Finally we have come to the end of our stay at Osaka! Initially when planning our trip, we thought.. hmm maybe we could go USJ (Universal Studio Japan) for a day trip. But hearing that the queues can be quite scary, we had other ideas of staying there instead.
(Although it’s the ‘end’ but that’s just for Osaka, we still got Kyoto, Kanazawa, Takayama and Nagoya after this).
On the way to USJ
This however was just an idea and wasn’t confirmed as the hotels at USJ are quite ex (SGD 240+ per night). We were still thinking of the possibility to stay elsewhere and then travel to USJ and back. But in the end because I took too long (my wife wanted to kill me for it) and was late to book, plus there was a long weekend in Japan and almost all the hotels were fully booked. The ones remaining were all in the SGD 250+ range… ahh might as well… So we booked Hotel Keihan Universal City! Managed to find a good deal on Agoda at SGD $242! (considered the good for that period…)
My wife picking Harry’s nose
Universal Studio Japan
So early in the morning, we lugged all our backpacks on the train to USJ. My wife was so excited that she took a photo with Harry at the station entrance! The station is relatively small and easy to navigate but once we got out… it’s a different story.
Hotel Keihan Universal City entrance
It took us a while before we managed to find our hotel. It was tucked right around a corner but luckily there was a signboard! So we left our bags there are head straight to USJ as the check-in was only at 3pm.
It was a weekday and it was drizzling non-stop since early morning but somehow that didn’t seem to dither the crowds from visiting. We also bought the express 5 pass before we left for this trip and brought the printed copy which let us take express queue at 5 key attractions. We (genuinely) thought that this express 5 pass will entitle us to enter the park but we were so wrong… we fumbled as we got rejected at the entrance. WHAT!? This isn’t the ticket!? Did I end up buying something wrong again!? So we went back to the ticket counter to queue up to buy a ticket. It was a relief to get clarify from the lady after showing the her my printed Express Pass email.
How it works is Ticket = Entry. Express pass = Skip queues. So you kind of need both if you want to skip queues.
As we were walking in, we got distracted by this cute minion thing that many visitors are carrying around their neck. Sooooo cooollllll! I want one tooooo! Not knowing what is it we dive straight into the first gift shop to look for it.. only to land ourselves into something worst!
NOOOOOOOOOO! Wands! I want one too! Or maybe two! And so we spent the next 30 minutes ogling at all the Harry Potter goodies. Felt like a child running berserk in the shop.
It took us awhile before we remembered our real aim, we are supposed to try as many rides as possible! We quickly left the shop without buying anything (anyway they close late so we can buy when we are done with all the rides).
The park was huge… and being poor at reading maps, we ended up in “Snoopy land” after taking a wrong turn. My wife was thinking of taking the cool kiddy ride but unfortunately it was drizzling too much and we didn’t want to get wet and sick right at the start. (we are scaredy cats that don’t take real roller-coasters).
So we walked further down, past Hello Kitty and Elmo and ended up taking the carousel ride. Whoppie! I’ve always wanted to try one of these. Seeing that there are other adults reliving their childhood thing of gave us courage to join in for the kiddy ride. First ride of the day. Checked and accomplished.
Now that was a good way to build up momentum. Start of with the lowest difficulty and slowly progress from there. I’m sure we will end up taking something scarier by end of the day. We were carefully reading the map that we got at the entrance and also googling for reviews of each ride as we were walking to certain unknown horror.
So next stop. The amazing adventures of Spider-man! As mentioned earlier we got the express pass to skip queues. By right we shouldn’t have queued here because this is the normal queue! But thanks to some miscommunication and careless staff who led us to the normal queue even though we showed our express pass, we ended up queuing 30 mins for this.
We googled hard just to make sure that this isn’t some thing of roller-coaster before we stepped in. And true enough it isn’t a roller-coaster but that didn’t stop us from screaming out our lungs on the 3d simulated ride either. But nonetheless, we felt accomplished. Second ride of the day. Checked and done! Scaredy Cats Levelled up.
So now that we are sure that 3d rides are fine. We started checking where are all the 3d ones. So just a short walk from Spider-man, we found Back to the future!
We took the express queue this time round and we were glad we did because the queue here was long like at the Spider-man. We were split into small groups of 5~6 and led into a small chamber room where the introduction video was playing. Unfortunately everything is in Japanese but we figured out that this video was to set up the story and the reason why we are going to sit in the ride up coming next.
So it wasn’t long before the inner door at the chamber opened. Inside was a 3d ride shaped like the car in Back to the future! We were told to leave our stuff outside the car. The silly thing we did was to leave EVERYTHING outside. This includes our bag with our camera and passport in it. Actually the “stuff” that we were supposed to leave outside was just the umbrella. The rest can be tucked under your legs.
So we spent the longest 10 minutes inside the ride worrying about our bags. Ride number 3 checked and done! Scaredy cats levelled up again!
Earlier on we mentioned about our express pass. The pass entitles us to book our timing for Harry Potter in advance so that we don’t have to queue much. Now after taking 3 rides, it was about just nice for us to go for lunch before heading to Harry Potter. We walked past Jurassic Park which was under renovation and also Jaws. No Jaws for us as it’s a scary ride.
Next stop. HOGSWART! It was so well decorated with trees and even the crashed car. Owls were hooting in the trees and frogs were croaking from somewhere under the bush. They must have spent loads and loads of money building the Harry Potter section because just the way in was sooooo long.
The place was so beautiful with trains and buildings. There’s even trucks selling butterbeer! And look at the crowd! We thought it was quite busy already despite the weekday and the rain. Now there’s like hordes of people here!
We weren’t really hungry yet at the point but we thought maybe we should just go get lunch first knowing that there’s likely going to be a long queue. We popped in to Three Broomsticks.. true enough… the queue was long… but luckily it was also moving quite fast!
The interior was even more amazing than the outside with so much details. The windows, the tables, the roof and even the menu was styled to the same theme. It took us 30 minutes before it was out turn.
First we ordered at the counter. The staff was asking whether we wanted to upgrade our drink to the “drink with souvenir”. We weren’t really clear what that meant until he showed us the mug. So basically if you pay more, you get to drink your Butterbeer or Hog’s Head Brew (real beer) in a cool mug. Why not! We were already considering buying wands earlier which basically had no functional usage and being s**kers for the Harry Potter merchandises or course we went for it.
After ordering we were then led to a 2nd counter to collect our food. Lastly while we were carrying out food, the staff leads us to our seat. Taste wise, it wasn’t anything to rave about but portion were quite large and we couldn’t really finished everything.
After our meals, it was about time for our highlight of the day. The Harry Potter ride! But first… we need to pee… and to wash our mugs. Yes the same mugs that we used to drink our beer? You’ll have to bring it out and wash it yourself. It was quite funny at the guy’s toilet. All the guys were just there busy washing mugs.. more than 1 mug.. (Girls..)
So there we were.. all the guys queueing at the basin waiting for our turn to wash our mugs while getting harassed by Moaning Myrtle. (she was blabbering non-stop in the background although we can’t see her). Now that we think of it, why was she haunting the guys toilet as well!?
Apart from these little touches in the toilet that adds to the mood, there was also a Mandrake right outside the toilet. Yes it was screaming too! Must be some kind of a powerful spell that saved us from dying from the screams.
So the finale! Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey! The queue was snaking up badly by the time we got there and electronic board says estimated 4 hours queuing time! WHAT!? But thankfully, express pass to the rescue! So we head straight in without any queue outside only to realise… there’s a queue inside! ARGHHHHH!
First you’ll need to squeeze through the crowded locker room to put your bags in there (means no more big cameras). There’s even a small umbrella locker stand. (trust the Japanese to come up with such cool stuff) before heading to join the inside queue. It didn’t seem that long as it leads you through various rooms. While queuing, we saw Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom before we finally arriving at the thrilling ride!
Yes the thrilling ride… isn’t this 3d? Then why are the seats suspended on a rail and everything seems to be moving? Pik Pok Pik Pok Pik Pok… our hearts beating faster and faster as it was our turn to sit down and buckle up. As the ride picked up pace, our feet left the ground. It was truly an exciting ride… a roller coaster in the dark with Dragons blowing fire, Spiders spitting in your face and Voldemort.. that creepy looking Voldemort that always seems to be flying into you while you are stuck in your seat. I’m pretty sure the ride didn’t go as fast actually but the gigantic 4k screen, 3d effects and the up down left right motion of the seats, it really gave the feeling like you’re flying on a broomstick (minus the wedgie). Life must be tough for Harry to be balancing on his crotch against the flying broomstick.
So ride 4 mission accomplished. Scaredy cats levelled up!