September 14, 2017
Universal Studios Japan is another busy park where you must arrive before opening to get an Express Pass, otherwise it sells out and the lines can be outrageous. Since you can’t get the Pass online on any English website based in the US, it has to be purchased onsite. So after going to sleep early, we got up early and headed to Osaka once we checked out of Hotel Anteroom (I had accidentally booked one less night than we needed, but we decided just to Hotwire a room in Osaka). Osaka is a very convenient hour or so train ride from Kyoto.
We arrived a good hour before park opening. I’m actually fairly proud of the fact we were able to do this for all of the parks we needed to. After purchasing our tickets and choosing our express passes, we got in the massive line to go in. Thankfully the older lady selling us tickets was very accommodating with our lack of Japanese and helped us pick the correct Express Passes. Then just before 8:30, Woody Woodpecker and his girlfriend came out to greet everyone. Once the gates opened, everyone rushed into the park. Universal is another Japanese park with a covered ‘main street’. My first impression of the park and CityWalk were that they were definitely modeled after both of the US Universal parks, and that’s great.
At this park, you choose which type of Express Passes you want. You get 4 A level rides at timed slots, then get B level rides (You choose between 2 rides for the 3 slots) you can use at any time. This is a busy park with long lines, so we wanted to maximize our Express Passes and play it smart. Hollywood Dream, the park’s mini B&M Hyper, is running one of its 4 trains backwards and calling it Backdrop. We decided to hit it up first thing since it’s only one of the trains, and they were running 3 forward. The wait was between 20-30 minutes, not bad considering you were waiting for only one of the four trains.
Hollywood Dream: Backdrop–This was a lot of fun! You enter a tunnel very much like Hulk’s (But without the effects) on the lift hill. The first drop backwards was really good. Then you hit a hill that goes over the park’s entrance, the overbanked turn around, a bunny hop over the entrance that mirrors the angle of the roof, then there are some small hills, a mid course, some twists, turns, lights, a helix, and then it ends. There was decent airtime on all of the hills as you drop, then go over the entrance, then back over the front gate, then hop and turn up, over and thru buildings around the front of the park. The helix is at one end to turn around, then you have some twists and turns, and then you’re done. The ride has a beautiful red train (Like a red background curtain on a stage), and the trains all have great light packages. I really enjoyed it! The track could use a paint job, though.
Universal Studios Japan kind of took some of the best parts and concepts of the 2 Florida parks as well as the original in Hollywood and put them in one park, only without any version of The Mummy. We walked around and saw the entrance to the Harry Potter area which is tucked back in a corner and not visible from the rest of the park for the most part. We walked by JAWS (Yay JAWS!) by the Amity village area, then into Jurassic Park. Not many had really made it back here (I think a lot of people detour to Harry Potter, and those that do make it back here early go to the new coaster), so there was no wait for Jurassic Park The Ride so we decided to go ahead and ride it. There were parts that were slightly different, and it’s a mirror of the Orlando version. The ending T Rex was better done than any of the others I felt. It was a lot of fun, and no wait. Probably my favorite of the Jurassic Park rides I’ve done.
We had lunch, and then eventually dinner as well, at Mel’s Diner. Burgers both times, and they were good. After lunch we walked all around to check the rest of the park out. So many things look and feel familiar, or are just a little bit off compared to the other 2 Universal Studios parks I’ve visited. On the other side of the park is another credit, a space themed spinning indoor coaster that is said to be quite good, so we got in line for that which was about 30 minutes.
Space Fantasy The Ride–First off the queue is very well themed. As best I can tell, you’re supposed to be a new singing act, or you’re joining a couple of animated characters in singing. Or something. Regardless, there are two CGI hosts and there’s music. The coaster is indoors, highly themed, and the J Pop soundtrack is actually really good. This was one of the best surprises of the trip! The spinning action was really fantastic. Each room was themed. There were a few surprises. The music was great. There were laterals and some decent drops. I wish they’d bring a version of this to the US! It’s hard to do a proper breakdown of the coaster because its all in the dark. There were plants that you flew around, LED tunnels on the lifts, and a big ‘BOOM!’ in one room that then lights up as you turn and spin in your car. I loved it.
After that we headed over to a ride I never tried in either USH or USF but, like JAWS, is still an option at USJ…Terminator 2: 3D. The preshow was far too long. The hostess must have been pretty good because everyone in the room was laughing. If you’ve never ridden, you start in a room where a ‘rep’ for Cyberdyne does a presentation, plays to the crowd, then shows a video that gets ‘hacked’ by Sarah and John Connor. Of course, here it’s all in Japanese, so although I got the gist of the video segment, I had no idea what the hostess was doing, other than asking people where they were from and making jokes. Everyone laughs, so I hate I missed out.
Then you head into the theater for a demo of the new T1whatever robots and of course, chaos ensues as Skynet Skynets, and Terminator Terminates, saves John Connor, and takes him into the future. All in 3D! The show is actually really good, and I like how they use the seats for jump scares.
It’s September at Universal Studios, and that can only mean one thing, Horror Nights. I’d never been to any HHN and the Japanese version is quite different. Mazes start opening at noon, and roll out during the day. Then at 6pm (Sunset for this time of year in Japan) they release the Scaractors, open the street zones, change the music, etc. So, since we were near the first open maze around noonish, we went in. It was Chucky themed, and while the production value was really great, it was just ok. I wondered if this was what their mazes would be like, but since I wasn’t really there for HHN, it didn’t matter.
Our first two Express Passes were over in Potterville, so we walked across the park there next. In this park’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you feel like you’re in some themed HP section not near anything else. It was crowded, but you’re really not near the rest of the park. The theming is as fantastic as I imagine it is in the other parks, and of course people eat it up. To get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you walk thru an entrance area with some rock formation that I’m sure is recognizable from the movies, but I had no clue what they were. Then the walkway to the gate of the town where Hogwarts is is all thru a heavily pine tree lined midway, complete with themed crashed car that I’m assuming is also part of the story. Then you’re at the gate, and the ‘towne’ spreads out before you
We walked thru town and rested for a bit before we headed to the Forbidden Journey to use our express passes. After taking some photos and wandering around a bit, it was time to ride.
Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey–I’ve done the Kouka arm at Epcot, but this was different. Oh, first, the queue was quite impressive, even if I’m completely unfamiliar with the source material. It was well done, especially the talking pictures. We boarded our vehicle with our glasses on and off we were. I must say, it was very well done. The 3D was cool, the movements of the arm were really great. Then, quite near the end of our journey the ride stopped at a screen, with our vehicle slightly tilted. The entire ride and all announcements are in Japanese, and I wasn’t sure what the announcement they made was, but was hoping it was some variation of “Your ride will restart shortly”. And we did. Good, because we were at a slightly tilted angle, and the restraints weren’t comfortable. The rest of the ride was cool, even though the room we were in didn’t finish, but both of us got off feeling queasy. I think it was from the stop, as it abruptly pulled us out of the 3D world and movement was then less than natural.
We were offered passes to ride again, but declined, especially since I feel we got the experience and were both quite queasy, so we had a butter beer and hung out till our next Express Pass, which was for the Flight of the Hippogriff coaster. It’s just another roller skater with better theming, so there’s that. Credit. We hung out in the area for a little longer, sat and rested up, took a bathroom break, and more pictures.
After leaving Potterville, we headed to the other nostalgic attraction at the park, JAWS! It’s a clone of the USF version (R.I.P.), and even though it was in Japanese, I knew what was going on, and was able to explain the little I needed to to Isaac. Ah, memories. And shark killing.
We headed back over to the New York section to see what the line for Spiderman was like when we stumbled upon the (short) lines where they were giving timed tickets for two more haunts later that evening, which are timed ticket only so we picked them up for later. One thing USJ does for HHN is turn Backdraft (another oldie from USH), and T2:3D into themed shows/mazes after a certain hour. Backdraft was already turned into Deadman’s Forest, and since there wasn’t much of a line, we decided to check it out.
Deadman’s Forest–You enter the preshow for Backdraft, but instead, there’s some preshow with military personnel where they show a video about infection, some type of military exercise gone wrong, gives you a number that you’re apparently supposed to memorize, and then send you into the main showroom for Backdraft. Again, it’s in Japanese, so I was picking up some stuff here and there. The main show building had some kind of ‘creature’ attacking the military folks It was kinda sucky, and I didn’t know what they were saying, it was too dark, and not much went on, so when it lets out, I was like ‘meh’. They didn’t even use the dropping scaffolding that Backdraft does for effect. Wasted time. Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize was that once you get out of the show building, the rest of the attraction is an actual maze, and this one is actually kind of ‘maze like’, with different options on which way to go. Granted, it wasn’t as scary being outdoors and in the daylight with zombies, but it was a good set up, and I’d bet at night it was more fun. Eventually, though, you end up at this long gate of different rooms you have to hurry into and you have to remember the 6 digit code to punch in to be ‘decontaminated’. Thankfully the group of kids with us entered it, we were sprayed with life saving mist, and survived. Thank God for those kids!
Since we had a choice on our ‘anytime’ Express Passes and had done JAWS, T2:3D, and Jurassic Park without waiting, we decided to use our first second option on Spider-Man. I’m assuming this one got the 4K upgrade, because the video was much clearer than last time I was at IoA.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (In Japanese)-I’ve always loved this attraction, and was excited to do it again. Like in Florida, there is still a bit of theming in the Express Pass queue for the Daily Bugle. Otherwise the ride is exactly the same… Just in Japanese this time. Not much else to say, I like it, and had fun.
It was finally time to use our Flying Dinosaur Express Pass. This is the park’s newest attraction, a B&M flyer, and lines are often well over 2 hours, as was the case today. We sauntered up in front of all of that because…Ballers (of course), and we were quickly on the ride.
Flying Dinosaur–I would rank this as my second favorite flying coaster. The first drop is fairly straight and really good, then you do an amazing airtime filled flip. Next, you fly up, twist, dive down and then head straight into the pretzel loop, before coming back up, diving back down, twisting, turning, flying all around Jurassic Park, and then hitting the brakes. It is very well done, integrates with the section of the park nicely, looks impressive within the park, and B&M flyers thus far have been better than the Vekoma or Zamperal versions. I give it an A.
Next we did our timed passes for the 2 mazes we had tickets for. You go into a ‘studio’ building, then the queue ends in a ‘neighborhood’ where there are 2 houses, the Exorcist house and the Elm Street house. The Exorcist maze was interesting. For both mazes, you wait in the queue side by side, and one house is the Exorcist maze, then next the Nightmare on Elm Street maze. You’re given a tied/segmented bed sheet and sent in with about 5 other people, all holding the sheet. Of course, everyone wanted the 6’2” big Gaijin (Japanese for Foreigner) to go first, and the problem with this was unlike American parks, they wait and scare the middle of the group, so I missed out on quite a few scares. The theming and production was very good though. All of the famous scenes were represented, and the ending got everyone but me.
Then you do the Nightmare maze. Also very good, with iconic scenes from the movies. This time I was put in the back holding the bed sheet, so at least I got to see everything, and again, it was very well done. There was one maze we didn’t get to do. Apparently it was an upcharge ‘extreme’ maze. I hate I missed it.
Now that it was time for our final timed Express Pass headed back to the new Minions area and did the Despicable Me ride and hung out for a while. This is how they re-themed their Back to the Future ride, and it was well done, but I’m so over 3D moving simulators. We hung out in the Minions neighborhood and rested for a bit. The entire area is interactive, including the doorbells on the houses.
After trying to find something suitable to eat, we went back to Mel’s for dinner since our first option fell thru, and at this point the park was starting the rest of their Horror Nights stuff which included a show on the Main Street, zombies, and random loud BOOMs (a great Idea I’d always thought would be cool) going off. Oh, and dancing zombies. Because at different intervals, each zombie ‘troupe’ will start dancing to the music in a choreographed show. All over the park.
I wanted to do Terminator again because after 6, Sadako from Ringu (The original version of The Ring, where she’s named Samara) takes over T2:3D. Unfortunately, the line was very long, and because of the long preshow from earlier (that I’d hoped they wouldn’t repeat) we opted out and did another spin on Space Fantasy instead using the single rider line. Just as good the second time, and so worth it. There was another haunt over by the Chucky haunt that we attempted to do after that, but it was also time ticketed only, and we hadn’t seen where to get tickets for it earlier. We walked down a pathway and ended up behind the park, near the back of the Jurassic Park building. There were still random zombie troupes here, often performing for just 2-5 people. I assume this pathway is opened because the park does get packed, but it was not needed this night. We emptied back around at Terminator, and this time the line had shortened tremendously, so we went in.
Unfortunately the same long preshow started. In anticipation of this, we had walked over to the doors that open into the theater so I could sit on the floor amongst the crowd. Same hostess, same banter. The first time it went on WAY too long as you stand there, and my feet hurt. But this time I was better because I was sitting. Then the video for Cyberdine plays…but when it cuts to static for John and Sarah Connor to ‘hack’, the static stayed a little too long. Then the TV and all of the lights went black. Everyone was slightly startled by the change, and then, up on the stage where the hostess was supposed to be, a spotlight very quickly pulses on and off, as you see Sadako standing there, before the lights come on and the hostess hurriedly gets everyone into the theater.
We sat about 3 rows from the front. Everything starts back up again much like T2 does, and as the ‘presentation’ was getting underway, a young Japanese girl sitting near us gets up because her phone was ringing, to which the host goes back into her Schtick of making fun of people. I was surprised as being on your phone or it is ringing in public like this is very uncommon in Japan and I rolled my eyes at the girl getting up to answer her phone over to the side…Then the show really started. The girl screamed and died. Just like in Ringu. She was a plant. And she was very good. Then it happened a couple more times as the phones started ringing (Of course, that’s the whole plot of the movie). Then the hostess gets a call and also screams and dies. Then the lights go off and Sadako takes her revenge. This was amazing. The video from Ringu plays on the big screen. There are several actors in the theater dressed as Sadako all over, and so it looks like she’s moving all around just like in the video. She comes out of the well. There’s the T2 smoke effect. The hundreds of people in the audience were terrified, and I admit, it was the best use of something like this to scare a crowd I’d ever seen. I was so glad we did it. Very well done. And they could easily do this at the parks in the US…If they still had T2:3D.
We were tired and needed a hotel, which we’d tried to Hotwire at dinner, to no avail. We used our last non timed Express Pass for Hollywood Dream, this time facing forward. Fun little B&M, but unless you’re going backwards, it’s a standard B&M speed coaster. But that light package. We headed out of the park and over to the storage lockers we’d put our luggage in at the station by CityWalk Eventually we had made reservations at a hotel within walking distance, Le’Gent, so we walked the mile or so from the park.
As the crow flies, it was across the street from Jurassic Park, but we had to walk around to get to it. There was a ‘misunderstanding’ that, even though I booked a double room for 2 adults, that there was only supposed to be one person in the room, and they were then going to charge us double, making it over $200 for one night. I wasn’t going to take the room and take my chances, but the manager decided to ‘give us a break’ and only charge a fee. I was angry, but tired. The rooms, while large and aesthetically well done, weren’t great in the comfort department. Thankfully, we were only there for one night.