Larry K. & Lorna Collins > Books > 31 Months in Japan - The Building of a Theme Park

31 Months in Japan - The Building of a Theme Park

by Larry K. Collins & Lorna Collins

Category : Travel / General
Trade Paperback : 234 Pages
Publisher : iUniverse, Inc.
Publication Date : April 13, 2005
ISBN-10 : 0595345840
ISBN-13 : 978-0595345847
Size : 6 x 9
Price : $18.95
  • EPPIE 2006 finalist
  • 2005 Best Nonfiction
  • ReadersFavorite_5_star

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The Story

Nara Street

One day in the summer of 1998, Lorna Collins stepped off a train into a sea of black heads and realized she was foreign and in Japan to stay. She and her husband, Larry, had relocated to build Universal Studios Japan® in Osaka. 31 Months in Japan: the Building of a Theme Park is their account of that experience.

While in Japan, they encountered the wonders and frustrations of the culture as well as the challenges of conducting business following foreign formal rituals. As Southern Californians, Japanese customs seemed awkward at first, but eventually they established effective working relationships and personal ones as well.

If you enjoy foreign cultures, are curious about the behind-the-scenes workings in the entertainment industry, are interested in the nuances of doing business with the Japanese or simply enjoy reading a well-told and engaging story, 31 Months in Japan is for you.

During the final edit, over one hundred pages were deleted from the original text, including a couple of whole chapters. To read one of them, Be Still.

About the book

Universal Studios Japan® was the first and, to date, only theme park to open ahead of schedule and under budget. This is the story of how that feat was accomplished. The authors'debut effort, published by iUniverse, Inc., is their first-hand account of the events and people who made it happen.

31 Months in Japan - the Building of a Theme Park combines interesting details and behind-the-scenes descriptions of how magic is made in the entertainment industry with the challenges and frustrations of adapting to a foreign lifestyle. After spending nearly three years in Japan during the construction of the Universal Studios® theme park in Osaka, authors Larry K. and Lorna Collins share the funny, frustrating, touching and sometimes difficult events of that experience.

"I was lost, thoroughly lost, in a country where I neither read the signs nor spoke much of the language. I was just trying to get to a dentist. The crown on my front tooth had fallen out the day before, and English-speaking friends had recommended their Harvard-trained doctor. I called his office and made an appointment for that afternoon. Then I boarded the train..."

So begins the adventure as the reader shares the experience of being foreign and confused. Discover the challenges and frustrations of building a world-class entertainment venue outside the United States. Enjoy their discovery of the beauty and the people of Japan. Share the laughter, tears, surprise and final triumph as the park is completed. Meet fascinating characters like Jurassic Jack, the Nihon Cowboy and Dote-san through their eyes.

31 Months in Japan - the Building of a Theme Park is the first book which addresses the experience of Americans working in the entertainment industry on a foreign construction jobsite. It recounts the challenge of meetings where everything is translated while following the formal Japanese business style when the American objective is to achieve a creative guest experience. The funny and touching personal remembrances will be of particular interest to those visiting or intending to live or work in Japan, people doing business with the Japanese, theme park aficionados and anyone with a sense of adventure.

Larry K. Collins and Lorna Collins are residents of Dana Point, California who found themselves involved in the design for a theme park to be built in Osaka, Japan. Larry was the Project Engineer for the Jurassic Park, WaterWorld and JAWS attractions and the related shops, restaurants and other facilities. Lorna was the Document Control Specialist in the Osaka office. They had worked together previously and enjoyed sharing this experience.


Lorna in Kimono

Lorna in Kimono
Photo by
Larry Collins

Hanabi Taikai 1999

Hanabi Taikai - Fireworks Festival 1999
Photo by
Dave Froelich

Hanabi Taikai 2000

Hanabi Taikai - Fireworks Festival 2000
Photo by
Armen Kevorkian

Golf in Japan

Golf in Japan
Photo by
Dave Froelich

The Famous Statue

The Famous Statue
- Now Clothed
Photo by
Jeff Terrell

Area 3 Aerial View

Area 3 Aerial View
Photo by
Michael Hopewell


Readers Favorite

Larry and Lorna Collins were offer the opportunity to participate in building Universal Studios Theme Park in Japan. It was a once in a life time opportunity. This is their story of coping with the vastly different culture and learning to adjust.
The share many experiences that the reader may never have considered: such as learning to eat with chop sticks, attempting to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal, buying a car, and driving in Japan. They continue by sharing fashion, home furnishings, festivals, holidays, weather, maps, parking, communal bathing, golf, work ethic, and appropriate social behavior.
I have a friend that spends much of the year working in Japan. I shared this book with him and watched as he shook his head yes to many of the events described in this book. He assures me the authors have accurately illustrated the experience of living and working in Japan. The attitude and personalities of the authors is what made their trip and this book a success.
Few of us are offered the opportunity to work abroad. I may never travel to Japan but through the Collins I have enjoyed the experience. Their book reads much like a journal. 31 Months in Japan is well written and extremely interesting.

Heather Froeschl September 5, 2005 -

"31 Months in Japan" is a down to earth, friendly, travelogue/memoir/cultural exchange/inside glimpse at the makings of a theme park icon. You'll come to know the Collins', a little bit about the makings of your favorite Universal rides, a bit of Japanese culture and language, and even some of the nuances of chopsticks usage. This is a very well written and enjoyable book.

Rebecca Brown November 6, 2005 - Rebecca's Reads

31 Months in Japan is a must for anyone planning on traveling to or working in Japan. It teaches about & shows a very different lifestyle, & how our American ways of doing things can make for both funny & embarrassing moments. Throughout, you sense the authors' excitement, their appreciation of beauty, hard work & friendship.

Shelley Bush January 10, 2006 - Book Review Cafe

31 Months in Japan will fascinate readers as the Collins' show their sacrifices to build a theme park in another country. They allow readers into both their behind the scenes work and their personal life as they struggled to find their way in a new culture. The Collins' show readers into the Japanese lifestyle as their own way of life is so different. They show both the good and bad things that happened along the way as Universal Studios Japan grew until it was finished.

Ramona August, 2006 - Lighthouse Literary Reviews

Come along as Larry and Lorna Collins spend time living in Japan while building the Universal Studios theme park there. Having no prior interest in either the Japanese country or culture, I surprisingly found this book quite entertaining. I liked the way different chapters were alternated between the authors, the inclusion of Japanese words and definitions and the personal experiences they had. They story had a very real and honest feel to it that I think all readers would appreciate.
The authors shared the good and the bad and offered a realistic portrayal of their adventures. I thank you for the read and especially for opening up a new interest in Japan for me. I will remember your story every time I hear or see something involving that country and culture. That’s a very cool gift to give your reader!

Julie Falkner August, 2006 - AllBooks Reviews

This is a super book that radiates joie de vivre. You'll be inspired as you read of life-enriching episodes, and a little overwhelmed as you learn about the many small misunderstandings and irritations of expatriate living. At times humorous, surprising, and moving, “31 Months in Japan” is a must-read for all travelers, armchair and otherwise.

Readers' Comments

"I was lucky enough to win your book at the Art Fair raffle (it had to do with putting a lot of tickets in the basket), and I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. It was wonderful!" -- Chris, Mission Viejo, CA

Congrats on the great review! I enjoyed 31 Months in Japan while judging it for the [contest] last year... Terrific read and great insights on living abroad. -- Cindy, Author

"When I read your book it's as if you are talking to me in person. I am enjoying it immensely. Also learning a lot about the culture as well. : ) -- Bryan, Newport Beach, CA

"I finally got to finish "31 Months" and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading about all your experiences and the Japanese culture... " -- BB, Author, Sacramento, CA

"Hey, your book is really interesting--I'm enjoying it so much, reading it in short spurts, but always hate to put it down. Congratulations to you both!" -- Donna, Writer, Oceanside, CA

"I really enjoyed reading "31 Months in Japan", Larry and Lorna. Great memoir! Welcome to all Epic newcomers. :)" -- Cindy, Author, EPIC

"My best congratulation goes to you for publishing such a great book. The first few chapters vividly bring me back those happy and challenging days at the beginning of the project. I can't help rushing through the pages, but at the same time I would like to read and taste every scene very carefully. It is just surprising that you could find time and energy to write such a great work out of your busy days! In this sense, this book is not just a great memory of the past but also inspires me in many ways. Thank you again for your writing this book." -- Maki, Team Member, Kyoto, Japan

"I enjoyed reading your book. Almost all of your chapters brought back memories from the experiences we had together. You book gives a unique first-hand look at experiences only a few can have while living (and building a theme park) in Japan..." -- Berj, Team Member, USI, California

"Your book about 31 months in Japan takes us both back to a special time at our second home. Wow! How wonderful it was... Thank you for taking the time to write it all down." -- Lynn, Team Member, USI, California

"Thanks for the memories and the great book!!" -- Berny, Team Member, USI, Hollywood, California

"...a walk down memory lane..." -- Bob, former VP/CEO, USJ Co., Orlando, Florida

"This is a unique opportunity to learn about the trials faced and joys experienced by business professionals entering into another country to build a theme park. The book describes the journey that Larry and Lorna took from monsoons to tea houses and from surfing to theme park rides. I enjoyed learning about the customs and found myself wondering if I could have weathered the adventure as well as they did.

"The book is an easy read and well worth your time to explore these 31 months in Japan while building a theme park." -- Caroll, Newport Beach, California (from

"Simply put, I really enjoyed it. The first hand account format is a favorite of mine. (I enjoy such accounts as the colonization of America and the scientific revolutionary period in Europe). You and Larry made it a simple matter to visualize 'being there' and drew me into the lives you led in Japan. I also learned much about Japan and its culture, always a big plus for my preferred reading material. Growing up in So Cal during the 60's, 70's and 80's, I am an avid theme park junkie along with the millions of other kids of my generation and found the behind the scenes look fascinating. I only wish I could see a picture of you in the classic kimono (pp. 89-90).

"Thank you for a trip to the other side of the world." -- Tony, Oregon

"I just finished your book! I loved it and couldn't put it down! It was very interesting, educational and entertaining. I am fascinated by other cultures and love learning about how other people live. You painted a complete picture of what life would be like for someone of any nationality coming into Japan in a similar situation and provided some important insight into the Japanese business culture and general way of life. It sounds like you had a beautiful and sometimes challenging experience. The two of you worked with the challenges instead of letting them defeat you, something that was crucial to your success there. You embraced living in a different world while maintaining your American spirit. I thought it was inspirational. Too many Americans do not try to understand or appreciate other cultures and really miss out on some wonderful opportunities to learn about life, the world and themselves...

"Thank you for sharing your story... " -- Lisa M., Georgia

"It must have been a real 'roller coaster' ride. An interesting personal adventure. Congratulations" -- John D., Newport Beach, California

"I'm enjoying your book. I just finished the 'Tree Saga' chapter. I could have cried. So clean and crisp; so trimmed and neat; SO Japanese! But, unfortunately, so un-jungle like." -- Terri, San Juan Capistrano, California

"T__ loaned me your book to read and I just wanted to write to tell you how much I enjoyed it. What a fabulous adventure you had! I have a friend with a Japanese wife and he has shared with me so much of the challenges he has had over the years adjusting to the culture and customs. He shares the beauty and wonderful things as well. He is from Sweden so imagine that contrast!

"Your book gave me new insights and it was much appreciated." -- Connie, San Juan Capistrano, California


"Another great product from I ordered 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park 2 weeks ago and it's perfect."
"I looked at loads of shops to buy 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park...! I couldn't wait for 13 April, 2005 so I could get my hands on this!"
"31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park comes highly recommended - buy this great Book - you won't be disappointed!"
"Made by, this was a great purchase! I've been waiting for this product to be released - and am not disappointed now I've got it!"
I ordered 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park a month ago, and it's just perfect!"

"I just had five minutes so I thought I'd give you a yell and let you know I finished the book. I very much enjoyed reading it for a very odd reason, Guys. As difficult as it was for what we did in Japan, it really took me back to what I consider a happier time professionally if not personally in my career. So I wanted to touch base with you... Congratulations to the both of you on getting that out. You really should be proud of it..." -- Fraser, Team Member, USI, California

"I laughed... I cried... I whimpered... just reading what was on the website... I cannot wait for the book ... So far three thumbs up! Even better - I can't wait for the movie! "PS - I think Dean Cain should be cast as Food Cart [Hamachan] - he needs the opportunity to clear his typecasting from the Lacy Peterson movie..... "I'm glad to see that your project is coming to fruition. Seriously, I can't wait to get my hands on it." -- Dave "Hamachan", Team Member, USI, California

More About Japan japan

For our Japan Bibliography

For advice on what NOT to do while in Japan.

While in Japan, our friend, the late Daumants Grants, penned some delightful journals. He gave us permission to format and assemble them. We named them The Udon Saga and have included them here.