2016 marks the 10th anniversary of my relocation back home to Hong Kong. Since my return, I can’t remember the number of times I’ve been to Osaka, Japan. Whenever I tell my friends I’m going away on vacation, they don’t need to ask where, because they all know it’s to Osaka – or if I tell them, their reaction is “AGAIN??!!” Yes, I must admit, I do go there pretty often and am still enjoying it. It’s become a second home to me and I enjoy the familiarity – going to my usual shabu shabu, sushi and ramen joints, for one. Going to the same shops and being welcomed back to the same hotel. However, this past Christmas, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and go somewhere I haven’t been before – and I chose Universal Studios Osaka! This time, my sister was with me, so we thought it would be good bonding time to experience it together for the first time.
Universal Studios Osaka is just a short 30 minute train ride from where we stayed in Namba. I was told to get tickets beforehand as the lines at ticket counters at the park can be quite long. Lawson, Japan’s equivalent of 7-11 offers advance ticket sales. I was directed to a red machine, called Loppi to buy the tickets. This machine services many purposes, from buying everyday items to books, to amusement park tickets. Although Loppi had a number of language options, including English, it only provided instructions in language, in my case, English, but the actual purchasing of tickets was in Japanese, so it took me a while to figure it out. A receipt was printed upon my confirmation, which I then needed to go to the counter and pay, after which I received the admission tickets. During the process, it was a bit overwhelming and I didn’t realise until we reached the park entrance that we bought the wrong date! The Japanese calendar starts their week on Monday, instead of Sunday, which we were used to seeing. We ended up buying tickets for Tuesday, instead of Monday. It took us another 45 minutes before we were able exchange our tickets (at 400yen fee each) to get inside the park. People told me about Fast Passes, but we weren’t able to buy any in the Loppi machine nor at the park. Maybe because they only issue very few per day? We were actually glad we didn’t buy any Fast Passes because for some of the rides we wanted to go on, the Pass didn’t give much advantage – the wait time was nearly the same.
After entering the park, we didn’t expect to see so many people lining up for food, rides, and everything in between. We thought going on a Monday would beat the weekend rush. We were so wrong! Because it was close to the New Year holiday (recognized as a major holiday in Japan), it looked like a lot of locals took time off work and school’s probably out. Nevertheless, it didn’t deter us from slowing down. Our first stop, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! We were directed to a machine were we need to prebook a time slot to enter – most of the popular attractions are the same. The park isn’t very big, and we didn’t want to focus all of our time on rides, the only other ride we prebooked was Jurassic Park.
We wanted to maximise our time, so we looked for attractions with shortest line, we came across Terminator 2 – 3D, but we still had to wait for over 30 minutes. Being in Japan, we expected everything would be in Japanese. In the attraction, there was role playing and video presentation, which had a very 90s feel – it brought me back to my first time watching the movie. Although we didn’t know what they were saying, we tried to keep up. Overall, this attraction was well executed as it blended video, and live performance. Moreover, the performance was actually more than a 3D experience, it was 4D, I felt water spraying on me and at one point, our seats moved!
By the time we were done, it was lunchtime. We came across a really cute Snoopy and Friends area and decided to dine at Snoopy’s Backlot Cafe. We ended up with a pasta set and burger set. The food was actually pretty decent.
After lunch, we walked around to find attractions/rides we wanted to go, but the lines were simply too long, so we ended up doing some retail therapy and lined up for more food to kill to before going to Harry Potter.
Japan is popular to have limited edition “Japan only” products, it is the same at the park. Moppy is the park’s “Japan only” character. Moppy is Elmo’s best friend in Japan! My sister went a little crazy over Moppy and bought a ton of merchandise. I had to drag her out of the shop in order to meet our Harry Potter reservation!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was just like the Hogsmeade. It was extremely well executed. All of the major touch points were there – the castle, the themed shops, I was so mesmerized that I forgot to take pictures! Here are some highlights.
There’s two major attractions – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (3D movie), and Flight of Hippogriff (roller coaster) – we wanted to go to both! We passed by the 3D movie line and the wait time was 1.5 hours. We thought we would explore the area first hoping for the line to die down. We were wrong. We went back several times, the line kept on growing! Luckily, we were able to go on the roller coaster. It was a mild one, but we felt it was still worth it.
We wanted to try the famous Butterbeer, but the line was super long. It was almost dinner, so we went to 3 Broomsticks, Hogsmeade’s tavern – the best thing, the line was short! The food was just ok, but it was the atmosphere that nailed it.
Our last ride was Jurassic Park – The Ride. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t experienced it. All I can say is, it’s a great ride and a must go!
For those who plan on going to Osaka, I do recommend going to Universal Studios Osaka. Depending on the time of year, you can probably finish park in a day (if you don’t plan on going to all of the rides), but they do have 2 day passes, so plan accordingly. I’m glad I went, especially with my sister – there was definitely a lot of sister bonding time!