March 6, 2015
Back in January, we visited Kobe and Osaka. Last week we shared a phenomenal food experience with our What is Kobe Beef video, and this week we’re sharing one of our most memorable experiences of our lives: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, Japan.
Have we got any Harry Potter fans in the house? I should certainly hope so because wow, what an amazing book series and accompanying movie series. Interestingly, when Simon and I just got married he wasn’t interested in Harry Potter because he had only seen a few of the movies without reading the books and thought they were just “meh”. Of course I forced (I mean, gently and lovingly suggested) him to read the books. Simon learned the error of his ways and entered the magical world of Harry Potter. We even went to the bookstore for the midnight release of the final book. Memories!
As with most movies based on books, the books tend to be more in depth with the characters since they don’t have a time limit. By reading the book and then watching a movie you totally understand the characters even when the director leaves gaps in the movie while people who don’t read the book suffer questions like, “why would they do that?” or “that was a random decision” or “why wouldn’t he/she just do this?” So even though Simon suffered this kind of Harry Potter confusion at first, he is totally a convert now. We’ve had visiting Harry Potter world on our bucket list since I heard it was being built. I never dreamed they would open one so close to us, and by close to us I mean in Japan.
So I want this blogpost to be both a fun read and also a helpful read to those of you thinking of traveling to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios. Alright, onto storytelling time! Yes. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was freaking mind blowing and everything you ever wanted it to be. I’m not going to make this easy for you. It wasn’t like visiting a movie set or a theme park, it was a completely all encompassing world of magic. As you walk down the tree lined path towards the entrance way of Hogsmeade the theme music begins to make your toes tingle with excitement and you feel like a first year student about to see the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first time. The second you walk through that archway into Hogsmeade you are no longer in Universal Studio. I mean, the rest of the Universal Studio theme park is exactly like being on a cheesy studio set but Hogsmeade is a working town with a towering life sized Hogwarts perched on a huge cliff in the distance. SSSSSSQQQQQQQQQQUUUUUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAALLLLL!!!!
From the cobblestone roads to the slanted buildings coated in a magical puff of snow, it feels totally real. The small details like the window pains looking like they have aged glass to the wood beams being actually made of wood and smelling like wood completely immerse you. Yes, it is very crowded so for some of the shops it’s a slow squishy moving experience, but we found that it started out very crowed around 1:30pm – 4:30 and after that it started empty out. We went to every single shop and rode on every single ride so here’s our advice on getting the most out of your visit to Universal Studios and Hogsmeade.
Universal Studio Japan lets you bring in your own food and they don’t even check your bags. We visited the Lawson’s convenience store located on the pathway leading up to the park entrance before entering the park at 10am in the morning and sat on a bench eating a yummy Japanese bento box. We packed water and some onigiri (stuffed rice triangles) and it saved us a lot of money since we didn’t have eat at the hotel for breakfast. My only regret is not getting a coffee because there was only one shop that offered it inside Universal Stuidos and it was expensive and small…but I bought it in desperation. By the time we ate through our snack supply we entered Hogsmeade at 1:30pm (timed ticket entry I’ll explain below) and waited in an over 45 minute lineup to eat at The Three Broomsticks pub.
The giant winding lineup leads up to a multiple front cashiers where you place your order cafeteria style, then you move to a different location to pick up your food, and then you’re seated in the lovely big pub area. Make sure you order everything you want at the cashier as there are no waiters to take your order. We got two glasses of hot butterbeer (which is only available in the winter time) and we paid extra to have them served in take home heat resistant plastic butterbeer mugs. I figure it is a nice souvenir that can actually be used at home! All the food was based off of British pub food and it was all pretty yummy, but it was expensive. I was happy we brought our snacks earlier on because there were no other eating options in Hogsmeade besides candy.
The Three Broomsticks shared a joint seating space with The Hog’s Head pub which offers a couple different kinds Harry Potter themed beer, like, actually beer, and the lineup is much shorter. However, that’s because you can’t order food there and there is no seating for people who order just beer, so the seating we saw was just overflow from The Three Broomsticks. But if you want to grab a beer and stand around the bar, no problem! If you want to sit down and eat, go back and wait in that giant ass lineup.
You have to pay for a basic ticket to get entrance into Universal Studios and that cost 7,200 yen ($75) with tax per adult. This basic ticket allows you to go on all the attractions at Universal Studios but there kept being a mention of buying an Express Pass to shorten your wait in line. We weren’t going to buy it but in the end we thought, we’re flying all the way to Japan to visit this place ONE TIME ONLY, let’s just do it. Thank goodness we did because the lineups were huge and we would have waited hours for just one attraction. In the end we paid the off-season price of 4,700 yen ($48) with tax for the Universal Express Pass 5 which allows you to pick five out of the seven top attractions to use the Express Line as well gave us an automatic Timed Ticket Entry into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We went to just three of the normal Universal Studio attractions (Spiderman 4D, Jurassic Park and Space Fantasy) and that took us from 10am – 1:00pm using the Express Line up which allowed us to blow past the jumbo lines and wait in a shorter one. They scan your express pass before each ride so they know if you’ve used it over the limit. But just imagine how long it would have taken if we didn’t have these passes. However, if you have no interest on going on these rides (there were fun but cheesy) pay for the basic entrance ticket and immediately go to get your free Timed Entry Tickets into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as soon as those gates open.
Whatever you do, don’t skip getting this ticket! It’s free but you need it! It is so freakin’ busy in Harry Potter land that it’s the only attraction that requires you to get a (free) timed ticket entry pass. They stagger the times on these tickets to let giant waves of people enter in a more controlled manor. But once you’re in, there is no time limit to how long you stay in Harry Potter land! WOOOO!!!! As I mentioned before, buying an Express Pass automatically gave us a timed ticket entry but our time was disappointing late at 2:45pm. We ran into some lovely fans that got their timed tickets at the machine in the park and just happened to find an extra one on the ground for 1:30pm. They were kind enough to give us this extra ticket so we got in over an hour early. We stayed at Harry Potterland until the park closed so we were really grateful for those tickets, thank you again!
This was the most awesome attraction at the park and all the other rides were just BLARG compared to it! In order to get on this ride you have to enter Hogwarts which is already freaking exciting. You put all your stuff into a locker and then you begin your walk to the ride entrance. Instead of waiting in a boring lineup with nothing around you get to “tour” Hogwarts and that makes just the walk to the ride amazing. You start off with the incredibly real talking portraits (ours were all in Japanese so we didn’t understand anything…HAHAHAH), you wind you way up the dimly lit stairs and down the corridors past classrooms, Professor Dumbeldore’s office, and even the Gryffindor common room. There are even holograms of various characters that walk around and interact in the rooms! Take your time and enjoy this amazing view of Hogwarts even if you don’t want to go on the ride. Eventually you’ll arrive at an amazing floating candle lit room with moving “benches”. You’re strapped into the benches and it takes you on an incredible 4D cinematic and theatrical experience where you fly on broomsticks, get fire blown on you (seriously yo) come face to face with real puppet Dementors (who are freaking terrifying) and more. It was mind blowing. Mind blowing. Oh and the Flight of the Hippogriff is a children’s roller coaster but we went on it anyways. We had the chance to see Hagrid’s hut while waiting in line so we went for it!
Don’t worry, you can buy evvvvvvvvvvvvvverything you’ve ever seen in the movies. This place is making serious bank. Dervish and Banges, The Owl Post, and Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods all sell overlapping merch but also some unique stuff made for each store. We visited everyplace just to see it all and nobody working there stopped you from filming, which was really cool. People even tried on robes and hats and the staff helped take pictures even though they didn’t buy anything.
I bought my awesome Hermione Granger light up wand at Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods located in Hogwarts. Currently I use a Big Bang glow stick to see at nighttime but now I have TWWWOOOOOOO options that are equally as cool. You can also get non-light up wands at Ollivander’s and there is also a theatrical performance in which Ollivander chooses a lucky audience member to try out a wand, but that is located on the other side of the shop. Honeydukes and Zonko’s Joke Shop shared the the same space, so even though there is a big line for Honeydukes you can see both shops in one go. We bought a pack of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and JUST filmed a WTF video about them with a surprise guest. You’ll just have to wait and see who has the worst luck and gets all the vomit flavoured beans.
There are four official Universal Studio Hotels and the only reason they are called official is because they are located directly outside the studio.
Hotel Kintetsu Universal City
Hotel Keihan Universal Tower
Hotel Keihan Universal City
Hotel Universal Port
Yes, it was totally worth staying at one of these hotels if you want to get the most out of your time at Universal Studios. I recommend any of these hotels but be aware that Hotel Universal Port is located on the other side of the subway station near the beach, hence Port. It’s still very very close by but you do have to cross the street. I just booked the cheapest possible deal that I could find from one of these four hotels because they are all so incredibly close to both the subway station and the studio it makes no difference.
However, if you want to see the rest of Osaka I wouldn’t recommend staying at these hotels for the whole trip since it’s very touristy. We stayed in a modern Japanese style apartment using Airbnb for our trip in Osaka and had booked the cheapest room at Keihan Universal City for just one night. We arrived as early as possible so that we could get into Universal Studios for its 10am opening. Even though check-in is at 2PM (the hottest time of day) we knew that we could leave our luggage behind free of charge. We bought our entrance tickets to Universal Studios in our hotel along with our Express Passes which was super convenient. We ended up staying at Universal Studios until they closed and then I hobbled back with my disgusting bloody feet (oh man…must see…all…Harry Potter land…) to our hotel which had already delivery our luggage up to our hotel room! Awesome. We got up early the next morning, checked out, walked 5 minutes to the subway, and headed to the airport.
When you leave the subway at the Universal City Station you directly exit onto the Universal Studio boardwalk. You don’t need a taxi or anything it’s just so close. This boardwalk winds past the four hotels, various name brand restaurants (like the Hard Rock Cafe), Lawson’s convenience store (great for cheap snacks), and it eventually ends at the Universal Studio entrance.
So that’s it! That’s our epic journey that was totally worth everything because IT WAS AWESOME and magical and everything I every wanted *ugly sobbing* I hope you can either live through my experience or be prepared for your own when you plan on going.
I have two questions for you:
have you ever been to Universal Studio or the wonderful Harry Potter land?
Have you been sorted into a Hogwarts House and which one is it? Even though I wanted to be a Slytherin I’m a Ravenclaw. Simon hasn’t been sorted yet but I think he’s going to end up in Hufflepuff. Hahahahhaha!
And we have some extra scenes as well, if you’re interested in some more Harry Potter magic!
Also, if you’re interested, we’ve got another scene available on our app WHICH IS SO CLOSE TO ANDROID LAUNCH IT ISN’T EVEN FUNNY! Rose is gonna beta test it a bit more, since she’s the only one with an Android phone, and once she gives us the thumbs up we’re going live on Android! Soon guise, soon!