Tuesday, August 4, 2015

[OSAKA] Harry Potter and the Muggle Evacuation Center

I arrived at Universal Studios half past 12 and to my surprise, there was no queue. After paying 7,200 yen for the admission ticket, I immediately made my way to the Harry Potter World timed-entry ticket kiosk. I really had no intention of exploring USJ again because I already did so a couple of years back before HPW came to existence. The earliest available time was at 3 PM which was more than okay for me. I had more than two hours to kill.

My friend’s warning about the heat was true. I hadn’t had lunch yet but in my mind I was wondering whether I should look for a place with good food, or somewhere I could shower. I decided against jumping into the lake, because the embarrassment was not worth it. I tried to seek refuge at Hard Rock and maybe feast on a nice juicy steak, but the lady at the exit said I would have to buy a ticket again if I wanted to come back. And so I had no choice. Shopping for souvenirs, it is then!

Many forums will tell you that you should just buy your Harry Potter souvenirs outside Harry Potter World, and this is not without reason. First, there are so many people inside HPW and the shops are always full. Why would you choose to endure such misery when almost everything you can buy outside is the same anyway? There are a few exceptions, though. The wands classified by main ingredient such as vine and oak seem to be only available at Ollivanders. So are the keychains that come in fours or fives.

Overanalyzing which souvenirs to buy could only take so much of your time. For a moment there I thought it would be nice to shop for Christmas gifts but I realized how useless they would be because most of the people I would be giving them to are not really fans of the boy who lived. What are they supposed to do with Narcissa Malfoy’s wand if they could not even Avada Kedavra someone with it? Why exchange my Baguio broomstick for a Nimbus 2000?

I  decided to do one lap of sightseeing but gave up because the heat was getting intolerable. I saw a diner serving Bacon Mushroom Burgers! There were no more seats inside but the al fresco dining area was okay anyway because it had a roof over it. Katy Perry was Roar-ing in the speakers while Taylor Swift was asking random people to write on her Blank Space. But it was Weezer who described the current situation more appropriately with Island in the Sun.

With one hour left to kill and nowhere else to go, I invaded the first establishment I saw with the words “air-conditioned” in it. Just across the street was Monsters Rock and Roll show where the queue was not long and we were allowed to sit on the carpeted floor while waiting for the show to begin. I thought I was going to be really bored but when Frankenstein started rocking to Santana’s Smooth, I realized that I was enjoying more than anybody else in the audience. Damn, am I weird?

And then Dracula shook his moneymaker to Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca. That’s when I started to think, what the heck? Even if we say that these Japanese kids are that fluent in English to understand the lyrics, most of them were born after the year 2000. How are they to relate to pop songs that came out before that? True enough, it was the parents who came along with them who were seen clapping and rocking to the beat. But hey, almost an hour of air-conditioned goodness!

As the clock stroke three, I was already in line at the entrance of Harry Potter World. There was a steady stream of people getting out but not as many as those trying to get in. There was always a crowd by the entrance, with people holding timed-entry tickets for 2:50 PM still battling it out with those who had 3 PM. Everyone eventually got in, but do not get too excited, because more muggles are waiting for you once you get there. In fact, this is more of a muggle attraction than a wizarding one.

The first attraction to cross off your list is the Ford Anglia which is almost by the arc at the main entrance. A Korean kid already claimed it as his, posing with his wand in true Hufflepuff fashion. I’m a Slytherin, kid. But I backed off anyway. Harry Potter helped define my high school years. Why should I stop it from playing a big role in this kid’s childhood? And so I just took a picture of the kid with his picture being taken in front of the Ford Anglia. It’s a nice photo, actually.

Once you reach the arc is when you'll realize how this is so not Hogwarts. The multitude welcoming you would make you think as though you’ve just stepped foot in a mall having a grand clearance sale. Muggles of all ages and sizes will be blocking your way and unless that attraction you’d like to snap a photo of is situated on one of the snow-covered roofs, then good luck trying to get a clear shot. Feel free to Avada Kedavra them with your wand, but you’d eventually be outnumbered.

Summer is not really the ideal time to go, what with all the muggles and the extreme heat from the merciless sun. The atmosphere is rife with the scent of sweat, and the fake snow will be taunting you from the rooftops. I imagine winter to be a more appropriate time to visit. That way, you'll be able to dress up in your favorite HP apparel and not risk dying of heatstroke. Oh well, we’re already here. So, what attractions should be on our checklist?

The Hogwarts Express is right by the entrance and hard to miss thanks to its burning hot presence. A photo-op would be nice next to the luggage on the platform, but you are not allowed to go up there unless you apparate. You'll then be seeing a lot of shops, most of them full. Imagine the Chinese tourist infestation at every Prada or Michael Kors outlet shop you could think of and multiply it by ten. That’s how crowded the shops are, so I suggest you no longer enter unless you really have to buy something.

The road then divides into two: one of them narrow and seemingly depicting Diagon Alley; the other, surrounded by more stores and dummy shops that are just there for display. Both paths lead to a fairly large square with a stage where I suppose presentations are held at random times during the day. Ollivanders is right at the corner before the castle. You might want to enter despite the muggle invasion if you want a particular wand not available outside HPW.

You can also exit on the other side and get a clear view of the castle by the lake which would be a perfect photo-op spot if the sun is not that stark raving mad. Otherwise, you’d end up a shadow taking a selfie. It is also a good resting spot if you could tolerate the heat, because few muggles seem keen on loitering out there. The next stop is obviously the castle. There is a hippogriff ride but it’s a mere roller coaster catering to kids. I doubt you would enjoy it.

The Harry Potter ride has been praised over and over again, and the queue getting there is just as legendary. Think 160 minutes of waiting time! If you don’t have the luxury of time, then just opt for the castle walk, the line for which is much shorter. Just a word of caution, though. The entrance is similar for both attractions, which means you'll be getting glares of judgment from those in queue for the ride. Why so? Because they'll be thinking that you’re cutting in, but you’re not. Oh well, fuck them.

The castle walk is a must because what you’ll see inside is all worth it! The place itself as well as the embellishments seem like they jumped right out of the film! Even the moving paintings will leave you in awe, so have your cameras ready. There are parts inside the castle where you will be walking with those who opted for the ride, but you will be separated by railings. If you are quick, maybe you could cut in without them noticing. Otherwise, prepare your wand for a duel inside Hogwarts’ walls. FUN!!!

[OSAKA] Harry Potter and the Muggle Evacuation Center

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