On July 15, Universal Studios Japan (USJ) revealed its first branch of Harry Potter park outside the United States. Time to fulfill those long time Hogwarts dreams, eh?
When I first heard the news early this year, I got so excited that I really pushed through with an Osaka exit (we entered Japan via Tokyo) for our trip because of this!
Coming second to Tokyo Disneyland as the most visited theme park in Japan, USJ officials say that they expect an increase of 2 million tourists per year with the opening of HP world.
Attractions similar to Florida are also featured in Japan including: Flying Ford Anglia, Hogwarts Express train, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, Flight of the Hippogriff ride, Honeyduke’s Sweets Shop, Gladrags Wizard Wear, Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Zonko’s Joke Shop, The Three Broomsticks restaurant, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, the Hogwarts castle and of course, Butterbeer carts!
Meanwhile, it also has two exclusive features: live owls and the Hogwarts’ Black Lake which shows the castle’s reflection.
Since its opening, visitors of the park seem to prioritize HP before other Universal Studios attractions. HP has a 1.5 – 2 hours waiting time while others have an average of 20-30 minutes.
Prior to entering the HP world, the staff required us to go to a ticketing office to get a standby ticket with time schedule.
Staff says that we should wait for our numbers to be flashed in the bulletin board in front Mel’s Diner as it will dictate our fate upon entrance to HP World. The ticket also says it does not guarantee entrance so we were nervous by this time. What if our numbers won’t get picked? The volume of people is massive. We waited patiently and luckily it paid off.
Our first stop was the castle. The path leading to the Forbidden Journey ride was a journey in itself as the tour leads to halls with talking photos, Sorting Hat, Dumbledore’s office, Gryffindor common room, the Room of Requirement and thousands of floating candles. One of the highlights is the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom which has Harry, Ron, and Hermione in it. The pals speak in Japanese though, so good luck if you don’t understand or speak Nihongo (FYI: we don’t.). Despite this, the park will still fill you with visual surprises!
Afterwards the forbidden ride, we tried the Butterbeer. There are two Butterbeer carts, one in the entrance and one near the Hippogriff ride. You have two options for the drink: cold and frozen. It’s a non-dairy and non-alcoholic drink which you may opt to buy in a regular cup (500 yen) or in a souvenir mug (1000 yen). It tastes like a butter ball candy turned into a cream soda with foam on top. I have a sweet tooth but this one’s sweetness level is above my standard.
If not for the language barrier, USJ would be perfect. I wish they’d provide tourists with English audio guide to help cope with the interactions.
Located in Osaka, USJ is surprisingly easy to access via train:
Osaka station > Nishikujo station > Universal City (15 minute ride)
Kansai International Airport > Nishikujo station > Universal City (1 hour ride)