Inside the Magic of Universal Studios Japan

in Entertainment, Movies, Theme Parks

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan marked the first offshore venture for the company. Universal Studios, having enjoyed successful theme park operations in Hollywood, CA, and Orlando, FL, opened this third park in 2001.

Featuring nine different themed areas, this 108-acre resort includes areas dedicated to Harry Potter and Minions (“Despicable Me”). Like its sister parks in California and Florida, the resort is also home to its own version of CitiWalk.

Nine Themed areas

On March 31, 2001, Universal Studios Japan opened its gates to guests. Boasting an annual attendance of over 14 million visitors (2017), the theme park is operated by the NBC/Universal owned company USJ Co., Ltd. In addition to Minion Park and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Japan is home areas like Amity Village, Waterworld, Jurassic Park, and three city-centric locations (Hollywood, San Francisco, and New York). Wonderland, dedicated to younger guests, rounds out the various park regions.


As guests enter though the iconic Universal Studios arches and find their way into Universal Studios Japan, Hollywood awaits exploration. Within this entry land, four attractions, several shows, a quartet of dining destinations and 10 souvenir shopping opportunities can be found.

Amazing Attractions:

Hollywood Dream – The Ride This three-minute thrill lets riders choose their own soundtrack which plays during the experience. For added thrills try the same roller coaster experience backward on Hollywood Dream -The Ride – Backdrop!

Space Fantasy – The Ride This indoor roller coaster dark rides spins guests through the galaxy and straight into the sun.

Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic During this 25-minute motion simulator adventure, participants accompany favorite characters from popular PBS/HBO children’s show as they travel the world by air and sea.

Shrek’s 4-D Adventure Join Shrek and Donkey in a 3D, motion simulated, 25-minute original story.

Entertaining Experiences

Universal Spectacle Night Parade – The Best of Hollywood – For just under an hour this high-tech parade winds its way through Hollywood and New York areas of the theme park.

“Witness the park transform before your eyes! Through elaborate floats and the power of projection mapping, the worlds of Harry Potter™, Transformers, Jurassic World and Despicable Me Minions will come to life. Immerse yourself in one epic environment after another at the spectacular Night Parade!” – Universal Studios Japan

Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show – Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Werewolf join the ghost with the most, Beetlejuice, for a half hour of haunting song and dance excitement.

Playing with Curious George – Leaping from animated screen to real world studio, Curious George entertains young guests as he explores an animation studio during the 20-minute interactive adventure.

Power of Pop is a 20-minute performance in front Mel’s Drive In, featuring high energy music and dance.

MINIONS SUPER GREETING – Photo ops with Gru’s minions materialize on the streets of Hollywood near the theme park’s entrance.

Delicious Dining:

Hollywood area of Universal Studios Japan features four fun spots for topping of tummies and grabbing a quick bite. All four locations offer alcohol and accept credit cards.

Mel’s Drive-In – Classic cars parked in front recreate the bygone days of the 1950s as featured in the film “American Graffiti.” Fast food such as burgers and fries is featured.

Studio Stars Restaurant is a cafeteria style dining destination famous for “American-size BBQ roast chicken.”

Beverly Hills Boulangerie offers sandwiches and sweets in a French café setting.

Schwab’s Pharmacy is well known for whoopie pies and ice cream.  Fast food is also served.

Souvenir Shops:

As with other areas of Universal Studios Japan, Hollywood provides purchase possibilities for souvenirs, collectibles, and gifts.

  • Beverly Hills Gifts
  • California Confectionary
  • Characters 4 U
  • Cinema 4-D Store
  • Hello Kitty Design Studio
  • Peanuts Corner Store
  • Studio Gifts (East and West) *located just outside the park’s gate
  • Studio Style
  • The Darkroom
  • Universal Studios Store

New York

Just past Hollywood, New York is represented by way of iconic structure facades (like the New York Public Library). In addition to a pair of shows, restaurants and shopping spots, two popular Universal theme park attractions call this area home.

Amazing Attractions:

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D – Replicating the breakthrough attraction from Florida’s Islands of Adventure, this 3D adventure blends ride motion with 4k video technology. Amateur reporters, guests aid the “Daily Bugle” in covering the chaos caused by villains running amuck. Of course, things don’t go as planned, but fortunately, Spider-Man is there to save the day.

Terminator 2: 3-D – Cyborgs come to life in this 30-minute, 3D experience. As events turn deadly, heroes arrive just in time to rescue the audience and thwart the robotic revolution.

Entertaining Experiences:

Sesame Street Rhythm Alive – Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster and Elmo rock out for a 2o-minute musical performance.

Violin Trio 2018 – A trio of brightly dressed, talented men take to the streets to entertain with their stringed instrument-powered, musical magic.

Delicious Dining:

Within the New York region of the park, hungry guests can find five feast-worthy places to satisfy their appetite.

Azzura di Capri is well known for its famous stone oven baked pizzas.

Finnegan’s Bar & Grill – Right out of Brooklyn, this Irish pub features table service dining and a full bar.

Louie’s N.Y. Pizza Parlor – Enjoy a taste of Little Italy, like pasta and pizza at this table service dining delight.

Park Side Grille specializes in steaks and other grilled grub.

SAIDO – Don’t let the apartment complex façade fool you, Japanese cuisine is the flavor at this table service dining location.

Souvenir Shopping:

Universal Studios Souvenirs, with a wide assortment of theme park related items for sale, and The Amazing Spider-Man Store (featuring comic book and pop culture collectibles) are the only two stores within the New York area of Universal Studios Japan.

Minion Park

Made famous in Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s animated “Despicable Me” films, these adorable yellow creatures have their own area! Shows, rides and specialty Minion themed munchies can be found just around the corner from New York.

Amazing Attractions:

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – Gru needs more Minions and this where guests are transformed during a 25-minute motion simulated/projected adventure through Gru’s home and lab.

Freeze Ray Sliders – “Minion Park is flooding over with excitement and enthusiasm! Watch out! The Minions are ready to cause mayhem with their giant Freeze Ray. They have transformed the pool into an ice rink! It’s time to start the Ice Race where Minions merrymaking reaches its peak!” – Universal Studios Japan

Entertaining Experiences:

Minions Hacha-Mecha Greeting – Meet the team of pill shaped yellow creatures as they wander around in front of Gru’s home/lab.

Delicious Dining:

Delicious Me! The Cookie Kitchen features sweet treats, freshly from their new Minion’s Cookie Machine

Pop-a-nanna – “What are the Minions’ favorite food…? Bananas, of course! So if they’re the ones making it, even popcorn turns out to be chocolate-banana-flavored, of course!” – Universal Studios Japan

San Francisco

Just around the corner from Minion Park and across from Jurassic Park is the small stretch of structures set to resemble San Francisco. This themed area in the center of Universal Studios Japan has its own attraction, show and a pair of places to enjoy a mouth-watering meal.

Amazing Attraction:

Backdraft – Scenes from the 1991 Universal Pictures feature film unfold, with scorching special effects in this 20-minute immersive adventure.

Entertaining Experience:

Nitro Dance Crew is a 15-minute feast for the eyes as Snazzy blue suited dancers show off high energy moves.

Delicious Dining:

Happiness Café serves curry rice and other delights in a repurposed warehouse setting.

The Dragon’s Pearl – Chinatown would be incomplete without a Chinese restaurant. The Dragon’s Pearl fits that bill with its cafeteria style dining options.

Jurassic Park

Dinosaurs once again roam the earth in this tropical themed region adjacent to San Francisco. Inspired by the film franchise of the same name, two ride adventures, an up close and personal dinosaur encounter, restaurant and souvenir shop await interested visitors.

Amazing Attractions:

The Flying Dinosaur – Captured by an oversized Pteranodon, guests “soar” horizontally for a high-speed zip around Jurassic Park. A 37.8-meter (124 ft) drop makes this flying coaster stand out from the rest. On-ride photos are available upon exit.

Jurassic Park – The Ride: In what was supposed to be a serene boat tour of Jurassic Park, chaos ensues instead. Stalked by an enormous T-Rex, the only escape is a harrowing 85-foot plummet. On-ride photos are available upon exit.

Entertaining Experience:

Dinosaur Amazing Encounter – Come face to face with free-roaming dinosaurs as you walk through the Jurassic Park jungle.

Delicious Dining:

Perusing prehistoric places can build up an appetite. Fortunately, there are three delicious dinosaur themed dining destinations to choose from.

Discovery Restaurant – Jungle-themed fast food finds are featured within this restaurant which resembles the iconic welcome center seen in the motion picture.

Fossil Fuels is a snack bar within Jurassic Park. Ironically, instead of fossil fuel its more famous for another energy source – corn (in this case “Jurassic Corn).

Lost World Restaurant’s fast food flavor favors a South American taste.

Souvenir Shopping:

Jurassic Outfitters, located next to Jurassic Park – The Ride, sells dinosaur and Jurassic Park toys and collectibles.

Amity Village

Home to the infamous Amity Boat tours, this seaside village resembles the town plagued by a menacing great white shark in the 1975 Universal thriller “Jaws.”

Amazing Attraction:

JAWS – A simple seven-minute boat tour of Amity turns deadly as a destructive great white shark wreaks havoc.

Entertaining Experience:

Amity Boardwalk Games give guests the try their luck at games of chance in a carnival-like setting.

Delicious Dining:

A trio of taste bud tempting treats feed fans in the sleepy village of Amity.

Amity Landing Restaurant – Residing in the old Amity shipyard, this fast food restaurant is well known for its fried chicken.

Amity Ice Cream – This frozen dairy dessert delight is operated by none other than Ellen Brody.

Boardwalk Snacks serves pizza, cold drinks, and other fast food snacks.

Souvenir Shopping:

Amity Island Gifts stocks “Jaws” souvenirs and gifts.

Hollywood Movie Make-Up offers the opportunity for a new face-painted look.


Tucked away between Jurassic Park and Amity Village, the “Waterworld” adventure performance showcases movie magic based on the film of the same name. Breathtaking stunts and explosive effects enhance the adventure of this 20-minute waterborne battle.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s popularity at Universal Orlando Resort ensured its magical materialization at other Universal theme parks. Resembling Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade Village, Japan’s version, located between Amity Village and Universal Wonderland, includes two signature rides, British-based dining, engaging entertainment, and host of Harry Potter shopping opportunities.

During peak attendance, it may become necessary to obtain a timed entry ticket for this area. These are included with express pass purchases. They are also available in advance or across from the entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Central Park.

  • Only a limited number of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ Timed Entry Tickets are available for each time slot.
  • Ticket is invalid for other times besides the designated time.
  • This ticket cannot be re-issued. Once the ticket is issued, the reservation time cannot be changed.
  • For each Studio Pass, the Timed Entry Ticket or the Stand-by Entry Ticket may only be issued once a day.
  • If ‘Timed Entry Ticket’ reaches the limited number, we will issue ‘Lottery Ticket’. Please ask our crews for more information.

Universal Studios Japan

Amazing Attractions:

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – After touring Hogwarts Castle (now open to Muggle visitors), guests board enchanted benches for a thrilling flight across Quidditch pitch and into the Forbidden Forrest. Dementors, giant spiders and a fire breathing dragon threaten riders along the way.

Flight of the Hippogriff – After learning how to properly greet a Hippogriff, guests board a two minute, relaxed rollercoaster for a short flight.

Enchanting Experiences:

Frog Choir – Enchanted singing frogs assist students as the perform musical numbers from the Harry Potter films.

Hogwarts Express Photo offers an opportunity to snap an image in front of the famous locomotive.

Ollivander’s – Witness the wand choosing the wizard during this short demonstration. Afterward, find the perfect character or specialized wand within this famous wand maker’s shop.

Triwizard Spirit Rally – Students from foreign schools of witchcraft and wizardry (Beauxbatons and Durmstrang) perform in anticipation of the upcoming Triwizard competition.

Wand Magic – Through the use of interactive wands (which much be purchased separately), guests can try their spellcasting skills at reactive, designated areas of the Wizarding World.

Wand Studies showcases spell skills of students from the different houses of Hogwarts.

Delicious Dining:

A pair of Potter powered dining diversions offer muggles a sampling Wizarding World food and beverage. Three Broomsticks fuels hungry appetites with British fare while the adjacent Hog’s Head Pub offers exclusive Wizarding World brews and adult beverages (as well as Butterbeer).

Spellbinding Shopping:

Wizarding World wonders at Universal include magical merchandise from J.K. Rowling’s imaginative realm. A host of Harry Potter-themed shops provide a cauldron full of souvenirs and collectibles. These include:

  • Dervish and Banges
  • Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods
  • Gladrags Wizardwear
  • Honeyduke’s
  • Ollivander’s
  • Owl Post Owelry
  • Wiseacres Wizarding Equipment
  • Zonko’s Joke Shop

Universal Wonderland (for families with children)

The last themed area at Universal Studios Japan is set aside for younger guests and their families. Sandwiched between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Hollywood, the nine attractions here are quite a bit tamer than those in other areas. Sesame Street World, Snoopy Studios and Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue themed areas give Wonderland the feel of a theme park within a theme park. Shopping, shows, and a pair of fast food venues round out the Wonderland experience.

Three Themed Areas of Attractions:

Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue features Hello Kitty’s Cupcake Dream (spinning cupcake shaped cars set to music) and Hello Kitty’s Ribbon Collection, a shop where she features some of her newly created fashions.

At Snoopy Studios, Snoopy’s Great Race offers a scaled down roller coaster experience. The Flying Snoopy lets little ones decide how high or low the brilliant beagle flies as they ride on his back. An indoor playground, Snoopy Sound Stage Adventure, provides Peanuts-powered play possibilities.

The largest layout in Wonderland belongs Sesame Street Fun World. Here fifteen different amusements are ready to entertain children:

  • Abby’s Magical Tree is a hollow stump for kids to climb through.
  • Abby’s Magical Party places oversized stars and balls about for tots to toss around.
  • Bert and Ernie’s Wonder – The Sea is a giant pool of blue and white spheres for children to slide and dive through.

  • Big Bird’s Big Top Circus offers the opportunity to ride upon circus animals within a brightly lit carousel.
  • Big Bird’s Nest, a network of web-like structures, lets kids climb to their heart’s content.
  • Cookie Monster Slide tempts toddlers with giant cookies at the end of the drop.

  • Elmo’s Bubble Bubble brings riders through a stream of bubbles while riding upon Elmo’s goldfish, Dorothy.
  • Elmo’s Go-Go Skateboard places preschoolers (and other children) on a skateboard shaped roller coaster filled with dips and slides.
  • Elmo’s Little Drive features slow moving cars on a short track, perfect for aspiring drivers.

  • Ernie’s Rubber Duck Race allows kids to race replicas of the famous rubber duck down a river.
  • Grover’s Construction Company contains giant building blocks for brilliant imaginations to stack and create whatever they prefer.

  • Moppy’s Lucky Dance Party has a DJ delivering dance tunes.
  • Sesame’s Big Drive allows elementary age children to navigate the streets of Central Park, NY while driving character shaped cars.
  • Water Garden gushes jets of water at timed intervals, perfect for cooling off.

Entertaining Experiences:

Bert & Ernie’s Prop Shop Game Palace provides prize-winning possibilities with carnival-like games.

Wonderland Happy Greeting lets young fans and their families dance in the street various Universal Wonderland characters.

Delicious Dining:

Snoopy’s Backlot Café’ caters to Peanuts fans by serving fast food like burgers and fries.

Hello Kitty’s Corner Café’ serves delightful dishes (including apple fries) inspired by the Sanrio character.

Souvenir Shops:

Character driven shops give guests the opportunity to take home souvenirs from their favorite franchise.  These include:

  • Hello Kitty Ribbon Boutique
  • Hello Kitty’s Photo Shop
  • Sesame Street Kids Store
  • Snoopy Studios Store

Sleepover Sites

Universal Studios Japan partners with seven nearby hotels. These include Singulari Hotel and Skyspa, Park Front Hotel, Hotel Kintetsu, Hotel Keihan, Hotel Keihan Universal Tower, Hotel Universal Port, and Hotel Universal Port Vita. See the resort’s website for details and exact locations, rates and reservations.

Future Fun

It was recently announced that a brand-new area will be added to the park in 2020. Super Nintendo World will add a Mario Kart ride as well as other attractions, shops, and restaurants.

Seasonal Sensations

Special seasonal entertainment experiences make their way to the park for Halloween and Christmas. Japan hosts their own version of Halloween Horror Nights as well a quartet of winter holiday happenings (Winter in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Wonder Christmas, The Gift of Angels III The Voice of an Angel and A Bello Yellow Christmas, a parade featuring the merry mischievous Minions!). Horror Nights generally appears in September and runs through Halloween while winter entertainment commences in early November through January (except for Harry Potter holiday fun, which continues through the end of February).

Noteworthy News:

  • Be sure to check weather conditions prior to enjoying Universal Studios Japan as many adventures occur outdoors and can be temporarily shut down due to bad weather (winds, heavy rain, snow, extreme low temperatures, etc.)
  • Child swap options are available for parents to wait with those who do not meet ride height requirements.
  • Coin Lockers are available in three different sizes. These can be found at two locations within the park and two locations just outside of the park (consult park map for exact spots).
  • Just about all dining locations offer alcoholic and dry beverages.
  • Park map is available for download to help plan each visit.
  • Park Rules, including photo and video restrictions, prohibited items and costume guidelines are posted on the park’s website.
  • Single Rider options exist at some attractions. Generally, the wait in these special queues can be shorter, but can also result in parties being split up.
  • Some shows and attractions regularly close down for maintenance. A list of dates and rides/shows can be found on the resort’s website.
  • Tax Refunds are available for foreign guests. Refunds are issued at Studio Gifts West for guests visiting Japan less than six months. Passport is required and limits exist to the amount of refund based upon type of item(s) purchased.
  • Universal Express Pass offers an opportunity for shorter wait times at most attractions. This feature must be purchased in addition to park admission.

Universal Studios Japan is located in Konohana-ku, Osaka, Japan. The 108-acre theme park operates year-round.

Source and images: Universal Studios Japan website, Wikipedia, ITM archives

in Entertainment, Movies, Theme Parks

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