Universal Studio Japan – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Confession time – Japan was never in my plan. What? Why? How come? Well, I like sushi, but I’m on the fence with the raw sushi. I prefer to have my sushi cooked. Probably I was traumatized by the movie Lost in Translation? I don’t think so, although I literally starting to feel so after few days battling the language barrier here. I just never included Japan in my list before. That’s all. Then I heard that there’s Harry Potter world in Universal Studio Japan…

Yep, that was the turning point for me and Japan. The moment I heard that the park has opened, my heart was set to go. Hogwarts is so close! How can I resist it?! It’s still in Asia, so the plane ticket won’t be as expensive as a ticket to Orlando (I put Universal Studio Orlando on my bucket list before). Plus I could use a visa waiver program to go to Japan. So there’ll be no visa hassle like if I’m going to the US. And finally, I’m thinking that I could get my own picture of the instagenic Arashimaya bamboo forest and Fushimi Inari shrine. It’s all plus, plus and plus!

Hogwarts, here I come!

 

Hogwarts castle (day view) - Universal Studio Japan, Osaka
the castle’s view from the Three Broomstick’s terrace

I’ve read few blogs that were saying the spring is a high season for the USJ, and that worries me a bit. So after I bought my advance ticket to the USJ, I’m also contemplating on buying the express pass. In the end, I didn’t buy it, though. Luckily, the USJ was not crazily crowded when I came -or at least by the USJ’s standard of crowds. Because there was no timed ticket to visit the Harry Potter world when I came. So I could go back and forth between the areas in USJ! They said that Wednesday and Thursday are not their busy day. I came on Wednesday. So probably the rumor is true. And you need to make sure that you are queuing in the right lane. If not, then all the hard work of coming up early will be wasted.

 

USJ at 8 am – the gate was not even opened, yet look at the crowds!

Once the door is opened at 9 am, seeing how all the people who were running as they got into the park were really disheartening. I was already kind of down by then, thinking what kind of timed ticket that I will get when it’s my turn (still not knowing that there was no timed ticket for the day). Then after 30 minutes that felt like ages, it’s finally my turn.

First order of my business was to take tons of pictures. I found out that the best place to view the Hogwarts’ castle is from the Three Broomstick’s terrace. I got the whole terrace only for me when I got there. Jackpot! Well, the dinners are there, but they preferred to sit in the shaded area.

If you’re not dining there, you could come through the alley that is right next to the Three Broomstick to get to the terrace. Then look to your right for the castle’s view.

Second thing on my to-do list was to have a pint of butterbeer. Truth be told, I was kind of pessimistic that I will have the drink up to my expectation. Because sometimes when you have high hopes on things, it will turn out to be just mediocre, and you will be disappointed. Did you ever feel like that? But… the butterbeer is perfect! There’s some buzz from the soda and the sweetness at first, then it changes to a heavier beer taste like. Finally, you will get a new mustache as an after taste. It was rather sweet, but just a tiny bit.

You could buy the butterbeer from one of the street stalls to avoid the queue line at the Three Broomstick or from Hog’s Head. I bought mine from Hog’s Head where the queue line was almost none existent. Then for the second round, I bought it from the stall. One is not enough hehehe

The butterbeer cost you 600 Yen, but you could also buy the mug if you like as a souvenir. There are two types – the 1,100 Yen will get you something like mine, while the other one that was made of stainless is 3,290 Yen.

After I’ve finished my butterbeer, I was ready to check out the rides and attractions. The Flying Hippogriff had the shortest line, so I went there. It was a fun ride, but I think it was more for the kids than adults. Regardless the queue wasn’t as crazy as the Magical Journey. And Hagrid’s Hut was there.

Hagrid's hut and ride
Hagrid’s hut and ride

If you don’t have the express pass, then you have to queu quite long for each ride. The Magical Journey took 210 minutes (express pass 45 minutes) queue’s time in the morning. So I took a detour and just go explore the insides of the Hogwarts’ castle without going for the ride. It was nice because you will get a chance to see the other part of the castle that is different than the route for the ride, like this Phoenix door that lead to the headmaster’s room—

Enter a caption

Then I returned in the afternoon when the queue was not too long. At 5 pm, I only waited in the line for 75 minutes. Although, the story are all in Japanese here, but it was still cool.

The queue for the Magic show was not too long either only 15 minutes (earlier in the morning it was like 45 minutes). I was a ten minutes worth of time to spend. I enjoyed the whole Olivander’s show of how the wand chooses the owner. It was mostly in Japanese, but the Olivander’s guy will translate it into English.

Then when the sun has set and the lights are up, the whole place was also transformed. The lights were like a pixie dust icing on the magical village. And the souvenir shops weren’t as crowded then. So I could collect my Hogwarts’ souvenirs in peace and not bump shoulders with people.

The park was bigger than the one in Singapore, so it could easily take up the whole day just to explore it and I think I enjoyed it more than the Singapore’s. Well, probably I’m rather biased because they have the Harry Potter here. And they will soon open the Minion park too on 21st of April. Argh! I wish I knew, then I could probably match the timing and can go to both places in one shot. Haishhh— Anyway, I had a great time there and I think it’s definitely worth the trip to Japan.

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