A new attraction featuring characters and stories of the Harry Potter novel and film will be built on the site of “Toshimaen,” the Seibu group’s long-established Tokyo playground, by the spring of 2023.
Toshimaen, run by the Japanese railway company Seibu group, will soon be closed.
If the new project is realized, the Tokyo metropolitan area will have a new spot for tourists, and competition among amusement parks and related attractions will be accelerated.
Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc., a major United States media and entertainment company, is reported to be arranging to rent part of the Toshimaen land from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which plans to purchase the grounds. The concept for the park envisages Warner Bros building the popular Harry Potter movie’s sets on the site.
Currently Warner Bros is in talks with both the Seibu group and Tokyo Metropolitan Government to fill out the plan for an attraction along the lines of the “Warner Bros Studio Tour London The Making of Harry Potter,” which it operates in the United Kingdom.
In Osaka, the Harry Potter area of Universal Studios Japan amusement park has proven its ability to pull in many visitors. USJ replicates the Hogwarts School, where the main characters in both the novel and the film learn wizardry. Visitors can enjoy attractions, such as rides that feel like the experience of flying, and drinking “butterbeer,” a favorite beverage of Harry Potter and other characters in the novel and the film.
USJ experienced a decline in ticket sales after its initial success. However, after the groundbreaking for the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in 2014, ticket sales reached a record high. Since then, it has been one of the hottest tourism spots in the Kansai region in Western Japan.
The “Harry Potter effect,” with its high ticket sales, is considered to have been a significant factor in the recovery of USJ’s business operations. Therefore, the question has been raised whether the Warner Bros project at the soon-to-be-vacant Toshimaen site might pull customers away from USJ. However, at this point, USJ’s public relations officer has taken a wait-and-see approach.
The Tokyo attraction would have other competition as well. Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture, is next door and in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The resort has demonstrated its strong ability to attract many visitors for many years. According to operator Oriental Land Co., Ltd., TDR maintained its customer numbers even after the groundbreaking of the USJ’s Harry Potter attraction in Osaka. For example, TDR reached record-high numbers from April 2018 to March 2019 in terms of both sales per customer and number of visitors.
An Oriental Land Co. representative commented to the Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward on the revealed Warner Bros project, emphasizing, “We would liven up the amusement industry together.”
For the Seibu group, it is vital to improve attractiveness along its railway line to improve business stability while Japanese society is depopulating. Its Toshimaen amusement park has experienced a decrease of visitors since its peak in 1992 (April 1992 to March 1993). The group likely aims to attract touring passengers by virtue of the new theme park project.
Author: Mizuki Okada