International Travels, Japan, Museum and Theme Parks

Japan Ja-Fun! Osaka and the Universal Studios

Osaka is the largest city in western Japan, is the capital of the Osaka Prefecture and is very close to Kobe, Kyoto and Nara.

If you have a plane ticket to Osaka, consider going to those places too. It is about 500 km from Tokyo, 2 something hours by Shinkansen and about 6-8 hours drive by car or public bus.

Cebu Pacific has flights from Manila to Osaka directly, and is usually cheaper than the Manila-Tokyo route.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – outside the Osaka Castle

In our case, we booked in advance the Willer Express night bus going to Osaka from Ikebukuro in Tokyo for 13,400 JPY for 2 pax (US$126 | PhP 5950). This way we saved on money and hotel booking for a night.

Because we only had 1 night and 2 days in both Osaka and Kyoto, we had to choose the top 2-3 in each area and vowed that we would return and stay longer if we had the chance.

Between Tokyo and Osaka, which are both very populated and busy, Osaka has a more relaxed feel than Tokyo. Bicycles are still aplenty on the streets. You would see employees in coat and tie, dresses, and dress shirts but riding the bike, parking them beside train stations and then taking the train to work.

Here’s our commute guide to USJ, which proved to be very reliable and accurate.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – outside the Osaka Castle

I have cautioned Mary on wearing her most comfortable pair of shoes when in Japan because of all the walking we would undertake. But don’t look. I got swollen feet each night whereas she did pretty fine.

We were there between Spring and Summer, which meant the Manila-like temperature plus some drizzles in the afternoon. The main differences being, less pollution, no littering, and a lot of disciple (but don’t worry, change is coming, isn’t it?). Most of the bikes have an umbrella and a  covered child’s seat.

Osaka has a city-loop train that goes around and connects to other train and shinkansen lines. From the rented room we booked via AirBNB, we got to Universal Studios via train in less than an hour including the walking.

Unlike Disney that stays open until about 9pm, USJ closes at 7pm.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – queued outside Hogwarts!

The USJ single-day pass is JPY 7400 for adults (US$70 | PhP 3286), and if you don’t want to queue, you can buy each express pass for the rides you want. For the list of tickets and express pass, click here. Like, our only goal there was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and then everything else came as a bonus.

Because the express pass was sold out by the time we got there by 10am (the park opens at 9, and even if it were not, we won’t buy it for extra JPY 6900 each) we had to queue for a good hour to get inside the Hogwarts and ride the 4D experience of Harry and friends playing quidditch. It felt like really being part of the game. Mary screamed beside me when we turned and felt like falling. Plus, hearing Harry speak in the native Japanese language was just…interesting.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Aside from the 4D quidditch ride, there are other “Hogwarts” experiences in USJ – the butterbeer, the wands and the express train, restaurants such as the “Three Broomsticks”, the flight of the Hippogriff and so on.

I wasn’t a Harry Potter fan but I got ecstatic messages from friends when they saw our photos on Facebook. And that experience convinced me to watch all HP movies (which 2 weeks after we returned, I still haven’t gotten a chance to do).

Minions were also there, Spidey, and whoah! Jurassic Park, and the flying dinosaurs of a ride. An insane, high-flying, somersaulting Pteranodon will twist to 360 degrees on what I can say is 360 times scarier than any other roller coaster I’ve seen! Mary would have wanted to try it but with the headache that hammered me and the fear that rendered me motionless, we resigned to just watching it almost throw out its passengers. I’m sure that without an express pass you would have to wait an hour or more to ride the thing. Maximize the time!

Here are other stuff we saw at the USJ:

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – Spiderman, Mary and Snoopy, USJ Globe, 7th Avenue
Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – outside the Osaka Castle

It started to drizzle at around 4 and we didn’t want to get swamped by the afternoon commuters so we headed home. After all, we’ve not had a good night’s rest since we left Manila (sleeping on a bus for 8 hours isn’t restful at all).

The following morning we headed to the Osaka Castle and along the way, we had the chance to pass by the Osaka Museum but unluckily, it was a Tuesday so it was closed.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – the park outside of Osaka Castle with NHK in the background. Opposite this is a moat surrounding the castle.

The Osaka Castle compound is the best place to meditate, stroll the park, and maybe even practice your Yoga skills. It was gloomy and drizzling that morning but we managed to grab some really delicious snacks outside the Castle.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – Osaka Castle

Most importantly for me, we saw an Akita named Puko who was really friendly and behaved. He even licked some of the visitors that day – on the lips! Hachiko, the famed dog of the same movie title, is an Akita too.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – Hachiko’s relative, Puko, an Akita outside Osaka Castle

As we didn’t have enough time that day (in the afternoon we were to go to Kyoto which is on a separate blog), we did not enter the castle itself. But if you plan to, the ticket is JPY 600 (US$ 5.65 | PhP 266), and you can find more information here before you go there.

But let’s go back to snacks – anywhere we went, food was overly delicious, and rightfully expensive. From the curry, to the street food, ramen, matcha, and everything in between.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – outside the Osaka Castle
Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – snacking in Japan. Look how happy she is with the match-flavored soft ice cream and the squid on a stick

We discovered the Japan green tea with roasted brown rice which tastes really good both hot and cold. We even bought some for home consumption, as Mary is a tea person (who influenced me to try them too and I eventually liked them). It is currently her favorite cup, beating the Chinese Pu’er Tea.

Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios
Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios – outside the Osaka Castle

If you are to head to Osaka anytime soon, do not hurry your trip there. There are far more places to explore, food to try out and historical sites to discover. A 3D2N stay would be perfect.

Here are other places you can go to:

  1. Osaka Aquarium
  2. Shitennoji Temple
  3. Umeda Sky Building
  4. HEP Five
  5. Dotonbori

Expenses for 2D1N in Osaka: Around PhP 22,700 for 2, including USJ, AirBNB, food and fare around Osaka (and Kyoto), commute Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo

  1. USJ              –        PhP 6572
  2. AirBNB      –        PhP 2500
  3. Food           –        PhP 3000 (approximate)
  4. Fare            –        PhP 1800 (approximate)
  5. Night Bus –        PhP 8900


Japan Ja-Fun: Osaka and the Universal Studios- she’s just a phone call away! The traditional phone booth in Japan

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