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Owls, Wizards, and Wands, Oh My!

Harry Potter World at USJ

A magical village of wizarding wonders has opened at Universal Studios Japan this summer! If you’ve been harboring childhood fantasies of Butterbeer, magic wands, or singing toads, read on to learn more about making the most of your magical journey!


The Harry Potter World at USJ is significantly smaller than its Orlando counterpart, but remains a must for any diehard. In Japan you can take a short, but exciting stroll down the center of Hogsmeade. Throughout the small park you’ll see giant wooden barrels attached to small stalls selling Butterbeer! This nonalcoholic drink is very sweet and comes in two varieties – regular and iced. The iced version tends to be a bit more enjoyable as the melting ice helps to water down the sugary taste. Both kinds are topped with marshmallow-like foam.

Just past Hogwarts Station, you’ll find the Three Broomsticks and the Hog’s Head. Note that the Three Broomsticks is the only place to buy hot food in Harry Potter World. It’s set up like a giant cafeteria. First you wait in line to get in, then you wait in line to order food, then you are escorted to available seats. Food options are western including fish and chips, roasted chicken, and a kids menu. The Hog’s Head is in the same building and only serves takeaway drinks including real beer.

Just next to the Three Broomsticks is your favorite confectionary, Honeydukes. You’ll find all your favorites – Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Chocolate Frogs (complete with collectible Wizard Cards), Tooth-Splintering Strong Mints, and much more! Fair warning, prices are exorbitant – \1,800 for a box of Every Flavour Beans, \1,200 for a Chocolate Frog.


hp_zoniko'sNext door to Honeydukes is Zonko’s Joke Shop. You’ll enter via the front entrance of Honeydukes. Zonko’s is a treat to wander through; Fred and George would approve of the décor. The product line is limited to Fanged Frisbees, Sneakoscopes, Pygmie Puffs (the stuffed version), and Extendable Ears.


As expected, the packaging at Honeydukes and Zonko’s perfectly matches the designs seen in the movies. Note that the joint stores have a long queue that starts forming immediately once the park opens. You may wait over an hour to enter the store. Once inside, you’ll shuffle through both locations before following the line to registers.


Unlike the books, this version of Hogsmeade has its own Olivander’s Wand Shop. The interior of the store is a near perfect replica from your imagination, with dusty wand boxes stuffed into every corner. You can purchase character wands or find the appropriate wood type for your birthday or personality. You can also visit an attraction attached to the shop, if you don’t mind waiting in line. Visitors are ushered through a secret passageway and introduced to Olivander himself! Olivander puts on a perfect, bilingual performance as he helps a young audience member find the perfect wand!

Other familiar shops exist around Hogsmeade including Dervish and Bangs, Gladrags Wizardwear (get your own robe!), and the Owl Post. You can catch some shade under the covered picnic area where you might spot a live owl and its trainer. If you’re looking for refreshments, visit one of the drink stalls and grab some water or a bottle of delicious pumpkin juice (it tastes like mulled wine, without the wine).


As you turn the corner towards Hogwarts Castle, you’ll notice a small stage. Here, the Hogwarts choir serenades the crowd with a performance every hour (times may vary in the fall). Additionally, students from the Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic will dance and greet guests in preparation for the Triwizard Tournament.


The crowning glory of Harry Potter World is, of course, Hogwarts Castle. The castle is the home of the main ride attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Hop onboard your Firebolt and fly around the castle with Harry and 4K resolution technology. This digitally enhanced experience takes visitors across the Quidditch Field, into the Forbidden Forest, and several other landmark locations. Hopefully you don’t come across any dementors! This ride moves at pleasant pace but does include sharp turns, simulated falling, and a few upside-down moments. Motion sickness is possible.


The queue begins outside of Hogwarts and winds through the greenhouse. Inside, you’ll stash your bags in a locker (it’s okay to bring your phone inside for pictures if you have deep pockets). The line then winds through Hogwarts with plenty of entertainment along the way – talking paintings, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, and several other points of interest.


At the exit of the Forbidden Journey is Filch’s Emporium. This is the main souvenir shop in the park and the only place that sells individually wrapped omiyage-style treats. As the day goes on, a multi-hour line will form outside the shop so buy your omiyage early!


C360_2014-07-28-18-58-20-255The only other ride inside Harry Potter World is the Flight of the Hippogriff. This mini-rollercoaster ride lasts for less than ten seconds and you could probably play chess with the person next to you as the ride is in motion. Enjoy strolling around Hagrid’s Hut as you wait.


Personal Experience: I had a blast! The park is small and could easily be covered in three hours or less, if there were no crowds. The lines for Honeydukes and Filch’s Emporium are no joke, although I think Honeydukes and Zonko’s are worth the wait. In the late afternoon, I did see a street cart selling Chocolate Frogs and other candies, but the variety was limited. Be sure to visit the bathrooms which are hilariously decorated in various shades of fake mold and include a soundtrack of Moaning Myrtle. The Forbidden Journey is pretty cool and though the line is long, walking through the different sets enhances the experience. Tip: it is possible to sneak to the head of the line if you ask an attendant for the “singles’ line”. You’ll be led through the castle down a plane boring hallway, skipping the statues and scenery, but your wait will be much shorter.


Most importantly, plan ahead! I visited Harry Potter World on a Monday during summer vacation. We took the first train of the day to USJ, arriving at 7:00 a.m. We waited in line for tickets, which started selling at 7:30 a.m. Then we waited in line to enter the park; the gates open at 8:30 a.m. (attractions open at 9:00 a.m.). We ran straight from the park entrance to Harry Potter World and got in just in time. Once Harry Potter World reaches capacity, visitors are given admission tickets and cannot enter until later in the day. Our friends arrived at USJ at 9:00 a.m. and could not enter until 5:00 p.m.!


hp_castle and butterbeerFun fact: All of the performing wizards and witches are western actors. If you’re a foreigner of western descent and you show up in costume, some guests might think you’re part of the performance and ask to take pictures with you!



Claire Bronchuk



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