Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Japan! Osaka: Universal Studios Japan & The Wizarding World of Harry Potter


One of the most highly anticipated highlights of my trip was most definitely Universal Studios Japan!

During trip-planning, it was a big struggle for me to decide between DisneySea or Universal Studios. I eventually decided on USJ, because of that one major pull for me: Harry Potter Land!

You might not know, but I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan! Not of the movies, but of the books, of which I own the entire series (and even the spin-offs), and have re-read multiple times. To visit Harry Potter Land aka The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be especially memorable for me, and that's how I ended up on choosing Universal Studios Japan over Disney Sea. Budget-wise, I also didn't want to do both theme parks on one trip because as you all should know, theme parks are not that cheap!

Of course, if you have enough time (and budget too), I recommend you to go for both! Now that I've visited USJ, Disney Sea is on my agenda for my next trip to Japan ;)


How To Buy Tickets For Universal Studios Japan

To avoid the long queues to get tickets at the entrance of USJ, I recommend you visit the nearest Lawson's minimart that you come across, preferably at least ONE DAY in advance to your visiting date for USJ!

You can supposedly get tickets online, but it's a complicated process and requires a lot of google translate. What happened was that after I'd gone to all the trouble to google translate and click my way through USJ's complicated Japanese website the night before our visit date, I was unable to purchase the Express Pass tickets that I wanted to get, they were sold out online! Bummer.

What you can do is to look for Lawson's, where you will find this LOPPI machine, where you can purchase tickets for various attractions, including Universal Studios Japan!

If you have trouble, just approach the Lawson's staff, they will help you with the purchase!


Why you should get the Express 5 pass

After doing my research online, I knew that I wanted to purchase the Express 5 pass, which entitles you to enter the Express queue for 5 rides, inclusive of the Harry Potter ride! Express 5 also gives you a timing for you to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, because it is apparently so popular that even after buying a regular ticket for USJ, you need to get a separate Timed Entry Ticket from inside USJ that will allow you access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at a specific timing.

By buying the Express 5 pass, you won't have to scramble to get one of the Timed Entry Ticket, and saving all that hassle to me is worth it to pay the extra Express 5 pass.

Unfortunately though, the Express 5 passes weren't just sold out online, they were even sold out at the LOPPI machine (I believe they have a certain cap for tickets bought online/via LOPPI), so we had to make do with purchasing the regular entry passes for Universal Studios Japan.

Here's our one day studio passes which cost us 14,400 yen for two pax.

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Dotonbori, Osaka
Using Google Maps again, we followed directions from our Roomorama accommodation near Dotonbori (Hotel Kuramoto) to take the train to Universal-city Station on the JR Yumesaki Line! It wasn't as complicated as I expected, and we got there without getting lost at all, wheee!

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As you can see, there were crowds of people swarming towards Universal Studios Japan already, although we went as early as we could (around 10-11am?)!

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But I couldn't contain my excitement, finally, I was at Universal Studios Japan!!

Thank goodness we'd already bought the entry passes from Lawson's, because there was a long queue at the entrance for visitors buying their entry passes!

If you didn't manage to get your Express 5 passes like us, no worries, because once you enter the park, there is a specific shop (check with one of the USJ ticketing attendants!) where you can purchase the Express 5 Pass. I'm not sure if there are only a limited number of passes that can be purchased every day, but we managed to get our Express 5 Pass from the shop with no trouble at all.

We decided on the Express 5 Pass so that we didn't have to queue for the key attractions/rush to get a Timed Entry Ticket for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I personally felt that it was worth it, though purchasing the Express 5 Pass works out to be almost two times the price of the regular entry pass. There is also an Express 7 Pass, but I didn't feel like we needed that because I wasn't interested in all 7 of the rides offered anyway.

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On a side-note, we all know that theme park food is pricey and not that fantastic, so we quickly grabbed some food from MOS Burger right outside Universal Studios Japan before we entered, so as to spend less on theme-park food! This pork tonkatsu burger thing from MOS Burger was pretty good!

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HELLO USJ! Very palpable air of excitement and happiness all around, with all the merry theme park visitors!

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Oh look, Hello Kitty!

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We decided to start going for our Express 5 rides, and the first one was the Hollywood Dream!

This ride was SO MUCH FUN! It's a very thrilling rollercoaster-ride (less scary than Battlestar Galactica), and my favourite part was that the ride blasted music from speakers right behind your ears! You can pick your choice of music from a console in front of you before the ride started, and then off you go!

Imagine zooming up and down on a roller-coaster, with the cool air, sunshine, amazing view of the park, plus great music playing right into your ears. I enjoyed it SO much!

Within the same ride, there is also Hollywood Dream Backdrop, which is the same ride, but backwards: Meaning to say that the coaster car is facing the other direction instead and it was crazy crazy exhilarating! Our Express 5 pass didn't cover the Backdrop ride, and we queued about 45 minutes for it! Queuing time is very tiring and boring, so it was really the right choice to get the Express 5 Pass!

They gave me these rubber bands to secure my shoes to my feet so they don't fly off during the roller coaster ride! How creative is that?

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We were thankfully blessed with really nice weather that day, phew! I remember the weather forecasts warning of rain, and I was just praying that it wouldn't rain. And the skies really stayed clear!

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Us queuing up for a photo-op with upside down Spidey! Look at those three girls in front of us, all dressed up as minions! I couldn't believe the extent to which they went to just to dress up, including black shoes and gloves.

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So cute!

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And here's our shot with Spidey!

They do have a professional photographer that will take a photo and print it out for you on the spot, but you can choose not to purchase it. They'll help you take a shot with your own camera, anyway.

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Cute Japanese school kids!

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And more Halloween cosplayers, gotta say that the Japanese are super enthusiastic about dressing up!

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Minion Land! Minions are super popular in Japan, and when we came upon a food stall selling minion-themed food, we couldn't resist.

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Minion pulled-pork bun and odango! One bun like this cost 500yen. Hahaha #JUSTTAKEMYMONEY

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So cute, right?

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Making my money's worth by cam-whoring more before devouring these cute little things.

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Well, it actually tasted pretty good!!

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Bao as round as my face hahahaha.

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You can indulge in more minion-madness if you like!

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Win yourself a minion plushie..

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Or be total suckers like us, and buy a minion sweater that cost us 5,300yen, each!

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Now we can say that we had the full immersion in a complete USJ theme park experience!

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During Jurassic Park ride! Which, by the way, was better than USS's version ;D

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Hahaha look at the two retarded minions in yellow in the top left! YZ got soaking wet during this ride. Heh.

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"Sha-shin, Onegaishimasu?"

Remember to use that phrase to politely ask Japanese folks to help you with a photo or two!

And finally.. It was time for us to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with our Timed Entry at 4.30PM!! You need to walk through a foresty area during which the Harry Potter fans will spot something very familiar...

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A wild Ford Angelia! Really starting to get into the feel now!

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The gateway into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

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Hogsmeade!

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I really felt that sense of familiarity the moment I stepped into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Hello, Hogwarts train!

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You can see how crowded it was, and this is with the Timed Entry Ticket!

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We had to head for our ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, because there was a timed entry for that too with our Express 5 Pass! Good thing we got to skip the regular queue again, because it was super crowded at the ride!

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The ride is inside the Hogwarts Castle, which is pretty grand! And when you're queuing for the ride, you actually get to walk through different parts of Hogwarts reconstructed within the castle, and the experience was SO realistic!

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The ride was superb, especially for Harry Potter fans! I really felt like I was immersed in the universe of Harry Potter for the duration of the ride! Shan't say too much because it's more enjoyable that way! But it was one of the best rides in the entire theme park to me. Super fun!!

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So excited to spot that giant Butterbeer caravan!!

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Don't forget to buy a mug of Butterbeer: I had the frozen version and it tasted like caramel root beer! 1200 yen for the drink plus the mug for keeps :D Yays! This was my only souvenir from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I couldn't bear to spend so much on the items like robes and scarves that were so expensive.

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Words cannot describe that happiness radiating from the inner book geek in me. Haha!

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Spotted these two cute little kids in Hogwarts robes!!

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We stepped into one of the shops: Look! Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans!

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If you explore around Hogsmeade, you'll see other cool stuff in the window displays, such as a Screaming Mandrake, if you look hard enough.

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Sun starting to set over Hogsmeade..

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Our final parting shot before we said good bye to the Wizarding World!

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We left Universal Studio Japan, two very happy and tired people. It was truly a magical day and so enjoyable!


Accommodation - Roomorama
My accommodation in Japan was booked via Roomorama: I loved all the different apartments I stayed in, with the great accessiblity and well-furbished amenities! Featured above is my Tokyo apartment at Ebisu, my favourite of the lot.

Roomorama is giving away US$50 credits so you can get US$50 off your next Roomorama apartment booking!

Roomorama


Wifi Device - VISONDATA
visondata pocket wifi promo code
For my past few overseas trips (to Japan, Phuket and Hong Kong so far), I've been using VISONDATA pocket wifi and it has always worked wonderfully. VISONDATA wifi is available in 50 countries, and one pocket wifi can be connected to up to 5 different devices! 

It's extremely convenient and handy. I was impressed with the battery life of the pocket wifi device too, because it lasts at least a good 8 hours! I'm constantly updating on social media and checking on emails on-the-go, so that is quite a feat.

Quote "VDSGYINA" when you check out on VISONDATA for 20% off your order!

More Japan posts on the way, so if you're planning a trip to Japan soon, remember to check back for updates!

xoxo



Japan - September 2015 Itinerary
(Osaka/Kyoto/Tokyo)

Narita to Osaka
Day 1: Arrived at Narita > Shinkansen to Osaka > Checked into Osaka accommodation > Dotonburi

Osaka to Kyoto
Day 3: Kuromon Ichiba Market > Owl Cafe > Train to Kyoto > Checked into Kyoto accommodation > Dinner at famous OmuRice restaurant
Day 4: Shinkansen to Takayama > Bus to Shirakawago > Back to Kyoto

Kyoto to Tokyo
Day 6: Shinkansen to Tokyo > Checked into Ebisu accommodation > Shibuya
Day 7: Sensoji, Asakusa > Omotesando > Harajuku > Shinjuku
Day 8: Tsukiji Fish Market > Narita Airport Express from Shibuya > Departure at Narita


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