If you hop on a flight from San Francisco to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, you’d be forgiven for thinking the plane had dropped you off right back where you started. Although the massive theme park has all the tenets of a classic Universal Studios experience with wild fantasy film attractions, it also boasts an entirely familiar replica of our favorite port city: San Francisco.
The mini San Francisco is a charming ode to our famous waterfront complete with replicas of the Fisherman’s Wharf sign, The Buena Vista Cafe sign, Ghirardelli Square, facades of Victorian homes, and boats docked in the “harbor,” just to name a few.
While some of the creatively-interpreted storefronts are pure fiction such as “Lombard’s Landing” and “Wharf Cafe,” the devil is truly in the details. No, really — even the sidewalks are stamped with “S.F.P.D.,” and they have speed limit signs in miles per hour. It’s worth clicking through the Google Maps street view to see what we’re on about.
The San Francisco area of Universal Studios Japan has 4 restaurants, 1 attraction, and a candy store. The attraction is Backdraft, an immersive fiery experience based on the 1991 movie of the same name that is incidentally set in Chicago. As for the restaurants, many of them lean more minion-themed than Californian, but you can still find an authentically overpriced American hot dog.
San Francisco is one of 10 separate worlds at Universal Studios Japan, but it’s not the only US city replica there. Both Hollywood and New York City are reproduced in spectacular miniature fashion with the same uncanny attention to detail. In Hollywood you’ll find a full-on Mel’s Drive-In serving massive cheeseburgers, and the NYC replica is set in the 1930s with abundant American flags, but sans skyscrapers.
Universal Studios Japan is known to host upwards of 14 million visitors every year, many of whom flock to the massively popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo World. California’s very own Universal Studios Hollywood recently opened America’s first Super Nintendo World back in February.
As luck would have it, the low-cost Japanese airline Zipair is flying between SFO and Tokyo this summer… we’ll just leave that information here.