One of the highlights of my visit to Japan had to be Harry Potter land in Universal Studios Japan. I love Harry Potter, and it was great to see how excited the Japanese people got about it all. It was quite an experience so I thought I would share it.
The park itself can be incredibly busy and unsurprisingly the Harry Potter area is one of the most crowded. This means during busy periods there is a timed entry system.
People who are fortunate enough to afford fast passes will automatically be given an entry time. And queue jump for the main ride.
The rest of us have two options:
1) Get to the timed ticket booth as quickly as possible and get a ticket. And accept that on busy days these might already be sold out.
2) Run like you’ve never run before and get into Harry Potter land before they limit people entering.
I went for the latter. But so did almost everyone else!
Getting Into Harry Potter Land
I’ll set the scene. We arrived at 8am (90 minutes before the park was due to open). There was already moderate queues both at the gate and for tickets.
My boyfriend joined the ticket queue. And I headed to the gate. It took my boyfriend a little while to get the tickets as almost everyone else was buying fast passes (which seemed to slow things down). But thankfully he reached me in the gate queue before they opened. It’s worth buying tickets in advance if you can.
We waited in a rather orderly line – there are USJ staff around to make sure no one queue jumps and that lines don’t merge.
We’d heard the gates open early if a sufficient crowd has gathered outside, which was the case for us. They opened at 9.15am rather than the advertised opening time of 9.30am. Apparently they sometimes open up to an hour early – so bare this in mind.
As the gates open and the crowds start flooding in. For some reason the queues on the right moved a lot quicker than ours on the left, and we looked on in horror as everyone was running to Harry Potter land while we were trapped behind the ticket barrier.
Finally we were through, and we ran. My boyfriend sprinted, as we planned for him to get timed tickets if we were out of luck. And I managed to maintain a moderate run.
I saw some middle aged, overweight fans slumped over, while trying to maintain a jog, in order to get to Harry Potter land. And others slipped over as they tried to dash through the gates. It was all quite a sight.
Finally we felt relief when we reached the entrance to the Harry Potter land. However I was unsure where they put up the barriers, so I carried on running through the Forbidden Forest until I was safely in Hogsmeade. (For those who are interested the barriers are at the start of the Forbidden Forest – so if you’ve got that far you’re in!)
We managed to get to on the ride fairly swiftly. It would have been a 10 minute wait, but unfortunately it broke down for 30 mins or so. But still not the 2-4 hour wait I had been dreading. The queue line takes you through Hogwarts, so even if you have to queue it’s a fun place to be.
The ride itself is great and we ended up going on it 3 times (once in the morning, and twice again before leaving the park). I won’t go into details as I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
Be warned the queues can be bad. As we left the ride for the first time the queue had jumped to 200 minutes! Yes, over 3 hours! This was at about 10.30am. So we were relieved to have gotten on when we did. But later in the day the queues were much shorter, at around 30-40 minutes.
We also went on the Flight of the Hippogriff as there was no queue at around 4.30pm. We had low expectations, as everyone had described it as a ‘kiddy coaster’. But it was surprisingly fast, and better than the small coasters in the UK. You also see things you’d miss otherwise, such as Hagrids Hut and Buckbeak.
Hogsmeade was probably my favourite part of Harry Potter land. We spent a good while browsing the shops – Honeydukes, Zonkos, etc. And we went into Ollivanders for the mini show – it’s hilarious as the actor is Western and seamlessly changes the script from English to Japanese and back.
We headed to the Three Broomsticks for lunch. Vegetarians be warned there are no veggie options! Pescatarians are okay as there is fish and chips, but the rest is all very meaty. There is also Butter Beer to try, which was yummy but a bit sweet. I would recommend having it with food or the sweetness might get a bit much.
The Rest Of The Park
Of course Universal Studios has a lot to offer in addition to Harry Potter land. The best ride we went on was the new Jurassic Park rollercoaster. I would definitely recommend having a go – don’t be put off by queue times as they are usually shorter than advertised.
The Hollywood Dream Backdrop was great fun, and worth queuing a little longer for (compared with the forward version). It goes on for a good little while, and you enjoy some J-Pop as you go round.
Jaws is missable – a fairly long queue as its a good family ride, and everyone seems to have a fast pass.
Spider-Man is okay, but not as good as Transformers at the Singapore US.
The Jurassic Park water ride is okay if you have time, or if the queue is short (but again the one at Singapore is better).
Tips For Harry Potter Land
▪️You don’t need an express pass – either you can run first thing, or go in the afternoon when it’s quieter.
▪️Avoid weekends and public holidays. Tuesdays or Wednesdays are best.
▪️Don’t be put off by rain – the queues are mostly indoors and it’ll keep some of the crowds away.
▪️Make sure you arrive at the main gates early (at least one hour before opening).
▪️Where possible buy tickets in advance. If you haven’t and are a pair (or more). One person queue for tickets while the other reserves a place in the queue for the gate.
▪️If you get in to Harry Potter land with the first batch head straight for the main ride. Other people will stop to take pictures making the queue shorter.
▪️Go later in the day once families have gone home for the day. It was a lot quieter in the late afternoon compared with morning/lunch time.
▪️If you have the money pay for a fast pass and/or stay in one of the USJ hotels that offer early entry. (Personally I see this one as a last resort – don’t believe the blogs that tell you it’s essential for everyone!)
Last of all – enjoy yourself! I thought I’d be embarrassed running but almost everyone is! So it’s a pretty fun atmosphere. All the USJ staff wave as you go past, and it’s a wonderful feeling when you finally get into the magical land.