As a huge fan of J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and the blockbuster film series based on the books, visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a dream come true. This themed area within Universal Studios Japan (USJ) was a major highlight of my recent trip around Osaka and the Kansai region upon the invitation of Cebu Pacific & USJ. Flying along with Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts Castle, walking along the shops in Hogsmeade and drinking Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks was just amazing!
“I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good!”
There’s a LOT to do in Universal Studios Japan (which is celebrating its 15th Anniversary), but if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll probably want to spend most of your time in this themed section. This is only the third Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park and the only one in Asia (the others are in Orlando and Hollywood), making it the most accessible for Filipino geeks. Everything is recreated in meticulous detail and can be quite overwhelming to take in but here are the highlights that Potterheads can look forward to.
To get to the entrance of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you have to walk through a thickly-wooded path lined with tall trees reminiscent of the Forbidden Forest. Look out for the Flying Ford Anglia, the Weasley’s family car!
The main alley is an awesome recreation of Hogsmeade, the picturesque village that contains wizard’s cottages, shops and restaurants from the series of Harry Potter books and is often frequented by Hogwart’s students.
Hogsmeade contains beautiful detailed and whimsical shops like Dervish and Banges (Quidditch equipment), Honeydukes (a sweets shop selling Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and Chocolate Frogs), Ollivanders (makers of fine wands since 382 BC), Zonko’s Joke Shop (novelty and toy shop), Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment (magical supplies store), Owl Post & Owlery (Hogsmeade stamps and staionery) and Gladrag’s Wizardwear (robe, scarfs, fashion items).
If you see something you want, I suggest you buy it immediately, as most items are exclusively found in specific stores. There’s another store in the main section of Universal Studios that sells the most popular merchandise like wands, House scarves, t-shirts, mugs, chocolates in Harry Potter house cans and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to name a few.
Right by the entrance is Hogwarts Express, the famous steam locomotive that transports students to Hogwarts. Billowing steam, the train can be seen as just arriving at the Hogsmeade Station from Platform Nine and Three-quarters at King’s Cross Station in London.
This is one of several areas around the park where you can try Wand Magic, where you can cast spells on the alleys, shops windows and stone walls around the village. The magical wands, which bring out your wizarding skills, are available for sale in the shop Ollivanders.
Standing on a steep rocky mountain surrounded by the black lake and pine trees, is the imposing Hogwarts castle, the school of magic itself from the books and movies. The structure contains classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including Dumbledore’s office, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, the grand staircase with moving portraits covering the walls of the tower, and hallways to the common rooms of the different houses.
It’s pretty dark inside and hard to take photos, so I suggest you just enjoy exploring the castle. Look out for the portrait of the Fat Lady who guards the entrance to Gryffindor tower! The castle also houses the top attraction of the park, the award-winning ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but you can walk through Hogwart’s Castle without riding the main attraction. The castle is guarded by statues of two winged boars based on the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY
The top attraction here is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a highly realistic and immersive ride that recreates Hogwarts castle on a grand scale using 4K3D technology. This is world-class virtual reality that will make you scoff at all other amusement rides you’ve ever tried. You get to soar through the sky above Hogwarts castle, racing to catch the Golden Snitch and avoid Dementors. This is hands-down the best amusement park attraction I’ve ever tried. If you time to do only a few rides in the whole park because of the long lines, I would suggest you prioritize this.
NOTE: Photography and videography during the ride is not allowed. The whole ride is dubbed in Japanese to cater to majority of the guests, but you can still enjoy the whole ride even if you don’t understand what the characters are saying.
FLIGHT OF THE HIPPOGRIFF & HAGRID’S HUT
Another ride attraction is the Flight of the Hippogriff, a family-friendly roller coaster which resembles the mythical creature with the head of a giant eagle and the body of a horse. Nearby, you can find Hagrid’s hut with Sirius’ motorcycle and sidecar parked right outside.
TRIVIA: Did you know that Hagrid’s motorcycle is real? In the motorcycle escape scene in Deathly Hallows part one, the motorcycle used is a light blue Royal Enfield with a sidecar!
After exploring Hogwarts, we had a magical lunch at Three Broomsticks, a rustic tavern which serves Great Feast Platters, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, soup, salads and pumpkin juice. This autumn, they’re serving a special Halloween Feast and Dessert Feast Platter. Just look at that spread! I really liked the ribs and spinach pumpkin soup. Yum.
Of course, you can’t leave Hogsmeade without trying Butterbeer, the most popular drink in the Wizarding World. This sweet non-alcoholic drink can be enjoyed by children and adults alike! You can also take home the plastic mugs and make your own butterbeer at home.
This deliciously sweet beverage, which tastes like a combination of Butterball candies and caramel soda, is also served in kiosks throughout Hogsmeade and the pub Hog’s Head.
SPECIAL HALLOWEEN ENTERTAINMENT
This autumn, there are a few seasonal events to look forward to including the Magical Trick or Treat around Hogsmeade (for children of elementary school-age or below) and Death Eater Attack, a street entertainment show at night recreating the historic battle between Harry and Dumbledore’s Army against Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
GREAT LAKE / BLACK LAKE
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Japan is the only version of the theme park where you can find a recreation of the Great Lake (or Black Lake) which is located in between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. This was the location of the second task during the Triwizard Tournament, where Harry Potter, Fleur Delacour, Cedric Diggory and Viktor Krum had to swim in the lake to rescue something that was taken from them.
TRIVIA: Harry used Gillyweed to be able to breath underwater, Cedric and Fleur used the Bubble-Hed Charm, while Krum partially transfigured himself into a Shark. You can buy bottled Gilly Water at the Three Broomsticks, which offers the best view of the lake.
TRAVEL TIPS AND USEFUL INFO:
- It can get pretty crowded especially during weekends and holidays, so plan your trip accordingly.
- In order to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you need to reserve timed entry tickets in advance. If you did not reserve, you’ll have to acquire day-of timed entry tickets at the Central Park, so you can enjoy attractions at your designated times.
- One group representative can bring everyone’s studio passes to get timed entry tickets for the entire group.
- You can skip the lines by purchasing the Universal Express Pass, which shortens your waiting time for designated popular attractions.
- The Check-in Pass lets you enjoy the other parts of Universal Studios Japan until immediately before the show begins without having to save your seating spot. You can smoothly enter the reserved area and comfortably enjoy the show when other audience areas are very crowded.
- Guests are not allowed to bring lunch boxes, drinks or other personal food and beverage items to consume in the park.
- It’s perfectly normal to find visitors dressed up in costumes like Harry Potter robes and gear. So don’t be afraid to show your inner geek especially this Halloween season. I actually felt a bit tame wearing plain muggle clothing next to all the enthusiastic visitors.
- While photography and videography is allowed throughout the park, for security reasons it’s not allowed in the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Just sit back and get ready for a magical experience! 🙂
- For more details, rates and tickets, visit: https://www.usj.co.jp/e/harrypotter/
NOTE: This trip was made possible by Cebu Pacific, JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Universal Studios Japan.
Cebu Pacific is the only Philippine low-cost carrier flying between Manila and Osaka. Flights are five times weekly with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book through http://bit.ly/CEBOsakaflights or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.