Our Ginormous Guide to Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USJ! [2023]

If you are visiting Universal Studios Japan Harry Potter fans of all types (die-hard or casual) must visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In fact, even if you are interested in nothing else at USJ Harry Potter is reason enough to visit Universal Studios Japan. Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle have been faithfully recreated on such a massive scale and with such scrupulous attention to detail that you will feel that you have been transported into the magical world of Harry Potter.

Our family are massive and unashamed Harry Potter nerds. The release of every new Harry Potter book or movie was a cause for celebration. Years down the track, we still regularly re-read the books and watch the movies. As a teacher, my classroom is filled with Harry Potter paraphernalia. Once, for a classroom decorating competition, I converted my classroom into the Hogwart’s Great Hall at Christmas complete with potions, decorated dining tables and twinkling stars. Therefore, on our first visit to Japan a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan was one of the very first items pencilled into our itinerary.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Japan

On our first visit to USJ, we forgot to get Express Passes until it was too late, so on arrival at the park, we immediately made a beeline to Harry Potter Universal Studios Japan and managed to get in without timed-entry tickets.

The entrance to Harry Potter World Japan is very cleverly designed to make it feel like a completely different place to the rest of USJ and certainly built our level of anticipation even before entering Hogsmeade Village. With the mystical music of Hedwig’s Theme wafting through the air, we first passed the Stone Circle. Our excitement built further as we continued along the tree-lined path before coming across the fantastic Flying Ford Anglia, complete with flashing lights, used to rescue Harry in the Chamber of Secrets.

Ron's Flying Ford Anglia
Ron’s Flying Ford Anglia

We then passed through the archway to Hogsmeade and saw the Hogwart’s Express train on the right and the snow-covered village.

Hamming it up at Hogsmeade Village
Hamming it up at Hogsmeade Village

The moment when we first saw Hogwart’s was pure magic, a moment I will never forget. I was like a little kid all over again. This was just the start of a fantastic 4-5 hours enjoying everything that Harry Potter Japan had to offer.

Universal Studios Japan Express Pass

If hanging out at Hogsmeade is likely to be the highpoint of your visit to USJ, I would also strongly recommend buying either an Express Pass 4 or Express Pass 7. Express Passes significantly shorten wait times at the attractions covered by the passes. Both types of Express Pass include timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as timed entry through a much faster Express Queue to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Express Pass 7 tickets also include timed entry to Flight of the Hippogriff. Check out the entry pass and Express Pass options in the below table.

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Flight of the Hippogriff
Flight of the Hippogriff

You can enter Harry Potter World Osaka when the park is quieter. However, when timed entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in place because the park is busy, it’s not possible to enter without a Timed Entry Ticket. You can obtain free Timed Entry tickets from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Numbered Ticket Booth which is located in Central Park located within the San Francisco section of the park. However, waiting to get Timed Entry Tickets at the park can not only waste time, particularly when queues are long, but there is also a chance you can miss out. There are only a limited number of Timed Entry Tickets per day in order to manage crowds. It’s so much easier and safer to get Timed Entry Tickets in advance as part of an Express Pass to give you guaranteed entry to Harry Potter World Japan.

Although we haven’t tried it, it may also be possible to enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice if you have a Timed Entry Pass as part of an Express Pass. For example, you could collect one Timed Entry Ticket from the Harry Potter ticket booth by showing your Studio Pass for one timed entry to Harry Potter World, and then use the Timed Entry ticket that comes with your Express Pass to re-enter a second time. It would be great to be able to visit Hogsmeade and Hogwarts in the morning and then again in the evening to get a totally different perspective.

Hogwarts Frog Choir and Butterbeer
Hogwarts Frog Choir and Butterbeer

Hightail it to the Harry Potter Rides

My top recommendation when visiting Harry Potter Osaka is to race to the rides as your first priority, particularly if you don’t have Express Passes.

On our first visit to USJ, we arrived early at the park (before 8:30 am) and went straight to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was tempting to wander around Hogsmeade Village to visit the shops, take photos and watch the street entertainment and this is exactly what many people do. However, we decided to immediately join the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. We had a 30-minute wait before getting on this ride (without an Express Pass) and we then went straight to Flight of the Hippogriff. Even though this is a less popular ride, the wait time for this attraction was already over 60 minutes. By the time we finished Flight of the Hippogriff, we checked the wait times for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and queueing time had soared close to four hours.

If you have an Express Pass and get to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey quick enough you might be able to score two turns on this fantastic ride, the first turn without using an Express Pass and then using the timed entry ticket for the second turn.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a five-time winner (2011-2015) of the Golden Ticket Awards best dark ride and is most definitely one of our all-time favourite theme park rides. The ride occurs within Hogwarts Castle

Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle

Harry Potter Forbidden Journey Queuing Area

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is one of those very rare situations where I am happy to spend time in a queue as you get to appreciate the many meticulously recreated areas within Hogwarts Castle. This doesn’t mean I would be overjoyed with the prospect of 3-4 hours in a queue but I would be more than comfortable with queuing up to an hour or maybe even a little more. In fact, on our first visit to Hogwarts Japan, we queued for about 30 minutes which gave us time to enjoy and immerse ourselves in all the little details to be found in Hogwarts.

After having now gone on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey both with and without an Express Pass, it seems that if you have a Universal Express Pass you will only completely bypass the outdoor greenhouse queuing area. Otherwise, the Express Pass queue seems to follow the same indoor path as the standard queue, then the two queues merge near the lockers. However, the Express Queue moves much faster than the standard queue.

Queuing for Forbidden Journey
Queue for Forbidden Journey

On our second visit in 2019, we almost moved through the Express queue too quickly which meant we didn’t really have the time to appreciate our surrounds. My advice if you have an Express Pass is to avoid the temptation to race through the queue and give yourselves at least 20 minutes to admire everything Hogwarts Castle has to offer.

Particularly during our first visit, it was pretty easy to forget we were in a queue as there was so much to see and appreciate. Unlike many other ride queues, we never felt bored as there was always something to look at or listen to and the attention to detail was next level. Here are just some of the experiences to appreciate: the beautiful house point hourglasses, being welcomed to Hogwarts by Dumbledore in his office, the Defence against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, the talking portraits and the Sorting Hat. The realism of the whole experience was sensational.  I particularly loved the ambience of the Gryffindor common room and the moving and speaking portraits especially the portrait of the Fat Lady as portrayed by Dawn French, one of my favourite comedic actresses.

Harry Potter Forbidden Journey Ride

Before going on the Forbidden Journey, you need to store your bags and loose items in lockers. You are first given a white card at the locker entrance. Store your things in an unused locker (lockers with hanging wristbands), then lock the locker and pull the wristband out. You then hand the white card back to the attendant and rejoin the ride queue. After the ride has finished you can collect your things from the locker by going through Filch’s Emporium.

When you enter the loading area for the Forbidden Journey ride you will see the four-seater vehicles, or enchanted benches, on a constantly-moving track. The enchanted benches are also mounted sideways rather than a more normal forward-facing vehicle. It’s slightly disconcerting to board a vehicle on a slowly moving track. The benches are a really interesting piece of technology as each vehicle is mounted on a large robotic arm which can smoothly move the enchanted vehicle left, right, up and down. As we moved through the ride, the sensation of flight was amazing as we turned, swooped and soared across and through Hogwarts.

The ride started with Hermione sprinkling us with Floo powder and our enchanted benches lifted off the ground, so we were suddenly soaring through the corridors of Hogwarts. We then shot outside and were flying at the top of Hogwarts Castle along with Harry and Ron. My stomach lurched as we shot down towards the Black Lake. This was one of my favourite parts of the whole ride.

Looking up at Hogwarts Castle
Looking up at Hogwarts Castle

After dodging and weaving through the buildings of Hogwarts, we suddenly saw Hagrid holding up an extremely large chain that was once attached to a dragon. Shortly after this, we were ambushed by the once shackled dragon, a massively oversized and scarily real Hungarian Horntail. The chase was then on as we tried to outrun the dragon. At various points, the dragon breathed fire and got right up in our face which was confronting, to say the least. After evading the dragon, we were suddenly in the Forbidden Forest and in the middle of an up-close and personal encounter with Aragog and his children.

While trying to escape from the clutches of Aragog and family, we ran straight into an animatronic Whomping Willow which slapped us straight into the middle of a Quidditch game. After seeing Slytherin score a goal against Gryffindor we were suddenly swarmed by dementors and chased down into the Chamber of Secrets where we got to see the skeleton of the Basilisk. We were then completely swamped by dozens of devilish dementors descending on us from every possible direction. After Harry chased off the dementors with a Patronus charm we emerged from the Chamber of Secrets and flew at speed over the Black Lake. As the ride entered its final stage, we re-entered Hogwarts Castle to the cheers of dozens of on-screen characters which to me was a slightly abrupt and lame ending to an otherwise spectacular experience.

The mixture of incredibly detailed sets, sophisticated animatronics, video projections and the fantastically smooth motion simulation technology used all blends seamlessly to create a fantastically immersive ride. The sound effects and 4D effects used throughout the ride further heightened the experience. The two standout 4D experiences for me were:

  • The water spray, red lights and heat which really felt like we were being sprayed with fire from the dragon’s mouth; and
  • The use of fog and cold air when being chased by the Dementors.
Inside Hogwarts
Inside Hogwarts

Between our two visits, the video imagery also received an upgrade. On our first visit, we were given 3D glasses. On our second visit, we no longer had to wear 3D glasses and the ride used 4K-HD film projecting at 120 frames per second, compared to the previous footage which was 60 frames per second. This made for much sharper and more realistic video imagery.

Regardless of whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, you really cannot miss Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. While “The Flying Dinosaur” and “Hollywood – The Dream” were also standout rides for me at Universal Studios Japan, the Forbidden Journey was clearly the best all-round ride experience.

Flight of the Hippogriff

The second ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the Flight of the Hippogriff is an altogether much tamer experience compared to the Forbidden Journey. It probably best fits into the category of a junior coaster which can provide family-friendly fun. It has a maximum height of 13 metres (about 43 feet) and hits a top speed of 46 km/hr (about 28 miles/hr).

Flight of the Hippogriff
Flight of the Hippogriff

I have now ridden this ride twice (the first time to test it out and the second because it was part of my Express Pass) but wouldn’t ride it again. It’s definitely a great introduction to rollercoasters for young children and would also be good fun if you prefer your rides mild rather than wild.

The ride provides a few nice dives, swoops and twists but the best part about the ride for me were the views over Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village. I also really enjoyed the photo-taking opportunities while waiting in the queue including Hagrid’s motorbike and sidecar as well as his hut and pumpkin patch.

Hagrid's Motorbike
Hagrid’s Motorbike

Give Flight of the Hippogriff a go if it’s part of your Express Pass, the queues are 30 minutes or less or you have young kids. Otherwise, I would suggest giving this ride a miss so you can spend more time exploring the rest of what Harry Potter World has to offer.

Black Lake

One of the must-see attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the Black Lake (also known as the Great Lake). The lake was a major setting for the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and home to Grindylows (aggressive little water demons), Selkies (Scottish merpeople), and a partially domesticated giant squid that doesn’t mind being tickled.

The Black Lake cannot be found at any other Wizarding World of Harry Potter apart from Universal Studios Japan and is impressively atmospheric. It also provides a physical barrier that serves to set Hogwarts Castle apart from Hogsmeade Village and makes the castle look even more grand and impressive. We were very fortunate to have a clear blue sky and still water on our first visit to USJ so were able to get some fantastic photos of Hogwarts reflected in the Great Lake.

There are a number of places to get a good view of both the Black Lake and Hogwarts castle, some are more obvious than others. One great spot is to go out the back of Three Broomsticks for a great view while enjoying your meal on the lakeside patio.

Hogwarts Reflected
Hogwarts Castle reflected in the Black Lake

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Food and Beverages

There are a limited number of choices for food and drinks at Harry Potter World Japan but they all help immerse you further in the world of Harry Potter. You can eat at Three Broomsticks (a traditional English tavern), drink at Hog’s Head pub, or down a Butterbeer from the two barrel-shaped butterbeer stands in Hogsmeade Village.

Butterbeer Stand
Butterbeer Stand


Butterbeer is the most popular and iconic wizarding beverage. It’s so good that Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) in a special feature from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince said that he would order eight pints of Butterbeer when he visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

At Harry Potter Osaka, butterbeer is a non-alcoholic drink. Butterbeer can be bought from Three Broomsticks, Hog’s Head or the two butterbeer carts and can be enjoyed in a number of different ways:

  • Cold butterbeer is available all year round. It has a butterscotch flavour with a wonderfully smooth and creamy foam on top. First-time round, I couldn’t get enough butterbeer and it was one of the happiest memories from my first trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face as I drank it. On my second trip to Harry Potter World I still very much enjoyed but found it very rich. You certainly see quite a lot of unfinished cups scattered around Hogsmeade so I would suggest sharing a mug if you are unsure whether you’ll like it.
  • Frozen butterbeer is available when the weather is warm. The flavour is the same as regular butterbeer and the texture is quite smooth and much less icy than many slushies/frozen drinks. My son is a slushie connoisseur and found it to be a tasty and refreshing way to cool down.
  • Warm butterbeer is available when the weather cools down. Our family hasn’t had a chance to taste warm butterbeer yet but it reportedly has a different taste to cold and frozen butterbeer. It has been described as thick and creamy, with a taste that is a mix of butterscotch and pumpkin cider and laced with cinnamon and ginger. It sounds like an interesting alternative to hot chocolate.

Butterbeer can be bought in either a disposable plastic cup or a souvenir plastic mug if you want to up the authenticity a little. Regular butterbeer costs 600 yen (US $5.50) in a disposable cup or 1 100 yen (US $10.20) in the souvenir mug. You can also buy butterbeer in an impressive premium stein which I was about to do until I noticed the price which was about 4 000 yen (or US $37).

Butterbeer Cups
Butterbeer Cups – From Left to Right: Disposable Cup, Souvenir Mug, Premium Stein

If you are obsessed with butterbeer, there have been some recent additions to the range of butterbeer goodness. Butterbeer ice-cream is available from the butterbeer carts, and butterbeer potted cream which sounds fantastic can be found at Three Broomsticks.

Three Broomsticks

If you are feeling hungry while getting your fix of all things Harry Potter, head over to Three Broomsticks. It is an English-styled tavern with predominantly English food choices. The food is hearty and definitely tasty by theme park standards. You can enjoy food such as shepherd’s pie, cornish pasties and fish and chips.

Three Broomsticks Menu
Three Broomsticks Menu

While you can eat indoors and the inside of the tavern is atmospheric, I would strongly suggest taking your food to the outside eating area to enjoy great views both in the day and on sunset.

Three Broomsticks Interior
Three Broomsticks Interior

Hog’s Head Pub

Hog’s Head offers a broad selection of drinks including Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. For something a little more adult you can also buy the specially brewed signature Hog’s Head draft beer.

Hog's Head Interior
Hog’s Head Interior

Hogsmeade Village Shops

If you are a Harry Potter fan it’s almost impossible to leave the Wizarding World of Harry Potter without stocking up on some souvenirs. On our first visit, in particular, we ran a little amok and left with gowns, multiple wands, lollies and chocolates. On our second visit we were slightly more restrained but still spent too much.

There are plenty of places to buy your Universal Studios Japan Harry Potter Merchandise. Hogsmeade Village is jam-packed with shops that you will recognise from the world of Harry Potter including Ollivanders, Honeydukes, Zonko’s Joke Shop and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

Ollivanders and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment

After you’ve been on the rides, and refuelled if necessary, I suggest that the first shops you should visit are Ollivanders and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment which are side-by-side.


In Ollivander’s, you can join in one of the wand selection ceremonies. The wait time for the show is listed which can be as low as a 10-minute wait. a The wizard who hosts the show uses a mix of English and Japanese. He selects someone from the audience and tries to choose the perfect wand for them. After a few mishaps along the way, eventually, the right wand is chosen.

Ollivanders - Wand selecting the Wizard
Ollivanders – Wand selecting the Wizard

Between the two shops, you will discover wands of all varieties including Ollivanders wands, replica Harry Potter character wands, collectable wand sets and much more. I would strongly recommend getting at least one of the more expensive interactive wands so you can cast spells around Hogsmeade Village. There is also a wide variety of wizarding equipment such as compasses, binoculars, magnifying glasses and compasses, robes and ties.

There are heaps of wands to choose from
There are heaps of wands to choose from

Wand Magic

If you bought an interactive wand from Ollivanders, make sure you test out your spell-casting skills at eight different magic stations around Hogsmeade. You will be given a map showing the Wand Magic locations in Hogsmeade. The stations are easily identified by both the bronze symbols located on the ground and the helpful staff ready to teach spells to willing wizards

How to Cast Spells
How to Cast Spells

Armed with his new Sirius Black interactive wand, our youngest son managed to try out all eight spells. There was always someone friendly around to correct his spell-casting technique to ensure magic could happen. Our son magically levitated quaffle balls, unlocked gates, made a chimney flame, opened suitcases, summoned clouds, and made quidditch banners rustle.

Testing out his skills definitely added to the magic of our time spent in Hogsmeade Village.



Make sure you don’t visit Honeydukes on an empty stomach as you will end up spending far too much money. The shop is filled with goodies from the Harry Potter books so it’s great fun just browsing the shop to discover all the sweet treats on offer.

Inside Honeydukes
Inside Honeydukes

We managed to walk out of the shop with just some Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and a Chocolate Frog. However, this wasn’t any ordinary chocolate frog but the biggest chocolate frog you have ever seen. My son couldn’t wait to break into the Bertie Bott’s Beans in order to try out the candy equivalent of Russian Roulette. Be warned that you might end of with something delightful like blueberry or banana or something truly despicable such as vomit, ear wax or rotten egg.

Other Shops that will help meet all your wizarding needs

In addition to Ollivanders and Honeydukes, there are plenty of other shops that can help meet all your wizarding requirements.

Zonko’s Joke Shop

Zonkos overflows with novelty items and jokes. On our first visit, it had plenty of Halloween-themed items.

Inside Zonkos
Inside Zonkos

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods

At Filch’s Emporium, you’ll discover Hogwarts-themed clothing and stationery themed for each of the four houses. You exit into Filch’s Emporium from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Gladrags Wizard Wear

At Gladrag’s you’ll find fashion items and clothes, accessories and jewellery. From Gladrags, I couldn’t help but buy a Gryffindor robe.

Dervish and Banges

Head to Dervish and Banges for magical supplies and wizarding equipment like Spectrespecs, Quidditch equipment, and Hogwarts uniforms. I picked up an impressively realistic Marauder’s Map on my first visit to Harry Potter Japan.

Owl Post and Owlery

At the Owl Post and Owlery you can send letters with a Hogsmeade postmark. The shop also sells stationery and writing implements, stamps, and owl-related toys and gifts. On my first visit, I picked up a beautiful Hedwig plush puppet which has been much loved by many of my students.

Owl Post
Owl Post

There are also quite a lot of false storefronts which you can’t enter but which add to the atmosphere of Hogsmeade Village.

Dogweed and Deathcap
Dogweed and Deathcap

Street Entertainment

There are three street entertainment performances in Hogsmeade Village: Frog Choir, Wand Studies and Triwizard Spirit Rally. We have now seen the Frog Choir perform twice over our two visits but have managed to miss both Wand Studies and the Triwizard Spirit Rally on both occasions.

In the Wand Studies show, students from the four Hogwarts houses demonstrate their developing magical skills and invite brave wizards from the audience to help them.

We really enjoyed the Frog Choir on both occasions. In this performance, a choir of Hogwart’s students perform various songs accompanied by some very talented frogs.

Frog Choir
Frog Choir

The Triwizard Spirit Rally features students from Durmstrang, Beauxbaxtons and Hogwarts. A student from Hogwarts introduces the performance. The show then features dances from the students of Beauxbaxton, and acrobatics and simulated martial arts from the Durmstrang students.

Each of the performances occurs roughly every hour but make sure you check the show and attraction schedule for the day of your visit so, unlike us, you don’t accidentally miss out on performances.

Evening Light Show

From time to time an evening light show is held in Harry Potter World.  Ensure you check the show and attraction schedule to confirm whether a night show is being held when you plan to visit.

Top Photo Spots

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is filled with opportunities for fantastic photos but some of my favourites, in no particular order, are:

  • Hogwarts Castle, particularly from across the Black Lake. The photos can be truly stunning when the sky is blue and the water is still.
  • Hogwarts Express as it such an iconic image from the world of Harry Potter.
Hogwarts Express
Hogwarts Express
  • Hogsmeade Archway as the archway and entrance sign are spectacular but they also frame the rest of Hogsmeade Village.
  • Flying Ford Anglia to capture another classic image from Harry Potter.
  • The interior of Honeydukes because it is full of light, colour and tasty treats.
  • Sirius Black Poster which works great as a photo but even better as a GIF. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to get a decent photo of the poster yet.

Book Your Universal Studios Japan Entry Pass and Express Passes through Klook

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Join the Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group or Discord Server

You are also welcome to join our Japan Travel Planning Facebook Group and our new Japan Travel Planning Discord Server – they are great resources to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to Japan!

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Thanks to Tony's high school German language teacher he has a long-standing passion for travel and international food. He runs the Pretraveller and Japan Travel Planning blogs with his wife Anne to help people plan their travels. Tony has visited destinations including Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe and has also extensively explored his home country of Australia. As a result he writes from personal experience to help others plan their trips.