Photo: kawabata on Flickr

Revisiting Universal Studios Japan: What’s New in 2016

Well, it finally had to happen. It’s been more than 30 years now since the original movie came out, but nonetheless, I am very saddened to see the demise of the world famous “Back to the Future” ride at Universal Studios Japan.

It was announced in February that the ride would cease operation in May of this year, as indeed, it now duly has.

Unfortunately my bid of 500 yen plus some amazon vouchers wasn’t enough to win the bidding for the legendary DeLorean car replica that adorned the ride’s entrance. It eventually sold on Japan’s Yahoo Auctions website for a figure several magnitudes higher.

However, whilst I am sad to see one of my favourite rides disappear, there’s still plenty to be enthusiastic about for USJ in the days ahead. In the two years since I last visited, wholesale changes have seen the park show a renewed vigour and vitality as it seeks to bring in a new generation of fans.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Photo: Laura Tomàs Avellana on Flickr

The Harry Potter’s Wizarding World extension has proved a huge hit since it came into being 2 years ago, and a recent 3D upgrade to the main attraction seems to have fans of the boy wizard flocking to the park like never before. Fans of Potter can now enjoy Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Full 4K 3D, giving a level of detail and immersion like nothing you have ever seen before!

Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express. Photo: Laura Tomàs Avellana on Flickr

Of course the old favourites such as Terminator 2 Judgement Day, complete with its maniacal Cyberdyne Systems employees, and Jurassic Park, with its ever-angry Tyrannosaurus Rex, continue to draw the crowds in their thousands daily.

Terminator 2 3D ride sign
Terminator 2 Judgement Day 3D. Photo: FedEx on Flickr
Photo: Gerry Gelens on Flickr

Undoubtedly the firm favourite of myself and indeed the majority of people who visit USJ each year remains the much-loved Spider-Man 3D experience. The character himself may have gone through more reboots than a defective laptop in recent times, but this particular ride, drawing heavily on the 1990’s Saturday morning cartoon series for much of its inspiration, remains one of the most exciting theme park experiences I have ever had.

So what is new for 2016?

Well, perhaps my second-favourite ride at USJ, Jurassic Park, is about to be given a dramatic update. 2016 marks 15 years since Universal Studios Japan first opened its doors and as part of the celebrations it was decided to give a little bit of an extra tweak to one of the park’s most loved rides.

Jurassic Park
Photo: adrian8_8 on Flickr

Enter the Flying Dinosaur!

One of the more iconic scenes in last year’s blockbuster hit movie, Jurassic World was the escape from the aviary of the massive Pteranodons. These huge, winged dinosaurs then proceeded to swoop down on the unfortunate visitors to the park, in what was a terrifying, yet utterly thrilling set-piece.

Well, from this summer at USJ, you too can be swept up into the claws of a Pteranodon and taken for a ride you will never forget.

This new “Flying rollercoaster” involves a series of sharp rises and drops combining to give a greater height differential than any other roller coaster of this type in the world.

Until such time as they can actually invent a device that allows me to fly like Superman, I guess this will have to do!

It should be added, that the original, much loved Jurassic Park the Ride is unaffected by this new addition, and will continue to run as normal.

Of course there is more to USJ than just rides, and whether you are enjoying a tasty Butter Beer in the shadow of Harry Potter’s alma mater of Hogwarts or chomping down on a T-Rex sized loco moco in the Jurassic Park restaurant, there’s a wide range of foods and other goodies on offer at the many restaurants within the park.

Photo by Ruth Hartnup on Flickr.

Once your day at the park itself is complete, you may want to round off the day with dinner at one of the may fantastic American themed restaurants which line the full length of the street between the park itself and the nearby JR train station.

If you are bringing younger kids with you, then the likes of Jaws, Terminator or Jurassic Park may be a little too scary for them. But don’t worry, because USJ remains a place for all the family, with shows featuring the likes of Elmo and the cast of Sesame Street. You can also enjoy the cinematic experience of Shrek 4D. On that note, why exactly does Shrek have a Scottish accent?

Elmo and the cast of Sesame Street
Elmo and the cast of Sesame Street. Photo: Jeff on Flickr

Anyway I digress.

Another recent addition to the burgeoning USJ cast of characters has been those loveable, intelligible little bundles of yellow, The Minions.

As well as seeing Minions wandering around the park throughout the day, we can also enjoy seeing the Minions in their parade, several times a day, as well as the grand parade featuring all the park’s characters, with a few extra special surprises planned to commemorate this, the park’s 15th anniversary.

Minion Mayhem - Minion Parade at Universal Studio (Representative Picture)
Minion Mayhem - Minion Parade at Universal Studio (Representative Picture). Photo: Ricky Brigante on Flickr

Getting to Universal Studios Japan

Getting to Universal Studios Japan is also very convenient.

If you are coming from Kansai Airport, take the JR Rapid service headed towards Osaka and get off at Nishi-Kujo Station. From Nishi-Kujo take the local train headed towards Sakurajima. Get off at Universal City Station.

If you are coming by Shinkansen, then you’ll want to get off at Shin-Osaka Station. From there, take the JR line to Osaka Station and change to the Osaka Loop Line. Again get off at Nishi Kujo and change to the local line bound for Sakurajima, before getting off at Universal City.

A one day pass for the park costs 7400 yen for adults and 4,980 yen for kids.

Express passes enabling you to skip some of the waiting time are also available at around 7000 yen per person. Get there early however, these passes can only be bought on the day and they tend to sell out quickly.

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