Whirlwind guide to Japan's top theme parks

Theme parks are such fantastic ways to have fun. With themed shows, thrill rides, fireworks and your favorite characters, they are a true modern marvel. Japan happens to be the home of some of the world's best amusement parks, all of which are definitely worth checking out. Here are some tips and tricks for some of Japan's top theme parks.

Disneyland

Image from All About Japan

The happiest place on earth really needs no introduction. Disneyland Tokyo is the second most visited theme park in the world, with 7 themed areas- the World Bazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Critter Country and Mickey's Toontown.

Best known for:

Image from Disney Tourist Blog

  • All the fast-passes rides are very popular. Several of these rides have the word 'Mountain' in their names for some reason. More on fast-passes rides later.
  • The "Dream-lights" parade, "Happiness is Here" parade and "Happiness on high" parade are definite highlights.
  • Characters everywhere! From the classic Disney princesses to the universally loved Mickey and friends, this park has it all.

Tips:

  • Check the crowd calendar here. Generally Wednesdays/Thursdays have the least crowds. This is very important and Disneyland Tokyo is the most visited theme park in Japan.
  • Buy tickets online to avoid crowds on arrival. For ticketing information, click here.
  • Plan your fast-pass! The fast-pass is a reservation that allows you to go to the ride at a designated time, avoiding crowds. There is a cool off period after the use of a fast-pass, and you cannot get another fast-pass during this time. It's best if you're able to collect a fast-pass as soon as the park opens. Click here for information on attractions which have fast-passes.
  • Use the single riders queue for Splash Mountain, which is the only ride with that option.

Image from The Poor Traveler

Location: 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan. Nearest stations are Maihama Station and Tokyo Disneyland Station.

Hours (generally)- 08:00 to 22:00. For more information click here.

Disney sea

Image from Klook

This theme park is unique to Japan and is the only Disney park with a nautical theme. There are seven themed areas- American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Mediterranean Harbor and Mysterious Island. Disney Sea is specially catered towards older kids and adults!

Best known for:

Image from Klook

  • All Fastpass rides with some of Disney's best thrill rides, which are unique to Disneysea. More on this later.
  • Amazing and unique Disney shows, including Big Band Beat and Legend of Mythica.
  • Parades, including Fantasmic, are held on water, with floats, lights, fireworks and all your favorite Disney characters.

Tips:

  • Check crowd calendar here. Generally Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Thursdays have the least crowds. Avoid weekends at all costs.
  • Buy tickets online to avoid crowds on arrival. For ticketing information, click here.
  • Plan your Fastpass! Like Disneyland, Disneysea also has rides with Fastpasses. Click here for information on attractions which have Fastpasses.
  • Use single rider lanes for Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and Raging Spirits, which are the only rides with the option.

Image from Boingboing.net

Location: 1-13 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan. Nearest stations are Maihama Station and Tokyo Disneyland Station.

Hours (generally)- 08:00 to 22:00. For more information click here

Universal Studios Japan


Image from Expedia

This is the second most visited theme park in Japan. Universal Studios Japan currently has eight sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Best known for:

Image from All About Japan

  • Anime events for limited time periods! Some of you may have seen the recent attack on titan event. Click here for more information.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter– A must see for Harry Potter fans, this is where you can buy wands, robes, scarves and butter beer.
  • Characters galore. There is the sesame street gang, the minions, the peanuts and even Hello Kitty.

Tips:

  • As soon as you can, get a timed ticket for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This attraction is immensely popular and tickets will run out quickly, which is why you will see hoards of people running there as soon as the park opens. If you'd rather not rush to get a timed ticket as soon as the park opens, get an express pass (pass 4/7) where timed tickets are included.
  • Speaking of express passes, find out which one is right for you. There are several types with different rides included. Click here for more information.
  • Use the single riders queue to your advantage! This is necessary if you don't get an express pass because for popular rides, queues can and will go up to 200 minutes.
  • Buy tickets online to avoid crowds on arrival. For ticketing information, click here.

Image from Way to Go

Location: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031, Japan. Nearest station is Universal city station.

Hours (generally)- 08:30 to 21:00. For more information click here

Fuji Q Highland

Image from Hubpages

An amusement park that really redefines the meaning of extreme, Fuji Q Highland boasts multiple record breaking rides, with the world record certificates to prove it. It also sits at the base of mount Fuji, making it extremely popular among local and foreign tourists.

Best known for:

image from http://www.thethemeparkguy.com/park/fuji-q-highland/

  • Huge thrill rides. Many of the attractions here are not for the faint of heart, including Takabisha, the steepest roller coaster in the world and Dodonpa, the 4th fastest roller coaster in the world.
  • -Evangelion: World for all you NGE fans. There's artwork, life size reproductions and plenty of photo opportunities.
  • -Mount Fuji. The theme park is at the base of mount Fuji, giving excellent views, especially on rides (If you're able to look past the nearly vertical drops).

Tips:

  • As usual, avoid weekends, and try to go on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
  • Show this page at the ticket office to receive discount for up to 5 people.
  • Fast-passes are sold at individual rides. They can and will sell out (especially for the main 4 coasters), so plan ahead if you want one, at which ride and get it quickly.
  • If you don't get fast-passes (I recommend at least one), cover the 4 main coasters first. If the queue reaches its full capacity, they will close it up to 2 hours before the park closes.

Image from Backpacker Lee

Location: 5 Chome-6-1 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture 403-0017, Japan. Nearest station is Fuji Q highland Station. Alternatively, you can take a direct bus. Click here for bus and reservation information.

Hours (generally)- 08:30 to 22:00. For more information click here.

Yomiuriland

Image from Timeout

This is Tokyo's largest amusement park. Situated on a hillside, the area is quite scenic. There are thrill rides as well as kids rides. This is the only place in Tokyo where you can try a bungee jump, at 22 meters or 7 stories high.

Best known for:

Image from Yokota travel

  • Being huge. There are over 43 rides within the park, suitable for many different age groups.
  • Tickets are relatively cheap, especially compared to the Disney & Universal studios parks. click here for more information.
  • Winter illuminations! Japan is really big on festive lights and Yomiuri Land's Jewel Illuminations is known for being spectacular.
  • The Bandit roller coaster, which was the fastest roller coaster in the world when it was built.

Tips:

  • This is one that you can go on weekends (though this is not recommended, obviously). It gets busy, but nothing as insane as the rest, partly due to how big the park is.
  • present your passport at the ticketing counter for a discounted price! (Not valid for Japanese passports)
  • Going in Summer? Bring your swimsuit! There's a water park within Yomiuri land. (Separate entrance fees, click here for more information.)

Image from Themepark Review

Location: 4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi-shi, Tokyo, 206-8725. Nearest stations are Keio Yomiuriland Station and Yomiuriland mae Station.

Hours (generally)- 10:00 to 20:00. For more information click here.

Hanayashiki

Image from KCP International

This is Japan's oldest theme park, and hence has an old school vibe. It actually started out as a flower park, which is why there's quite a bit of flora around the park. It's proximity to Asakusa makes it really popular, and there are around 20 rides. This is a very different amusement park.

Best known for:

Image from Tokyo Cheapo

  • Being very old. Lots of people living in Tokyo hold this park dear to their hearts. Sure, it's no Disneyland, but there's a homely feel to it and there's a nostalgia factor.
  • Retro rides. Its oldest roller coaster is over 60 years old and still in operation today.
  • Being relatively cheap. This has to do with the fact that the park is relatively small. For ticketing information click here.
  • There is a three-storey ninja house, with an obstacle course and ninja traps. This is popular among both adults and kids!

Tips:

  • Want to wear a kimono or experience a tea ceremony? This park offers both, at reasonable (even cheap) prices. Click here for more information.
  • If you plan on going for all the rides, get a free pass and an admission ticket. The free pass does not include the admission fee.
  • If you're not interested in the kiddy rides, check all the rides here. The park sells coupon booklets with 11 tickets in them, as well as individual tickets. Count the number of tickets you will need for all the rides (Space shot needs 5 tickets, for example) you want to go for and buy the coupon booklet if cheaper.

Image from Mojo Travel

Location: 2 Chome-28-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032, Japan. Nearest station is Asakusa Station.

Hours (generally)- 10:00 to 18:00. For more information click here.


Asha Mehta