With a mother who has been obsessed with the world of Hogwarts for almost twenty years, it was easy to predict that eight year old Sunshine would fall head over heels for Rowling's amazing series. When we let her know that we were heading to Japan for spring she quickly put the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan at the top of her Bucket List with the goal of transforming into Hermione for the day.
Having neatly packed her Gryffindor robes, Sunshine woke early to put them on, brushing her long brown hair into waves to complete her metamorphosis into her idol. She was buzzing all the way to the main gates on Universal Studios Japan, anticipating the most magical day of her life. In fact, it was a day the whole family would remember.
As we moved towards the attraction, we could hear something very familiar in the wind. I must admit that goosebumps of anticipation appeared on my arms. The magic started to swirl all around me. Once we were in the forest that leads to Hogwarts I was able to identify that Hedwig’s Theme was playing just as we ran into the Ford Anglia that Harry and Ron once crash-landed into the Whomping Willow. Sunshine was almost dancing in her boots, keen to get to the gates, keen to find herself a wand.
I was not anticipating that by the time we arrived at the gates we would be totally immersed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For some reason, the place even smelt like Hogwarts, or at least how my mind had imagined. Being in Japan, made it surreal enough for our brains to really believe.
Our first stop was Ollivanders. Sunshine needed a wand. After a short wait, we walked inside to find Ollivander himself ready to find us the perfect wand. When you visit, make sure that you go in here too. It was here that Striker, so far unmoved by everything that he had seen so far, moved from a muggle that couldn't see the magic to a bonafide wizard. We left with both kids holding a new wand which they could use at set stations around Hogsmeade.
The power to cast spells was incredibly exciting for both Sunshine and Striker. We spent an hour or more moving between the magic stations, each kid taking it in turns to try their hand at their incarnations. It's tricky work. Your first cast is not likely to work. You need to get the words and the movements right. I was impressed that it actually takes some work to get chimneys to pop, baggage to open and even to make it unexpectedly snow.
The main attraction at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in 4K3D attraction. I'm not usually one for rides, but I promised Sunshine that I would go on it with her which filled me with some trepidation. We had pre-purchased a FASTPASS which allowed us to skip the queue and move straight to the lockers where we needed to put every loose item we had on us. Even your iPhone needs to be put away. While the line can be long, Universal Studios have planned this out well, winding you through different parts of Hogwarts itself. You'll even spy Dumbledore's office!
The ride itself will take your breath away. You are strapped in to a contraption that, once the ride starts, will make you think you are on a broomstick with Harry and his friends. A game of Quidditch quickly becomes a whole different adventure which will see you propelled in all different directions. 8 year old Sunshine thought the whole thing was amazing. Striker decided to sit this one out, which was fairly easy to do as the park even has waiting rooms right near the ride entrance.
After hopping off the ride we headed straight to the Harry Potter: Flight of the Hippogriff ride which is a small rollercoaster, perfect for my less-thrill-seeking self, but fast enough to keep Sunshine amused. You'll walk through the Forbidden Forest and have a chance to see Hagrid’s Hut and see where the Care of Magical Creatures Class is held. The wait wasn't long and it was a fun ride, providing just the right punch to see me screaming my hearty out.
Of course, such excitement makes you hungry. We ate at the Three Broomsticks Inn which has a range of "English" offerings for those wanting a Harry Potter dining experience. Don't forget to try a Butterbeer! Whilst it is available hot or cold, I suggest grabbing the cold version. It is simply delicious. I just wish you could buy some to take home.
On our trip, the kids were keen to head back to the spell locations after we ate to try their wands all over again. They never got bored with this activity and probably would have spent all day doing this if I had allowed them. After some prompting I was able to move them through to Honeydukes sweetshop so I could grab some of the themed Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. We also grabbed a few little mementos to add to our trip memorabilia. We spent the rest of the afternoon spell casting and drinking Butterbeer.
Heading to a theme park seems to leave us quite tired by the end of the day so the last thing we wanted to do was navigate Osaka's public transport after a day at Universal Studios. A few months before our departure I had found a great deal on a family suite at Park Front Universal Hotel which I booked. This also meant that we could stay in the park right through to closing.