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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 Japan (WWoHPJ) 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?
- 1 When should I go?
- 2 So what are the best times to visit then?
- 3 Types of USJ Tickets
- 4 1. Admire the Hogwarts Castle and wonder how your acceptance letter got lost in the mail
- 5 2. Drink Butterbeer
- 6 3. Board the Hogwarts Express
- 7 4. Get your sugar high at Honeydukes
- 8 7. Choose a wand (or let it choose you!) at Ollivanders
- 9 8. Get fitted for robes
- 10 9. Visit Moaning Myrtle in the female bathrooms
- 11 9. Shop your socks off (and free Dobby!) at Hogsmeade
- 12 9 3/4. Fly the Ford Anglia (or at least, try)
- 13 MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
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 Universal Studios Pass which will then allow you entry into WWoHP.
1-Day Studio Pass (¥7,900 ≈ $67 for adults, ¥5,400 ≈ $46 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 ≈ $134 for adults, ¥9,000≈ $90 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. Exclusively until 31 December 2019, USJ is offering a 1.5-day pass ($112 for adults) which will allow you to enjoy entry to the park from 3pm on the day of your arrival plus the entire following day, which gives you an extra 6 hours of fun!
Universal Express Pass (from ¥5,400 ≈ $57)
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. There are a few different types of Express Passes, depending on how many rides are included on the express pass. The Universal Express™ Pass 3 includes 3 rides, Universal Express™ Pass 4 includes 4 rides and Universal Express™ Pass 7 includes 7. But only the Universal Express™ Pass 4 and Express™ Pass 7 include the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D ride, with the Express Pass 7 including the additional Flight of the Hippogriff. Both Passes 4 and 7 includes timed entry into the Wizarding World.
I highly recommend getting at least Pass 4, as lines for the Forbidden Journey ride can sometimes take up to 2-3 hours so you’d save a bunch of time! I didn’t actually go on the Flight of the Hippogriff, but I don’t think you really need an Express Pass for this one. 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!!).
Click here to buy your express pass and get it sent to your email directly!
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 also 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!
Top things to do at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Japan
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! Still a surreal feeling imagining yourself boarding the train, off to a magical universe…
4. Get your sugar high at Honeydukes
This is probably where most Potterheads burn a hold in their pockets! It’s heaven 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! They’ve designed exactly like in the movies, so it’s such a treat! (Pun kinda intended)
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. Also, the souvenir shops are chock full of Harry Potter memorabilia I promise you’ll wanna take home!
9. Visit Moaning Myrtle in the female bathrooms
So you usually wouldn’t think that toilets were much of an attraction, but you can’t miss the toilets at Hogwarts! They’ve modelled the female toilets after the one in the movies and you can even hear Moaning Myrtle in there! It’s definitely worth a stop!
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!
If you much prefer to travel in style, or if you’re traveling in a big group, perhaps a private pick up would be more your style! Choose from a 7-seater or 10-seater, depending on your group size, plus there’s extra space for your luggage! Click here to book your private transfer!
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!
MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Here are my top travel tips and resources to help you save money and plan your trips effectively! If you're looking for more tips, head over to my travel tips resource page or my comprehensive guide on trip planning.
- Booking Flights: When it comes to finding great flight deals, I always start my search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. To save some cash, consider flying mid-week or on the weekends, opt for carry-on only with budget airlines, and be open to red-eye or early morning flights. Check out my in-depth guide on how I find the cheapest flights.
- Accommodations: I'm a stickler for finding the absolute best deals on my stays, so I will obsessively oscillate between a few booking sites: Booking.com (in general) and Agoda (for Asian destinations). When it comes to vacation rentals, there's Airbnb or VRBO.
- Travel Insurance: It's always a wise decision to purchase travel insurance for international trips. I can't stress this enough - it's highly recommended! For international travel insurance, I suggest considering World Nomads or SafetyWing. SafetyWing, in particular, stands out as one of the few policies that cover Covid-19. They also offer excellent monthly policies that are perfect for digital nomads and long-term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: My go-to travel credit card for booking trips is the Wise travel card. I love that there are no foreign transaction fees, so I can pay like a local and never get any surprises at the end of my trip. You can also withdraw cash from the ATMs wherever you are. With Wise, you are always guaranteed the best exchange rate, and I have saved sooo much money just by using this card. Most of the time, I get charged the exchange rate I see on Google, plus or minus a few cents.
- Tours: Most times, I prefer traveling independently but sometimes, getting a guide and a local's perspective makes the experience all the more enriching. When it comes to tour bookings, I trust Viator and GetYourGuide to provide me with excellent options. In Asia, I choose Klook as they are the biggest provider in the region. Plus, you can often get entrance tickets and discounted prices!
- Transportation: To navigate through public transit options and plan my journeys from one place to another, I rely on Rome2Rio. When it comes to rental cars, I compare rental companies and find the best deals through DiscoverCars.
- Connection: It's essential to me to have seamless connectivity wherever I go. I need it to navigate to new places, Google what's around me, and keep in touch with my loved ones. But fumbling around with multiple SIMs has always been a nightmare, which is why I choose Airalo when I travel. No more switching SIMs, just purchase a plan on your phone, on the go, anywhere, and stay connected.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever I need to check out early or take advantage of a long layover, I securely store my luggage with LuggageHero. It's a reliable service that allows me to roam around freely. As a bonus, you can use this link to enjoy your first hour of FREE luggage storage on me!
- What to Pack: I always have packing anxiety once I've left home—you know the phantom feeling that you've forgotten something even though you've checked 372836 times. So I made my own packing list and use it religiously before every trip, and by religious I mean I tick off that list at least 7 times before I zip up my bag. Check out my in-depth packing list here.