Theme Park of the Week: Universal Studios Japan

February 13, 2022, 4:54 PM · What is Universal's most popular theme park? Whether you argue Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure, you're wrong. Universal's most visited theme park (at least before the pandemic scrambled everything) long has been Universal Studios Japan. And that is our Theme Park of the Week here on Theme Park Insider.

Opened in Osaka on March 31, 2001, Universal Studios Japan is the world's most-visited theme park not branded to Disney. It's the fifth most-visited theme park in the world but the third most popular in Japan, trailing the two Tokyo Disney theme parks. If you are wondering, the top two parks in the world are Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in California, but the Japan parks take the next three spots, giving the country a majority of the world's top five.

The big draw here is the first installation of Universal's Super Nintendo World, which opened officially in March last year.

The "real life Mario Kart ride," Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge, claimed a spot on our list of the world's top 25 theme park attractions last year and is joined in the land by the Yoshi Adventure track ride and Kinopio's Cafe restaurant. But everything in this land is an attraction, as the land is filled with interactive elements that invite you to play. A Donkey Kong expansion of the land now is under construction.

Universal Studios Japan also offers three roller coasters that fans will not find in its US parks, including Bolliger & Mabillard's Hollywood Dream: The Ride, the Mack Rides spinning coaster Space Fantasy The Ride, which usually gets a VR overlay for the park's Universal Cool Japan event, and the Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster, Jurassic Park The Flying Dinosaur.

Elsewhere, Universal Studios Japan includes several Universal theme park favorites, including The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. But it also offers several blasts from the past for US theme park fans, including Terminator 2:3D, Shrek 4D, Backdraft, and Jaws The Ride.

But the real mind-bender for American visitors is Universal's license for the Peanuts and Sesame Street characters in Asia, which means a bunch of kiddie rides, play areas, and character meets themed to these franchises, plus Hello Kitty, in its Universal Wonderland area.

For more information on the park, please visit our Guide to Universal Studios Japan. And if you've visited the park, we would love to hear about your experience, in the comments.

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Replies (3)

February 14, 2022 at 4:39 AM

Are there any tpi readers who have actually visited this park?

Somehow it never appealed to me. I was always focused on Tokyo Disney Sea because it offers attractions that are different from the other parks in the US and Europe.

Are these Osaka exclusive attractions worth the visit?

February 14, 2022 at 10:55 PM

This might be my favorite park in the world. I spent two days there in 2016 (I missed riding Back to the Future for the last time by a month, ugh!) and once Japan reopens to tourism I plan on hitting it up this year again, mostly for Super Nintendo World. It very much feels like the U.S. parks. It is located with a city walk and like Hollywood has a few high rise hotels by its entrance. As Robert mentioned it has an awesome collection of classic Universal attractions but at the time of my visit, its 3 biggest exclusive attractions; Space Fantasy, Hollywood Dream, and Flying Dinosaur are loads of fun. Space Fantasy is like a Space Mountain with more lights and a spinning vehicle. It's pretty trippy and a straight up good time.

I will say that this park has the most dedicated early risers. These people rope drop with the best of them around the world so be weary of that. Osaka is such a great city too and it has its own dedicated subway station which makes it a breeze to get to. Yeah its a heck of a park.

February 15, 2022 at 11:12 PM

Possibly the greatest park in the world. At least my favorite in the world. It's like a modern ultimate take on the US parks. A great city walk, high end hotels at the front entrance. It has all the awesome classic Universal attractions here with Jaws, Back to the Future, Terminator, Backdraft, and Shrek. But most importantly, it has 4 huge exclusives with Hollywood Dream, Hollywood Backdrop, Space Fantasy, and the Flying Dinosaur which are all a hell of fun. Space Fantasy is like a better, more intense awesome version of Space Mountain. It might be the most flat-out fun ride at any Universal park, and is neat. And it's all only gotten better with Super Nintendo World and their incredible Mario Kart ride which is outstanding and very impressive, and the Yoshi ride is charming and enjoyable.

The only thing with this park is it's the most crowded in the world. Every ride gets multi-hour waits most days. It certainly attracts to everyone from around the world and tons of people rope drop it every morning. As Manny said, Osaka is a great city, with a handy subway station. Big facts, it's a phenomenal park.

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