I went all-out Potterhead in Universal Studios Japan.

Japan’s Theme Parks: Tips and Tricks

Heading to Japan for the first time? There’s a whirlwind of activities to do, especially if your trip begins in the capital of Tokyo. If theme parks top your list, there are ways to budget both your time and money.

1. Follow your heart.
You don’t have to visit every single theme park in Japan just because all your friends bragged about it on IG or Facebook. There’s more than just Disneyland and Universal Studios. Consider smaller theme parks that cater to specific interests, like Legoland in Nagoya, Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo, and the new Naruto theme park in Hyojo. Choose only what you really want to see and skip the rest.

Kate was here. I went all-out Potterhead in Universal Studios Japan.

2. Plan your route beforehand.
Visit the theme park’s official website to see their complete list of rides. Browse through travel blogs to get an idea of which attractions to prioritize. When you enter, go straight to your top three areas first. In Universal Studios Osaka, I made a beeline for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where I spent half the day. Yes, I’m a Potterhead!

Dressed as Hermione Granger (with the wand of Luna Lovegood), I spent most of my day (and money) in USJ’s “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

3. Find discount coupons online.
It’s near impossible to get discounts for the big theme parks like Disneyland and USJ, but you will find discount coupons for the smaller ones like Sanrio Puroland. Ask a reputable travel agency or visit the likes of Klook, Viator, and KKday for tickets up to 40% off. I got my Puroland ticket for ¥1,976 (originally ¥3,300) via Klook.


4. Enter early. Avoid peak days.
If you can’t stand crowds and long lines, don’t go on weekends or holidays. If the park opens at 10 a.m., be at the entrance by 9:30 a.m. and go straight to your top three attractions first. The crowd usually picks up by noon.

5. Rethink the Fast Pass.
The Fast Pass system reduces your waiting time for popular attractions, but it works differently per theme park. In USJ, the Universal Express Pass goes up to ¥13,800 (for seven attractions). In Sanrio Puroland, the Puro Pass costs ¥500, while Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea’s Fast Pass is free. If it’s free, go for it! If not, reconsider if you really need one. Puroland is hardly crowded, so you don’t need the Puro Pass. In USJ, the Express Pass costs more than the regular entry ticket. If you go on a weekday during off-peak hours, you can avoid USJ’s long lines without buying a pricey Express Pass.

DisneySea’s Fast Pass is free! Yes, that’s me in my hipster mermaid costume. Tokyo is the best place to cosplay.

6. Consider skipping the shows.
If it’s too crowded during your visit and you can’t afford an Express Pass, wait until the crowd gathers to see the parades or street shows. While everyone else is busy watching the shows, hop on the popular attractions sans the long lines.

7. It’s great to be single.
Single? Take advantage of the Single Rider Service. They need to fill remaining seats that aren’t occupied, so if you don’t mind riding with strangers and odd-numbered groups, look for the Single Rider Service line that lets you skip long queues. Part of a group? Ask your friends if they’re willing to split up for the rides.

Ah, one of the perks of being single!

Share your own tips and tricks in the comments section below.