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Universal Studios Japan is closing the gap to Tokyo Disney

April 4, 2017, 6:55 AM · The latest attendance data shows that Universal Studios Japan is closing the gap between it and the Tokyo Disney Resort theme parks.

USJ set an attendance record for the third consecutive year, drawing 14.6 million visitors to the Osaka park in fiscal 2016 — a 5 percent increase over the previous year, according to company reports released yesterday. Meanwhile, combined attendance at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea dropped 0.6 percent to 30 million.

Universal Studios Japan last year opened a Jurassic Park-themed Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster and continues to offer a series of special events and limited-time attractions, including ones devoted to manga and video games. Meanwhile, the Tokyo Disney parks haven't opened or offered much new in the past year, beside an occasional new character.

Later this year, Universal will open the company's largest Minion-themed land, as Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem takes over the old Back to the Future building. And, of course, there's Super Nintendo World on the horizon for 2020.

Tokyo DisneySea this spring will open a Finding Dory overlay of its old StormRider attraction, and the resort has its own expansion plan in the works, which will include a new Beauty and the Beast themed dark ride, a major live performance theater, and a Soarin' attraction. Those new attractions should begin debuting in 2019.

All three parks rank among the top five theme parks in the world in annual attendance, according to the TEA/AECOM Theme Index report, filling the spots just behind world leader Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and second-place Disneyland in California.

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Replies (20)

April 4, 2017 at 7:21 AM · Is it time for a Universal Tokyo Resort type expansion with added themed hotels and a 2nd gate?
April 4, 2017 at 9:23 AM · Tokyo Disney are really suffering from a lack of investment in any new attractions. They planned on doing a Frozen themed land, but then cancelled it. Very bizarre goings on over the lack of anything new.
April 4, 2017 at 9:28 AM · Universal would love to add a gate in Japan, but where?
April 4, 2017 at 10:44 AM · Robert - for Universal to build another land, and keep the same set up as Orlando (two parks together) - they are going to have to buy a fair amount of real estate nearby.
April 4, 2017 at 10:49 AM · That's my point. There's no space for expansion at USJ. That's why the previous owners were looking at Okinawa for a second park.

Can UC build a park on top of another?

April 4, 2017 at 12:23 PM · seems like all of the Universal Parks are tapped out when it comes to land
April 4, 2017 at 1:08 PM · Can UC build a park on top of another?

as Walt Disney said..."If we can dream it, we can do it."

April 4, 2017 at 1:13 PM · Okinawa is literally a few islands away from Osaka. Universal should consider buying out a failing theme park and there should be several available to take over and convert to a Universal theme park.

Universal can convert its parking lots into the park. It might be a better use of its funds. I also noticed it has at least 2 lagoons. They can fill-in to reduce or eliminate the lagoons to increase park space.

April 4, 2017 at 1:40 PM · Anton- just looking at it on Google Maps, I don't think there's enough space. If they used the entire parking garage+lots in the northwest corner of their property and even if they cannibalized the big Jaws lagoon and Waterworld area for the new park.
Unless Universal is willing to spend $ to buy nearby developed industrial land, any second gate in Japan is going to have to be put elsewhere, like another park as you suggest.
April 4, 2017 at 2:10 PM · There's a fair amount of commercial/industrial land near USJ that could be developed into a second gate, but at what price can it be acquired? And that begs the question "How did Universal get the land for USJ in the first place? That area is reclaimed seafloor, and it wasn't sitting there idly when the developers of USJ initially acquired it. Perhaps enough of it can be accumulated through the same mechanism (eminent domain, outright purchase, bribery, etc.) that would allow USJ to build a second gate.
April 4, 2017 at 2:32 PM · 2017 US population - 323 million
2017 Japan population - 126 million
2015 attendance at Disney and Universal parks in US - 97 million
2015 attendance at Disney and Universal parks in Japan - 45 million

Wow! Almost 3 times the population and only about twice the attendance and that's not even taking into account international tourism which plays a big role in Orlando.

The Japanese seem a whole lot more passionate about their theme parks than we do in the States.

April 4, 2017 at 3:36 PM · The headline is misleading. Universal draws less than half of Disney's attendance, which is hardly "closing the gap."

Drawing a conclusion that the Japanese are more passionate about their theme parks by citing only population and attendance figures provides a shallow analysis. Take into account that most of Japan's population lives on Honshu (103 million) which is connected by an efficient, safe and fast high-speed rail network, then compare that to the spatial distribution of the US population and the country's transportation networks. Draw new conclusion.

April 4, 2017 at 4:36 PM · I visited the Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios Japan and let me tell you from experience the Japanese do take their high quality theme parks serious! These people are at the park way earlier than their American counterparts. Both themed resorts were full but in reference to the article, USJ does seem very, very crowded. It's a wonderful park and for good reason very popular. I've been to the Japanese Disney and Universal parks and the American ones and without a doubt, USJ seemed to be the most crowded!
April 4, 2017 at 7:11 PM · 67: I'm not suggesting creating a second park out of the parking lot and lagoon. They can expand more park space in their existing park. They should buy a failing amusement park and convert it to a Second park.
April 4, 2017 at 9:25 PM · Uhhh, Tony... Universal's ONE park draws less than half of Disney's TWO parks COMBINED. Do the math! Do you really think it'd be a Top Five international park with HALF the attendance of other parks in the Top Five?

USJ done closed the gap with TDS in 2015, when it leapfrogged it to #4. It's still about 2M behind TDL. They are "closing the gap" on the AVERAGE attendance of the Tokyo Disneyland Resort and "closing the gap" on TDL as well.

April 5, 2017 at 6:28 AM · Nice try, no cigar, Tony.

Universal has one park in Japan drawing 14.6 million visitors and Disney has 2 parks pulling in 30 million visitors total. If one considers that the attendance numbers at the Disney resort might be slightly inflated from park hopping, then Universal on an individual park basis may be outdrawing any single Disney park in Japan. Of course there's the other side of the argument that says that Disney may be diluting their attendance at the Tokyo Resort by having two parks. But the headline of the article is not misleading within the context of the facts presented in the following article.

And, like Manny, having been to the Tokyo Disney Resort and having ridden that efficient, safe and fast high-speed rail network several times, I can back up my shallow analysis with first-hand observations of the fervor of the Japanese patrons for their theme parks. I found the atmosphere at TDS in the springtime to be just as intense if not more so than the atmosphere in the Magic Kingdom during the Christmas holidays.

April 5, 2017 at 7:22 AM · 30 million vs. 14.6 million is not closing the gap. No, not even close. I hold Robert to a higher standard since he has worked in news journalism for many years, so I called him out on the headline. An accurate headline would be "In Japan, Universal's attendance up 5%, while Disney's slightly slips."

You don't need to lecture me about Japan, I lived in Tokyo for two years. Your empirical observations are just an attempt at obfuscating your faulty analysis comparing the US and Japan without considering the spatial distribution of the populations and transportation networks. Just admit you didn't think through your premises and conclusion clearly before posting. Why is it so hard for people on the net to admit they goofed?
Ja mata ne...

April 5, 2017 at 10:19 AM · Tony, isn't the purpose of a headline supposed to be to capture your attention? You're welcome to nitpick it, but you seem to be the only one who has a problem with it on this thread.

I also don't get your overt hostility towards my casual treatment of the statistics in looking at the situation. It was only a quick look at the numbers combined with my anecdotal experiences. As someone who has three years of college level mathematics as well as graduate level statistics and who spent several years writing highly complex technical reports, I certainly wouldn't stoop to calling it analysis. It is only an observation and nothing more.

Normally, your posts aren't quite this contentious, Tony, so I hope that whatever condition that has you this combative gets better.

April 5, 2017 at 3:59 PM · Just because no one commented on the inaccurate headline doesn't necessarily mean they didn't notice it. Robert has a good reputation and shouldn't trade it for a misleading headline that wouldn't pass muster in a journalism ethics test.

Chest-beating your background in statistics and/or work experience has no bearing on your hollow argument. You got called out; that's what can happen when you post to a discussion board. You can own up to your deficiency, or project your shortcoming onto somebody else. Predictably, you chose the latter.

April 5, 2017 at 7:32 PM · Hmm... Tony you're starting to delve into the absurd. Trying to turn my personal observation into a statement of fact so you can attack it is silly. Especially when you don't (or can't) offer any substantial reason for why you disagree with it.

Accusing me of chest-beating for offering up my bona fides when you did it in your previous post is just plain hypocritical. "You don't need to lecture me about Japan, I lived in Tokyo for two years." Remember that? Looks to me like somebody was doing a little chest-beating there.

Oh, and by the way, I remember when you joined the site, and I knew that you had lived in Japan. I'm glad to let you be the Japan expert, but I certainly hope that the rest of us are allowed to share our experiences when they have pertinence to the discussion.

But here's the real issue. You still have a chapped butt about being called out on your Disney fanboy postings in the thread on 'Don't Dismiss Universal's New, Interdisciplinary Take on Theme Park Sites' last month. I'm sorry that you're having trouble getting over it, but you lost then, and you're losing badly now. It may be time to accept your shortcomings and give up before it gets worse.

This is fun, and to quote fellow TPI member TH Creative - "Oink!"

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