Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is a very popular theme park located in Osaka Bay. The park has a great variety of attractions and entertainments suitable for young or old which include hair-raising roller coaster rides, child friendly merry-go-rounds, monster rock shows, and colorful parades with spectacular floats and dance performances.
Many of the rides and attractions are themed on popular movie franchises, such as Harry Potter, Terminator, Jaws, and Jurassic Park, and it is also possible to meet, greet, and take a photo with costumed characters such as Snoopy from Peanuts, or Elmo from Sesame Street.
USJ is currently divided into eight main sections:
- New York
- San Francisco
- Jurassic Park
- Amity Village
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Universal Wonderland
Of these The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is by far the most popular section and has the longest queues. Here you can experience a simulated broomstick ride, play with magic wands, and drink some sweet caramel flavored (and non-alcoholic) “butterbeer”. Many visitors prioritize this section above all others and rush to see it as soon the park gates open.
Another popular attraction in the New York section is the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. This is an award-winning 3D simulated ride through the streets of New York, in which guests are repeatedly attacked by supervillains and saved from certain doom by the webbed wonder, Spiderman.
For more details of the entertainment on offer you can download a detailed PDF studio map of the theme park to see which attractions are in each section.
Restaurants and Shops
Restaurants are themed according to their section, so there is a Chinese restaurant in the San Francisco section that represents that city’s Chinatown, a tavern selling British style fish and chips in the Harry Potter section, and an “American Graffiti” style hamburger restaurant in the Hollywood section.
Throughout the theme park there are a number of souvenir shops selling unique character based merchandise. USJ’s stores offer a tax-free service for foreign visitors, so be sure to bring your passport and ask about the tax-free discount when you make your purchase.
Studio Passes and Express Passes
1 Day and 2 day Studio Passes are available that give you access to the park and attractions and including added tax these are priced as follows:
|Type||Adults||Children (aged 4-11)||Seniors ( aged 65+)|
|1 Day Pass||7,400 yen||4,980 yen||6,650 yen|
|2 Day Pass||12,450 yen||8,420 yen||–|
A variety of Express Passes are also available which help you avoid the worst of the queues by giving you faster entry to a fixed number of attractions and also a guaranteed spot for viewing the parades. These Express Passes are limited in number however, and may sell out on the day. Check the USJ website for prices and details of the different Express Passes on offer.
Tickets can be bought on the day from ticket booths at the park’s entrance. Advance tickets can be purchased in Japan from the travel agency JTB, or at the Green Ticket Offices at major JR stations.
USJ’s opening hours vary by season. Depending on the day the park opens between 8:30 and 9:00, and closes between 19:00 and 21:00. Check the USJ calendar for the most up-to-date schedule.
Top tip: If possible we recommend not visiting the park on weekends and school holidays as the waiting time for attractions will be longer.
Access to Universal Studios Japan
The easiest way to get to USJ is by train. The park is just a five minute walk from Universal City Station on the JR Sakurajima Line.
Access by Train
From Osaka Station the fare is just 180 yen. You can either take a direct train and be there in 12 minutes, or make a quick transfer at Nishikujo Station and be there in 15 minutes.
From Osaka Namba Station take the Hanshin Namba Line to Nishikujo Station and then transfer to the JR Sakurajima Line. The journey time is 20 minutes and costs 360 yen.
From JR Namba Station take the JR Yamatoji Line to Imamiya Station, then transfer to the Osaka Loop Line and go on to Nishikujo Station. At Nishikujo Station change to the JR Sakurajima Line. The journey time is 25 minutes and the fare is 180 yen.
From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Rapid Service to Nishikujo Station, and then transfer to the JR Sakurajima Line. The journey time is 1 hour and 20 minutes and the fare is 1,190 yen.
From Osaka Itami Airport take the Osaka Monorail to Hotarugaike Station and transfer to the Hankyu Takarazuka Line. Take a train bound for Hankyu Osaka-Umeda Station. At Umeda transfer to Osaka Station and catch a train bound for Universal City. The journey time is 42 minutes and the fare is 600 yen.
Airport Limousine Buses
You can take limousine buses from Osaka Itami Aiport and Kansai International Airport that take you directly to USJ. From Osaka Itami Airport the journey time is 45 minutes and the fare is 930 yen for adults and 470 yen for children. From Kansai International Airport the journey time is 1 hour and 10 minutes and the fare is 1,550 yen for adults and for 780 yen children
Access by Boat
The “Captain Line” shuttle ferry carries passengers between Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium and USJ in just 10 minutes for a fare of 700 yen for adults, 400 yen for children aged 7–12, and 300 yen for children aged 4-6. Children aged 3 or under can travel for free.
Hotels near Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
To maximize your time at USJ you may want to stay at one of the hotels that are located close to the park. The following hotels are officially recommended by USJ.
The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios Japan is located just one minute from USJ’s main gate and is the closest hotel to the park. Guest rooms are themed after major US cities and the elevator is designed to resemble a time machine. Rooms on the upper floors have gorgeous night views over the park.
Hotel Kintetsu Universal City is located just two minutes from USJ. The cozy guest rooms look over the park and are decorated in bright primary colors. This hotel has a Universal Studios Store on the premises and an information desk where you can buy tickets and passes for USJ.
Hotel Keihan Universal City is located close by Universal City Station. Guest rooms are decorated in a Hollywood art deco style. This hotel is especially suitable for families with children. The international buffet and chocolate fountain is a big hit with the kids. The hotel also has a shuttle service to a nearby hot spring spa.
Hotel Keihan Universal Tower is also located by Universal City Station. The 32 story building is the tallest hotel near USJ and has a Sky Restaurant on the top floor from which diners can enjoy spectacular city views. Guests can also enjoy the view from the 31st floor hot spring spa which has a sauna and jacuzzi for a truly heavenly experience.
Hotel Universal Port is a five minute walk from USJ and has spacious, comfortable rooms. The hotel’s public areas have a spectacular movie themed décor, and there is an enormous exotic fish tank at the reception desk. Also on the premises is a Universal Studios Store and a ticket desk at which you can buy tickets for USJ or Osaka’s Kaiyukan Aquarium.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.