“Crystal Christmas” is a holiday event at Universal Studios Japan celebrating the holiday season, running from November 14, 2019 until January 13, 2020. The holiday festivities at USJ’s Osaka park include a nighttime show, one of the most spectacular Christmas trees in the world, and lots of treats. In this post, we’ll share tips for Universal’s Crystal Christmas, plus our experience and photos from the event. (Updated December 7, 2019.)
Universal Studios Japan seems to get a new Christmas tree every single year, and each year it breaks its own record for “the World’s Most Illuminated Tree” a crown it earned from the Guinness Book of World Records. This year, the tree was officially recorded as having 591,840 lights as of October 28.
For 2019, the Crystal Christmas Tree also received Guinness certification as having the “World’s Largest Christmas Snowflake Ornament.” This is just one of several stunning new additions for Crystal Christmas at Universal Studios Japan for the 2019 holiday season…
While there are several entertainment offerings, the highlight of USJ’s Crystal Christmas event is the Christmas tree itself. The Christmas tree at Universal Studios Japan is absolutely entrancing every year, and once you see it in person, it’s easy to see why this is an annual Guinness record-breaker.
It took our breath away when we first saw it illuminated, and even later in the night when we rounded a corner and saw it again, we stopped in our tracks and both said “wow” at the same time…
Without question, this tree is the highlight of Christmas at Universal Studios Japan. Sure, it’s over the top and ostentatious, but in the most awesome way possible. It manages to be eye-catching and beautiful, and keep in mind, these photos are not of the current Crystal Christmas tree. It’s even brighter and more resplendent this year!
Here’s a quick phone video, because photos truly do not do this Christmas tree justice (then again, neither does video):
The Christmas tree stays lit until after park closing, but the dancing lights on the tree stop just before park closing. We’d recommend avoiding this area until the end of the night.
Watch the last projection show in Wizarding World of Harry Potter (more on that below) and then head to Gramercy Park to finish out the night there.
Aside from the Christmas tree itself, the main draw of the holiday season at Universal Studios Japan is the Christmas show. In past years, this was called “The Gift of Angels.” (That’s what is pictured in these photos.)
Here’s a video of “The Crystal Promise” show, which is new for 2019:
The Crystal Promise is the next evolution in USJ’s award-winning Christmas show, and it’s truly spectacular. The highlight of the show is the performers who have angelic singing voices, and perform traditional Christmas songs.
The Crystal Promise also features projection mapping, fireworks, and some other effects that we won’t spoil.
Now, for some Crystal Promise viewing tips. The first thing you should know is that it’s incredibly popular. We visited Universal Studios Japan on an off-season weekday–otherwise, it was the least busy we’ve ever seen the park. Nevertheless, people were camping out for this show over an hour in advance. On a busy day, I can only imagine how early people arrive to claim prime spots.
Speaking of prime spots, you’ll want a clear view of the stage. While the show serves as the de facto Christmas tree lighting ‘ceremony’, having a clear view of the tree is not essential. Sure, it’s nice to have a view of both, but if you have to choose a dead-on view of the Christmas tree or the stage/building facades, you should absolutely choose the stage.
To that end, we recommend sitting in the vicinity of Gramercy Park (near the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man). The best view will be in Gramercy Park, but that’s paid reserved seating, and unless you can figure out how to use Universal Studios Japan’s site, it probably won’t be an option. You might be able to purchase same-day Special Viewing Area tickets, or buy them as part of a special Winter Express Pass package, but we did not attempt that.
The night we watched the show, there were a ton of people–more people than along the path by Spider-Man and Finnegan’s–sitting along the entrance corridor that faces the Christmas tree. This is essentially parallel to the stage where the performers and projections appear, and is not a good view. (Don’t make this mistake!)
While we did Christmas on a day with only one showing of the show, I’m 99.9% sure that the second show would be less crowded. This is pretty much a universal truth when it comes to theme park entertainment, and is especially the case in Japan due to people needing to catch trains home.
There’s also a daytime Christmas parade, but it’s atrocious. Some of the costuming is cute and it has Minions (which seem to be a huge deal in Japan), but the floats remind me of what you’d see in some small town Christmas parade. It was really pathetic; surprisingly bad given the quality of the stage show.
It’s like the budget for holiday entertainment at Universal Studios Japan was $20 million, so they created the show first, and then only had $20 left over for the parade. I’d hazard a guess some guests don’t even bother with the stage show because they see the crumby parade first and figure the “other” entertainment isn’t worth the hassle. (Trust us, it is!)
The Christmas parade has two show stops, but they do nothing to elevate its quality. If your kids are dead-set on seeing this parade, watch it from the beginning of the parade route where there is no show stop. You can arrive right as the parade starts and claim a front row spot. By contrast, people camp out for the show stop areas. That’s just a recipe for disappointment, so we wouldn’t recommend it.
Pictured above is Bruce the Shark decked out for Christmas. This shark is not part of the Christmas parade. Watching this shark for 15 minutes would probably be more fun than the parade, though.
Winter in Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the other main draw for Universal Studios Japan this holiday season. Since this isn’t exclusively a Christmas event, it runs until the end of February. (It does feature traditional Christmas elements…like garland and trees, but we aren’t complaining about the longer timeframe!)
While the decorations and Christmas tree in Hogsmeade are neat, the unequivocal highlight is the projection show. This show is called “Hogwarts Magical Nights – Winter Magic” and is a must-see. While it’s only a few minutes long, it transforms Hogwarts Castle beautifully, and makes Hogsmeade feel like a winter wonderland. It’s one of the best uses of projection mapping I’ve seen anywhere.
Hogwarts Magical Nights – Winter Magic is performed intermittently from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 to 60 minutes before park closing. There’s a schedule for it in Japanese, but we didn’t bother–if you spend any amount of time in the Wizarding World, you’ll see it.
In addition to the projection mapping, there are live performers on a small stage by the bridge that leads out to Black Lake. While the projection mapping component of Hogwarts Magical Nights – Winter Magic is visible from anywhere you can see the castle, you’ll need to be pretty close to the stage to see what the performers are doing. (We didn’t think they added much to the show, but Harry Potter fans might disagree.)
Hogwarts Magical Nights – Winter Magic is incredibly popular, particularly earlier in the evening. If you can, we’d recommend watching one of the last shows, as they are far less crowded and offer a bit of breathing room. If ticketed entry is being utilized on the day you visit Universal Studios Japan, be mindful of this when selecting your entry time.
Last but most definitely not least, there are a variety of holiday snacks at Universal Studios Japan for Wonder Christmas. Just about every restaurant has a Christmas dessert, along with some hot seasonal drinks.
There’s also an entire corridor of food trucks serving a variety of over-the-top “holiday” comfort foods (I’m not sure what a hot dog covered with bacon has to do with Christmas, but I’m willing to start a new tradition!).
Minions are most definitely the flavor du jour at Universal Studios Japan right now, and this is reflected in their many snacks and merchandise items, some of which have holiday variants.
Overall, Christmas at Universal Studios Japan is a fun event. The parade is a colossal disappointment, but Winter in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Voice of Angels, and the brilliant Christmas tree offer enough to make for an incredible experience–arguably better than Halloween Horror Nights at USJ. Decorations and music add to the festive atmosphere, and various food and merchandise offerings also help complete the experience. Of course, the standard lineup of attractions are the main draw, but the holiday component certainly enhanced our visit.
If you’re visiting Osaka and thinking about doing a day at USJ, be sure to read our comprehensive Universal Studios Japan Planning Guide. USJ is one of the busiest theme parks in the world, and we offer tips & tricks for beating the crowds, and saving time & money!
If you’ve visited Universal Studios Japan during Christmas, what did you think of the experience? Have you done any other seasonal events at USJ? Any additional tips to add? Does Universal Studios Japan interest you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!