Growing up, I was never into theme parks. The rides scared the hell out of me, and overall, there was just too much noise and too many things happening. However, being Harry Potter fans, my friend and I decided that we should definitely make Universal Studios Japan (USJ) a stop, so we allotted a day in Osaka for our trip. We did our best to get there early, and thankfully the lines weren’t that bad. We got our timed-entry tickets for 10:15am at the WW ticket booth inside USJ, and off we went.

First stop: Take off – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once we got in the WW section, we strode down a “forest-y” path to the tunes of Hedwig’s Theme, stopped at a display of the Ford Anglia to take a picture, sped off, and finally arrived at the entrance of Hogsmeade. We quickly took some shots, and then made a beeline for the main attraction inside the Hogwarts Castle.

When we got there, the clock outside the ride indicated a 3-hour wait (it’s best to have snacks on hand so you don’t go hungry, but don’t drink too much or you’ll end up having to quit the line). Once inside the castle (there wasn’t anything particularly interesting outside, apart from Greenhouse Three), we saw the giant hourglasses, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, Defense against the Dark Arts classroom, and moving portraits in between. It was so exciting to see everything up close – the setting, the props, and the images of the characters talking to us (albeit a bit jarring, hearing them “speak” Japanese). Afterwards, we got to the locker rooms, left our stuff, and finally got on the ride.

The ride was amazing! A bit shorter than we’d hoped, but definitely worth the wait (this from someone who’s been terrified of rides all her life)! For me, what made the ride enjoyable and not scary was the safety harness, which secured us to our seats (unlike the usual “safety bar” that left a lot of room to slide around). If we didn’t have to wait another 2 ½ hours, we would definitely have gone on it again.

Second stop: Dress up – Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods. I knew I wanted a hoodie, and the minute I saw it, I immediately grabbed a Ravenclaw one in my size. My friend was already wearing her Ravenclaw robes, but that didn’t stop her from purchasing a Slytherin hoodie. After looking through all the shelves, we paid for our purchases, and I immediately swapped the jacket I was wearing for the hoodie. It was the perfect outfit for the weather and the place; there’s nothing quite like cosplaying to make you feel so immersed in that fantasy world.

Third stop: Pit Stop – Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom. We took some photos at a section that had the Hogwarts house flags, and my friend went to the bathroom. After a long wait, she emerged all excited because, of course, there was the sound of Myrtle chattering and singing inside.

Fourth stop: Sing along – Hogwarts Frog Choir. We walked to an open area in Hogsmeade and came across a stage, where we saw people clapping for the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students. Although we missed the performance, we were able to take a couple of shots with them. Then we saw a Butterbeer stand, which was timely. Nothing beats having a hot, foaming cup of butterbeer in that chilly weather. While sipping our butterbeer, we were surprised by the Hogwarts Frog Choir (an acapella group of 4 singers, 1 from each house, for each voice type), who came on stage and serenaded the crowd with songs from the movie, and in English too (much to our delight, as we were getting tired of not understanding a thing)!

Fifth stop: Eat and Shop – Three Broomsticks and all around. It was about 2pm when we finally decided we could afford some time for lunch. We went to The Three Broomsticks, where we waited for another hour before we finally sat down to eat. Nothing particularly fancy inside, but we enjoyed reliving everything we saw.
After the late lunch, we finally combed through the rest of Hogsmeade by passing through all the shops, taking pictures of the facades, and going through every nook and cranny. We also took a photo alongside the Hogwarts Express, passed through the Owl Post, doubled back to see (and take a photo of) the Hogwarts Castle awash in the “golden light” of the sunset. Finally, we went through Zonko’s and Honeydukes, bought a couple of sweets, and wistfully walked out into the muggle world again. We cannot wait to go back, hopefully to visit new attractions (a Diagon Alley perhaps?) and relive the magic.