geeks

First (well, second) Visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

12:00 AM



I put first in the title because, well, it was my first time actually doing anything in the Harry Potter area. The first first time I went, the crowds were so thick that waiting in line for anything would’ve lost us One Piece Premiere Show time, so we only gave it a quick look around before heading over to Waterworld.

Anyway, as it was also my birthday that day, I went full on Hogwarts student (Ravenclaw, despite whatever that site says) while Shota suffered silently by my side (actually, he wanted his own uniform although he knows almost nothing about the series).  I think I got the skirt, sweater, and tie from a Chinese wholesaler via eBay, while the cape is from the official shop in Hogsmeade (omg $$$$). I would recommend, especially if you’re going with small kids, that you just get them a cape from one of the Harry Potter Halloween costume bags, it will save you money and the eventual argument you will get into with your kid after they see every other kid in the park with one.



We got to the park pretty late in the day since I was only interested in Harry Potter land, and if you enter the park after 3pm or so (I can’t find it written on their site), you can get a pass at a discounted price. Luckily, there were still tickets available to get into Wizarding World of Harry Potter that day, though it probably helped that it wasn’t a holiday or the weekend.

Although, for a day that was neither the weekend nor a holiday, it was still hella crowded. To be quite honest, I’ve never been to USJ on a day that it hasn’t been crowded, but I still think that day exists... somewhere. Maybe in leap years.


After getting into the area, we made a bee line to the Flight of the Hippogriff, the only roller coaster in the area. The wait time was 70 minutes, which isn’t bad for USJ, a little lower than average, but while we were moving through the line, the ride was shut down (due to high winds I believe). For about 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, though, most of the patrons had already left to find something else to enjoy, so once the ride was back up, it was only another 20 or so minutes, and I got to ride in the front (obviously, I turned 9 this year…).

Inside the attraction area of Ollivanders Shop.

We did stop for one of the street shows, the Frog Choir, but sitting on the cold, hard ground is not much fun, so we didn’t stay long. Shortly after, we wandered into Ollivanders Shop, which includes a short show (of sorts) before entering the shop. You can also skip the mini show and go straight into the shop from another entrance as well. Unfortunately, there’s always a ridiculous line for Zonko’s Joke Shop, so we skipped that, and headed for the castle.

Decorations leading to the Forbidden Journey.

I was hoping there would be another coaster inside, and though there wasn’t, I wasn’t completely disappointed. Within the castle is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was an interesting mix of 3D graphics and... flinging? Be careful with this one as there is a lot of jerking around and spinning in the attraction, though it’s not scary. It reminds of a better Amazing Spider-Man ride.
Unfortunately, with rides like the Forbidden Journey, there are lockers for your bags before you can get into the line for the ride (actually, it’s between the line to get into the castle and the line to actually get on the ride). This means that everyone and their moms (literally) are pushing, shoving, and running to get to the locker’s and back into the line for the ride while there are people coming off the ride to get their things from the lockers or run back into line. What I’m saying is that it’s a clusterf*#$ of magnificent proportions in the tiniest of spaces. And the poor staff, bless their hearts, just kind of look on in silent horror. After one round on the Forbidden Journey, we wanted to take a look around the souvenir shop connected to the ride, but that was so crowded as well that it made any kind of browsing impossible.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still in its first season, and still very popular in USJ, so I can only suggest that anyone coming to USJ just for Harry Potter should be prepared for the worst. And if you’re coming for USJ’s Universal Cool Japan events, then prepare for even worse and bring extra cash (the Resident Evil attraction requires an extra 2500 yen or so). 

OMOTENASHI METER 3
おもてなし度★★★


Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you get 3 stars out of 5. You aren’t terrible, but I’ve had much better and you almost always have me leaving the park feeling rather unsatisfied. While your staff seem really motivated and into their roles at the park, they often turn a blind eye to kids/parents that cut in line or do things that could cause trouble to other customers. You also make it incredibly difficult to find information, whether it be on your site or at the park. Although, when you finally locate a staffer to help you, they’re incredibly nice and polite. 

Also, whenever you have large events like the Christmas musical or the zombie Halloween event, your crowd control seems to cause more harm than help (I’ve been pushed and kicked way too many times to count), and while you’re not directly to blame (really, shitty people are), I feel like you guys have to take steps for better crowd control (ala Disneyland ::cough cough:: ). What really brings down your Omotenashi meter is the obvious cash grab in your “express pass” booklets. 40 extra bucks per person is a lot to pay for express entrance to Backdraft or Back to the Future. Maybe try implementing a timed ticket process similar to what they offer at Tokyo Disneyland ::cough cough:: where customers can get a ticket for timed entry later at no extra charge. I feel like that would improve the overall sense of worthlessness that usually comes around at the end of the day.

TL;DR Version:

  • Make your information, whether in Japanese or English, more readily accessible. Info for popular events should be the first thing you see on your site, not buried in a series of clicks.
  • Watch out for wayward kids and unobservant parents.
  • Unless you have a ticket with your ticket, you’ll probably miss that special event you went to USJ for.
  • On the plus side, USJ has a plethora of seasonal events that make a season pass very much worth it.
  • Tokyo Disneyland is probably a better deal, all things considered. :<

★Peaces★

P.S. 

English-language Reservation Service for USJ: Voyagin




If you're looking for an English-language service for getting your USJ tickets, check out Voyagin! They'll help you get your park tickets, they have express passes and they can get you train tickets for your trip to the park. If you need them to, they can even print and send your tickets to your hotel, but make sure to read the instructions on how.

Click here to access Voyagin's USJ reservation page.


What is ‘Omotenashi Meter’?

Omotenashi was the slogan used by Japan when they did their presentation for holding the 2020 Olympics. It was based on the premise that customer service is the best, and while it’s pretty good, it can also be pretty lacking in certain places. The meter is my personal way of rating the customer service level of various attractions and sightseeing spots in Kansai Japan. It’s based on my personal experience with the staff, the availability of information (Japanese in most cases as this is a country where the national language it Japanese), and other common tenets of CS. As this is something I made, you don’t have to take it seriously, but I think it could provide a nice, slightly less biased view of what’s worth seeing in Japan, and what is not.

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