It’s Halloween, but not as you know it at Universal Studios Japan. One of only two Universal Studios theme parks in Asia (the other is in Singapore), Universal Studios Japan in Osaka goes all out for the spooky holiday. While you would expect a US-based fun park to celebrate Halloween in a big way, it’s surprising how much the pagan celebration is embraced.
For starters, Universal Studios Japan extends the Halloween season from one day to 59 days, with the Universal Surprise Halloween event running from September 11 to November 8 this year. Secondly, Halloween permeates every part of the theme park from nine dedicated horror attractions to special menu items, limited edition scary souvenirs, Halloween-themed parades and parties and good old-fashioned thrills and spills.
To get into the (Halloween) spirit, you’ll need a costume. Everyone I saw - young and old, whole families dressed as Minion characters (one of the theme park’s big drawcards), schoolkids in uniform with zombie makeup, costumed couples and even babies – were dressed up in amazing costumes. Zombies and Minions were the most popular costume choices, and if you didn’t arrive in character, you could get also get a one-hour zombie makeover at the Horror Shop. Refreshingly, there was not an ounce of self-consciousness or cynicism here – everyone genuinely had the Halloween spirit.
This bonhomie extended to all areas of the theme park – crew members and park goers all seemed truly happy to be at Universal Studios Japan. And why not? This theme park is heaps of fun for all the family. For the littlies, there’s Universal Wonderland – a candy-coloured fantasy land with a Hello Kitty Cupcake Dream ride, Elmo’s Go Go Skateboard ride and a charming ride with Snoopy in the clouds. Saying “trick or treat” will net the kids candy from roving characters, entertainers and crew.
More niche Japan experiences. Where To Find Tokyo's Quirky Cafes
Other cities to discover in Japan. The Top 5 Most Overlooked Cities In Japan
Of course, all those creative costumes deserve to be admired and that’s where the entertainment comes in. This is the final year of the popular Parade de Carnival – a Mardi Gras-style event complete with kiddie characters like Cookie Monster and Charlie Brown on floats, Carnivale-type entertainers and dancers and beaded necklaces thrown into the crowd. Park attendees also get to strut their stuff at the Costume Party – a choreographed dance party and DJ dance-off where everyone gets to join in.
The spooky fingers of Halloween also extends to the theme park food where you can munch on Surprise Chewy Monsters (mocha rice cakes with fillings that stain your tongue vivid hues), mummy churros and spider sodas with gummy worms from the food carts in the Halloween Happiness Market. For larger appetites, Halloween-themed set meals are also available at Park Side Grille.
While it’s not a Halloween-themed site as such, budding witches and wizards won’t want to miss the fantastical realisation of the Harry Potter movies – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. From the snow-topped shops of Hogsmeade to sampling Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks and riding the Flight of the Hippogriff rollercoaster and exhilarating Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction (not for the faint of heart!), this is every Harry Potter fan’s dream destination. It’s also extremely popular, so consider an advance Timed Entry Ticket to avoid copious wait times.
If you think Universal Studios Japan is more treat than trick during the day, wait until dark falls. The night-time attractions take on a decidedly darker slant when famous horror movies and slasher flicks take over the streets, cinemas and stages of the theme park. Halloween Horror Night lasts until the park closes with plenty of scary chills for teens and older. Blood-spattered zombies will alternatively lurch and moan or break into dance on darkened paths, and new attractions like Trauma: The Experimental Hospital Ward of Horror, Chucky’s Horror Factory 2 and A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Night Killer will thrill your socks and more off.
It’s heaps of fun and much more than you can cover in one day. Our tip? Get a one- or two-day Universal Studios Japan pass before you go. Adult passes are $AU110 per person and includes unlimited rides plus a Timed Entry Ticket for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or $AU80 for a child aged four to 11 years (kids under three years are free).