Monthly Archives: July 2014

Universal Studios Japan – Osaka

It seems as though this has turned out to be an attractions week. So, why not keep the theme running? Last week, I had the chance to visit Osaka and, more specifically, Universal Studios Japan.

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Osaka is about 4 hours south of Tokyo via (the quite enjoyable) Shinkansen. Opened on March 31, 2001, Universal Studios Japan was the 9th most visited theme park in the world last year. The park itself is a blend of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure; offering an eclectic mix of rides and an overall experience largely focused on high-energy, contemporary ‘fun’.

Classic Universal Studios attractions such as Back to the Future the Ride, Backdraft, and Jaws are joined by newer offerings like the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, Jurassic Park, and Space Fantasy (a locally-developed, very unique indoor coaster).

The main reason for the visit, however, was to see the newly (July 15th) opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Nearly an exact copy of the version at Islands of Adventure, this installation offers a slightly better sense of immersion (it is set-back quite a bit from the rest of the park and includes the Black Lake) and has double the capacity for Ollivander’s Wand Shop; but, there is no Dragon Challenge coaster.

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Overall, Universal Studios Japan makes for a very fun day. Just a few pieces of advice: plan ahead, purchase your park tickets in advance, and invest in their “Universal Express Pass 7” (which provides you with a reserved time entry into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as ‘front of the line’ access to Forbidden Journey and 6 other high-demand rides). While the additional ¥7,900 for the Express Pass (on peak days) on top of the ¥6,980 park ticket price may seem steep, it will make all the difference in the world and you will be glad you did it.

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Tokyo Dome City – Thunder Dolphin

As mentioned yesterday, there are several amusement areas and multitudes of individual rides at Tokyo Dome City; but, without question, the ‘big dog’ here is Thunder Dolphin.

This ¥3.7B mega-coaster, designed and built by Intamin, originally opened on May 1, 2003. At 80 metres (260 ft) tall, Thunder Dolphin is currently the 7th tallest continuous circuit roller coaster in the world and reaches speeds of 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour).

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Now, the reason it says “originally opened” above is that on December 5, 2010 a 25cm (10″) bolt fell from the ride and contacted a young visitor below. The ride was closed for over two and a half years following the incident, reopening (with netting installed beside and below the track) on August 1, 2013.

For ¥1,030, you can experience this coaster’s 1,066.8 metre (3,500′) long course; which passes through both a hole in the LaQua building and the hub of the world’s first centerless Ferris wheel.

Want a view from the front seat (before the installation of the netting)? Check out this video from ThemeParkReview.com: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h__ogbOYic8

Tokyo Dome City – Tokyo Panic Cruise

Adjacent to the Tokyo Dome (home of the Yomiuri Giants, the ‘New York Yankees’ of Nippon Professional Baseball) is Tokyo Dome City. This complex includes a large mall, a multitude of restaurants, and a collection of small amusements.

One of the small amusement areas is Geopolis and includes a ride called Tokyo Panic Cruise. With a name like that, how could it be resisted?

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For your ¥820, what you get is an “Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” (Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Japan) knock-off. Although quite bazaar, this ride isn’t half bad.

Basically, standing in for Spiderman is a cat-girl armed with a deadly pink umbrella and a vicious left claw. Many of the scenes are remarkably similar to those in Spiderman. So, if you like “Amazing Adventures of Spiderman” (and/or Universal’s second offering of the type, “Transformers: the Ride”) then you might want to give this ride a try.

Here’s a quick glimpse if you are interested: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WU-1y9xs8E

Marine Day

Today, July 21, is a national holiday in Japan…Marine Day (海の日). Also known as “Ocean Day” or “Sea Day”, the purpose of this holiday is to give thanks to the ocean’s bounty and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation. Many people take advantage of the holiday and summer weather to take a beach trip. Other ocean-related festivities are observed as well.

The holiday was originally designated in 1941 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor and his 1876 voyage in the Meiji-Maru, an iron steamship constructed in Scotland in 1874. The voyage included a trip around the Tōhoku region, embarking on a lighthouse boat in Aomori, and a brief stop in Hakodate before returning to Yokohama on July 20 of that year. The ship is permanently ‘grounded’ and preserved in Tokyo.

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In previous posts we have covered the Happy Monday System of holidays…and, this is one of them as well as the first holiday of the summer. So, how to celebrate? With a barbecue, of course.