We woke up bright and early, aiming to reach Osaka USJ about half an hour before the official opening time (10am) as I had heard that the queues are insane and also they often allow admission much earlier than scheduled. We also wanted to make sure that we could get into the Harry Potter attraction area early before it got too crowded!
We got our tickets at Lawson – a combini (convenience store) – the day before so that we wouldn’t need to queue to buy admission tickets at USJ. We didn’t want to pay extra for Express passes since we’re not into rides in general so we just got the normal tickets at 7,200yen/pax.
In the end, we got there early but the gates were already open and there were already tons of people (although it was considered off-peak and not crowded by USJ standards!)…
The minute we entered, we started brisk walking/running to the Harry Potter area to get timed tickets for entry. Timed tickets are issued to control the number of people entering the Harry Potter area. We managed to get tickets for 10.20am and erm, managed to get in at 10.05am instead of waiting. Having done some research, I’d read that they sometimes allow you in if you’re a little earlier (but I doubt it works if you try going in at 10.40am if your timed ticket says 2.30pm) and so we tried our luck… and yay, we got in!
(Click here) for a video!
After a walk through the woods, we entered the village of Hogsmeade!
The Hogwarts Express…
“Snow”-capped roofs of the shops in Hogsmeade!
You can find Butterbeer being sold at various places – not just restaurants like the Hog’s Head or The Three Broomsticks, but also at stands outside if you don’t want to queue for the restaurants!
Spotted a wanted sign with magical moving poster (aka video) of Sirius Black:
We then made our way straight to the top attraction in the Harry Potter area – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey! The stated waiting time was 140 minutes, but we ended up spending only 50 minutes waiting + taking the ride. The queue looked really daunting at first but thankfully it moved quickly!
We had to put all our belongings in lockers before taking the ride, so unfortunately no more DSLR photos to share of the ride! BUT you can see a bit of it in (this video), which was partly filmed when we toured the castle! When we exited, we saw that the waiting time for the ride had gone up to 190 minutes!
After the ride, we went to The Three Broomsticks for lunch. We went there before noon, so we only had to queue a short while… less than 5 minutes? We ordered the ribs (came with giant corn that was super sweet) and potatoes, and shepherd’s pie (came with salad), and tried the normal Butterbeer as well as the frozen butterbeer. Tasted like ice cream soda, but wayyyyyy sweeter. Also opted for the frozen Butterbeer to be in a collectible mug! Total damage at lunch: 5,500 yen.
After that, we walked around all the shops but weren’t tempted to buy anything. Every Flavour Beans sound like a good idea… until you imagine yourself eating a snot-flavoured one.
I really wanted a wizard’s robe and scarf but the robe alone was 14,000 yen so… I had to settle for trying it on and taking a photo.
We ended our USJ experience pretty early, around 3pm, after trying a few other 3D rides and watching a performance or two!
On the way to the train station, we decided to stop for a teatime sweet treat at St. Marc’s cafe.
The Danish with soft-serve ice cream and choco-banana (450yen) was SUPER yummy and so good on a hot summer day! Perfect warm, flaky crust!
After that, we headed to Nara to check out the deers! (Video here.)
We witnessed how passionate these deer could be when it came to their favourite food, senbei (crackers)…
Chasing some students around for more senbei!
We arrived a little late (close to 5pm) so there were no more senbei sellers in sight for us to buy our own senbei. Perhaps a blessing in disguise, given how persistent the deer can be!
On our way back to Nara station, we checked out the alley next to the station to see if we could find any good food. We must be really lucky, because there just happened to be a good katsu chain restaurant there, called Ganko.
It was our first time trying Ganko, and we were wowed by the quality of their pork cutlet! It is a little pricier than the average katsu restaurant, but it has a lovely ambience and the quality of the food is totally worth the price! We paid about 2700yen in total for dinner.