I have a Harry Potter obsession! I am a huge fan – the books had such a profound impact on so many of the children I`ve worked with over the years, I love the magical world, wizards astound me and the writing is excellent! I love Harry Potter. When I got off the plane and into the Kansai Airport, I was surprised to see massive scale pictures of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the airport – Katie told me there`s a Universal Studios in Osaka, and they have a Harry Potter land! Wow, was I excited to hear that. I am not much of a theme park girl – I`ve only ever been on one roller coaster, in the West Edmonton Mall! At the age of 12, I did enjoy Canada`s Wonderland in Toronto – but only went on fairly sedate rides like a water ride on a giant inner tube with seats. So… generally speaking, I`ve essentially been afraid of roller coasters and rides my entire life. So theme parks have never been a big draw for me – but HARRY POTTER! That`s a draw! And wizards and Hogwarts and Hagrid and Professor Dumbeldore! At Hillcrest, I ran a Harry Potter club each year, and one year we even tried playing Quidditch – I loved the club – I`d darken the room, put flameless candles on the tables, dress like Professor MacGonagal and have the kids sorted into houses, go to the woods to pick their own wands, make potions, and write spells! Super fun. SO – needless to say, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter put a spell on me.
Truth be told, I kind of forgot about it, when I heard it was about $80 to get in! Cheap bastard, I am! But, a friend went and told me about it the next day so I got really excited about seeing Hogsmead and drinking butterbeer. Her advise was to go before it opened, try to get a timed reservation – go directly there or directly to Harry Potter land, and to go on a Tuesday that was rainy. Well, Tuesdays is a good day for me, I usually meet a friend at 4:30 so I left the house around 7:15 one Tuesday morning that was overcast and headed on my way. There is a train stop called Universal City – so it was pretty easy to find the way. The train was even decorated up with photos of Ron, Hermione and Harry from the movie version on the outside. I stepped aboard and got off at Platform 9 and ¾. Well… not exactly, but at the entrance to Universal Studios Japan! I was just over an hour early, and there were many gates to get in, and there was a tonne of people there already! About thirty minutes before opening, a roller coaster overhead of the entranceway started doing some dry runs, and mascot characters such as Shrek and Fiona started coming out of somewhere and parading around inside the Studio land, and the excitement hummed through the crowd. They opened ten minutes early, starting with the far right-hand gate – gate 1. Haha. I think I was at gate 9 or something, so I had a bit of time. If I were to go again, I`d wait at gate 1! The first people through ran which kind of baffled me – clearly they had no competition for lines! Actually, everybody who got through the gate ran! Kind of blew me away. I wondered what they were running for and made my way to the Harry Potter early ticket gate but was told they weren`t open yet – nor could I be told when they would be opened. So, I headed through a forest with creepy noises, saw Ron`s flying car, and at last saw the entrance to Hogsmead. The Hogwarts Express had arrived at Platform 9 and ¾ and I was bursting like a kid full of Fizzing Whizzbees!
I followed the small but significant crowd to a swarm outside of the gates of the school castle, Hogwarts. I really didn`t know what I was lining up for, but eventually came to a sign that told me it was an hour and fifty minute wait. Yikes! As I was enthralled with the castle, the line was constantly moving forward, and it appeared to be wrapping around the castle, I decided to stay with it. We went through the Forbidden Forest complete with the Whomping Willow, saw the greenhouse where Professor Sprout grows her herbs, and caught glimpses of artwork and statues in darkened hallways. Impressive tour, even though it wasn`t active! After some time (35 minutes), I entered – we saw floating candles, moving paintings on the castle walls, the Great Room of Gryffindor, Dumbledore`s office, and generally enjoyed the ambience. We entered a chaotic locker room to put all our belongings, as there was a jet coaster ride to come! I gulped, and figured what the hell…. There were elastics to put on your sandals but I hoped my birks would stay on! I fumbled my way through and found the line again and soon found myself strapped into a ride and flying off in darkness, listening to Japanese voices of my beloved characters telling a story. I didn’t really understand but enjoyed the sights, the leaps in my intestines, and the excitement of the 3-D projection. I strained to grab the snitch in Quidditch, tried to catch the characters on their broomsticks and ducked and hid from the fire breathing dragon. I enjoyed it a lot!
After the two rides were done, I wandered through Hogsmead – saw the wands of many famous wizards, spied the chocolate frogs (MAssive and solid chocolate, which I wasn`t expecting), Bertie Bott`s Many Flavoured Beans, saw the Owl Post Office, saw an owl, ate at the Three Broomsticks and drank Butterbeer. The attention to detail (like bird poop on the rafters outside the Owl Post Office and the fake snow on the buildings) was outstanding. It was a former Props Mistress’s heaven!!! It was a magical morning that I am so glad I got to experience. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter bewitched me, for sure!