Universal Studios Japan:  What You’ll Find at Universal Cool Japan 2017

Universal Studios Japan: What You’ll Find at Universal Cool Japan 2017

The last time I was at a Universal Studios was probably around 30 years ago. It was either in Florida or California and one of the hottest rides at the time was Jaws. People would pile into a ferry and watch in nervous anticipation as a fin circled the boat before diving out of sight. Then moments later, just when everyone was looking around wondering where it went, a massive fiberglass Great White would pop out of the water next to the ferry and send everyone into a screaming tizzy. If you were lucky enough to be seated on the right side of the boat, then you’d get splashed a little. It was great fun.

Fast forward to 2017, and the thought of going on that Jaws attraction is about as exhilarating (and terrifying) as a Teacup ride. Much has changed in the advent of 4D technology and virtual reality. Rides are faster, scarier, more thrilling, and far more transportive than a fiberglass shark with painted eyes and mechanical jaws. With more control over your senses, the rides of today skew reality to bring you into another world β€” a world of giant unicorns, cyborgs, and fire-breathing behemoths. That augmented sense of reality is what we experienced many times over today at Universal Studios Japan.

Together with a group of bloggers/media from multiple countries, I was invited by Cebu Pacific Airlines and USJ to experience the new limited time attractions at Universal Cool Japan 2017. It was out of this world.

Excited much? πŸ˜† There’s me acting like a kid, happy to be back at Universal Studios after three decades.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

They’ve hung Jaws out to dry! πŸ˜† I was pleasantly surprised to find the iconic Jaws shark (and pickup truck) here at USJ. From what I understand, the ride is still around. It helped make Universal Studios what it is so it’s only right they retain it. What a classic.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Though we were here mainly to cover Universal Cool Japan 2017, we couldn’t go without experiencing their most popular attraction – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Here’s the crashed Ford Anglia from the movie.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

If you’ve never been to WWoHP, then prepare to be blown away. This place is mind-numbingly awesome! It really does feel like you’re in the movie. The atmosphere and attention to detail is remarkable.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Here’s a better photograph courtesy of USJ. The place is simply magical.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Hogwarts Express. We had such a tight schedule that we didn’t have time to take pictures, but fans of the series can’t leave without snapping a few photos with this iconic train.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

The shops were so much fun! Too bad we didn’t have time to really explore. πŸ™
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Check out this wand store! Just like in the movie! πŸ˜€
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

There’s Castle Blac…I mean Hogwarts Castle. πŸ˜› There we got to experience USJ’s most popular attraction – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D. They strap you into this vessel wearing 3D glasses so you can join Harry and the other wizards in a game of Quidditch. Fun!!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

A shot of Hogwarts Castle taken just outside the Three Broomsticks Restaurant
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Harry Potter fans will get a kick out of this. It’s a new Magical Wand attraction comprised of six spell-casting stations. Here they were teaching us how to light the chimney by waving the wand in a specific manner and chanting Incendio! After messing it up for the nth time, I think they lit it up for me just to move the line along. πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Later that evening, they treated us to dinner at the Harry Potter Three Broomsticks restaurant. Like the rest of WWoHP, the attention to detail at the restaurant was remarkable. For example, they served corn on the cob with the husk slightly charred and folded back so you could use it like a handle. It’s a small detail but it gave the place more authenticity. So cool.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

A better shot of the restaurant courtesy of USJ.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

A mug of the famous Butter Beer. I had seen this many times on social media and I always thought it was real beer. Turns out it’s just some buttery sweet carbonated drink similar to root beer. πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

UNIVERSAL COOL JAPAN

As described at the top of this post, we were invited to cover the limited time Universal Cool Japan 2017 attractions. There are five in all at USJ and we got to experience all of them! How luck were we?! πŸ˜€ These attractions are available from 13 January until 25 June 2017 only, so if you or your kids are fans of any these shows/movies, then I suggest you go pronto.

Because we had press passes, we were zoomed to the front of the line every time. Unfortunately, not everyone can be as lucky. Queues can get pretty long, sometimes 2-3 hours long, so you may realistically get to visit just a few of these attractions even with a full day at USJ. To help you decide which attractions to visit to maximize your time, I’ve listed them below in order of preference starting with my favorites.

1. Evangelion XR Ride

Hands down, my favorite ride of the day. I liked this even more than the Harry Potter ride and I liked that ride A LOT. Evangelion is a long-running anime series that started in 1995 I believe. I remember many of my art school animator friends being into it.

This was my first time experiencing virtual reality and it blew me away. As you can see below, they strap you into this roller-coaster-type thingy and put a VR headset over your eyes. Unlike the rides with 3D glasses where you can still see everything around you, this one is a completely immersive experience. For the duration of the ride, everything you see, hear, and feel IS Evangelion XR. It was awesome.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Here’s a sneak peak of what you’ll see. You’re basically in this spaceship that’s zipping through and around an urban battlefield (Tokyo?) where good guy Evangelion cyborgs are kung fu fighting with bad guy giant Angels. It was super cool, and very convincing too! A couple of times, I found myself trying to reach out and touch the metal around me. πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

If you enjoyed the ride, then you may want to bring home one of these Evangelion cyborg heads. Scroll down to see what they do.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

This one’s eyes light up.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

This one shows you its teeth and sticks out its tongue. Raaaaawwwrrr!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Best of all? They’re both popcorn holders! πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

As a gift, they gave each of us one of these Evangelion popcorn holders to take home as a souvenir. Thank you so much USJ! They gave us another kind too, which you’ll see at the bottom of this post. πŸ˜‰
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

2. Detective Conan: The Escape

This was the only attraction among the five that wasn’t an actual ride. Based on the Detective Conan (Case Closed) manga series, it’s one of those live escape games where you have to solve a series of puzzles and riddles to get out. I’ve heard of this genre of games before though I’ve never tried it. This one challenges you to escape from a four-storey police station before it blows up!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Can’t remember if I was feeling cool or dorky in this shot. πŸ˜† Before entering the station, they strap that bracelet onto your wrist to simulate the bomb. Once it flashes red, you’re dead. πŸ˜‰
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Before you start playing, they sit everyone down in this auditorium to watch actors perform a skit and get the story going. It’s entirely in Japanese but you can kinda follow what’s going on. If I understood correctly, some villain planted a bomb somewhere which you have to try and diffuse. Each team is given a tablet (in English or Japanese) which provides the sequence of clues.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

They go all out with the production yo! There was a real motorcycle riding around on stage.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

The police station had four storeys of rooms and clues that you had to contend with. The puzzles were pretty easy at first but they got progressively harder. If I remember correctly, we had 90 minutes to diffuse the bomb and get out of the police station alive. Most of us didn’t. πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

A quick shot I took of one of the rooms. They really made the facility look like an actual police station complete with evidence rooms, a target practice range, etc. It’s a fun game but if movement isn’t your thing, then you may want to skip this. πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

For lunch, they served us this Conan-inspired pumpkin chowder in a bread bowl. It was good! Detective Conan’s bowtie was a biscuit.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

This had nothing to do with the show but I just wanted to show you the rest of our lunch which we had at the Studio Stars Restaurant. They gave us some type of Japanese curry dish. Delicious!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

3. Attack on Titan: The Real

Ok, not to be a tito (literally “uncle”, funny way of saying older dude), but this was kinda weird. It’s a 4D show based on the Attack on Titan manga series about these giant, naked, zombie-like humanoids that move around on all fours trying to eat every human they see. A little perturbing to look at, they reminded me of big ventriloquist dolls with their emotionless eyes and toothy grins. Every time they chomped down on a human, you’d get sprayed in the face with water while blood splattered all over the movie screen. Delish! πŸ˜†
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Speaking of delish, fans of the show can try these Wall pies inspired by the show. To protect themselves from the giant nudists, the humans built a wall around their town which is what these potato-made snacks are named after. Notice how they resemble bricks? I didn’t try it but everyone said they were tasty.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

And the best actor award goes to… πŸ˜† Outside the Attack on Titan theater is this giant photo op statue. What you’re looking at isn’t a camera trick. It really is a massive statue built for the sole purpose of taking home these awesome picture souvenirs. USJ was generous enough to give ours for free but you’ll have to pay a fee to get yours taken. They print the picture on the spot and insert it into a handsome Attack on Titan cardboard frame. So cool!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

4. Godzilla: The Real 4-D

Like Attack on Titan, this was a 4D show based on the iconic Godzilla films. You ride shotgun in a fighter jet as it tries to feed Godzilla a steady diet of air-to-air missiles. (Settle down dude. I already won the best actor award. πŸ˜› )
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

After the show, they gave us a taste of these Godzilla-inspired siopao buns. They were filled with a reddish puree that was a little spicy and quite good!
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

5. Monster Hunter: The Real

This short film is based on a popular series of action video games where you try to capture (or kill) a bunch of fantasy-inspired monsters. I guess it’s kinda like a more macho version of Pokemon?
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Unlike the other 4D attractions, we weren’t wearing 3D glasses for this one but it does feature a massive screen. It’s so big in fact that it feels like it’s wrapping around the entire room! Participants stand on a stage that looks like the galleon of a ship and push a button to attack the monsters appearing onscreen.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

From time to time, you get sprayed in the face with mist. Or was that someone’s spit? πŸ˜›
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

* Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan

Just outside the theater is this Happiness Wagon serving Monster-Hunter-inspired energy drinks.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

They reminded me of warm lemonade served with pop rocks. You dump the rocks into the drink and watch it snap, crackle, and pop! According to our USJ guide Yamashita, it’ll give you the energy to catch more monsters. πŸ˜‰
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

We weren’t allowed to use our cameras inside any of the attractions so I made a quick video walking around the park instead. If you like shitty videos, then you’ll love this. ♥

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS STORE

There are merchandise stores all over USJ but this is the main one. It’s also their biggest.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Here you can buy all kinds of merchandise related to the Universal Cool Japan attractions featured in this post.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

There’s our awesome guide showing off their Godzilla merchandise. Each country was assigned a different guide and we were lucky to get Yamashita. She’s half Japanese, half Filipina and can speak Tagalog very well. I had never met a Japanese person speak fluent Tagalog before so that was a shock! She did a fantastic job explaining everything to us and keeping us on schedule. What a treasure she was. (Sorry, couldn’t help it. Tito joke. πŸ˜† )
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Detective Conan tumblers
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Attack on Titan hoodies, shirts, and jackets
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Minion ramen! Isn’t this fun? According to Yamashita, the Minions are a massive hit in Japan…
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

…which brings us to the other popcorn holder I mentioned earlier! Isn’t it cute?! It talks too. You push a button to get it to say all these phrases in Japanese. πŸ˜† These Minion popcorn holders come in many different poses.
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

Minions have popcorn for brains. πŸ™‚
Universal Studios Japan:  What's New in 2017!

As previously described, the attractions at Universal Cool Japan 2017 are available for a limited time only so you have to go before 25 June 2017 to experience them. You can purchase USJ tickets at the gate or get advanced tickets online through the USJ website. You can also purchase advanced tickets through Klook. They’re an official USJ agent offering different types of entrance passes to Universal Studios Japan. They even offer Express Passes specifically for the rides to Universal Cool Japan 2017. I’m a big fan of Klook and always search their website for interesting deals on Asia attractions. Check them out if you haven’t already.

A HUGE thank you to Cebu Pacific Airlines, Universal Studios Japan, New Otani Osaka Hotel (where we stayed for 2 nights), JR West (provided all our transportation), and everyone else responsible for making this trip happen. I’m abundantly grateful for the hospitality you showed us and I hope more people get to experience the things we did thanks to you. All the best in 2017! πŸ˜€

Universal Studios Japan

2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031, Japan
Tel: +81 570 200 606
Website: usj.co.jp | universal-cool-japan2017
Facebook: UniversalStudiosJapan
Twitter: USJ_Official
Operating Hours: Mon-Fri, 9AM-7PM Sat-Sun, 9AM-8PM

TICKETS
1-Day Studio Pass: JPY 7,600 β€” Adult / JPY 5,100 β€” Child (3-11) / JPY 6,830 – Senior (65+)
2-Day Studio Pass: JPY 12,800 β€” Adult / JPY 8,620 β€” Child (3-11)
Follow the link for pricing information on Universal Express Passes.

HOW TO GET THERE:
Take the subway to Universal City station (JR Yumesaki line). Universal Studios Japan is about a 5-minute walk from there.

For travel tips to Osaka, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Osaka, Japan

For travel tips to Kyoto, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

 The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Kyoto, Japan

Disclosure

This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific Airlines, Universal Studios Japan, New Otani Osaka Hotel, and JR West. We were guests of USJ and given free admission as well as complimentary food and drinks. They invited bloggers/media from different countries to promote Universal Cool Japan 2017. As always, opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support as it helps us keep this website going. Thank you!

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.Β Β He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.Β Β Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Farah Syahirah at 9:42 pm

    so after june universal cool japan will not be available?
    if you dont mind me asking, do you know what will replace it?

  2. JB Macatulad at 9:52 pm

    Hi Farah, Universal Cool Japan will still be there but the attractions will probably be different. Sorry, but I don’t know what they’ll have next.

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