While visiting Universal Studios Japan, I had the chance to attend their Halloween Horror Nights. This post includes my Halloween Horror Nights photos from Japan, plus some general thoughts and tips if you’re planning on attending the event in the future. If you’re looking for general USJ tips & tricks, read my Guide to Universal Studios Japan.
Halloween Horror Nights is actually just half of the “Universal Surprise Halloween” celebration occurring during the fall months at Universal Studios Japan. The other half is “Parade de Carnivale” an upbeat Mardi Gras-esque costume celebration for kids starring Elmo. Posters around Japan feature colorful pictures of Elmo on one half and dark illustrations of bloody zombies on the other half. It’s quite the “interesting” juxtaposition.
In case you’re unfamiliar with USJ, here’s a brief synopsis. Universal Studios Japan is located in Osaka, Japan. It’s the second largest metro area in Japan, although it’s pretty much dwarfed by Tokyo. Like Tokyo DisneySea, it opened in 2001. It really has no theme park competition in the area (Osaka is a 2+ hour bullet train ride away from Tokyo), and that plus a relatively light ride lineup means that the huge crowds that descend upon the park make for a very crowded theme park experience…
On my visit this was exacerbated by Wizarding World of Harry Potter being a relatively new addition, coupled with a weekend visit on the eve of a holiday (I didn’t have a choice, but you should never visit Japanese theme parks on weekends).
The first thing to know about Halloween Horror Nights in Osaka is that it is included in the cost of standard park admission! Scant information is available about Universal Studios Japan in English, and it took me the longest time to figure out that the reason I was unable to purchase tickets for Halloween Horror Nights is because tickets aren’t sold.
There is a special “After 3pm” ticket sold on Halloween Horror Nights days for those not interested in the normal theme park offerings, but the savings on this are minimal.
I’d highly recommend instead purchasing a normal ticket and arriving at least an hour before scheduled park opening on the day you visit Universal Studios Japan during Halloween Horror Nights.
There are a couple of reasons for arriving early are three-fold. First, the park often opens earlier than the posted hour if crowds are projected to be high (it opened over an hour early the day I went).
Second, if you want to do regular attractions, early morning is by far the best time to do them. Third, if you would like to do Biohazard: The Real 2 (or whatever “The Real” attraction is occurring during your visit), you need to run to the ticket distribution area as soon as the park opens (it’s located near The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man – The Ride 4K3D). Otherwise, you will not get a ticket.
The various real-life “The Real” shooter attractions are incredibly popular and incredibly low capacity.
I did not realize tickets went so quickly, and when I tried to get tickets at around 9 am, they were long gone.
In terms of the Parade de Carnivale daytime offerings during Universal Surprise Halloween, I didn’t really do much of it, and what I did see bears little mentioning. I went into the kiddie areas of the park and noticed some decorations and trick or treating, and I also watched the Scout de Carnivale parade.
Even though I’m not the target audience, I think all of this was pretty lackluster. Really, it seemed like something thrown together for families to give the appearance of balance to Halloween Horror Nights. Make no mistake, Halloween Horror Nights are the main draw here, and the only thing that really bears mentioning.
Guests show up dressed in costume from park opening, and if there is a restriction on costumes, it’s not enforced. I saw the range of costumes during my visit, although most were of the “zombie” or “sexy” variety, with cops, nurses, and prisoner variants of those themes being the most common.
I’d say a good 75% of the costumes I saw fell into some mix of the categories mentioned above. The remaining costumes were mostly fairly odd. The guest demographic seems to heavily skew towards young couples or large groups of young females.
In terms of attractions, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan lacks the mazes/houses found in Universal Orlando and Hollywood.
The two attractions that could be classed as this during my visit were Chucky’s Horror Factory and Jason’s Blood Diner. The other attractions are the aforementioned Biohazard: The Real 2, and two ‘groups’ of “Cursed Attractions.”
Chucky’s Horror Factory is a walk-through attraction (no photos were allowed, sorry) that was pretty well done. If you’re creeped out by the Chucky films, your reaction to this would likely be the same. Universal Studios Japan rates it “Horror Level 4, the most terrifying experience in the park.”
I wouldn’t exactly call it terrifying, but there were some gory parts and it definitely aims to startle guests. Perhaps surprisingly, but I found the haunted houses at Hong Kong Disneyland to be more startling (albeit not at all gory). It opened at noon and immediately had multiple-hour wait times. I waited to do it until an hour before park close and there was no wait.
As mentioned above, there was also Jason’s Blood Diner, another walk-through. Unfortunately, I confused this with “The Dark Restaurant” which was a startling dining experience (costing around $40 USD per person) where you ate in the dark, so I didn’t do it.
Part of the reason I’m doing this post is so you can learn from my mistakes if you visit Universal Studios Japan during Halloween Horror Nights, as there is frustratingly little information available in English about the event. (Although in this case, had I paid a little closer attention, I probably could have figured this one out…but you try spending a crowded day in a foreign theme park while making no mistakes!) I really wish I would have experienced this walk-through and Biohazard: The Real 2.
The “Cursed Attractions” were two groups of three normal park attractions each that had been transformed into different experiences based on the Ju-on and Sadako (The Ring) films.
Due to lack of information available in English online, I had no idea what this meant. I thought it might mean a different pre-show or light changes to normal attractions.
With that expectation, I did Backdraft during its “Sadako” time, only to find a completely different attraction. Wanting to experience Terminator 2: 3D in Japan, I then decided to do Terminator 2, despite it being Sadako as I figured it would still incorporate some parts of the normal attraction. It didn’t.
Finally, since Space Fantasy is a coast, I figured they couldn’t possibly totally change it, so I did the Sadako version of it. They did totally change it.
These Sadako versions were universally bizarre, substantively light, and mostly in the dark. I was underwhelmed by each of them, but mostly because I wanted to experience the normal versions of these attractions.
The Japanese audience seemed to eat them up, so perhaps if I understood Japanese and was looking for something suspenseful, I would have thought more of these. As it stands, I was not impressed, and learned my mistake the third time around, so I didn’t bother with the Ju-on stuff.
The real highlight of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan was the Street Zombies. From what I understand, there are a lot more roaming zombies at Universal Studios Japan than at the US Halloween Horror Nights, and these zombies were absolutely great.
From rampaging crowds with chainsaws, to pulling “innocent guests” out of the audience to eat them, to dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” these Street Zombies were without a doubt the highlight of Halloween Horror Nights in Japan.
The variety of these zombies was great. There were some absolutely huge/bloated ones in addition to normal size ones, tall ones, short ones, etc. Makeup was top-notch on the zombies, and they engaged the crowds very well.
Due to lighting, darkness, and quick movements, these guys were really difficult to photograph. Sorry.
Speaking of the crowds, watching them was part of the fun. This is painting with a broad brush, but it seemed that the Japanese love to be scared, and are easily terrified. I noticed groups cautiously approaching the zombies (as opposed to avoiding them completely) and then running with a seemingly legitimate fear when the zombies darted at them. It was really fun to just watch the audiences.
In addition to the zombies, there were police SWAT teams that would break up the action and try to determine if guests were infected. This was a nice touch and the whole good v. evil thing for the roaming entertainment worked well.
Overall, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Japan was a lot of fun for what it was. Emphasis on the for what it was part of that–as it was an event included in park admission. I arguably missed two of the key aspects of the event (Biohazard: The Real 2 is an everyday attraction, FYI), but my opinion of the Cursed Attractions was not high, and Chucky’s Horror Factory was only above average.
The real highlight of Halloween Horror Nights was the Street Zombies and overall ambiance of the event. This is not meant as a knock on Halloween Horror Nights, as the ambiance and zombies were both top notch, and made the park a really fun place to just hang out at night. I spent a lot of time just standing around watching scenarios unfold with the zombies because they were that entertaining. If you have the chance, I highly recommend visiting Universal Studios Japan on a Halloween Horror Nights day–just have reasonable expectations for the actual ‘attractions’, and carve out some time to watch the zombies!
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!
Have you attended a Halloween Horror Nights event? What did you think of it? Does Universal Studios Japan interest you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!