Japan, May 2014: Day Nine

Well, we do like a good theme park and as we made the effort to travel to Osaka, it wouldn’t have been right to leave without sampling Universal Studios Japan (USJ).

Emma has been to the Universal in Florida and so this had potential to be a big disappointment. In true Matt & Emma fashion, no research had gone into USJ. We’d attempted to buy tickets in Lawsons (a local combini), but our lack of understanding Japanese text meant that we left empty handed.

Googling how to get there this morning, we left all unnecessary equipment at the hotel and ventured into unknown territory. A couple of trains later, we were outside the park, tickets in hand and ready for a day of fun.

Unlike the USA park, USJ has only one main roller coaster. However, you can choose to ride it facing forwards or backwards – so maybe that counts as two? It was the first ride we headed for and joined the back of the queue. The Hollywood Dream is an exposed carriage, sit down coaster, meaning although you are seated, you’re legs dangle in the breeze. Your seat also has it’s own speaker system and just before leaving the station you are able to select which pop song you want to listen to as you go around. Although the speakers are loud, your concentration is elsewhere, so I can’t recall what song was playing.

It was a medium/fun coaster; fast and a lot of elevation changes – but as it’s the only outdoor coaster in the park, I guess they couldn’t make it too extreme.

As you’d expect from a movie making business, all the rides had some kind of tie-in to a Universal production. Most of the rides were either theatre based (3D or 4D experiences) or compact rides resembling a studio tour. There was a big emphasis on special effects; however, some were a little too ‘special’ and very dated. Unfortunately the Back to the Future ride was one of the ‘special’ ones; looking like it was straight from 1985.

The rides that have been copied from the Florida park have been updated and reimagined in many respects. The Terminator 3D experience was greatly improved apparently. There is also something considerably more sinister and terrifying about a Japanese speaking Terminator – so this added to the overall experience, despite only understanding every third word!

Emma needed to be kept on a tight leash as every time a mascot would appear in the street, she was off. Despite only displaying one emotion on his foam head, Elmo appeared to be terrified by Emma sneaking up on the little fellow. They made up in the end though. I’m not sure what the locals made of us… We may be old, but we’re certainly not grown up.

The park was immaculately clean, the people and the staff were friendly and everyone seemed to be having a good time – in contrast to the parks we’ve visited before, this has to be our fave – if it had a few more roller coasters, it would win by a mile.

The Harry Potter world opens in June, so the park will get another coaster and a few more rides. The Hogwarts castle looked amazing from a distance – it was huge and no photos taken on a phone can do it justice.

After watching most of the evening parade, we arrived back at the hotel and look forward to a day of rest tomorrow.