Those of you who have religiously followed the Harry Potter series—whether through J.K. Rowling’s masterful novels or the eight movies—you will instantly love the surroundings, which will give the satisfaction of finally experiencing what it’s like living in the Potter Universe along with fellow Potter geeks.
For those who for some reason have yet to read any Harry Potter book or didn’t watch any of the movies (uhm, let’s just call them muggles), the place could either make you cringe while waiting for your Potter-fanatic pals finish gushing over the place, or it could grow on you, like it did with my parents and sister as me and my other sister each turned 12-years-old again while going bananas over shops that came straight out of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Confession: my Potter-fanatic sibling is actually just 14-years-old, so the way she acted was totally understandable. I’m 22, and, well, let’s not get into this.
Now, if you’re planning to visit Universal Studios in Osaka, the first thing I’m going to tell you is to make sure NOT to go on a weekend. We went on a Tuesday and, I kid you not, it already felt like going to Star City on a Saturday evening. The place was packed.
There are many other attractions at the studio—Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Back to the Future, Jaws, New York, San Francisco, and many more. But the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the main draw and the first area visitors usually go to when they get there. Fast passes are available, so you might want to make use of that for quicker entry.
But better yet, since Universal Studios opens either at 9AM or 9:30AM, try to be there by 8:45. If you’re a tourist, you’re going to likely take a 20 to 30-minute train ride to get to the place to begin with, unless you’re staying in one of the hotels nearby. It’s best to set those alarm clocks and sleep early the night before.
Here are some of the great things that you’ll find here.
The Stores at Hogsmeade: Zonko’s Joke Shop, Honeyduke’s, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Dervish and Banges
The amount of memorabilia is insane. Trying to go through each and every one is going to be difficult, especially if your time at the Wizarding World is limited. Selecting which to actually buy is going to be even tougher. Here’s a bit of background of what to expect to make things easier for you.
After walking through a bunch of trees that resemble the Forbidden Forrest and running into a replica of the Hogwarts Express, the first thing you’ll find on your left are Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes.
Zonko’s provides a number of items that serve as hilarious mementos from your trip, while Honeyduke’s (like you imagined it in the books!) gives you all the sweets you can handle. Yes, Potter freaks, you can get a Chocolate Frog (which actually comes with a card of a great wizard!) for ¥1200 (400PHP), and a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans for ¥1800 (650PHP).
They might be a little expensive, but trust me when I say those sweets taste awesome and are totally worth the price. Just don’t eat the earwax-flavored bean.
Ollivander’s Wand Shop, where you’ll find all the wands from the Potterverse, is also present. Want a copy of Harry’s wand like it was in the movies? Well, you can get one there, as well as Dumbledore’s, Voldemort’s, Ron’s, Hermione’s, Luna Lovegood’s, Snape’s, and much more. Want a custom wand made from holly wood? That’s available as well, with prices for wands ranging from ¥3500 (1300PHP) to ¥4200 (1,500PHP). The place, to put it simply, is wand galore.
More than one shop at the Wizarding World sell the actual robes of each Harry Potter house (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw) for around ¥12,000 (4,300PHP). Too expensive for you? Well there are always scarves, sweaters, hoodies, jackets, shirtstuffed toy replicas of Hedwig, Pigwidgeon, and Buckbeak in addition to purchasing a replica Nimbus 2000, Nimbus 2011, or a Firebolt. Want a copy of The Marauder’s Map? That’s available! How about Harry Potter’s Undesirable #1 poster? It’s there as well! If your friends have nagged you about bring home souvenirs, the available mugs, keychains, and pens should do the trick.
Heck, I got a mug displaying the Marauder’s Map which suddenly shows black footsteps once you fill it up with tea or coffee. Just like magic.
Don’t worry, Quidditch buffs, you won’t feel left out. Always wanted to be a chaser? There’s a quaffle you can get. How about being a beater? There are wooden clubs and bludgers. Oh, you want to be a seeker, huh? Well, you can’t get a broomstick that actually flies, but there’s a golden snitch you can purchase.
Dining: The Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head
All the shopping is bound to make you hungry, and what better place to replenish than a restaurant which patterned itself after one of the most popular dining places in the Potter Universe?
At the Three Broomsticks, you’ll find an assortment of chicken, ribs, corn, potatoes, and more. Want it to come all together in a package deal? Well then, get The Great Feast option ¥7,600 (2,700PHP), which was more than enough to satisfy cravings of our family of five.
Here’s a glimpse of the food menu and the prices:
¥1,750 yen (630PHP): Shepherd’s Pie and Garden Salad, Fish & Chips, Cornish Pasties and Green Salad
¥1,900 yen (685PHP): Rotisserie Smoked Chicken Platter
¥1,950 yen (700PHP): Chicken and Pork Ribs Platter
¥2,000 yen (720PHP): Pork Ribs Platter
And for your drink? Well, of course Butterbeer’s the only way to go! A sweet mix of butterscotch and shortbread, the beverage, which costs ¥700 (250PHP) is ten times tastier than what you imagined. You can get the normal or the frozen one. Both were good, but I suggest ordering the former. If you add ¥500 (180PHP), you get to even keep the mug!
The Hog’s Head is an extension of The Three Broomsticks which has a bar where those looking to down some Butterbeer can hang around. Just try not to have too many servings, no matter how tempting it will be, or you’re going to leave Japan with a nasty throat ache. Other than the two dining locations, there are also two other Butterbeer stands at the Wizarding World.
Rides: The Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey (in 4K3D)
Using “state-of-the-art” 4K technology and 3D, the Forbidden Journey lets you experience different events of the Harry Potter universe—from Quidditch, to battling dragons at the Triwizard Tournament, to dealing with Dementors—while strapped to a seat that whirls you around in different locations inside the Hogwarts Castle of the Wizarding World.
The castle, which must be hundreds of feet high, is amazing. And while you’re in line for The Forbidden Journey, you go through different areas inside it that make you feel just like you’re in Hogwarts. There are even moving portraits! The Gryffindor common room lady is there, but, well, she can be kind of rude.
Back to the ride. The 3D feel makes it seem like you can grab the golden snitch by arm’s length or feel the dragon’s fire closing in on your face. And just when you thought Dementors were scary in the movies, you’ll be frightened when they appear right in front of you, ready to give you a kiss to suck out your soul.
The Flight of the Hippogriff is a less-than-a-minute roller coaster ride which let’s you see the different areas of the Wizarding World: the Hogwarts Castle, the Great Lake, Hogsmeade, and Hagrid’s Cabin. It’s not exactly a heart-stopping kind of ride, but it’s definitely worth it if the line isn’t too long.
There are various forms of street entertainments, from a Hogwarts choir accompanied by their croaking frogs, singers from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons for the Triwizard rally, and the Hogwarts Express conductor.
The language of The Forbidden Journey ride is in Japanese.
The bathrooms look exactly like those of Hogwarts’s in the movies. Oh, and while you’re doing whatever you’re doing there, you’ll be hearing Moaning Myrtle cry, by the way.
Queues for the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff lasted up to 150 and 120 minutes, respectively, when we were there. I heard from some people that sometimes the waiting period even increases up to to 220 minutes.
Go for the rides late in the afternoon, when lines are shorter and visitors have already moved on to other attractions at Universal Studios. But take note: there are days where the Wizarding World closes at 5PM, so do advanced research and schedule well!
Save a lot ahead of your trip to the Wizarding World, especially if you’re planning to leave with a lot of items. Entry to Universal Studious is already quite pricey, even if it is totally worth it. Here are the price lists for entrance.
Try taking a snapshot of you having a wand fight by the Stone Circle (just right before the gate entrance to the Wizarding World). While we’re at the topic, there’s also a copy of the flying car Ron and Harry destroyed during Chamber of Secrets. Grab a picture with that as well.
Have fun. You don’t know when you’re going to return to the Wizarding World again, so soak in every moment, enjoy every minute, and don’t be ashamed to act totally crazy because, trust me, it’s going to be worth it.
Did we mention that the Butterbeer was amazing?
Find the nearest train station near you. If you’re coming from Fraser Residence in Nankai, Osaka, like I was, then proceed to the Osaka-Namba station. It’s a walk that’s around 570 meters long.
Once in the station, buy a ticket (which comes out to around ¥200, or 70PHP) to the Nishikujo station (via Hanshin Railway). After getting there, take the Japan Railways Yumesaki line and buy a ticket to Sakurajima.
Once you’re in Sakurajima, it’s just a 400-meter walk to Universal Studios.