I’ve always been a lover of amusement parks and thrill rides, that’s when the kid in me truly comes out. I live for the ultimate drop! No surprises there when I got the call to go to Osaka to spend a full day planned by Universal Studios Japan, I was all in. So I packed my bags and flew to Osaka for a quick 2 days.
First thing’s first, I picked up my 4G Pocket Wifi device, at the Global WiFi counter in the arrival hall of Kansai Airport, to help me stay connected and navigate my way around Osaka. You can book yours, here. Kansai Airport to Osaka central is approx an hour’s drive away. While there are other means by bus, train, or taxi to reach the city centre, time was of the essence for me as I was only going to be in the city for two days, so I’d pre-booked for a private transfer. Whether you’re travelling in a big group or seeking convenience, I reckon, a private transfer is the way to go. I was so relieved that the moment I’d arrived, my driver quickly whisked me away to my hotel. Trust me, after an eight hour flight to Osaka and arriving at 7pm, a quick check-in to the hotel and a nice long bath followed by dinner is much needed. You can book your private transfer, here.
Thanks to saving some time in my commute to Osaka central, I managed to make it down in time to meet a friend and have sushi and drinks in Dontonbori; the bright hub of Osaka, where you can find plenty of late night dining and bar options, the Glico running man sign, the Dontonbori river and Don Quijote store for your food, souvenirs, cosmetics, medicine, electronic gadgets, clothes, households and games needs. We ended the night off in a little hole-in-the-wall bar called Bar Eighteena and was pleasantly entertained by the friendly and animated owner, Kazuhiro Nakamura and his regular patrons. Suffice to say, I’d manage to make a night of it.
The next morning, I woke up to an open view of Osaka and mountains in the backdrop – even did a room tour for all who follow my stories on Instagram (@Germaine.ttran). I was especially excited this morning as I would be spending the whole day in Universal Studios Japan with a bunch of friends, who flew in from various parts of the world, to enjoy Universal Studios Japan’s Easter special of new shows and attractions. When we first arrived, there were snaking queues for entry into the park. But, we were in good hands as our pass allowed us to skip the long lines and enter the park with ease. You can also do the same by heading here to pre-book your fast entry USJ tickets.
World Street Festival
Upon entering the park, we quickly made our way to the Sesame Street Bollywood show. The dancers were so animated, costumes were bright and colourful, and there was alot of interaction with the audience. Not to mention, all my childhood Sesame Street characters like Elmo, Bert, and Ernie were dancing along to the the beats. I have to say I really enjoyed it!
World Street Market
Hunger pangs started to set in and we headed over to World Street Market to sample the Mexican Turkey Leg and the Premium Dog (cheese & curry). I went with the Turkey leg and while the seasoning is different from how I’ve had it before, every bite I took brought me back to fond childhood memories of visiting Universal Studios Florida.
Minion Park – POP-A-NANA & Despicable Me! The Cookie Kitchen
Then, we headed off to Minion Park! I was just craving for a sweet treat right about the time I stepped in before we spotted POP-A-NANA and Despicable Me! The Cookie Kitchen. We ended up trying both, and I most preferred the Popcorn from POP-A-NANA, so much so I finished it in one sitting! For a limited time period, POP-A-NANA is serving up custard pudding flavoured popcorn- a flavour I thought was finger licking good and not too sweet for most with just the right about crunch for every bite of popcorn. Better yet, my popcorn was served in a minion popcorn bucket, perfect as a memorabilia or as a gift that will leave your kids with a toothy grin. Had a taste of the Minion’s cookie ice cream sand and while it was tasty, it was too sweet for my liking. Still, it makes for an instagrammable foodie shot! Afterwards, we made a beeline for the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride. It was a fun 4D ride as we enter Gru’s laboratory to begin the process of becoming an actual Minion! The ride was so realistic, I felt moments of a real drop like one would anticipate from an actual rollercoaster ride!
Sing On Tour
Next up, we went to watch the Sing on Tour performance in the show theatre to watch all our favourite Sing on Tour characters belt out their strong vocals as the audience sang along to the chorus. Not to mention, squeezing in some shopping for Sing souvenirs to take home.
Watching the show gave our feet some rest and we were ready to explore Wonderland. In Wonderland, you could choose from various themed rollercoaster rides and live shows to watch. Here, Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street fans can find all of the themed rides and gift shops to shop from. Since it was easter time, Universal Studios Japan has just unveiled the park with their new easter decoration. Everywhere I turned, there was a bright pop of colour!
IT’S SOOOO FLUFFY!
Out of all the gift stores, my favourite was the one we visited next, It’s So Fluffy gift store. Stepping into the store, the first thing came to mind was the line that Agnes from Despicable Me said, “It’s so FLUFFY, I’m gonna die!”. I was like a kid in a unicorn store, picking out my very own unicorn. After all these unicorn overload, we took off for dinner. Nevertheless, I was eagerly awaiting the next spot we were going to visit, the best was saved for last. Any guesses?
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
After dinner, it was time to head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!! I couldn’t contain my excitement from the moment I hopped over and stepped into the Stonehenge-like Stone Circle (a.k.a. Sundial Garden). Even with the hoards of visitors entering through the area, the size and detail of this garden sets the tone for the magical, mysterious world that lies ahead. The anticipation keeps building from here, as I take a rather long, winding path through the forest, as the Harry Potter movie music swells from hidden speakers. Following signposts, and the wreck of the Flying Ford Anglia, we eventually came to the Hogsmeade gate, with the Hogwarts castle towering above the village. I felt like I was before a Harry Potter set and the movie came alive before me! There was such a great attention to detail in reproducing Harry Potter’s world that t was really brought to life on a phenomenal scale at Universal Studios Japan.
By this stage, I couldn’t wait to experience the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, an amazing 4D flight simulator filled with special effects. I couldn’t bring in my camera for this ride, but suffice to say, amongst all the 4D rides I’ve taken in amusement parks, this one really tops it! The ride is designed such that your feet dangles in the air as you experience the thrill of Harry’s Wizarding world that unfolds 360 degrees around you. You’ll feel the powerful magic effects, with the dragon’s fire that turns into hot air as it strikes you, and the Dementor’s sinister chill as they encounter you. I have to admit that I got so wrapped up in the experience that I shrieked in shock and delight when the Dementor popped up right in front of me! Trust me, if you are here in Universal Studios Japan, you don’t want to miss this immersive and unforgettable sensory adventure!
The best thing about saving The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the last was that we finished our ride just in time to watch the Hogwarts Magical Celebration. In celebration of the 5th year anniversary of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there is a special show that takes place after dark. By nightfall, when the show starts, the Sorting Hat announces the school’s four houses and Hogwarts castle is illuminated with a magical display of house pride. It was a spellbinding moment for me, even after a long day at the park and was certainly the best way to round off the day.
All in all, I had the best time at Universal Studios Japan and was thoroughly entertained at every spot. But of all the spots, I fell most in love with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- it was the highlight of my time there. I would happily do this all over again, but the next time, I’ll have to take more rollercoaster rides and set aside more time for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
I’ll leave you with some useful sites for advance booking of all your Osaka travel needs:
Don’t forget to cart out with “GERMAINE10” for 10% discount
from now till December 31, 2019 !