7 tips to get the most out of your Japanese theme park visit
There is still some of the school holidays left.
For some Singaporean holiday makers, the Land of the Rising Sun surely beckons.
Japan is one of Singaporeans' top holiday destinations and one of the many reasons for going there has to be their awesome theme parks – especially the big three of Disneyland and DisneySea in Tokyo as well as Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
With so much going on at these theme parks, though, it's easy to be overwhelmed — especially if you've never set foot in a theme park before.
Fret not, this is where we help you make every minute count.
While Disney and Universal both operate under slightly different systems, the general approach for visiting each park is the same.
STEP 1: RESEARCH
Before you even set foot into a theme park – be it a week in advance or the day before – it's always helpful to read up on it.
With the lovely miracle that is the Internet, there's a wealth of up-to-date knowledge about virtually any theme park that dispenses valuable advice about the park you're about to visit.
And thanks to the advent of YouTube, you can almost always find video of any ride.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is considered to be Tokyo DisneySea's best ride.
Here are some key questions that you need to find the answers to:
— What are the park's opening and closing times?
— Which are the park's must-take rides and must-see attractions?
— What are the ones you can afford to skip?
— If necessary, which are the kid-friendly rides?
— What's the average waiting time for these attractions?
— Are there any awesome foods or eateries that you simply have to try?
— Any time-saving tips and tricks?
You can even find out how crowded Disney's two parks are using this handy little crowd-predicting website.
Once you have all this information down, it's time to move on to the next step.
STEP 2: PLAN
Map of Universal Studios Japan. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN
While the old adage about failing to plan is planning to fail might be a little strong to use for a holiday, having a rough game plan in mind will certainly go a long way.
Even if you feel like having a free and easy day, list out the must-do attractions and activities that you and your group would like to enjoy.
Having such a list will also make it less likely to forget them, so hopefully you won't be kicking yourself at the end of your trip because one vital location slipped your mind.
Tip: Download the park maps from their respective websites where they're all in English as the physical maps given out at the parks are all in Japanese.
STEP 3: GO EARLY
Getting an early start means more time to wander around attractions like the super popular and amazing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan.
If you only have a day and want to get the most out of your visit, it's imperative that you start as early as possible.
While waking up insanely early sounds like the antithesis of a good holiday, it will give you more time at the park.
Also, going early means getting ahead of the season pass-toting locals, who will most likely visit the park a little later for the few rides that they wish to go for.
Hint: the Japanese love their theme parks and will form the bulk of the guests who will be competing with you for the rides.
STEP 4: STRATEGISE
No, we're not playing a game of chess here, but having a strategy can help you accomplish what you've set out to do while saving on time and walking at the same time.
Different theme parks have different priority queue systems, but they both have the same purpose of helping you spend less time in a queue and more time having fun.
Understand how these systems work and incorporate them into your itinerary.
For example, when visiting a Disney park, you might want to take advantage of the FastPass system to book a spot for one the place's more popular rides first before queuing at other other attractions while waiting for your turn.
Like its Singaporean cousin, Universal Studios Japan also has a handy official app that can tell you the waiting time for all the attractions around the park just by glancing at your phone so you know which queue you can head to next.
And if you don't mind splitting up your party, you might wish to consider joining the single rider line for shorter wait times.
If parades, performances and fireworks displays are not your cup of tea, you might wish to consider using these times to join the shorter queues when other visitors are dropping what they are doing to watch these scheduled events.
Note that if you're going to Universal Studios Japan and would like to purchase one of their Express Passes that includes the wildly popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction and ride, get it as early as you can because they sell out fast.
STEP 5: TAKE BREAKS
Tokyo DisneySea's Mysterious Island region is surrounded by the massive Mount Prometheus.
Theme parks are lots of fun, but they're enormous establishments that require a substantial amount of legwork to cover completely.
To ensure that your legs don't fall off from all the walking and standing in line, squeeze in a few breaks to rest those poor feet.
This is also a good time to fill up your tummy and hydrate.
Mickey Mouse waffle, anyone?
STEP 6: STAY LATE
Tokyo Disneyland's Electrical Parade puts on a spectacular light show that is vastly different from its daytime counterpart.
If there's a ride that you really wanted to try — or take again — but the waiting time is too epic, try hanging around until just before closing time.
You might just find that the queues a less populated.
A float featuring Genie from Aladdin dazzles during Tokyo Disneyland's Electrical Parade.
Most parks start to empty out about an hour before closing, meaning smaller crowds to negotiate and, more importantly, shorter queues.
There's also that fact that most parks look completely different at night when the lights come on — it's almost a completely different experience.
The entrance to Tokyo DisneySea's Toy Story Mania attraction takes on a whole new look at night.
STEP 7: SAVE THINGS FOR NEXT TIME
Fireworks mark the end of the day at Tokyo Disneyland.
One day isn't enough to complete everything.
Completionists will dread hearing that, but with all the queuing, walking and eating, there simply isn't enough time to take in every ride and attraction.
It also gives you a reason to return for another day of fun.