Do YOU Need a Universal Studios Japan Express Pass?

Deciding whether to buy the Express Pass for Universal Studios Japan isn’t always an easy decision – after all, it adds quite a bit to the entry price, particularly for a family. So, how do you decide if the Universal Studios Japan Express Pass is worth it for you to buy it (not anyone else, you).

These are the questions to ask…

Image: USJ. Used with permission

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which mean I earn a small commission if you use them to book. This does not cost you any extra. Japlanease is a member of the Amazon Associates program.

What is the Universal Japan Express Pass?

I’m guessing you already know this as you’re investigating whether it’s worth having, but, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, the USJ Express Pass is an extra pass that you can buy alongside your entry ticket that lets you spend less time queuing for certain rides.

Exactly which rides depends on which pass you choose and, while we’re not going to break them all down in detail here (there’s another post coming for that), we’ll talk a little bit about specific passes that might suit you better if it’s relevant below.

Why Might It Be Needed?

Because Universal Studios Japan is the world’s 5th busiest theme park – in 2019, an estimated 14.1 million people passed through the gates, compare that to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida which saw an estimated 9.14 million people visitors the same year and you’ll get an idea of how busy it might be sometimes.

Add to this the fact that the Japanese are incredibly patient theme-park guests.

They think nothing of standing in a queue for 3 hours to go on a ride, or camping out half the day to see a show and, that means queues can get very long – and if you’re unlucky you can spend all day in the park and only go on a handful of rides.

The results is that the pressure to buy the Express Pass to try and cut down those wait times can be pretty overwhelming.

That’s why most posts like this say they are essential, but, having spent a lot of time weighing up myself whether I’m going to need one, I think it’s a bit more complex than that and while some travellers will benefit from an Express Pass, others might not need one.

Image USJ. Used with Permission

How to Decide if a USJ Express Pass is Worth It

So, which traveller are you…do YOU really need to buy one or can you get away with a basic entry ticket?

These are the questions you need to consider to make the right choice for you…

1. Are You Going For Super Nintendo World™?

Super Nintendo World™ is the newest attraction at Universal Studios Japan. It opened in March 2021 and it’s immensely popular.

To try and control the crowd levels, USJ operate what’s known as a timed-entry system to Super Nintendo World, and, while it’s still possible to access this without an Express Pass – by buying the new Super Nintendo World + Studio Pass from Klook (see more about that in a couple of paragraphs), going on the USJ app as soon as you get through the doors, or, by moving very fast when the gates open, if you don’t get that ticket, it’s a very busy day or, you’re a bit late, you might miss your chance.

However, when you buy certain Express Passes you not only get a timed-entry slot to enter Super Nintendo World, and also get to jump the queue on the two Mario-themed rides Yoshi’s Adventure and Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge which can be very long.

Therefore, if your main reason for visiting USJ is to do everything in Super Nintendo World™ and your trip is going to be ruined if that doesn’t happen, then buy an Express Pass that includes it. Right now, when the land is so incredibly popular it’s just not worth missing out.

The Best Passes for Super Nintendo World™ are…

These Universal Express Pass 4

These are the slightly cheaper passes that include fast access to four rides. There’s a few different ones, and none of them include Yoshi’s Adventure, but these two include the Mario Kart ride.

The Flying Dinosaur – which includes timed Super Nintendo World™ entry and four rides including Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, The Flying Dinosaur, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ and either The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man – The Ride 4K3D or Jurassic Park – The Ride™

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem which includes Super Nintendo Entry and four rides including Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and either The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D or Jurassic Park – The Ride™

Or These Universal Express Pass 7

The pricier option as they include more rides – but these also include both Super Mario rides and timed entry to Super Nintendo World.

The Flying Dinosaur and Jurassic Park which includes Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge and Yoshi’s Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Flight of the Hippogriff™, The Flying Dinosaur, Jurassic Park – The Ride™, and either Hollywood Dream – The Ride or JAWS™

Backdrop and Spiderman which includes Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, Yoshi’s Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Flight of the Hippogriff™, Hollywood Dream -The Ride- Backdrop, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D and either Hollywood Dream – The Ride or JAWS™

Limited and Variety which includes Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, Yoshi’s Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Flight of the Hippogriff™, JUJUTSU KAISEN: The Real 4-D, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D, and Hollywood Dream – The Ride “OR” JAWS™

However, before you click buy, if you don’t mind queuing for the rides at SWN and just want to make sure you get in, we have big news …

The New Klook Studio Pass with SWN Entry.

In the last couple of days (I’m updating this on 22nd February 2023) Klook have launched a new version of the USJ Studio Pass which includes an add-on that gives you timed entry to Super Nintendo World for just an extra few bucks.

It’s marked up as the Super Nintendo World + Studio Pass (then you’ll see A,B or C depending on what day you’re visiting the park)

It then gives you a timed entry to Super Nintendo World – but no skip the line for queuing.

On the Klook site it seems that you can pick a time, although the Klook team told me that they might be randomly allocated, but without buying one I can’t test that. If you buy one after reading this, can you let me know?

Not surprisingly these are selling out the day they go on sale as it allows guaranteed entry for about AU$30 more than the base prices, so if you want one, get in fast.

The pass seems to start for entries after April 20th.

Do note though, the pass isn’t available every day. I asked Klook why this is and they told me they get their allocation from USJ and if all the times are already allocated the SWN+ pass isn’t available. If you don’t see it listed then that’s what’s happened, if you do see it – snap it up quickly.

A Note About Buying Passes

There are two places to buy Express Passes.

You can buy passes direct from the USJ app if you have Apple Pay, but it can be a bit of a process, so in this post I’m just adding links to Klook to buy passes as you can then use a foreign credit card easily.

The Passes go on sale two months before the day of entry (so to enter April 17th, passes are available February 17th) and it’s a good idea to buy them ASAP as they do sell out.

Don’t forget you also need an entry ticket – known as a Studio Pass – to get into the park as well as an Express Pass. The Express Pass is NOT an entry ticket.

We’ll give a few links to buy specific passes throughout the post, but if there’s not one on your section at the point you decide ‘yep, count in me’ just scroll right down to the end where you’ll find buttons that take you to buy passes easily.

2. Are You Going For Harry Potter?

Then, it might not be so essential to get a pass.

When it first opened the Harry Potter section of the park also had timed entry, but, as I write this this is no longer the case, you can go into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at any time of day.

You won’t need the pass to wander around the shops and restaurants at Hogsmeade, to play with the wands or see shows like the Frog Choir. There is also normally a walk through the castle, but as I write this it’s closed.

If you want to ride the rides in The Wizarding World though, and don’t want to spend much time queuing, you might want to still buy an Express Pass that includes these.

The Best Express Passes for Potterheads

The Universal Pass 4 Variety Choice is the cheapest pass that includes both rides in the Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ and Flight of the Hippogriff™.

It also includes shorter queue entry to either Hollywood Dream, The Ride or JAWS™, and either The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride or Jurassic Park – The Ride™

If you’re happy to splash out, any of the Universal 7 Passes listed above also offer faster entry to both the rides in Wizarding World.

Image USJ. Used with Permission

3. Are You Going For The Thrill Rides?

These are the rides that have the biggest queues. So, the question is will you feel your day (and entrance fee) is wasted if you don’t ride them all?

If so, I’d say buy some form of Express Pass to ensure you get on them all especially if you’re a late riser or going on a busy day (see more below).

We analyse the best passes for thrillseekers in our guide explaining the various types of USJ Ticket

If you’re not that bothered if you ride everything, and don’t mind standing in a few queues, then, Questions 4 and 5 are probably the next deciding factors as to whether you should buy a pass or not.

But before you get to that…

Check the Maintenance Calendar

If you are going to buy an Express Pass for the rides, then make sure that all the good rides are running.

The day I type this Jurassic Park, Hollywood Dream and Space Fantasy are all down for maintenance so you’d be super annoyed if you’d paid out for the most expensive pass to ride those and they weren’t working.

Obviously things can go wrong any day (The Flying Dinosaur had a few hours out of action the other day) but, you’ll find the advance closure calendar here. Make sure the rides you’re buying your pass to use are definitely running.

4. How Early Do You Like to Get Up?

You know when the Florida theme parks put their entry time on their website and you therefore think ‘okay, I’ll turn up 10 minutes before and hit rope drop’ – forget that my friend.

Despite the fact that the Japanese train system is punctual to a second, when it comes to theme park opening times, it’s the wild west out there.

They regularly open early – and not 5-10 minutes early, it can be up to an hour early.

When the park is due to open at 9am it’s therefore recommended that you’re outside the gates ready to go at 7.30.

If you do this, you can, if you walk very briskly (I’m not going to say run but…) it’s possible to get into Super Nintendo World before they instigate timed entry – or, you can book your timed entry on the app as soon as you get through the gates.

If you’re aiming for one of the other areas in the park, you’ll be able to get there and get on at least one ride, maybe two, before queue times increase.

This will put you ahead of the pack for the rest of the day.

What Does This Mean About Express Passes?

Getting up early doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from an Express Pass as having a pass will still help you access shorter queues later in the day – but, if you decide not to buy one, arriving early is pretty much essential if you want to see Super Nintendo World™.

If you are not an early riser. If you want to get to the park after your breakfast and a lot of coffee, and you don’t want to stand in long queues, or it’ll bother you if you have to miss half the park or Super Nintendo World™, then consider an Express Pass, particularly if it’s a busy day – and make sure you book your timed entry to Super Nintendo World™ later in the day.

Which brings us nicely to…

Image: USJ. Used with permission.

5. What Day of the Week Are You Going?

The busiest days for Universal Studios Japan are Saturday and Sunday – not surprisingly – but Friday and Monday also see a knock on effect from weekend travellers.

If you’re going on a weekend, you’ll be more likely to benefit from an Express Pass than someone going on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday which are the quieter days.

Exact numbers fluctuate with seasons, public holidays and any special events in the park.

To get an estimated number of people for the exact day you’re visiting, then use the USJ Crowd Calculator which shows you how many people are likely to be there the day you’re visiting.

It’s in Japanese so you’ll need to use google translate, but as a rule, the lighter the colour the fewer the people – if you find a white day, rearrange your whole schedule to make that your park day and you probably won’t need an Express Pass (and if it’s a black one, stay home – or, definitely buy an Express Pass).

6. Are You Going Solo?

There are a lot of rides at USJ which have a single rider line.

For those not up on their theme park lingo, if you use a single rider line you’re basically used to fill up rows of seats – so, if a ride is three abreast and a couple get on, rather than sending the ride out with one seat empty, they pull someone from the single rider line.

Because most people visiting theme parks want to ride the ride with their friends or loved ones, single rider lines are normally shorter than the regular lines – so, you might wait 20-30 minutes rather than an hour or two.

This might mean you don’t need an Express Pass if most of the rides you really want to do have single rider lines (or you could buy a cheaper Express 4 Pass that includes just your ‘must dos’ and take your chances on the others)

It is a gamble though – sometimes they switch off single rider lines and you’ll be forced to join the normal queue.

I admit this is my own dilemma right now. I’m currently planning my USJ trip and going to the park solo and can’t decide whether to splash out on a pass, or take my chances going single rider…

Which Rides at USJ Have Single Rider Lines?

At the time of writing, they can be available for these rides…

Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Elmo’s GoGo Skateboard, Hollywood Dream, Space Fantasy, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, The Flying Dinosaur, Jurassic Park and Jaws

That’s pretty much everything I want to go on! I’d only need an Express Pass that covers Flight of the Hippogriff™ and Yoshi’s Adventure – but, as I said, it is a gamble – and there’s the Super Nintendo World™ entry thing again!

Just in case any of these chance before your trip, get an up-to-date single rider list here.

7. Are you Travelling with Little Kids?

Most of the rides associated with the Express Passes are the big thrill rides that little kids aren’t going to be able to ride, and it’s essential to check the height requirements for any tweens before you buy passes to make sure they are tall enough to ride all the included rides.

Ones to check carefully include Hollywood Dream, The Flying Dinosaur and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™ as those have the taller requirements

Many of the rides also require smaller kids to be with an adult or older child.

Find the list of line requirements here..

Queuing with Little Kids

Checking the app it seems most of the rides aiming at much smaller children only have a 5-10 minutes wait most of the day, but, even then, there are two other ways to organise your queuing time with small children.


Yoyakunori, also known as Reserve and Ride, let’s you book times on some of the rides more suited to smaller children.

It’s used like the Fastpass used to be in Florida Disney parks.

You can do it on the Flying Snoopy, Elmo’s Bubble Bubble, Moppy’s Balloon Trip and Elmo’s GoGo Skateboard.

Find the Yoyakunouri machines in the park, scan the entry ticket of each person who wants to ride and you’ll be given the choice of time. Pick the one you want and then just turn up at that time.

This video shows you how to find and use the machines.

As with the old Disney FastPass you can only hold one Yoyakunori ticket at a time, so you need to wait for your first time to expire before you book a second one.

Child Swap

This doesn’t allow you to skip the queue entirely, but, it does mean that adults don’t have to queue twice if they want to go on a ride that your little one can’t.

One adult goes on while the other holds the child, then, when the first adult comes back, number two gets to go on the ride.

A full list of rides that offer child switch is here – but it’s most of the big ones.

If you’re the one going on the rides then you might want to book an Express Pass for the adults just so the kids aren’t getting bored queuing.

7. How Many Days Can You Spend in the Parks?

This one is pretty obvious, but if you have more time in the park your need for an Express Pass diminishes as you won’t be rushing to try and do everything in a short period.

So, how does pricing compare for a multi-day pass compared to a single day pass with an Express Pass – the prices below are in Australian dollars as that’s what I can see.

A Single Pass B (the letters, and prices differ by time of year) costs AU$96.95 – and the most expensive Express Pass costs AU$153.65 – a total of AU$250.60.

A 2-Day pass costs AU$184.15, so about A$70 less.

Or there is also a 1.5 day pass which costs AU$148.19 that might offer a happy compromise. With this you can go in the park at 3pm the first day and stay until closing (riding lots of the smaller rides with shorter queues and having a wander about), and then have a full day in the park the next day where you arrive early and hit Super Nintendo World™

These prices aren’t set in stone – you can get cheaper Express Passes if you pick one of the cheaper combinations, and, the date you attend the park will also determine how much you pay, but it gives you an idea for comparison.

If you can spend two days in the park and don’t mind getting there early (to ensure your Super Nintendo World™ entry) and, standing in a couple of potentially long queues as the day goes on, you probably don’t need an Express Pass.

8. Are You Over 6ft 4?

While you might be used to having minimum height requirements, USJ also has a maximum height requirement on two rides -The Flying Dinosaur and Flight of the Hippogriff™.

If you’re over 198cm (6ft 5ish) for Flying Dinosaur or 195cm (6ft 4ish) for Hippogriff then you might not be able to ride.

If you do decide to buy an Express Pass, that might make a difference as to which pass you choose to buy.

What About Plus Sized People

The rides in theme parks in Japan are sized to the more petite frame of Japanese people so you might be wondering what happens if you’re ‘Pooh-Sized’, to steal a Disney terminology.

From what I have read, USJ actually caters for Western figures pretty well and I haven’t heard about anyone being turned away. Disney rides can run a little bit smaller, but, that’s another post entirely.

If You’re Still Undecided…

See how things play out in real time for a bit.

You can get a rough idea of wait times by checking the Universal Studios Japan App which you can download in advance.

To give you a clue how things play out, when I first typed this, it’s 11.30am in the morning Japan time on a Wednesday on a day with a predicted crowd of 15,000 – so a quiet day.

As I sit at my desk in Sydney, I can see that the queues for The Flight of the Hippogriff™is 50 minutes, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Forest™ is 20 minutes (quick, run), Mario Kart is 80 minutes, Yoshi’s Adventure is 50 minutes. The Flying Dinosaur and Jurassic Park weren’t yet running.

That’s not too bad.

I checked back in again at 3.30 Japanese time and the Flying Dinosaur was at 120 minutes, Mario Kart was at 150, Flight of the Hippogriff was at 90 and Yoshi’s Adventure was 65 minutes. That sounds less fun…

Doing this was the deciding factor for me. Even though I’m going solo, I’m definitely going to get a pass as I’m there on a Sunday and a Monday so crowds will be bigger and while the morning queues were fine, the afternoon ones are not so good. If they cut the Single Rider Lines I’ll regret not spending the money. I’m also not sure about the early morning run to Super Nintendo World™.

Now it’s just a matter of deciding which pass to buy – and you’ll find some more suggestions on that in this post which explains all the USJ ticket types in a bit more detail and suggests Express Pass Options for a few different types of traveller.

If you don’t want to miss any of our advice on planning your Japan trip, make sure you sign up for our mailing list and we’ll send you out our monthly newsletter containing our latest tips, news and offers.

So, there are all the things I think you need to consider when deciding if a USJ Express Pass is going to be worth it for you.

Buy Your Passes Now

Whether you’ve decided to buy an Express Pass or just stick with basic Studio Pass Entry then you’ll find the options and prices here…

What did you decide, and did you consider anything else while deciding that might help other people decide what to do.

Let me know in the comments

Have you joined our Japlanease Facebook Group yet? It’s the perfect place to ask questions and get answers from me, and other Japan fans and travelers. Join it here.

Who Writes This Blog?

My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author. My travel articles have appeared in publications including The Australian, RAC Horizons, Jetstar Magazine, Sainsbury’s Magazine and more.

I’ve travelled to Japan seven times before, both solo and with my partner – and am just planning trip number eight

12 thoughts on “Do YOU Need a Universal Studios Japan Express Pass?”

  1. Hi, thank you for this post, it was really helpful. Is it true that the timed entry system is not need anymore to visit the Harry Potter part? I ended up buying an express pass and it included a timed entry, even on the official website it comes up as an option to choose a time slot. If it’s not necessary anymore it would be a plus because I didn’t get the time slot I wanted 🙁

    • They say it’s generally no longer necessary – but, they still offer it as an option when you buy a ticket as they can reintroduce it. The benefit of this is, that if for any reason they have temporarily re-introduced it – perhaps if the park is very busy during Golden Week or something, you do have a confirmed time slot to enter (even if it isn’t perfect). So, if it’s a normal day, with no timed entry, you won’t be turned away, but if timed entry is on, you’ll definitely get in at that slot. Hope that makes sense.
      Also, just in case it’s helpful, we know have a group on facebook where you can also ask questions – and hopefully, once more people join, also get replies for people other than me who might have been to the parks recently. Here’s the link just in case that’s helpful

  2. Hi! This was a very helpful article. I was all set to buy all four of us express passes, but hadn’t realised these are in addition to the general park entry?? The main think my two teens want to do is the JUJUTSU KAISEN the Real 4D experience, which can only be booked by paying for a $160AU each express ticket. Worth it? Would love your thoughts!

    • I haven’t done that ride yet, but what I can see is the wait time which currently is 50 minutes at about 4pm in the afternoon Japan time. That’s normally peak time for wait times, but it is a Thursday which is a quieter day. So, I guess my question back would be are you happy to wait around an hour for that ride? And not worry to much else about what you do… if yes, then the express pass might not be worth it. If you’ll get there and feel bad if you don’t get to do other things, then the express passes are always worth it. If you haven’t downloaded the USJ app yet.maybe do that and just check the wait times for that ride throughout a day and just see how it goes. You might find that one is more manageable than you think. But you just need to weigh up the rest of the day.

  3. it looks like expresses are sold out online for the day I was planning to bring my family (2/27) can you still buy them day off after arrival or does sold out online also mean they won’t have it at the park? thnx

    • If they’re sold out online, they are sold out unfortunately. Did you check USJ direct, Klook and KKDay just in case? But, it is unlikely that any of them would have some for tomorrow. They do sell out far in advance.

  4. Is there a way to buy express passes IN the park when you get there to Universal Japan or can you only buy them ahead of time online? thank you!

    • No. Only a limited number are available each day and they always sell out with people buying them in advance. If that didn’t happen for by reason you’d be able to buy one in the park, but it just doesn’t.

  5. Hi! Thank you for this guide, definitely explains a little more since I was reading other articles after going on the USJ website. It definitely confused me with all the different entry names, I found myself asking what is area timed entry, advance timed entry, themed attraction entry, etc.

    I think I have a good idea of what it is now since I’ve never experienced having to get reserve a entry ticket just just enter that part of a themed area, we always just walked in when in the US theme parks.

    However, we are planning to go during first week of May which to our surprise, is Golden Week. We picked Tuesday since it seems like it might be the least busy of all the other days to go but we’re not too sure… I am heavily contemplating getting the Universal Express Pass 7 : Doraemon XR Ride (new ride that just launched last week) but still going back and forth on getting it or not for my group of 4.

    We plan on going super early to make the morning jog over to SNW, which in that case, at least takes care of 1/2 of the rides with little wait time. However that the pass covers the 2 rides we’d go on in SNW so we’re not too sure if it’s still worth it to get?

    Would love to hear anyone’s input!!

    • If I was going in Golden Week I would not hesitate to get an Express Pass. Double check the crowd calendar I link to in the ‘Do you need an Express Pass Post’ and I think you’ll see it’s a very busy day. Any new ride is also going to have longer queues than normal. Add the two together and you could easily be queuing for 4-5 hours or more just to do 3 rides. I wouldn’t risk it that week.


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