Posted by Heliocentrism on April 17, 2015
Monday, January 5, 2015
We planned ahead.
We were ready for this. We knew that Universal Studios Japan was super crowded and overpriced. But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened the summer before and I had to see it. We bought our tickets weeks in advance.
We knew that getting into the park did not guarantee that we would get into the Harry Potter section. Only paying for expensive fast pass tickets, or buying a package tour with flight or hotel stay included could guarantee that.
We had to get there early, be one of the first people in the park, then run to a timed entry ticketing machine before we knew whether or not we would be playing quidditch this day.
The park opens at 9:00. We got there at 7:30 only to be met by a crowd of people in line in front of us.
There was a line on the far left. They had a red carpet and uniformed staff personnel checking their tickets. That line was for early entry. Everyone looked at them with envy.
At 8:00 the early entry people were let in. “Those lucky bastards get a whole hour of the park to themselves,” I thought. The crazy thing was that many of the early entry people showed up at 8:15 or 8:20. Everyone else, who could only go in at 9:00, got here around 7:30!
At 8:30, half an hour before the park officially opened, they let everyone in. There was a mad dash to the Harry Potter Timed Entry ticket machines. Everyone, but parents of small kids and the utterly clueless, was running as hard as they could to be first in line to the ticket machines.
As we got closer to the machine we saw people heading to the Harry Potter section. One member of the USJ staff was waving people in. “It’s open now! Anyone can go in, even without a ticket.”
Many people stopped to ask the staff person if it was true. Mark and I didn’t bother. If it was true, great! If it was a matter of us not understanding Japanese enough, someone would stop us eventually. But asking questions was wasting time; time we could waste standing in line for a ride!
We ran into the Wizarding World. All the shops were empty. The shop keepers were standing outside calling for people to come in. I wanted to go. When would the shops be this empty again?
Mark tugged at my arm. “No! We have to choose wisely. Let’s get on a ride now.”
He dragged me to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. “This line will get very long later, so we must get in line now,” he told me. “But the line looks long now,” I protested. “And, how are you even sure we are in the right line?”
I looked at the crowd of people around us. There seemed to be several lines each going in different and random directions. I told Mark to hold my place while I followed the line to see where it ended.
I walked along the path. The “line” that Mark was in stopped at some guy eating popcorn with his friends. Another line ended at a restroom. I found the line for the ride and called Mark over. There was a break in the line where some lady had her back to the line and did not notice that everyone else had moved up. We jumped in the open spot.
From there it took about 15 minutes to get on the ride. It would have taken 10, but we wasted a lot of time putting my bag in a locker and then getting back into the line. The ride was great.
After the ride we ran back to the line to go again. We found another open spot where someone in the line wasn’t paying attention letting a gap form. This time it took 25 minutes to get to the ride. I would have gone one more time, but after the second ride the line had gotten a lot longer and there were no gaps to sneak into.
We then checked out the shops. They were still easy to get into; you could just walk in. Later, we would have to stand in line to enter the shops.
If you want to go into the shops to look around, do it at the Harry Potter section. If you want to buy something, especially if you’re like me and need to read everything and take your time to choose the best one, do it at any of the shops near the entrance. Those shops are less crowded and they stay open until the park closes. They have all the stuff that all the other shops throughout the park have.
There were a few carts where butterbeer was sold. All the carts had really long lines. I wanted butterbeer, but these lines were too long.
Mark: “I read online that you should never buy butterbeer from the carts. They have really long lines. Instead, go to any of the restaurants in the Harry Potter section.”
At that time, there were very few people in the restaurants. We did have a big breakfast and weren’t really hungry. But we knew that we were not going to be eating at lunch time like everyone else. So early lunch it was!
The food was overpriced, but good. We had a whole table to ourselves. I enjoyed it, because things would only get more crowded.
We order one large hot butterbeer to be shared between the both of us. The first sip, was great. The second sip, was less great. By the 4th sip, the stuff was disgusting. It’s very sweet and buttery. We should have gotten a small cup. We forced ourselves to finish the whole thing; it was torture.
We walked through all the shops and took more photos. Then we decided to see the rest of the park. We thought about going on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride one more time before leaving, but opted not too.
I didn’t have any plans for the rest of the park. All the stuff I wanted to do, we did before 11:00 that morning. I let Mark pick everything we did for the rest of the day.
We rode on several rides. first we chose them based on how awesome they were when compared to the wait time for their lines. Then we discovered the “single” lines. That cut our line waiting time down to 15 or 20 minutes per ride.
Normally people go on rides in groups. Very few people show up at Universal Studios alone. If you come here with say, 2 friends, you will want to go on rides with your 2 friends.
But the park gets crowded. If you have a group of three, and a car on a ride that seats four, that ride will go with less than max capacity. USJ is very crowded even on its least crowded days, so they can’t have that.
But, there is a line, where people who don’t care if they sit next to their friends, can go. When there is an empty seat, a “single” person will take it. The rides always run at max capacity and overall there is less wait for everyone.
Mark and I started going to the “single” lines. Sometime, we still sat next to each other. Sometimes, we were on the same ride on different cars. Other times, we rode on different coasters. But it took way less time. We were able to get on every thing we wanted to ride that way.
After noon we wanted to see if we could get a ticket to go into the Harry Potter area. We spent so much time worrying about the ticket machines we just had to go look at them. Once there we saw that there wasn’t much of a line to get a ticket. So, we got a ticket.
And what do you know? There were plenty of tickets left for most of the time slots throughout the afternoon. We chose the last time slot. We felt a little guilty for going back after spending almost the whole morning there. But, not too guilty to not go back…
We continued to ride rides and eat. We specifically did not want to waste time or money on food in the park. We were going to eat only what we needed to stay alive. Time was really not to be wasted on silly things like food.
But, we got to ride so many rides using the “single” lines that time was not a factor anymore. And we’re just not used to being around so much American food. We got home sick. I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a hot dog from a sidewalk vendor? …or a churro, or a cinnamon bun?
We went back to the Forbidden Journey one more time. This ride did not have a “single” line and it took us 45 minutes to get to the ride. This is where we noticed that there were things to look at while we waited in line.
“How did we miss this? We’ve been on this ride twice before?”
“We weren’t really standing in line much then, were we?”
When the ride was over, it was too late to stand in line for another turn. But, we could do the Hogwarts’ tour. Basically, we got to walk along the line going up to the ride. But, this time we could stop and look at all the stuff decorating Hogwarts. We could take photos without the people in line being in the way. That was nice.
We stayed until the parade then left with everyone else at closing time. We spent the whole day at USJ!
Later we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant near our hostel. We were still hungry!
The next day we drove back home while eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
Bonsai Guest House
- Coordinates 34°39’30.9″N 135°31’41.5″E
1-4-13 Momodani, Ikuno-ku, Osaka, 5440034
- from 2,700 JYN
- reception is open~ 8:30 – 22:00
- Check in ~ 16:00 – 21:00
- Check out ~ by 11:00
- It’s a one minute walk from Momodani Station.
- It’s a one minute walk from a shopping area with lots of restaurants.
- It’s about a two minute walk from a grocery store.
- There is paid parking right across the street, but it might be full.
- There is another, cheaper place to park near a little park called Momodani Park.
- Parking Lot: 34°39’40.4″N 135°31’44.7″E
- (I don’t remember exactly, but I think it cost 700 JYN / day to park here.)
Universal Studios Japan
- Coordinates 34°39’55.7″N 135°25’56.1″E
〒554-0031 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Konohana Ward, Sakurajima, 2−1−３３
- 6,463 yen adult one day ticket
- Do not exit the park until you’re ready to go home! Re-entry on the same ticket is not allowed for anyone other than season pass holders.
- 10:00 to 17:00 low season
- 9:00 to 21:00 peak season
- Sometimes they open the park earlier than scheduled.
- You can also get an early entry ticket, which allows you to get into the park at 8:30. But I don’t know how to get one other than going through the JTB travel agency.
- Getting into the park doesn’t guarantee you entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- My advice:
- Try not to go on a really crowded day.
- Okay, so everyday is a crowded day, but there are some really crowded days.
- Try not to go on a holiday or weekend.
- Try not to go in the middle of summer.
- Try to go on any Monday through Friday that is not a holiday when most kids should be in school.
- Buy your ticket in advance at a Lawson convenience store.
- Instructions in English
- Any Lawson in Japan will do.
- Don’t wait until the day of your visit and buy your ticket at the Lawson right outside USJ, that’s what everyone else is doing.
- Get a Free Timed Entry Ticket to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- To get this, go early and be one of the first to enter the park.
- Head to the Rose garden. (#65 on this map)
- You don’t really need to know where it is, everyone in the park will be running to it. Just follow the crazy mob.
- If you go on a not-so-overly crowded day, the Harry Potter sections will be open to any and everyone for the first couple hours after the park opens. Run there and do not leave until you are done. To re-enter you will need a timed entry ticket.
- Bring your own lunch.
- I know you’re not supposed to bring in food, but everyone does it (especially parents with small kids). In fact there are many areas in the park that are great for picnicking.
- No one checks your bags or pockets.
- Pack light; lockers are expensive.
- If you need to buy lunch, or a snack, do so before or long after lunch time.
- Eat at the Chinese Restaurant (#48 on this map). The lines are much, much shorter there.
- Forget about American cuisine. The lines for those are ridiculously long.
- Eat a hog dog super early or really late. Those lines could last for a good 50 minutes.
- Don’t worry; they never run out of overpriced hot dogs.
- Drink at any of the many water fountains throughout the park. It’s free and there are no lines.
- Ideally, you should have a big breakfast. Buy some rice balls or sandwiches that you can fit in your pockets for lunch. Have a snack or meal around 15:00. Drink water anytime you pass a water fountain. Have dinner after the park is closed at any restaurant that is no where near the park. This would save you lots of money and time.
- Take the “singles” line whenever you can.
- The “singles” line are for people who don’t care if they sit next to their friends on a ride. “Single” people stand in a separate and much shorter line than everyone else. Whenever there is an empty seat on a ride, someone from the “single” line is put in that seat. A 2-hour wait in the regular line could take about 20 minutes in the single line.
- Don’t bring too much stuff.
- Lockers are expensive.
- Lockers waste a lot of time. Sometimes you have to form a line to put your stuff in a locker before you can form a line to wait hours to get on a ride.
- If you can fit everything you need in your pockets, that would be great.
- Try not to go on a really crowded day.