Warner Bros to open Harry Potter theme park in Tokyo in 2023

Visitors at the Universal Studios in Osaka. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., plans to open a Harry Potter theme park in Tokyo by the spring of 2023. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., a leading US film-making company, plans to open a Harry Potter theme park in Tokyo by the spring of 2023, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Warner Bros plans to construct the park on part of land that is currently occupied by the soon-to-be-closed Toshimaen Amusement Park in Nerima ward, Tokyo.

Warner Bros will lease part of the about 20-hectare plot of land, which is owned by Seibu Group, while the Tokyo metropolitan government will buy the rest of the land from Seibu to develop a park. The existing amusement facilities and swimming pools of Toshimaen will gradually close. Negotiations are underway between Warner Bros, Seibu Group, the Tokyo metropolitan government, and others - with a decision expected to be formally made by this spring.

The content of the theme park is being discussed, with reference to Warner Bros' film-making studio in London where visitors can tour the studio sets that were actually used for the making of the Harry Potter films. On this tour, visitors can stroll through the sets, including those of the Great Hall of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; the shopping street of Diagon Alley; and the Platform of the Hogwarts Express locomotive. They can also see movie props up close, including magic wands. This is referred to as a studio-type facility, which is different from those of Universal Studios in the United States or Universal Studios Japan (USJ) in Osaka, where rides and attractions are also available.

Toshimaen opened in 1926 and had been a leading amusement park in central Tokyo. It includes amusement facilities, swimming pools and hot spa facilities. After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Tokyo metropolitan government decided to build a large park as part of its disaster-prevention measures. The government offered to purchase the land from Seibu, but the negotiations have stagnated in recent years. According to sources, Warner Bros., with a proposal of creating the Harry Potter theme park, joined the negotiations around last year, which has gotten the talks moving again.

Harry Potter is a story by British writer J.K. Rowling, with the titular boy wizard the main character. It was first published in 1997 in Britain, and its Japanese translation was published in 1999 in Japan. As the story became a global hit, Warner Bros made a screen version of the story in 2001. Sequels of both the story and the film have been made.

At USJ, about 45 billion yen (S$567 million) was injected into the opening of the Harry Potter facilities in 2014. The number of visitors to USJ in fiscal 2014 totalled 12.7 million, up 2 million from a year earlier. As USJ is also fairly popular among foreign visitors to Japan, it has become a centrepiece of sightseeing tours in the Kansai region.

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