Japan · Life in Japan

Osaka: Part II – Harry Potter!

So this post is devoted entirely to the amazing ‘ Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at Universal Studios Japan. So I hope all you muggles enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it (though apologies in advance for the lengthy post).

Nothing in the world could of prepared me for what I experienced at H.P World. I was honestly not expecting to be thoroughly blown away or totally overwhelmed by USJ’s recently opened (in July, I believe) attraction. As soon as I handed over my timed-entry ticket (we could only enter at 13:30 for crowd control purposes) I immediately felt that I had left Japan and was now walking through a pine forest towards Hogsmeade… along with a whole lot of Japanese muggles…

Ooh, is that Hogsmeade I spot in the distance?

The first sign that we were not in Japan anymore – the crashed flying car, still hooting and flashing its lights in frustration.

Walking through the entrance gates into Hogsmeade gave me goosebumps. The details of the buildings, the shops, and just the atmosphere made it feel all so real – and the gloomy, gray sky was an added bonus.

And queue the Harry Potter theme music in 3…2…1…
A very busy, but awesome nonetheless, Hogsmeade
This billboard was showing the ‘moving’ picture of Sirius Black when he was wanted by the Ministry of Magic

Hogsmeade was packed, not surprising for a long-weekend, full of muggles and Hogswart students, dressed in their respective house colours – though I did tend to see more Gryffindor students than the other houses. It would have been great to have visited all the shops, especially Honeydukes, the sweet shop. However, that particular shop had a constant queue of what looked like at least an hour’s wait time. So we moved on to more pressing matters, like joining the 90 minute wait queue for the most anticipated and raved about ride in USJ – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. And believe me, it was worth the wait.

On a side note, I honestly do not mind queuing in Japan. Everyone seems to respect everyone else’s hoola-hoop space, there is usually not a lot of crowd noise (which can be sometimes be unnerving), and USJ makes sure that you are not entirely bored with waiting. This was quite true while standing in the line for the H.P. ride as the décor was straight out of the movies.

Wahhh!!! It’s Hogwarts!
The queue for the ‘Forbidden Journey’ started off in the school’s green house
Random picture, I know, but all the pine trees had short-needles, yet on the ground there were the distinctive long-needles… which means they actually bought in dried long-needled pine to scatter on the floor. Impressed? I am 🙂
I was getting creative with my camera while standing in the queue and thought this shot was quite cool

In what was definitely under the stipulated 90 minute waiting time, we made our way, wide-eyed and giggling like kids, through the massive castle doors and into the school where we placed all our loose items, such as bags, scarves, cameras, into lockers before walking in single file through the dimly-lit passages of Hogwarts.

The first ‘room’ we found ourselves in was where the talking portraits and moving staircases were. The actual ride hadn’t even begun yet and already I was spell-bound 😉 at seeing the portraits talking to each other (in Japanese of course). Now obviously those portraits were not ‘alive’, but I tell you, at that point I would swear they were indeed real and talking. It was that convincing! Unfortunately I had to leave my camera in the locker, but I found some pictures on the internet of what I saw.

The talking portraits
I found this pic online, but this is how it looked when we got onto the ‘robocoaster’ seats

It was in the candle room that we were ushered to our seat for the ride. There were four seats to each ‘section’ that passed by. Strapped in with anticipation, the ride made its way sideways towards green smoke and what looked like a dead-end…and that is when I proceeded to scream like a little girl as the robotic contraption we were strapped into pulled us up, backwards, and into darkness…

One word: EPIC!

I actually cannot describe this ride well enough to convey how amazing it was. And I don’t want to spoil it for those who plan to ride this someday. Never in my life have a experienced such a ride where I felt I was seriously flying with Harry Potter, dodging the whomping willow, dragons, dementors and massive spiders. Some of it was real, like an actual massive spider making its way towards us, and some of it was on a large screen, like when flying through a Quidditch match – but you didn’t really register that it was just a screen, it actually felt so real (and there was wind blowing on us as we ‘flew’). The whole ride, and you’ll have to forgive for this, was magical 😉

The first thing you experience on the ride is flying through the air with Harry in a Quidditch match

After the ride, grinning faces and all, we realised we were hungry, so we made our way to the only place that one should eat in Hogsmeade, and that is The Three Broomsticks. Good ol’ fish and chips and butterbeer was the order of the day, and it was so good. I had been recommended the frozen version of butterbeer by my English club students, so I opted for that, and wow, it was delicious – basically caramel and ice-cream, mixed into a smoothie.

Frozen butterbeer. I was able to bring the mug home and now use it as my big hot-chocolate mug 🙂
While taking this picture, music from Harry Potter was playing in the background. Talk about creating the right atmosphere!

Feeling full and more than satisfied we headed back into a still very packed and jostling Hogsmeade. Myself and Karin were walking past one shop where the waiting time was only 20 minutes, which we decided to join for the hell of it. About five minutes into waiting, we were surprisingly ushered into the shop with about 15 other people. It turned out to be Ollivander’s Wand Shop where we experienced a ‘show’ where one muggle (in this case a young girl) is chosen to try and find her wand in a room packed full of wand boxes.

The actor, playing Ollivander, did a pretty good job at convincing the girl that the wands she was trying out were indeed real and everything seemed quite magical… until he said something in English that got both Karin and I giggling like crazy. One of the ‘wrong’ wands that the guy had for the girl to try was quite a big one, and his description of the wand went along the lines of: “Just take a look at this one, never will you experience holding 17 inches of hard wood like this one”. Now this was all in English, so as far as I know, only Karin and I understood that, and immediately our minds went in the wrong direction and we just couldn’t stop laughing to ourselves. Fortunately the ‘show’ didn’t go on for long, and very soon we found ourselves in the actual shop where I went and bought my own 17 inches of hard wood in the form of Sirius Black’s wand 🙂

The wand was intricately carved, yet subtle in design compared to the other character designs. Let me tell you that I struggled to fit it in the picture frame and it is actually much longer than it looks.

I have yet to conjure up any spells, but I think a pretty good spell would be one that could send me straight back to Harry Potter World so that I could experience it all over again (though obviously when there are not as many muggles around). But yes, as you might of guessed, I was pretty happy about this place, and would highly recommend it to anyone who happens to find themselves in Osaka with a couple of hours to spare.

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