Hello to all Harry Potter fellow fans!
I read for the first time the Harry Potter books only a few years ago, but I fell so much for them that just in that moment we made a promise that we were going to visit the Harry Potter land in Osaka one day to witness all the magic world by myself. The day came and I couldn’t help but feel so fortunate, smile and feel extra excited all the time. It is very obvious with a quick look at our USJ Instagram stories or in these pictures, right?
I will explain in detail all our Harry Potter experience, but also be sure to stay put to the final part of the post for our complete review of Universal Studios Japan, in a classical Rory Gilmore fashion pros and cons list (that includes tips!), which will surely be helpful to make your decision & plan your visit to USJ Osaka more wisely!
Here we go, let’s open the doors of Harry Potter land… Alohomora!
Welcome to Hogsmeade
What will you find here?
The land of Harry Potter has a lot to offer, we spent most of our day only at this land, started at 9:00 and left around 14:30.
There are two main attractions, I will enter into more detail below at the Hogwarts section. The attractions are good but hands-down the immersive decoration is the best thing of the land, you are able to visit Hogsmeade and some of the stores like Honeydukes or Ollivanders, while others have their store front as decor only (like Madam Puddifoot’s), and eat at the Three Broomsticks. Decoration is at Disney level, the same doesn’t happen with the rest of the park though, but at Harry Potter land you are totally transferred to the magic world created by J.K Rowling & as seen in the movies.
There are several shows, Ollivanders is a must and then some musical shows performed at the open-air stage. They are worthy to watch, specially the one with the frogs. They are performed during the morning one after the other, we watched two seating in the front line (no waits here) and others just casually peeking while visiting the land.
Another important experience is that you can perform magic tricks around the land (more info below!), and of course, you can’t leave without trying the butterbeer.
Grab your wand and check it all out with us!
The chosen one, at Ollivanders!
The magic was present from the minute we entered into the land (that music at the entrance helps a lot too!). When we arrived to Hogsmeade the first thing we did was to visit Ollivanders wand shop. The shop has two parts, the regular shop where you can buy wands from every character in the series, and when I say every, I mean EVERY, just say the name and they’ll have it for you. Each of them has a different design, for instance Voldemort’s looks like a bone and it is white.
Have you ever seen the wands up-close? They are made from a material that resembles wood so much, the touch is also good, it definitely gives you the feeling that it’s real. The most fun thing is that in the park the wands have an optical sensor integrated at the tip of the wand. There’s a map showing the spots where you can train your wizarding skills, with a total amount of 8 magic spots, and it’s so fun to play along. My first one was “Ventus”, there’s a movement, a V, with the wand you are instructed to do while shouting the word and if you are doing it correctly, a wind will blow and move the houses flags. Other tricks include the possibility to create snow or levitate things.
The second part of the shop, it is in fact a show, a group of (more or less) 25 people is invited to enter into Ollivanders private part of the shop, where a single person from the group is selected to be chosen by the wand. The show is incredible, I will not enter into much detail because spoilers are usually not welcomed, but I will hint that magic is strong inside the shop.
I couldn’t believe my luck when Ollivanders had his eyes on me and decided I was the one selected from the group to be chosen by the wand. Afterwards you are invited by a park crew member to buy the precise wand which selected yourself, not for free but I was happy to learn that it costs exactly the same as all the other wands. The wand and box are completely unique and you are not able to purchase them separately if you haven’t been chosen. The amazing thing is that the rest of the morning I was greeted by every park member and welcomed to Hogwarts, a perk of being the chosen one!
I have to admit that the moment I had the wand in my hands, after the excitement of the Ollivanders show, I bursted into happy tears. At that moment Daniel told me “this makes all the money, queues, any possible con in the list worth it” I do have a sweet hubs, right? I will never forget the Ollivanders experience linked to the sweetest words of my beau.
As I mentioned before, attached to any (sensor) wand there’s a map of Hogsmeade showing where exactly you can perform magic tricks. At every spot there’s a crew member that will train your skills and assist you until you are able to do the trick correctly. As expected, there’s always a (short) queue at every trick spot.
Do you know which would be your house if you ever get the owl letter? There’s this official test at Pottermore site which apparently is as reliable as the sorting hat. Well, I got Gryffindor, which I am not completely sure it’s the good one, I was thinking more a Hufflepuff situation, but since I am a Ron-meets-Hermione type of character, it must not be that wrong after all. Daniel was also selected for Gryffindor, but I think he was mistaken, Slytherin seems more appropriately, ha! Don’t we all have a little bit of Slytherin as well? I know I do!
Quick answer: Yummy!
Let’s elaborate, the butterbeer is offered in two versions, cold and hot. We tried only the cold one, which is a sweet soda (but not as sweet as I’ve read) with a cheese mousse on top. It is very similar to the mousse tea we have tried in a Chinese bubble tea shop in Barcelona. To me, it gets the thumbs up! I can’t guarantee that the butterbeer recipe is the same in all Harry Potter lands in the world.
Harry Potter land attractions
There are two attractions at the Harry Potter land:
- Harry Potter and the forbidden journey: This is a very intensive attraction that combines a dark ride with naked eye 3d. The good thing is that you won’t need any glasses, definitely a plus, and that there are enhanced effects, like hot air. The dementors presence is really chilling. What I didn’t like is the contrast between the 3d and the animatronics and that you can get dizzy when they almost put you upside down. Need to try it by yourself!
- Flight of the Hippogriff: It’s a classical rollercoaster, with the allure of travelling around Hagrid’s hut. Take into account that it is very short (around 2 minutes), but very fun!
Other lands of the park
Want to visit the park? Here’s our pros & cons list
- Harry Potter!
Since there’s a lot to put on pros about the Harry Potter land, let’s add some detail:
- The entrance: Through a walk in the woods you are guided towards the Harry Potter land. It is a very exciting path with the climax when you stumble upon the Ford Anglia, the Weasley family’s flying car, and then a few steps away the entrance to Hogsmeade. This walk is exclusive for USJ and helps detaching from the rest of the park and with the immersion to the Harry Potter land.
- Top-notch decoration & music: The attention to detail in this land is amazing, you may even experience FOMO to be able to take in all those thoughtful details. The music of the Harry Potter movies is magic in itself, so imagine what it can add to such a realistic experience.
- The shows, specially the wand: Don’t have much to add to my previous babbling about the Ollivanders show, a part that it was my favorite part of our experience.
- Walking in the school: I loved that besides riding the Forbidden Journey attraction you are able to walk through some rooms in Hogwarts. There aren’t any queues here, so you’ll probably be alone in the school. Enter using the same queue to the Forbidden Journey, at an early stage you will be separated into another line (with no people in it, ha!)
- Butterbeer: It is a must, specially the moustache photo, ha! It’s an expensive drink (plain, in a plastic cup: ￥600) but you need to know if you belong to the fan or the detractors team.
- Universal Cool Japan: The park has seasonal rides inspired by very popular Japanese anime like Evangelion, Sailor Moon or Detective Conan. They change every two months, ours was Lupin the third. I think it’s a great way to introduce novelty rides, food and merchandising from worldwide beloved animes. The attraction is a VR + roller coaster, it was super exciting.
- Beloved movies: The park includes two lands that are in everyone’s cinema imaginario: Jurassic Park and Jaws. Their namesake rides are also a must, but I want to specially stress how awesome was the silly Jaws ride thanks to that Japanese humour. Big love.
- More exhilarating rides: This is not exactly a pro for me, because I am more in love with the rides where you are guided through a story and with stronger decoration, but I can totally get the appeal of the thrilling rides as well. While I enjoyed Lupin I could never ride the Flying Dinosaur (not a loops girl).
- Price: The price is completely nuts. And I am talking compared to Disney. While on Disney Resort you will always get the same price for a 1-day ticket, in USJ it depends on the day & occupancy so now try to figure out what it will cost you… no clue…at all! Still the lowest ticket price is “from ￥7,400” (read the from!) which is exactly the same as the price for Disneyland, but with the difference that Disney is always the same price, no hidden evil pricing strategies. We paid ￥8,200 for each ticket.
- Tickets selling system: If the price list is crazy, let’s talk about the purchasing method which may be still worse. If you are an international visitor, you are forced to buy from authorised resellers, whom will also increase you the price (obviously, and I understand it completely), still on the USJ official website you will be threatened with a “Warning: Resale of tickets is strictly prohibited.” message. This message made me felt completely uneasy to buy from a re-seller. (TIP) We instead bought it from the Japanese site, which took us around 1h to complete the purchase, because we had to translate every step (In-site Google Translate will give you errors when sending the forms, so do it separately) and the forms were super large, I don’t think they forgot to ask us anything, maybe only the blood type (ha!), but questions like jobs and family type were surely included. However, we got a fair price and the security that it was 100% official. Just to state the difference with Disney, you are able to purchase from official stores or online, even if you are international, no questions asked.
- Fast pass system: Fast pass are only in paid form, so if you are visiting on a crowded day (like we did!), the only way to make sure you’ll be able to ride the most popular attractions and visit Harry Potter at a nice hour (entrance is also restricted) is to pay an additional ticket. The cheapest one will not get you into Harry Potter’s main attraction, so we took the 4-ride ticket, with fast access to a Cool Japan attraction, which I think was a wise choice, otherwise I am not sure we would be able to enjoy the park as much as we did. I know comparisons are hideous, but in Disney everyone, without having to pay any extra, is able to get a fast pass, they only need to rush to the attraction and take a ticket, which definitely is a much better approach.
- Paid photo spots: There are some cool spots prepared to take photos, like for instance a recreation of a Hogwarts express wagon, or the shark at Jaws, but you have to pay for the photo. I get it if you want to take the professional one, but c’mon not even with my phone?
- Decor (not Harry Potter): I was specially sad with the Jurassic Park land. I am so much in love with this movie, it’s one of my favorites ever, and it’s my childhood, so I was expecting to have my heart beating fast at every corner. However, the door to Jurassic Park view has been blocked by a safety net for the Flying Dinousaur ride, how thoughtless, right? I loved listening to the music, the velociraptors cage inside the store (read more about the merchan below though) and the vending machines. I left with the feeling that so much more could be done decor-wise!
- Merchandising: Knowing how awesome is the merchandising at the Tokyo Disney parks, I was expecting the same commitment level. The only thing I ended up buying was the Harry Potter wand, although I was predisposed to buy ALL the Jurassic Park stuf. JP merch was a little bit of a let down to be honest. Exception to the rule is all the Sailor Moon stuff that I wasn’t lucky to find.
- Night parade: This is the same that happens with the decor, although the crew members are totally dedicated to their tasks, the parade lacks in terms of brilliant dancers and also wow factor (soul?).
Although the list of cons may seem larger, I strongly recommend visiting the park if you are Harry Potter fan, otherwise, please take into account the cons. Have you visited USJ in Osaka? What are your thoughts?