When you first go through the gates, you're welcomed to the Hollywood area. Walking along the roads is like walking in Little America—green street signs at every corner and written in English. This is also the area where you can find most of the shops, and indeed, all the souvenirs that can be found throughout the park can also be bought here.
From the entrance, you're presented with a choice: turn right for the children's section, full of Snoopy, Hello Kitty and other Universal Studio properties; go straight for some of the major rides and attractions; or, turn left for the "studio lots" that feature different shows.
The park itself is divided into different zones based on a famous property. For example, the Jurassic Park zone, which includes a new ride (renovation completed in 2016) as well as the classic Jurassic Park attraction. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a giant zone where roads and paths, reminiscent of Hogwarts, were created—including wonky castle towers with animatronic windows! Make sure to stay for some Butterbeer as well!
While going to USJ is a great idea anytime, the park also hosts some special events—most notably, the Christmas tree and Halloween specials.
Throughout the Kansai area, the USJ Christmas tree is one of the sights to see during the season. But even more interesting is the Halloween special. During the day, the park functions as normal, but at 5:30 p.m., a loud siren warns visitors of the impending crisis. A studio lot has been wrecked and zombies are escaping. Visitors are told to stay away and to be careful as these zombies are especially dangerous.
At that point, paid actors dressed as both zombies and Resident Evil's SWAT team wander the streets. The zombies will try to scare the visitors and the SWAT team will do their best to protect them, but are usually overrun themselves. If you want a special treat, you should buy the "Zombie Food" Necklace. This tells the zombies to pay special attention to you.
A day-pass at USJ, at the time of writing, can cost around ¥7,000 (about US$70). But if you're planning on visiting at least three times a year, then it's better to get the year pass for about ¥21,000 (about US$207). That means you can visit as many times as you want for a whole year. Come three times, come twenty times, you won't have to pay extra!
If you can't visit that often, then you should definitely think about picking some of the Director's Passes. These passes (specific to the rides) allow you to go to the front of the line without having to spend most of your precious time waiting for the normal line to slowly advance. This is especially useful for the newer rides.
As of this writing, both Harry Potter roller coasters, the new Jurassic World roller coaster, and the Hollywood Dream (a backward-running roller coaster that goes through the park) are the most popular, with wait times around four hours. On the other hand, the Spider-Man, Back to the Future and T-2 3D rides have the shortest wait times.
To get here, take the JR Loop Line to Universal City. Sometimes, depending on the train, you'll have to change at Nishikujo for the train bound for Sakurajima, so make sure to pay attention. However, from JR Osaka, there are lots of signs telling you which direction you'll need to go.