Theme parks are essential to any Japan itinerary — but if you only have time to visit ONE, read this guide for a better idea!

Entrance to Universal Studios Japan - Japan theme parks

We’ve visited Universal Studios Japan (USJ), Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea on separate trips, and honestly, it’s a tough fight.

While you can hit up all three parks on the same trip, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag thanks to the ticket price hike in August 2023 🥲

Tokyo Disneyland Castle - Japan theme parks

Photo credit: @karensellica via Instagram

To help you make a choice, we’ll be pitting these three parks against each other across different categories:

Ticket Prices
Location
Rides
Queues, Waiting Times, and Line-Skipping
Shows and Other Attractions
Food and Restaurants
Accommodations

Ticket Prices

Universal Studios JapanTokyo DisneySeaTokyo Disneyland
1-Day Ticket¥860/~S$82¥660/~S$78¥660/~S$78
2-Day Ticket~S$156¥850¥850
Top-up for shorter queuesFrom ~S$90From ¥‎1,500/AccessFrom ¥‎1,500/Access
Hand Holding Super Nintendo World Ticket - USJ Osaka Guide

General ticket prices for the Tokyo Disney parks are cheaper — even the 2-day pass for Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland are cheaper than the 1-day Studio pass at Universal Studio Japan.

*Pro-tip: Get the most value with the new 1.5-Day USJ Pass — you can start at 3PM on the first day, and enjoy the park for the entire second day.

Entry tickets aside, these are massively popular parks with long queues so you might want to consider topping up your ticket to skip the lines — more on that in the section about Queues, Waiting Times, and Line-Skipping!

Verdict: Tokyo Disney Parks

Location

Universal Studios JapanTokyo Disney Parks
OsakaTokyo
11min train ride from Osaka station (to Universal-City Station)16min train ride from Tokyo station (to Maihama Station)
6.5hr direct flight from SIN – KIX7.25hr direct flight from SIN – NRT

USJ & the Tokyo Disney Parks are rather far from each other as one is in Osaka and the other is in Tokyo (respectively). That’s a 6.5-hour drive or a 3.5-hour train ride! So a huge factor will largely depend on which city you’ll be flying in from.

Osaka

Boy at Osaka Castle - Japan theme parks

If you’re a foodie, you’ll want to visit Osaka, the food capital of Japan. Begin your Osaka trip by dropping by Dotonbori Street for some oishii street food or going on a food pilgrimage around the city! Osaka is also a short train ride away to day trip destinations like Nara, Okayama and Kobe, making it the perfect city to base yourself in.

USJ is located within Osaka City, and is accessible via the JR Yumesaki Line (also known as JR Sakurajima Line). The park is a short 5-minute walk from Universal City station.

Osaka-based itineraries
7D Japan Itinerary Under S$1.3k — Osaka and Other Epic Cities in the Kansai Region
Osaka Transport Guide — Maximising Your Transport Passes for Travelling In And Around Osaka
13 Best Things to Do in Osaka — New and Must-visit Attractions in 2023

Tokyo

Shibuya Sky Sky Edge Lookout point at sunset in Tokyo, Japan - Japan theme parks

Tokyo is a fast-paced, cosmopolitan city with towering skyscrapers and quirky cafes. Whether it’s visiting ancient temples like Sensō-ji, feasting on Michelin-worthy meals, or road-tripping out to Mt Fuji, you’ll never run out of things to do in this eccentric city.

Tokyo Disney Line to Dinseysea - Japan theme parks

Tokyo Disney Resort is slightly farther from the city, but can still be easily accessed via public transport. From JR Maihama Station, take the Disney Resort Line to either Tokyo Disneyland (2mins) or Tokyo DisneySea Station (9mins).

You’ll need to purchase a single ticket (¥260/one-way) from the ticket machine inside each station. The Disney experience begins before you even step foot into the park as the monorail cabin is decked out in Disney references like Mickey-shaped windows ✨

Tokyo-based itineraries
7D6N Japan Itinerary Under S$1.5k — Road Trip from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji and Beyond
12 Things to Eat in Tokyo — Michelin (Worthy) Restaurants That Are Worth Your Money
10-Day Japan Itinerary For First Timers Under S$900 — Tokyo to Osaka

Verdict: Tie

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Rides

Universal Studios JapanTokyo DisneySeaTokyo Disneyland
Best Family RideDespicable Me: Minion MayhemToy Story Mania!Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
Best Thrill RideHollywood Dream – The Ride: BackdropRaging SpiritsSpace Mountain
Scariest’ RideHarry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™Haunted MansionTower of Terror
Newest RideYoshi’s Adventure™Soaring: Fantastic FlightEnchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast

Universal Studios Japan

The Flying Dinosaur - Japan theme parks

The Flying Dinosaur Ride at Jurassic Park.

USJ is split into 10 areas with over 60 attractions and shows, best known for Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a rollercoaster junkie, visiting with family, or a huge Potterhead.

Upcoming USJ Rides in 2023 - Theme parks in japan

The park is constantly building new exciting rides and undergoing renovations and maintenance, so look out for the latest news on USJ attractions before you visit.

USJ also has exclusive limited-time rides centred around anime, manga and video games — a win for the Weebs!

Read also: The Ultimate USJ Guide and Tips (2023) — Universal Studios Japan

Tokyo Disneyland

The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast ride in Tokyo Disneyland - theme parks in japan

Photo credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disneyland has seven themed lands and 25 rides. It’s best known for its whirlwind storytelling rides, where iconic fairytales like Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan are brought to life via animatronics — albeit, in Japanese. It’s also a lot more family-friendly, so rides are not as adventurous as compared to Tokyo DisneySea.

Tokyo DisneySea

Man looking at the the Journey to the Centre of the Earth attraction at Tokyo Disneysea - Japan theme aprks

The Journey to the Centre of the Earth ride is inside the volcano!

While there are various Disneylands scattered around the globe, DisneySea is the only one of its kind. It’s maritime-themed so each section of the park is related to the ocean — our favourites are the Mysterious Island and Arabian Coast.

The park has seven themed lands and 24 rides. It’s like a Disneyland for grown-ups thanks to adrenaline-inducing rides like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Mermaid Lagoon in Tokyo Disneysea - Japan Itinerary

But not to worry, the classic Disney fairytale magic is still there! Mermaid Lagoon is a kid-friendly section of the park where the rides are scaled down on the thrill level and there’s a cavernous playground to explore as Ariel did — plus it’s unique to DisneySea 🧜‍♀️

Good news! There will be a new Fantasy Spring Land opening in 2024 featuring some of our favourite Disney films like Frozen, Peter Pan and Tangled!

Verdict: Universal Studios Japan

Queues, Waiting Times, and Line-Skipping

Universal Studios JapanDisneySeaDisneyland
Crowd ForecastUSJ Crowd Congestion Forecast CalendarDisney Crowd Congestion Forecast CalendarDisney Crowd Congestion Forecast Calendar
Average ride wait time 45 – 100mins30 – 70mins15 – 55mins
Maximum ride wait time on peak days75 – 200 mins60 – 180mins45 – 180mins
App to check wait timesUniversal Studios Japan appTokyo Disney Resort appTokyo Disney Resort app
Line skipping optionsUniversal Express 4 Rides, Universal Express 7 Rides, Attraction Timed Entry Tickets, Attraction Standby Entry Tickets Disney Premier AccessDisney Premier Access
Timed Entry Tickets needed for specific zonesYes (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Super Nintendo World)NoNo

Both parks are incredibly popular in Japan, especially on weekends, school holidays and Japanese public holidays.

Massive lines start forming up even before the parks open. Our personal game plan is to always arrive an hour before the gates open — this saves at least an hour of queueing for the first ride!

Universal Studios Japan

Queues outside USJ - Osaka USJ Guide

To save time, consider adding Universal Express 4 Rides or the Universal Express 7 Rides on top of your Studio Pass to skip the line. Here are the different ways to skip the line and save time during your trip:

TypeCostFunctionNotes
Universal Express 4 RidesFrom ~S$90Skip the line for 4 selected rides + Area Timed Entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and/or Super Nintendo World.
Universal Express 7 RidesFrom ~S$170Skip the line for 7 selected rides + Area Timed Entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and/or Super Nintendo World.
Area Timed Entry TicketFree on the USJ appRequired to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo World.Timed ticket is only valid once, and is not applicable for re-entry.
Attraction Timed Entry TicketFree on the USJ appSkip the line for selected rides.Available on day of visit
Attraction Standby Entry TicketFree on the USJ appSkip the line for selected rides.Issued once all the Attraction Timed Entry tickets have been given out.
Hand Holding Super Nintendo World Ticket - Japan theme parks

You can choose pass types with different combinations of rides and it also includes Area Timed Entry Tickets to Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Area Timed Entry Ticket will indicate a time slot for when you can enter the two areas and you cannot enter them without it.

*Pro-tip: Reserve your Area Timed Entry Tickets on the USJ app before your visit.

Tokyo Disney Parks

Disneysea Tokyo Story Mania in the day - Japan theme parks

The good news is that Tokyo Disney Resort does not sell a bundled express pass like USJ, so you have extra money to splurge on the park merch #girlmath. However, you can choose to skip the lines at selected attractions with the new Disney Premier Access (from ¥‎1,500/Access), sold individually.

*Note: You have to wait an hour before your first purchase to buy another Disney Premier Access for a different attraction.

Disney Premier Pass - Japan theme parks

Photo credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Premier Access is available under ‘My Plan’ in the Disney Resort app. From there you can choose the experience and timeslot you want. The QR ticket code will be available 5 minutes before your designated timeslot and you’ll need to scan it to enter via the Priority Access Entrance.

Verdict: Tokyo Disney Resort

Shows and Other Attractions

NO LIMIT Parade - USJ 2023

Photo credit: Universal Studios Japan

USJ offers immersive shows and parades featuring beloved film and game characters, bringing the blockbuster franchises to life. Each show heightens the experiences of its respective zones.

Whereas Tokyo Disney Resort shows and parades are an attraction themselves! They feature Mickey and Friends, Disney Princesses and other favourite childhood characters, using the classic songs we know and love to elevate the experience.

Universal Studios Japan

Wand Magic Show USJ - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

USJ has many different shows scheduled throughout the day across the park. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of parades or shows to get a good view.

Popular shows and parades at USJ:

TypeNameDescription
ParadeNO LIMIT! ParadeAn energetic afternoon parade featuring friends from the worlds of Super Mario, Pokémon, the Minions, and more!
Street ShowTriwizard Spirit RallyAn outdoor performance by students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, who have come to Hogwarts™ for the Triwizard Tournament.
ShowUniversal Monsters Live: Rock and Roll ShowA theatrical show hosted by Beetlejuice™ and his friends featuring iconic songs and dances from Hollywood.
Limited ShowONE PIECE PREMIER SHOW 2023A live-action show bringing one of Japan’s most beloved manga to life in unbelievable scale and quality!

Check out the Shows & Attractions Timetable too, as timings and availability are subject to change from day to day!

Tokyo Disneyland

Disney Harmony in Color parade Tokyo Disneyland -USJ vs Disney

Photo credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

An Entry Request needs to be submitted on the Tokyo Disney Resort app to secure a spot for the shows for all shows. Similar to a lottery, you only get to try once for each show so it all comes down to luck!

Disney Premier Access is also available for parades where you’ll get a reserved spot in the designated viewing area — no need to camp for hours for a viewing spot!

Popular shows and parades at Disneyland:

TypeNameDescriptionNote
ParadeDisney Harmony in ColourA colourful afternoon parade with Mickey and iconic Disney characters.Disney Premier Access Available
ParadeTokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade DreamlightsA nighttime parade brilliantly transforms the park with lights and Disney music.Disney Premier Access Available
ParadeSpooky “Boo” ParadeSeasonal Halloween-themed ParadeMid-Sep – Oct
ShowMickey’s Magical Musical WorldA theatrical performance by Mickey and Disney Friends featuring music, dance and dazzling effects.Entry Request required
ShowClub Mouse BeatA hip-hop, Latin and pop stage performance by Mickey and Friends.Entry Request required
FireworksSky Full of ColoursA dazzling fireworks display to iconic Disney songs.8:30PM daily

Check the Official Tokyo Disney Website for the latest parades and shows.

Tokyo DisneySea

Halloween Greeting at Disneysea - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

Similar to Disneyland, an Entry Request needs to be submitted on the app to try and get a spot for the shows. Disney Premier Access is also available for these if you want a good viewing spot but have no time to camp.

There are no parades in DisneySea, but there are character greetings and public shows that’ll happen on the lake at the Mediterranean Harbour.

Popular shows at DisneySea:

TypeNameDescriptionNote
ShowJamboree Mickey! Let’s Dance!A dance-along program for kids with Mickey Mouse and friends.Entry Request required
ShowBig Band BeatA Special TreatBroadway performance with a live jazz band and Mickey on the drums.Entry Request required
ShowBelieve! Sea of DreamsNighttime performance featuring iconic Disney Characters gliding across the harbour on different boats.Disney Premier Access Available
ShowDisney Halloween GreetingMickey Mouse and his Disney friends greet guests from their Halloween-themed boat.Mid-Sep – Oct
ShowDisney Christmas GreetingMickey Mouse and his Disney friends greet guests from their Christmas-themed boat.Nov – Dec
FireworksSky Full of ColoursA dazzling fireworks display to iconic Disney songs.8:30PM daily

Check the Official Tokyo Disney Website for the latest shows.

Verdict: Disneyland

Food and Restaurants

Universal Studios Japan

Super Mario Pancake Sandwich - USJ Osaka Guide

Aside from visually transporting you into your favourite fictional world, USJ takes it a step further and does it through taste. Known for their themed restaurants with elaborate decor and equally detailed dishes, dining in amplifies the entire park experience!

Our favourites are fictional dishes brought to life — like the iconic butterbeer from Harry Potter or Princess Peach’s Cake from Super Mario!

Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Japan theme parks

Meals are slightly pricier and average at ¥2,100/main dish (~S$19), but there are budget-quick service options to choose from. Check the full list of food and restaurants in advance to plan your park itinerary in advance!

*Note: Outside food is not allowed in the park and has to be consumed in the picnic area before entering.

Tokyo Disney Resort

Little Green Man Mochi - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

Photo credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort is known for the adorable Disney character motifs in their snacks and dishes! Whether it’s spotting hidden Mickeys or a rendition of your favourite Disney character, the food presentation will almost always be too good to eat.

Meals are also affordable and average at ¥1,400/main dish (~S$14). If you’re on a budget, check the dining menus in advance to plan your visit. Alternatively, you can bring food and eat it at the designated picnic area beside the park entrance!

The Diamond Variety Muster show restaurant in Tokyo Disneylan

Photo credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Willing to splurge on your meal? There are Show Restaurants in both Disney parks, where diners get to enjoy a full-stage performance by Disney friends — talk about a real-life Be Our Guest experience!

*Note: An advanced booking is required to dine at show restaurants.

Verdict: Tokyo Disney Resort

Accommodation

Universal Studios Japan

The Park Front Hotel Night View - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

Photo credit: Klook

Beat the morning crowds to be first in line by staying at the eight official partner hotels just outside the park.

The closest one is The Park Front Hotel, which boasts a stunning night view of the park. For the full movie magic experience, Hotel Kintetsu Universal City has entire floors dedicated to Sesame Street™ themed rooms!

*Pro-tip: Book your rooms early as prices can go up to ~S$615/night during peak season 😱

J Hoppers Universal Osaka - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

Fret not, there are also options that won’t break the bank under S$80/night near USJ. J-Hoppers Osaka Universal is a popular and affordable option just a 15-minute walk from the park. The hostel is clean, spacious and even provides a shuttle bus service to a local public onsen!

For those looking for a private room, Tabist Gloire Osaka is just a 6-minute train ride away — perfect for crashing after a long day of endless queues and walking.

Read also: 7 Budget-friendly Accommodations Near Universal Studios Japan Under S$80/night

Tokyo Disney Parks

Tokyo Toy Story Hotel - Universal studios japan vs tokyo disneyland

Photo credit: @ebichan._.photo via Instagram

There are five Disney Hotels which are part of Tokyo Disney Resort, and each property features gorgeous themed decor where not a single detail is spared!

Opened in 2022, the Toy Story Hotel is the newest addition to the resort shrinking and transporting guests into Andy’s iconic toy box. P.S, hotel guests get a ‘Happy Entry’, where they can enter the park 15 minutes earlier via a special entrance — these are what dreams are made of!

Rooms prices can go up to over S$1,000/night which is way more expensive than the Official Partner hotels at USJ. But if you’re willing to pay for the once-in-a-lifetime experience to live like Disney royalty, this should be on your bucket list!

Keio Plaza Hotel

Located in Shinjuku, Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo is a Tokyo Disney Resort Good Neighbour Hotel.

Aside from the Disney Hotels, there are over 20 options for you to choose from depending on what you’re looking for.

Official Hotels are located in the Tokyo Disney Resort Property in Maihama and are the closest to the parks. Partner Hotels are not located inside the resort but are still close to the park’s vicinity, which would be a cheaper option if you still want to beat the crowds.

On the other hand, Good Neighbour Hotels are best for those who prefer to stay closer to popular city areas like Shinjuku. Nonetheless, all these hotel categories provide complimentary shuttle service to the park so you can avoid the infamous Tokyo train crowd during rush hour!

Verdict: Tokyo Disney Resort

Universal Studios Japan vs. Tokyo Disney Parks: The Verdict

CategoriesWinner
Best Ticket PricesTokyo Disney Resort
Best LocationTie
Best RidesUniversal Studios Japan
Best for FamiliesDisneyland
Best ShowsDisneyland
Best FoodTokyo Disney Resort
Best AccommodationsTokyo Disney Resort
Most UniqueDisneySea
USJ vs Tokyo Disney Resort Quiz question

Still unsure? Try out our quiz to find out which Japan theme park suits you best:
QUIZ: USJ vs. Tokyo Disney Parks — Answer 10 Questions and We’ll Tell You Which One to Visit

At the end of the day, all three Japan theme parks are insanely popular for a reason and it’s impossible to pick a clear winner when everyone is looking for a different experience! After all, you can always use a missed visit as an excuse to come back to Japan for another round of fun 🙊

Check out the following guides to find out how to maximise your park visit:
Maximise your Tokyo Disney day with these 12 Tips and Tricks — Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea Guide
The Ultimate USJ Guide and Tips (2023) — Universal Studios Japan
7 Budget-friendly Accommodations Near Universal Studios Japan Under S$80/night

Which are your favourite theme parks in Japan? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!


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