Universal Studios Japan Like Universal Singapore, Universal Studios Japan takes the best rides from the California and Florida parks, and makes them even better. It was one of my most anticipated parks for this trip, and I was excited to experience some "classic" Universal attractions I hadn't had the chance to see at any of the other parks - Back to the Future and Jaws. Both rides are definitely a product of their time, but neither disappointed.
Harry Potter Japan is almost exactly the same as its counterpart in Orlando, minus a pair of dueling coasters. Some elements are a little improved, with a more immersive entry and 4K 3D projections on the ride. When I rode Forbidden Journey in Orlando I felt that the transitions between the physical sets and the screens were pretty poor. The upgraded screens are definitely an improvement but the best part of that attraction is still the queue. Despite us visiting on an off-peak Tuesday the place was packed, and this was particularly evident around the fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo, which were jammed full of people with a handful of poor cast members doing their best to manage the traffic flow. The park needs to sort this out pretty soon as the crowd crush is a safety concern as well as poor guest experience.
Elsewhere in the park, Space Fantasy is the best ride you've probably never heard of. It's hard to describe - basically an indoor spinning coaster dark ride loosely based around the big bang. It is spectacular, no POV video can possibly do the ride justice, so I recommend just going and riding it!
We checked out a couple of the shows as well - Monster Rock and Waterworld. Waterworld is exactly what you'd get in LA or Singapore, except in Japanese (not a barrier to enjoying the explosions). Monster Rock is similar to the Beetlejuice show that was (until recently) in Orlando, in a big airconditioned theatre. Both shows were great and, as seems to be standard at Asian parks, extremely popular.
The day started at Japanese Citywalk, which was very similar to all the others. Hard Rock Cafe? Check. Pop culture store? Check. King Kong hanging off a building? He's there too.
I think we might have arrived.
They have a globe, of course.
Hang out with Nolan and you'll see a lot of this.
They took one look at AJ and sent us to the "Special Entry".
Definitely a Universal main street!
First stop was a credit - Snoopy! We're in a movie park, so this is themed to Snoopy filming a race.
No amount of psychiatric treatment could help James. I blame the hat.
Universal Japan has the Sesame Street license too. And Hello Kitty. I think they've just picked up everything that isn't owned by Disney already.
Definitely aimed at the younger set, although that flume ride looks fun.
Jeff decided to try the slide instead, and failed.
James showed us all how it's done, right before the attendant suggested we should go visit some more "adult" attractions.
Having never had the chance to ride Jaws, I was keen to check this one out.
The cruise sounded delightful.
The shark photo op was very crowded so I took this picture instead.
For 400 yen, a shark-resistant poncho can be yours!
The tour guides were great, I assume. Did not understand a word but it was all very enthusiastically delivered.
I grabbed this just before the "no camera" announcement was made. I liked Jaws quite a bit, the ride actually does a really good job of recreating the tension from the film - certainly much more so than the equivalent section of the Studio Tour in Hollywood.
Jurassic Park area was closed so they can build the new B&M flyer. I'd done the ride at three other parks so wasn't too concerned about missing this one.
Space Fantasy was brilliant. Excellent ride, very well themed and because it's a spinner every time you rode you got to see different things. I can't imagine Universal ever bringing this kind of ride to the US - it's probably too abstract - but that just makes for a good reason to visit Osaka!
Space Fantasy: The Fountain.
Our timed entry passes to Harry Potter world were ready, so it was time to go get a dose of fan service.
Unlike Islands of Adventure, in Japan Hogsmeade is completely separate from the rest of the park, so guests walk through a forest to get there. This definitely adds to the immersion. In LA you'll probably be able to see Burbank airport from the Three Broomsticks.
Like most British forests, someone had dumped an old car there.
We arrived to find a very busy Hogsmeade village.
So just like Orlando, but everyone is Japanese. The sense of immersion is excellent, right down to the overcast skies.
Lots of little details for fans of the movies and books.
The bullfrog choir made for an entertaining show. It was even in English!
Very impressive castle, housing a great queue and underwhelming ride.
(audible gasp) Fortunately with our express passes the wait was closer to 20 minutes.
They have a Hippogriff coaster too. This had a ninety minute wait, if you can believe that, although once again we had express access.
Japan is humid, so air conditioning was a tempting offer.
As was this show. Format was pretty simple, six monsters, each one gets a song, which they sang in English. Mercifully Beetlejuice's tedious dialogue was in Japanese.
Next up was Waterworld, one of the best theme park shows anywhere!
The cast did an excellent job getting the crowd pumped for the show.
Japanese Waterworld is very similar to its other incarnations, and still much better than the movie.
I could probably stick photos from Singapore in here and nobody would know. But this is definitely Japan.
Her dialogue was dubbed, but I'm OK with that.
The crowd absolutely loved Waterworld, you could tell a lot of guests were (multiple) repeat visitors, anticipating all of the big moments.
The money shot. Of course.
Explosions and fire!
After all of the excitement of Waterworld we calmed down by wandering the New York backlot. This is basically identical to Orlando.
Although I don't know if they have the cigar store.
Especially not a cigar store Indian. Jeff is saluting to show he's not racist, I guess?
Mel's Drive-In makes an appearance too.
Another long-lost Universal attraction - Backdraft! I hadn't seen this before either, it was great!
Behind the Minion Mart lies my #1 anticipated attraction at this park.
Back to the Future!
I am a big Back to the Future fan, so was very excited to get the chance to ride this at least once. It's definitely a little dated, which is to be expected. I found out that the whole ride sequence was filmed on a miniature model - in my mind, that's far more impressive than just doing it with computers!
Next up, the Amazing Hot Dogs ride!
Oh wait, it's Spider-man. Like its Orlando counterpart, this one recent received a 4K upgrade, and is also excellent.
I'm sure all of us, at one time or another, have wanted to look more gorgeous and fancy.
Jon considers the possibilities of this item.
And James has swapped his ridiculous hat for a classy Elmo headband. That's a wrap (sorry) from Universal, next update will be the Wonderful World of Fuji-Q!
Last edited by azza29 on Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:45 pm.
Fuji-Q Highland Having heard all of the horror stories about Fuji-Q, I weighed them up against the rides on offer and decided to chance it with a visit. I went to this park expecting the worst - two hour queues, rides closing unexpectedly, painfully slow operations and overall, a lot of drama just to experience a handful of rides. In the end, we got very lucky. The weather was great, crowds were light and with some solid advice from Robb and Elissa, we even managed to get all of the credits in.
That said frankly everything was still more drama than it needed to be. The park's nonsensical loose item policy (take off your watch, put it in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo, put this key around your wrist which is looser than your watch) makes coaster dispatches few and far between. What would otherwise be a 20 minute wait at most parks takes an hour at Fuji-Q. The Japanese might be renowned for efficiency but it definitely doesn't extend to this park. Basically, we got everything done but it's not hard to see they would end up with crazy lines on an "ordinary" day.
That said, the rides were, for the most part, worth going out of the way for. Takabisha is the best Eurofighter I've been on, a delightful mess of inversions and twists. Dodonpa's launch and insane top hat airtime are unlike anything else, and along with having the most inversions, Eejanaika probably has the record for the most number of "holy crap" moments of any rollercoaster. Fujiyama is 80% fun, 20% painful trick-track.
Aside from the coasters we also rode the park's newest addition, Fuji-Q Airways. This is basically Soarin' Over California, but in Japan, and just different enough so as not to attract a patent infringement. Sometimes these simulators in smaller parks end up with a terrible ride film (like, say, Europe in the Air) but Fuji-Q Airways was quite well done, and wouldn't be out of place at Epcot (if they didn't already have the a very similar ride, of course!).
After an early start and a long bus ride, we had arrived at the park. They're currently building some kind of French-themed entry mall/plaza, what was there so far looked quite good.
The actual park entrance was less impressive, but crowds looked light.
After bracing himself for these rides to close at the slightest hint of rain, James is glad to see mostly clear skies!
We ran straight to Dodonpa, and luckily only had a 20 minute wait to ride. No longer the fastest coaster, but still the fastest launch.
Apparently undressing while on the ride is frowned upon. I'm almost surprised they didn't make you leave your clothes in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo too.
Zero to 107mph in 1.8 seconds, 4.25Gs!
It's kind of a shame the ride doesn't do more with all of that speed, but you basically launch, turn right, go up a near-vertical top hat, and back into the station. Simple but effective.
This is where the ride tries to violently eject its passengers.
There's more airtime on this one ride than in all of California.
Arms up = coaster enthusiasts.
Our next stop was Takabisha. Again, fortunately the queue wasn't too bad. By the end of the first hour we'd managed two of the park's major rides.
Takabisha is a kilometre-long, enchanting mess of Eurofighter track.
It currently holds the world record for the steepest drop, at 121 degrees.
Takabisha has two "acts", with a launched section followed by a vertical lift and the big drop. I quite like rides that let you take a breath in between the thrills, makes them feel more substantial.
With seven inversions, you spend a lot of time upside down on this ride.
Even more upside down.
One more. I was having a lot of fun with the zoom lens at this park.
Fuji-Q has denoted Fujiyama as the "King of Coasters". At three and a half minutes, it's definitely one of the longest rides out there.
Not wanting to push our luck any further, we caved and shelled out for the front of line passes on this one. For $10 it wasn't a bargain but I was pretty happy to skip the hour-long quiet-day line.
Fujiyama is very big and mostly hidden behind trees and buildings. So here's a picture of the lift hill.
For the most part, this is an excellent coaster. The speed combined with plenty of hills makes for a great ride. The final leg is a little painful though, finishing with a bouncy trick-track section.
The gold train might be lucky but that ending is still going to hurt.
Noticing there was no line, we stopped for the wild mouse.
This was a pretty standard mouse, I think it might have even been a portable model? It's kind of weird to see a fairly ordinary ride like this sitting in between Fujiyama and Eejanaika.
It had some good whip action on the corners, but not something I needed to re-ride.
Fuji-Q Airways is a simulator where you get to fly over Mt Fuji.
I suspect if Fuji-Q had to design a real airplane passengers might end up sitting on the wings too. So this is the "not quite Soarin'" ride system. Apart from that the ride was pretty similar, big room with a giant concave screen. As I said before, the ride itself was actually decent.
Jeff was happy to model for this strange photo op.
Great Fluffy Sky Adventure is a family invert. It reminded me of the Batflyer at Nasu Highland, only with a less awkward train.
You ride in a charming cloud-shaped train.
It was a credit and offered good views of the other coasters. I left happy.
I think this is an ad for the flume ride. That wave is about the size of the splash it makes too.
This lucky guy has the wave swinger all to himself.
Kitty Power rapids ride.
For all the negatives about the park, it does have a great setting. And a giant ferris wheel...
...complete with a "love capsule".
This haunt attraction consisted of sitting in the dark with headphones on. I'm sure it's great if you speak Japanese, but I didn't understand a word.
The park's kiddie area was themed to Thomas the Tank Engine. Having grown up with the TV show, I was interested to see this.
This area of the park was quite well done, five year old me would have loved it!
The dark ride, based around Thomas having a birthday party, was very good. It even had a switch track and turntable, just like a real train!
For some, Rock'n'Roll Duncan is the real highlight of Fuji-Q.
I'd been on X2, but Eejanaika was still a little intimidating. The inversions might be controlled, but it's still one of the more extreme coasters out there.
James has the confident pose of a man who's been on the ride before.
The posted wait was an hour, I think we ended up waiting about two-thirds of that. Credit where it's due, the ride ops were showing some hustle on this one.
Guinness World Records says most inversions, good enough for me.
It's surprising anyone is actually deemed worthy to ride this thing.
Turns out Eejanaika is fantastic, deliberately aggressive right to the end!
The whole ride is very disorienting, to the point where it's easy to lose track of which way is up.
The park makes you take your shoes off to ride, so a lot of people just go barefoot. Not a bad way to ride!
It's almost a shame there aren't more of these in the world, although given the cost and troubled history that's kind of understandable.
Like X2, inversions that don't match the track layout make the ride wonderfully unpredictable.
In case I haven't been clear, this is a very fun coaster.
You should go ride it. Now!
So these signs started popping up an hour before close, so I got some bonus photography time. Overall Fuji-Q could be an awesome park if they fixed up their operations, in the meantime it's just kind of mediocre but with a few outstanding rides. Fortunately we got lucky and a had a reasonable day there. Thanks for reading - next update will cover a few small parks around Tokyo!
Our group finished the whole park by 11, including a few flats and Thomas dark ride! Truly a great day that might happen once every few hundred years I guess! Also applause to Fuji-Q for running their flat rides at the intense mode, their HUSS frisbee is the best one I've been on despite having 3 seat belts.
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