I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I made a trip to Japan for the sole purpose of visiting Universal Studios Japan’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Then again, my life has never felt so complete until now.
When my best friend and I moved to Korea, we decided it was an absolute must to visit Osaka and finally make all of our childhood dreams come true together. I mean, isn’t it everybody’s dream to spend a magical day with their best friend at the Hogwarts Castle in Japan? Actually, maybe this is why we’re best friends…
Very eager to let the magic begin, we arrived at the entrance to USJ at 7:30 AM, 45 minutes before the ticket gates opened. It was pouring rain, but we didn’t let that dampen our high spirits.
After purchasing out tickets, we bolted through the park grounds towards the entrance of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Gasping for breath, we finally arrived at the Hogsmeade gate. Immediately, I forgot how out-of-shape I was, when the theme music from the movies began to play. I was flooded with all sorts of warm, fuzzy, and everything in between types of emotions. I just knew that this was going to be one of the most exciting moments of my entire life.
Everyone says first impressions are important. Not only was I impressed, but I was blown away with my first look at Hogsmeade Village.
I could write a whole separate post (maybe even a short novel) about just the amount of detail and creative thought that was put into the production of the entire park. It was truly breathtaking. I really felt like I was at Hogwarts. Good thing I brushed up on my charms before I got there. That would’ve been embarrassing…
The cobblestone roads were lined with snow-covered buildings and shops. The Hogwarts Express was blowing out clouds of steam. Excited wizards were running about in their house robes, wands out and ready. Everyone was chugging down pints of Butterbeer. It was truly perfect.
In a state of trance-like awe, we floated through Hogsmeade. We skipped through the shops making up the village, including, Ollivanders, Honeydukes, and Zonko’s Joke Shop, to name a few.
Twenty of us were crammed inside the faintly glowing and whimsical wand shop. It was completely silent as we eagerly waited for Ollivander to look up at us from his desk. I was becoming apprehensive. Ollivander (finally!) looked up from his paperwork and began to scan the nervous faces of all of us in the crowd. He began to speak – in Japanese. Followed by an English translation. Thank goodness!
Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Ollivander himself chose my bestie to come up and choose a wand (eek!). Erm, I mean have the wand choose her, of course. This in itself, made the trip completely worth it. Squealing with delight, she skipped over to meet Ollivander.
She faced some minor challenges while matching with the perfect wand. Maybe she really was a muggle unfit of producing magic? We we’re discouraged and ready to leave the shop. But then, Ollivander remembered a wand he had tucked away, high up on the shelf behind him. Before handing her this wand, he blew off the pile of dust that had accumulated on its surface from being hidden for so long. When she grabbed the wand, her luck changed immediately. The whole shop became absolutely enchanted by the effects she produced with that wand. Ok! So, she wasn’t a muggle after all! Phew.
I won’t spoil all of the details of what happened on that fateful day inside Ollivanders. You’ll have to go see it for yourself!
And of course, she had to buy the wand. Ollivander and the wand chose her. With her new purchase, she was also given her own Marauder’s map. The map showed us areas around Hogsmeade where we could use the interactive wand to cast real spells.
The sweetest shop in all of Hogsmeade! Honeydukes carries every treat to satisfy your magical, sweet tooth cravings, including: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs, and Pumpkin Juice.
We bought Chocolate Frogs. I ripped open the packaging, eager to see which collectible card I would begin my collection with. I thought I would luck out with a really cool collectible wizard card, like Albus Dumbledore (wishful thinking). Unfortunately, I got Helga Hufflepuff. Ugh. My friend lucked out with Rowena Ravenclaw. I tried to trade her, but she refused. I’m still hopeful she’ll reconsider one day.
After spending two hours reveling in all of Hogsmeade’s beauty and exploring all of the details of its awesome shops, we had worked up a ravenous appetite (naturally).
We went into the Three Broomsticks for some British pub fare, accompanied with Buttebeer. Guzzling down my first Butterbeer is something I’ve dreamed about for a very long time. The first Butterbeer we grabbed (yes, there was more than one), we ordered it hot. It was heavenly. I’ve never slurped down another beverage that could compare to it. Except for maybe the cold version of the Butterbeer we swigged down a mere two hours later. I still can’t decide which one was better. Maybe I’ll have to go back for another taste testing. I’ll pitch this idea to my bestie immediately.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D
Now that our bellies were bursting, it was time to queue up for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D ride. The main attraction of the entire park. Actually, in hindsight, this wasn’t such a good idea. The intense simulation ride was not so kind on my stomach. But, it was bloody brilliant! And, I would do it one thousand times over!
We waited in line for 90 minutes. Normally, I would never have such patience. But, I was buzzing with happiness from that Butterbeer and not a single thing could knock me out of my mood.
Before going on the ride itself, we had to make a journey through Hogwarts Castle as part of the queue. We struggled to make conversation with Japanese-speaking portraits. Language barriers can be seriously confusing some times! We got caught in a fluffy snow fall in the Defence Against the Dark Arts room. And, we almost got too comfortable standing by the warmth of the Gryffindor common room’s fireplace. Maybe, if the talking portrait of the Fat Lady was more welcoming, we would’ve stayed in the common room longer. If only we knew Japanese. We would’ve charmed her with some witty banter.
After passing through the magical rooms of Hogwarts, we had made it to the front of the queue. I was so excited that I completely forgot we had just spent an hour and a half waiting.
We were quickly hurried on to a moving platform. Ride attendants quickly strapped us into our seats and handed us clunky pairs of 3D glasses. A magical split second later, we were on flying broomsticks! Where can I buy a pair to use in my everyday life? My teaching job in Korea would be a lot more interesting with a pair these! We spent three minutes gripping on to our broomsticks (erm, seat handles) while fleeing from the fiery breath of a dragon. I still suffer from vivid flashbacks in my sleep.
I loved everything about my experience at USJ’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and am already planning my next trip back!
I mean, how else will my intense cravings for Butterbeer subside, unless I make a visit back to Hogsmeade? But, maybe next time, I’ll go to the English-version in Orlando. That way, I can finally figure out what those talking portraits were trying to tell us.
Get there early! Tackle the dragon from the Forbidden Journey first thing when getting to the park. The lines got progressively longer throughout the day. If you want to buy items from the shops, be prepared to dish out a lot of cash. Unfortunately, being a theme park, the items were expensive. But you can’t put a price on a delicious Chocolate Frog, can you?
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