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November 29, 2015

Neil Writes About Japan 2015 Day 4 - Universal Studios Japan

After seeing a glimpse of Japan's past through Kyoto, it was time to visit the contemporary. Nothing screams contemporary than pop culture movies. Yes, Universal Studios Japan! I've been to Universal Studios in Los Angeles and in Singapore and there are rides that I still remember vividly that are present in all three locations. I will be focusing on the rides I never experienced in Los Angeles and in Singapore. An example would be the Harry Potter themed rides. So let's get going!

Please don't forget that in our Day One and Day Two articles, we explain that our conversion rate is JPY 1.00 is equal to PHP 0.40.

Apartment to Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan operating hours vary per day. We went on a Thursday where it opens at 9.30 AM and closes at 8PM. So we pulled out the bagels with cream cheese and a jar Jam that we bought at Umeda station last night and heated the bagels up in the oven provided by our host. We bought five bagels for JPY 120.00 each. The cream cheese cost us JPY 400.00 while the Jam cost us JPY 300.00.
So (JPY 600 + JPY 400 + JPY 300)/5 people which amounts to JPY 260.00 per person or Php 104.00 per person for a good breakfast.

Warm firm outer layer with fine compact inner layer, this bagel is worth the JPY 120.00 price tag.

After our daily morning routine we left the house at 8AM and arrived at the station five minutes after. We are taking the Kintetsu line to Nishi-Kujo station then transfer to the JR line that gets us to Universal city station. From there, the entrance to the Universal Studios is just five minutes of walking.

JPY 6600 per ticket!

When we got there at 8.45 AM, the lines for the tickets aren't that bad. We were lucky because after ten minutes the lines just expanded exponentially. Phew! By that time we were already queueing for the entrance turnstiles. As tourists, you only need to pay tax free of JPY 6600 per ticket. All you have to do is present your passports.

The park entrance can get crowded if you aren't early!
We stood there excited to see how this place is different from our venture to the other Universal Studios. When the clock struck 9.30, the lines started moving and we got in ten minutes after! We then rushed to the far right of the park to get to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Giant Stone Sundials at the entrance!

If nothing else, trying to get as quick as we could to the HP land was a good way to get some exercise in the morning.

Weasley's crashed car!
We passed by those giant stone sun dial that marks the entrance to the HP park. Surrounding the stone monument were pine trees reminiscing the forest surrounding Hogwarts. As we continued through the trail we saw the flying car Ron crashed getting into Hogwarts when they missed the train that one year. There is a queuing entrance near it for having your photos taken with the said car.

Hogwarts Express Photo Ops are a thing!
A little bit later we saw the giant arch that had a sign which to me was gibberish but I think would make a lot of sense to Potterheads. On the right side of the other end of the arch is the Hogwarts express. A lot of people are flocking here to have their photos taken. There is also a kind man in a conductor's costume to help increase the immersion that you are in Hogwarts!

Yeah, I saw a lot of Potter-heads geeking out.
We then had to pass through the town before we could get to the castle itself. It was interesting because it did feel like the ones I saw in the movies. You could also see fans buy the school robes and their chosen house scarves. (I personally would have been Slytherin.)

They are watching you.
Eventually we got to the entrance of the castle where the main attraction is. The whole queue takes you through the following: entrance, pine tree forest, greenhouse, secret entrance, locker room, stairs with moving paintings, main dining hall, headmaster's office, house dorms and then eventually to the ride itself where you sit beside three other people and are given 3D glasses. The rest is best experienced for yourself.

This is the inside of the secret entrance!
Before you can get to the staircase with moving paintings, you are advised to keep your things in the locker because they may fall off and get lost while the ride is on-going. The leaflet on the picture above this paragraph are the instructions on how to use the lockers where I left my camera so I wasn't able to take a lot of the pictures along the queue, but I guarantee that any fan of the books or the movies will squeal in total glee as they are immersed in it.

The 4D ride was amazing! It has a mix of CGI and animatorinics which is a lethal combination in films like Jurassic park! If you've riden the Transformers ride at Universal Studios Singapore, this one is a way beyond it.

We then decided to have a meal since it was a little before 12 noon. We went to the three broomsticks restaurant where we got the great feast for four people sharing with two standard butterbeers and two frozen butterbeers.

The Great Feast! Ribs, Corn, Chicken Vegetables, Potato Chips, and Salad
The great feast has four bowls of salad, of grilled corn, of grilled chicken, of grilled ribs and has a generous serving of potato chips and of vegetables. It was able to feed all five of us to the brim. The great feast on its own cost JPY 7600.00 while the standard butterbeer costs JPY 700.00. If you buy the commemorative mugs with the butterbeer it jumps to JPY 1200.00 The total cost for our lunch got to JPY 11,400 on the meal alone. That was the priciest meal for the whole trip. It comes to a whopping JPY 2280.00 per person.

Pick your poison: Standard or Frozen?

The food itself was good but not spectacular. The butterbeer on the other hand is basically melted butterballs with the consistency of rootbeer float. It's nice to try but not something I would have again. We tried a lot of rides after like Spider-man the ride, Jurassic Park the ride, Back to the Future the Ride, Jaws the ride, Waterworld, Terminator the ride and the constant thing is the thirty minute to an hour of waiting in line to ride a ten to fifteen minute ride. Most rides were well done where practical and computer generated effects were used in conjunction but some of the rides are showing their age. It was amazing though. Movies under the universal branding shine the most especially if you are a fan of the intellectual property.

Peter Parker's Workspace at the Daily Bugle!
I decided to drop my stuff at a locker because of all the waiting and walking even I had to give up carrying my bag and my camera so I could enjoy and experience the whole park without the pressure of taking pictures each time. If you've never been to a Universal Studios Theme park, US Japan and US Los Angeles' are good places to start because they are bigger and have a lot of variety compared to the smaller parks like the ones in Singapore.

Most of the local tourists are going home at 4PM
After all those rides we decided to go home at 4PM. Most of the locales did the same so I would advice riding as much ride as you can after most of the local tourists have left. The hot rides aren't as bad as the peak hours. My favourites are still the Harry Potter themed rides because they never felt dated.

Homemade Okonomiyaki!
We rode the same train to get back home and spent the same amount of JPY 510.00 per person for the train ride. We decided to have some street food from the market. We got some Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba which normally cost JPY 650.00 each but since we were taking it home we got each for JPY 500.00. We then found a sushi stall that sells a packed set of sushi rolls for JPY 650.00. Which brings the total dinner cost to JPY 2650.00 or Php 1040.00 for five people.

Homemade Yakisoba!
The Okonomiyaki itself was basically chopped vegetables with mayonaise, floss and your chosen meat but It was amazing. It was also thick with a lot of unique textures that fight for your tongue's attention. The Yakisoba was also interesting because I thought it would taste like the Filipino Pancit because of the similarities but I was proven wrong. The noodles itself were flavorful on its own and was filling up my stomach quickly. This means the quality of flour used is very good. Street food is still the best!

Budget Breakdown (Per Person)

Note: Conversion Rate = PHP 0.40 = JPY 1.
Japanese Visa Processing: Php 950.00 (Reli Tours)
Airline Tickets (MNL to KIX & KIX to MNL): Php 10,000++
AirBnB (Lodging for five nights): Php 7000,00++
NAIA Terminal Fee: Php 1650.00
Subtotal: Php 19,600.00 Per Person

 Day One Subtotal: Php 3660.00
Day Two Subtotal: Php 816.00
Day Three Subtotal: Php 1976.00

Day Four Expenses:
Nippombashi station to Universal City Station: JPY 510.00 = Php 204.00
Universal Studios Japan Entrance Ticket: JPY 6600.00 = Php 2640.00
Three Broomstick Lunch(The Great Feast + Butterbeer): JPY 2280.00 = Php 912.00 Per Person
Universal City Station to Nippombashi station to : JPY 510.00 = Php 204.00
Yakisoba + Okonomiyaki + Sushi Roll: JPY 1040.00/5 People = JPY 208.00 = Php 84.00 

Day Four Subtotal: JPY 10108.00 = Php 4043.20

Total Trip Expenses So Far: Php 30,095.20 Per Person

Money Left: Php 14,904.8 = JPY 37,262 Per Person

We stayed at Osaka for five days and I will be writing the rest within the next few days. I will place the link below as they come available.

If you have questions and suggestions please don't hesitate to mention them in the comments below!

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