Japan, summer break '15 // Universal Studios Japan + The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and more

I never pack until the night of my flight, or rather, morning of, and this time it's no different. We stay up until 3:00AM packing and watching movies all the while. I head off to bed without setting an alarm thinking that someone will wake me up tomorrow, but it turns out I should never make such assumptions. I'm stirred from bed by the ruckus at 8:00AM and we don't leave the house until 8:30AM for our 9:55AM flight. It'll be a miracle if we make it. For the record, it's not my fault we're late. Mom's still showering. I don't understand how anyone could be calm enough to shower with so little time left. Really, negative time left.

In the car we get to the topic of anime, although I've only watched up to episode 5 of Clannad because it's too much of a commitment reading subtitles. Ken calls me a noob and says that I need to watch so much anime that I no longer need to read subtitles. He's speaking from his own experience I suppose. I challenge him, ordering him to say something in Japanese. He quickly backtracks and admits he only knows a few phrases, and because he mostly watches fantasy, the phrases he knows aren't very practical, but at least I know I'll have someone to turn to if ever I need to say "let the battle commence."


Dropping our things off at the Keihan Hotel: Universal Tower, we claim our beds (there are four individual beds, one for each of us!) before heading out in search for dinner at City Walk, which is right on our doorstep. We have udon at Kineya Mugimaru and takoyaki at Kougaryu from the Osaka Takoyaki Museum (the Osaka Takoyaki Museum theme song is great).

At 10:30PM, I'm the first one of us to fall asleep. Gotta rest up for the big day tomorrow at Universal Studios Japan and, most importantly, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I already have the map set as my lock screen so that we know which attractions to hit and exactly where to find them.

I'm not planning on making it all the way through Universal Studios, especially without a Fast Pass. There's only one thing on my agenda. Despite getting to the entrance at 9:20AM, ten minutes before opening, there's already a crowd at the gates. As soon as the first person gets through, everyone else comes pouring in, so we make a beeline to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

There's a long line outside that carries you through the greenhouse and continues into the Hogwarts castle. Once you're in, store your items in a cubby before proceeding. Unfortunately this means my camera is left behind. Realistic projections of Harry, Ron, and Hermione guide you around in Japanese. Then hop on your "broomstick" and fly behind Harry on this 4K3D ride.

Today in microfashion: pink furby headband and polka dotted overalls accessorized with a green tail.

Flight of the Hippogriff

I bet you’re not dangerous at all, are you? Are you, you great ugly brute?

Mom decides to get on this ride with us even though she's not usually one for roller coasters. She shrieks beside me as we ride the hippogriff around Hagrid's Hut and the pumpkin patch. Sitting in front of us, Ken and Danny simultaneously laugh and facepalm in response to Mom's reaction.


It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.

Although Hogsmeade is decorated with icicles and snowcapped roofs, the summer sun beats relentlessly. To soothe our parched mouths, we head over to one of the many red barrels of butterbeer stands that are scattered around Hogsmeade. It probably isn't the best option for quenching thirst, but it's butterbeer and we're in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so it's basically mandatory.

Swarthmore's Sharples dining hall Three Broomsticks

The Three Broomsticks and I go way back, further than I care to admit. I can remember when it was One Broomstick!

But if you're looking for the Great Hall, Bryn Mawr's Thomas Great Hall is where it's at. Anywayyys... We take a little lunch break at the Three Broomsticks where we have fish and chips and lemonade.


There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavour Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitating sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets: Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps (‘breathe fire for your friends!’), Ice Mice (‘hear your teeth chatter and squeak!’), peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘hop realistically in the stomach!’) , fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons.

Owl Post and Owelry

If you ever need me, send word. Your owl will find me.

If you think snail mail is exciting, then you're in for a treat. As a Mawrtyr, I am obligated to check out anything to do with owls (and also anything to do with Harry Potter really).

Dervish and Banges

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment

Ollivander's Wand Shop

I remember every single wand I've ever sold, Mr. Potter. It so happens that the phoenix whose tail feather is in your wand, gave another feather — just one other. It is very curious indeed that you should be destined for this wand when its brother gave you that scar.

Zonko's Joke Shop

Jokes and tricks to fulfill even Fred and George Weasley's wildest dreams.

Zonko's and the bookstore are the two stores I am most excited to visit, but unfortunately both are closed. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan isn't very big, so I guess that just means I'll have to make a trip to the one in Orlando one day! Ken and Danny don't seem to mind the small size though. The sun is wearing them out and they're already making their way out of the park, leaving me trailing behind with my camera dangling from my hands, like always.

Hollywood Dream

We lift our heads toward the screams coming from above as a roller coaster rushes by. On our way out of the park, we pass by the entrance to the ride. The line isn't too long, so what the heck, let's give it a go. I love extreme roller coasters except for the first drop. Twists, turns, and loops I can do, but not freefalls. Ken has never been on an extreme roller coaster before. The two of us decide to do it. I just want to see him freak out :)

He's shaking. I'm laughing. I wait for him to tell me about his near-death experience and how he couldn't scream down the first drop with all the air rushing past him, no matter how hard he tried. That's what happened to me when I rode my first extreme roller coaster. I was at summer camp and we were on a field trip at 6 Flags. My friend and I decided to go on the Bizarro ride. We promised that we'd hold onto each other the whole way through. At the peak of first drop, right as we were about to fall, both of us instantly let go of each other and clung onto our safety bars for dear life. Every man for himself.

Even my burnt shoulder is more red than this stop sign. How fascinating.

The Kobe Trick Art Museum is a photographer's playground. You walk through the rooms in small, staggered groups to keep from overcrowding, allowing you to easily interact with the galleries of optical illusions, and most importantly, to then capture photographs from the exact perspectives you need. For once in my life I feel kinda tall, especially when we get to this room.

We didn't get the chance to, but while you're there, you should also visit the other exhibits in the area--there's a whole street of them. Instead, we made our way to Kobe Harborland. I apologize for the lack of photographs from this, but there are some clips in the vlog below! Throughout the trip I've been alternating between my "fancy" camera, vlogging camera, and iPhone. Next time remind me to chill.

Finally there's a day Mom doesn't try to force my brothers out of the hotel. It's always such a burden bringing them out when they don't want to be brought out, and for this trip all they wanted was Universal Studios Japan--actually not even that, just The Wizarding World of Harry Potter--so even the trip to Kobe was emotionally straining, but Mom always insists on bringing them along anyway.

Not today though! Today is shopping day. Mom is set on buying me my first high end handbag from Louis Vuitton to "start my collection" because she's into handbags herself, although I don't want a handbag collection (in fact I'm trying to minimize my wardrobe). I quickly settle on the classic speedy bandouliere 25. Although the brand is fancy, the style is muted enough for casual everyday use. The size is big enough to fit my camera and other bits and bobs, but not so big that I can't find anything in it.

Mom is not as flippant as I am. She's still looking for something really special. Finally she settles on the capucines mm. Before we leave, the lady who is helping us out invites us up to see their exclusive collection, saying she wants to show it to us because although she doesn't expect us to buy anything from the collection, she has a feeling that Mom will enjoy it. Only two boutiques in Japan hold the collection, and only twenty in the world. The items are not advertised on their website or anywhere else.

There was one item that caught our eye, and I wish I had asked the name of it! Photographing was out of the question. I wish that I had the skill to illustrate it like Shit Bloggers Wear! Funny story: While we were there, we were served tea and monogrammed chocolates. I asked if I could take a picture of the chocolates because I knew there was no chance they'd let me photograph the bags but I still wanted to photograph something for memorabilia. They said it was fine and complimented my camera as I took it out, but in my peripheral vision I saw them scurrying to gather up the bags to hide out of frame.

I wonder if this is what it's like in the everyday life of a successful fashion blogger, but obviously with the perk of being able to photograph everything. In fact, that's probably what they're invited there for.

It's pouring rain when we leave the LV store (I'm just thankful it didn't rain while we were at Universal Studios Japan). Our bags are boxed up and our boxes are wearing raincoats. It feels so obnoxious carrying these huge boxes with "LOUIS VUITTON" plastered across them.

We steal into a little cafe, Koti by Pound House, for a break and to escape the rain. I try to take as many #foodporn photos as I can to show my brothers when we get back and make them jealous.

In case you haven't heard, I'm pretty into the game Bakery Story. This setup on the hotel patio looks just like some of the items in the game--the Little Italy chairs and Tuscan tables, to be exact.

We never simply walk through airports. No, we dash through them because we're always running late. We pass by The Smoking Lounge, and as if giving a tour, Mom says, "The Suicide Room."

And on that happy note...

Around the web: Offbeat and Inspired's Homemade Butterbeer and a Trip to the Wizarding World

PS: Japan, winter break '15