A visit to Japan's theme parks is a must as it offers a unique experience that you can't quite get elsewhere. The most popular theme parks in Japan are none other than Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea! With amazing rides, exciting parades and characters, these 2 theme parks are always pitted against each other. If you're planning your first trip to Japan (after COVID-19) and getting some travel inspiration, we've come up with this guide: Universal Studios Japan VS Tokyo Disney Parks. If you have time or budget for only one park, we hope this comparison guide will give you a better idea on which theme park will suit you more ?
Exchange rate (as at 22 June 2020): 100 JPY = SGD1.31, MYR4, IDR13299
Note: As of date of publishing, do note that only USJ has reopened to travellers. The Tokyo Disney parks are still closed due to COVID-19.
1. Ticket prices & Opening hours
Ticket prices for both parks don't differ much. If we're comparing a 1-day pass, USJ is slightly cheaper (about JPY400 cheaper) than Disney. But that said, in terms of flexibility, the Disney parks have more variety. There are 1-4 day passports and you can also choose to visit the park at night after 6PM or after 3PM. Not to mention that you can buy a general Disney park ticket and choose to use it for Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea. With the multi-day passports, you can also visit both Disney parks on consecutive days! Here's a breakdown of prices:
- 1 DAY Studio Pass:
- Adults, 12 and over - JPY7800
- Child, 4-11 - JPY5400
- Seniors, 65 and over - JPY7100
- 2 DAY Studio Pass:
- Adults, 12 and over - JPY15400
- Child, 4-11 - JPY10500
- 1-Day Passport:
- Adult - JPY8200
- Junior - JPY6900
- Child - JPY4900
- Senior Passport (65 and over):
- Starlight Passport (Entry from 3PM on weekends and holidays)
- Adult - JPY6000
- Junior - JPY5100
- Child - JPY3600
- After 6 Passport (Entry from 6PM on weekdays)
- Adult, Junior, Child - JPY4700
- 2-Day Passport
- Adult - JPY14800
- Junior - JPY12600
- Child - JPY8800
- 3-Day Magic Passport
- Adult - JPY19800
- Junior - JPY16800
- Child - JPY11800
- 4-Day Magic Passport
- Adult - JPY24800
- Junior - JPY21000
- Child - JPY14800
Winner: Tokyo Disney Parks
While USJ is cheaper, we'd go with Tokyo Disney parks for this round as the ticket choices are more flexible. You can choose not to spend the whole day at the park if you don't want to and get the cheaper passports instead. Plus, you'd also get to enjoy more savings if you choose to visit Tokyo Disney parks on 2 consecutive days or more.
As for opening hours, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea tend to stay open till about 9/10PM while USJ only opens till 8/9PM. So, both Disney parks will definitely give you more bang for your buck!
P.S. Deciding between Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea instead? Check out this comparison guide!
2. Best rides and attractions
The main highlight of USJ is none other than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Take a ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and follow Harry and friends on their magic adventures; there's even a Quidditch match during the ride! Drink some yummy Butterbeer while you're at it and cast spells with some Wand Magic.
Besides that, USJ is also home to one of the world's best amusement park rides - The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. You'll also be treated to unique roller coasters like The Flying Dinosaur where you'll sit face down and "fly" or the Hollywood Dream - The Ride - Backdrop where you'll experience an exhilarating ride on a backwards roller coaster ?
Top rides in USJ:
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
- Drinking Butterbeer
- Minion Park
- New York
- Jurassic Park
Credit: Eugune Phoen on Flickr
The Tokyo Disney parks are perfect for everyone as they have both slow-paced kid-friendly rides at Disneyland and adrenaline-pumping rides at DisneySea! There's a huge variety of rides here with a combined total of more than 80 rides in both parks. Disney fans would love to step into the world of Monsters Inc or the world of Star Wars in 3D.
Did you know that Tokyo DisneySea is also the only DisneySea in the world? Besides its IG-worthy backdrops (including a replica of Venice), it's also home to hair-raising rides like the Tower of Terror and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Top rides in Tokyo Disney:
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Space Mountain
- Pooh's Hunny Hunt
- Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
- Haunted Mansion
- Monster's Inc
This one's a tough choice! As Potterheads ourselves, it's hard for us not to love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as it is both magical and breathtaking ? But we definitely can't discount the fact that Tokyo Disney parks have the ONLY DisneySea in the world, which adds to its unique factor! In terms of variety, both parks also have plenty of kid-friendly and thrilling rides, though Tokyo Disneyland might be a better fit if you're travelling with kids.
So, it really boils down to what you're looking for in these parks and who you're travelling with. We're sitting on the fence for this one ?
P.S. Dreaming of your next trip to USJ? Be sure to check out these 21 useful tips for Muslim travellers!
3. Skip-the-line privileges
As both parks are really popular, they are both equally crowded. But luckily, both parks have skip-the-line privileges. Let's compare them both:
Universal Express Pass at USJ:
- Enter a separate queue to cut waiting times at popular rides
- Can be used for 4 or 7 rides, depending on which Express Pass you buy
- You can buy Express passes online in advance or at the park
- Use of Express passes are unlimited
- Express passes come at an additional cost (JPY7800-10800)
FASTPASS at Tokyo Disney:
- Can be used at 8 attractions at Tokyo Disneyland and 9 attractions at Tokyo DisneySea
- FASTPASS does not come at an additional cost
- You can only get a FASTPASS from the ticket machines at each of the attractions
- You must follow a fixed timing that's stated on the FASTPASS
- You can only obtain a FASTPASS for the next ride after you're completed the one you currently have on hand
While the Universal Express Pass requires you to spend an additional cost (equivalent to the cost of a ticket), its system works better than Disney's FASTPASS as you're guaranteed unlimited entries to popular rides. Although the FASTPASS is free and better for budget travellers, you'll need to carefully plan your itinerary in the park to ensure that you can skip queues for as many popular attractions as possible! Check out our FASTPASS battle strategy for both Disney parks here: Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea.
P.S. Here are 10 essential tips for planning the perfect day at Tokyo Disneyland!
4. Availability of Muslim-friendly food and prayer spaces
Credit: Food Diversity
- Muslim-friendly Menu at Red Lobster Universal City Walk
- Muslim-friendly Steak Dinner Set Menu at Top of Universal Restaurant, Hotel Keihan Universal Tower
- Prayers - Request to do your prayers at the Family Service Room
Credit: Food Diversity
- Muslim-friendly Menu at Red Lobster, Ikspiari shopping mall
- Prayers - Request to do your prayers at the Main Street House
While USJ and the Disney parks don't have any halal-certified eateries, both of them have restaurants with Muslim-friendly menus. While USJ has one more Muslim-friendly option at Hotel Keihan Universal, this is a more premium option as it serves halal Wagyu (costs JY3850 or more) and it's only perfect if you're looking to splurge. That said, you can pack your own meals and let the staff at both parks know that you have dietary restrictions. Not to mention that the staff at both parks will accommodate to your needs to do your prayers ?
Hence, in terms of Muslim-friendly amenities, we'd say it's a tie between both theme parks!
5. Shows and Parades
Besides the fantastic rides at USJ, the theatre shows, street shows, and parades are all a must-see! They are full of life and part of the USJ experience. Although the shows are in Japanese, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch them in a foreign language! The Universal Spectacle Night Parade is a treat - witness the world's first transforming float from the Universe of Transformers, dance with minions and more ?
Top shows at USJ:
- WaterWorld (WaterWorld area, Theater Show)
- SING on Tour (Hollywood area, Theater Show)
- Universal Spectacle Night Parade - The Best of Hollywood (Hollywood area, Parade)
It wouldn't be a visit to the Disney parks if you don't watch its vibrant parade and shows. At Disneyland, catch Mickey and friends waving at the crowd at the Dreaming Up! daytime parade or witness the glittering lights at the Nighttime Parade "Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights". Then, check out the enchanting fireworks with Disney Light the Night for an end to your magical day ?
At DisneySea, you'll be treated to at least 3-5 shows, with one seasonal show. The Big Band Beat is one of the best shows here, with top-notch singers and dancing by Mickey and friends. They also have their version of Disney Light The Night complete with massive fireworks display against the volcanic backdrop of the Mysterious Island.
Top shows at Tokyo Disney:
- Big Band Beat
- Seasonal shows at Mediterranean Harbor
Winner: Tokyo Disney Parks
There's a reason why Disneyland is called the "happiest place on Earth" and its spectacular shows take credit for this! With memorable characters that everyone can relate to, complete with gorgeous costumes, dances and more, you'll definitely be able to relive your childhood. For this, we'd have to give this to Tokyo Disney Parks!
Final Verdict: Tokyo Disney Parks!
And the winner is Tokyo Disney Parks! With not just 1 but 2 theme parks in one, it's hard not to love the Tokyo Disney Parks as they provide a wholesome experience for different types of travellers. That said, with amazing rides, attractions and shows at both USJ and Tokyo Disney parks, it's really a tough call. With the breath-taking Wizarding World of Harry Potter and award-winning rides, USJ is definitely a worthy contender ? Ultimately, we hope this comparison guide has given you a better idea of what you can expect at both parks, so you can keep them in mind for your future trips to Japan!
P.S. Dreaming of your next Japan trip? Check out our 7D6N Muslim-friendly Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka itinerary!