Universal Studios Japan — Halloween Horror

27 Oct

Zombies, blood, and roller coasters or long lines, high entrance fees and overpriced food and beer — which is scarier?

You can have all of the above and more during one expensive day at Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka. USJ, as it’s known, hosts a Halloween extravaganza from September 13th to November 10th this year. I love Halloween and roller coasters, so it sounded like a good chance to finally get to USJ. We went on a Monday in October, thinking it would be fairly quiet. Boy were we wrong.

The lines were absurd. Most of the rides were an hour wait, some two. There were lines for everything — rides, shows, food, drinks and washrooms.

I think these girls were stalking the character they love. They were standing right next to her.

I think these girls were stalking the character they love. They were standing right next to her.

They have some of the classic Universal Studios rides, like Jurassic Park, Back to the Future and Jaws. I went on the first two and they were pretty much exactly as I had remembered. The seriously dated, cheesy dinosaurs on Jurassic Park still scared me and the big splash into the water after escaping T-Rex was a ton of fun.

There’s a big roller coaster called Hollywood Dream that was fantastic. One of the most popular rides is Spiderman. It’s a “4D” ride which I found a bit predictable (for example, a firey monster reaches right for you and you feel a blast of hot air), but there’s a great part at the end where you fly between buildings. Space Fantasy was also quite fun. Small cars get whipped around on a track while “flying through space”.

The kids area of the park. Lots of Sesame Street and Hello Kitty!

The kids area of the park. Lots of Sesame Street and Hello Kitty!

Despite the insane crowds, the Halloween theme was a lot of fun. Many people came dressed in costumes. Japanese people love dressing alike so there were so many pairs and small groups of people in the same costumes. They ranged from mecha kawaii (super cute) to bloody. Halloween is gaining popularity in Japan, but I was surprised there were so many dressed up and regretted not coming in a costume.

But after 6pm the real fun starts when the park is overrun with zombies. They were great, running around scaring people. Some even had fake chainsaws! There were scenes set up around the park, like a car with a zombie trapped inside and a zombie feasting on a person. It was quite creepy.

A hungry zombie.

A hungry zombie.

Some rides and restaurants were haunted by the very popular Sadako, the monster from the horror movie Ring.  We just missed the cut-off time for Sadako-haunted Jaws though.

All-in-all the day was fun, but expensive with the ticket price being 6600 yen, and the crowds were too overwhelming. The park isn’t very big but we weren’t able to ride every ride we wanted, nor could we go on twice.

My young students sometimes call me Sadako when my hair is really messy.

My young students sometimes call me Sadako when my hair is really messy.

TIPS

Be prepared that most of the park is in Japanese, including the rides. I didn’t mind, but we did miss out on a zombie hunting game called Biohazard because we didn’t know how to get advanced tickets.

Wait times are posted in front of the ride and on a couple signboards around the park. Know that they overestimate quite a bit though. For example, the wait for Hollywood Dream was listed at 160 minutes but it took 80 minutes.

When possible, use the singles line! You may be split up from friends but it doesn’t matter too much. We got on Jurassic Park in about 15 minutes.

Food is a bit expensive but not exorbitant. We had lunch at Mel’s Drive-in, a big burger set that we shared cost about 1500 yen. Beer was 700 yen and this being Japan you can walk around with a glass of beer (sometimes essential for those long lines). Vending machines also had drinks for 200 yen.

USJ is easily reached by train, a short ride from Nishikujo station on the loop line. You’ll think you’re in the U.S. when you step out of the station with Starbucks, TGIFridays and many more chain restaurants outside the park.

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