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Although excitement played its own role, apprehension was the overarching emotion when we booked to visit Universal Studios Japan (USJ). Not being a huge fan of Americanised institutions, or plastic-fantastic overpriced days out, I was wondering whether or not USJ would be an enjoyable experience or something born from nightmares. 
 
The opportunity to visit Super Nintendo World quickly overshadowed my doubts. Growing up, I was a big fan of anything Nintendo, spending countless hours with my Uncle working through hit titles from Mario and Zelda universes on the N64 and Gamecube. It felt only right to give this place a visit, despite the convoluted booking process, and overwhelming price tag! 
Another motivating factor to visit the park was to obtain exclusive merchandise for our wonderful customers. Being able to obtain rare and wonderful items was the primary focus of our whole trip to Japan, so USJ could not be missed! 
 
Booking USJ in 2023When we booked to go to USJ for the very first time (we are going back March 2024, link to new post coming soon!), it was very challenging. Japan had recently made changes to the card issuers that they would and would not accept through online bookings outside of Japan. This meant that we were unable to book with Visa or Mastercard Debit cards at all. After much frustration and failed attempts, we were able to book with a Credit card, at a total cost of over £180 for two adults. Not cheap! To book your tickets directly through USJ website, with their authorised reseller JTRWeb LTD, click here. 
 
It is also possible to book through a third party, like Klook. However, many times this can be more expensive, and you have to make sure that the third party tickets are valid at the park. At the time of writing, Klook is an authorised reseller of USJ tickets. If you've missed the opportunity to buy your tickets through USJ, or are experiencing issues, you can get them through Klook, here

UPDATE! - 

As of January 2024, you can now book with Mastercard debit. Our latest booking for March 2024 has cost a whopping £306 for two adults. 
 
Access to Super Nintendo WorldAccess to the Super Nintendo World area of USJ isn't included in your regular ticket. You have the option to try your luck on the day, before the park opens, but tourists have been left in tears at the gate being unable to get access. The only other way to access Super Nintendo World is to buy an Express Pass. It'll likely include a lot of things you're not interested in, with a hefty price tag of up to 20,000 yen per person (on top of your admission price!). 
Some of the acitvities and access granted on our express passes for March 2024 includes areas that are closed for maintenance and/or closed indefinitely, which makes it even hard to understand the value of the express pass. However, it does grant you faster admission to rides of your choosing, depending on your choice of pass. The only part that doesn't make sense, is that if the majority of people have to have an express pass to get into Super Nintendo World, Surely the ride queues are already full of people with these fast track ride admissions? We will find our and update here when we go again in March! 

Our experience: 

Our original experience of Super Nintendo World was great, although as we were there for work and purchasing, we didn't have time to do any of the activities or rides in the area. It was exceptionally busy when we were there, with very long queues in the shop, for rides and for food. June 2023 was blisteringly hot, too, and getting a drink wasn't easy when walking around USJ on the whole. There were even queues of up to 20 people for the vending machines, with very little seating out of the sun around the park. 
 
The shop merchandise was more expensive than the Nintendo Stores in Japan, and did feel like a bit of a trap. Having said that, the quality and exclusivity of the merchandise made up for the price, and the goodies we obtained were loved by our customers... the main reason we are going back! 
 
Our time slot for Super Nintendo World wasn't until the late afternoon JST, so we did spend a good few hours walking around the rest of USJ. Large Hello Kitty floats and dancing characters flooded the main street with crowds of people enjoying the performances. As someone that is quietly terrified by people in mascot costumes, it wasn't my favourite part of the day, but otherwise great for children and adult fans alike. 
 
We visited the Jaws area of the park and spent around one hour queuing for the Jaws boat ride, which was actually really great (plus we got splashed from the water, cooling us down). My mum, who accompanied me on this business trip is a big Jaws fan, so she was really pleased to be able to fit this into our day! 
 
A variety of Jaws-themed food and drink items were available from stands and kiosks in the area, but unfortunately the queues were far too long in the heat.  
We found it really difficult to stay hydrated in the park and didn't manage to get anything more than a snack during our visit. Luckily, we had lunch just outside the park entrance (a lovely, big bowl of ramen), which was one of the best decisions we made that day. 
 
I would recommend doing the same, as even mid-week the park is exceptionally busy. They won't let you take snacks inside. We visited the Cup Noodles Museum in Osaka in the morning before coming to the park, and I bought a gift pack of ramen to give to my partner back home. The staff was very close to not letting me bring it inside the park, but after some clarification that it was not for me to eat but a gift to take home, they let me through. Food security is tight at USJ! Naturally, for safety reasons, there are bag searches. You will also not be allowed to take your drink inside either.Transport links to USJWe travelled for the day from Kyoto to Osaka, and then on to USJ after visiting the Cup Noodles Museum. For the most common travel points for USJ, see below for directions. 
 
Travelling from Kyoto If you've got the JR pass for travelling across Japan, you can book a bullet train service from Kyoto to Osaka at no additional cost. This Journey takes as little as 15 minutes. 
 
If you don't have a pass, or you're in no particular rush, you can hop on a regular train from Kyoto station. Board the train on the Tokaido-Sanyo Line Local towards Nishi-Akashi. Exit at Shin-Osaka. This Journey is significantly longer than the bullet train, but a fraction of the price. It'll take you as little as 43 minutes to get to Osaka from Kyoto. 
 
Despite having a JR pass on my previous visit to Japan, it seemed easier to just get a regular train to Osaka anyway. 

Traveling from Osaka 

From Osaka station, you can take the Osaka Loop Line (local) to Nishikujō Station. Change here and get the JR Yumesaki Line (Local) to Sakurajima, exiting the train at Universal-city station. 
This Journey typically takes just 12 minutes. At your destination station, you'll see plenty of signs and directions in English. It's very easy to navigate. 

Summary 

Overall, I would go back to USJ for leisure or for work, but only really for Super Nintendo World. I think it's been made very competitive and expensive, easily pricing out families wishing to go with children. I hope it gets more affordable in the future so that more people can experience the park. Overall ratings:Entertainment Value: 4/5 - it's amazing, but excessively busy, impacting enjoyment and how much you can experience.Value for Money: 3/5- Far too expensive, but worth the price if you're a big fan of Universal Studios, or really want to go to Nintendo World.Accessibility of refreshments and food: 2/5- Poor, but to be expected due to its popularity.  
I do think it's quite dangerous in the summer months for people not to be able to access water or soft drinks quickly. Would I return?: Despite all the drawbacks and the ridiculous price, yes I would (and will be in March 2024). Ease of travel: 5/5- Super easy to get to from Kyoto or Osaka (as someone who is dyspraxic and struggles with directions and coordination, I was able to navigate my way there with no issues). I recommend using Maps on your phone. I bought a digital data-only sim which saved me from extortionate phone bills. Holafly is very affordable and great signal strength throughout Japan. Easy to set up too! Check them out here
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