Muggles, head to Osaka for a taste of magic
WHEN a colleague asked whether I was a fan of the Harry Potter series, I immediately answered "No" without a second thought.
Although I have read all seven books in the series and watched the film adaptations, the magic ended for me when the final movie was released in 2011. Go figure!
Little did I realise that the magic would be rekindled when I went on a media tour of Universal Studios Japan's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, which opened in July.
That sense of wonderment when the media entourage was led by Universal Studios representatives through the Forbidden Forest to the entrance of Hogsmeade Village was akin to my reading of the book for the first time when I had been a teenager.
Universal Studios spared no expense in recreating the magical world the boy wizard and his friends lived in, down to every tiny detail, across a 3.64ha area.
I could only stare in amazement at the array of shops on a high street brought to life from the pages of the books.
Those familiar with Harry Potter lore will surely recognise the Ollivanders wand shop, the Hog's Head, Honeydukes and the Owl Post.
The street is filled with gimmicks and entertainment - like a wizard who helps visitors pick their first wand, or the teasing voice of Moaning Myrtle (in Japanese) in the men's bathroom.
After exploring the shops in the sweltering summer heat, cold and creamy butterbeer was a welcome treat at The Three Broomsticks tavern, before we went for a ride on the family-friendly Flight of the Hippogriff roller-coaster.
The main draw of the Wizarding World was clearly its massive recreation of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry castle, judging from the extremely long queue that day. The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride is housed within the castle.
Waiting in line to take the ride was an experience in itself as it involved a tour of the castle's interior, which features classrooms and many items from the books and movies.
Strapped into an "enchanted bench", the five-minute ride plunged me into a simulated flight alongside Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, as they were chased by a Hungarian Horntail dragon and battled wraith-like Dementors.
Muggle fans (people born without magical abilities) of Harry Potter who cannot get enough of him and his magical world should certainly head over to Universal Studios Japan.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
The writer's tour was organised by Apple Vacations & Conventions, Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Government Tourism Bureau.