December 19, 2014 – This is part three of our ongoing picture tour of Universal Studios Japan. If you haven’t seem the earlier posts, please read Part 1 and Part 2 first. The last update focused on things you’ve seen before, so naturally today will be all about things that are radically different. Let’s get crackin’!
Before we enter the park proper, I’d figure I’d show their take on CityWalk.
It wouldn’t be Japan if it didn’t have unusual stores with bizarre names.
But I should restate that Japan loves popcorn. They love it.
He’s smaller than in Hollywood, but it’s good seeing a familiar face in a land of so much change.
Pretty much the entire left side of CityWalk has these construction walls. They’re decorated with Hollywood hotspots. Supposedly it’s for construction but the locals seem to accept them as permanent since it’s been going on so long.
They also use this space to advertise a combination credit card and annual pass. I wonder how that would fare in the states.
The construction continues on what is a new hotel.
There’s some curious decorations on the pillars. Like CD covers of Boyz II Men albums.
Off the straight path to the park is where many other stores are. So let’s go over there instead!
It has pretty prominent placement and the line gets busy, as long as it’s later in the day. As you can see now, it’s park opening time, so no one cares about CityWalk.
There are other restaurants at CityWalk. A good deal.
And there’s a store dedicated to Shonen Jump characters, like One Piece.
And just regular clothing stores. It’s pretty darn spacious all things considered.
And this place assumes I know MOSBURGER. I didn’t. But I do now.
Pancake Days has… pancakes!
Little Osaka was a tiny convienence store. Really handy around here.
Oddly enough, this little guy is somewhat popular in Japan. Cheburashka. He’s actually a Russian cartoon character.
And I’d venture to say many of the stores at CityWalk cater to females more than males.
Here’s the other entrance to the Jump Shop, along with a Claire’s. You can’t escape Claire’s.
There was also an arcade with an okay selection of games. But the entire back half was nothing but these glamor photo booths. It’s like an instant Photoshop for girls. If you’ve ever seen blurry, high-glossy pictures with way too many sparkles and artificially-enlarged eyeballs, this is where they came from.
Ultimately, their CityWalk is a fun place to walk around.
Let’s wrap up CityWalk and get back into the park! This is vaguely familiar. I guess I’m cheating a little.
Inside Animation Celebration is a show I did not have the chance to experience.
And while I was visiting during Halloween time, they were very much getting ready for Christmas.
I had to do a double take when I saw this. It’s the Paradise building, known to Orlando as the home of Revenge of the Mummy. But here in Osaka, it contains The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
Spider-Man probably is far more popular here than The Mummy.
In the bottom half of the photo is the Universal Monsters Rock and Roll Show. The top half is the track for their Hollywood Dream coaster. Can you spot Waldo?
Outside Mel’s Diner, a breakdancing show takes place. People wait for a long while to get good seats for it. Many of the stores at Universal Studios Japan sell these custom sitting mats. It’s a good alternative to America’s use of beach towels.
Their time board shows a lot of information. As you can see, a lot of wait times have a huge range. 280 minutes posted for the backwards version of Hollywood Dream. 270 minutes for Forbidden Journey. 270 minutes. That’s four and a half hours. However, I quickly learned these times are actually a sophisticated system of lies. Anything with a wait time past 120 minutes is actually a complete lie. 100%. Wait times for the Horror Nights mazes said 240 minutes and worked out to under an hour. Forbidden Journey was posted at 180 minutes when I initially rode it and it turned out to be less than half that. My best guess is that Universal Studios Japan uses the numbers here for two reasons. One is to actively discourage guests from going on these rides and try to find something with a shorter wait. The other is to mentally reward people when they get through a wait faster than predicted. But the ultimate take away is that these numbers are all inaccurate and you shouldn’t let them dictate your trip.
Now that I finished that rant, I want a beer.
If you can’t tell, these are spherical caricatures of Sesame Street characters. This is a churro stand.
There’s also a plethora of facades around the park. It feels vaguely realistic and wouldn’t be out of place as a movie set. They even have power poles put up.
This alley is one of the main streets used for their parade route. In our final USJ update we’ll cover the Halloween Parade.
Even the windows have a lot of detail to look for.
Let’s take a look at some other rides. First up is Space Fantasy: The Ride. This ride occupies the old building that ET used to be in. It’s a roller coaster similar to the vehicle used at Knott’s in their Timberline Twister. The ride itself is a mixed bag. It’s very smooth and pretty intense, but some scenes seem quite low budget. The preshow is 100% Japanese with no explanation in any other language. Near as I can tell, a 3-winged robot wants you to collect crystals and meet space angels. It’s quite bizarre. At night however, during Halloween Horror Nights, it becomes a different experience which I’ll re-visit in the final update.
Before boarding, you must pretty much strip down everything you have. They want you to carry nothing in with you.
The lockers themselves are a simple system. And employ a key you keep with you that stays snug on your wrist.
It takes a 100 yen coin to operate, but it’s just a deposit and refunded when you return to the locker.
Shifting gears, we’re going to head over to the kids area. And make no bones about it, this park is all about these three characters here.
Each of the three characters has their own gigantic land in here. We’ll start with Snoopy first.
And it wouldn’t be a land without a speciality restaurant.
And of course they have to have cute kitchen goodies.
And equally cute food shaped like Snoopy.
As for the rides, they’re typical carnival kid fare. Absurd, but it still brings a smile to the face.
But all absurdity aside, I wouldn’t be caught dead waiting over 2 hours to ride it.
Inside the giant building is no better on busy days.
Meet and greets happen here, but they fill up quickly.
Snoopy cartoons play in a weird clip format. Not too many people seemed interested in it.
There’s even a roller coaster. And it has a horrendous wait like everything else.
To its credit, it has a lot of cute scenes.
In many places around the park were these lotteries. You pay $5 for a ticket and stick your hand in the giant plastic ball to pull out a paper. On it is lists what you won. The newsstand shows you could potentially win a suitcase, purse, but most win a washcloth.
Much like Chuck E. Cheese, the walls have posters with Snoopy injected into parodies of famous movies.
The gift shop has a ton of great merchandise and they went out of their way to decorate it.
They also really exploit Snoopy’s siblings. Belle is all over the place.
But if you need anything Snoopy, you know where to go.
There are even Snoopy photo booths with custom frames. And they’re updated seasonally. In the states, something like this would be abandoned and covered in graffiti and carved initials.
Following Snoopy is Hello Kitty, someone that’s more native to Japan. (Even though she’s a British girl…)
Once again, it follows the same idea of Snoopy Studios with simple rides. Here is a cupcake spinning ride sponsored by Mr. Donut. Virtually every ride is sponsored at this park.
The ride vehicles are gorgeous. There’s no other way to put it.
But the Hello Kitty area was more focused on merchandise and shopping than rides.
The reason there’s no line for this store is because it’s over to the side with a wait you couldn’t imagine.
But Sesame Street is the true king of this area. They have more space dedicated to them than the other two combined. It also needs to be said that while the Japanese can line up patiently for virtually everything else at the park, they lose it around costumed characters. It becomes a giant crowded free-for-all that makes any useful photos impossible and only rewards the rude.
There is no order to how you get a photo with the characters. You just have to push your way forward and hope the character turns towards you. It’s very discouraging.
Outside, Sesame Street is a weird mix. It feels very similar to Legoland. Here they have two different miniature Autopia-style rides strictly for children.
Not exactly an E-ticket.
But continuing their love affair with popcorn, their buckets are simply adorable.
Japan also loves carnival games, with a twist.
Whether it’s due to culture or law, you always win something regardless of if you win or lose. And the prizes are exclusive to these locations.
So these games often have long waits in hopes of getting something amazing.
But the real fun of Sesame Street begins in here. A giant indoor playground.
You start off walking by Cookie Monster’s Kitchen with churritos!
Cookie crumb covered churros.
While the name heavily implies that cookies are involved…
The actual menu is completely devoid of any cookies. There’s no way in high heaven that Cookie Monster would eat a single thing on this menu outside of the “Me Love Cookies! Cookie Monster Sundae”.
>Past the kitchen is where the hell begins. Here you can just feel the blood pressure rising in all the parents as they struggle to maintain control while kids run wild.
This was discussed on our recent podcast. This ride is Elmo’s Bubble Bubble. It’s a “water” ride in as much as there’s water in the loop. This is the single point of action on the entire ride. It goes in a single loop down this one hill.
The ride capacity is in the single digits. And the wait time posted was no joke. While my previous rant about inaccurate times applies, the kids ride are an exception. Why?
Because all the kid rides have fastpass-style tickets, this artifically inflates the wait time to insane levels.
The machines are cute but only operate for so long per day before running out of tickets quickly.
Here is a slide into a ballpit. It’s completely lined with parents waiting to get a picture of their kids going down the slide.
Outside of actual rides, there are simply just construction areas. Surprisingly it wasn’t as crowded here. While without child, I still felt slightly compelled to play with the blocks simply because they were readily available.
In here is Moppy’s Lucky Dance Party. Between shows, it’s a stroller parking lot.
I should also note that every trash can in Sesame Street land has letters on it. Every one was different.
I spent a while tracking them down. But I don’t think I need to dedicate this update to trash can photos.
There’s so much other things at the park I’d rather cover.
Their take on Sesame Street is really cute. It’s all still within their normal character designs.
And as stated in earlier updates, while still Halloween, they got Christmas ready.
And they really love selling food boxes.
Do you just want to buy every one you see?
I may not have said it before, but instead of traditional hats, like Mickey Mouse ears, Japan instead loves to wear giant furry helmets.
Overall, there’s a lot of Japan in this park. It’s so amazingly different from anything I could have expected.
And there’s still going to be a lot more to discover!
But that’s pretty much it for the weird things in the park. I could spend a while covering it, but this is a good stopping point.
So I guess that means goodbye for now!
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.