December 11, 2014 – Welcome to part two of our look at Universal Studios Japan. In the last update we took a look at simply getting into the park and buying a ticket. Today we’ll mosey on over to some familiar attractions you might recognize. Jurassic Park, Backdraft and Jaws are all represented. And of course, I’d be remiss to not cover the most requested attraction at the park. When asked what you wanted covered at the park, Back to the Future even seemed to get more attention than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
So let’s dive in!
We’ve braved the crowds, so let’s see what our first attraction will be. In the distance is Jurassic Park, but let’s see what Amity Island has to offer first.
On the way over, we walk by these rocks. The waiting area for Potter. Don’t worry. We’ll go over that later.
I wonder what this could be leading to?
Okay. At this point it should be obvious.
That’s a lot of people waiting to see a tour.
Here’s JAWS! Make no bones about it, it’s easy to make out the attraction location, as long as you can see over the crowds of Potterheads.
All of their attractions have these columns out front indicating the wait time and other things. Unique take on wait time boards.
And for whatever reason, if you fear water, they have poncho vending machines. Themed nicely.
Before boarding the boat, you have to take a walking tour of the artifacts of Amity Harbour.
Believe me, there’s no shortage of this stuff.
You could spend all day going over all the little details in the queue.
And the attraction is kind of self aware about itself. Putting the movies as bits of their history. Real events, so to speak.
It’s such an eclectic mix. Silly props. Vintage props. Things that just really look like they actually belong in a museum.
What business does a queue for a shark ride need all this attention? It doesn’t make perfect sense, but I love it.
This is a ticket stand, not used as far as I can tell. But they make it look 100% functional.
Out here is the first of the many extended queue areas. It’s hard to tell what is and what isn’t an extended queue, due to consistently large crowds.
Similar to how Disney California Adventure added fake power poles for their Red Car Trolleys, Amity Harbour features fake power lines to bring home the old rustic village feeling.
And there’s more queue, in case what we had wasn’t enough.
If you needed a reason to know what JAWS stood for, there you go.
Unfortunately this is where we skip ahead a bit. Universal Studios Japan – and just Japan in particular – is very aggressive about photography. They will do everything in their power to prevent you from ruining electronics and getting in the way of others. That often means they don’t want ANY pictures during ANY rides. I tried as best I could, but sometimes I didn’t feel like having someone politely tell me to put it away. So between this picture and the previous one, just pretend you saw pictures of a Japanese tour guide holding a comically large shotgun narrating a tour while we get attacked several times by a shark.
Good. Now that I moved beyond that, their gift shop is stunning. The selection there really impressed me – far beyond anything else I saw at the park.
A lot of stores had RC cars out for demonstration. Yes. That’s a shark RC car.
I’d have to estimate about 1/3 of all things in the gift shops were edible. They really loved selling boxes and cartons of cookies.
But not everything. There were a lot of the Nanoblock brand brick models around. Here you can see the Universal globe and a Jaws shark model for sale. I did purchase that Universal Globe. Please let me know if you want to see it constructed.
Also little shark stick things. I wish I knew what they were for.
There was a lot of effort put into this land. Pretty amazing when you consider how long ago Jaws was released.
Even the area outside the attraction, across the way, was themed. It was just little things that keeps everyone entertained.
The size of the land is huge. All for a single attraction.
Even the food was themed to a silly degree.
And that wraps up a look at the Jaws Amity area. Here it is from across the lake. In the background you can see Hogwarts and also the Snoopy Wonderland building.
Let’s walk across the bridge and see where that takes us.
Here’s a peek at WaterWorld. It’s a similar stunt show to our own. But like Jaws, it is a bit more themed than you’d expect.
Even the food cart looks amazing.
Sadly, they do not do many shows per day. It’s very easy to miss the show, thinking you can see it later.
But if we can’t do WaterWorld, we can see the Lost World. All around the park you can find these dual-language plaques explaining that this is supposed to be from the movie set. I highly doubt Universal shipped over the Jurassic Park gate, but what do I know?
A lot of the Jurassic Park land is tongue-in-cheek humor.
And a lot of cute touches. Japan loves vending machines. Some feared that they would appear tacky in the theme parks, but even Tokyo Disneyland has them. Unlike in America where many machines are ugly and guarded by thick black wire boxes, Japan features the most detailed vending machines you could imagine.
>And the Jurassic Park area has no shortage of props or areas to pose next toy. Do you see the hidden dinos?
See? Little details like that everywhere.
In Japan, they love waiting in line. This was a short line for hot dogs.
This was a line for turkey legs. If you can see, there’s a switchback queue setup. The line actually goes all the away around the entire structure and all around the land. It was longer than the line for the Jurassic Park: The Ride itself. No joke.
The menu is kept extremely simple. So the line moves fast. But it’s still a long, long wait.
Thankfully those aren’t the only two areas for food in the land. By my rough count there’s a half-dozen. But they are not always open.
It’s a wide variety of food.
And some even come with a glove in the shape of a dinosaur.
>And even feature some mainstay props from Orlando.
But some places will close if the crowds aren’t super huge. It’s a little disturbing thinking about how much of the park is just crowded food locations.
Once you’ve eaten, you can finally go toward the actual ride.
I covered this on the Inside Universal podcast, but the ride is like an alternate version of Florida’s. It’s mirrored, and the final 1/4 of the ride is completely different and plussed up. A lot more gimmicks and tricks in the building before the drop. Everything is better.
Regardless of the differences, Jurassic Park: The Ride still ends with the classic drop. And that’s all that matters.
All told, like Amity Harbour, Jurassic Park is a beautiful land.
They even have weird street shows where a puppeted dinosaur runs through the land.
And inside the restaurants are the familiar dinosaur skeletons we know and love.
Even the speakers get the familiar touch.
The gift shop features some rather cute merchandise.
But it also has bizarre merchandise. I suppose Engrish isn’t completely unavoidable, even in a professional environment.
And as we leave there, we walk to the San Francisco area.
Around here, it’s not too different from Orlando. Some structures look familiar.
Japan even has a Ghirardelli.
And of course there’s weird places, like the Happiness Cafe.
I feel like I’m repeating myself, but the amount of attention given to this park is unparalleled. Keep in mind, the majority of these guests don’t speak English. These signs are unintelligble to most of them, yet they still made sure to get it authentic.
After seeing all this food, you do get hungry. We decided to go to Elmo’s Sweet Waffle Shop. Remember, in Universal Studios Japan, Elmo is everywhere. It’s not just confined to a kid’s area. The big three (Elmo, Hello Kitty and Snoopy) are everywhere in the park.
And while it is a shop for food, it’s also a gift shop. They made sure to get their Christmas merchandise (mostly food) out early. Here is a Santa Snoopy food selection.
Right next to it is a stack of Jason masks that come with a bag of red blood icing. The contrast is hilarious.
To the right of that is Halloween Hello Kitty merchandise. It feels a lot like Hot Topic.
And more Snoopy Halloween merchandise.
There’s so much merchandise in these food places, you forget it’s still a Waffle shop.
…even with all the decorations outside of it.
It’s not just here, but all over Japan. They love gourmet Belgian waffles. Every convience stores sells them.
Curiously, I spotted this on the wall. Not only is an exposed electrical outlet, but it’s an American plug. In Japan, they don’t have the ground plug. I’m not exactly sure why this exists there.
And like all Asian theme park restuarant locations, they have the food on display.
>The price isn’t extremely terrible. About $3 USD for a fresh waffle, soaked in maple syrup.
Of course, it’s best to get a 5-pack to go.
It’s delicately packaged, with reheating labels.
You don’t get a choice of the five waffles in 5-pack. But you get a good selection.
If waffles aren’t your style, other restaurants are around, like traditional Japanese food.
Or pizza. Pepperoni and cheese are available, but they lots of other varied toppings.
It should be noted that pizza in other countries is usually widely different than American pizza. So seeing just a cheese/pepperoni selection at “Fast Louie’s” (as compared to the full menu inside) is shocking.
Even Baskin Robbins is all over the park. They even have a shop in Amity Harbour.
There is no shortage of food places. Even if this one is closed for special bookings. This is a Halloween Horror Nights location. A restaruant where you are blindfolded and aren’t told what you are about to eat. I’ll cover this in a future update.
And make sure to plan out your bathroom breaks in advance. A 20-minute wait for the ladies isn’t uncommon on busy days. Yes. This is just a line to get in the bathroom.
And be aware of what stall you pick. Make note of the blue square on top of the door. Some stalls are the traditional Japanese squat toilets.
Even if you pick the proper toilet, they include plenty of instructions on how to use it.
Of course, I’ve saved the best attraction in this part for last.
Everyone was begging on our social media outlets to cover Backdraft. You wanted it? You got it!
The interior of Backdraft resembles a firehouse.
A beautiful firehouse, where things catch on fire.
It should be noted that this attraction is not in English at all. Nothing. All the English audio is even dubbed over.
But fire works well in any language. Again, I want to reiterate the difficulty of snapping “on ride” photos.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This is what you came for. Well, at least, it’s the main reason I came to the park – Back to the Future The Ride.
Before you can even get to the Institute, you have to walk around the gift shop. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover that in just a few photos to come…)
You can just make it out as you round the shop.
And right behind you is a DeLorean time machine, just begging for you to photograph and pose next to.
Additionally, this and many other attractions have special “Sadako” versions during Halloween Horror Nights after 6:00 PM. However, little, if any, changes are percieved.
The wait for this ride is pretty big on busy days. However, it’s not always a huge wait.
Seeing all the lab coated employees directing the crowd brings a giddy feeling to Back to the Future fans.
But you better get ready to get stuck in a long, boring, unthemed, extended queue. Oh, look. I found Waldo.
Your only respite from staring at the backs of heads here is the occasional water fountain.
And some fading inaccurate plaques explaining that apparently the Institute of Future Technology was in the original movie.
Finally after winding and snaking your way through the human traffic jam, you end up back at the entrance and regret not finding some way to get the Express pass.
Here, the queue details actually begin to emerge.
Doc Brown explains all the goings on. The monitors are quite old and suffer from heavy, heavy burn-in.
Because of how the breaks in the line are needed for the Express pass, a lot of the queue is unused.
Whole sides of the building sit untravelled because of the need to split up two classes of guests.
Eventually you make your way to the pre-show. Where a 3-story Rube Goldberg-esque contraption is taking place on either side of you.
It’s quite fascinating to watch the balls move around.
Eventually the video begins to play, explaining the story of the ride, about how Biff steals a time machine. Unfortunately, that’s also when the cast members come out and begin talking over the video to direct people to their vehicles. In Japan, pacing on attractions is something they don’t prioritize. Stories aren’t important. Merely touching on an effect is enough to justify moving on. Even if it means sacrificing understanding.
Once inside the loading room, you can really get close to the details all around you.
Recognize any of these schematics?
Some of these are modifications on existing concepts.
And others leave a bit to be desired.
But it’s hard to argue when there’s a flux capacitor right in the room next to you.
Once the final preshow finishes, it’s time to board the vehicle and catch Biff.
Again, photography of the rides themselves is difficult. So simply pretend that you are where the arrows are pointing and smile.
Upon exiting, you feel obligated to enter the gift shop. Inside are many themed items.
Posters, bouncing balls, and DVDs are within reach.
Even Matchbox-style cars are for sale.
And, like in Amity Harbour, you can even try out the RC car in a little box.
Their model cars sold are somewhat different from ours, and include characters.
Some slightly upscale merchandise is also included. Like laser-etched crystal cubes.
The model car boxes themselves are a treat.
And if you somehow traveled back to 1930s New York, this pocket watch would help you fit right in.
The store is a great place. Once again, there’s remarkable attention to detail.
But just like in Disney parks, character-creep happens. Slowly the store may likely be taken over by Elmo, Snoopy and Hello Kitty.
That won’t stop it from being the best darn time traveling ride ever made, though. It’s a beautiful building, especially at night. I hope it sticks around for a long time to come.
Well, that wraps up this update. We’ve covered a lot of the attractions at the park. But there’s a lot more ground to cover. Goodbye for now!
Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in the next installment in our Universal Studios Japan series. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to read part one.
Chris Glass is an editor for Inside Universal.
Chris is a Los Angeles native who grew up visiting the best theme parks in the world, but that wasn’t enough. Whenever he has the chance, he flees the comfort of Southern California to see what the rest of the world has to offer, and is always happy to return home.
You may contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.