The Wizarding World of Harry Potter7:56 PM
He pulled Harry's wand from his pocket and began to trace it through the air, writing three shimmering words: TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE. Then he waved the wand once again and the letters of his name rearranged themselves: I AM LORD VOLDEMORT.
This scene, Quidditch, the sorting into four houses, the girls from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and the final battle with Voldemort are playing in my head upon entering the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan. Who would not be excited to see life-sized objects from Hogwarts and possibly battle Voldemort with Harry in one of the rides?
My fascination with Harry Potter is nearly not half compared to those who are joining cosplays and collecting Hogwarts stuff to be honest. But for a young boy who grew up hating the concept of magic because it is simply not true, Harry Potter's influence in pop culture is so intriguing that I was convinced to read all seven books. Mind you, just like magic and fantasy films, me and fiction are strangers to each other.
But recalling that one summer when I borrowed a hardcover Sorcerer's Stone from a classmate in high school, my palms were sweating as I finally saw the replica of Hogwarts Express from the gate of the Harry Potter park. It was drizzling in Osaka. The sweating was obviously because of the excitement.
Of course we ran and posed for pictures, tried the very delicious butter beer (600 Yen a cup), and fell in line to get inside Ollivanders. After 40 minutes of waiting, we were ushered into a small room which was a little tight for 30 people. Only to find out later on that the shelves of books have a secret passage. Ahhh, the choosing of the wand, I realized when I saw the next room.
Here you'll witness how a look-a-like of Garrick Ollivander will guide one guest from your batch to look for that perfect wand. The same as the book, the Japanese girl flicked twice before the entire room lighted up, mimicking what happened when Harry found his wand in the first movie. The show might be less entertaining for a non-fan. I found it cute, however, when the Caucasian Mr. Ollivander spoke Japanese.
Inside the park is the very exciting 4-D ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Unfortunately, there was no available spell for shortcut. We waited for our turn for almost 2 hours. No regrets though. Closely competing with the Transformers 4-D ride in Universal Studios Singapore, the Harry Potter 4-D attraction is among the best I've experienced!
Also inside the park is the Flight of the Hippogriff, a slow-speed and smaller roller coaster ride. The village of Hogsmeade is also recreated with the Black Lake which can be found only in Osaka and not in any other Universal Studios.
Fans beware. There are a lot of merchandises which are too difficult to not buy. Most of them, if not all, are pricey. But then again, the joy of owning something from Hogwarts is priceless. So, take a lot of Yen with you.
Even if you're already admitted to the Universal Studios, you still need a special pass to the Harry Potter park. The pass is free of charge. You can't get in without the pass because admission is by batches which follows a 40-minute interval. It's a great idea if you can ask the staff for the venue of the pass distribution the very moment you stepped inside Universal Studios. They run out fast.
Lines at the ticketing gates at the Universal Studios are also long even if you go there on a weekday and early in the morning. We went there Monday and we were thankful to have purchased the tickets at a JR (Japan Railway) station prior to taking our ride for Universal Studios. Lining up could have taken one hour away from us. I know that purchasing ticket online can be a challenge for those who don't know Japanese but you can get tickets at any JR stations in Osaka.
The entrance gate of the Universal Studios Japan is located five minutes from Universal City Station. From Osaka Station, there are several direct trains per hour (15 minutes, 180 Yen) for an easy transfer to the Nishikujo Station. From that station, take the JR Yumesaki Line (also referred to as JR Sakurajima Line) to the Universal City Station.
I wish you can just swish and flick or ride a train at platform 9 3/4 but these directions are relatively easy to follow. Trust me, you don't need Hermione. Just read the signs and you won't be lost.
With my new purchased wand from the Ollivanders, I chant Verdimillious! See you at the park!