Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Tokyo, Japan
by Jay Mohri
From June 22, 2013, to September 16, 2013, Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the Mori Arts Center in Tokyo, Japan. This was its second Asian stop and ninth stop overall.
First of all, I’d like to thank MuggleNet for letting me cover this event. It was an amazing day for me, and I hope this report will inform people of how incredible this exhibition truly is.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition is an amazing work of art. Now, some of you may have already read about the countless beautiful props, costumes, and artifacts on display at the exhibition, and yes, they are unquestionably fascinating, but after spending a day listening to the creators and watching them work, I was able to see how much effort they put into this fantastic exhibition and was constantly amazed by the way the exhibition itself was presented to the audience.
One of the key features of this exhibition is the fact that, unlike most exhibitions, where you use just your sight to gain information, Harry Potter: The Exhibition is interactive and will draw you into the world of Harry Potter with its unique ways of conveying information. Another thing I would like to note is how the exhibition follows a certain story line. During the walk-through, Mr. Newquist, from Global Experience Specialists, Inc. (GES), explained to us that the exhibition is meant to feel like you are experiencing life as a Hogwarts student.
Mori Art Museum, located in Tokyo, was just a ten-minute jog away from Roppongi station. This was my first time attending an event as a reporter, and being a mere student, I was a bit nervous as I waited near the reception desk. I was soon invited to the photo room, where they handed me a Gryffindor scarf and told me to stand in front of the green screen. After that, the Harry Potter theme song started playing and a lady from Warner Bros. came and joined me, which was a relief because up until that point, I was the only non-staff member in the room. We then started to chat with one of the photographers working as a staff member, and while I never got to ask his name, I thought I was definitely going to mention him in this report since he was really nice to us. When I asked how different the exhibition at Mori Art Museum was going to be from when the exhibition was at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, he explained to us in detail the differences between Mori Arts Museum and other museums the exhibition has been to in the past five years. We waited for a while in the room until a staff member came to tell us that we were going to be the only ones on the walk-through tour since the others did not show up. The man then led us up to the 52nd floor, which we somehow got up to in under a minute (enchanted elevator, perhaps?), and there we met Mr. Newquist and Mr. Phillips from GES. They were extremely kind, treating me like an actual reporter even though I practically messed up from the very beginning, somewhat failing to introduce myself because I was panicking inwardly.
Inside the Exhibition: The Sorting
After a brief conversation, we were let into the exhibition, and the moment I stepped into the first room, it felt like I was sucked into the world of Harry Potter. In the big black room, the Sorting Hat was sitting on a stool next to a (staff member dressed as a) witch. Since we were the only two guests in the room, we both were able to get Sorted by the Sorting Hat. I told them I wanted to be in Slytherin, and the hat Sorted me accordingly. The room also had posters from all the movies, and a stained glass window was placed behind the Sorting Hat, making the room look somewhat like the Great Hall.
Preshow Area and Hogwarts Express
After the Sorting Ceremony, we moved to the next room, where they played a short video featuring highlights from the Harry Potter movies. The reason they made this video, explained by Mr. Phillips, is because they wanted to give people who aren’t fans a short introduction to the films. He also said that they worked with the filmmakers to incorporate all the shots they wanted to put in. After the video ended, the Hogwarts Express was revealed, and we walked by, amazed by the smoke coming out and the poster of Sirius Black next to it.
Portraits, Gryffindor Common Room, and Divination
After walking through a short hall with portraits on the walls (including the Fat Lady), we reached the Gryffindor common room. Half of the room displayed Harry’s and Ron’s beds along with their belongings (wands, Ron’s Howler, etc.), and the other half had props from the common room as well as uniforms. We were then led to the divination display, which interestingly had Harry’s teacup with tea leaves forming the Grim.
Defense Against the Dark Arts and Potions
The next part featured Gilderoy Lockhart, Dolores Umbridge, and Remus Lupin. Mr. Newquist took time explaining Gilderoy Lockhart, telling us a story about a painting on the wall. When representatives from GES were walking through the sets, they found the painting and wanted it but didn’t ask for it since they thought the filmmakers wouldn’t let them have it. I was glad they brought it, though, since it really visualizes his narcissism very well. Umbridge’s and Lupin’s props were very detailed, and what was a bit surprising was how scary the jack-in-the-box from the boggart scene was, especially the teeth. The potions display, which was right next to Remus Lupin’s display, consisted of Severus Snape’s and Horace Slughorn’s costumes and potions-related props. Mr. Newquist told us that all the jars and elements are from the actual set and when GES started shipping them internationally, it started getting questions about the contents and had to check them.
Quidditch and Hagrid’s Hut
The Quidditch scene was one of the most fun and interactive displays in the exhibition. As imagined, Quidditch uniforms and brooms were on display, but what stood out the most was the toss-the-Quaffle game. We both got to shoot a couple of times, and I was surprised by the fact that there was a motion detector on the goals so every time the Quaffle goes in, a sound goes off and it makes the game more realistic. After having fun at the Quidditch scene, we moved on to Hagrid’s hut, where an animatronic Buckbeak was standing outside, and Mr. Newquist explained that real feathers were used for his skin and this Buckbeak was used on set (later on, Buckbeak was replaced with computer graphics). An exact duplicate of Hagrid’s armchair was on display inside the hut, and we got to sit in it (it was humongous).
Herbology and the Forbidden Forest
The interactive side of the exhibition appeared once again at the herbology scene. There we got to pull mandrakes out of their pots, and one of them had a very high-pitched voice, which actually made me want earplugs. Up to this point, everything was quite jolly and cozy, but when we walked toward the Forbidden Forest, we knew the next scene was going to be dark. How did we know? Everything was becoming dark. We were also able to tell where we were heading because we actually smelled the forest. Mr. Newquist explained to us that scents were used for the scene. The Forbidden Forest had everything dark, mostly Death Eater-related props, including Voldemort’s Horcruxes. We were told that for the first time in Asia, all the Horcruxes were on display in the same exhibition.
The Great Hall and Shop
We were told that the doors used for this scene were molded from the original doors. The Yule Ball costumes were displayed on the right, and on the left were Fred and George Weasley’s costumes, along with candy and goods from Zonko’s. This was the last display in the exhibition, and we were led out through a black curtain. After being told I could look around on my own for a while (the Warner Bros. lady left, so I had the exhibition all to myself), I decided to check out the shop. The only thing in the store that is limited to the Tokyo exhibition is the pamphlet written in English. Still, the goods in the shop were interesting. The store was apparently still waiting for orders, so it was still lacking certain T-shirt sizes and whatnot, but overall, it was a good lineup. I left the exhibition after that for a while, killing time until the fan preview started.
I went back to the museum an hour before the fan preview was starting, and there was already a long line of Potterheads. Most of them were there in regular clothes, but some of them were wearing costumes and carrying interesting handmade Potter items. While we were waiting for the door to open, one man dressed as Harry Potter used the Fire-aking Spell to light a book on fire inside the building and surprised everybody, including the staff (but not in a good way). I was lucky enough to interview a couple of fans while we were waiting and felt Mr. Newquist’s idea to make the exhibition interactive was a great choice. Ms. Chizuko Fukuyama, a well-dressed witch who was waiting in line among us Muggles, told us that she was very much looking forward to the interactive aspect of the exhibition. This exhibition will no doubt be an amazing experience for Potterheads living in Japan, and I really do hope people will come to experience it. There is no denying that the incredibly creative aspect that GES brought in combined with the extremely well-crafted props of the Harry Potter films will surely be highly enjoyable.