings are unlikely to eat into one another.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Spiderman ride
Spiderman ride at USJ

Do also note that the express pass can only be used once on each designated ride. So after you have used it on say, the Doraemon ride, and you want to ride the Doraemon ride again, you'll need to join the normal queue on your second ride.


4) Is it really necessary to buy an express pass?

I would say buy the express pass if you can afford them. Yes, they are expensive - an Express Pass 7 is about SGD230 dollars for one person, so if you have a family of four, it will easily cost you close to S$1,000.


But having been there 2 days, one with and one without express pass, I find our enjoyment of the park is a lot more with the express pass. Some of the normal queues at the popular rides can get as long as over 2 or even 3 hours as compared to express queues which are easily below 30 mins. And with an Express Pass 7, we didn't finish all the non-express pass rides or explored everything at the park. Note that there are even queues at restaurants and food stalls. So without an express pass, you might not be able to fully experience the park as you do use up quite a bit of time queuing.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Flight of the Hippogriff Harry Potter world
Flight of the Hippogriff

Of course if budget is a concern, you can get an Express Pass 4 with the popular rides or even go on two days instead of one.


Once again, if you really want to visit Super Nintendo World, please get the express pass with timed entry to the world - I feel that it's a real downer if you go to USJ and end up not being able to enter Super Nintendo World. My girls are huge Nintendo fans, so I wanted to make sure that we could visit SNW during our visit.


5) Should I get the Super Nintendo World power-up band?

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World
Power-up bands at Super Nintendo World

The power-up band is for participating in extra activities at Super Nintendo World which you can purchase in the world itself. If you're thinking of getting the power-up band, read what you can do with it first. Here's an explanation from Klook and there are also instructions in the power-up band box on how to use the band. We initially thought you just use the wristband to hit those question mark boxes and that was it but no, it allows you to complete challenges and through the USJ app, collect stickers and rewards.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World

Personally, I don't think it's a big deal and wouldn't get one for myself, especially since one band costs 4200 yen. Most of the kids I saw got the bands and were having fun with it and so did my younger one. So I guess the kids might have more fun with it. But even without, I think you'll still have fun at Super Nintendo World, just that the band allows you to participate in some extra activities.


6) When's the best day to go to USJ?

Generally, I think you can expect USJ to be busy everyday but it's apparently less crowded on Wednesdays and Thursdays. We snuck a peak at the queue times through the USJ app and indeed, the queuing times are shorter on these days.


The general advice is to avoid weekends. We went on Sunday and it was crowded indeed but with our express pass, it actually didn't make a huge difference to us. The Monday we were there in fact felt more crowded and later I had read that Mondays and Tuesdays can be crowded as groups tend to plan excursions on these days.


7) What time should I arrive at the park?

Park opening hours differ on days so do check park opening hours ahead. Some people said you should go early to queue as the park will be less crowded, but when you're travelling with young children, it can be hard to go early. We arrived around 9-plus in the morning on Sunday and the queue to enter wasn't that long and it moved very fast. We arrived around 10am on Monday and the queue to enter was much longer, though it moved fast as well. So I reckon how long it takes to queue to enter the park has more to do with the crowd on that day.


8) Do the single rider queues move faster?

Riders in the single rider queue are slotted into empty seats in rides. E.g. If a ride has four seats, a group of three gets on those seats, staff will slot a single ride into the empty seat. Do note that single rider queues are NOT available for ALL rides and the park may or may not operate single rider queues for certain rides on certain days.


Single ride queues are generally shorter than the normal queues but for some popular rides like Backdrop and Doraemon, the single rider queues time displayed at ride entrance are about the same as the queue time displayed for normal queues when we were there. That said, we tried some of the single rider queues and though the stated queuing time is about the same as the normal queue, the waiting time was definitely shorter than the estimated queue time displayed at the queue.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Jaws ride
Normal queue for Jaws ride

But note that if you queue the single rider queue as a group, your group will likely be seated separately. My girls were initially a bit concerned about sitting the ride alone (we went for the single rider queue at the Spiderman ride as it was about half the queueing time of the normal queue), so what we did was we let hubs go first, followed by my two girls, and then myself. This is so that Hubs will be waiting at the exit of the ride for the next girl and I would still be in the queue with the other girl.


I also notice that the staff when boarding the single riders, they may actually take into consideration if you're queuing with children and if you're a family. Because the few times we queued single rider queues, they boarded our girls with one of us (Hubs and/or me) or the two girls went together such that we were in the same ride though not necessarily seated side by side. So if they can, I believe the staff do try to accommodate. But don't tell the staff you want to sit together with your so-so when you are in the single riders queue, it really wouldn't be fair to those in the normal queue and I don't think staff are obliged to accommodate your request.


So, after going once for the single rider queues, my girls realise it was no big deal even if we couldn't sit together cause we really cut short a lot of the queueing times. That said, it's also because my girls are older at 10 and 12 years old. The youngers ones might still need to have a parent with them. So if you have older kids, this is one strategy you can employ if you don't have an express pass.


9) How do I gauge the queue timings?

Estimated queueing times are stated outside the ride entrance. They will also state queueing time for single rider queues. Download and use the USJ app so you can check the queues through the app before heading to the ride.


10) Are the rides at USJ suitable for young children?

There are a good variety of rides at USJ. There's a Wonderland that is very suitable for younger children. We didn't explore much of this as they are too kiddy for my children.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Wonderland
Wonderland

But overall, I think there is a good mix of rides for children and adults. Do note, however, some rides come with minimum height. See USJ's website on height requirements. Again, do research on YouTube on what the rides are like to decide if they are rides suitable for your kids.


11) Do you need 2 days to cover the park?

If you don't have an express pass and only plan to queue the normal queues, it might be a bit challenging to fully cover the park in a day - it is much bigger than Universal Studios Singapore (I'm from Singapore!) - and remember, you also need to queue for food at food stalls and restaurants!


Because of our Express Pass 7, we actually covered MOST of the park in a day but I'm still glad we went for a second day because we managed to go for a few of the experiences we missed on the first day - like the Spiderman ride and queueing for the Mario cafe sandwiches - and we repeated the rides we really enjoyed. We also toured the park more leisurely on the second day with less stress as we already went for the rides we wanted to try on the day before.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Jaws

Hubs felt one day was enough for him but the girls and I were still glad we went for a second day. So if you think your kids will really love USJ, I think you can go for a second day but maybe you can save some money by not getting an express pass on the second day.


12) Should I stay in the USJ area?

USJ is in the Osaka Bay area. It's not exactly very far in the suburbs - it is a 30-40-min train ride from the Namba city area we were staying at. Still, we booked 3 nights in the city and 3 nights at Osaka Bay because we are going USJ for 2 days and just so we didn't have to commute in case we want to arrive early or play till late at USJ. (BTW for families, I highly recommend La'gent Osaka Bay that's a 10-15-walk from USJ. Its family rooms are themed, huge and rates are reasonable for the hotels in the area).

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka La-gent Osaka Bay Hotel
La'gent Osaka Bay Hotel

But I think if you're staying somewhere that's pretty close to Osaka Bay or is only a short train ride from Osaka Bay e.g. Shin-Osaka area, then I don't think you have to book a hotel in the Osaka Bay area. The Osaka Bay area is not as convenient to travel to other parts of Osaka as compared to the city area and it is also quieter with not much to do there other than for USJ and Universal City Walk which has some shops and restaurants. So it really depends on where you're staying in Osaka. And changing hotels is also not the most convenient when you're travelling with young children and carrying bags. So I guess it's not necessary to have to stay in the Osaka Bay area.


13) How are the dining options?

There are lots of dining options at USJ and some sells special items like at the Mario Cafe or Pokemon food cart. But queues for food carts/restaurant can get pretty long throughout the day, so you'll also have to budget time to queue for food.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Mario Cafe
Mario Cafe

We went for the food carts mainly as we didn't have time to queue and sit down at restaurants, and just ate on the go. And when you are using express pass with designated ride timings, you have to make sure you get to your ride on time.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Harry Potter world
Butter bear at Harry Potter world

The only restaurant we queued for was Kinopio at Super Nintendo World. The timed entry and ride timings in our express pass were in the late afternoon, so could afford to queue as this was the last area we planned to visit for the day. The queue into the cafe was about half an hour. The food was quite nice - I wouldn't say superb - but it was a nice experience sitting in Toad's restaurant. So if you can afford to queue, I would say at least go for Kinopio or the restaurant in Harry Potter world, which I heard is really worth the wait as well.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World Kinopio Cafe
Kinopio Cafe

14) Can I bring food and water in?

The USJ website states outside food is not allowed but baby food and snacks for children are allowed. If you have special dietary requirements, you can also inform the staff at the entrance.


Note that you're only allowed to bring in 500ml of water and they may check your bags through an x-ray machine, so there's no hiding of your extra bottles of water. That said, hubs and I brought in an extra half bottle of water each but the staff didn't say anything about it. I suppose as long as it's not too much, they will not kick up a fuss about it.


The first day our bags went through the machines but the second day we just breezed in without checks. Anyway, there are water coolers near the toilets in USJ, so you can re-fill your bottles. You can also buy mineral water at around 250 yen a bottle in the park.


15) Is there tax-free shopping in USJ?

In Japan, foreigners can shop tax free for purchases of at least 5000 yen. At USJ, you can claim back the tax you paid for your purchases in the park at the guest services area near the entrance. Please have your passport, receipt and merchandise ready when at the guest services area to claim back the tax. They will seal up your purchases in a bag and you're not allowed to open the bag while in Japan because tax-free goods are for foreigners who are consuming the goods outside Japan, not inside Japan. So if there is anything in your above-5000-yen purchases that you want to use while you're still in Japan, then don't claim back the tax for the particular item, if not, they will seal everything up in a bag for you.

Universal Studios Japan USJ Osaka Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World shop

Okay, that is all for now. Most of the tips here we learnt ourselves though research or the hard way and some from friends who are really helpful and generous to share about them. I hope these tips are useful for your trip planning to USJ. For more USJ pics and vids, do see my Instagram IGS highlights and post at 'vivianteowriter'!


I'll be sharing about our other experiences in Osaka and Kyoto in my upcoming blog posts, so do look out for them if you're planning to visit Osaka soon!


Disclaimer: We paid for our tickets, and my opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family’s own.


©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.





1 comment

1 Kommentar


Cheongqa Victors
Cheongqa Victors
12. Nov. 2023

Hi


May I check whether the Harry Potter area still required an area entry pass?


Thinking of going there during the June holidays but wondering whether there will be a flood. When you went in 2023, was it raining heavily?


Thks.

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