Japan 2013 Day 4: Universal Studios Japan

by - 11/14/2013

The last time I went to any sort of amusement park was when I was seven years old, and that was Disneyland, Knotsberry Farms and I think Universal Studios. And I remember my dad telling me to tell them that I was nine, just in case they asked, when we went to ride Space Mountain. I also remember covering my eyes on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and my mother trying to pray my hands off of my face, because the pirate automatons were TERRIFYING. 

But I have grown quite a bit since then, and have also embraced the pirate lifestyle. Which is lucky for Kevin, because he LOVES amusement parks. He absolutely had to go to Universal Studios Japan (hereafter referred to as USJ) while we were there, and of course I obliged because hell, it's been 20 years since I last went there. I was excited because the day we went was the first day of their Christmas event, and I LOVE Christmas. I love the lights, the decorations, the music, everything. Kevin, not so much. 

When we got to the train that would take us to USJ, this pulled up:

Yes, it is covered in Hello Kitty. And it was adorable.

It was raining when we got there, but we weren't about to let that dampen our fun. It didn't dampen these girls spirits either. Look at those outfits! I could never walk around in those shoes all day. Any of those shoes. And a frilly skirt would be the last thing I wear to ride rides! But more power to them, man.

I wanted to eat something before we went in because I was starving, so we stopped at Mos Burger. This was our first sample of Japanese fast food. I remember there was a Mos Burger in Waikiki for a while, but I never got a chance to try it. I ordered just a regular Mos burger, with fries and a melon soda. God, I wish we had melon soda in American fast food chains. Kevin just got a cheese burger, pictured below.

The Mos burger had kind of like a pizza/pasta sauce all over it, with cheese, and the freshest slice of tomato I ever had on a burger. It was really delicious. 

But it was small! It is definitely not what we are used to in America when we order fast food. The burger itself was maybe slightly bigger than a slider. The drink was an American size small beverage, as were the fries. But you know what? It filled us up enough. We weren't full, but we weren't hungry, and I think that's the best place to be when you're about to ride rides. 

When we got to the entrance, it was all decked out for Christmas! I was so excited!

Inside there was the biggest Christmas tree I have EVER seen. There was a plaque on it that said it was in the Guinness World Record book for most lights on a Christmas tree or something like that. This tree was like five stories tall, easily. In the daytime it was really impressive, and I was excited to see it light up later that night!

Naturally, the first thing we rode was the Amazing Spiderman Ride. It was easily the BEST ride I have ever been on. It's like a 3D ride, but you move around on a track, so I think they consider it a 4D ride. Best. Fun. Ever. When we were done and went to the store, I was amazed by how many food souvenirs there were! 

Cup noodle
I figured out it's because of the Japanese Culture. They are big on "omiyage," and that is mostly in the form of food. So there is food EVERYWHERE in Japan. Later, we found Spiderman just hanging out. 

So when we saw Jaws, I had to laugh, because they draped his carcass in a festive wreath. I told Kevin we just had to take a picture with it. So we jumped in the line (which wasn't very long), and watched as other people got their picture taken. This turned out to be extremely entertaining, because whenever the guys took a successful picture, they screamed. Like, they screamed their guts out. Not words or anything, just a horrifying banshee-level shriek.

This was one of the quieter screamers.

When we finally got up there to take our picture, they asked where we were from, and seemed to be really entertained by the fact that we were from Hawaii. They put some extra effort into their scream, because even as I was walking away, the guy was still screaming at me. 

Nothing says merry Christmas quite like a shark carcass!
USJ, unlike its American counterpart, has a section dedicated to Hello Kitty. And if you like Hello Kitty, you would be in Heaven. I thought of my niece the whole time, she would have had fit. An adorable, pink, Hello Kitty fit. 

I also had to have a Hello Kitty themed snack from the snack corner. There was a really long line for this place, and I can see why. They had ridiculously adorable treats. 

I opted for the pork and cheese bun. How FREAKING ADORABLE is this?

And it was pretty delicious! After my snack, we wandered around some more, trying to follow the map of the park. 
By this time we were hungry for a meal again (we had already rode Spiderman, Back to the Future, done Backdraft). So we popped into an Irish pub/restaurant. Inside, it was also decorated for Christmas, and it was pretty adorable! We basically had the whole place to ourselves, but shortly after a family with small children came in, as well as a very large party of Japanese businessmen.

You can't go to an Irish pub and not have a beer. So of course me and Kevin got some. Guess which one is mine?
The manly one is mine.
Kevin ordered a Salisbury steak (I think that's what it was), and when it came, it had mashed potatoes shaped into a snowman. So adorable! I ordered stew, which was tasty. Again, very small portions compared to what we are used to in America, but it filled us. 

After dinner it was almost time for their Christmas show to start, so everyone sat in the streets to watch. This didn't appear to be unusual at all, and some people even brought their own mats to sit on. The streets were pretty dang clean, and I noticed that all throughout the day, people were constantly sweeping up. We sat down right next to the giant Christmas tree, to the right of the stage. When the show started, they projected these really pretty pictures onto the building. It looked really cool, and it changed and moved with the scenes.

So of course, everything was in Japanese (except the music), but you didn't need to speak it to understand what was going on. In Japan, Christmas is a romantic holiday. It's a lot like Valentine's Day in America. Christianity isn't a huge thing in Japan, but they are all about adopting holidays, so Christmas eve is usually spent with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and at some point it will probably involve Kentucky Fried Chicken (which is the official Christmas eve meal of Japan for some strange reason), and a Christmas cake. Anyway, the point is that Christmas is a romantic time. So the story in this stage performance was about a boy and a girl who meet and fall in love and get married. And they lived happily ever after, the end. I thought it was interesting that majority of the cast was white, especially the lead characters. It was weird seeing them mouth things in Japanese. They sang mostly Christmas carols, and danced around. But then, they lit up the Christmas tree!

And it changed colors!

It turned green, and blue, and red, and green and red, it was so so pretty! It was the prettiest tree I've ever seen. I love Christmas! As we left the park, it got cold, so of course I had to get a Hello Kitty hat with fuzzy balls. 

And you cant go to Japan and not eat a crepe at some point during your stay.

20 years after my last amusement park experience, I definitely had a blast. It's a lot more fun when you are tall enough to ride the rides and aren't afraid of the mechanical pirates and stuff.

Tips for USJ: 
  • As most places in Japan, go on a weekday. There was not much of a crowd when we started our day (around 11:00am). Lines for rides, even really popular rides, took no more than half an hour, if at all. But it definitely started to fill up as the day went on, when people started to get off of work, and kids got out of school. It was also a Friday, so if you want to avoid big crowds, stick to a weekday.
  • We did not do this, but next time we definitely will. Get a fast pass. You can pay extra to ride either four, seven, or 10 rides, that will get you right to the front of the line. If you don't want to pay extra for that service and don't mind riding things alone, you can always jump in the singles line, which pretty much gets you right to the front. If you have an annual pass from anywhere other than that particular Universal Studios, it is sadly not valid.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Or shoes with great insoles. I honestly don't know how those girls walked around in those shoes all day long. 

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