The grand opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Japan just took place on July 15. Featuring a fantastic recreation of Hogwarts Castle and the Black Lake, the new Wizarding World is built in Universal Studios Japan located in Osaka, and is expected to add 2 million visitors for the theme park in the first year alone.

Celebrity stars at the grand opening included Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, and Evanna Lynch, who is Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies. They welcomed the first 300 specially selected visitors to the new Wizarding World by casting a spell. Many of the excited Japanese fans dressed up in characters from the books to join the festive grand opening. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, reportedly visited the park with her family on the day before the official opening.

The new attraction began construction in 2012, costs around US$444 million and covers nine acres within the theme park in Osaka, where a huge Hogwarts Castle and Black Lake are recreated.

Japan’s version of the Wizarding World is largely the same as Orlando’s original, with the shops and dining of Hogsmeade Village and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts Castle. But it does have some additional features that Orlando’s version does not, including the Black Lake and live owls.

Inside Hogwarts Castle, visitors can explore the classrooms and corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including Dumbledore's Office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Moving portraits and the Sorting Hat may speak to you as you journey through the castle.

(photo cr Asahi Shimbum)

There is also the Three Broomsticks tavern, a favorite hangout frequented by teachers and students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Butterbeer, a non-alcoholic specialty of the tavern, is offered along with such traditional British dishes as fish and chips.

The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, featuring cutting-edge 4K imaging technology, will take visitors on a magical journey through the skies, flying above Hogwarts grounds with Harry Potter. Visitors can also ride The Flight of the Hippogriff roller-coaster to dive past Hagrid's hut.

J. K. Rowling's books and movies have been hugely popular in Japan and neighboring countries in Asia. It is expected the new theme park will boost the annual admission to Universal Studio Japan from 10 million to 12 million in the first year, and grow to 15 million with overseas visitors mostly from neighboring Asian countries.

Just a week before the grand opening of Japan's Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the expansion of the original Wizarding World in Orlando was completed and opened to great reception. Another Wizarding World of Harry Potter is scheduled to open at Universal Studios Hollywood in California in 2016.