We planned to visit Osaka because we wanted to visit Universal Studios Japan, largely for Harry Potter land. I was a big fan of Harry Potter. Despite the fact that it would be in Japanese, I just had to go.
I discovered from various reviews that queues for the Harry Potter rides could be as long as 3-4 hours. You would also need to exchange for a free but limited timed entry pass to enter Harry Potter land. Everyone recommended the purchase of USJ Express passes. If you checked the site in English, you could only buy these passes in the park. These passes were limited and were usually sold out online.
You could only purchase the passes 3 months in advance.
There were 3 main types of Express passes – Express Pass 7, Express Pass 5 and Express Pass 3. The Express Passes had pre-planned rides tagged to it. An Express Pass 3 did not include Harry Potter rides or timed entry to Harry Potter land.
We sucked it up and bought Express Pass 7 which cost a whooping 9,800yen per person for weekend use, regardless of child, adult or senior citizen. This did not even include the admission costs!
When I booked the Express Pass 7, I also selected the time to enter Harry Potter land which was 10am ~ 1pm.
This was what my pass covered.
These 4 rides were predetermined and could not be changed.
○ 10:15-10:30 Flight Of The Hippogryph ○ 10:45-11:00 Harry Potter And The Forbidden Journey ○ The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man · The Ride ○ Space Fantasy - The Ride
For the next 3 rides, there was somewhat a selection. I would pick the one in bold. I doubted I would need Express pass for Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic and I did not plan to watch Shrek (had enough of that in USS!).
I was tempted between the old school Back to the Future but I guessed Jaws might be more fun for the boys.
☆ Hollywood Dream - The Ride or Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic TM / Shrek 4-D Adventure TM ☆ Jaws (R) or Back to the Future (R) · The Ride ☆ Jurassic Park - The Ride (R) or Terminator 2: 3-D (R)or Backraft (R)
I purchased the Express Passes online in September because the website could issue QR codes via internet and email. However, I opted to buy the admission tickets at the hotel the day before I went to the park. If I opted to buy online, I had to go to the park and exchange for admission passes. There could be a queue for the exchange. As mentioned earlier, there was unlimited sale of admission passes.
The entire USJ web store was in Japanese so I would recommend using Google Translate to get through every step.
1. When you are at the web store, click on the icon “pass” and select your date up to 3 months in advance. Select your date. Then click the big yellow box under your date.
2. You scroll the menu till you see the Express Pass symbol and use Google Translate to make your selection.
3. Pick ‘Direct In’, add to cart and create a ‘Club Login’ account. You have to use Google Translate to add your name in Katakana to the account. You can use the hotel address and telephone number.
4. The website accepted international credit cards and did not check against the Club account’s address. Picked “lump sum amount” and ticked all boxes before the big yellow box could be clicked.
The transaction would be completed with QR codes all listed in the account. You could print the QR codes or use your phone to flash the QR codes.
//Edited at 1.5 weeks’ to USJ: When I was buying the express passes, I had wanted to buy the USJ admission tickets at the same time. However, the system only offered ‘Exchange at Park’ or ‘Deliver to Home’ options. The latter was only for Japanese addresses.
Shortly prior to departure, my friend messaged me that I could buy USJ tickets online now. I went through the same process as stated above and realised that I had a 3rd option now which was admission via ‘Direct-in’. It was the same as per my Express passes where QR codes were issued and I could use the soft copy in phone or print out the hard copy.
With these in hands, we were all set for USJ!