If you’ve been following my blog or social media accounts (Instagram in particular), for quite a while now, you would know how much of a huge Harry Potter nerd I am. Russell and I named our cat after Hermione. Do I need to say more? If there was a real life Hogwarts – even one for Muggles! – I’d move in tomorrow. But since there isn’t a real life Hogwarts, and I have mo magical powers, us muggles have to stick with visiting the many theme parks around the world, dedicated to the wonderful world of Harry Potter.
When Russell and I were planning our trip to Japan, Osaka was at the top of our list. For me at least, this was purely because of the fact that Osaka is home to Universal Studios Japan. If you’ve never been to any of the Universal Studios Theme Parks (currently, you’ll find them in: Hollywood, Florida, Singapore and Japan), then you wouldn’t know just how magical and fun they are.
Whether you’re a fan of Harry Potter or not, you’ll definitely be impressed by all of the beautiful details that have been put into every inch of the place. From walking down the main street which takes you through Hogsmeade Village, to being amazed at the incredibleness of Hogwarts Castle which is truly something not to be missed! You won’t be disappointed at the sheer detail and dedication the creators of the park has put into making Harry Potter World the best it can be!
So what did we love and dislike about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Read below to find out!
WHAT WE LOVED
- Hogwarts Castle was by far my favourite part about Harry Potter World. As I mentioned before, the detail is incredible. I took so many photos of the exterior of the castle, even though they all pretty much look exactly the same! But it’s hard not to. It looks exactly like what you see in the movie, and from what we saw while walking through the castle to get to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 4K3D ride (more on that next!) the interior is just as amazing!
There is a Hogwarts Castle Walk that you can do, which takes you through the entire castle, giving you a chance to see more than what you would by standing in line for the 4D ride. We didn’t do this though, as the lines were far too long and I also didn’t fully understand what it meant. But you still see quite a bit of the Castle just by standing in line for the Forbidden Journey ride – even if you have an Express Pass!
- The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey 4K3D ride is something I can almost guarantee you’ve never experienced before. If you’ve been to any of the Universal Studios Theme Parks around the USA or Singapore, you would be familiar with this type of ride. However, of course, Harry Potter takes it to a whole new level! You sit in a regular looking rollercoaster seat, get strapped in, and unless you’ve been on the ride before, you will have NO idea what to expect. Think Soarin’ Over California from Disney’s California Adventure Park, but a million times better. You fly through Hogwarts Castle, play Quidditch with Harry and his friends, be taken through the Forbidden Forest, almost get attacked by spiders and SO much more. But I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll stop here 😉
A quick heads up, if you’re prone to motion sickness, I don’t recommend riding this ride. You do get thrust around in your seat quite a bit, and if you’re already feeling unwell or can’t handle sharp twists and turns and fast motion, it wouldn’t be enjoyable for you or the person you potentially throw up on. But since I don’t suffer from motion sickness, I thought it was one of the best rides I’ve ever been on! Up there with Space Mountain. Yeah, I said it. I went there.
Top Tip: Make sure you invest in the Express Pass, if nothing else, for the sole reason of getting on this ride in less than 140 minutes (which was the average wait time while we were there – on a freezing cold Tuesday, in the middle of Winter. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. But more on the Express Pass in a bit).
- Ollivander’s Wand Shop was another awesome experience. There was a 10 minute wait when we were there, but it’s worth it. First, you’re taken into a room with a group of people (similar to the first ‘waiting room’ in the old – 😢 – Tower of Terror ride). There’s a whole bunch of stuff said in Japanese (we understood exactly zero of what was said), then you’re led into Ollivander’s Wand Shop. There’s a man waiting in the room, ready to blow your mind. Remember the scene from Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone where Harry chooses his wand? He picks up multiple wands, and all sorts of things go wrong? ‘Ollivander’ picks someone from the crowd of people and acts out the exact scene from the very first Harry Potter movie, right before your eyes. He switches between speaking in Japanese to speaking in English, so seamlessly, it’s hard to keep up. If you’re thinking of purchasing a wand during your stay at Harry Potter World, I highly suggest you do so in Ollivanders. It’s a much cooler experience than simply buying one at a regular old souvenir shop throughout the park!
- Butterbeer is a must when visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are a few outdoor stalls where you can buy a cup (either a regular plastic throw-away cup, or you can splurge and spend 600 Yen – around $7 to $8 – on a souvenir cup like we did!), or you can buy them from indoor dining locations like The Hog’s Head (this is a takeaway place, meaning you can’t sit down and enjoy your delicious Butterbeer) or the Three Broomsticks. We purchased ours from the Hog’s Head, then sat outside on the undercover seats nearby!
WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE SO MUCH
- It is INSANELY busy. Much busier than Disneyland has ever been, and I’ve visited that place a lot. If you’re intending on purchasing a regular ticket, I suggest getting there at least an hour before the gates open. (The park usually opens at around 8:30am, but they do have specific opening times for each day. So just check the website when it gets closer to your visit!). Harry Potter World especially, is super duper crowded. There is even a line to take a photo with the Weasley’s Flying Car. Be prepared to wait in lines for everything. From the toilet, to food (these lines were horribly long. We didn’t even eat inside the park – besides a churro – we just waited until we left and ate at City Walk!) and obviously, the rides.
- If riding the epic Forbidden Journey 4K3D ride is at the top of your list (which it should be), just know that you can’t take anything on the ride with you. Shortly before you get on the ride itself, you have to put all of your belongings in a locker. It’s super hard to find a locker that’s free, so if possible I suggest leaving your bags with someone in your group who may not want to go on the ride. But if everyone is as awesome as you are, and wants to experience the best ride in the world with you, just be prepared to search for quite a while to find an open locker. The locker situation wasn’t designed very well, and the craziness of so many people can be overwhelming. But if you get through it alive, just remember you are about to have the best experience of your life.
- It’s a crazy expensive place. I saw tons of people lugging around huge Wizarding World of Harry Potter bags filled with everything I wish I could have bought. But unless you’re rich or have saved all of your money for the entire year just for your souvenir shopping, be prepared to spend a small fortune on Harry Potter merch. The scarves alone were around 5000 Yen (AUD $60), and the wands are roughly the same. Basically, everything is overpriced and marked up – because they can. They know people are going to buy something whether they can justify spending that much or not. It’s all part of the experience. So be prepared for this, and include some extra cash to your Universal Studios budget. All I bought was a scarf and Hermione’s wand. But if I had more money, I would have bought SO much more. Even the chocolate frogs are around $10. Which in my opinion, is robbery. But hey, I also think it’s worth it. Especially for a tourist. Because really, when will you ever visit Harry Potter World again? YOLO.
I’m already up to close to 1,500 words, but I’m not done yet. Not even close 😉
Here are some of my top tips to get you through your day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Purchase a park Express Pass. This will be well worth the investment, and you’ll be glad you bought it after your first ride. As I mentioned earlier, Harry Potter World is super duper busy. This means, obviously, that all the ride lines are going to be painfully long. But not if you have an Express Pass. Essentially it’s like Disneyland’s FastPass. But you have to pay extra for it. We chose the Express Pass 7 option, which gave us entry to 7 of the most popular rides, with almost no wait time. I think the longest we had to wait for any ride was 10 minutes. The Express Pass gets you access to rides all around Universal Studios itself – not just the Harry Potter World rides. So if you would rather spend your day looking around the park, eating delicious food and taking ALL the selfies, I would highly recommend investing in an Express Pass.
NOTE: There is a limit on how many Express Passes are allocated each day. So if you are intending on purchasing the Express Pass, make sure you arrive at the ticket gate early to guarantee you get one!
- Bring food and a water bottle with you. Unless you want to spend all your money on overpriced food, and spend a quarter of your day waiting in lines for everything from popcorn to hot dogs to a sit down meal in one of the restaurants around the park. There are also tons of water fountains around the park to refill, which is super convenient! (This is the best advice I can give for families who are planning on visiting the park – save your money and bring your own snacks!)
- Purchase your tickets BEFORE you get to the park. There are a few ways you can purchase your tickets beforehand. Any Lawson Station convenience store around Osaka should sell them. Otherwise, purchase them online and print out your e-ticket – I’m sure most hotels will be happy to help you with this, if you’re a tourist and don’t have access to a printer! This will cut your wait time in half when arriving at the park, which means you can spend more time exploring the magically beautiful Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
- Visit the park on a weekday, during the off-peak season and NOT on any Japanese holidays. This is probably the most important advice I can give anyone looking to visit Universal Studios Japan in general. We went on a Tuesday, at the beginning of March, during Winter. This particular day was painfully cold. Almost unbearably cold. Yet it was still super busy. To make the most out of your day, and avoid spending 8 hours waiting in lines (if you opt to not purchase the Express Pass), definitely try to visit on a weekday (I’m fairly sure Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days during the week to visit).
Okay, I think I’ve given you enough awesomely helpful tips to assist you in preparing for the best day of your life.
Overall, Harry Potter World is an amazing place, with incredible detail put into every inch of the place. All of the staff are super friendly and will do their best to help you find your way around and answer any questions you may have, even if they don’t completely understand English. We have been in Japan for 16 days now, and we haven’t come across a rude or even slightly un-helpful Japanese person thus far, so don’t worry about that!
To end this super long post, here are some photos that I took from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I hope these inspire you to head there yourself, next time you visit Japan!
Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below! I’d love to read your thoughts on the magical land of Harry Potter!
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