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Universal Studios Japan's Morioka makes magic with new attractions

OSAKA -- Universal Studios Japan's new area based on the wildly popular Harry Potter franchise was conjured up by Chief Marketing Officer Tsuyoshi Morioka.

     Morioka was brought to USJ from Procter & Gamble in 2010 in hopes that his marketing skills could reverse a slump in attendance. Unconcerned with being seen as an outsider, he soon told executives that "we should break away from being just a movie-themed park."

     This line of thinking led to such additions as a children's area featuring Hello Kitty and other popular characters and a backward-facing roller coaster. In fiscal 2013, the number of visitors reached the 10 million mark for the first time in 12 years.

     Morioka himself is an avid Harry Potter fan. Not long after joining USJ, he visited the newly opened Harry Potter area at Universal Orlando Resort and, impressed by its scale, made up his mind to bring that feeling to Japan. Despite initial opposition, USJ worked on the project for four years, investing 45 billion yen ($440 million).

     The attraction has been a smash hit since its opening on July 15, with 200 attendees waiting in line the night before opening day. But Morioka is still not satisfied.

     "We've realized half of the ideas I came up with when I joined the company, but there are still several left," he says.

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