Place Category: Attractions
Universal Studios Japan is one of the most popular attractions in Osaka and offers excitement, famous characters, rides, shows and more. While it is fairly accessible in general, some of the most popular rides – including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – are not accessible to guests with mobility difficulties.
Universal Studios Japan, known as USJ, was opened in 2001 as Universal Studio’s first theme park in Asia. Though it is not as popular as Tokyo Disney, it is still ranked 5th among the top 25 amusement parks worldwide, attracting over 11 million visitors ever year.
Outside the main gates, a shopping mall called Universal Citywalk Osaka provides many restaurants, shops, and a few hotels. The park itself is made up of different areas, including: New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland, Jurassic Park, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In addition to rides, there are many shops, restaurants, interactive simulations based on movie franchises, and performances.
Universal Studios Japan is located a five-minute walk from Universal City Station on the JR Yumesaki Line. The station has elevators and an accessible toilet available. (Map of station, Japanese.)
A ferry, called Captain Line, connects Universal Studios Japan with the Osaka Aquarium and is accessible to wheelchairs of all types.
Universal Studios Japan remains one of this country’s more accessible tourist attractions. For starters, ample parking for wheelchair users is available, and the spaces are extra-long to allow room for loading and unloading equipment. USJ offers discounts at the gate to holders of red techo (an identification card for individuals with disabilities available to those covered by the National Health Insurance) and a companion. A special map detailing resources for those with special needs, called Support Book, is available in English and Japanese.
Once inside, those with disabilities can acquire a Guest Support Pass, which allows them to sign up for attractions without having to wait in line. Unfortunately, in the case of the more popular attractions, even if the wait is long, you are not allowed to go on other rides. However, you can use the extra time to grab a bite to eat, pay a visit to one of the many accessible rest rooms, go shopping or enjoy the street entertainment. Park attendants take care to warn visitors of possible dangers and risks before each ride.
Most of the rides are accessible. The “Jaws” attraction, a boat ride through a [fake] shark-infested lagoon, can accommodate wheelchairs at the back, users and all. Jurassic Park, The Ride, also has a lifting seat, which makes it easy to transfer from wheelchair to the ride. Be forewarned that you may get splashed on these two; it might be a good idea to bring a rain poncho. Unfortunately, some of the more dynamic rides, such as Spiderman, The Ride, and the extremely popular Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are off-limits to non-ambulatory users due to safety issues. At the time of this writer’s visit, one previously accessible ride was closed for repairs, and another had been discontinued. Its replacement was under construction. It’s best to check availability in advance in order to avoid disappointment.
As this is a movie-based theme park, motion pictures are often an integral part of the shows and other attractions. Audio is entirely in Japanese. There are no subtitles for deaf visitors or non-Japanese speakers, however there is plenty of visual stimulation.
A detailed accessible map is available on the Japanese website for USJ, but for English, only Google Translate is available. Click here for a machine translated version.
Although USJ isn’t 100% accessible (fans of Harry Potter be warned!), between the shows, parades, and other attractions, visitors of all abilities can keep busy and entertained throughout the day.
Special thanks: Accessible Japan would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to author Suzanne Kamata and the Kamata family for offering to write this review after their vacation. Their contribution helps so many interested visitors. Thank you!