Universal Studios is known throughout the world for its amazing selection of world class rides and the park is a no brainer for normal tourists in general, but combine the same awesome quality and budget to anime franchises, and something amazing happens. Universal Studios Japan is no stranger to partnering with many different anime and video game franchises (Attack on Titan, Yokai Watch, Biohazard, etc.).
Although, the franchise that has had the most success and continues to return every Summer, also happens to be the number one running manga and anime for the past ten years: One Piece. What makes the event so special are the quality of actors and props featured throughout the park which gives that extra spark of life into the memorable 2D characters, causing guests to question whether or not they have actually walked into the Grand Line or not.
Universal Studios Japan Info
|Location||2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031|
(Off the Yumesaki JR Line. It has its own designated train station named Universal City. The line is accessible off the main Osaka Loop JR line from Nishikujo station. From there, the Yumesaki line is easy to find as signs will be there to guide way.)
|Cost of Admission||Studio Pass|
Universal Express Passes
*In addition to the cost of the Studio Pass. This pass grants access to popular rides faster.
Tickets for the One Piece Premier Show are tiered and based on purchase date, as well as, on seat selection. Those who are VIP Annual Pass holders and those who are able to create a Universal Studios online account have early access to the One Piece Premier Show tickets, as well as Sanji’s Restaurant reservations.
One Piece Premier Show
|Hours of Operation|
10:00 – 11:20
One Piece Premier Summer: https://www.usj.co.jp/e/summer2015/
The One Piece Premier Summer Event began in 2012 and has consistently drawn bigger and bigger crowds each year, with the main attraction show growing more ambitious every year. Several sections of the park are transformed into various locations around the One Piece world including a Marine Base, where food and souvenirs can be purchased. On the streets of the Marine Base section, a small live show is held every year that usually involves water guns that can be purchased at a kiosk nearby.
The crowd is encouraged by Luffy and his crew to shoot at the various Marines that attempt to capture them. In addition, a small Marine Kitchen is set up with themed foods and drinks in a commemorative Luffy or Chopper mug.
Sanji’s Restaurant is also located nearby, but an online reservation is require as he’s quite popular with the ladies. The restaurant is actually more of a dinner theater setting where Sanji hand deliver’s the guest’s meal while the rest of the crew wanders around and interacts with the diners. Website with info about the experience and food menu can be found here.
While there is no extra fee for the performance, the meal is a set price at 4,980 yen with tax ($41.48 USD) for adults and 2,550 yen ($21.24 USD) with tax for children with specialty drinks costing extra. The menu changes from year to year and is always posted online beforehand. This year, the kid’s plate was Zoro themed and featured several pieces of meat skewered through tiny swords. The adult’s plate was a bit more French inspired and had plenty of heart garnishes to represent Sanji’s love for women.
The Marine Base is not the only location One Piece has taken over. Those who are unable to make a reservation for Sanji’s Restaurant, or perhaps dislike the food at the Marine Kitchen, can find solace at Dan Dan’s. Once the visitor’s center for the Jurassic Park area, Dan Dan’s utilizes the dinosaur skeleton to perfection and essentially suggests that the three brothers have simply eaten him whole.
This restaurant was quite popular and the line staff would not allow you to order unless a seat was already awaiting the customer, thus it is useful to wait until peak lunchtime is over before eating here. The food was quite delicious and each meal was based on either Ace, Sabo, or Luffy. The theme changes every year though, as last year’s main focus was the pirate alliance between Law and Luffy. This year, it was about the three brothers.
The main event of One Piece Premier Summer has to be the giant stage/water show that occurs on the Waterworld Stage every night beginning at 19:15. The show is different every year and attempts to incorporate whatever current events are happening in the manga. This year, the show featured several popular characters making their first appearances in the manga, including Sabo, Cavendish, and Bartolomeo.
The quality of the writing, stage effects, costumes, and music is enough to make any fan swoon. The show can only be described as a sensory overload as it is worth every single penny you have spent.
One Piece souvenirs can be purchased throughout the park, but there are two main stores located at the front of the park and in the Marine Base area. These stores have the most merchandise and generally are well stocked. Anything can be purchased from UV protection towels to jewelry and charms, but one of the more popular items remains Luffy’s signature straw hat. A complete list of the items from this year can be found here.
Guests who begin to feel One Piece fatigue (who has this?) can explore the other various areas of the park. There are several roller coasters and the Universal Studios Japanese location also offers the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Those who wish to enter the Harry Potter area though, MUST arrive early and receive a timed ticket showing for entry to this section when available, as it is heavily crowded and wait times are often hours long just to shop or eat.
Universal Studios Japan often has other events taking place during the summer as well. This year they continued their Biohazard event which consisted of guests shooting zombies with laser guns. The ride is somewhat short, but still amazingly fun, and at the end lies a horde of Biohazard merchandise for guests to purchase.
Yokai Watch also made its first appearance at the park this year with several special events. For a fee of 6,400 yen ($53.31 USD), visitors received their very own watch to hunt down yokai throughout the park. While this seems to be quite fun, this event required advanced Japanese language skills.
On a personal level, this will always be the highlight of my summer. I plan on coming back to Japan every year just because of this show. I’ve attended the last two years and I cannot express how amazing it is to be in a giant arena filled with fans of the same franchise and to be able to connect with those around me.
For one night, we can let loose and freely express our love for One Piece. Everything about the day is magical, and the show is just the icing on the cake. This year I managed to score second row tickets and it was probably the most memorable experience I’ve had in a while. Sabo and Cavendish walked right past me and I was able to TOUCH them. I never washed my hand afterwards.
For One Piece fans, this is the best event you can see, hands down. If you can only make it to one One Piece event on your vacation, make it this one.