• Shona McCarthy

Inside USJ : Universal Studios Japan

I've been to USJ twice in my life now, and I hope to return again. I've talked a great deal about how I mostly returned the second time to go for the Terminator:2 ride. I've talked about some of the specific USJ locations and I'll probably tell of more in the future. But I feel a need to talk about what it's like to be in the park itself. And it is worth talking about. When I first enter the park, I'm always struck by the way so many different styles of architecture are replicated at the entrance. The way I feel as though I'm walking into an alternate city rather than just an amusement park. There is a feeling I get as I stand within the USJ gates that I didn't feel when I was within Tokyo Disneyland. I think that the amount of American cinema that most people around the world has consumed means that for all of us, there is a kind of fictionalised fantasy America that lives in our imagination. When I'm at USJ, I feel as though I'm there; the wholesome coastal towns, the ritzy glamour of old Hollywood, the street cuisine of New York.

So, when I go to USJ, I actually preference wandering the streets rather than actually going on rides (Though you'll know I'll go on the Terminator ride over and over given the chance.) I also love eating in the various restaurants that exist there, since each includes a special style of cuisine. This is even though I've never been to the ever-popular Hogwarts part of the park, and have no intention to ever do so. I don't see myself as the greatest expert on USJ, so here is a video where someone more expert provides tips on how to visit USJ the best way.

Money-saving tips I can offer you are this: Take a plastic bottle with you, but empty. You aren't allowed to take any food or drinks into the park, so the way you'll save money there is if you use the drinking fountains. Though if you're worried about the hygiene of such things, especially after Covid-19, that's very understandable. The next tip I'd offer you for staying hydrated is to buy the largest size of drink every time you buy one in the park, and then empty the cup into your bottle so you can ration it out. For food, you'll get better value by buying the meal deals as opposed to buying individual foods. The bigger the meal deal, the better the value. Also, I could be wrong, but I suspect the meals in the Jurassic Park area are more filling than in any other area since they seem to contain more fibre. For added value, take an empty plastic box with you so you can take leftovers back out of the park with you. I wanted to try all the food I could in the park, but I didn't have enough room in my stomach. So I took some food out of the park and no one seemed to want to stop me. Ever time I've ever gone to the park, I always found that once the sun set, the park would get incredibly cold compared to how warm it had been in the day. Many visitors to the park end up tempted to buy hats, blankets and shawls from the many gift stores in order to keep warm. These can be very cute and clever, but also very pricey. So I was able to save a lot of money for myself by bringing a warm coat with me and keeping it in one of the lockers. Lockers at the park are cheap to rent all day long, but it does mean you have to make sure to have some coins with you on the day for when you want to open and close it. As I recall, you have to pay again each time you want to lock it again. I don't recommend leaving unsealed foods and drink unattended in the lockers, since this might invite vermin. I also recommend going to the bathroom just before you line up for rides. It can be a long wait sometimes, and if you have to leave for a rest room part the way through, you'll be wasting a lot of time you could have spent exploring the park. For similar reasons, I suggest looking up park attractions before your visit, going to the park earlier in the day, and heading straight for the back area of the park as soon as you get through the gates. People tend to linger around the front of the park. So if you aim straight for the back you'll deal with fewer crowds and shorter lines. If you need to look at your map, do it while you're already in line for something so you can multitask and save time. Remember, sometimes saving money is about making the most of the money you've already spent.

If you're wanting to experience anime culture without having to travel all the way to Akihabara in Tokyo, I suggest visiting USJ during one of their "Cool Japan" periods. You can save some money (and time) by buying a "night" ticket, where you can only enter the park in in the PM, but by then most of the park visitors are just loitering in the streets, meaning most lines are less competitive. Particularly around Christmas the park looks absolutely magical at night, and since you can sleep in you'll be more relaxed and rested during your time at the park. Another way to get cheaper tickets is to buy on less popular days of the park. Again, since they are less popular days, you won't have as many crowds to grapple with. If you're wanting to experience gamer culture there, it's easier than ever due to the new Super Nintendo World:

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