Tuesday was the big day at USJ, we were so excited we even got up at 8am! (It opened at 10am). We met Yuriko in the J&F Kitchen to hit the (overpriced) subway, and about 15 kids maybe 70cm tall got on with four minders. They looked a bit like toys; they were actually pretty cute, especially since they fell over every time the train slowed! After our (cheap!) JR trains, we arrived at Universal Citywalk, which was kind of cool. The long lines for tickets and the heat were killer, and the system unfathomable at times, but eventually we got our ticket and a fast pass also. (About $90 all up).
The first thing we did was cram our bags in a locker and head on over to Hollywood Dream, the much touted roller coaster. We walked straight past the many people waiting 40mins in the heat who wished they’d bought a fast pass. I felt kind of nervous because you don’t get a harness, just a lap bar, and the drop at the start is pretty high, but once we got going, to be honest, there was no fear. It was fun, but for a much touted flagship ride it was just disappointing. No loops or upside down parts, just a smooth side spiral. It was super average, and unfortunately, the whole park lived up to “average”. In two words, I’d say USJ is disappointing and overpriced.
I knew the rides wouldn’t be the greatest, I liked Dreamworld far better than Movieworld but even Movieworld kicked USJ’s ass several times over. Three main things were quickly apparent in dismaying quantities: 1) There were few rides, and many rides/attractions involved 3D special effects or a show/shit ride combination. 2) The only character merch we would be able to buy were Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street. 3) Everything was super mega expensive. The scenery was good, but it’s just as good in Movieworld, and it looks like Disneyland and DisneySea will be far superior.
As mentioned before, Hollywood Dream was more like Hollywood Reject and Jaws was bewildering as only a boat tour narrated in excited Japanese can be. To be fair, the operator was a great actor, and her voice sounded interesting as it went from “Heh heh, everything is fine…” to “Oh shit there’s a giant shark” to “I’ll shoot it!” to “Oh no, I lit the oil rig on fire”. Unfortunately, it was just boring, the sharks were fake looking and really, there were no surprises. Also, of course, no photos, though sometimes, as a tourist, we didn’t quite understand this until after we’d taken a few shots. Cough.
Luckily, USJ caught a shark that day and allowed tourists to pose with it. The old man on the TV warned us not to go; not understanding Japanese, we obviously ignored him (reminds me a bit of dad in his "fisherman" phase. The boat ride pulls up on the lake. Sarah and I pose, relieved our only injury was boredom.
There was one good ride; Jurassic Park. It had the whole Dinosaur Park idyllic float along, with pretty decently realistic dinosaurs, until we accidentally went into the “no tour” zone! Oh no! Of course the dinosaurs had broken free and there were chemical spills and broken electricity cables. Then just as the T-Rex went to bite us, came the drop. I’d not connected the very tall building to the dinosaur ride, so was very, very pleasantly surprised by the drop- we went on it 3 times and the plunge and splashdown never disappointed. (It was very cool as it was so hot, pun intended!)Also, the pre-ride video showed a fat white guy eating a huge hamburger, drinking and smoking, and the otherwise Japanese boatload of people glaring at him in disapproval.
Jurassic Park entrance, writhed in burning flame. Not really, just a flame or two on the entrance. The fat man (who I assume to be American) munches on his burger. At that stage, I wouldn't have minded a burger... Pretty scenery on the Dinosaur tour, before all goes sour. The splash down building; the splash down itself.
Though the scenery was good, the shops were awful; the shop supposedly selling Wizard of Oz/Wicked merch was filled with (you guessed it) Snoopy and Elmo, the Halloween shop was filled with Halloween themed Snoopy and Elmo, a few shops had Hello Kitty, one shop had Pink Panther (I thought of you Dad! “KATO YOU FIENDISH YELLOW SWINE!”). Even in the Alice in Wonderland shop there did not appear to be any Alice in Wonderland merch. Lame! I was excited to see face painting stalls, a mere 1800¥ (or about $20) for a few stars or a half face of evil pumpkin. Rip off anyone? Again, delight filled me at the costumed photo shoots, only it was $26 for a single photo and $15 to try a costume on.
Wicked was good, there was no denying. We first went to see it at the show time, 12:30, only to be turned away as they actually seat 20 min before. They didn't mention it anywehre, so we were slightly annoyed. We wasted time hitting the Carousel, having lunch, meeting the Oz characters then headed back. I was both relieved and disappointed not to see Dorothy; both because she looked like John Travolta on the USJ site. We were then seated for Wicked and at first I thought they were miming and it sucked. At some point, we realised they were actually singing (it could have been the spittle flying from the Wicked Witches mouth as she sung her “defying gravity” song) and they were really, really good. It was a mixture of half Japanese and half English, making it difficult but not impossible to follow, and overall, definitely worth seeing for the talented singing, cool costumes and some cool dancing.
Yes, we did go on the Carousel and yes, we did look rather stupid. The Carousel man seemed excited that people over the age of five were visiting his attraction. Sarah had the time of her life on a lively Panda. We pose with the cowardly lion, and took a photo of the tin man and scarecrow, who was very friendly. Dorothy as on USJ website; clearly, Travolta.
Terminator 3D was blatantly a waste of my time, though other people liked it. The Spiderman ride, although quite good, spun around enough it made me feel pretty vomitron. We finally headed back to Jurassic Park for the third time with Miho and Mai, who arrived at about 3:30pm and convinced them to come on with us. We’d all worked out a “final drop” pose for the camera, only it flashed later than I recalled (during the near freefall, not at the start) so our poses got a bit… warped. It was awesome though! Finally, we half thought we might try for the Hollywood Dream to end the night, but the line had apparently been about 40 minutes so they closed the ride 40 minutes early to get everyone done. Sarah was disappointed.
We pose on barrels, Yuriko, Mai, Miho and Sarah, Yuriko, Mai, Miho and I. In our "pose" photo on Jurassic Park, we realise it's harder than it sounds to pose during free fall. Yuriko: rock star, Sarah: "critter" face, Miho: "how you doin'?", Mai: sweet and innocent, Carly: Shock!Surprise!. We then took photos showing how we wished we felt after USJ; ultimately it failed to deliver.
I’d been told the magical starlight parade was good but I wasn’t expecting much. Seeing Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Elmo did not fill me with wonder, but the parade continued and was actually very good. They had a good Alice in Wonderland section (making me wonder why no merch?? Also had cute dancing mushrooms), an Arabian Nights section (with very cool belly dancers accompanying the rides) and Cinderella was cool. The actors/dancers were all quite good and some even sang/mimed the theme song (one guy was super devoted). Universal’s theme song played for the whole parade, (though it was deliberately warped for the Alice section). I felt like maybe the song was brainwashing me, but even after humming it all day, I can safely say I wouldn’t go back to USJ (unless I got free tickets) so I guess not.
After USJ, Sarah, Yuriko and I were dead on our feet, and Mai and Miho laughed at us almost falling asleep on the train. We decided to hit La Pausa in Tennoji for food, which like USJ was a mixture of good and bad. My pizza and Sarah’s lasagne was delicious, and the food came relatively quickly, though on the downside, smokers could sit anywhere, their all-you-can-eat menu was illogical and stupid, we had to go all or none with all-you-can-eat (Sarah and I didn’t want it, Miho and Mai did so we flipped a coin and Sarah and I won), and we couldn’t split the bill. Apparently the La Pausa near Miho is much better; I wouldn’t be going back to the La Pausa in Tennoji despite the good Pizza- I don’t reward bad service! By the time we dragged ourselves back to J&F, I literally went to sleep at 10:00pm, the good news of Labor’s tentative win lulling me to sleep.