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June 14, 2010

Tokyo Disney – A Few More Things

Two new attractions have opened at Tokyo Disneyland since my detailed description of this park a few years ago. Let's start with the lesser of the two. The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents “Aloha E Komo Mai!” has replaced The Enchanted Tiki Room: “Get the Fever.” The entire show is presented in Japanese. I saw it twice and was able to glean the basics, but until I did some research, some of the subtleties were lost on me. Here's a simple description of how the show plays out.


Tiki Room Entrance Sign


The presentation begins with a cast member introducing the four Birds of Paradise; Manu, Hanoli, Waha Nui, and Mahina. Their first number is "Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” but as the song is about to conclude, the lights temporarily go out. When they come back on we discover that the windows have been painted with messages and pictures in a childlike scrawl.

It is first thought that the drawings were done by Big Kahuna, the leader of the Enchanted Tiki Room. It's decided that it's best not to anger this all powerful god and the birds break into "Aloha E Komo Mai" from “Lilo and Stitch: The Series.”

Next the birds begin “The Hawaiian War Chat” but this song is soon interrupted by the appearance of Stitch's arm popping up from each of the four hanging flower baskets located around the room. In each case, he's holding a different horn or noise-maker to disrupt the proceedings.


Stitch's Arm


When things calm down, the “girls” on the Bird-Mobile descend from the ceiling, all sporting Stitch ears. They explain that some blue creature put the ears on them. Moments later, Stitch covers them in blue paint (lighting effect) and the girls leave, exclaiming that they will not return until this blue creature leaves.


Bird-Mobile


Shortly thereafter, Stitch appears in the middle of the room, at first pretending to be the Big Kahuna. But he soon reveals his true identity and admits he only staged his antics so he could be in the show. The Birds of Paradise reluctantly let him perform, but only if he promises no more disruptions. Stitch and the cast then perform a reprise of "Aloha, E Komo Mai” and the show comes to an end soon after.


Stitch in the Tiki Room

So what did I think of this show?

First, I have to admit, I'm not a big Stitch fan so I'm probably not the best person to review this attraction. Also, I'm still resentful that the Imagineers made over Alien Encounter. I hate that they took a truly edgy attraction and “dumbed it down” with the addition of Stitch.

That being said, I think Stitch is a better match for the Tiki Room than he is for Alien Encounter. His cartoonish characteristics work in this already somewhat silly attraction. I have to admit, I did enjoy this show. And I suspect that if I spoke Japanese I would be able to get more out of this attraction than I did.

Is this a great attraction? Nope. But I never expected “great” when I entered the building. But it's a decent show and it held my attention. And it's a much better attraction than the obnoxious “Under New Management” at the Magic Kingdom. If the parks still used ticket books, I'd give the Japanese version of the Tki Room a “C” coupon. And if we still used ticket books, you'd have to make “Under New Management” free to get me on it.

The really big addition to Tokyo Disneyland is “Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek.” Each morning, thousands of guests RUN to the FastPass machines for a chance to experience this ride. Temporary queues are erected to handle the crowds. Think of the FastPass lines for Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios and quadruple it. Within two hours of opening, all of the FastPasses are gone. Within 15 minutes, the attraction has an hour line and by noon, a two hour line.


Monsters Inc. Sign

Monsters Inc. FastPass Queue

Monsters Inc. FastPass Queue


The attraction is housed in a structure that resembles the power utility building in Monstropolis (as depicted in the movie). The queue is located under the large dome and the actual attraction is in the taller building.


Monsters Inc Building

Monsters Inc Building

Monsters Inc Building

Monsters Inc Building

The attraction's story takes place long after the events of the movie. The factory's old slogan "We Scare Because We Care" has been changed to "It's Laughter We're After."


We Scare Because We Care


The story of Ride and Go Seek goes something like this. Boo has wandered off in the power factory and Randall is after her so he can capture her screams. Mike and Sulley need to find her before Randall. To even the playing field, Mike throws the master power switch and turns out all the lights to Monstropolis. It's now our job to help locate Boo by using the provided flashlight (attached to the ride vehicle via a wire).


Mike Turning of the Lights


As you travel from room to room, you shine your flashlight on various targets scattered around the factory. When you do, it causes a number of different characters and objects to come to life. Monsters will appear from within a number of containers and peer out of windows. Objects dance, twist and twirl. In addition, we see Mike, Sulley, and Randall feverishly looking for Boo. Eventually, Boo is found and Randall is knocked into a garbage compacter and squished into a cube. In the final scene we find an interactive Roz who is able to make real-time comments to the passing riders. This same effect can be seen on “Mike and Sulley to the Rescue” at Disney's California Adventure. As you might guess, this attraction deposits its riders into the Monsters Inc. Company Store.


Mike and Sulley Fine Boo

Roz Talking to the Guests


I rode this attraction three times and I can't begin to remember everything I saw. There are dozens upon dozens of sights and experiences. It's a lot of fun and suitable for the entire family. There is nothing really scary about this attraction as most of the monsters are cartoonish and nothing really startles you.

Is this ride worth a two hour wait? Nope. But that's why they have FastPass.

Once again, if the Disney parks still had ticket books, I'd give this attraction a strong “D” coupon.

Outside of the ride is Mike Wazowski's new car, perfect for a photo op.


Mike Wazowski's new car


Shopping at the Tokyo parks is always an adventure. A Japanese custom is to bring friends and family some sort of remembrance when returning home. Among the most popular gifts are tins filled with cookies, crackers, and/or candy. Shops carrying this merchandise can be found everywhere. This next picture shows one such store in what would be our Emporium on Main Street. However, there are no cash registers in this shop. Instead, next to this shop is another room filled with nothing but queue for guests waiting to pay. Cast members are on hand to keep everything flowing smoothly. I snapped these pictures early in the day before the crowds materialized.


Shopping on World Bazaar

Queue to Pay


On the other side of the queue-room are banks of cash registers to handle the onslaught of shoppers. It is not uncommon to see high school students with armfuls of these tins.


Cash Register


Over at Tokyo DisneySea, “Turtle Talk With Crush” has been added to the S.S Columbia. As the story goes, a large viewing window has been constructed below water level at the rear of the ship, allowing guests to peer into the ocean.


S.S. Columbia

Turtle Talk Entrance


During the preshow, one of the Columbia's shipmates explains a new invention, the hydrophone, which will allow guests to actually speak with the sea creatures. Besides setting the mood for the upcoming show, this preshow helps pass the wait as the line is often an hour long.


Hydrophone


The basic show is almost identical to its Epcot cousin, albeit presented in a larger theater. However, the show is entirely in Japanese so unless you understand the language, the subtleties of the performance will be lost. I think Turtle Talk is a great attraction. But if you're visiting Tokyo DisneySea with limited time, I would definitely skip this show due to the language barrier.

One of the advantages of writing for Allears is that I get to correspond with people all over the world who love Disney. Over the last two years I have become friends with one of my Japanese readers, Katsumi. He lives in Tokyo and visits the Tokyo Disney Resort almost every weekend with his friend Daisuke. On my most recent trip, I arranged to meet with them and spend the day at Tokyo DisneySea. Since my Japanese is limited to a few words and phrases, it's wonderful that Katsumi speaks English fluently. The next two pictures were taken at the Restoranti di Canaletto where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch next to a Venetian canal. In the first picture, Katsumi is on the left and Daisuke on the right. The second picture is the view I had from my seat. Not too shabby.


Katsumi and Daisuke

Venetian Canal


One of Katsumi and Daisuke's favorite shows at Tokyo DisneySea is The Legend of Mythica. I learned that this show won the 15th Annual Thea Award. This honor is presented each year by TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) whose international organization recognizes the world's leading creators, developers, designers and producers of compelling places, experiences, and storytelling.

The Legend of Mythica is presented on the vast body of water that makes up Mediterranean Harbor. Viewing areas were carefully considered when designing Tokyo DisneySea and guests can choose ideal locations all around the lagoon. Like so many others who visit this park, Katsumi and Daisuke stake out their favorite viewing spot well over an hour in advance.


Waiting for the Show

Waiting for the Show


Briefly, the Legend of Mythica tells us that the creatures of fantasy really did exist in ancient worlds. And during this time, man and these mythological beasts shared the same space and lived and played together. But when man became divided and argued, these wonderful creatures retreated to the seas, only to return when man could restore harmony. The pageantry that unfolds before us celebrates the return of these magnificent creatures.

Of course, the Imagineers have woven several of the Disney characters into this fanciful tale by giving them a purpose in man's return to harmony. Goofy represents the Spirit of Laughter, Minnie is the enduring Spirit of Love, Donald reflects the courageous Spirit of Adventure, Pluto represents loyalty and sincerity, and Chip & Dale symbolize the Spirit of Friendship. And of course, Mickey represents the Spirit of Imagination.

A number of stunning floats, performers, kites, pyrotechnics, and boats make up the show. It is pageantry unlike anything seen at the other Disney parks around the world. It is little wonder why thousands of people line Mediterranean Harbor each afternoon to witness this spectacle. Here are a few pictures of this remarkable show.


Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica

Legend of Mythica


Although I have many more stories and adventures I could share about my recent trip to the Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney Resorts, that's all for now. As I said in my blogs two years ago, if there is any way you can swing it, plan a trip to Tokyo. You will not be disappointed. And I firmly believe that once the new lands are completed (in a few years) at Hong Kong Disneyland, this resort will also be worth the long flight across the Pacific.




February 6, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Three

In Part One and Two of this blog series, I discussed in detail the Tower of Terror (TOT) attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Part Three, I'm going to give you an overview of the other three TOT's around the world. Let's start with the second tower to be built.

Disney's California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure (DCA) did not open to the rave reviews Disney had hoped for. Beginning operation on February 8, 2001, it struggled for an audience. Guests continually compared it to Disneyland next store -- and there was no comparison. Something needed to be done. DCA needed more "E" attractions.

Since DCA has a "land" known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot, similar in concept to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Imagineers looked to Florida to see what could be copied and brought to Anaheim. It didn't take too much thought to realize that the highly successful TOT would be a natural at the California park. However, there wasn't as much land in California as there is in Florida and the bean-counters wanted to spend less building the second tower. To accomplish this, the attraction would need to be redesigned significantly.


Hollywood PIctures Backlot


In Florida, guests board the elevators in four loading zones. Each elevator has its own ascent shaft and looks into its own, separate "hallway" sequence. Once the elevators reach the Fifth Dimension Room, two vehicles merge and share a single track and move toward one of the two drop shafts. Once the elevator finishes its ride and unloads its passengers, it completes the circuit and returns to the loading dock.

This configuration required a significant amount of land, something that was at a premium in California. Also, if one of the shafts was out of service, the ride's capacity was cut in half. In addition, the Fifth Dimension Room was prone to breakdowns. It was decided that a fresh look and redesign of the attraction could possibly remedy some of these problems and bring construction costs down.

First, the Imagineers eliminated the Fifth Dimension Room. Without this section of the ride, the elevators would not need to make a complete "circle" for each cycle. This would significantly reduce the footprint of the building. Now, loading and unloading would take place at the same location. However, to increase capacity, each shaft would load from one of two floors in the boiler room. As car "A" was loading on the ground floor, car "B", which had loaded from the second floor, was experiencing the ride. But since two cars cannot occupy the same shaft at the same time, the elevators travel horizontally between the shaft and loading platforms. And finally, a third drop-shaft was added to increase capacity. Now, if a problem occurs, only one third of the attraction is out of service while repairs are being made.


DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror


It is interesting to note how similar, yet different the attractions are from one another. Take for instance the lobby. At a first glance, the DCA version looks just like the reception area in Florida, but upon closer inspection, you can see a number of subtle differences.


DCA Tower of Terro Lobby


The Imagineers felt bad about eliminating the popular Fifth Dimension Room. To make up for this, they added a new effect. Now the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. Rod Serling tells us to "wave goodbye to the real world." A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

Another change involved the hallway scene. In Florida, we see a window at the end of the hallway that eventually floats and breaks before us. But in California, we see an open elevator at the end of the hall. When you arrive at this floor, the narration says, "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again." Then we see the doomed five appear then disappear, in the same manner as in Florida. But in California, they reappear in the open elevator at the end of the hall, which eventually drops out of sight, taking its passengers with it. A moment later, the elevator you are riding in also drops before making its numerous ascents and descents.

Tower of Terror opened at Disney's California Adventure on May 5, 2004. It is 183 feet tall, making it shorter than the Florida tower which is 199 feet in height. However, the California version extends 40 feet underground. Unofficial sources put the construction cost at $90M, $50M less than its cousin in Florida.

Tower of Terror is one of DCA's more popular attractions. And like all of its cousins around the world, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and much of Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios Paris

Like Disney's California Adventure, The Walt Disney Studios in Paris was also suffering "theme park envy" when compared to Disneyland Paris next door. And once again, TOT came to the rescue. But unlike Florida and California, the Paris park did not have a comparable Hollywood street. One would have to be created to surround the tower.


Walt Disney Studios Hollywood Section


The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the “Pueblo Deco” style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S. In addition, it uses the same loading system as California and has no Fifth Dimension Room, but features the mirror effect.

Paris' TOT is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the “La Quatrième Dimension” when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.

The attraction opened on December 22, 2007. Here are a few pictures of it taken by my friend TDLFAN. Compare these to the pictures of the Disney's California Adventure tower and you can see they are practically twins.


Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror Lobby


This picture is from a Paris ad campaign.


Paris TOT Ad Campaign


Tokyo DisneySea

One of the "lands" at Tokyo DisneySea is called the American Waterfront. This section of the park is divided into three areas, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod. The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea and the New York City section is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in the other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Southwestern motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.


Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Tokyo DisneySea TOT


Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.

“Welcome to the ‘Tower of Terror' tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year's Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find " a statue called ‘Shiriki Utundu' which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.


Shiriki Utundu


That very night, the hotel's main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the ‘Tower of Terror.'

Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.

As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower's collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.

The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower's penthouse. Please enjoy the ride.”


Tour Sign in Queue


Unlike the other three towers, the queue for the Tokyo version actually christcrosses its way through the lobby.


TOT DisneySea Lobby


In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower's image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.


Stained-Glass Window


From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower's vast collection of art that he's commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we're taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo's tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints. Shiriki Utundu continues to play a major roll during your rise and fall and appears over and over again.


TOT Storeroom


The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower's penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.

Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rohde, designer of the Animal Kingdom.


Harrison Hightower


TOT opened at Tokyo DisneySea on September 4, 2006. I can't say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.

This completes my blog series about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think the Imagineers outdid themselves when dreaming up this magnificent attraction. No matter how many times I ride, I keep discovering new details.

August 18, 2008

Should you go to Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney?

During the postings of my Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney blogs, I received several emails from people asking me if it's worth the trip to travel this vast distance to visit these parks. Ultimately, this would depend on your budget and how strong your desire is to experience the foreign Disney parks, but I will give you my thoughts.

Let's start with Hong Kong.

It's a 13-14 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong. That's a long time to spend in an airplane. Fortunately, I had enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade to Business Class and I would recommend this to anyone who can swing it.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Hong Kong Disneyland is a nice, LITTLE park, but it still has a long way to go before it could be considered a great park. There just aren't enough rides and attractions to keep the average guest busy for more than a day " two if you're a true Disney fanatic. I chose to spend three full days here because I'm a Disney extremist and I wanted to experience everything multiple times, but I would only recommend this length of stay to a handful of my readers. Because of the lack of rides and attractions, it becomes difficult for me to recommend a trip all the way to Hong Kong, JUST to see Disneyland.

But keep in mind, the City of Hong Kong is only a 20 minute train ride away from Disneyland. And believe me, there is no other city on earth like Hong Kong. This is a magnificent metropolis. A combination of ultra modern and traditional Chinese make this an exciting place to visit. You can easily spend three days here. And a day trip via hydrofoil to Macau is also a great excursion.


HK%201.jpg

HK%202.jpg

HK%203.jpg

Macau.jpg


So, if you add the City of Hong Kong and Macau to your trip to HKDL, then it becomes a no-brainer. I say, “Go for it.”

If you do decide to go to Hong Kong, I would break the trip up into two sections. Stay at the Disneyland or Hollywood Hotel for two or three nights and the remainder of your stay on Hong Kong Island or across the harbor in Kowloon.


Disneyland%20Hotel%20100.jpg

Hollywood%20Hotel%20100.jpg


I've stayed at the Kowloon Shangri-La twice and was most pleased. In fact, it's one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in. It has beautiful views of Hong Kong Island and it's an easy walk to many of the sights. However, I'm sure there are MANY equally good hotels to choose from. Talk to your travel agent.


Shangri-La%201.jpg

Shangri-La%202.jpg


Now let's discuss Japan. Should you fly 9-10 hours from Chicago to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort? Absolutely!

If you've been reading my blogs, you know that I rank Tokyo DisneySea as my absolute favorite park and I rank Tokyo Disneyland as my fifth favorite out of a total of eleven. Each of these parks has much more to offer than HKDL and each requires every bit of two days to see. Also, keep in mind that you probably won't be returning anytime soon, so I would suggest spending three full days in each park to make sure you've imprinted all the sights and sounds into your brain.

Just like Disney World, I always recommend staying “on property.” If there is anyway you can afford it, stay at the MiraCosta. With the hotel located literally inside Tokyo DisneySea, it's the most magical of any Disney hotel anywhere in the world. You'll be glad you did. Also consider the new Disneyland Hotel which is right on the doorstep of Tokyo Disneyland. And lastly, the Ambassador Hotel which is just a short walk from the monorail, is worthy of your consideration.


MiraCoast%20100.jpg

TDL%20Hotel%20100.jpg

Ambassador%20101.jpg


Japan is an expensive country. If budget starts to play a part in your decision, consider staying at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel. It's a little less costly than the Disney hotels and it's extremely convenient to the Disney monorail so the parks are still just a short ride away.


Sharaton%20100.jpg


On one trip, I stayed at an inexpensive (relatively speaking) Holiday Inn in downtown Tokyo and took the train to Disneyland everyday. It was less expensive than staying on property, but it lacked “magic” and I was more or less stuck at the park all day long as it would not be convenient to return to my hotel mid-day for a nap.

But here comes my dilemma when suggesting a trip to Tokyo. How can you possibly fly all this way and ONLY see Disney? Japan is a beautiful country. It would take weeks just to see the highlights. Do you really want to miss out on experiencing this wonderful culture?

Japan is roughly the size of California and has a magnificent railway system that can take you almost anywhere quickly and safely. But navigating in Japan can be daunting for someone who doesn't speak the language. To make things easier, I would suggest meeting with a travel agent and arrange for a multi-day tour of the country that begins or ends in Tokyo, then spend an additional 6-7 days at Disney.

Here are just a FEW of the “must see” attractions in Japan.

Daibutsu (Buddha) in Kamakura


Kamakura.jpg


Daibutsu (Buddha) in Nara


Daibutsu%20in%20Nara.jpg


Kyoto's Golden Pavilion


Golden%20Palace.jpg


The Kyoto Bridge


Kyoto%20Bridge.jpg


Osaka Castle


Osaka%20Castle.jpg


Nagasaki


Nagasaki.jpg


If you've already visited the City of Hong Kong and the country of Japan as I have, or, if you really only want to visit Disney, you might want to do what I did and combine both resorts into one trip. I figured if I was flying all the way across the Pacific anyway, why not lengthen my stay and see both resorts. It's about a 4½ hour flight between Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Getting from the airports to the resorts is easy. In Hong Kong, just hail a cab and tell him where you want to go. It shouldn't cost much more than $20US to get to the Disneyland Resort. (Honk Kong also uses the “dollar” so don't get confused.) The trip takes about 20 minutes. You can also take a train, which would be cheaper, but that would involve a transfer. And do you really want to schlep your luggage through crowded stations after just having completed a 13+ hour flight?

In Tokyo, there are a number of motor-coach counters located immediately after you clear customs. It's here that you can arrange transportation to Disney. After purchasing your ticket (about $25 per person one-way) you will be told where to wait for the bus which will be just a short walk from the counter. The trip takes approximately one hour. You arrange for your return trip at your hotel.

Even though Visa and Master Card are accepted everywhere, I always try to have some local currency in hand when I arrive. It's just one less thing I have to worry about after my flight.

One of the major enjoyments I get out of Disney theme parks is comparing them to one another. It fascinates me to see how similar, yet different, any given attraction can be.

I realize that international travel isn't in everyone's budget, but if you're one of those families that visits Walt Disney World three or four times a year, might I suggest that you only visit once or twice some year and use the money you'll save for an overseas Disney trip. You'll be happy you did.

Although I have not talked about the Disneyland Paris Resort in my recent blogs, I rank Disneyland Paris as my second favorite park. And even though I rank the Walt Disney Studios Paris as my least favorite park, I still feel the resort has a lot to offer " a lot more than Hong Kong. Not to mention, the City of Lights is just a short train ride away.

So, this ends my Asian Disney blogs. I hope you've enjoyed them. I've had a good time reliving my adventures by sharing them with you.

August 9, 2008

Fantasyland Part 2 - Tokyo Disneyland

I rank Pooh's Hunny Hunt as one of my all time, world-wide favorite Disney attractions! And considering I'm not a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, that's saying a lot.

When I wrote about World Bazaar, I mentioned that I would talk about FASTPASS in a later blog. Well the time has come.

FASTPASS works exactly the same in Tokyo as it does in California and Florida.

You arrive at a FASTPASS kiosk, insert your admission ticket, and receive a slip of paper with a return time printed on it. Simple. But Pooh's Hunny Hunt is the first attraction that I've literally, without exaggeration, waited 25-45 minutes in line to pick up a FASTPASS.


When Tokyo Disneyland opens, everyone scrambles to their favorite attraction to secure a FASTPASS, and Pooh's Hunny Hunt is one of the most popular destinations. Cast members set up a temporary queue just to handle the FASTPASS line for this attraction. This picture was taken at around 9:30am and the line is about 25 minutes long at this point. Note, this is the line for the FASTPASS, NOT the attraction.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


By 10am, one hour after the park opens, Pooh's Hunny Hunt will have an 80 minute standby line. By 11am, it can easily be two hours. And at 10am, the Fast Pass return time will already be late afternoon or early evening.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Why is this attraction so popular? Because it is astoundingly superior to its cousins in California, Florida, and Hong Kong. These other three versions pale in comparison. And even if you didn't compare it to the other Pooh attractions, it's a fantastic attraction in its own right.

I will do my best to describe the experience, but I know my efforts will fall short. Let's start with the cast member costume. Here they wear a “camp counselor” outfit -- very appropriate for the 100 Acre Wood.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


The queue begins in a lovely garden. In the background you see a large book, open to a Winnie the Pooh story.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


After a number of switchbacks through the plants and flowers, you eventually enter a gardener's shack full of tools and toys. As you exit this building you find yourself behind the large book you saw earlier, looking back out into the garden.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


From here you weave in and around more book pages as you gradually work your way to the head of the line.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Pooh's Hunny Hunt loads three hunny buckets at a time. Each bucket holds four guests, two in the front and two in the rear. As the ride begins, all three vehicles move forward simultaneously, one, two, three. There is no track on the floor so the buckets are free to move about randomly.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


A short distance away, all three vehicles come to a stop in front of a giant storybook, which comes to life as Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh set the mood for the adventure to come.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


A moment later, you leave this area, but not in the same order as you arrived. Now, vehicle number three is in the lead, followed by two and one. Next stop, the Blustery Day room. As you enter this large area, your vehicles seem to have minds of their own. Each hunny pot takes a different route and roams around the room as the wind causes a number of events to unfold.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland

Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


As each vehicle wanders about, you'll see most, but not all of the goings on. Each hunny pot experiences things a little differently. When you leave this room, vehicle number two is in the lead, followed by one and three.

Next you enter the Bounce Room where Tigger is your host. All three vehicles come to a stop, then the entire floor begins to bounce up and down. At the same time, the trees and plants that surround the room spring to life, but they bounce independently from the floor. All the while, Tigger can be seen hopping from one screen to the next in the background. The effect is fantastic. You really are immersed in the middle of everything.

As you leave this room, you travel backwards down a long hallway with car number one in the lead, followed by three and two. Eventually you make another stop, this time to watch Pooh fall asleep and go into his dream state. This effect is the same as the one seen at Florida and California.

From here you enter the Heffalumps and Woozles Room. This is the best area of all! As you enter this “fun house,” you join four other hunny pots already in the midst of things. Three of the hunny pots are occupied by other guests and the fourth contains several Heffalumps and Woozles.

At this point, your three vehicles join the Heffalumps and Woozles' hunny pot and create a circle. Then the four of you rotate around each other. After you make a couple of revolutions, you break away from the group and start your crazy journey around the room. At the same time, the vehicles that were already in the room when you arrived take their exit. As they leave, a fresh group of hunny pots join the room and create a new circle with the Heffalumps and Woozles.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Now traveling independently from the other hunny pots, your vehicle moves from one gag to the next, stopping momentarily to view the event, then moving on " sometimes forward, sometimes backwards.

It seems to be complete chaos, seven hunny pots moving about randomly. It's sheer delight. Eventually, it's time for your group of hunny pots to leave the room, only to be replaced by a new group of three.

Your final stop brings you to Pooh covered in honey.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


When you eventually reach the unloading area, car number three is in the lead, followed by two and one. And I guarantee, you'll want to hop right back on and experience this ride again. Unfortunately, by this time, all of the Fast Passes are gone and it's an hour-and-a-half to two hour wait for the standby line.

If you are lucky enough to ride this attraction multiple times, be sure to request a different hunny pot on each occasion as the sights and experience is slightly different depending on the car you're in.

You exit the attraction through a shop, as if you couldn't have guessed that.


Pooh's Hunny Hunt Tokyo Disneyland


Pooh's Hunny Hunt uses the same ride technology as the Aquatopia ride at Tokyo DisneySea. Having no track, the hunny pots are controlled by a master computer that relays directional information to each individual unit from a number of transponders positioned throughout the attraction. This allows different vehicles to take different routes, adding to the confusion of the experience.

Why do I think this ride is so fantastic? It's because you're immersed in the story. You're more than just a passive observer; you're part of what's going on. Somehow you've been whisked from reality and allowed to “live” the fantasy for a few moments. No trip to Tokyo Disneyland would be complete without experiencing this attraction. Even if you HATE Winnie the Pooh, this is a MUST SEE attraction.

I find it sad that Disney chose to build “traditional” Winnie the Pooh attractions at Disneyland CA and Hong Kong. They knew they had a winner with the Tokyo version. Why did they “cheap out” in the other parks? From my own experience and from what I've read, the Pooh attraction in California is often empty, even when the park is busy. I can guarantee that if they had put in the Tokyo version, this wouldn't be the case.

Located outside of this attraction is a concession stand that sells honey flavored popcorn. How appropriate.


Popcorn Cart


It's interesting to note that even though popcorn is sold extensively at both Disneyland and DisneySea, finding plain, salted popcorn is almost impossible. It seems that the Japanese enjoy their kernels flavored. Here are just a FEW of the varieties you'll find: curry, chocolate, cream soda, caramel, black pepper, strawberry, salad, cappuccino, and coconut.

Pinocchio's Daring Journey is located across the way from Pooh's Hunny Hunt.


Pinocchio's Daring Journey


This attraction is a carbon copy of the Pinocchio adventure at Disneyland in California. This is a classic “dark” ride that follows the wooden boy and his conscience on a series of adventures.


Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Pinocchio's Daring Journey


The final attraction in Fantasyland is The Mickey Mouse Review.


The Mickey Mouse Review


For all of you old enough to remember, The Mickey Mouse Review was one of the original Magic Kingdom attractions that ran from October 1, 1971 through September 14, 1980 when it was closed and shipped to Tokyo. Florida guests still look back nostalgically when they think of this show.

For those of you who fondly remember this classic, I have good news and bad news. The good news is this, other than being translated into Japanese, the show has not changed one bit since its opening in 1971. The bad news, other than being translated into Japanese, the show has not changed one bit since its opening in 1971.

The presentation begins in a preshow area. Here you'll watch the same exact film that was shown at Disney World (dubbed in Japanese). As the movie begins, an animated “sound track” moves from the side of the filmstrip to the center of the screen and introduces a variety of Mickey Mouse cartoon clips and a history of animation unfolds. This “soundtrack” gag was originally used in the movie Fantasia.

This movie is horribly out of date. Ever present is the old Disney World logo.


WDW%20Logo.jpg


The film is also terribly scratched and the colors are faded.

From the preshow area we move into the main theater, which looks pretty much as it did in Florida.


The Mickey Mouse Review


For those of you not familiar with the attraction, a large collection of audioanimatronic Disney characters are assembled on stage and perform a number of classic songs. Mickey Mouse takes center stage as the conductor of the orchestra.


The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review


With the exception of Mickey Mouse saying goodbye at the end of the show, all of the songs has been translated into Japanese. This isn't a problem since there is no dialog and we're all so familiar with the music that we can translate the lyrics in our heads.


The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review

The Mickey Mouse Review


But the show is frozen in the past. The most current movie represented is The Jungle Book which came out in 1967. And by today's standards, the show is very slow moving.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy this attraction, and I suspect that many of my generation would also like seeing it again or for the first time. But younger audiences may find it a little dull and plodding. I know many Disney purest will disagree with me, but I think this show could be updated, both in pacing and with more contemporary characters and songs

This attraction is rarely crowded, even on busy days, and it's a good place to relax and cool off when you need a rest.

There are a number of places to eat in Fantasyland, but I'm only going to talk about one, the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. Located between the Haunted Mansion and “it's a small world,” this restaurant was designed with an Alice in Wonderland theme and an exterior that looks like a fanciful castle. You'll even be able to spot a few playing-cards painting the roses red.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


Inside you'll find an elaborate buffeteria and show-kitchen that serves an assortment of entrees such as rotisserie chicken, steamed sole, meatloaf, and a variety of salads, soups, and desserts.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


The seating area is also a lot of fun as you sit among more playing cards, overgrown flowers, and a beautiful stained glass window.


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall


This restaurant is very popular and lines tend to be long for lunch and dinner.

For me, Tokyo's Fantasyland lacks an overall cohesiveness. It has a lot of nice individual elements, but somehow I don't feel that they blend together well enough to make this land magical. Instead, you just wander from one attraction to the next with no real sense of being anywhere special. Others might disagree, but that's my take. That's it for the realm of fairytales.

Next stop, Toontown.

August 5, 2008

Fantasyland Part 1 - Tokyo Disneyland

Fantasyland Part 1

Before I start my description of Fantasyland, I need to post a correction. My friend Katsumi, who lives in Tokyo, informs me that the Japanese do indeed wear shorts during the months of July and August when temperatures demand cooler attire. So feel free to don your lighter togs during this time.

Now, onto Fantasyland.

Just beyond Cinderella Castle we find the most magical land of all, Fantasyland.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


As I mentioned in a previous blog, the exteriors of the Tokyo and Florida castles were almost identical until just recently when the Tokyo castle was given a new color scheme.

Here's a picture standing at the castle entrance, looking back toward The Hub and World Bazaar. The two large turrets conceal lighting and sound equipment used for many of the shows presented in front of the castle.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


Within the castle breezeway, you'll find the same Cinderella mosaic as the one at Walt Disney World.


Cinderella Castle Mosaics Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle Mosaics Tokyo Disneyland


Up until two years ago, the interior of the Tokyo castle contained a walkthrough attraction called the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour (there is no restaurant in this castle). Here, groups of about 25 guests were escorted through a labyrinth of rooms and hallways, dungeons and turrets by a cast member who would have an ongoing discussion with the “Magic Mirror.” Along the way you would encounter a number of villains in various settings. You even came face to face with a dragon that was very reminiscent of the dragon that lives beneath Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty Castle) in Paris. The climax of the tour involved a showdown between good and evil and a youngster was chosen from the group to do battle with the Horned King from the Black Cauldron. Of course virtue triumphed and there was a happen ending.


Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour Tokyo Disneyland


Even though I didn't understand any of the dialogue, I enjoyed this attraction as it was completely different from any other Disney experience. I was sad to see it close. No replacement has been announced.

Here are a few more pictures of the castle and its courtyard.


Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle  Tokyo Disneyland


Moving clockwise from the castle courtyard, you come to Snow White's Adventures. Notice the word “Scary” is not in the title here. I find this strange because I felt that this version of the ride was much more intense than its American cousins - especially the scenes in the haunted forest. The trees were more menacing and this section of the ride was longer.


Snow White's Adventures Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


Next we come to Peter Pan's Flight. In this case the attraction is almost identical to the one in Florida. However, I will make two observations.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland

Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


First, the boarding area is about four feet higher than ground level. To bring guests up to this height, the queue is actually a series of ramps that switch back and forth until you reach the boarding area. Unfortunately, when you're in line on a lower level you're able to look up into the ride mechanism and see the track. It's impossible to ignore and I feel it really detracts from the magic.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


For my next comment, I'm only using the Peter Pan attraction as an example. For what I'm about to describe is common everywhere at the Tokyo parks.

There is never a lack of cast members manning the rides. For Peter Pan there were two cast members maintaining the queue -- greeting guests and keeping the line moving. When you reached to boarding area, a third cast member asked you how many people were in your party and a fourth helped you into your ship. And finally, a fifth cast member helped you exit your ship at the end of the ride. That's five cast members for one simple attraction.

I've often seen only one cast member man the “dark rides” at California and Florida. I was continually amazed by the number of cast members I saw everywhere. Restaurants, shops, and attractions easily had one and half to two times the cast members as their American counterparts.


Peter Pan's Flight Fantasyland Tokyo Disneyland


Keeping in our clockwise direction, and practically entering Westernland, we come to Snow White's Grotto. This pleasant spot is a copy of the grotto found at Disneyland CA.


Snow White's Grotto Tokyo Disneyland


For those of you not familiar with the story of the Snow White Grotto, it goes something like this. It seems that Walt received an anonymous gift from an Italian admirer who sculpted Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Walt was so touched by this gesture that he insisted that the figures be placed in his new Disneyland park. There was just one problem. It seems that the sculptor made Snow White the same size as the dwarfs instead of twice their size. In order to remedy this oversight, the Imagineers decided to use forced perspective and place Snow White high above the dwarfs, thus minimizing the similarity in height and making her look taller than she actually is.

When the Oriental Land Company was told this story, they insisted that their Snow White Grotto be the same as the California version. They did not want the “mistake” corrected.

Continuing our clockwise tour of Fantasyland we come to the Haunted Mansion.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


At first you might think that this is an odd place to put the Haunted Mansion, but there are a number of reasons why it ended up here. Since Disney was only going to build “half” of New Orleans Square in Adventureland, there was no place for it here. Also, Tokyo would have no Liberty Square as this was an area the Japanese could not relate to. So nix that idea.

Throughout the Haunted Mansion's development and history, thoughts of placing it on Main Street and Frontierland had been considered. But these ideas were also dismissed for the new Tokyo park for various reasons. In the end, it was Japanese culture that determined its location as ghost stories are considered fairytales or fables in their society. Since Fantasyland is all about fairytales, what better place for the Haunted Mansion.

Until the mansion in Florida had its major rehab last year, the Tokyo mansion was an exact copy inside and out. The only difference is that the exterior of the Tokyo mansion is run down, evidenced by broken windows and overgrown gardens.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland

Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


The queue is also somewhat different. Here you pass by several crypts in various stages of decay.


Haunted Mansion Tokyo Disneyland


The parades also make their entrance from an area next to the Haunted Mansion. I don't have any pictures of the current parade so I'm only going to be posting one photo that has to do with an interesting detail I will relate.

A number of Americans are hired to portray many of the “face” characters in the parades and throughout the park. A “face” character is someone whose actual face is visible to the public like Snow White, Prince Charming, and Sleeping Beauty. Since a Japanese cast member could not be made up to look like these characters, it's necessary to hire people who can emulate them. This is also done at Hong Kong Disneyland.

When I've watched the parades in Tokyo, I've taken some of the greatest pictures because my blonde hair stands out among the crowd. Therefore, I'm more noticeable to the characters and they lock eyes with me as they pass by.


Face Character


Continuing on, we come to Dumbo The Flying Elephant. My comment here is that this attraction needs to be torn out and rebuilt. See for yourself.


Dumbo The Flying Elephant Tokyo Disneyland


This version of Dumbo harkens back to the original Dumbo attraction at Disneyland California in 1955. It looks cheap. It only has eight elephants (instead of 16 like the other parks) and has very few architectural embellishments around the ride. Considering the money Oriental Land Company is willing to spend on other projects, it surprises me they haven't updated this attraction.

The next ride we come to is Castle Carrousel. There's not much I can add to this " it's a merry-go-round. However, I would like to note that the cast members stand attentively and wave to you as you ride by on your steed.


Castle Carrousel Tokyo Disneyland

Castle Carrousel Tokyo Disneyland


Like the carousel, there's not much I can say about Alice's Tea Party. Round and round you go, where you puke, nobody knows. Like Florida, this attraction is covered to protect you from the elements.


Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland

Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland

Alice's Tea Party Tokyo Disneyland


Visitors familiar with Disneyland in California often complain when seeing Disney World's “it's a small world” for the first time. The exterior is quite a disappointment compared to its west coast counterpart.

In an effort to correct this mistake, the Imagineers took the best from both American parks when designing the Tokyo version of “it's a small world.” The elaborate exterior from California would be combined with Florida's indoor boarding area.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland

it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland

it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


The actual ride is closer to Florida's design as your boat floats through a “lake” rather than a trough.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


Here's another picture of “it's a small world” taken from the now defunct Skyway.


it's a small world Tokyo Disneyland


That's it for Part 1 of Fantasyland. Stay tuned for Part 2.

August 2, 2008

Critter Country - Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country is the smallest land at Tokyo Disneyland and is located at the top end of the Rivers of America. The only access to Critter Country is through Westernland. And in a sense, Critter Country a subset of Westernland, just with a whimsical feel.


Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland


The animals in Critter Country live anywhere there's room to build a house. Every nook and cranny is filled with their handiwork. Take a gander at a few of their homes.


Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland

Critter Country Critter Homes Tokyo Disneyland


There are only two attractions and two eateries in Critter Country. Let's start with the biggest, Splash Mountain.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The queue for this attraction is divided into two sections, the outside and the inside. Once again, the Imagineers wanted to protect the guests from Tokyo's cold and wet winters so a full 45 minutes of the line is deep within the mountain. This is also where you board and exit your log. This attraction does use Fastpass and the dispensing machines are located conveniently before you reach the queue.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The indoor queue has interesting scenery as your path takes you deeper and deeper inside the mountain. Eventually you'll meet an audioanimatronic owl who entertains the passing guests " all in Japanese.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Shortly before boarding, you'll come face to face with one of the larger hidden Mickeys.


Hidden Mickey Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Like Big Thunder Railroad, Tokyo's Splash Mountain has a completely different track layout than Florida or California. Once again, most of the same scenes are present, but you experience them a little differently because of the dissimilar route. Guests also sit side-by-side in the same way they do in Florida.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


The Japanese aren't as keen on getting wet as we Americans. Combine this with the harsher winters and it became apparent that something needed to be done to minimize how wet a guest would get. To do this, the Imagineers redesigned the logs so they repel water more efficiently and create less of a splash. You still get sprayed, but it's not nearly as intense.


Splash Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


I can't say that this Splash Mountain is any better or worse then its American cousins " just different. However, I do like the indoor queue. When it's hot and humid in Florida, I can't wait until I enter the “cave” section of the line for a little air conditioning.

The other attraction in Critter Country is the Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Long absent from Florida and Paris, but still going strong in California, this is the low-tech ride where guests get to do all of the work (with some help from the two cast members). You board at the far end of Critter Country and each canoe seats approximately 18 guests. You're given a paddle and asked to carefully take a seat.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Soon after leaving the dock, you are given instructions on how to row.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


From then on, it's a leisurely trip around Tom Sawyer Island.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


You see the exact same sights as you do from the Mark Twain Riverboat, but it's a little different from this vantage point.


Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland

Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes Tokyo Disneyland


Something I think the decision-makers in Florida have forgotten is that low capacity attractions still add to the overall experience. Even if guests don't ride the canoes, they add to the atmosphere of the area. They are visually appealing to look at as they pass by. As I mentioned in my last blog, I spent 30 minutes just waving to the canoes as they sailed by the Lucky Nugget Café. Not every attraction needs to be an “E” ticket.

Near the Beaver Brother's Explorer Canoes is a restaurant called Rackety's Raccoon Saloon. This counter service eatery serves cookies, ice cream, and beverages. This is a great place to cool down after your “strenuous” trip around the Rivers of America.


Rackety's Raccoon Saloon Tokyo Disneyland

Rackety's Raccoon Saloon Tokyo Disneyland


The other place to grab a bite in Critter Country is Grandma Sara's Kitchen. Here, you order your food deep within Splash Mountain as the restaurant is located in a cave.


Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland

Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland


This is a cute spot with plenty of seating on two levels with additional tables outside. The interior looks exactly as if a sweet grandma mouse had decorated it.


Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland

Grandma Sara's Kitchen Tokyo Disneyland


Even though Grandma Sara's Kitchen is a counter service restaurant, the food does not reflect this. Full entrees such as grilled chicken and beef stew are served along with salads and desserts. This is an enjoyable spot and unique among the Disney parks.

The Western River Railroad also skirts Critter Country. There are several wonderful spots to watch this train slowly pass by.


Western River Railroad  Tokyo Disneyland

Western River Railroad Tokyo Disneyland


That's it for Critter Country. It's a small, but very cute land.

Here's one last picture looking back at Critter Country from Westernland.


Critter Country Tokyo Disneyland


Next stop, Fantasyland.

July 30, 2008

Westernland - Tokyo Disneyland

The word “frontier” does not translate adequately into Japanese so the name Westernland was used in Tokyo Disneyland to describe the American West. For me, the name “Westernland” is a lot easier to accept than Main Street being called World Bazaar.


Westernland Tokyo Disneyland


When entering Westernland from Adventureland, the transition is smooth enough.

But the division between Fantasyland and Westernland is practically nonexistent. I don't know what the Imagineers were thinking. One moment you're in Fantasyland, and the next, Westernland. In fact, in one section, the Snow White Grotto is across the street from the Diamond Horseshoe. Admittedly it's hidden behind trees, but its proximity can't be dismissed. I wish I had a picture to show you this proximity, but I don't. This is one area where Tokyo Disneyland falls way short.

Like Adventureland, I feel that you can divide Westernland into two sections, the township and the wilderness area. Here are a few pictures of the streets of Westernland.


Westernland Tokyo Disneyland

Westernland Tokyo Disneyland

Hungry Bear Restaurant Westernland Tokyo Disneyland

Westernland Tokyo Disneyland


There are three attractions in the township area, Westernland Shootin' Gallery, Country Bear Theater, and the Diamond Horseshoe.

Let's start with the Shootin' Gallery.

Shootin Gallery Westerland Tokyo Disneyland


Unlike most of the other attractions at Tokyo Disneyland which are included in your admission price, the Shootin' Gallery coast ¥200 (about $2) for ten shots. Target practice takes place in an old-time saloon and sharp shooters use an imitation Winchester rifle that fires lasers at an assortment of targets.

Each target performs in some manner when hit. For example, shoes will dance, bottles jump, and the piano plays. At the end of your round you'll receive a score card with a message from Pecos Goofy.


Shootin Gallery Westerland Tokyo Disneyland


The interior of the Diamond Horseshoe in Westernland is almost identical to the one at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The one noticeable difference, they actually use the theater in Tokyo rather than letting it sit empty. Several lunch shows are presented each day starring Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye form Toy Story 2. And at the dinner shows you can find Pecos Goofy and a number of “Can-Can" girls on stage while you enjoy your vittles.


Diamond Horseshoe Tokyo Disneyland


Reservations are an absolute must and if you have any desire to see one of these shows, you need to be among the first to enter the park and then make a mad dash to the Diamond Horseshoe Theater.

All of our ursine friends are alive and well and performing in the Country Bear Theater. Henry, Trixie, Wendell, and the rest of the gang now speak Japanese but some of them are bilingual as several of the songs are sung in English.

Also, all three versions of the show are presented here. The original "Country Bear Jamboree” is performed from January through June. The “Country Bear Vacation Hoedown” is performed from July through November. And finally, the “Country Bear Christmas Special” is performed in December.


Country Bear Theater Tokyo Disneyland

Country Bear Theater Tokyo Disneyland

Country Bear Theater Tokyo Disneyland


Among the many shops in Westernland is the Picture Parlour. Here, guests dress up in western garb and can have their picture taken against an Old West backdrop. I remember when you could do this at various Walt Disney World locations. But alas, those days are long gone. This type of souvenir shop just doesn't generate as much money as yet another candy store. Sigh.


Picture Parlour Westernland Tokyo Disneyland


Straddling the township and the wilderness area of Westernland is Big Thunder Mountain. While you enter the queue at the far end of town, the runaway mine trains take you on a wild trip through the rugged canyons of the American Southwest.

Much of the scenery and effects are similar to those at WDW, but the track layout is completely different. I can't say that this attraction is any better or worse than WDW's. It's just different.


Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland

Big Thunder Mountain Tokyo Disneyland


Now let's move on to the wilderness area of Westernland. In my previous blog I mentioned that you board the Western River Railroad in Adventureland, but since most of what you see is actually in Westernland, I said I would discuss it in more detail here.

After leaving the few sights of Adventureland, you pass by a railroad station. This is strictly a prop and can only be seen from the train.


Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights


Beyond the station is a vast wilderness. Here the sights are many. Of course, there is the ever lively statuesque moose and deer. A number of Native Americans can be seen in several encampments. And numerous prairie dogs pop up from their burrows for a look at the passing train.


Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights


Eventually the train leaves the backwoods and enters a clearing. Here the train runs along a lengthy trestle that skirts the Rivers of America and Critter Country. For me, this is the most beautiful spot in all of Tokyo Disneyland. The train is majestic as it weaves its way around several attractions and over walkways. The views from the train are pretty good as well.


Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights

Western River Railroad Sights


Eventually the train winds its way to Big Thunder Mountain. Here, it runs beside the attraction and the runaway mine trains can often be seen as you pass by. Additionally, a number of dinosaur bones are present in this area.

The next three pictures are of poor quality as I did not have any good shots in my collection. So I “snapped” these pictures off of a video I took. It's the best I could do.

Western River Railroad Sights


As the dinosaur bones become more prevalent, you enter a tunnel and are transported back in time to witness “Primeval World.” This is the same dinosaur diorama as at Disneyland in California, even down to the music. When you emerge from the tunnel, you're back in Adventureland and the end of the ride.


Primeval World Western River Railroad

Primeval World Western River Railroad


The Western River Railroad is my favorite of all the Disney steam trains around the world. Even though it's the shortest ride of the five, you see the most along your journey. That's because this train actually runs “through” Westernland rather than just passing on the sidelines. I admit, by not having the train circle the park you don't get a train station at the beginning of World Bazaar, so this does make it a tough call as to which is better.

The theming of Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island is different from that of California's or Florida's. Instead of being located in the middle of the Mississippi River, this island is more likely to be found in the middle of the Colorado River.

Since Big Thunder Mountain sits nearby, the same red-orange spires that make up this mountain range are carried across the water to the island and beyond. The entire effect is beautifully executed.

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island


Like its American cousins, guests in Tokyo board a raft on the mainland for a short trip across the water, piloted by Tom himself. Once on the island, you'll find many of the same attractions: the barrel and suspension bridge, Fort Sam Clemens, caves, a treehouse, and more.


Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island

Tokyo Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island


The final attraction in Westernland is the Mark Twain Riverboat. This boat is a copy of the one in Disneyland California, even down to the fact that guests board and unload on the same level.

For me, the riverboats have always been one of the more enjoyable attractions at the Disney parks. The lines are never long, you get a 15 minutes ride, and it's a great place to get away from the crowds for a few minutes and relax. Here are a few pictures of the riverboat and some of the sights you'll see along the way.


Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

Mark Twain Riverboat Tokyo Disneyland

There are several restaurants in Westernland, but I'm only going to talk about one, the Lucky Nugget Café. This is a counter service restaurant that serves reasonably good fried chicken and fries. But the real reason to eat here is the location. It's somewhat out of the way, so it's not as busy as most other restaurants, and the tables overlook the Rivers of America. This is a wonderful place to relax and watch the Mark Twain and the canoes pass by.

On my last trip, I must have spent about half an hour here waving to everyone who floated by. They seemed to get a kick out of the crazy American as they all laughed and enthusiastically waved back at me. It's funny, but on big and expensive vacations, it's often the little things we remember. And for me, this was one of those special moments that I'll never forget.


Lucky Nugget Café Tokyo Disneyland

Lucky Nugget Café Tokyo Disneyland

Lucky Nugget Café Tokyo Disneyland


Here is one last picture of Westernland. I'm posting to for two reasons.

First, to give you and idea of how crowded it usually is at Tokyo Disneyland. This picture is typical of any given afternoon. Second, notice that you don't see anyone wearing shorts. That's because shorts really aren't part of the Japanese fashion scene. In an effort to fit in and not offend, I wore long pants on all of my visits, even though the weather called for cooler attire. When in Rome (um, I mean Japan). . .

Afternoon Crowd  Tokyo Disneyland


Next stop, Critter Country.

July 27, 2008

Adventureland - Tokyo Disneyland

You can enter Adventureland from several areas, the first being World Bazaar (Main Street).

Unlike the other Main Streets around the world, Center Street connects to Tomorrowland and Adventureland.

The next two pictures show the Adventureland Entrance from Center Street.

Adventureland Entrance from Center Street

Adventureland Entrance from Center Street


There is also the traditional Adventureland entrance off of The Hub marked by a large, overhead sign.


Adventureland Entrance off of The Hub

Adventureland Entrance off of The Hub


And finally, you can enter Adventureland from Westernland. When coming from this direction, there is no real delineation between the two lands.


Adventureland Entrance from Westernland


You might say that Adventureland is actually a combination of two lands. There is the traditional “exotic” section and there is the New Orleans section.

New Orleans Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

New Orleans Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland


At Disneyland in California, New Orleans Square is its own land, but in Tokyo it's considered part of Adventureland.

And to my knowledge, this area has no other nomenclature other than “Adventureland.” The reason behind this might be that only half of the California version of New Orleans Square was built here. There is no French Market Restaurant, Train Station, or Haunted Mansion. Thus, it would be difficult to call this area a “land.” However, I've always felt that it's stretching things a little to consider New Orleans part of Adventureland, no matter how “adventurous” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” might be.

It is remarkable how similar the two New Orleans areas are to each other. Below are two pictures " one taken at Disneyland in California and the other at Tokyo Disneyland. Can you tell which is which? No peeking at the answer.


Blue%20Bayou%20-%20California.jpg

Blue%20Bayou%20-%20Tokyo.jpg


The first picture was taken in California and the second in Tokyo.

Since we're right outside of the Blue Bayou Restaurant, let's take a look inside. If any of you have read my Allears.net bio, you know that I worked at the Blue Bayou Restaurant at Disneyland in California for six years.

Of course, I always have to have a meal here to honor my former work place. However, it's almost a little creepy when I do. These two eateries are so similar you could easily forget where you actually are. When I'm dining in Tokyo, I always expect to see Rod Serling and hear the Twilight Zone music as I exit the restaurant and find myself transported back to California.


Blue Bayou Restaurant Tokyo Disneyland


This picture of me was taken in 1996 in the Blue Bayou " when I was younger and thinner.


Jack at the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland in 1996


The exterior of the Tokyo Pirates of the Caribbean attraction is almost an exact copy of the California version before they added the new queue and crossover. Upon entering the Tokyo Pirates attraction you'll notice an indoor queue area absent from California. Once again, the Imagineers were cognizant of Tokyo's weather when designing this park.


Pirates of the Caribbean Tokyo Disneyland


Except for a few minor changes, the actual ride is pretty much a carbon copy of California's. You walk past the boats as you enter. You board at Laffite's Landing. And you sail by the Blue Bayou.


Pirates of the Caribbean Tokyo Disneyland

Laffites Landing Tokyo Disneyland

Blue Bayou Tokyo Disneyland


Due to the high water-table, there is only one down ramp, but it is longer and more thrilling than the Florida counterpart. The only other difference from California is the skeleton reading in bed with a magnifying glass is absent. And yes, Captain Jack Sparrow has been added to Tokyo.

It's interesting to note, Pirates of the Caribbean is sponsored by Kirin. Don't worry, beer isn't sold at Tokyo Disneyland, but some of Kirin's sports drinks are.


Kirin Sign


The Japanese consider the bottoms of their shoes dirty " understandably so. Since they do not want to sit where people walk, they do not use the seats in the Pirate boats as a step when entering the vessel. Instead, they step all they way down to the floor. Try this the next time you're getting in a Pirate or Small World boat. It isn't easy.

The other restaurant in this area is Café Orleans. Once again, the exterior is extremely similar to its California counterpart. Crepes are the big draw here. Some of the varieties served are, cheese, seafood, sausage, chocolate and pineapple.


Cafe Orleans Tokyo Disneyland


Next to the Café Orleans is an outdoor entertainment venue called Theater Orleans. The show changes periodically, but you'll usually find the Disney characters engaging in some sort of Latin extravaganza. If you want a seat, arrive early as the shows are very popular and people get in line long before the festivities begin.


Theater Orleans Tokyo Disneyland

Theater Orleans Tokyo Disneyland


Moving further away from the New Orleans section you come to a number of shops. In an effort to make the transition smooth as you enter the “exotic” section of Adventureland, the buildings here have a colonial Spanish design.


Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland


Across from this Spanish section of Adventureland is a ramshackle fishing village. A large tugboat named 20,000 Leaks anchors this area. There are several restaurants in this vicinity serving Mickey-shaped steamed buns and other Asian delights.


Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland


Moving on we find the Jungle Cruise and Western River Railroad. These two attractions share a loading facility. The Jungle Cruise occupies the ground floor and the Western River Railroad the second. Both queues offer plenty of protection from the elements as a roof covers most of the lines.


Jungle Cruise Train Tokyo Disneyland


Let's start with the Jungle Cruise. This is the classic Disney attraction. Although it runs in the opposite direction than Walt Disney World's, it still has most of the same scenes and gags, including the indoor temple section. Of course, your skipper is Japanese. And unlike the Hong Kong version that offers multiple languages, the cruise is presented entirely in Japanese. But that's okay. We've all ridden this ride enough times in America to understand everything that's going on.


Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland

Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland

Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland

Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland

Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland

Jungle Cruise Tokyo Disneyland


The Western River Railroad is unique among its steam train cousins in the other Disney parks in that it doesn't circle the perimeter of Tokyo Disneyland. You see, if it did, its track length combined with multiple stations would have classified it as “public transportation” under Japanese law and it would have fallen under government jurisdiction. This of course was unacceptable to Disney and some other solution needed to be reached. And that solution was a railroad that runs only through Adventureland and Frontierland and only has one station.


Western River Railroad Tokyo Disneyland


Even though guests board the train in Adventureland, this attraction is well named " Western River Railroad. Although you do skirt the Jungle Cruise and you can see the safari boats and some wildlife, the vast majority of the sights on the train ride are in Westernland. Because of that, I will discuss this attraction further in my Westernland blog.


Western River Railroad Tokyo Disneyland

Western River Railroad Tokyo Disneyland


Located next to the Jungle Cruise is the Polynesian Terrace Restaurant. Here guests enjoy a stage show along with their meal. At lunch, Lilo and Stitch throw a luau for other Disney characters and at dinner Mickey and Minnie take center stage. Reservations are an absolute must and if you have any desire to eat here, you need to be among the first to enter the park and then make a mad dash to the reservation kiosk in Adventureland.


Polynesian Show at Polynesian Terrace Restaurant Tokyo Disneyland


The Tiki Birds also have a home in Adventureland. When Tokyo Disneyland opened, it featured the original 1963 show. In 1999, a second presentation debuted called “Get the Fever.” I saw “Get the Fever” and found it far more entertaining than Florida's second show, “Under New Management.” Earlier this year, “Get the Fever” closed and a third show is slated to open soon. It appears that Stitch may be disrupting the performance this time around.


Adventureland with Tiki Birds building in background

Tiki Birds Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

Tiki Birds Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland


The final attraction in Adventureland is the Swiss Family Treehouse. What can I say? It's the treehouse. It's mildly amusing to walk through. It gives Adventureland some atmosphere. And it never has a long line. I really wish that Disney would update both this treehouse and the one in Florida with the Tarzan theme. Kids (and many adults) are not familiar with the Swiss Family Robinson movie and Tarzan would be much more relevant to them.


Swiss Family Treehouse Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

Swiss Family Treehouse Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland

Swiss Family Treehouse Adventureland Tokyo Disneyland


That's it for Adventureland. Next stop, Westernland.

July 24, 2008

The Hub -- Tokyo Disneyland

The Hub isn't really a “land” but my blog about World Bazaar was getting a little long so I decided to give this area its own column.


Hub at Tokyo Disneyland


The Hub at Tokyo Disneyland is a little different from that of the other Magic Kingdoms. When exiting World Bazaar (Main Street), you enter a sort of courtyard that overlooks the rest of The Hub. In this courtyard you'll find the Partners Statue and dedication plaques. There are also a number of benches and the Disneyland Band often performs here.


Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Disneyland Band at Tokyo Disneyland


For those of you who couldn't read the small print on the dedication plaque, here's what it says.

To all who come to this happy place, welcome.

Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of Joy, Laughter, Inspiration and Imagination to the people of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America.

April 15, 1983
E. Cardon Walker
Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions

From this courtyard you must walk either right or left to get to the rest of The Hub. Once you do, turn around at look at World Bazaar. It is truly beautiful from this vantage point.

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland

Hub at Tokyo Disneyland


The Hub at Tokyo Disneyland is significantly bigger than its counterpart at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. And unlike Florida, it is not surrounded by water as there was never a Swan Boat ride here. However, you'll still find the sea serpent topiary sitting next to a pond.


Sea Serpent Topiary at Tokyo Disneyland


The only attraction in this area is the Omnibus. This is the same double-decker bus you find on the other Main Streets around the world. But in Tokyo, it only makes a slow circle around The Hub and the ride lasts about 5 minutes. It does not make its way through World Bazaar as this area is covered and extremely crowded. Also, there would be no place for the Omnibus to turn around since there is no Plaza. In addition, there is no horse-drawn trolley here.


Omnibus at Tokyo Disneyland


When I visited Tokyo Disneyland in 1996, they had a variety of vehicles, like a fire engine and old-time automobiles. And you traveled from The Hub all the way into Westernland. This always bothered me because I thought it ruined the themeing. These vehicles did not belong in the western frontier. So even though they have shortened the ride, I think this was the correct decision.


Omnibus at Tokyo Disneyland

Omnibus at Tokyo Disneyland


There are two restaurants that face out onto The Hub, the Crystal Palace and the Plaza Pavilion.


Crystal Palace at Tokyo Disneyland

Plaza Pavilion at Tokyo Disneyland


It's interesting to note that these restaurants are not considered part of The Hub or World Bazaar. The Crystal Palace is actually considered to be in Adventureland and the Plaza Pavilion is in Westernland. This doesn't make any sense to me since they are obviously on The Hub and the architecture is decidedly turn-of-the century America, but that's the way it is.

The Crystal Palace is almost identical to its counterpart in Florida and the Plaza Pavilion is almost identical to its counterpart in California. Both restaurants serve buffeteria style. The Plaza Pavilion is also very close to the Plaza Bandstand Stage and some of the outside tables have good views of the shows presented here. I've never eaten at either of these restaurants so I can offer little more.


Plaza Bandstand Stage  at Tokyo Disneyland


Check out the sign below. Notice anything unusual about it?


Feed the Birds Sign


English is the first language and Japanese is the second. This seems a little strange in a park where 99% of its visitors are from Japan. But that's the way it is " everywhere. Almost everything is written with English first followed by Japanese. From what I understand, the Oriental Land Company wanted an “American” park in Tokyo " even down to the language.

Not to worry. English is a mandatory class for all Japanese school children. And even though they might not be able to speak the language, most can read it. Besides, it makes it easier for us mono-language Americans.

I realize that Cinderella Castle is part of Fantasyland, but since it faces out onto The Hub, I'll briefly mention it here. Up until last year, the exterior of the castle was identical to the one at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. However, it was recently given a new paint job and the gray tones were changed to tans and browns. Now the castle has its own identity. Here's before and after.

Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland


Also like Florida, the Tokyo castle has a large stage in front of it. And in front of this stage is a large viewing area " much larger than the viewing area in Florida. Depending on the scope of the show being presented, temporary bench seating can be added. This helps give you an idea of how much larger the Tokyo Hub is.


Show at Tokyo Disneyland

Show at Tokyo Disneyland

Show at Tokyo Disneyland


I think that's about it for this blog. Next, I travel to Adventureland.

July 21, 2008

World Bazaar - Tokyo Disneyland

First, let me answer the question that's on many of your minds.

Why is Main Street called World Bazaar?

When the Imagineers first found out that they would be designing a new Magic Kingdom in Tokyo, they wanted to create something new -- not just a rehash of what had already been done before, twice.

One of their ideas was to do away with Main Street and create an international shopping mall and call it World Bazaar. Instead of turn-of-the-century America, guests would wander down a street filled with exotic shops from around the world " sort of a mini-World Showcase. And remember, Epcot was already in the planning stages when Tokyo Disneyland was first proposed so these “international” ideas were fresh on their minds.

However, the Oriental Land Company (OLC) had other thoughts. They wanted the Imagineers to take the best from Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida and combine these elements into an improved Disneyland " not something new. So the idea of an international shopping mall died, however, the name World Bazaar did not. From what I understand, the execs at the OLC liked the name so it was kept in order to please the client. Go figure.


World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


The other interesting aspect about World Bazaar is that it has a roof over it. This was built as the winter months in Japan can be very cold and wet. In fact, it snows occasionally in Tokyo.


World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland

World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


The first time I walked down World Bazaar, I really didn't like this roof. It just didn't feel right. But then I realized that my real issue was that it was different from the California and Florida parks. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just different. So after I got over my prejudice, I was able to accept it for what it is. And I have to admit, if you're going to put a roof over Main Street, oops, I mean World Bazaar, Disney did a very nice job.


World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland

World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


The structure is built of metal with glass insets so plenty of light filters down to the street below. It is themed nicely and fits in well with the turn-of-the-century American buildings. In the center of World Bazaar, over the intersection of Main Street and Center Street, a large cupola adds architectural interest.


Cupola World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


The one negative this structure brings is noise. Everyone's voice echoes and bounces off of the structure and quite a din is generated.

The sidewalks and street are at the same height in World Bazaar so there is no curb to trip over. I'm sure this was done for safety reasons and considering how congested it gets in here, I think this was a good idea. Interestingly, you don't really notice this single level as the sidewalks, curbs, and street are each made of different materials and painted various colors adding to the illusion of a real street.


World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland

World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland

World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


On my first visit to Tokyo Disneyland in 1996, I was overwhelmed one afternoon around 2pm by the crowds. I needed a break from people. Knowing that Main Street is always quiet mid-day at Disneyland in California, I headed over to World Bazaar for some peaceful shopping. Boy, was I surprised!

The Japanese people enjoy shopping. And as I mentioned in a blog about Tokyo DisneySea, it is customary to bring back a “remembrance” to friends and family back home. So when I arrived at Word Bazaar that afternoon, the shops were swamped. In fact, the cast members were literally having trouble keeping the shelves stocked. So much for escaping the crowds. If you want peaceful shopping in the Tokyo parks, I suggest first thing in the morning, otherwise, forget it.

Speaking of shopping, the Emporium is on the right side of the street, not the left as it is in all of the other Magic Kingdoms.


Emporium in World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


World Bazaar also has a Magic Shop. Remember when there was a Magic Shop on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom? Sigh...


Magic Shop World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


When Tokyo Disneyland opens, everyone rushes through World Bazaar on their way for a Fastpass. But even though no one is paying any attention, many of the shop's cast members stand on the sidewalk and wave at passer bys.


Cast Members Waving World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


World Bazaar has a unique feature that none of the other Main Streets around the world have. Here, Center Street actually connects to other lands " Tomorrowland to the right and Adventureland to the left. I really like this layout and it makes park navigation easier.

This picture is looking toward Adventureland.


Looking toward Adventureland from World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


This picture is looking toward Tomorrowland.


Looking toward Tomorrowland at World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland


There are two attractions in World Bazaar. The Penny Arcade offers a number of old-time arcade games " like the ones that once graced Main Street in the Magic Kingdom before every inch of available space had to make way for Disney merchandise.

The other attraction in World Bazaar is the Disney Gallery. This shop/studio is located on the second floor and showcases Disney concept art. Also available here (at an additional charge and only conducted in Japanese,) is a class that teaches guests how to draw a Disney character. This class is similar to the Animation Academy at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.

There are a number of full-service restaurants in World Bazaar. I'll briefly talk about a few of them.

Restaurant Hokusai serves Japanese cuisine. This restaurant is located on the second floor of World Bazaar and uses traditional Japanese designs in its motif. Some of tables next to the windows have a fantastic view of The Hub and Cinderella Castle.

If you haven't already done so while visiting the rest of this beautiful country, I would suggest trying at least one Japanese restaurant and this would be a safe choice. Very little on the menu is too far removed from American pallets as to make you wince. My flight attendant friend TDLFAN was able to join me one evening at Tokyo Disneyland and we ate dinner here.


Restaurant Hokusai at Tokyo Disneyland


Below is a picture of the tempura I ordered. Looks good!


Tempura at Restaurant Hokusai at Tokyo Disneyland


The décor of the Eastside Café fits nicely in World Bazaar with its early 20th-century atmosphere and Victorian charm. Pasta and meat dishes are on the menu.


East Side Cafe at Tokyo Disneyland


I find the décor of Center Street Coffeehouse a little odd for World Bazaar. Instead of Victorian or Art Nouveau, this eatery is decorated in the Art Deco style popular in the 1920s and 30s. This is one of the few restaurants open for breakfast.


Center Street Coffeehouse at Tokyo Disneyland

Center Street Coffeehouse at Tokyo Disneyland


The Great American Waffle House serves, you guessed it, waffles. Open all day, this counter service restaurant is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat if you're in need of a sugar pick-me-up.


Great American Waffle House at Tokyo Disneyland


This picture was taken from Adventureland looking back at World Bazaar.


From Adventureland looking back at World Bazaar in Tokyo Disneyland


This picture was taken from Tomorrowland looking back at World Bazaar.


From Tomorrowland looking back at World Bazaar in Tokyo Disneyland


Next blog will be about The Hub.


World Bazaar at Tokyo Disneyland

July 15, 2008

Reader Mailbag - Hong Kong and Tokyo Disney Parks!

I'd like to thank everyone for all the emails you sent regarding my Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea blogs. I'm so glad you have been enjoying the trip report and photos!

BTW, several of you have asked what type of camera I use. All of the pictures shot in Hong Kong were taken with a Nikon D80 camera and a Nikkor 18-200mm lens. The pictures of Tokyo DisneySea shot with the above mentioned camera and a Sony point-and-shot Cyer-shot 4.1 mega pixels.

Here are just a few of the emails I have received:

Monique writes: A big "Thanks!" to Jack for giving us such a terrific tour of the Tokyo and Hong Kong parks. Fantastic photos and great commentary - the next best thing to being there! Tokyo DisneySea in particular has made a big leap up to the top of my "bucket list" - great job!


Morag writes: I am loving Jack's blog about his trip to the Asian Disney parks. It has been very interesting to see how these parks have been developed and the attention to detail in DisneySea is by far some of the best I have ever seen

I have been to all of the Disney parks in America and from what I have seen and read in these blogs makes me hope that Disney will take on board some of these ideas for their American counterparts.

I too miss 20,000 leagues and would love to see some form of water attraction take its place. Keep up the good work you have made, at least me, very jealous of your adventures.

Katsumi in Tokyo, Japan shares:

Hello Jack-san. I'm Japanese and enjoy reading your blog in Tokyo regarding Tokyo Disney Resort. I'm very impressed that you know the details of TDR and Japanese culture/styles/personality.

I'm pleased to read that your most favorite park is Tokyo Disney Sea. I have only been to Tokyo Disney Resort and Walt Disney World, but my most favorite resort is Tokyo DisneySea. As you mentioned, every scenery is beautiful and I feel comfortable just staying in TDS.

Also I'm happy to see that you like Big Band Beat (BBB). The reason I bought annual pass for TDS is that I want to see BBB every week. Singers, dancers, musicians and Mickey & his pals are edgy, and this show seems perfect for me. The section after "Sing Sing Sing" always makes me excited.

I hope that we have chance to see BBB together at your next visit to TDS. I'm looking forward to read the rest of your blog.

Jeanine, who previously blogged about her Tokyo Disney Trip shares:

Great blog! For more information about the back-story on Tokyo's Tower of Terror, there's a long and elaborate webpage (in Japanese) on it at www.tot1899.com.

DisneySeas is a fantastic park! I actually wound up buying DVDs and guidebooks in a language I don't even speak just to have more information on it.

Cathy Mullen writes:

I have enjoyed reading your Tokyo Disney World blog. Right now I have a friend visiting a relative in Tokyo and she is planning to visit Disney while there. She has been sending very interesting emails about her adventures so with her emails and your blogs I feel right there too!
Maybe someday I will get a chance to visit myself because the park looks so lovely and they have my favorite parade- the Electric Parade!


Jen shares:

Your blogs about Disney Tokyo and Disney Hong Kong have been extremely enjoyable to read. The pictures are great and you do a tremendous job describing your experience. I look forward to your blog every day. Thanks for sharing your experiences with readers like me.

Debbie Hudson exclaims:

Wow, Jack! Absolutely STUNNING!

I am really glad you wrote the blogs on the Western Parks; I've never seen any of them, and honestly, I had no idea (really) what DisneySea was.

That place is just amazing! I cannot believe the lushness of it. Just stunning--I can't use any other word to describe it. Wow, I think if I could ever afford to visit one of the other Parks, that would have to be it.

V-E-R-Y nice!!

MaryAnn Eckenrode writes:

I just loved it. Your trip to Japan must have been fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. If you every make book of this trip, keep me in mind. I'm just so impress with everything, words can't describe. Thanks for your time. It was greatly appreciated.

Lastly, Tom Zamorski shares:

I wanted to thank you for a wonderful, comprehensive and well photographed tour of Tokyo DisneySea. Frankly, it's unlikely I'll ever get to see it first hand so your tour let me enjoy it, albeit from afar. Thank you very much for the hard work you put into bringing this exotic destination into our homes.

And from Jack........Again, my thanks to everyone.

Now, on to Tokyo Disneyland!

July 12, 2008

Mysterious Island - Tokyo DisneySea

I saved the best port-of-call for last " at least in my humble opinion. For me, Mysterious Island is the most imaginative port/land Disney has ever created.

This is the home of Jules Verne and Captain Nemo. Iron girders studded with rivets perched precariously on jagged cliffs give this port an ominous feel. Limited access to this area also makes you sense you've entered a private sanctuary of some nefarious being.

Any discussion of Mysterious Island must start in Mediterranean Harbor. It's here that you get the best exterior view of this port. You can see Mount Prometheus to the left and the outer rim of a great crater that houses this port to the right. Periodically during the day, the volcano starts to rumble and smoke begins to billow. Soon, large flames reach skyward and thunderous sounds boom forth.


Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


Look closely under the bridge that leads to Fortress Explorations and you'll see the Nautilus berthed at its home port of Vulcania.

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


This is what Disney calls the “draw” concept. By putting something of interest within sight, but beyond your immediate reach makes you want to explore and discover. You can see the “draw” concept used in every Magic Kingdom around the world. The carousel is always placed just beyond the castle. That's so guests can see it turning through the entrance and are “drawn” into Fantasyland.

Mysterious Island sits in the middle of Tokyo DisneySea. Entrance can be gained through four other ports: Mediterranean Harbor, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast. In all cases, access is gained by walking through tunnels, some short and some long. This helps make the port all the more forbidden.


Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


When entering the crater for the first time, most guests walk to one of the railings and just gaze out over the many sights.


Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


A miniature submarine is suspended from the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea queue.


Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


A unique boring machine is ready to start its “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


The side of Mount Prometheus is coated with a recent lava flow. Large iron-mesh screens have been erected to stop molten rock from splattering passing guests. Steam pours from crevasses and you can hear hissing sounds as it escapes.


Mount Prometheus Lava at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


Mount Prometheus Lava at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


A DisneySea Transit Steamer passes beneath you.


DisneySea Transit Steamer at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


The Nautilus is not counted as an attraction as you can't actually board the vessel. Instead, this is just a photo opportunity.


Nautilus Photo Opportunity at at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Nautilus Photo Opportunity at at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


I have to admit, this is one of my very few disappointments at DisneySea. At Discoveryland in Disneyland Paris, you can also see the Nautilus berthed next to Space Mountain. There, you can actually board the ship and explore some of its compartments.

There are two attractions in Mysterious Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Let's start with the latter.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


To get to Journey to the Center of the Earth you must enter a cave that leads directly under Mount Prometheus. Once inside, you can see the drill bits from the boring machine you saw earlier digging into the mountain.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


The queue is interesting as it is divided into two sections. The first portion passes by an array of experiments being conducted by unseen scientists. You will also encounter more lava flows inside the volcano.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


You then enter an elevator to travel deep within the mountain. Audio and visual effects enhance this ride.

When you exit the elevator, you enter a second queue. Here you'll see enormous drilling equipment that has been used to excavate the tunnels you will soon be traveling through. Eventually, you board a 6-passenger vehicle that was designed for exploring deep within the earth. This attraction uses the same ride technology as Test Track in Epcot.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


As the ride begins, you start downward and encounter beautiful flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Lovely crystals and waterfalls delight the eye.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


But as you venture deeper and deeper into the shaft, things become more foreboding. Now the plant and animal life take on a treacherous look. What was once tranquil is now dangerous. Lightning bolts spark nearby followed by a loud clap of thunder. Flames explode beside your vehicle. Suddenly, a lava-monster rises up and starts his attack.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


Your once leisurely ride has been turned into a nightmare. To escape, your vehicle shifts into high gear and lurches upward through the mountain. Suddenly, daylight is in sight and you burst outside and down a steep slope.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


Still at top speed you re-enter another tunnel that travels the perimeter of the crater. You burst outside one more time to traverse a bridge then plunge back into darkness. Your vehicle slows quickly and you're finally back in a safe environment.


Journey to the Center of the Earth at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


This is a must-see attraction. Lines can be very long during busy periods.

The other attraction in Mysterious Island is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


The outdoor queue for this attraction is architecturally magnificent. You enter at the upper level of Mysterious Island and spiral your way down to sea level. Suspended from this structure is a miniature submarine " the type you will soon be boarding. On busy days, there is a secondary queue that passes by appropriate props and maps.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


The mini-subs hold six people. Two people face out a window to the right, two face a window on the left, and two face a forward window. Definitely, the forward facing window offers the best view and it's worth requesting and waiting for. Also, the seats in these subs are small. Larger Americans might also want separate seats. In addition, the windows are low and anyone over 5'7” will have to scrunch down to see out. In other words, it's cramped in here.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


These subs are suspended from an overhead track (similar to the Peter Pan attraction) and they do not actually enter any water. But special effects built into the viewing windows make you believe you're actually descending and surfacing. Also, the track rises and falls along your journey adding to the illusion of submersion. Since there isn't any real water involved with this attraction, Disney has better control of the environment than its predecessors at Disneyland and Disney World.

Captain Nemo narrates your journey, entirely in Japanese. I'm sure I'm missing a few nuances, but here's the story as best as I can make out.

Your voyage begins peacefully enough. You see beds of kelp, coral, and a fish here and there. You also pass over a sunken ship. Then, in the distance, you see a large eye peering at you. As you get closer you discover it's a giant squid, intent on wreaking havoc on your sub. In order to repel your attacker, you electrify your vessel. As you do, you see the current spread across the ocean floor and eventually shock the monster.

Your sub continues on its journey, but is now dangerously low on power. As you approach the City of Atlantis, you start to see strange alien-like creatures staring at you from behind rocks and plants. You also start to see specks of light coming from crystals. Then you see the shadow of one of these creature swim by your sub, holding a crystal in his hands. You soon discover that these keepers of Atlantis are friendly and can use these mystical crystals to repower your sub and send you home.

Photos are not allowed on this attraction. And even if they were, it would be difficult to snap a good picture as the lighting is extremely low and your vehicle is moving at a steady clip.

The main eatery in this port is a restaurant called Vulcania. Built into the side of the crater, this is a buffeteria that serves Chinese cuisine. The interior of the restaurant is as spectacular as the rest of Mysterious Island and is designed to look like a geothermal power station that provides energy for Captain Nemo's base.

Vulcania Restaurant at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

Vulcania Restaurant at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea


Lastly, there is a shop called Nautilus Gifts. Here you'll find souvenirs with a nautical or science-fiction theme.

Nautilus Gifts at Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea

This is my last blog about Tokyo DisneySea. I hope you've enjoyed reading a little about this magnificent park. I know I enjoyed sharing it with you and I can't wait until my next trip " probably in another five to seven years. Sigh.

Next, I'll share some of the emails I have received from all of you and then I will move on to Tokyo Disneyland.

July 9, 2008

Mermaid Lagoon - Tokyo DisneySea

Mermaid Lagoon is the one port at Tokyo DisneySea that caters to young children.

That's not to say that teenagers and adults won't get a smile from the whimsical atmosphere, but the attractions are simple and geared towards the little ones.

The exterior of Mermaid Lagoon looks like Ariel's underwater kingdom. Spiraling towers, in a rainbow of colors, reach to the sky. Seashells abound and interesting rock formations weave their way from grotto to tide pool. Numerous waterfalls complete the setting.


Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Look closely at the tile work, you just might find the Little Mermaid gang and a hidden Mickey.


Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Before entering Triton's Kingdom, let's first explore the two attractions outside of his underwater lair. The first is Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster. This is a “kiddy” coaster comparable to “The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm” in the Magic Kingdom in Florida. This is a visually appealing attraction.

You board a coaster that looks like Flounder " well, Flounder if he'd been flattened by an iron. The coaster is bright yellow and travels on a track of blue, to resemble the sea. This 60-second ride makes several spins around a rock formation and over a variety of plants that are supposed to be reminiscent of the ocean floor. There is a nice viewing spot so as one parent rides with their child, the other can snap some great pictures.


Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


The other outdoor attraction is Scuttle's Scooters. On this attraction you board “Sand Crabs” built for two. Your journey takes you round and round and up and down. And if that's not enough, your Crab Shells also rotate this way and that with each revolution. Overhead, Scuttle keeps a watchful eye on the activities. Although this is a tame ride, if you're prone to motion sickness, I'd skip this one.

It always amazes me when I get home from a vacation and look at my pictures. No matter how many I take (hundreds), I still miss things and Scuttle's Scooters is something I missed. Here's the best I have. Sorry.


Scuttle's Scooters at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Scuttle's Scooters at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Now it's time to go deep “Under the Sea” and enter Triton's Kingdom.


Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


You enter a cave-like opening and come face-to-face with Triton being pulled in his carriage by two dolphins. From here, you continue down a ramp as you venture further beneath the sea. Occasional openings in the rocks give you a glimpse of his kingdom below.


Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Your adventure begins once you reach the ocean floor. Dark blue walls, purple floors, and green vegetation, combined with numerous lighting effects create a fanciful feeling of being beneath the sea. Once again, the attractions here are intended for the young.


Triton's Kingdom at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Jumpin' Jellyfish is a cute ride that relies more on atmosphere than thrills. Here, two guests sit in a seashell suspended from the tentacles of the giant jellyfish. The ride consists of the jellyfish rising and falling slowly. The best seats are near the front of the attraction as this will give you a better view of Triton's Kingdom.


Jumpin' Jellyfish at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Jumpin' Jellyfish at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


The next attraction is Blowfish Balloon Race. On this ride, guests sit in a four-person carriage, suspended beneath a colorful blowfish " or should I say, hot-air-balloon blowfish. When the blowfish begin their circular race, they “float” up into the air and centrifugal force pushes your carriage outward. Once again, the thrill is mild, but perfect for children.


Blowfish Balloon Race at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Blowfish Balloon Race at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


The Whirlpool is a reworking of the Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland. But instead of riding in teacups, you ride in kelp cups (huh?). Six, four-passenger kelp cups move in a figure eight while the spinning is controlled by a wheel in the middle of your cup. The capacity for this attraction is low so lines can be long. Definitely not for anyone who doesn't like to spin.


The Whirlpool at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Like most of Mermaid Lagoon, Ariel's Playground is also for the children, although adults are welcome. Here, they can explore a number of vignettes from Disney's animated film The Little Mermaid. See a statue of Prince Eric. Explore a dark cave. Watch Grimsby get seasick. This is a great spot for little ones to wear off some energy.


Ariel's Playground  at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Ariel's Playground at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Ariel's Playground at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Ariel's Playground at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Ariel's Playground at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Little  Mermaid Animated Gif


The one attraction in Mermaid Lagoon that adults will enjoy as much as their children is a live show called Under the Sea presented in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater. This production is presented “in the round” and a good deal of it is presented overhead, affording everyone an excellent seat. Live performances, large puppets, and audioanimatronics are combined to recreate an abbreviated telling of the Little Mermaid. The acrobatics of Ariel swimming through the ocean are amazing and the puppetry of Sebastian the Crab is inventive. This is a very popular show and lines tend to be long.


Under the Sea presented in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Under the Sea presented in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


If you get hungry while in Mermaid Lagoon, stop for a bite to eat at Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen. This is a counter service restaurant specializing in pizzas and calzones, many with seafood toppings.


Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


One of the cutest shops you'll every see is the Sleepy Whale Shoppe. As you might expect, much of the merchandise sold here has a Little Mermaid theme.


Sleepy Whale Shoppe at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea


Mermaid Lagoon has a number of very cute signs.


Signage at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Signage at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Signage at Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea

Mermaid Lagoon is another option I'd like to see Disney consider for the unused land that used to be the “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” attraction in the Magic Kingdom. This would be a perfect fit for Fantasyland.

Next stop, Mysterious Island.

July 6, 2008

Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Arabian Coast is a sprawling port full of minarets, colorful domes, pointed arches, and winding streets.

The buildings all look like they were built out of sandstone and clay bricks. There is a sense of being very far away, in a hot and arid desert.


Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


If approaching Arabian Coast from Lost River Delta, the first attraction you come to is Sinbad's Storybook Voyage (SSV).

This is a boat ride comparable to Pirates of the Caribbean, minus the waterfalls. Disney expected SSV to be a major draw as its scope was large and encompassing. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. From what I understand, the Japanese people aren't all that familiar with the story of Sinbad and this attraction often had minimal lines while the rest of the park was busy.


Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


To try to remedy this, last year the attraction was closed for a major refurbishment. One of their first goals was to change the storyline and soften the foreboding feel. In the original version, Sinbad had a beard. In the second incarnation, he's clean shaven for a less sinister look. The Giant in the first version was vengeful. Now he's grateful. And Sinbad was given a sidekick in this second go-round, Chandu. This is a cute little tiger cub that helps Sinbad conquer evil. And finally, a very melodic song, written by Alan Menken, was added for Sinbad to sing. I really like this new music, but unfortunately, it hasn't been released on CD yet.

To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the previous ride, but with the addition of the new song and Chandu, this is now one of my favorite attractions at Tokyo DisneySea. However, I'm not so sure that the Japanese agree with me since this attraction still had minimal or no lines during my visit.


Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


I must apologize. I had a new camera on my latest trip to Tokyo and I was still figuring out how to use it. Unfortunately, all of my interior pictures of the new SSV were out of focus. The following pictures were all taken five years ago, before the refurbishment. For the most part, they will still give you an accurate depiction of the attraction.


Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


I know that the audioanimatronics look very “Small Worldish.” Trust me, this is not the case. These AA's have full body movement. They are very sophisticated.

For sale in a nearby shop, you can buy a plush Chandu (imagine that). Since I love this attraction so much, I just had to have one. However, I bought the smaller version as I had no idea where I was going to put it once I got home.


Chandu - Sinbad's Storybook Voyage Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


After leaving Sinbad's Storybook Voyage you walk through the streets of Agrabah.

As you'd expect, this area is filled with shops and eateries. You'll also find several humorous props such as a magic rope and a silly camel. If you're wondering why there are no people in many of these pictures, it's because I was in the park during "early opening" for MiraCosta guests.

Streets of Agrabah Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Streets of Agrabah Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Streets of Agrabah Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Streets of Agrabah Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Streets of Agrabah Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


At the far end of Arabian Coast is a beautiful courtyard. This is a festive area that makes you feel like you're in the center of a vast marketplace. It's in this area that you'll also find a major food court and two more attractions. I'm hungry so let's start with the restaurant.


Courtyard Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Courtyard Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Courtyard Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Courtyard Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


The Casbah Food Court is a large eatery that offers beef and chicken curries, tandoori chicken, seafood chow mein, salads, and desserts.

Casbah Food Court  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


The food-ordering area was designed to look like the marketplace from the Disney animated film Aladdin.


Casbah Food Court  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


The dining area is elaborate. Ornate chandeliers, intricately carved tables and chairs, tile floors and sumptuous wall coverings make you feel like you're dining with royalty. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this dining room. Sorry.

Next to the Casbah Food Court is the Magic Lamp Theater. This show is unique for Disney as it mixes live action performances and a 3D movie. But before you actually go into the theater, you enter a preshow area. Here, an audioanimatronic snake and an animated, genderless character, dressed in Arabian garb, set up the story to come.


Magic Lamp Theater  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Magic Lamp Theater  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


Inside the main theater, you don your 3D glasses and the animated character from the preshow is now a real human being and is joined by a somewhat insane magician. Antics pursue until the Genie from Aladdin appears overhead on a large screen. The effects are seamless as the real live performers interact with the animated 3D Genie.


Magic Lamp Theater  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Magic Lamp Theater  Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


This show is presented entirely in Japanese and the audience laughs often. But even if you don't speak the language, you will still enjoy the antics and special effects. This attraction is popular and often has long lines.

Note: When I returned home and finally got around to reading the DisneySea Guide Map that is available everywhere, I found that English Subtitles can be arranged by seeing a Cast Member before the show starts. Silly me.

The last attraction in Arabian Coast is Caravan Carousel. This is a two-story merry-go-round where young and old can ride many of the characters from the Aladdin movie. The upstairs section of this ride is more popular than the lower section and thus, has longer lines.


Caravan Carousel Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea

Caravan Carousel Arabian Coast - Tokyo DisneySea


Next stop, Mermaid Lagoon.

July 3, 2008

Tokyo DisneySea - Lost River Delta

Deep in the jungles of 1930's Central America you'll find El Rio Perdido, “The Lost River.”

This river actually splits Lost River Delta in half as it runs through a lush tropical forest, by ancient ruins, and finally, past a shanty town.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


This is an area ripe for discovery by the archeologists of the day. Look closely at the river and you might just spot the seaplane that rescued Indiana Jones in his very first adventure. Also, pay attention to the plane's identification number.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


The first attraction you'll come to on the upper bank of the river is Mystic Rhythms. This is a big production show presented five times a day in the Hangar Stage.


Mystic Rhythms Sign Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


The exterior of Hangar Stage looks run down " as if it's been abandoned and left for the jungle to reclaim it. A crashed airplane sits nearby, rusting in the elements. Inside the hanger, you'll find a large theatre that holds 1,140 guests.


Hangar Stage home of Mystic Rhythms Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea

Hangar Stage home of Mystic Rhythms Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


The setting for the show is deep within a Central American jungle. Here, actors take on the roles of many animals, including jaguars that skulk along the ground and birds that gracefully fly through the trees or swing from vines. Indigenous people of this area celebrate life by dancing and chanting. A beautiful set that features waterfalls, fire effects, and smoke help add to the lush atmosphere.


Mystic Rhythms Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea

Mystic Rhythms Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


This show has elements of Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba as actors “dance” in the air while swinging from ribbons of cloth. The music is primitive with a strong tribal beat. It's more about “setting a mood” than telling a story.

Down the road from Hanger Stage you'll wander into a small, run-down village. On one side of the road you'll find Miguel's El Dorado Cantina. This is a counter service restaurant that serves unauthentic Mexican food.


Miguel's El Dorado Cantina Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


When I ate here five years ago, I found white, sticky rice in my burrito. Not exactly what I'm used to. I ate here again on this last trip and I'm happy to report, the food has improved. But as someone who grew up in Southern California, it still has a long way to go to be considered “authentic.”


Miguel's El Dorado Cantina Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


There is plenty of seating divided between two levels. On the upper level you'll often find a mariachi band performing while the seats on the lower level are more tranquil and afford a peaceful view of the river.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


Next to the restaurant is Lost River Outfitters. This shop offers Indiana Jones merchandise as well as Aztec and Mayan jewelry and bric-a-brac.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


Across from the shop is the third station of the DisneySea Transit Steamer Line. This is a scenic boat ride that circles the many ports around the park. Guests boarding here will be required to exit at the Mediterranean Harbor station.


DisneySea Transit Steamer Line Tokyo DisneySea


There are three bridges that cross El Rio Perdido. It's on the lower banks of the water that you'll find the real excitement of Lost River Delta.


El Rio Perdido Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


Dominating the skyline is an ancient Mayan pyramid and this is where you'll discover the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull.

Indiana Jones Adventure:  Temple of the Crystal Skull Tokyo DisneySea

Indiana Jones Adventure:  Temple of the Crystal Skull Tokyo DisneySea

Indiana Jones Adventure:  Temple of the Crystal Skull Tokyo DisneySea

Indiana Jones Adventure:  Temple of the Crystal Skull Tokyo DisneySea


Much of the queue for this attraction winds its way through the jungle outside of the pyramid, until you finally enter this foreboding structure. The remaining queue wanders through labyrinth of Mayan statues and artifacts.


Indiana Jones Adventure:  Temple of the Crystal Skull Tokyo DisneySea


For those of you who have ridden the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye at Disneyland, this attraction is VERY similar " in fact, the tract layout is identical.

The storyline in DisneySea is that you're looking for the Fountain of Youth but it's protected by the unforgiving, mystical spirit known as the Crystal Skull. Taking pictures while on the attraction is not allowed so I have nothing to show you here.

For those of you who have not ridden the Disneyland version of this ride, it's similar to “Dinosaur” at Disney's Animal Kingdom. You ride in motion-simulator jeeps and travel from one harrowing adventure to the next. Dart-blowing statues, large snakes, blasts of fire, thousands of insects, and a dozen other evil forces try to thwart your efforts as you search for the Fountain of Youth.

This is a must see attraction. In fact, I list the Tokyo and California version of this ride as one of my absolute favorites. Unfortunately, I think “Dinosaur,” which uses the same vehicles and track layout, pales in comparison.

As you venture along the exterior of the pyramid and decaying temple, you'll come across Yucatan Base Camp. This is another counter service restaurant that serves barbecued specialties, fresh salads, and desserts. Live entertainment is also on hand while you enjoy your meal.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


I especially like the atmosphere here. The outside tables are interspersed between a current archeological dig. Look carefully and you'll find ancient statuary, pottery, picks and shovels, lanterns, and human skeletons.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


It's also in this area that you might just find a crate addressed to Harrison Hightower.


Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


A little further down the road you'll come to Raging Spirits. This is a roller coaster fashioned to look like runaway mine cars. For those of you who have been to Disneyland Paris, Raging Spirits uses the exact same track layout and cars as the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril roller coaster in Adventureland. However, I think the DisneySea version is visually more appealing.


Raging Spirits Roller Coaster Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea

Raging Spirits Roller Coaster Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


The storyline is that vengeful spirits have been awakened by the archeological dig and are angry with all who pass this way.

Personally, I think this attraction is a disappointment. From what I understand, when it first opened, it jostled guests around so much that there were constant complaints at Guest Relations. To remedy the problem, the restraints were padded, and then padded some more. Now when you're secured in your seat, you have absolutely NO movement whatsoever. So it really doesn't matter what the coaster does, you're “glued” in. All the excitement is gone.

This attraction does have some nice effects including a 360 degree loop and a blast of steam as you make your final turn. But overall, there is very little thrill here.


Raging Spirits Roller Coaster Lost River Delta Tokyo DisneySea


That's it for Lost River Delta. Next stop, Arabian Coast.

June 29, 2008

Tokyo DisneySea - Port Discovery

It's difficult to describe Port Discovery.


I've heard it called the “Tomorrowland” of DisneySea and the “Marina of the Future.”
Either way, it weaves science and fantasy into an intriguing mix. The storyline for Port Discovery is that it's home to the “Center for Weather Control.” Here, new experiments to manipulate the climate are always underway.


Port Discovery at Tokyo DisneySea


There are three attractions in Port Discovery, Aquatopia, StormRider, and DisneySea Electric Railway.

Let's start with Aquatopia.


Aquatopia in Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


Aquatopia is one of the most visually appealing attractions you'll ever see. Its thrills are mild, but watching these little vehicles maneuver in what looks like absolute chaos is delightful. This is an open-air attraction with many good vantage points from which to take someone's picture.

Each vehicle holds two people. As you leave the loading area, you enter a giant lagoon of water that's approximately four inches deep. There is no track as the vehicles are controlled by a master computer that relays directional information to each individual unit from a number of towers positioned in the lagoon. This allows different vehicles to take different routes, adding to the confusion of the experience. As you move about the lagoon, you spin, travel forwards, travel backwards, almost get wet from random jets of water, and nearly hit the other cars as you maneuver your way through an unknown route. This attraction is a lot of fun for kids and adults.


Aquatopia in Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Aquatopia in Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


At night, Aquatopia is especially beautiful as each vehicle is lit from underneath, giving it an eerie glow as it moves about the lagoon.


Aquatopia in Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


I was very disappointed when Disney removed the 20,000 Leagues attraction from the Magic Kingdom in Florida. But after the decision was made, I was hoping that they might replace it with Aquatopia. Maybe make the vehicles look like fish and give the attraction a “Little Mermaid” theme. I think this would have made a great ride for all ages and been fun to watch from the sidelines. But alas, Disney doesn't call me and ask for my opinion. LOL. Below is a rendering I created of what this attraction might have looked like if built in the Magic Kingdom.


20,000 Leagues could have been Aquatopia


The big draw in Port Discovery is StormRider.


StormRider Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


The story line is this, The Center for Weather Control (CWC) has invented a “Storm Diffusion Device” that when detonated within a disturbance neutralizes the energy and renders the storm harmless. While watching a small-scale demonstration of this new technology in the pre-show area, guests are informed that a large typhoon is approaching Port Discovery and everyone is invited to board one of the CWC's flying laboratories and observe this new invention first hand.


StormRider Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


After we board the plane, we secure our safety restraints and wait for take off. We're afforded a good view from a large window positioned at the front of the plane as we become airborne and fly directly into the approaching typhoon. The new “Storm Diffusion Device” is fired, but a mishap occurs and the missile crashes into our cabin, ready to detonate in a matter of seconds. But being a Disney attraction, a happy ending is eventually achieved and the CWC can proclaim success with their new invention.

This attraction can best be described as Star Tours on steroids. It is a motion simulator ride that holds about twice as many people as its space counterpart. In addition, there are more on-board special effects than on Star Tours.

No picture taking is allowed in either the pre-show area or the plane's cabin so I have no photos that I can share with you. But here's what the attraction poster looks like.


StormRider Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea Poster


The last attraction in Port Discovery is DisneySea Electric Railway. This is the same ride I mentioned when talking about the New York City section of American Waterfront. This is an elevated electric trolley line that shuttles guests between these two ports. Guests board these trolleys from the upper level of Port Discovery for a one-way trip.


DisneySea Electric Railway Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


The Horizon Bay Restaurant is a buffeteria-style eatery that serves steaks and seafood from an open kitchen. At times, the seating area is split and half of the restaurant offers character dining.

Horizon Bay Restaurant  Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


The last few pictures are just some props and backdrops that make up the overall atmosphere of the area.


Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea

Port Discovery Tokyo DisneySea


Next blog, Lost River Delta.

June 26, 2008

American Waterfront – New York Harbor and Cape Cod - Tokyo DisneySea

The next section of American Waterfront I'm going to discuss is the New York Harbor area.

The most prominent feature here is the S.S. Columbia.


S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


This ship harkens back to the Gilded Age when luxury liners sailed between New York and Southampton. You can board this ship and wander around several of its outside decks. You will even find a shuffleboard court, a standard on all passenger liners of the time.


S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


One of the things that helps make this ship look so real is that it backs up onto Tokyo Bay. When viewing the Columbia from a distance, you can see the ocean in the background so it takes on a realism that would be difficult to recreate in a landlocked park. Also, this ship is large. You don't feel like you're looking at a scaled-down version.


S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Along side of the Columbia is a tug boat, maneuvering the ship into port.


Tugboat along side the S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


The interior of the ship is elegant, just as you'd expect from a first class ocean liner.
Dark woods, damask wall coverings, and ornate statues greet guests as they enter the ship.


Interior S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

Interior S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Located on “B” Deck you'll find the S.S. Columbia Dining Room. This is an elegant restaurant, worthy of the millionaires that sailed on these ships in the early 20th century. This is a full service restaurant, offering multi-course meals, an impressive wine list, and soft piano music.


Columbia Dining Room S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

Columbia Dining Room S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

Columbia Dining Room S.S. Columbia New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Several times a day, a show is presented on the Dockside Stage called “Over the Waves.” The story revolves around the Columbia setting sail on a “dream cruise” when the Disney characters get involved in the festivities.


Dockside Stage New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Next door to the Columbia is a freight terminal. Here, guests can enjoy an elaborate, all-you-can-eat buffet while sitting beneath cargo from ports around the world.


Freight Terminal New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Much of the rest of the harbor area is devoted to wharfs and piers where you'll find water craft from dinghies to schooners tied up to the docks. This is truly a wonderful place just to wander and soak up the atmosphere.


New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

New York Harbor American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


To get to the Cape Cod section from the harbor area, you must cross a bridge and round a piece of land that juts out into the “ocean.”

You see, in order to keep the realism alive, Cape Cod cannot be seen from the bustling New York section of American Waterfront, so it's tucked away in a secluded cove. And while crossing the bridge, keep a watch out for interesting plaques posted on the stone supports.


Bridge connecting Cape Cod and the New York Section of the American Waterfront

Plaque on the Bridge connecting Cape Cod and the New York Section of the American Waterfront

Plaque on the Bridge connecting Cape Cod and the New York Section of the American Waterfront


There are two attractions in Cape Cod, Big City Vehicles and the DisneySea Transit Steamer Line.

The Big City Vehicles are vintage automobiles that take a small number of guests on a leisurely drive to the New York City section of American Waterfront. This is one-way ride and the distance is sizable so plan accordingly.


Big City Vehicles


The DisneySea Transit Steamer Line is a scenic boat ride that circles the many ports around the park. There are three stations and depending on which station you board, you will be required to exit at a different place. However, when boarding in Cape Cod, you make no stops and return to your original station.


DisneySea Transit Steamer Station


Cape Cod feels like a real town as it has many of the facilities you'd expect to see in a seaside village such as a church, cannery, fire department, boat builder and numerous other places of business. In order to make the volcano in the background blend in, the rocks on this side of the mountain are reminiscent of the boulders you'd find in New England.


Cape Cod area at Tokyo DisneySea

Cape Cod area at Tokyo DisneySea


Inside the church and fire department you'll find a counter service restaurant called Cape Cod Cook-Off. The menu is typically all American, serving hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads. What makes this eatery different is the live entertainment that's presented in the dining area. While enjoying your meal you can watch continuous shows featuring Donald Duck cartoons and live performances starring Donald and many of his friends. This is a fun spot for lunch.


Cape Cod Cook-Off


Humor is also alive and well in Cape Cod.

First, there's Mickey mimicking the classic pose of the Fisherman Statue found in Gloucester, MA. Musicians singing sea chanteys can also be found performing in front of this statue throughout the day.


Mickey mimicking the classic pose of the Fisherman Statue


Then there's this interesting sign.


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For those of you who don't get the joke, D.B. Cooper was the man who hijacked a Boeing 727 in 1971 and parachuted from the plane with $200K in ransom money. What I find interesting about this joke and so many others scattered around the park is that the typical Japanese guest, even those that read English well, would never understand the humor because they don't share our background.

A lighthouse stands guard over this small harbor. This is also a popular “make out” spot for young lovers after the sun sets as the location is rather remote.


Lighthouse


Next port of call, Port Discovery.

June 23, 2008

American Waterfront – New York City - Tokyo DisneySea

American Waterfront can be divided into three sections, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod.

The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.

Let's start with New York City. This is the first section of American Waterfront that you come to when leaving Mediterranean Harbor. McDuck's Department Store greets you as you start your walk down either of two streets.


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


The street to the left would be considered the “better neighborhood” of the two. Here, the buildings are nicely kept and the paint is fresh. Take the time to read some of the advertisements in the windows. There are so many clever signs and very often, the same name pops up again and again as a story starts to emerge.


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


The street to the right is closer to the docks and part of it runs underneath the elevated railway. These aspects contribute to give this area a seedier feel. The street has a more run-down atmosphere to it. The detail here is outstanding. Both of these streets are far superior to the “Streets of America” at Disney's Hollywood Studios.


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


The New York City section of American Waterfront is also where you can board one of the Big City Vehicles. These are old fashioned automobiles that take you on leisurely drive through the City, along the Harbor, and finally ending in the Cape Cod section. This is a one-way trip so plan accordingly.


Big City Vehicles American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


One of the big attractions in this area is the Broadway Music Theatre. This is a first-rate theatre. The kind you'd actually find on Broadway " not what you'd associate with a theme park. The stage has multiple elevators, a huge fly area, and seating for 1,500 people. The shows produced here are top notch and professional in every sense.


Broadway Music Theatre American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


Broadway Music Theatre American Waterfront New York City Tokyo DisneySea


Currently playing at the Broadway Music Theatre is “Big Band Beat.” An energetic group of tap dancers and singers are backed up by a twelve-piece orchestra that sits at the back of the stage. The thirty minute production is presented in English and climaxes with Mickey Mouse on the drums and then he joins the dancers in a big finale. This is a “must see” show!

Close to the theatre you will find the DisneySea Electric Railway. This is an elevated electric trolley reminiscent of those found in many east coast American cities in the early 1900's. The trolleys run from American Waterfront to Port Discovery. This is a one-way trip and you must exit and re-queue to return.


DisneySea Electric Railway American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

DisneySea Electric Railway American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Spanish motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo Tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.


Tower of Terror American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.

“Welcome to the ‘Tower of Terror' tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year's Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find " a statue called ‘Shiriki Utundu' which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.

That very night, the hotel's main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the ‘Tower of Terror.'

Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.

As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower's collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.

The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower's penthouse. Please enjoy the ride.”

In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower's image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.


Tower of Terror American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Tower of Terror American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower's vast collection of art that he's commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we're taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo's Tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints.

The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower's penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.


Tower of Terror American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rhode, designer of the Animal Kingdom.

Tower of Terror American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea


I can't say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.

To give you an idea of how detailed Tokyo DisneySea is, check out the excavation site in the Lost River Delta section of the park. You might stumble across some crates address to Harrison Hightower.

My next blog will discuss the New York Harbor and Cape Cod sections of American Waterfront.

June 20, 2008

Tokyo DisneySea - Mediterranean Harbor

I guess you could call Mediterranean Harbor the Main Street of Tokyo DisneySea.

You enter this port of call by walking underneath the MiraCosta Hotel (instead of a train station), and to either side and beyond this walkway is an array of shops.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea

Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


There is a Japanese custom to bring gifts home to give to family and friends when traveling, and cookies and candies make the perfect remembrance. To accommodate this need, a number of shops sell nothing but decorative tins full of these taste treats.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


A cute sign can also be found in this area that says, Piazza Topolino Nord. This translates to North Mickey Mouse Square. You see, the Italians call Mickey Mouse, Topolino.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


For those of you who haven't caught on, DisneySEA is all about the oceans and seas of the world. Each area of the park represents a different water-related locale. Thus, Mediterranean Harbor is a seaside village overlooking a sizeable marina. This is the largest body of water in the park and this is where the daytime and nighttime pageants are performed. There are no parades at DisneySea.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


The current nighttime show is called BraviSEAmo. This is the story of how the “Spirit of Water” meets the “Spirit of Fire” and they fall in love. The show begins with elaborate fountains erupting around Mediterranean Harbor. Then, the “Spirit of Fire” rises from the sea in all its glory, eventually setting the entire harbor on fire. This show gives Illuminations in Epcot a run for its money.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Mediterranean Harbor is also the area where you'll watch the fireworks.

Since Disneyland and DisneySea sit somewhat back-to-back, both parks watch the same firework display, but to different music.

Disney planned this area well and built excellent viewing spots all around the harbor. Many of these locations are either raked or stair-stepped to afford excellent views to as many guests as possible.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Another nice detail, Disney hid sound and lighting equipment underground and in various structures around Mediterranean Harbor. Then, right before a show begins, trap doors open and up rises large poles with spotlights and speakers attached. Below is an example of one of these structures.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Hidden away in a back area of Mediterranean Harbor is the Venetian section. Here, guests can board authentic gondolas for a trip along a canal, under bridges, and out into the harbor. All the while, your gondolier sings and tells jokes. Since I don't speak Japanese, I don't have a clue as to what he was saying, but everyone else on the boat seemed to be amused. These gondolas are not on tracks and are propelled by the gondolier.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea

Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Separating Mediterranean Harbor from American Waterfront is a bridge reminiscent of Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge in Florence, Italy. There really isn't much on this bridge except a few vendor carts. Its real function is to add more viewing for the water pageants and provide a walkway to other areas of the park.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Another attraction in Mediterranean Harbor is the DisneySea Transit Steamer Line. This ride has three stations, the other two being in American Waterfront and Lost River Delta. This is not a hop-on, hop-off attraction. Depending on which station you load, you will be required to exit at another station. In this case, if you load at Mediterranean Harbor, you will exit at Lost River Delta.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea

Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


The Japanese are a stickler for rules. On my first visit to Tokyo Disney Sea, I had my video camera with me. I was filming from the Steamer when we pulled into a station. I noticed that absolutely no one was in line to board so I asked if I could remain on the boat so I could continue filming. I was told no, that I must exit and reenter through the entrance. Not wanting to be the ugly American, I just smiled and said thank you. By the time I exited and then weaved through the entrance queue, the boat had sailed without me -- empty.

The Transit Steamer Line stations are designed to look like warehouses where these boats could pick up and deliver cargo. A sharp eye will notice that the station in Mediterranean Harbor has a number of wine barrels and crates with the name Zambini Brothers stenciled on them. Just across the way from the station is the Zambini Brothers' Ristorante, which is designed to look like a winery.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


For me, the best part of Mediterranean Harbor is Fortress Explorations. Think Tom Sawyer Island meets Leonardo da Vinci. This is a medieval castle with numerous chambers and pathways to explore.


Mediterranean Harbor  Tokyo Disney Sea


Here are just a few of the treasures you'll discover.

An ancient planetarium.


An ancient planetarium in Fortress Explorations Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea


A pendulum that demonstrates the rotation of the earth.


 A Pendulum in Fortress Explorations Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea


Miniature galleons you can pilot by remote control.


 Miniature galleons in Fortress Explorations Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea


A flying machine da Vinci might have invented.


A flying machine in Fortress Explorations Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea


An old sailing ship.


An old sailing ship in Fortress Explorations Mediterranean Harbor at Tokyo DisneySea


Another hidden treasure in Fortress Explorations is Magellan's Restaurant.


Magellan's Restaurant


Here, diners enjoy a meal under an ancient globe of the world. Intricately carved wood, wrought iron chandeliers, and stucco walls conjure up images of old Florence and one might imagine that this is how the Medici's once dined. Alcohol is served at Tokyo DisneySea and Magellan's offers an extensive wine list. This is a restaurant where you'll want to spend several hours, soaking up the lush atmosphere, casually enjoying a multi-course meal, and then finish it up with a fine liqueur.


Magellan's Restaurant


Magellan's Restaurant

Next blog, American Waterfront

June 17, 2008

MiraCosta Hotel - Tokyo DisneySea

My favorite Disney theme park, worldwide, is Tokyo DisneySea. I tell anyone who will listen, “You can pay your $58 admission, never go on one attraction, and you will still get your moneys' worth. This park is so beautiful, so packed with detail, so lavish in scope that a person will walk from one land to another in utter awe. This park is comfortable to be in. It wraps its arms around you and hugs you. It's a sheer delight to visit.”


MiraCosta Hotel Tokyo Disneyland


Okay, enough gushing.

Tokyo DisneySea also has the distinction of being the only Disney Park to have a hotel actually inside the main gate " The MiraCosta.


MiraCosta Hotel Tokyo Disneyland


This hotel is lavish beyond belief with prices to match. Standard room prices range from $300-$700 per night depending on the season and view. Balcony rooms and suites run even higher. Since I love Tokyo DisneySea so much, for me it was mandatory that I stay at the MiraCosta (this was my second time). I visited in mid-May and paid “Regular” rates for a Porto Paradiso Side, Piazza View room " at a mere $520 a night. Ouch!

Here are some pictures of the lobby.


MiraCosta Hotel Lobby Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Lobby Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Lobby Tokyo Disneyland


Is it worth it? Well, yes, maybe. If you're a true Disney fan, I think it is. When I visit a Disney Resort, I want to be immersed in the entire package which is why I always recommend that people stay “on property” when visiting Walt Disney World.

Currently, Tokyo only has two “Disney” hotels, the MiraCosta and the Ambassador. In July, a third hotel, the Disneyland Hotel, will open.

There are also six “Official” hotels that are run by outside companies. These hotels are connected (sort of) to the theme parks via monorail and are less expensive than the Disney hotels, but they lack that special magic that can only be found in a Disney resort.

The MiraCosta has three sides, the Tuscany, Venice, and Porto Paradiso.

Map of the MiraCosta Hotel Tokyo Disneyland


The Tuscany is the least expensive and faces the entrance of the park and the Aquasphere. The Aquasphere is a large, rotating globe of the Earth with water cascading over the oceans. It's a magnificent work of art.


MiraCosta Hotel Tuscany Side with Aquasphere Tokyo Disneyland


The exterior of the Tuscany side of the building was constructed to look like it was built on a hillside and the rooms appear to stair-step back from one another.


MiraCosta Hotel Tuscany Side Tokyo Disneyland


The rooms on the Venice side of the hotel look over canals, bridges, and gondolas. As you might expect, the exterior of this section reflects all the charm of Venice. I think the views from this side of the hotel are the most romantic.


MiraCosta Hotel Venice Side Tokyo Disneyland


The Porto Paradiso side of the hotel has the best views of Tokyo DisneySea and prices to match. From these rooms you can look out over Mediterranean Harbor and have a ring-side seat for the daytime and nighttime shows that are presented here. And the best rooms have a view of Mount Prometheus. These three pictures were taken from my room.


MiraCosta Hotel Porto Paradiso Side Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Porto Paradiso Side Room View Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Porto Paradiso Side Room View Tokyo Disneyland


The exterior of the Porto Paradiso side of the hotel is supposed to reflect a seaside community. Don't let all the intricate detail on the building fool you. Most of the scroll work and statues are trompe-l'"il. Trompe-l'"il is an art technique that fools the eye into believing that a two-dimensional painting is actually a three-dimensional object. The effect is exquisite.


MiraCosta Hotel Porto Paradiso Side Tokyo Disneyland


The guest rooms of the MiraCosta are very nice. Most rooms have two queen-sized beds and a trundle bed that can be pulled out from underneath one of the beds. Keeping with the Italian theme, Pinocchio characters can be found on the wallpaper, bedspread, and toiletries.


MiraCosta Hotel Guest RoomTokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Guest RoomTokyo Disneyland


Rooms at the MiraCosta also offer free internet access. However, connecting your computer isn't as easy as you might think. First, you need to call the front desk and request access. A few minutes later, a bellboy will show up at your door with a screwdriver in hand. He then crawls underneath the desk and opens up a small portal in the floor. It is here that you plug in your Ethernet connection and electrical cord. Interesting…

The bathrooms are an experience I've never encountered in a “western” hotel. A sink and mirror is situated in the middle of the arrangement.

MiraCosta Hotel Guest Bathroom Tokyo Disneyland


Through a door on the left you'll find the bathing area. This is a large room where you can take a regular “western” shower, or you can choose to bathe Japanese style. A plastic stool and pale are available to sit, scrub, and rinse yourself. When finished, a large bathtub is on hand for a relaxing soak.


MiraCosta Hotel Guest Bathroom Tokyo Disneyland


Through a door to the right of the sink is the toilet area. Excuse me for being a little crass, but these toilets are worthy of an “E” ticket. First, the seat is warmed. Then, when you sit down, an exhaust fan starts automatically within the toilet to whisk away any unpleasant orders. And finally, when you've finished your business, a spray of warm water finishes the job. I've read that these toilets are so popular in Japan that 50% of the households have them.


MiraCosta Hotel Guest Bathroom Tokyo Disneyland


The hotel also has a wedding chapel. After a ceremony, the bride and groom step out onto a balcony overlooking Mediterranean Harbor and bells are rung from a nearby tower.


MiraCosta Hotel Wedding Chapel Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Hotel Wedding Chapel Tokyo Disneyland

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The MiraCoasta has three restaurants, The Silk Road Garden which serves Chinese cuisine specializing in Cantonese dishes.


MiraCosta Silk Road Garden Restaurant Tokyo Disneyland


The Oceano, with views of Mediterranean Harbor offers a Mediterranean-style buffet as well as course menus. The ocean theme of the restaurant is reflected in the menu.


MiraCosta Oceano Restaurant Tokyo Disneyland


The Bellavista Lounge, which means beautiful view, is the ideal spot to enjoy a meal or drink. With spectacular views of Mount Prometheus, this is one of my favorite restaurants. I enjoyed a buffet breakfast here twice (at $30 a pop).


MiraCosta Bellavista Lounge Tokyo Disneyland


The MiraCosta has two swimming pools, one indoors and one out. The statuary surrounding the outdoor pool is Mickey and the gang dressed in Roman garb.


MiraCosta Resort Swimming Pools Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Resort Swimming Pools Tokyo Disneyland

MiraCosta Resort Swimming Pools Tokyo Disneyland


Something else that helps make the expense of staying at the MiraCosta worth the price is the fact that you have your own private entrance into the park. This is a very nice perk. In addition, Tokyo DisneySea opens one hour early for hotel guests.


MiraCosta entrance to Tokyo Disney Sea


Reservations can be made by calling 045-683-3333. A prerecorded message in Japanese will start the call. Eventually, an English recording will tell you to press a certain key to be connected to an English speaking operator.


June 14, 2008

Tokyo Disneyland Resort

From Hong Kong I flew to Japan for seven full days at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Before I start describing the parks, I'd like to give you a little background about the resort.


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In the late 1970's, the Oriental Land Company approached Disney with the idea of building another Disneyland-type park in Tokyo. At the time, Disney was busy planning and building Epcot. With Epcot's price tag nearing one billion dollars, Disney did not have the capital to invest in another park so the Oriental Land Company took on sole ownership of the project. The Oriental Land Company pays royalties for the use of the Disney name, design concepts, and other services.

Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park to be built outside of the United States and opened on April 15, 1983. The park is not actually in Tokyo, but in the city of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. It sits on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay and is approximately 115 acres. The park has a large parking lot and is adjacent the Maihama train station.

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Elements from both Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida were used plus a few original concepts to create this new park. Tokyo Disneyland has seven themed lands: World Bazaar (Main Street), Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown, and Tomorrowland.


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In the late 1990's, a major expansion occurred at the Resort and Tokyo DisneySea was built along with the Ambassador Hotel, MiraCosta Hotel, Ikspiari, and a monorail line linking various areas of the resort together. The total cost was said to be around $4 billion. In addition, a five story parking structure was built to accommodate the new facilities.


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Tokyo DisneySea opened on September 4, 2001 and is approximately 176 acres and backs up to Tokyo Disneyland. Original concepts for this park called for it to be built in Long Beach, California, adjacent to the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose which Disney owned at that time. But due to economic problems brought on by the EuroDisney project, Disney decided the idea was not feasible at that time and passed the idea along to the Oriental Land Company.

Tokyo DisneySea is more adult in scope than Tokyo Disneyland. Its seven themed ports center on the oceans and seas of the world and range from the historically accurate to fanciful escapes. Here is a list: Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, Arabian Coast, Mermaid Lagoon, and Mysterious Island.


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Ikspiari is a retail, dining, and entertainment center and is similar in concept to Downtown Disney. However, with the exception of The Disney Store, the shops you'll find here are similar to the ones you'd encounter in any shopping mall.


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Besides the two Disney hotels, the Ambassador and the MiraCosta, six non-Disney hotels are also part of the resort. This area could be compared to Hotel Plaza Blvd. at Walt Disney World.


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Later this year, the Disneyland Hotel will open as will a permanent Cirque du Soleil show.


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Monorails connect all of these locations with four stations along the route. Even though the system is owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, the trains had to meet the same governmental regulations as any other transportation system in the country and must be regarded as a “public” system. Because of this, guests must purchase a ticket to ride the monorail.


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The trains are much larger than the monorails at Walt Disney World as you can actually walk from one car to the next. Their design is more like a regular commuter train than a theme-park attraction. The monorails are completely automated; however, they do have an “engineer” to oversee each train for safety reasons.


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The area surrounding the Tokyo Resort is rather industrial and lacks any of the aesthetics that can be found as you approach the Disney World, Paris, and Hong Kong resorts.


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One interesting phenomenon American guests will be struck with in the Japanese parks is their cleanliness. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in California, he insisted that his park be kept clean. He did not want it to look like some cheap carnival. Over the years, the Disney Company has done an excellent job of maintaining Walt's high standards in California and Florida, but the Japanese have taken cleanliness to a new level.

In the California and Florida parks, it's difficult to take a picture without at least one trash can ending up in the photo. If memory serves, I think trash cans are placed approximately 30 feet apart in the American parks. In Tokyo, it's often difficult the find a trash can. The Japanese people are far more willing to hold on to their trash until they come to the next receptacle. Even the pavement looks like it has been recently painted as you won't find any “gum-spots” where custodial had the scrape the gooey stuff off the concrete.

You also won't find any paper towels in the restrooms. Instead, they have these wonderful hand-blowers that do a much better job of getting the water off your hands than the machines we see here in America.


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I'm not sure if the Tokyo management does a better job than its American counterparts of maintaining this cleanliness, or if the Japanese people are more willing to keep the parks clean. I'm guessing it's a combination of both. But either way, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are immaculately maintained.

Now that I've given you an overview of the Tokyo Disney Resort, I can start providing more detail. Next blog: The MiraCosta Hotel


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About Tokyo Disney

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Tokyo Disney category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Theme Park Trivia is the previous category.

Walt Disney is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.