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When I found out that there was a Harry Potter theme park in Asia, just a 6-hour flight away from Singapore, I instantly booked my flight to Osaka! Yes, I am a proud Potterhead. #HufflepuffPride. And with the thousands and thousands of Potter fans like me, I expected a huge crowd at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in USJ. So, I put on my
sorting planning hat and did as much research as possible to make the most out of my day!
Whether you are a serious Potterhead (like me!!!) or have never even seen the movies (well, where have you been the last 10 years?), the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) will still dazzle your socks off, with magical experiences at every turn; you’ll feel like you’re in an entirely different world! And isn’t it nice to put your worries behind and escape the real world once in a while?
When should I go?
Of course, the thing with theme parks is that they are always crowded. And with Osaka being such a popular holiday destination, WWoHP and USJ is no different. So it is essential that you time your trip properly.
This crowd calendar is super nifty in forecasting how congested the park can get on any given day. Unfortunately, the website is in Japanese, but Google Chrome can translate it into some very inaccurate but funny English, but it suffices.
For example, below you’ll see the forecast for February 2018 vs March 2018, and you’ll see that February is a much better time to visit than March.
Based on this information, the general dates to avoid are:
- Weekends (this is a no-brainer)
- Public holidays (another given)
- Spring school holidays: late February – late March (explains the screenshots above!)
- Summer school holidays: late July – late August
- Winter holidays: late December – early January
- Golden Week – April 29 – May 5
So what are the best times to visit then?
Apparently, Wednesdays and Thursdays have the least crowds, as Japanese schools sometimes have excursions to the park on Mondays and Tuesdays (lucky kids!). The best months to go are the slightly colder months, even starting in September when the weather is just perfect until the colder month of January.
Types of USJ Tickets
If you were just interested in visiting WWoHP, you’d be out of luck if you thought you could just purchase tickets for that and skip USJ. You’ll still need to buy a Universtal Studios Pass which will then allow you entry into WWoHP.
1-Day Studio Pass (¥7,900 for adults, ¥5,400 for children under 11)
This is the most basic pass you can get to enter the park. There’s also a 2-day option (¥13,400 for adults, ¥9,000 for children) if you want to spend more time, but I personally think that the park isn’t that big that you would need 2 days.
Universal Express Pass (from ¥5,200)
The Express Pass is an add-on that you can purchase on top of your Studio Pass that will allow you to skip lines to certain attractions. This pass includes the two rides in the WWoHP, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D and Flight of the Hippogriff. Lines for the Forbidden Journey ride can sometimes take up to 2-3 hours so I would definitely recommend the Express Pass so you can save time! The Express Pass is only valid once per ride though, so if you’ve already used up your Express Pass on the Forbidden Journey Ride, you’ll have to queue up for the next round (which you’ll probably wanna do cause it’s just the funnest ride ever).
Timed Entry Tickets (Free)
Due to the overwhelming crowds at WWoHP, you’ll need to get a timed entry ticket to enter this part of the park, and without one, you will be denied entry. However, during low season, you might get away without one. When I went in September, we could walk in and out freely without a timed entry ticket (though we had one) as the park wasn’t too crowded. But don’t risk it, and just get the Timed Entry Ticket as it’s free anyway!
There are two ways to get a Timed Entry Ticket:
- Get it at the Harry Potter ticket machine, located at Central Park. Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes (earlier in high season) before the park opens, so you can rush to the machines the second it opens! Even when I was there on a quiet day in September, there were people sprinting to the machine to get their Timed Entry Tickets! Be sure to enter the earliest time possible so you can have the whole day there. This option is free.
- Buy an Express Pass, as the Forbidden Journey ride is included in the pass.
TIP: Purchase your tickets in advance!
For two great reasons:
- It’s cheaper than buying them at the gate, and
- You won’t have to queue for tickets!
What not to miss!
1. Admire the Hogwarts Castle and wonder how your acceptance letter got lost in the mail
Til today, I’m still wondering where my acceptance letter is… but I was awestruck seeing the Hogwarts castle in person. This grandiose building holds The Best Ride Ever, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D, which you absolutely 100000% have to ride! Even a scaredy-cat like me who avoids rollercoasters like the plague, loved this ride sooo much. It’s a 4D ride so you’ll be immersed in the wizarding world, playing Quidditch, and riding dragons, but I shan’t spoil it for you! Just see for yourself 🙂 But the ride’s not all there is in the castle. As you walk in the castle, you’ll see Dumbledore’s office and you’ll even get to see the famous trio, Ron, Hermione and Harry! The castle is decorated beautifully so it’s a treat in itself.
2. Drink Butterbeer
Of course, if you’ve watched the movie or read the books, you’d have heard of the wizards’ favorite, Butterbeer. Don’t be misled by the name as it tastes nothing like beer nor butter! It’s a shockingly sugary drink that’s perrrfect for any wizard (or muggle!). If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can even top it off with ice cream to take this sweet concoction to the next level! You can also purchase the drink in this souvenir mug that you can take home!
3. Board the Hogwarts Express
Well, not really. But you can take pictures with the model train, and the conductor!
4. Get your sugar high at Honeydukes
Aah, Honeydukes. For every sweet tooth out there. They have sweets featured in the Potterverse like Chocolate Frogs (which comes with a card with a great wizard just like in the movies) and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.
7. Choose a wand (or let it choose you!) at Ollivanders
Now, if you’re going to start your term at Hogwarts, you’ll definitely need to pick up a wand! You can get them custom made just for you, or pick up a replica of your favourite character including Harry’s, Hermione’s, Ron’s, Dumbledore’s, Snape’s, Voldermort’s and more! You can actually cast spells with select magic wands in the WWoHP and make store displays move which is pretty cool! Prices start from ¥3,500.
Tucked in a little alley next to Ollivander’s is a lesser-known attraction where you actually get to meet Ollivander! One lucky participant can play the part of Harry and get a wand picked out especially for them! Check your park guide for specific timings.
8. Get fitted for robes
You can deck yourself out in your house uniform and take as many selfies as you want and not get any weird looks cause everyone’s doing it! #NoShameInMyGame. The robes were way too expensive (around ¥12,000) so a picture had to do.
9. Visit Moaning Myrtle in the female bathrooms
No kidding! They modelled the female toilets after the one in the movies and you can even hear Moaning Myrtle in there!
9. Shop your socks off (and free Dobby!) at Hogsmeade
Once I was done with The Forbidden Journey ride, I spent most of my afternoon in Hogsmeade, combing the shops for the best souvenirs. And trust me, there is so much to see, and so much more you’d want to take home!
9 3/4. Fly the Ford Anglia (or at least, try)
Right at the entrance, you’ll see the Ford Anglia that Ron and Harry crashed into the whomping willow! It makes a great photo op!
Getting to Universal Studios Japan
Take the JR Yumesaki Line (covered by the Japan Rail Pass, yay! – find out more about getting a JR Pass with this comprehensive guide) to Universal City Station. From the station, it’s just a 5 minute walk through the University City Walk which has tons of photo ops as well!
To sum up, I had the best day at WWoHP. For any Potterfreak, I would 100000% recommend going on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It was the best ride of my life! I’d also recommend the Express Pass so you can maximise your day as much as possible! Leave me a comment if you think I’ve missed any magical tips out!