Universal Studios Japan

One of the teachers in Inuyama gave me a pair of Universal Studios Japan (USJ) tickets as a going away present, and today Yasu and I used them. I’ve been to this theme park once before, many years ago during wintertime.
This time we went by train, and coming from the train station you automatically walk the Universal City Walk, which we totally missed the first time when we came by car. I kind of felt a little like the City Walk in Los Angeles, with a lot of American chain restaurants and it even had the big blue King Kong, but in other ways it was also very different with a Mr. Takoyaki (with his own museum) and a Popcorn Papa store selling flavors like teriyaki, curry rice and soy sauce-butter.
Yasu and I both love popcorn so we went in to try some of the 32 different flavors they sell. I thought the garlic & butter popcorn was absolutely disgusting (Yasu loved it) but the others were quite tasty. I ended up buying a bag of banana chips popcorn and Yasu a bag of caramel & nuts popcorn. If we ever end up in this store again I want to try the strawberry & milk popcorn and cinnamon popcorn.
Yasu and I are both America lovers and we loved hanging around in the fake New York streets (which actually of reminded me of the streets in the Warner Bros studios in LA), pretending we weren’t in Japan. And we were even able to take a picture with a very non-Japanese skyline… yeah it’s a special effect. It’s a piece of cardboard hanging over us to hide the ugly Japanese skyline in the back, when the picture is taken from a certain angle. Nice illusion though, if you don’t look too closely at the picture.
This is Japan and that always means long lines, especially in a theme park, but luckily not as bad as in Disneyland a couple of months ago. I am not as patient as the average Japanese person, so I wasn’t prepared to stand in too long lines just for some 2 minute ride, but there was one exception: Jurassic Park. No, I don’t have a passion for dinosaurs and the movie was totally boring in my opinion, it’s just that this ride guarantees to soak you to the bone and today was another one of Japan’s stupendously hot summer days. And it turned out the line wasn’t even that long! Half of the people getting into the boats were wearing raincoats though… Sometimes I just don’t understand the Japanese. I love the ride (but they can leave out the dinosaurs) and we got successfully soaked!
We also did a nice amount or air travel: we flew through the air on bicycles with E.T. and Spiderman used his webs to throw our futuristic car all through the New York night, we almost crashed but Spiderman saved us just in time. Pfew. The real reason we picked these rides: the lines were doable.
But we spend most of time inside USJ attending shows, because they all have a huge audience capacity which nicely minimizes waiting time. Waterworld was an action packed stuntman show on the water and Wicked was a mini Broadway show, half in English half in Japanese. The park also has a lot of 3D shows, or they actually call it 4D shows, because they move the seats and spritz water in your face. We saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in 3D in the Terminator show, and we intended to see Shrek in 3D too, but took the wrong door and ended up in the Sesame Street version instead. The shows were all entertaining, but all in Japanese (obviously) and therefore unable to keep me from falling asleep. But there was one exception: the monsters who are still singing Bon Jovi’s ‘One Wild Night’ during their Rock and Roll Show.
They also do a lot of street shows, but we just caught one by accident which was a group of Sesame Street puppets dancing on the street and in and on their double-decker bus in the blazing sun. This was absolutely adorable to watch, but I felt bad for the sweaty people inside those costumes. Cookie monster was so cute I ended up buying a cell phone strap (but I’ll be using it as a key chain) with a small blue monster hanging from it.
They also had a very pink area in the park, inspired by a certain panther. Inside one very pink building we found one of my favorites, a Baskin & Robbins store (which is pretty pink on its own already) selling delicious chocolate mint ice-cream (and more of course). Time for a break!
They didn’t just try to recreate the East Coast in USJ, they also gave the West Coast a shot, but they were a bit confused. They confused San Francisco with Chicago for some reason and relocated the movie Backdraft to Fisherman’s Wharf. But that’s easily forgiven when you’re given a chance to feel like you’re back in San Francisco (my favorite city in the whole world). We also paid Beverly Hills a visit and had a rather crappy lunch in a very nice (on the outside) American diner.
After all the excitement we had a small hat donning party, and transformed ourselves into Spiderman & ET, a dinosaur and Jaws, and a Shrek bride and groom. Which couple looks the weirdest?
We had a delicious dinner at one of those American chain restaurants at the City Walk: Bubba Gump. A restaurant coming straight from another movie: Forrest Gump. But this film wasn’t produced by Universal Studios, though. But who cares when the food is that good! I had the ribs and they were really delicious, and very pricey, but it’s hard to find good and affordable meat in Japan anyway.
We had a great day. I really like theme parks (when they’re not too busy), I just wish they did some of their shows in English (or subtitles at least). And as long as I’m wishing for the impossible, I also wish the summer was like a Californian summer because I’m really getting fed up with this hot-and-humid business.

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