Hogwarts Castle Photo Tour

This post offers a photo tour of Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios Japan, both inside and outside, to showcase this impressive feat of theme park design. This castle is home to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan theme parks.

All of the interior photos here were photographed in Universal Studios Japan, where there is a separate line for those guests who want to take a tour of Hogwarts Castle, but do not wish to ride the attraction. During my visit to Universal Studios Japan, I entered this line shortly before the park closed.

With few other guests also taking the tour, I was able to take some long exposure photos with my tripod to bring out some of the detail in this normally dark queue. Exterior shots are a mix of Universal Studios Japan and Universal Orlando Resort, with each location denoted under the photo. This post features some of my favorite photos I captured inside Hogwarts Castle…

Before we get to the photos, for those unfamiliar with Hogwarts Castle, here’s a bit of background about its lore from the Harry Potter series. Hogwarts was built in the late Early Middle Ages by wizard architects and designers Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin.

Hogwarts Castle is located in a valley surrounded by mountains all around and the Great Lake to the south of the main building, with the Forbidden Forest west of the Castle. It houses Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, regarded as the finest wizarding school in the world. As I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan myself, I learned most of this via Wiki, the finest learning resource for all scholarly endeavors. 😉

Alright, on with the tour…

Let’s start outside (see the top photo in this post), as if we’re arriving on the Great Lake and coming up the dock. This lake is exclusive to Universal Studios Japan, and offers a stunning, reflected view of the Castle. Here’s Hogwarts Castle just after sunset, with a colorful dusk sky…

Here’s a look back at the dock viewing area at night, again, another area unique to Universal Studios Japan. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is incredibly popular in Japan–even moreso than it is in the United States. At the Osaka park, guests actually must get tickets to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. When I visited, these tickets “sold out” before noon.

Here’s the entrance at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. The entrance in Osaka is identical, with the Hogwarts Castle Tour having a separate line on the far left of the gates.

It then winds around outside, sweep past the outdoor queue (you can actually see the show building pretty well from the tour queue) before entering the castle.

After entering Hogwarts Castle itself, you pass through this hallway. Here’s where this tour is going to get a little sketchy, as my Harry Potter knowledge is very limited, so I’m going to describe things…potentially inaccurately.

Please feel free to correct/supplement in the comments and I’ll incorporate any better explanations into this text at a later date.

The Portrait Gallery is the next room of the queue. As the name suggests, there are a bunch of portraits in here, some of which are animated and speak, some of which are standard paintings.

As I understand it, there are portraits of Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin in here that speak. In my opinion, this is the coolest room of the queue, and the illusion here is really cool, and very effective.

The queue then winds past this office, where Dumblebore is projected into a balcony above his desk. He welcomes guests to Hogwarts, and has some other information that I can’t remember.

The next stop is the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. Here, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come out from under an invisibility cloak and tells guests to head down and watch a Quidditch match, which is essentially the setup for the attraction itself.

This is the end of the Hogwarts Castle Tour in Universal Studios Japan, as shortly after this, the regular lines head to the load area. From here, the tour heads back outside heading near the normal exit of Hogwarts Castle.

Here’s another view of Hogwarts Castle from across the Great Lake. Overall, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade in Universal Studios Japan is very similar to the version in Orlando, but this large lake is a really nice addition.

Given the hordes of guests who were out on the dock with me taking photos, I think other non-photographer guests would tend to agree.

Here’s Hogwarts Castle in Islands of Adventure from approximately the same location relative to the Castle. As you can see, Universal Studios Japan definitely has it beat in terms of view!

Outside of this, the only real differences I noticed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were larger walkways, and a long path leading to the land, with some easter eggs and random props, like the Flying Ford Anglia along the way. I’d hazard a guess that this long path was built to handle lines into the land originally, but it doesn’t seem necessary now that they use the ticketed entry system. Perhaps it serves some other purpose of which I’m unaware.

Regardless of whether you’re talking about the Islands of Adventure version or the Universal Studios Japan version, Hogwarts Castle is a feat to behold. I thought I would never say this, but it’s the most impressive theme park castle I’ve ever seen, and this is largely thanks to that amazing interior queue (and also the fact that it houses an attraction). That might change when Shanghai Disneyland opens, but for now, the detail on the outside plus what’s inside makes it unparalleled. In terms of sentimentality, it will never top Cinderella Castle for me, but this now seems to be Universal’s flagship icon, and it’s pretty cool.

Hope you enjoyed the photo tour of Hogwarts!

All photos in this post were shot by me with my Nikon D810. For other photos or prints, please view my Universal Studios Japan Photo Gallery

Your Thoughts

What do you think of Hogwarts Castle? Do you like that view across the Great Lake? Does Universal Studios Japan interest you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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5 replies
  1. LIndsey
    LIndsey says:

    The first photo that you have of the photo gallery has Slytherin and Hufflepuff and the second feature Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. I recognized them straight away… I am a Harry Potter nerd so…

    Reply
  2. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos. I’ve only been to the WWoHP at Universal Orlando, so it’s interesting to see a view of the “lake” below the castle, as well as it being fairly empty! I’ve never seen such great, clear indoor shots.

    Reply
  3. Donny
    Donny says:

    Have you ever done a post describing your photos from start to finish including editing? I’d love to see your process for either these or your Disney photos!

    Reply
    • Donny
      Donny says:

      Also, I know all about your Technique Tuesday posts (I’m a HUGE fan of those). I mean in selecting what you’re going to shoot, gear used, composition, etc. Do you like to oversaturate some photos? You get color so vibrant and great looking!

      Reply
  4. Kel
    Kel says:

    Been a longtime fan of your blogs. I just got back from a trip to Japan and now I wish we had gone over to Osaka to visit Universal! I’ve been to the Orlando park so didn’t think Wizardlng World would be too different but now I’m convinced otherwise. Gotta plan another trip! 🙂

    Reply

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