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Japan does a great job with its theme parks and Universal Studios is super fun with the kids. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely amazing and after hearing so many rave reviews was the real reason I really wanted to visit. The entire park though makes for a great day out. However, Universal Studios Japan is no secret, it’s incredibly popular with Japanese and tourists alike, which means massive crowds and long wait times, so you’ll want to plan ahead if you are going to visit.
We bought our tickets through Govoyagin which is a travel tour company based in Tokyo, Japan and is an official partner with Universal Studios Japan. On their website you can purchase the tickets for you and the kids plus you can add on an Express Pass which will allow you a timed entry to some of the rides.
The are different combinations of the Express Passes in Universal Studios in Japan- we chose the Express Pass 4 Standard. This means we had timed entry to four rides for us and the kids. This included an entry time to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a time for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 4K3D ride.
The Popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Now, unlike other parks we have been to, the whole Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of Universal Studios Japan is subject to timed entry. This means that if you don’t have an Express Pass or you didn’t hurry to get a timed entry ticket as soon as you entered, then you and the kids cannot enter that part of the park. Information to get a free timed entry ticket on the day is here.
If it is not a busy day, they will allow everyone to enter which is what happened during the morning of when we visited, but it’s risky because later on in the day it went back to timed entry. So, my husband and daughter were unable to enter to view one of their evening shows.
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Express Pass Tickets
Rides at Universal Studios Japan are famous for their super long wait times. Now, if you are going with children, do you really want to spend 2-3 hours in line? While it’s costly, if you can afford it, the extra money you spend makes your time there worth it as you can enjoy the day knowing you will be able to go on the most popular rides at least once.
Our times were all in the afternoon, so we ran for the Space Fantasy ride which was only a 20 minute wait when we got there but when we got off the ride it was already an hour and a half wait. Later in the day, it was well over a two hour wait.
Just make sure your children are tall enough and you have double checked your preferred rides at Universal Studios Japan are not undergoing maintenance. Some travel agents may be able to help you in purchasing your tickets in advance, but we did it ourselves online with Govoyagin. We brought the printed out tickets with us.
Older Children and Teenagers
If you have older children and teenagers who are happy to ride solo, then there is the option of the single rider line. This line is significantly faster (hours faster) than the regular line, but, according to the official website of Universal Studios Japan, is not always available.
There are plenty of play areas, shows, and rides that cater to young children in Universal Studios Wonderland. They also offer a free timed ticket to some of the rides called yoyakunori.
Height requirements of the kids are really important when planning your trip at Universal Studios. Don’t pay until you have measured your kids. Our youngest is exactly 122 cm, which means she just made the cut off for rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Phew. We measured her before we bought tickets. At the park she was measured again. A nice tense few seconds where I held my breath hoping that we measured correctly. After she passed, then she was given a stamp on her hand to confirm she was tall enough.
Here is the list of height requirements.
Japan does its holidays great and if you visit during October then expect a spook fest! If you come from a country that does Halloween, your children might be ok. While I’m American, my children were born and raised in Australia, and so are not used to a scary Halloween.
During the day it’s fun and child friendly, but come sunset the goblins, mummies, and other spooksters come out. If you like this, then you are in for a fun spooky evening treat; however, if you have a sensitive child - like one of mine then you might be walking out with a petrified child clinging to you. Ironically, my bravest was my youngest who is 7 years old and not really fussed by the mummies. There is a scare free path that you can walk along though.
Tips for visiting Universal Studios with Kids
-Arrive early. We arrived before the park opened and there were already so many people. Getting off the train with a huge crowd of people can be intimidating- make sure you are holding hands with your kids and remind them to stay close to you at all times.
-Keep a couple 100 yen coins on hand as some rides have lockers to put your stuff in while you enjoy the ride- such as Space Fantasy. There is a coin change machine, but if you are like me and are in a huff and puff to get back to the line, you might not see it.
-Food- There were long lines everywhere - even for snacks and food. There are water taps/fountains around the park. Try to eat an earlier, rather than later lunch, when the lines get really long. Perhaps stuff a few snacks in a bag for wait times.
-Snack on a turkey leg as you walk around the park. Really, I’m not kidding. It looked delicious.
-Try the butterbeer! One glass was enough for us to try it though. It is delicious, but super sweet.
-The park is very crowded, but people are well-behaved, the staff are really friendly and helpful- even to non-Japanese speaking tourists.
-Finally, we went back and forth about whether or not to get the Express Pass for Universal Studios Japan until we read about how many people didn't enjoy their day without it. If you will regret not getting on some of the rides with the kids, absolutely hate the idea of waiting in long lines, or saddened at the prospect of not entering The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then go do what we did and just buy the Express Pass. We were so happy we did!
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