Main

Tokyo Disneyland Resort Archives

July 7, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 8

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 6, Tokyo DisneySea

We were up about 7:00, and had our usual yogurt/pastry breakfast. The storm was over but it was an overcast day. The temperature was in the high 40s. Downright balmy. :-)

After breakfast it was time to start packing in earnest. I had plenty of room in my suitcase still, but I knew the weight was going to be an issue. I gave a few things to Lee (some of it was for his family and co-workers anyway) and packed the heavy stuff in my new shopping bag. Good thing it was a heavy-duty bag, since it weighed 15-20 pounds.

I'd asked the front desk about luggage storage, and they told us to call Bell Services and someone would come up to the room to get it - but it sounded like one of us had to be there when they came. So I went down to the lobby to check out (no express check-out), while Lee waited for the bellhop.

It was all fairly painless (other than the hotel bill). I've never paid hundreds of thousands for anything before. But somehow it doesn't seem so bad in foreign currency... :-)

By 8:55 we were on the monorail headed to Tokyo DisneySea - Lee had purchased our one-day tickets the night before. The monorail goes by a big parking lot, which was empty. When we'd ridden it the day before I'd noticed that someone had set up the orange cones to read: "30", so I was looking for that, and this time I was able to get a photo of it.

Because the park had been open for an hour there were NO lines at the turnstiles and we walked right in. The Tokyo DisneySea marching band was performing just beyond that, and we enjoyed watching them finish their set. There were a couple of women in their band, and that was nice to see. Lots of choreography and good band music.

We went to the lobby of the Miracosta where we met up with Deb, Linda and Jack - it was the first time Lee and I had been in the Miracosta. It doesn't have nearly as grand a lobby as the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. And it's more of a Venetian theme, so it has a much different look. However, it does have an entrance right into TDS...

Jack and Pete were leaving late that morning so they had been busy packing, but Jack took us up to their room so we could see what it looked like. Their room looked over one of the Venetian "canals", so we could see gondolas.

The room was very nice, but I liked ours at the Disneyland Hotel better - it seemed like ours was larger. I was glad we'd chosen to stay where we did (it saved us money, too - the Miracosta was significantly more).

We said our good byes to Jack and Pete...that was hard. We'd had such a great 10 days! They were headed to Disneyland in California, and then back to their respective homes in New York.

Lee and I went back into TDS and just wandered around the Mediterranean Harbor and American Waterfront areas.

When we went through Cape Cod (home town of Duffy the Disney Bear!), Lee saw a sign for a hot berry tea beverage and he wanted to try it. When he got it, I pointed out that the cup had a picture of Duffy on it...he had been Duffy-ilated! Resistance is futile!

Even though it was Friday the park didn't seem as crowded as it had the rest of the week - but that only meant that standby lines were 90 minutes instead of 120+. :-)

It was about 10:30 and we were ready for our early lunch. I'd seen the Horizons restaurant in Port Discovery and thought it looked interesting. Their menu featured shrimp tempura and pork cutlets - it looked good. We got the "set" which included rice and choice of soup, as well as dessert and beverage. Kirin apple tea was available, so we were able to have that one last time! They didn't seem to be big on vegetables in Japan - both our entrees were accompanied by one floret of broccoli and one of cauliflower.

Deb and Linda joined us partway through...it turned out that Deb and Lee both had the pork cutlet (above) and Linda and I both had the shrimp tempura (below). We were all happy with our meals, I think, and we enjoyed spending some time together.

We said goodbye to Deb and Linda for now - but we'd see them at Aulani in a couple of days. We continued wandering around the park, and visited the Lost River Delta again. The standby line for Raging Spirits was "only" 110 minutes, and Indy was 90. Practically walk-ons. :-) Really, the park was noticeably less crowded than it had been on our previous two visits. Though the lines at the snack kiosks were still quite long.

We took a last voyage with Sindbad and Chandu - by far my favorite attraction at TDS.

Next we took the Disney Transit Steamer from the Mediterranean Harbor to the Lost River Delta. There are waterways that connect the various ports in the park, and small steamers that travel between three different ports. But all passengers must disembark at each stop, so you can't stay on board for a round trip. On the day we were there they were only running steamers between the Mediterranean Harbor and Lost River Delta - there's also a port at the American Waterfront.

While we were on board we saw the volcano erupt. It does that multiple times a day, but there didn't seem to be any particular schedule that we could find. Lots of fire and flames and smoke.

We watched Mythica again, this time from a spot closer to the water. The volcano was in the background, and that's probably the best viewing point we had for seeing the floats, but we weren't next to one of the docking areas where we could see the characters and dancers...though that wasn't a big deal to us.

It was a cloudy day, so we didn't have the nice blue sky in the background and the pictures aren't as pretty. But the winds were calmer so we saw the kites, which we hadn't seen the previous two times. It's a pretty impressive spectacle - it was probably Lee's favorite thing in Tokyo.

We were keeping an eye on the time since we had to get back to the hotel to catch our bus to the airport - we didn't have enough time to do any attractions, and we weren't really interested in shopping. Besides, if we'd bought something we'd have to find a way to carry it home! :-) But we still had sad faces when it was time to leave. :-(

Getting back to the hotel on the monorail was very fast. We still had plenty of time before the bus. Deb had told me about the Cinderella-themed convention areas in the Disneyland Hotel so we checked that out. Lots of beautiful paintings of Cinderella and her prince.

And there was a large china cabinet, where several of Cinderella's mice peeked out of the cups. It was a lovely area.

Our bus was supposed to leave at 5:00, and we went outside to the bus stop. The bellhops came out with our luggage on a cart, and told us the bus would be late - it was about 30 minutes late. But we had plenty of time, so it wasn't a problem. We hadn't actually looked around at the front of the hotel at all, so we had a chance to do that - there's a large fountain at the entrance.

I think it was closer to 6:00 by the time we left. On a Friday afternoon heading towards Tokyo I thought there might be traffic, but it took less time than it had on Sunday.

I'd used frequent flyer miles to book business class from Tokyo to San Diego, so getting checked in was really easy - though even if we'd been traveling coach there weren't any lines at check in! We got through Immigration and Security with no problems - the airport actually seemed pretty empty.

On the other side we found a noodle place and enjoyed one final Japanese meal, before going to the KAL lounge to hang out while we waited for our flight.

We were flying to San Diego via Honolulu. I was surprised to see that most of the people waiting for our flight were Americans and not Japanese - it was more Americans than I'd seen since we left San Francisco 10 days before!

The plane was a 747, and we were on the upper deck - I'd never flown on a 747 before, so that was pretty exciting. The seats reclined almost flat - enough that I could sleep on my side. They served dinner after we took off, but I was more interested in sleeping. Lee had dinner, though. I was actually pretty comfortable and slept for several hours, though I woke up once it started getting light outside - which was about five hours into our seven hour flight. I watched a movie and they fed us a small breakfast.

We left Tokyo at 9:20 p.m. on Friday, and landed in Honolulu at 9:20 a.m. on Friday. So March 14 was like Groundhog Day for us - we got to live it twice. :-)

Coming Next: Aulani!








July 5, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 7

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 5, Tokyo Area Sightseeing

Before the trip, Linda, Lee, and I had decided that if we were going all the way to Japan, we wanted to see a little more of it than just Disney. Linda had found a company called Viator.com that offered a lot of different tours from Tokyo, so we'd taken a look to see what we might be interested in doing.

Most of the tours of Tokyo proper seemed focused on shopping, which was of no interest to any of us. We found one that took us outside of Tokyo to Kamakura and Yokohama and visited a number of sights, including a garden, and that looked interesting, so we booked that one. It was offered on limited days of the week, and Thursday was the only day that worked with our schedule..as it turned out, that was a good choice.

The bad thing about the tour was that they didn't pick us up at the hotel, and we had to get ourselves to the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal in downtown Tokyo. That meant navigating the railway system. :-) Linda had talked to the hotel concierge and had gotten pretty good directions from her on what we needed to do. And really, we figured that we are three fairly capable adults, so it couldn't be that hard. (No, that's not foreshadowing.)

We were supposed to be at the bus terminal at 8:45, and we'd been told it would take us about 45 minutes, so we all met in the hotel lobby at 7:30.

First step was to take the monorail to Ikspiari (Ik-SPEER-ee, in case you've forgotten), which is also the location of the Maihama station for Japan Railway. We had to buy a ticket to our destination at the automated kiosks. The concierge had told Linda how much it would be, plus there was a map that showed the stations and the fare. The kiosks had instructions in English as well as Japanese.

This first station was pretty easy, because there's only one train - we just had to make sure it was going the right direction. It was already fairly crowded with commuters heading into Tokyo, and got more crowded at each station. We had no problem figuring out where we needed to get off (Tokyo Station). We needed to transfer to another line there, but there were lots of signs, so we had no trouble getting to the next train. It was a lot of walking and a couple of escalators, but all underground. Very clean and not horribly crowded. Really quite organized. And as this was one of the main stations, there were lots of signs in English.

We had a very short wait for our second train, and got off at the Hamamatsucho station and made our way upstairs to the bus terminal. There were several different bus tour companies but we found the correct one and checked in. It took us about an hour from the hotel lobby.

We had assigned seats on the bus, which was interesting. I guess they do that so people don't rush the bus to get the best seats. This was an English tour, so other than a couple of Germans, everyone else on the bus was American, Australian, or English. There were about 20 of us - it was more westerners than we'd seen in all three days at the Disney parks! We'd also gotten used to having casual conversations when no one around us understood what we were saying, and we quickly realized that now the people around us understood us and we needed to be more careful! :-)

Our tour visited Kamakura and Yokohama. This day the weather had deteriorated and it was overcast and foggy, with rain forecast in the afternoon. So it wouldn't have been a very good park day anyway. Our tour guide was a Japanese woman named Katie, who spoke excellent English. We started off driving through downtown and on the edge of Tokyo Bay, so she pointed out the sights that we were seeing (like the Tokyo Tower). Unfortunately the visibility wasn't very good because of the fog, so the views of Tokyo Bay were disappointing compared to what they would have been any other day of our trip.

The drive to Kamakura took about 1.5 hours. Along the way she told us some of the history of Japan, and also gave us a quick lesson on Japanese customs, like bowing, and how deeply you bow to whom. We learned some Japanese phrases, like "Good Morning", "Good Afternoon", and "Good Evening". And "Goodbye", "Thank you", and "You're Welcome". I was surprised that "Please" wasn't one of them. She also taught us to count to 10. (Ichi, ni, sun, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, kyu, ju.) It was very interesting, and it made the time pass quickly.

Our first stop in Kamakura was a Shinto shrine - the Hasedera Temple. The grounds were so pretty - a koi pond with blooming cherry trees around it.

We went up the hill to where the shrine itself was.

From that area we had a view of the water, too.

Our next stop was the Great Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple in Kamakura. This is a well-known outdoor Buddha, made of bronze. It used to be in a hall, but the building was destroyed by storms (and then rebuilt) several times, but way back in the late 1400s they gave up and left it outdoors. It's about 45' tall.

Lunch was included in the tour, and we went to a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama. The restaurant was in an office building, which seemed unusual to us. It was on a pretty high floor with a view of Tokyo Bay. Though as I mentioned before visibility wasn't very good because of the clouds and fog.

We were surprised that on a Japanese tour we were getting a Chinese lunch. :-) But apparently Yokohama has the largest Chinese population in Asia (outside of China, of course). When Japan first opened to the west in the 19th century they needed interpreters, so many Chinese came to fill that role, and stayed.

Lunch was good - multiple courses served to us individually rather than family style. One of the dishes was cuttlefish, which I didn't care for - it was tough and had an odd texture.

When we went out to the bus after lunch it was raining lightly - up until then it had been mostly dry, except for light drizzle a couple of times. We stopped just outside Yokohama's China Town and walked down the narrow streets that were lined with all kinds of shops and food places on our way to a Chinese shrine - the Kan-Tei-Byo Temple. It was really beautifully carved and painted.

Back to the bus, and a short drive to Sankeien Garden. By the time we arrived at Sankeien Garden it was pretty obvious that the rain had settled in and was going to stay for a while. :-(

Sankeien Garden, while it has lots of plants and trees, is largely an architectural garden, where the original owner collected and preserved historic temples and Japanese houses. We couldn't go into them, but there was one that was open on the sides so that we could look into it and see quite a bit of it.

In the museum/visitor center there was an area where we could participate in a tea ceremony if we wanted to (nominal extra charge for that). The ladies performing the ceremony were dressed in beautiful kimonos. It was very nicely done. Linda and Lee did that while I wandered around the museum. I'd wanted to see more of the garden, but being out in the rain was not very appealing.

After the tea ceremony Lee and I took the long way back to the bus so that we could see a little bit more of of the garden, like some of the blooming cherry and plum trees.

That was our last tour stop. It was about 4:00 and we had about a one hour drive back to Tokyo. The bus was not going to drop us back at the bus terminal, but in either the Ginza or Shinjuku districts (shopping, for those so inclined), so on the drive back to Tokyo Katie went to each group on the bus and gave us directions on how to get back to our respective hotels from those places.

For us she advised walking from our drop-off point in the Ginza back to Tokyo Station, which would take 15-20 minutes. From the maps we had we saw that there was a subway station near where we would be dropped off, but she said that was the Metro and not Japan Railway, implying that it would be much more complicated to return that way.

When we got off the bus it was still raining, and we really weren't thrilled by the idea of walking to Tokyo Station in the rain. And we were right next to a Metro Station, and Lee had an app that told us how to get back to the Maihama Station from there. The trick was that we had to transfer from the Metro line to Japan Railway. First step was to purchase a ticket to get us on the Metro to our transfer point. That was pretty easy, since the ticket machines had an English option. We could choose where we wanted to go, and it told us how much we needed to put on the ticket. (Both the Metro and Japan Railway use the same kind of ticket so we could have purchased one ticket that would have had the correct fare to take us all the way to Maihama, but because of the transfer we didn't know what the additional fare was.)

Lee again navigated us without error to the correct platform going the correct direction. We got off at the transfer station, and followed the signs to the Japan Railway station, where we again needed to buy a ticket. And here's where the comedy began. :-)

The ticket machines did not have a mode that would allow us to select our destination and tell us the fare required. There were two signs on the walls illustrating the Japan Railway system - one had the train station names in English and Kanji. The other had the fare amounts but all of the station names were in Kanji. They were not right next to each other. So, picture if you will three otherwise capable adults running back and forth between these two signs trying to match Kanji characters to English station name to determine the proper fare. "Ok, it's on the red line, and it's just two symbols, and one looks like an archway with lattice work on top, and the other looks like the gate thing from Tron, with two little tick marks on the side." (We realized later that we should've just taken a picture of one of the signs!) Afterwards we all started laughing at how ridiculous we must've looked. :-) I was actually surprised that no one offered to help us...we'd read that the Japanese will often go out of their way to help those who obviously appear lost. And in the Metro station a Japanese man had tried to help us with our Metro ticket purchase.

Tickets in hand, we followed Lee to the train platform, just as a train was pulling in. He said, "I think this is going the right direction...if the next stop is Etchujima then we're on the right train." And it was. Our hero. :-)

It was about 5:15, which I thought would be a crowded commute time, but the train wasn't as full as it had been in the morning. We still had to stand, but it wasn't bad. It was still raining and it was very chilly when the doors of the train opened at an outdoor platform. (As we traveled away from Tokyo the platforms were above ground and they were covered but not enclosed.)

We got off at the Maihama station, and went into Ikspiari to get some dinner.

There were a lot of fast food type places as well as some table service restaurants. We found a noodle place in the food court that looked promising. Pan-fried noodles and veggies with either pork, beef, octopus(!) or all three. Linda and I had pork (which was ground pork) and Lee had beef. We were the ONLY westerners anywhere to be seen. We were able to find a table and we enjoyed our nice warm noodles - I even managed the chopsticks without too much trouble. (Lee and Linda were pros - showoffs!)

By the time we finished the seating area was full and people were obviously looking for tables, so we gave ours to a nice Japanese family. We went upstairs to look around Ikspiari a bit.

It's essentially just a large shopping mall. It has a Disney Store, a Disney information booth and ticket booth, and a gift store that sells a lot of the food-type gifts that are available in the parks. Most of the shops and restaurants are NOT Disney at all. I saw a bakery that had some yummy-looking pastries so we went in there to get some dessert for later and some breakfast pastries for the morning. I had a chocolate filled pastry of some kind that was really good. I don't remember what else we got for breakfast the next day, but those were also good.

We went into the Disney Store but it was pretty disappointing - just a generic Disney Store for the most part - no park merchandise at all, and I don't remember anything that was Tokyo-specific other than pins.

It was still raining, and we were very tired - it was 7:00 or so and we'd been out since 7:30 that morning! The main part of the mall wasn't totally covered so we had to dodge raindrops as we moved between places sometimes.

So we caught the monorail back to the Disneyland Hotel - it's the first stop after Ikspiari. We still had to go from the monorail station to the hotel out in the open, but it wasn't too far. Still, we were very glad to get back to our room where it was dry and warm. Lee and I made some tea and enjoyed our pastries.

Not too long after we got back we could hear it pouring rain outside - the rain was so heavy that it was sheeting down our window! Wow. Needless to say, the 8:30 fireworks were cancelled that night. We felt sorry for anyone who was out in the parks...it would've been miserable with the rain AND the cold AND the wind. (For those counting..it was our fifth night in Tokyo, and the fireworks had only been shown once. That's even a worse cancellation rate than Disneyland in Anaheim.)

It was our last night - we would be leaving Tokyo the next evening, so we had to begin the sad chore of packing...complicated by the fact that I'd bought even MORE gifts and on the flight to Tokyo my suitcase was already over the 50 pound weight limit. I'd purchased a large Tokyo Disneyland shopping bag (which zipped closed) so I figured I'd use that as a carry-on, and put the heavier, denser items in it.

Since our flight didn't leave until 9:20 p.m. we'd have most of the day to visit a park before catching a bus to the airport. We'd decided to visit Tokyo DisneySea that final day, but we weren't planning to be there at park opening. Instead we'd get up and pack, check out, and leave our bags with the bell desk while we went to the park.

It was still raining when we went to bed, though at least it was no longer raining neko and inu! :-)


Coming next: A final day at Tokyo DisneySea









July 2, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 6

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 4, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea

Just after 1:00 in the morning we were awakened by an earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale. Just after that my iPhone started freaking out as everyone got on "whatsapp" to talk about the earthquake. The non-Californians in our group were a little bit freaked out by it. :-) Though you have to realize that the previous day had been the third anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, so that was in everyone's mind. We reassured them, and went back to sleep.

Despite the earthquake and our long day in TDS the day before, we woke up pretty early on Wednesday morning.

We had gone to the store when we returned the previous night but the shelves had practically been vacuumed clean...no yogurt, fruit, sandwiches, pastries or anything remotely breakfast-like. So that meant we didn't have anything in our room to eat for breakfast...

We went down to the Sherwood Garden restaurant in the hotel and Deb and Linda met us there. This was a buffet. The hotel clientele is mostly Japanese, so a lot of the food selections were quite unfamiliar to us - noodles and seafood and other things that I don't remember but seemed odd to me. Even the western-style dishes were different - none of us would even try the eggs. :-) They were very moist and looked barely cooked. The pancakes were quite small - not much larger than "silver dollar" size, and then they were only serving two at a time! The pastries were very good, though. I don't remember the price, but it was expensive, especially considering I didn't eat a whole lot. And it was not a character meal.

When we got outside it was another day in the 40s, but still sunny and mostly clear. Lee and I still managed to make it into Tokyo Disneyland during our 15-minute "early entry" period. Since we knew we'd be held at the hub we took advantage of there being hardly anyone in the park, and took photos inside the park entrance and the World Bazaar.

Once the park opened we power walked to Pooh's Hunny Hunt - and this time the queue was open - yay!!! We got inside to where we could see the loading zone - there were maybe 30 people in front of us - and the ilne stopped. And we waited...they weren't loading anyone. After 10 minutes or so they opened a side door and escorted us all out of the attraction. :-( But they gave us a "priority pass" that was good for ANY ride in either TDL or TDS, with the exception of Toy Story Mania and Star Tours (really???). Once outside we got a Fastpass for Pooh's Hunny Hunt, and hoped it would be running again by the time our Fastpass became valid (just over an hour away).

We decided to hit the standby line for Big Thunder Mountain. It extended back into Westernland, but it appeared they were still filling the queue so we got into it. It moved almost continuously, but we were still in line for about 35 minutes - longer than I thought it would take, but that was ok..

The ride looks a lot like the one at Disneyland, though the colors are a little bit deeper. I thought the special effects, like the earthquake, were better. And the ride itself seemed a little better - I couldn't tell you how it was different, but it seemed a little more thrilling and fun. Or maybe that's because we were on it with a whole lot of very enthusiastic young Japanese kids and their enjoyment was infectious. :-)

We checked back in at Pooh's Hunny Hunt and it was running, so we were able to use our Fastpasses! I still really enjoy that attraction - it's just so much fun. We were in a different hunny pot this time, so had a slightly different view than we'd had the first time - and we were directly in the line of fire when the woozles lit the fuse on the cannon...

Lee was not fond of my next decision - we hadn't been in Toontown yet, so I told him we needed to visit there. :-) It was somewhat reminiscent of the one at Disneyland, both in the look and in the types of interactive things there were to do. And attractions, too: Gadget's Go Coaster, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, and all of the characters' houses and meet and greet spots. The lines and crowds for the meet and greets were insane! Those were the worst crowds we'd seen all week - we could hardly move. We couldn't get out of there fast enough!

We ran into Deb and Linda and had a quick visit with them - I think they were waiting for a Fastpass to be active.

On Monday we'd noticed a Japanese restaurant on Main Street. Since it was almost 11:00 we thought we'd try to get in for an early lunch. It's called Restaurant Hokusai. Although the entrance is right on Main Street the restaurant itself is upstairs. It's quite large and takes up most of the second floor above a number of the shops. We had a short wait downstairs before being seated upstairs at a window table.

If not for the lacy window covering (which I couldn't move out of the way as it was attached to the window sill) we would've had a very nice view of Cinderella Castle.

Lee ordered the Tempura Set - with shrimp and vegetable tempura, pickled vegetables, rice, and choice of hot or chilled udon.

I had the Shrimp Tempura Udon Set, which was hot udon with shrimp tempura, fish cake, chicken dumpling and shiitake, and served with inari and pickled vegetables. And an unusually-shaped piece of carrot. :-)

We were served hot tea which was refilled multiple times. We both really enjoyed our meals - I was glad that this time the food was hot enough. :-) Since it was a Japanese place they only gave us chopsticks, and I also had a wooden soup spoon that was more like a ladle. I had some difficulty with all of that (I've never had much luck learning to eat with chopsticks), but I managed. I thought the price was quite reasonable for a table service meal: about $16 for mine and $18 for his, plus a 10% service charge.

Our timing was good - when we walked out the line was out the door, probably at least a 20 minute wait for a table.

We did some shopping...we'd been warned before the trip that we wouldn't find a lot of park specific merchandise like t-shirts and hats in Tokyo, and that proved to be the case. We saw just a few generic character t-shirts, and only two park t-shirts. Both of them were 30th anniversary shirts, and were only available in 2XL and 3XL sizes. And even those we only found in one shop. While there were plenty of funny hats, we didn't see anything like baseball caps or visors. What IS very popular is packaged food gifts, like cookies and candy, since apparently the Asians bring lots of food gifts back home to friends and family. There was a huge variety of those, and they came in a lot of different boxes and tins of various designs. I had a hard time choosing which ones to buy.

On the way out of the park we ran into Jack and Pete, who had also been shopping. They reminded us about picking up "story papers". These are available for some attractions - a small sheet of paper with a description (in English) of an attraction's story or narration. These are available at the attractions (we'd received them for Storm Rider the day before), but if you go to Guest Relations they'll give you the entire set for the park. So we went to pick up the set for Tokyo Disneyland.

We made a quick stop back at our room to drop things off, and then took the monorail to Tokyo Disney Sea.

Since it was after noon there was almost no one going into the park - they were already in it! :-) I was surprised to see the Walt and Mickey "Storytellers" statue just inside the entrance turnstiles. It's just like the one on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure. I was also surprised that no one was lined up to take their photo with it.

We weren't in a hurry, so were just going to stroll through the park and enjoy it. Along one side of the Mediterranean Harbor is a raised walkway that goes by what looks like some Roman ruins with columns and rock work - there were some cherry trees blooming there and it was very pretty.

We went back to the Arabian Coast - and Sindbad's Storybook Voyage was open! We had no idea what this attraction was at all, but we walked inside and discovered that there was almost no line, and that it was a boat ride like Pirates or "small world". So we boarded and went for a cruise...

I LOVED it. So did Lee. This was absolutely adorable, and was my favorite attraction at the Tokyo parks. It's kind of like "small world" with a storyline, and more sophisticated animatronics. It starts off with Sindbad and Chandu, his adorable tiger cub sidekick (and you know I'm a sucker for cute tigers), heading off in Sindbad's ship, I guess to seek their fortune.

Along the way we find out that Sindbad is apparently the world's first Boy Scout, as he rescues giant bird chicks from robbers, and frees a giant (who looks like Shrek) and brings music to monkeys (I'm not quite sure why that last part was so important). In return for his good deeds his ship is loaded with treasure, magical bird feathers, and bananas, and he returns home triumphant.

The music was by Alan Menken - the main theme is called "Compass of Your Heart", and it was wonderful. Most of it was in Japanese, but the phrase "Compass of Your Heart" was in English. The translation of the chorus is: "Life is an adventure, although there is no map. Seek the treasure and believe in the compass of your heart." Dialog was in Japanese, but I was surprised that all of the banners in the attraction, like: "May Fortune be With You", "Safe Journey, Sindbad", "Welcome Home, Sindbad", were in English.

The animatronics had a very different look - they did not go for a life-like look like in Pirates, so these were more cartoonish - and I don't mean that in a negative way. They had disproportionately large heads, with somewhat angular features, and very large expressive eyes. They blinked, moved side-to-side, and the eyebrows went up and down. And of course the mouths and hands and bodies moved. They reminded me somewhat of the stop-motion animation from the old "Little Drummer Boy" special, but far more sophisticated. We were just so impressed by this attraction and how well-done and utterly entertaining and enchanting it was. Thinking about it still makes me smile.

Here's a video that Jack Spence put together when he visited TDS in 2010:

Did I mention that we loved it? EVERYONE did!

We thought we could catch part of Mythica again so we went back through Mysterious Island to the Fortress, where we were able to watch the last 15 minutes from the top of the Fortress. It gave us a much different view than we'd had the previous day when we were closer to the water. This gave us a better overview of everything, and we had the Miracosta hotel as a nice backdrop.

I really like the phoenix, but I'm not sure why he looks so ticked off compared to the other mythical creatures. :-)

But maybe that's why he flames.


Lee wanted to use our Priority Passes for Journey to the Center of the Earth (I thought that was a waste of them, but I indulged him). This time I asked to sit in the front of the vehicle, since we had been in the back the first time. It was marginally better - but I still don't think it's worth waiting more than 20 minutes for this ride.

We went back to Arabian Coast to ride Sindbad's Storybook Voyage again and noticed details we'd missed the first time. And then we went to the Agrabah Marketplace to buy our own Chandu. :-) (Though now Tigger wants a turban like Chandu's.)

We wandered around the park a bit more, took some pictures, and picked up the Story Papers for TDS.

We took the monorail back to TDL and went back inside to get a Fastpass for Space Mountain. It was a little after 4:00, so I was kind of surprised there were any left, but we had a return time of 8:20.

In Tomorrowland we passed a snack kiosk that actually DIDN'T have a huge line - they were selling steamed buns with BBQ pork inside. We got one and split it, and it was pretty good.

But we were still hungry, and it was time for our early dinner. We went to the "Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall" in Fantasyland. The one that had the hour-long wait on Monday. Well, this time we walked right into it. Oh. My. What INCREDIBLE theming for a buffeteria type of restaurant! Now I understand why people really want to go to this place. When we walked in I noticed that all over there are life-size figures of the card soldiers - standing guard, painting roses, etc. Above the entrance to the actual cafeteria line are the king and queen of hearts.

In the seating areas I saw the Cheshire Cat and Alice, and lots of flowers. The lighting is great - it's like twilight inside, so there's a nice glow from the lights inside the flowers. Really well done - I was quite impressed. It was much more like a very nice table service restaurant than a buffeteria. Once we had our food we were escorted to a table instead of having to hunt for one.

The food...it didn't really live up to the atmosphere. :-) It was fine, but not great. It was more western-style foods like steak, grilled fish, and rotisserie chicken. I had the swordfish, which was just ok. It came with two (2) pieces of broccoli.

Lee had the flank steak with gravy, with one piece of broccoli and one of cauliflower. And it was rare. The best thing about my dinner was the beverage - we both ordered the Kirin Apple Tea. It was really good! A hint of tea, plus the apple flavor, but not overly sweet. I really enjoyed it - I wish I'd discovered it earlier in the week!

We didn't order dessert, but many of the desserts came with a souvenir plate or teacup that was made of china...very nice. When we walked out of the restaurant there was a line - not an hour wait, but considering how long it took us to get through the line when we only had 10 people in front of us, it was going to be a while...

Since it was 5:30 or so and we didn't have any plans until the Electrical Parade at 7:30 we actually went back to our hotel room for a while. It wasn't quite as cold as it had been the evening before, but we still didn't feel like hanging around, and knew we'd want to add some additional layers before the nighttime activities.

One thing about our hotel that I haven't mentioned...when we booked it, we saw that it offered free internet service - but what we didn't realize until we arrived was that it wasn't wireless internet! It actually required a device we could plug a cable into. And all we'd brought were iPhones and iPads. That meant very little internet connectivity for us while in Tokyo. We had the cellular data plan that we'd purchased, but that wouldn't go very far (and in fact Lee was already on his second increment). So we were pretty disappointed about the hotel situation. Most of our fellow travelers were smarter than we were, and had rented a MiFi type device at the airport to use - I think it was about $10/day for unlimited data. Pretty easy - they supplied a prepaid mailing envelope for its return.

We relaxed in our room for a while before putting on warmer clothes and going back into Tokyo Disneyland to see the Electrical Parade again. We watched it from the same spot, and Lee got us a couple of hot chocolates to enjoy before it started. Deb and Linda met us there - they hadn't yet seen the parade.

It was just as good the second time, and Deb and Linda were as wowed by it as we had been. :-)

After the parade we went into Tomorrowland to use our Space Mountain Fastpasses. Now I'm trying to remember how Tokyo is different from Hong Kong and California...I think it's the same cars and track as California but it doesn't have the music.

We enjoyed our ride on Space Mountain. The fireworks had been canceled (again - of the four nights we'd been there they'd only gone off once!), and we went back to our hotel. The next day we were doing a bus tour, and we had to get ourselves to downtown Tokyo by 9:00.


Coming Next: Sightseeing in Kamakura and Yokohama, and the excitement of navigating Japan's railway system...







June 30, 2014

Tokyo DisneySea - Part 5

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 3, Part 2, Tokyo DisneySea

Konichiwa!

It's still Tuesday, and we're still touring around TDS...it's time for us to use our Fastpass for the Indiana Jones ride.

From Port Discovery we crossed the bridge to the Lost River Delta. A seaplane had been pulled up onto the riverbank - it had a familiar tail number: C-3PO. :-)

The Lost River Delta has a "jungles of the Yucatan peninsula" feel to it. Lots of temple ruins that look like they came out of Central or South America. The two attractions are Raging Spirits, which we had already done (and were not impressed by), and the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. Which we had a Fastpass for, so we didn't have to wait in the 2+ hour standby line...

This has a really elaborate, well-done queue. Even with a Fastpass we went through most of the interior queue, though we were walking through it and not waiting in line like those in the standby lines next to us. While most of the queue at the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland is there just to get you beyond the berm to the actual show area, this one spends more time inside the temple with more of an opportunity to look at the art and artifacts in it.

Instead of Sallah giving the safety spiel, it's Paco who instructs us to fasten our seat belts and not look at the eyes of the idol.

The ride is the same as that at Disneyland, though the interior is decorated differently to reflect a South American god instead of an Asian god. But it still has all of the same elements, like the large room with bridges, flames, and the huge face of the idol. And the snake...why did it have to be snakes? Plus the darts and of course the rock.

I still think this particular type of attraction is one of the best things Disney has ever done, so we enjoyed it - our favorite TDS attraction thus far.

Raging Spirits standby line was up to 160 minutes by this time.

One of the snack carts in this area sold smoked turkey legs....HUUUUUGE line. Not 160 minutes, but probably at least 30!

We circled back to the Arabian Coast area to find that Sindbad was still down. "Sultan" Stitch was out greeting guests, and so was a female pink version of Stitch, wearing a sort of harem headdress and veil. We had no idea who that was but I have since found out that her name is Angel, and she's Stitch's love interest. She was as popular as Stitch - they both had pretty long lines of guests waiting.

We went back into the walled city and got in line for the Magic Lamp show. It was about 20 minutes before we went inside. Unfortunately no translation device was offered, and we didn't know to ask for one, so I really have very little idea of what went on. :-) There were special effects and a live magic show - the audience laughed a lot so the dialog must have been funny. Later in the day the queue was 60 minutes.

Since we'd had an early lunch we were ready for a snack. Of course most of the snack carts had enormous lines, but we went into the Vulcania restaurant in Mysterious Island (it was about 1:30), which didn't have much of a line. This is built "inside" the volcanic caves, so the walls and ceiling look like lava. Very realistic.

I had egg rolls and corn soup.

Lee had a tempura, beef, and noodle dish. It was all pretty good.

From whatsapp we knew the rest of our group was at the Mediterranean Harbor where they had a spot on the Lido Isle for "The Legend of Mythica" water show that started at 2:30. There was still plenty of room for us, since it was still almost 30 minutes until the show started.

We compared notes on what we'd all been up to...Deb and Linda had been almost to the boarding area of Sindbad when it went down. Lee and I had by far done more attractions that day than anyone else. :-) But they told us that the crowds were half what they had been on Sunday. Yikes. I'm glad we missed that.

Mythica was quite spectacular. A series of absolutely beautiful floats (that really DID float) that over the course of the next 40 minutes circled around the Mediterranean Harbor in BOTH directions so that everyone could get a good view. The main float in the middle also had fountains and a big platform in the middle that rose up.

Mickey was on the main float and other Disney characters were on five of the other floats - each of them stopped at a different place around the harbor where the characters and dancers got off and performed a show. That was the only aspect of Mythica where it mattered where you were. (And some people lined up at particular spots early to see their favorite character - though I didn't see anyone waiting six hours early!) There were also jet skiers powering around in various formations.

Towards the end four new floats joined in - these depicted mythological beasts: a winged unicorn, hydra, dragon, and phoenix. These were seriously gorgeous floats. Jaw-dropping. The phoenix even flamed. Wow. The music was wonderful too.

Water is a harsh environment, especially this close to the ocean, and this parade has been running since 2006, but you wouldn't know that from looking at the floats - they looked NEW.

First the Electrical Parade, and now Mythica. Tokyo Disney definitely excels at the whole "spectacular" thing. Well, except for the fireworks. :-)

We'd gotten a little chilled while waiting for and watching the show. Pete suggested the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge on the SS Columbia. Very masculine, men's club look inside, but it was very nice. Our group started with Linda, Pete, Lee, and me, but eventually Jeanine, Deb, Masayo, and Mamoru joined us, too! We were overflowing the booth. And it was nice and warm in there - we weren't in a hurry to leave. Lee had some kind of non-Bud Light beer, I had a glass of champagne. (Though what I really wanted was more of that hot wine!)

Masayo and Mamoru were headed home, and I think just about everyone else headed to their respective hotel rooms - except Jeanine who was going to one of the shows. Linda and Deb had recommended the "Mystic Rhythms" show, and there was one starting in about 10 minutes, so Lee and I power walked to the Hangar Stage at the Lost River Delta. We got in just before they closed the doors - our seats were over on the side about halfway down, but at least the theater was enclosed and we were inside where it was warmer.

This was sort of a Cirque-du-Soleil type of show. It was set in a rainforest with lots of acrobats and dancers representing animals and birds. Very artistic and interpretive. Or as we call it: "very French". :-) It was a good show - just not really what I was in the mood for at the time.

It had been a long day and we were tired and cold, but we wanted to see Fantasmic! which was less than 2.5 hours away, so it didn't make sense to go back to our room. We went over to Mermaid Lagoon (very beautiful lighting now that it was getting dark!) and went into Triton's Kingdom.

This was indoors where it was, you guessed it, WARM. There are a few outdoor rides at Mermaid Lagoon, but most of them are indoor - including Jumpin' Jellyfish, which rises 20' or so into the air.

This is a very large indoor space - there are two other attractions, a play area, theater, shops, and restaurant. And of course that beautiful "grotto-under-the-sea" theming.

We'd spent a lot of time walking through Mysterious Island, since (short of taking a VERY long walk around the perimeter of the park) it was the only way to walk to Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast, and was the shortest route to Lost River Delta. But it was cold walking through that crater with all of those passageways that became wind tunnels.

This time we were on our way to The Fortress, a multi-story citadel on the side of the volcano next to the harbor, which contained a number of interactive exhibits. And it was presented by the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (SEA) - remember them from Hong Kong?

There was a pendulum, and a chamber of planets, where we could turn handles to move the different planets through their orbits. This room also had a large dome with many stars and constellations depicted on it. There was an illusion room and an Explorers Hall with portraits of scientists and explorers from Ptolemy to Drake. On the parapet were cannons - I was very surprised when we pulled the cord on one and it fired! That could get really annoying if someone did it over and over. We noted that this might be an interesting spot to watch Mythica from.

Down on the harbor side of the Citadel was a ship we could explore - like the Sailing Ship Columbia at Disneyland we could go below deck, too. This was a lot smaller than the Columbia and it was a stationary ship.

We'd managed to kill a little more time, and largely remain indoors. It was about 7:00 by then and Fantasmic! was at 8:00 - and we still needed to find something for dinner and then a place to watch the show. As we walked around the Mediterranean Harbor we found the Zambini Brothers Ristorante - counter service Italian. It had almost no line - that should have warned us. :-)

Definitely the worst meal of the trip. I had the vegetable lasagna - which I thought meant it was vegetarian, but it had a meat sauce.

Lee had some kind of a chicken pizza, which he offered to me instead, but it had two kinds of peppers on it. Sigh. But at least we were inside to eat! I believe just about all of the counter service restaurants had large indoor seating areas - the only one I remember that didn't was the pizza place at TDL.

I was surprised when we came out of the restaurant and the area around the harbor wasn't really that crowded with people trying to get a spot for Fantasmic. I don't know if the cold had made people leave early (it was in the high 30s by then, with some wind), but we found a spot pretty close to the rail - we were in the second row of standers. It was about 15-20 minutes until the show started.

There's no island in the harbor, so instead they bring out this floating stage/structure that telescopes into Sorcerer Mickey's hat, and lowers down to form a stage. With fountains around the base. Oh, and the whole hat is an LED screen all the way around! And there's fireworks. It's a Magical MAGICAL hat float.

Other floats come out that have characters on them, and then later the characters disappear and this round balloon appears on top of each of them that looks like a huge crystal ball-like projection screen. (These floats have an awful lot of people and stuff on board - it must be very crowded down below!)

Then there's the Magic Mirror (not sure where that came from - the main stage was between us and it so we couldn't see it very well), and then there's the dragon, which we also couldn't see well. But it lit the lagoon on fire - which was warm and felt pretty good!

Mickey's imagination vanquishes the dragon and the floats reappear with about 8-10 characters on each one, and there's more fireworks and fountains, and the show ends.

Pretty amazing. While it's still about Mickey's imagination and its mostly the same music, it's very different than the versions here. It's all on the water - there is no stationary stage on land. And that Sorcerer's hat floating stage/screen/fountain is pretty cool.

After standing and watching the show we were really chilled. But it was still almost 40 minutes until we could use our Tower of Terror Fastpasses.

We wandered through some of the shops, but they were quite busy and unpleasantly crowded. We actually had NOT been into the Toy Story section of the American Waterfront yet, so we went over there. It's set up like a midway, but all that's there is a photo spot, gift shop, and the huge queue for Toy Story Mania. You enter the interior queue through Woody's open mouth...I haven't decided if that's really fun or really disturbing...

The Toy Story line may have been the longest one in the park. That's one attraction that we never did, since we never were in the right place at the right time to get a Fastpass for it. And from what we understand it's the same attraction we have here so we didn't make an effort to get a Fastpass.

We still had some more time to kill...I saw on the schedule that the show "A Table is Waiting" was starting in front of the SS Columbia. This is an outdoor show with a relatively small seating area, but they do it a whole bunch of times a day. You can get a decent view of it from outside the seating area. The dialog was in Japanese, and the songs were a mix of Japanese and English. We missed the beginning of it, but it was about food. It was very odd. Disney characters were celebrating different types of cuisine (e.g. Mexican, French, American, Indian), as dancers dressed as different foods came on stage. One of the weirder moments was during the celebration of American food (hosted by Pluto), when people dressed as a hamburger patty, two as slices of cheese, and a hamburger bun all piled on top of each other on a foam bun that had been placed on the stage. (I'd say it was goofy, but he hosted the Japanese food portion.)

Oh, there was a pie fight at the end. :-) Most of the pies were fake, but Mickey got whipped cream smeared on his nose and someone in the audience got a pie in the face - I'm still not sure if it was a real guest or a disguised cast member.

By then it was FINALLY 9:05 and we could use our Fastpass for Tower of Terror!!! The HTH - Hotel Hightower - seems much larger to me than those in California and Florida. This one doesn't have the Twilight Zone connection at all, and instead the story involves the owner of the hotel, Harrision Hightower III. He was a member of SEA (we saw portraits of him at Mystic Manor in Hong Kong), who brought home a cursed idol named Shiriki Utundu. (Which was not exactly lawfully acquired in the first place.) Hightower foolishly mocked the idol, and on New Year's Eve stepped into the elevator with it. When the elevator doors opened, all that was left inside were his hat and the idol. In the attraction we get to watch Hightower in those final moments. And there's the whole rise and fall of the elevators, too. (Unlike the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror versions, where I feel a little sorry for the passengers being in the wrong place at the wrong time, in this case I thought Harrison's end was entirely justified.)

Lots of interesting details and things to see inside, since the hotel is where Hightower housed his collection. Really well-done - I think this is the best Tower of Terror I've seen. I wish we'd had a chance to do it again.

It had been looonnnng day, and we were SO ready to go back to our hotel to get some sleep and get warm! I thought we might have a wait for the monorail, but I think because we didn't leave right after Fantasmic, we missed the big crowd. We just had a short wait until the next monorail arrived at the station, and we even had seats. Ours was the second stop so we were quickly back at our room.

Really a wonderful day, but we were very tired.

Coming Next: Park hopping: Tokyo Disneyland AND Tokyo DisneySea in one day!









June 28, 2014

Tokyo DisneySea - Part 4

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 3, Part 1, Tokyo DisneySea


Tokyo DisneySea is VERY different than any Disney park we have here. So instead of starting in with what we did on Tuesday, I think I'll give you an overview of it first.

I found that Tokyo DisneySea reminded me much more of Universal's Islands of Adventure than any other Disney park. Some similar looks to those of the Port of Entry, Lost Continent, and Jurassic Park areas of Islands of Adventure. Not that that's a bad thing - those are all really well-done!

Tokyo DisneySea has themed "ports" to go along with its water theme: Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Mysterious Island, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, Mermaid Lagoon, and Arabian Coast. The Mediterranean Harbor surrounds a large lake, and several big water shows are held there.

There is a waterway that connects all of the other port areas, also.

The park icon for DisneySea and its most prominent feature is the volcano, Mt. Prometheus. You can see it from just about anywhere in the park, as well as from Tokyo Disneyland and other areas outside the park. Mysterious Island is contained in its crater. The volcano "erupts" multiple times a day, and at night you can see the glow of lava. It's quite imposing.

And the theming was incredible throughout the park. Theming to the nth degree. Not that it was excessive - it was just so thorough, and so incredibly well designed and executed. So many layers of detail. "Immersive" has been one of Disney's buzzwords for a while now - and this park was all of that. (Of course using "immersive" to describe a park with a water theme makes me chuckle, but I digress...)

All the hype you hear about Tokyo DisneySea and how amazing it is? I'd have to say that it's true, and it deserves that reputation. So I'm not even going to bother mentioning theming from now on - you can just assume that it was all pretty wonderful.

Tokyo DisneySea is more of an "adult" park than Tokyo Disneyland. Alcohol is served in the park, and most of the attractions appeal to an older audience: there are more thrill rides with height requirements. Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast contain the more kid-oriented attractions. Still, we saw very few families with young kids (and strollers) at Tokyo DisneySea - even in those two areas.

I mentioned before that it was term break for Japanese schools. I would say that 99% of the guests in Tokyo DisneySea were kids ages 13-25. Our group was by FAR the oldest in Tokyo DisneySea - I saw very few people over the age of 40. And there were also very few westerners - I think I saw maybe 25-30 the entire four days that we were in the Tokyo parks. We REALLY stood out. :-)

I found it interesting...we live in southern California where it's a pretty heterogeneous society - lots of Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. So when we're out and about we're used to seeing people of all different races and colors. The Asian parks didn't really seem strange to me, except for the language, but their population is much more homogeneous, so I could tell that we looked strange to them. We got lots of curious looks and lots of smiles. But they were much kinder and more patient with us than I think we Americans typically are to those here who are obviously foreign...I know I personally need to keep that in mind in the future...

Ok...so it's Tuesday morning, and after having our usual yogurt, fruit, and pastry breakfast in our room, Lee and I are about to go to Tokyo DisneySea for the first time.

Since we were not staying at the Miracosta, we did not have early entry to TDS (sorry, I'm tired of typing it out, so please note that from here on, TDS = Tokyo DisneySea). We'd been advised that the lines to get into the park in the morning are very long, and to be at the entrance by 7:15 - the park opened at 8:00.

We took the monorail to get there - this was the first time we'd done that! The monorail requires a ticket to ride - it's not free, though as hotel guests we were provided with passes to use in the ticket machines. It's a much bigger, more train-like monorail than the ones at WDW. The windows are shaped like Mickey heads!

The monorail has 4 stops: Tokyo Disneyland Station (where we were), Bayside Station (for the non-Disney hotels), Tokyo DisneySea Station, and Resort Gateway Station (Ikspiari and the transfer point to Japan Railway). We went two stops to get off at the TDS station.

It was a beautiful clear day - though still in the 40s. As we were traveling on the monorail I looked out the window and could see Mt Fuji off in the distance! All covered in snow, a HUGE mountain standing all by itself. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I did not realize until later how lucky we were to see it - it's not a common sight. It's about 70 miles away. That was an awesome moment.

BTW...though we had toured the parks mostly together with our fellow travelers the first part of the trip, from here on Lee and I were usually by ourselves, though every once in a while we'd encounter some of the group. Not that we were mad at each other or not getting along - we just all had different priorities and schedules.

We got to the TDS entrance about 7:20, and there were lots and lots of people already standing in lines to get in. We picked a line, and it just got longer behind us as we waited. They opened the turnstiles just a little bit early and started letting guests enter the park. They also do a bag check at the Tokyo parks, but they do it just before the turnstiles. And the security guards didn't do more than a cursory look at our bags - they just smiled and said: "Ohayou gozaimasu!"

Once we entered the park, the kids were RUNNING to get to wherever they were trying to go. So we ran a little, too, until we got to cast members who were telling people to stop running. We did, but most of the kids didn't. :-)

From the park entrance we walked past the big water/planet earth sculpture just inside the turnstiles and then under the Miracosta, past shops, and to the Mediterranean Harbor. Where we got our first real view of Mt. Prometheus. That thing is BIG! That's actually where we were headed first: to Mysterious Island to get a Fastpass for Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Even though that area is just about at the center of the park, it felt like we walked for a long time before we got there. Google maps shows it as almost .4 miles from the turnstiles to the volcano, so that is a pretty good distance.

We were able to get a FP with a return time about an hour away. In the meantime, there was NO line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - in fact, we walked right into a sub! No stairs to climb down to get into these - you enter from doors on the side. I think they seat six - two facing forward, the other seats facing somewhat to the sides. We sat in the front.

It was not as cramped as the Nemo Submarine Voyage, and we had big windows to look out of instead of tiny portholes. The narration was in Japanese, so we're not exactly sure what was happening - we saw lots of pretty underwater fish and plants, and then I think we were attacked by a giant squid. But we survived - not so sure about the squid.

(And did you notice that our first attraction truly WAS an immersive one???)

As you have probably deduced from the names of the attractions, the Mysterious Island area has a Jules Verne theme. Lots of greenish copper and bronze. There's a lake in the middle of the crater, with the Nautilus submarine floating in it.

There was still a while until our Fastpass would be valid for Journey, so we went to Port Discovery to try StormRider. This area has kind of a steampunk look - futuristic, but not. There was only a 10 minute wait for StormRider, which is a simulator ride where we fly into a superstorm and deploy a "storm diffuser" that will break up the storm.

The movement is similar to Star Tours but the simulator vehicles are quite a bit larger. And it rains inside - depending on where you sit you can get pretty wet. (We were in a relatively dry spot.) It was in Japanese, but we got the gist of it. (Inexperienced/inept pilot, wrong place at the wrong time, saves the day anyway.)

We were inside our Fastpass window, so we could get a new Fastpass - we chose Raging Spirits in the Lost River Delta, and then went back to Mysterious Island.

The queue for Journey to the Center of the Earth goes down inside the mountain to the loading area for the mine vehicles, which hold six passengers, in three rows of two. We were in the back row, which are the worst seats. (In the Tokyo parks we either seemed to get the first row or the last row - perhaps because those were the ones easiest to point to?) The vehicles descend down through crystal caverns, past the strange creatures and plant life that live deep under the earth. Something goes wrong (doesn't it always?) and the car moves even deeper into the volcano, until it is suddenly propelled upward and bursts out near the top of the volcano, then descends in a roller coaster ride down the side of the mountain.

The rest of our group had done this on Sunday, and had really liked it, so our expectations were pretty high. My reaction was: "That was it?" The roller coaster part was fun, but it was only about 15 seconds long. Since we were sitting in the back, we didn't have as good a view of the things in the caverns, either. I definitely did not think it was worth the 160-minute wait time - I wouldn't have waited 20 minutes for it. But there were still plenty of kids getting into the standby line.


We walked past Mermaid Lagoon to the Arabian Coast. This is a really large area - much of it inside an impressive-looking walled city.

We walked under the tiled entry gateway down the stairs into a big open courtyard with a fountain in the middle.

On one side is the Caravan Carousel, which is a two story carousel. In addition to beautiful Arabian horses it also has camels and genies and griffins and elephants - oh my. It had no line, so we went for a ride.

On the other side of the courtyard was the entrance to the Agrabah Marketplace, with narrower streets and shops and restaurants.

The entrance to the Magic Lamp Theater was on the far side of the courtyard, but we went back to see that later.

Outside the city walls and next to the water was Jasmine's Flying Carpets and something called Sindbad's Storybook Voyage, but the latter was not running (and it was down all day).

It was time that we could get a new Fastpass, so we got one for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. The standby line was up to 90 minutes. As you can tell, we had done very well with Fastpasses and really didn't understand why anyone would be willing to stand in a 90-minute (or longer) line when Fastpasses were still available, and there were still plenty of attractions that didn't have really long lines. Now, granted they weren't the E-ticket attractions...and that might be the reason.

Our valid Fastpass was for Raging Spirits. This is a roller coaster with a 360 loop. The coaster is on the site of an archeological dig, and looks like it's supported by the scaffolding that's been erected around a stone temple. Lots of lumber lashed together. It's more like a wild mouse type of coaster except that it has banked turns and not the sharp 180 degree turns. It's not very fast...as we were riding it I thought: "There's no way we have enough speed to do a 360 degree loop!" But fortunately there was something that accelerated us just before the loop so we had enough momentum to make it.

This was a very short ride - less than one and a half minutes. Not very impressive, definitely not worth a 160 minute wait! (Are you detecting a pattern here?)

We'd already seen that the snack lines were getting long, so even though it was only about 10:30 we decided to have an early lunch when we walked by Miguel's El Dorado Cantina and saw that it was open.

It was a beautiful clear day but it was still cold, and THEY HAD HOT WINE!!! They also had "tacos". They were served with a side of French fries (really?) and a beverage - there was an upcharge for the wine, but that was fine. I had the shrimp salad taco and Lee had the teriyaki pork taco. They were a little unusual, but tasted good - mostly it was just a pretty small serving. With the wine and the fries it was 1290 yen - almost $13.

We hadn't been to the American Waterfront area yet so we walked there after lunch. There are multiple locales represented here. The first is Cape Cod, and it did look very similar except for the giant volcano behind it. :-)

Cape Cod is the hometown of Duffy the Disney Bear. And Duffy is HUGE in Japan. I think he's more popular than Mickey Mouse! We saw lots of kids (male and female) carrying Duffy purses and Duffy popcorn buckets, and wearing Duffy ears, or carrying a backpack covered with small Duffy clip-ons in a variety of costumes. Oh, and then there were lots of people just carrying their Duffy bears around. (But who am I to talk - I carried Tigger with me on this trip!) There are multiple stores in BOTH Disney parks that are dedicated to Duffy merchandise. And not just Duffy merchandise, but his girlfriend as well - Shellie May. So of course there was a Duffy store in Cape Cod.

From that part of the park we could see over the "seawall", and we caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji again. Still a very impressive sight.

The largest part of the American Waterfront has a New York City look. There's a big ship called the SS Columbia that's also a restaurant and the location of the Turtle Talk show. Then there's the Hightower Hotel, aka the Tower of Terror. It's a very impressive-looking building. Since we could now get another Fastpass we got one for the Tower of Terror - but it wasn't good until 9:00 that night, which was over 9 hours away! Better than the 180 minute standby line, though.

TDS has an elevated electric railway that runs from the American Waterfront to Port Discovery and back. It's a one-way trip - everyone has to get off at the opposite station. There was a really nice view of the park and the surrounding area from up there.

This brings us to just about noon - I think that's enough for Part 1.

Next time: Tokyo DisneySea, Part 2 - Shows and Spectaculars









June 26, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort - Part 3

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 2, Part 2, Tokyo Disneyland

Konichiwa!

That's right, folks, at the conclusion of the previous post it was just after noon!

It was lunchtime then and we were hungry. The "Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall" in Fantasyland was suggested, but, even though it's a cafeteria type of restaurant, the wait time was over an hour to get in! Deb and Linda went in to look around - it is really wonderfully themed. Here is the video:

We explored the options and ended up at Captain Hook's Galley on the edge of Westernland, which was a pizza place. Most importantly, it didn't have an enormous line.

The pizza was actually quite decent! Lee and I both had the Hawaiian pizza, but they had a special that had yams and some other veggies on it which looked quite good - Pete tried it and said it was excellent. They also had a menu item called "Baked Potato with Cheese" - this turned out to be a cup filled with piping hot tater tot-like bites. They were not what we expected, but they were really good. And they were HOT, which was also very nice - we were chilled and we both ordered hot green tea to drink. And guess what, beverage sizes in Tokyo were the same as they'd been in Hong Kong...

Our group mostly went their separate ways after lunch. Lee and I just wanted to wander around the park for a while. So we visited Critter Country (Splash Mountain was down for refurbishment, as was the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland), and went through Fantasyland too - where all of the lines were very long. It was time that we could get another Fastpass - not much was available, but we were able to get one for Star Tours with a return time that was only about an hour in the future.

We also wandered around the castle area. The hub in front of the castle is HUGE in Tokyo...and there is a Partners statue there (there wasn't one in Hong Kong).

We went back to Westernland to check out the line for Big Thunder Mountain...160 minutes. Wow. I've never seen it that long here! The line for the popcorn cart there wasn't too long - but they were serving relatively boring caramel corn. We bought some and it was good, even if not very exotic. :-)

Another popcorn thing...souvenir popcorn buckets are extremely popular in Tokyo. Not only are there different ones available at different stands, but they are refillable. So guests bring them on multiple trips and simply have them refilled (which is a slightly lower price). They also come with straps to hang around the neck so they are easy to carry. We saw lots of people standing in lines and munching on popcorn.

The popcorn stand was near the parade route. There weren't a lot of people in the area so we thought it might be a decent spot to watch the parade from, since it was going to start in about 10 minutes.

In Tokyo, those in the first two or three rows are required to sit down and remain seated during the parade. So if you're standing in the first row behind those who are seated it's a pretty good spot. We were in the second row of standers...you always hear that the Japanese people are short compared to Americans, well, I always seemed to get stuck standing behind a Japanese girl who was at least my height.

As a courtesy to others, there are announcements reminding people to remove head wear (remember all of those enormous hats?), and not to hold their cameras above their heads. Results for the latter were mixed, but it was somewhat better.

People are SERIOUS about their parade viewing spots. That morning we were in Fantasyland 15 minutes after the park opened and there were already several groups of people sitting along the parade route waiting for a parade that didn't start for over 6 hours! Decorated plastic sheets and foam seating pads are very popular - but you aren't allowed to spread out a plastic sheet to sit on until an hour before the parade starts...they even make a park announcement about that!

The parade is called "Happiness is Here". It was created for the 30th anniversary "Happiness" year. Obligatory Soundsational tie-in: While the parade in Hong Kong sounded like Soundsational in California, this one LOOKED like Soundsational in California - so I was not surprised to learn that Jody Daily was the designer for both parades. The floats had that paper sculpture look that he and Kevin Kidney are known for. But the floats were far more elaborate and detailed than Soundsational, and there were a lot more of them.

Many of the floats resembled old-fashioned pull toys, or incorporated other elements of classic toys.

The parade also had the individual carousel bikes similar to those Mary Poppins and Bert ride in Soundsational, and there were a lot more of those, too. I enjoyed them - the characters rode carousel animals that were appropriate for them, like Lilo and Stitch on seahorses, the Genie on a camel, and Alice on a caterpillar.

In addition to familiar characters like the Fab 5, Pooh & friends, princesses, and the Toy Story gang, there were a lot of more unusual characters in the parade, like Marie, Toulouse, and Berlioz from The Aristocats, The Ugly Duckling and the Grasshopper from Silly Symphonies, the Three Little Pigs, heffalumps and woozles, and a whole bunch of Alice in Wonderland characters, including lesser-known characters like the King of Hearts, the March Hare, and a whole bunch of card soldiers and Tweedledee/Tweedledum dancers.

The parade included a show stop - and that's the reason some people staked out their parade spots so early: so that they could be at the place where their favorite character was going to stop.

Which brings me to another interesting thing about Tokyo...they love, love, love, love the characters there. My observation was that many people felt they had a personal relationship with the characters, especially their chosen character. So when the characters went by they waved excitedly (I can't tell you how many of my photos have waving hands in them), and they go really crazy when it's "their" character. If the character would look in our direction and wave, the reaction (mostly from the girls, but some of the boys, too) was "Mickey waved at ME!". (When of course it should have been obvious that Mickey was actually waving at Lee and me. :-) ) For their part, the characters do an excellent job of seeming to make eye contact, and appearing to point to and acknowledge specific people in the crowds, much more than I see here.

Back to the parade...

I thought the floats were lovely and the parade was very whimsical, but I wasn't that impressed with it at the time. It's funny, but I have more of an appreciation of it from looking at the photos than I did while I was actually watching it. I thought it was too long. But I'm not a fan of the show stops...I think everyone should get the same view of the parade, and that doesn't happen when there's a show in the middle of it.

After the parade we went to Tomorrowland to use our Star Tours Fastpass. We actually had problems finding the entrance to Star Tours - it wasn't very close to the Fastpass distribution location! I wasn't sure if this Star Tours was "The Adventures Continue" version or not, but it was, and guess what, we got Hoth as our first planet. It's almost always Hoth for us! I was hoping that would be different in Tokyo...

We were ready for an afternoon break but on the way out of the park we did some shopping...I'd seen a Tigger hat that I wanted. It wasn't one of the huge heads - just an orange knit cap with black stripes and Tigger ears. It was cold, so I wore it for most of the rest of our trip. (Yes, mid-40s was cold for us - especially with the humidity and the wind.)


It was really great to be so close to our room! Less than 5 minutes from walking out the turnstiles (where we were required to get our hands stamped) until we walked through our door.

Lee and I relaxed in the room for a couple of hours, then went back into Tokyo Disneyland around 6:15. It was dark by then, and we enjoyed taking some nighttime photos of the castle and its 30th birthday decorations.

This time we walked through the castle, and saw the beautiful tile mosaics on the walls depicting scenes from Cinderella's story. (Tokyo Disneyland's castle is also Cinderella Castle. That makes three for Sleeping Beauty (Paris is the third) and two for Cinderella. Not sure which princess will own Shanghai's castle real estate.)

Off to the side we noticed a sign for "Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall". There did not appear to be much of a line so in we went. There was a queue decorated with lots of Cinderella art, and then we went upstairs in an elevator to a room that told Cinderella's story in artwork and moving dioramas. Some of the art was scenes from the movie, some was representations by non-Disney artists, which looked quite different.

In the next room were scenes from the wedding and coronation - I'm not sure most of these were in the movie. There were some decorative panels on the wall - one of these had a panel that slid sideways and Gus and Jacques peered out of it. The final room had a chair and a footstool with Cinderella's glass slipper on it - that was very popular for photos.

There was a cast member in that room who asked (in English) if we spoke Japanese. When we said no, he told us that we should take photos of the two large paintings in the room WITH the camera flash, to see a special effect. We are so used to being told NOT to use a flash that this was a surprise, but I did it...with the flash the paintings show the magical sparkles from the Fairy Godmother's wand. It was very nice of him to tell us about that.

Language was more of an issue for us in Japan than Hong Kong. We THINK that a lot of people understood English, but they are reluctant to speak it, so we did a lot of pointing. And people were patient with us and tried to be helpful. We learned to say a few Japanese phrases like "Good morning", "Good afternoon", "Good evening", and "thank you" - we already knew "Sayonara". So we tried to at least greet and thank people in Japanese. They seemed appreciative of the effort, and sometimes responded in English. Between Hong Kong and Japan the whole multiple languages thing had us really confused, and Lee kept attempting to speak Spanish to the Japanese. :-)

By then it was 7:00 so we went to Westernland to use our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses. But it was down. :-( And had been down for a while. Bummer.

It was a very chilly evening - that damp cold, plus some wind. I'd changed into my fleece-lined pants back at the hotel so I was relatively warm, but Lee was cold. We noticed that Troubadour Tavern was selling hot chocolate for 260 yen, so we bought some. It was those little six ounce cups again, but it was REALLY good hot chocolate - thicker and more chocolatey than we get here. More like the liquid chocolate drink that Starbucks used to sell, though not quite that thick.

The Electrical Parade started at 7:30, and there was a spot we could sit on the edge of the wooden porch of one of the "old west" buildings. There were people sitting along the edge of the parade route in front of us, so we hoped that we could stand behind them when the parade started, which we thought would give us an excellent view, since we were also on a corner.

And fortunately that proved to be correct.

The Tokyo electrical parade is called "Dream Lights". Oh. My. God. It was wonderful. I don't even know how to describe it. In technology and design it is so far above the Main Street Electrical Parade and SpectroMagic that there's simply no comparison.

It uses all LED lights, very brilliant and colorful. Most of the floats also animate the lights - at the very least they change color, such as the Pixie float, which uses varying colors to reflect the different seasons - spring, summer, fall, and winter. Just the color variation changes the look of the float. Some of the floats have more sophisticated and complex animation.

For example, the Genie from Aladdin changes from blue into a variety of different patterns, including a Hawaiian shirt, playing cards (a la Alice in Wonderland) and, my favorite, Tigger's orange and black stripes! The Genie is more like a 3-dimensional Genie-shaped LED screen...

The parade still uses the Baroque Hoedown music, but more of the music is appropriate to whatever movie is depicted in the parade unit that is passing by. There are 19 different floats and then there's all of the other smaller individual units like the spinning ladybug, snails, and bees, knights on brightly caparisoned chargers, and even Nemo.

It was incredible. Second only to Mystic Manor in the "Wow, that was amazing" department on this trip. It's been running in Tokyo since 2001 (though the units with the more specialized effects were added in 2011) so there's really no excuse for not giving us a more state-of-the-art nighttime parade here. Except $$$, of course.

Big Thunder Mountain was still down - and looked like it would be for the rest of the night. We wanted dinner, and since it was just the two of us we could be a little more adventurous, so we went to the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which offered curry dishes. Very different than the Hungry Bear in Anaheim, which is a burger place. It was counter service but the seating area was indoors, and after the parade we were both pretty cold. And it had a very short line. I had a chicken curry over rice and Lee had the special curry, which looked like the same sauce as mine, but his had mini sausages, shoestring potatoes and cheese sauce on top of the rice. Sounds odd, but he said it was good. More warm green tea to drink with it!

This reminds me of something we noticed with food in both Hong Kong and Tokyo - it wasn't very hot when served. Sometimes it was just barely warm. When we had soups they were usually the right temperature (hot enough they needed to cool down a little), but otherwise most dishes I had were not hot at all.

By the time we finished eating, it was just a few minutes before the fireworks were supposed to start. In fact, as we were heading toward the hub they started behind us, which was not at all what I expected. I thought they would be centered over the castle, but instead they are over toward Westernland, since they are visible from both Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland. The two parks are right next to each other and share a backstage area.

Deb and Jeanine had told us earlier in the day not to expect much from the fireworks. And yes, I'd have to agree that's one of the few areas were Tokyo does not excel. The show was less than 5 minutes long, and while it had a nice variety of fireworks that went much higher than those in Hong Kong, it was not even average by Disney standards. That was a surprise. But I guess it's nice to know there's ONE area where the American parks are better. :-)

We were ready for some dessert - earlier in the day we'd noticed a place called "The Great American Waffle Co" on the edge of the World Bazaar. They served Mickey waffles with choice of sweet toppings. They had chocolate, strawberries, ice cream, etc., but we went with maple syrup, served with a dollop of whipped cream and some nuts. It was freshly made and pretty good.

It was almost 9:00 by then. I'm not even sure what time the park closed - my English times guide doesn't give the park hours! - but the next morning we were planning to get up early to get to Tokyo DisneySea prior to park opening, so we needed to get to bed.

Kon Banwa!

Next time: Tokyo DisneySea - I foresee another multi-part report for the
day...









June 24, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort - Part 2

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 2, Part 1, Tokyo Disneyland

Ohayou Gozaimasu!

We wake up to a beautiful morning at Tokyo Disneyland - blue sky and sunshine - and 42 degrees. Oh well, can't have everything, and after four cloudy days I'm ready for some sunshine.

We got up at 7:00 and breakfasted off the yogurt and pastries we'd purchased the previous night. We used the hot water pot to brew the instant coffee and tea - the tea was micro-powdered instant green tea and not tea bags. I thought it was really bad. I don't think Lee complained about the coffee, though.

We had been using a phone app called "whatsapp" to coordinate with our group during our trip - it let us send "text messages", but using cell data and not SMS. This morning except for Jeanine we were all meeting in the Disneyland Hotel Lobby at 8:00, then walking to our special park entrance, which was, oh, maybe 200 yards from the lobby exit. :-)

"Early Entry" only got us a 15-minute start on the regular day guests - we got in at 8:15 and the park opened at 8:30. Our plan was to get inside the park and send a runner to get Monsters, Inc Fastpasses, while the rest of us went to the standby line for Pooh's Hunny Hunt before it got insanely long.

We had to give the gate attendants the Early Entry ticket we'd been given at check-in, and then run our park passes through the turnstiles. They use the same ticket scanning machines as WDW but without the finger biometric (they still use hand stamps to check for park re-entry). We all gave our tickets to Jack and he took off - and we told Deb and Linda that they could not stop to take photos on the way in - we HAD to get to the Pooh ride!

Good plan, except that we couldn't yet get to Fantasyland - they were holding us at the hub until park opening at 8:30. Jack was still able to get to Tomorrowland to get Monsters, Inc Fastpasses, though. It gave us time to take pictures of the castle, and enjoy that "we're really here!" moment.

Once the park opened we went to Pooh's Hunny Hunt - but it wasn't open yet! The cast members didn't speak enough English to explain it to us, but we found some Japanese school girls who were able to tell us "maintenance". The Fastpass machines were still distributing Fastpasses, though, so that was a sign that they didn't expect it to be down for long. But we couldn't yet get one since we had the one for Monsters, Inc. So NOW what? We didn't have a plan beyond that!

We went to Peter Pan, which was still almost a walk-on. (That wasn't going to last very long.) It was not noticeably different to me.

Then we went to Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland (really?) in Tokyo Disneyland. It was more like the one in Florida, but didn't have all of the special features in the queue, and the end had just the standard hitchhiking ghosts. There was something that was different about it (apart from the Japanese dialog!) but now I don't remember what. The ghost host dialog was in Japanese, but Madam Leota spoke in English, and I think the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song in the graveyard was in English.

Runner Jack took off after that to get us Fastpasses for Pooh's Hunny Hunt, and then met us in Tomorrowland at the new Monsters, Inc Ride & Go Seek attraction.

While we were waiting for him Deb did some shopping...we'd already noticed that one of the things that was very popular in Tokyo Disneyland was wacky hats. BIG hats that covered the entire head and went down under the chin. There was the Big Bad Wolf, Hamm, Rex and others, but the one that had caught Deb's eye was Sulley. This one, in addition to the head, had an attached scarf with monster paw mittens on the ends. Deb bought it and it looked really good - and she said that it was nice and warm, too! It was still in the 40s (I think the high was 47 that day). I was really glad I'd worn my gloves in addition to my heavy jacket and fleece headband.

By then the crowds were starting to build. When we'd planned our trip we thought we were scheduling it for a lighter crowd time of year (based on the hotel rates), but it turned out that we had arrived just after their school term had ended, so pretty much all the schools were on vacation for a month. The parks were very crowded with school kids (mostly teenagers) many of whom were wearing their school uniforms. So they were on a school trip even though they weren't in school. And there were lots of other kids who were just there on vacation.

Lee and I were actually fortunate that we'd missed the day at Tokyo DisneySea the day before - the rest of our group described being in crowds where they could barely move, where three+ hour lines were the norm, and even food lines were 30-60 minutes long!

The rest of the week was not that bad, but we commonly saw standby lines of 120-180 minutes for the e-ticket type attractions, and food lines continued to be pretty long. We learned to eat early: 10:30-11:00 for lunch and not later than 5:00 for dinner. And the snack lines were ridiculous...there were all kinds of interesting snacks that I would've liked to have tried, but the lines were always 20-50 people long! Flavored popcorns are really big over there, but we rarely saw one of those lines that was less than 10 people, and when it was, it was for one of the more mundane varieties such as caramel corn. (They had flavors like chocolate, black pepper, soy, honey, apple cinnamon, and curry.)

But despite all of the lines and crowds...everyone was incredibly cheerful. The kids were just thrilled to be there - they were very enthusiastic and obviously loving their experience - and they were also very well-behaved. Sad to say, but here we're pretty used to seeing the jaded, sullen, "I don't want to be here" teenagers, and it was really fun to see all of these kids so full of joy, and having so much fun, and just happy to be there. It was like a dream come true to most of them. No complaining about standing in long lines - they just dealt with it.

So...where was I?

Oh yes...Monsters, Inc. Where we all had a Fastpass, and the standby line was over an hour long. Maybe more. "Ride & Go Seek" is a dark ride much like the "Monsters, Inc" attraction at Disney California Adventure - many of the scenes and animatronics are similar. What is different is that guests have flashlights in their vehicles, and shining the flashlights on the Monster's Inc. "M" logo that you see throughout the ride causes other effects - different characters might pop up, or there's certain sounds or other visuals.

It was fun, but it didn't impress me...and we were so busy using the flashlights that we really didn't get the chance to enjoy the ride. Though since it's a lot like the DCA version, I'm not sure what more there was to see. The vehicles were a single row, rather than multiple rows...though that reminds me: the vehicles were labled with a capacity of "3 humans". But they weren't talking American-sized humans! There's no way three even average American adults would fit. Lee and I had sufficient room side-to-side, but our knees were very cramped, and we had to enter and exit facing sideways. We noticed the "compact vehicles" on many of the Tokyo attractions.

Monsters, Inc. was in Tomorrowland. From there we all went back over to the "Main Street" area, which we had hurried through when we'd arrived earlier.

In Tokyo Disneyland this area is called the "World Bazaar", and it's covered! It looks like it's contained in a huge greenhouse.

The buildings themselves look similar to those on Main Street USA, though they are more decorated - quite a few of them have large character statues over their entrances, like Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland. I found the windows for Walt Disney and Roy Disney.

Tokyo Disneyland has been celebrating its 30th year - "The Happiness Year". That celebration is supposed to conclude at the end of April, I think, so we were at the tail end of it. Because of the celebration, there were lots of decorations, for example at the park entrance and in the Bazaar and on the castle and on banners throughout the park.

The main design featured a big "30" and lots of balloons and characters in gold-colored costumers. I liked the look - way better than that awful "cake castle" they did for WDW's 25th.

So, we wandered through the World Bazaar and looked at the decorations on our way over to their version of New Orleans Square where we rode Pirates of the Caribbean. It was a longer version, with the extra scenes like the one at Disneyland, and the rooms seemed a lot bigger. But it only had one drop, and, like at Magic Kingdom, we were dropped off underground rather than riding the boat all the way back to the loading dock like we do at Disneyland. It also had the Jack Sparrow figures in it.

The Tokyo Pirates attraction also has a Blue Bayou restaurant attached to it. We didn't eat there, but some of our group did - though come to think of it I never heard from anyone what they thought about it.

We all went through Adventureland on our way to Westernland where we boarded the Western River Railroad. Because of Japan's rules about railroads, their railroad can't go all the way around the park, so instead goes around just the Frontierland, Critter Country, and Adventureland areas. Which is a pretty good-sized area, and large enough that we saw the Rivers of America, including the riverboat and the Indian village.

There were also "deer" and other wildlife, Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain and we also went through a primeval world diorama, similar to the one at Disneyland, though with better dinosaur animatronics.

We were all together now and we caught up with Masayo and her husband Mamoru. They live in Japan, and had come to Tokyo to spend several days in the parks with us. They'd been with the rest of the group the day before, but this was the first opportunity Lee and I had to see them. I'd seen Masayo a number of times before, both at WDW and on Disney cruise ships - but this was the first time I'd met her husband, who is also very nice. Since they weren't staying on property they didn't have early entry, and we hadn't been able to coordinate Fastpass times or attraction meet points until now.

Our next attraction was one I'd been looking forward to - the Enchanted Tiki Room, but with a show featuring Stitch, called "Stitch Presents Aloha E Komo Mai!" It starts off mostly like the classic Tiki Birds show, but some strange glitches start to happen, which it turns out are due to Stitch, because he wants to be a part of the show. And he performs an Elvis number. It was very cute - so much better than that "Under New Management" farce they had in Florida for way too long. I wouldn't mind seeing the Stitch version in California or Florida. Though there's something about the classic "Enchanted Tiki Room" show that's very charming, and why mess with it?

Our runners had gone off to get Big Thunder Mtn Railroad Fastpasses - this was at about 11:00, and the Fastpasses had a 7:05 return time! Wow. BTMRR is apparently much more popular in Tokyo than in Florida or California.

BTW...for the attractions we'd done so far we'd had very minimal waits...I think 15 minutes for the railroad had been the longest. But we weren't doing the real popular attractions, except with Fastpass.

Next was Country Bear Playhouse. It was the classic Country Bear show, though at the appropriate times of year they also perform the Vacation Hoedown show and the Christmas show. The dialog in was in Japanese, but a lot of the songs were in English, including Big Al singing "Blood on the Saddle." :-) That was as popular as it is here. :-)

Here are a few excerpts from the show:

It was finally time that we could use our "Pooh's Hunny Hunt" Fastpasses. I'd heard so much about this ride, and was eager to finally experience it. The standby line was over two hours, but of course we bypassed most of that.

The standby and Fastpass lines joined up just before the interior queue, where we went into something that was like Christopher Robin's family's shed or garage. His bike was in there, and a kite, and a map of the 100 Acre Wood. Then we went into the pages of the book - sort of like at Magic Kingdom, except the pages were the walls of the queue where we could touch them, or pose for photos with the illustrations.

When the six of us arrived at the attraction loading area, they wanted to put us in three and three - we looked at the vehicles and said "Uh...no". The front seat was for only two passengers anyway, and the back seat really wasn't big enough for three unless one of them was a child.

Lee and I ended up in a front seat, and away we went! This one also uses the trackless vehicles like we had experienced in Mystic Manor in Hong Kong. The opening scene in the attraction is kind of a tour of the 100 Acre Wood and the homes of some of the characters. Like Mystic Manor, the vehicles (which are shaped like hunny pots) travel in groups of four, all with a slightly different perspective and a more close-up view of some homes than others.

When you meet Tigger, the hunny pot actually bounces! Way better than at Magic Kingdom (and at Disneyland they don't bounce at all).

In the Heffalumps and Woozles scene, a hunny pot with heffalumps and woozles in it comes out from the side to move around playfully with the other hunny pots! This is a very large room with a lot going on, a lot of movement, and the vehicles spend over a minute just in that room. Again, depending on your hunny pot, you'll get a slightly different view of things in the room. (Though what is it with putting cannons with lit fuses in these trackless rides - there's one in Mystic Manor, and one in the Heffalumps room, too!)

The hunny pots move a lot in this ride - meandering around the rooms, spinning around, moving backward - and sometimes they move very quickly! I was not as aware of the movement on Mystic Manor as I was here - not that the movement bothered me, just that I was focusing more on the visuals there, rather than the motions, I guess.

Pooh's Hunny Hunt was so much fun! We all came off smiling. Had we not already experienced Mystic Manor we would have been even more excited about it, but Mystic Manor has raised the bar on this technology, so it was more impressive than Pooh's Hunny Hunt. But don't get me wrong: I still really enjoyed it, and wanted to do it again! (But I did not want to wait 120 minutes for it.)

By then it was lunch time...and since this portion of my trip report is already pretty long I think this is a good place to stop for now.

Coming next: More Tokyo Disneyland, including the afternoon parade and the Electrical Parade.








June 21, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort - Part 1

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg

A Disney Fan's Adventure of a Lifetime

Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 1

When we last left our merry band of adventurers, we had just finished two wonderful days at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Deb, Linda, Jeanine, Jack, and Pete flew to Tokyo the next day while Lee and I spent a day sightseeing in Hong Kong.

Lee and I had moved to a hotel on the Kowloon Peninsula, so had to make our way back to the airport. We took a shuttle bus that picked up at our hotel as well as several others. Lots of narrow streets and no street signs - I'm really glad our bus driver knew where he was going because I would've been hopelessly lost!

Eventually we got onto the expressway and went over the bridge to Lantau Island (both Disneyland and the airport are there). Along the way we could see the signs indicating directions to Hong Kong Disneyland - that familiar Mickey-head symbol! I was very surprised to see that on the regular green highway signs.

The 4.5 hour flight to Tokyo was on another wide-body jet - I was surprised that it was so large a plane. After we took off and got above the clouds there was SUNSHINE!!!! That was very nice - hadn't seen it in 5 days! They served us lunch, and I slept some, and watched Julie and Julia.

We landed early in Tokyo - just before 3:00 rather than 3:20. Getting through Immigration and baggage claim and Customs was very efficient, but it took just long enough that we barely missed the 3:35 bus to the Tokyo Disney Resort and had to wait for the 5:05 bus. The Narita airport is not very close to Tokyo Disneyland, so you can either take the bus, or catch a train (which then requires a transfer), or a taxi, but a taxi is pretty expensive.

The bus was 2400 yen for each of us, and had to be paid in cash. The yen/dollar conversion is pretty close to 100 yen = one dollar, so that makes it easy to calculate in your head. We'd been warned ahead of time that most Japanese ATM machines do not accept U.S. ATM cards, so we'd brought cash to exchange at the hotel in Tokyo, and while in Hong Kong we'd exchanged some Hong Kong dollars for yen so that we would have enough to get us from the airport to the hotel. We did use credit cards occasionally while at Tokyo Disney, but one thing we noticed is that Japan seems to be largely a cash society - we didn't see very many people paying with plastic.

There wasn't much to do in the Tokyo airport while we were waiting for the bus...we were sitting inside most of the time but could still tell that the outside temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees from what it was in Hong Kong. We had monitored the weather forecast before we left home, so we knew before we came that we were looking at highs in the mid-40s and lows in the 30s for Tokyo, and had brought warmer clothes than we did for Hong Kong.

The bus pulled up right on time and we told the driver we were going to the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, he took our bags, and we got on board. The bus also stopped at the other airport terminal, but we were soon on our way. Even though it was a Sunday we still hit traffic on the road and it took us over an hour to make the drive. Though we did better than Jeanine - she had taken the bus on Saturday and it took her almost 1:45.

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel was the first stop, which was very nice. A few other people got off the bus, too. We were quickly ushered into the reception area and up to a counter to check in.

The young lady who checked us in spoke fairly good English, but we were a little confused when she asked us about park days. As hotel guests we got early entry to Tokyo Disneyland, but we had to tell her which days we were going to be in that park so that she could give us an early entry pass for the correct days. At WDW or Disneyland we would've just used our room key, but it doesn't work like that in Tokyo. Though at least in Tokyo we received a personalized room key, even if it wasn't good for charging. We eventually got it all sorted out.

She also gave us monorail passes. Transportation between the parks, hotels, and Ikspiari (their "Downtown Disney", and then some) is via monorail, but in Japan it's considered a public railway system and they have to charge for it. As hotel guests it was free for us, so we each received two three-day monorail tickets to use during our stay.

Once we were checked in we were asked to stand in the lobby until someone could take us to our room.

The lobby of the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is quite beautiful - it's Victorian (we'd seen a lot of that recently!) with an Alice in Wonderland theme. There are huge chandeliers and a big five story open lobby. Marble on the floors, lots of very nice furnishings. There was a glass elevator, though there were much larger banks of elevators in each of the towers.

A young (female) bellhop appeared with our bags to show us to our room. I'm not sure if ALL guests were escorted to their room, or if we received that treatment because they figured it would be easier just to show us rather than try to explain it. :-) It wasn't really that hard - we were in the main tower, 8th floor, so mostly we just needed to find the elevator that first time.

But she was very cute as she walked us to our room, and pointed out hidden Mickeys, and where various things were. In our room she did a quick orientation to show us where things were and then left. This is Japan, so no tip was required or expected (and apparently tips aren't even accepted - it's almost considered an insult).

The room was MUCH bigger than I expected - it was certainly the size of typical hotel rooms here, if not a bit larger. The entrance hallway was quite long, on one side were the closet and a counter/desk (Lee told me it was my makeup table) and the coffee/tea service area, and the bathroom was on the other side of the hallway.

There was a mini-bar fridge under the tea service area, but it wasn't full, and we were allowed to store our own food there, too.

There were three parts to the bathroom. In the middle were two sinks, with a large mirror and a shelf underneath it, and some storage cubbies under the sinks.

And a tray with a BOATLOAD of toiletries - all with their "30 Years of Happiness" logo: boxed toothbrush kits (child and adult), soap, a folding brush/comb, plastic cup, a razor, and a metal box with some miscellaneous items like a pony tail band, shower cap, q-tips and nail file. The shampoo/conditioner/body wash bottles weren't 30th anniversary, but had a hotel-specific design to them. If we took any of them they were replenished every day. I have to admit that I took multiples of almost everything - the boxes especially were very nice to include with other gifts.

The bathing room was very different - there was a regular bathtub, but then instead of a shower stall, the area outside the tub was all tiled, there was a drain in the floor, and you simply shut the door to the outer bathroom area and turned on the shower that was mounted on the wall.

There was a separate hand-held shower wand in addition to the shower head (the shower control turned on one or the other, and the second shower control was for temperature). There was also a small plastic stool to sit on, and a plastic bowl - not exactly sure of its purpose.

And then there was the toilet room...with one of those Japanese toilets where we needed a manual to figure out everything that it could do. :-) The toilet seat was heated, and we of course figured out how to flush it, but that was the limit of our experiences. It had buttons that showed a couple different types of "spraying" action, but we didn't try that. Also, when we sat on it, it started playing white noise. (My experience with a different Japanese toilet later in the trip was that it played the sound of a running stream...)

The room itself had two double beds and a table with two chairs, plus a dresser. The dresser didn't have much storage - there were only four usable drawers. Of the two top drawers, one was actually the safe (took us awhile to find that!) and the other had all of the video inputs for the TV.

And the view...it was dark by then, but we looked out and could see the monorail station, the Disneyland entrance, the castle, and Space Mountain, and looking way left could see the volcano in Tokyo DisneySea! It was a great view. Of course it should've been - we were paying for a "Superior Park View".

Deb put together a video of the hotel that you can watch below:

Since we had that view, I wanted to watch the fireworks from our room that night. They had given us park maps and a times guide when we checked in, but guess what? No fireworks show time listed! I called down to the Front Desk and asked and they told me 8:30. It was after 7:00 by then - no time to go and eat somewhere in the hotel - if we could even get in anywhere - and we had no idea how long it might take to try to get something at Ikspiari (which is pronounced "Ick-SPEER-ee"). There's no counter service restaurant at the hotel.

So we went down to the "Looking Glass Gifts" store to see if we could find anything to snack on. And we were VERY pleasantly surprised - instead of just a gift store, it was actually like a mini-market. Several cold cases with lots of noodle dishes, pasta dishes, and some other fresh foods that could be reheated, as well as sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, packaged pastries, sushi, and lots of beverage choices. The prices were quite reasonable. We ended up with a selection of pre-made tea sandwiches, fruit, inari (sushi for Lee), beer (also for Lee), and yogurt and pastries for the next morning since we had an early day and wouldn't have time to eat at the hotel.

While we were in the lobby area we also purchased our park tickets. Multi-day tickets work very differently in Tokyo than here! The maximum length ticket you can purchase is a four-day ticket. For non-hotel guests, you may not park hop the first two days (meaning if you buy a two-day ticket you can't park hop at all), and at the time you purchase the ticket you must specify which park you are going to be in on the first day, and which park you will be in on the second day. You can't choose to be in the same park on both days. You are allowed to parkhop on the third (and fourth) days. And the days must be consecutive - you can't purchase a four-day ticket and go to the parks Monday-Wednesday, skip Thursday, then again on Friday.

Still with me? If you are a hotel guest, then you CAN purchase tickets that will allow you to park-hop every day, but you pay a little more for them (though not the premium that the American parks charge).

I did not know about the consecutive day thing, and since we had a bus tour of the Tokyo area booked for Thursday, it meant that although we planned four park days, they would not be consecutive - we'd be doing Monday-Wednesday, and Friday. Fortunately I asked when we were buying the tickets, and was told yes, the days had to be consecutive. So we bought three-day hoppers, and figured we'd buy the Friday ticket later in the week when we knew what we were doing that day. A three day park hopper was 15,500 yen - which is about $155. A lot cheaper than I expected them to be - I thought tickets would be a lot more expensive in Japan.

We also exchanged dollars for yen. It was weird having bills with the number 100,000 on them! :-) Just like Hong Kong, Japanese money is also prettier than ours. Their 50 yen coin is different - it has a hole in the middle. There's 500, 100, 20, and 10 yen coins, also. (I wish we would go to $1 coins here and get rid of the $1 bill.)

The elevators in Tokyo only spoke to us in Japanese, unlike the Hong Kong elevators that spoke English and Chinese. Different characters spoke on different floors. Goofy's voice was very funny.

Back at the room we sat at our table next to the window, enjoyed the view, and ate. The tea sandwiches were surprisingly good - the bread seemed very fresh and soft. Which probably means that it was made with ethylene glycol or some other chemical that wouldn't be permitted here. :-) Just before 8:30 I opened the window (it would only open about two inches) so that I could take pictures...and soon after heard the announcement that the fireworks had been canceled. Bummer. (The announcement was in English as well as Japanese.)

Since we were staying in Tokyo for five nights, we figured we would have the opportunity to see them some other night, at least from the park itself.

This was our third hotel of the trip, but the first time that we finally really unpacked our suitcases since we would be there for 5 nights. We did that, and started trying to plan for the next day. Everyone else in our group had been at Tokyo DisneySea that day, so the plan was to go to Tokyo Disneyland on Monday, where we would all have early entry.

We took a last look at the beautiful park view from our window, and called it a night.

Coming Next: Tokyo Disneyland








January 29, 2012

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 5--Odds and Ends

jeaninebanner.jpg

In case you missed them: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE and PART FOUR

So now that we're more or less finished with the holidays, here are some of the differences I noticed between my last visit of two years ago, and now.

P1030648.JPG

The last time I saw the Monsters Inc. attraction at Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) it had just opened and had phenomenally long lines...and that was just for the FP machines. By now, the demand has slowed down a little, but not by much. Since then, the ride was closed, tweaked, and has reopened with a few changes. (Note: I don't speak Japanese, so this is all based more or less on observation and supposition.) Previously, the story behind the ride seemed to be that you were part of the nighttime security team for the Monsters Inc. factory, and you were riding around with your flashlights, checking for intruders, etc. As you shone your flashlight on various areas of the sets around your car, different monsters would pop out or perform specific actions.

P1030650.JPG

Now, it seems as though people might have had difficulty integrating the whole flashlight gimmick, so the new story emphasizes the game of hide-and-seek more strongly, adding helmets that light up when a given monster is activated, and more appearances of Boo and a new ride mascot named "Rocky." While the ride is still amazing in its detailed recreations of the movie environments, it's hard for me not to feel that in a very small way, this continues the recent and ubiquitous trend of remaking rides to appeal to a younger audience.

IMG_0244.JPG

Another change was the replacement of The Mickey Mouse Revue with Mickey's Philharmagic, lending credence to the sometimes-heard theory that Philharmagic is the next evolutionary step of Revue.

DSC07080.JPG

I actually didn't get a chance to see Philharmagic this time, but I was told that the film is identical, with the exception of having been translated into Japanese and being shown on a concave screen, which makes it a little more immersive.

The next change, and one of the only new attractions to me, was the opening of Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall, which took the place of the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour in the castle walk through space.

The old tour was a pretty interesting but slightly confusing tour through a castle showcasing the unsung heroes of the Disney tales--the villains. It was all in Japanese and the CMs would actually hand out pamphlets telling people there was no translation available. There were a lot of pretty good set pieces showing creepy rooms, each with its own villain up to no good inside (why were they all living together? Was it like Big Brother?) The aura of foreboding was only increased by the CM that was guiding you through, who seemed to get progressively more hysterical as the tour went on. The ending was a huge scene with the Black Cauldron's Horned King trying to bring an army of the undead back to life, but invariably being defeated by one of the more heroic guests who ultimately received a nice medallion as a keepsake.

Here's a great video of what this ride used to be like:

Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall...isn't really like that. It actually turns out to be more of an art gallery that Cinderella put together to share her story with everyone. It starts out with a series of wall panels that set up the story's exposition.

P1030758.JPG

It then goes on with several dioramas made of different materials that continue to display her history. Most of these were frankly unattractive, to my eye.

P1030761.JPG

P1030763.JPG

Some were nice, like this one that magically transformed from Hobo Cinderella to Princess Cinderella while you watched.

Tokyo%20%20112011.jpg

Ultimately, her story told, you entered another room papered with scenes of her living happily ever after, and even getting crowned, calling back to the poorly received "Cinderella II: Dreams Come True."

P1030773.JPG

So up to this point, I really haven't been terrifically impressed. There is another room however, where you can see a beautiful chandelier, so I figure that maybe there's something really exciting that's going to finish this off.

P1030774.JPG

Uhm...

P1030775.JPG

Well...

P1030778.JPG

Not so much, actually. The last room is basically just a collection of photo-ops.

P1030779.JPG

Not gonna lie--this was a little disappointing to me, given how different and elaborate the initial attraction was, and how minimalistic this was. I thought maybe it was just that I was being curmudgeonly, but I did ask others I spoke with in the parks, and the general consensus seemed to be that it looked like a display you might find in a mall.

Finally, over at Tokyo DisneySea, a new outdoor show replaced the older "Over the Waves" at the Dockside Stage in front of the SS Columbia in the New York Harbor area, called "A Table is Waiting."

P1030713.JPG

The storyline is that Mickey brought back different foods from around the globe, which are presented in a typically bizarre musical revue.

P1030691.JPG

There are many good YouTube videos of the show online, however it is a little on the long side, running around thirty minutes.

P1030694.JPG

But the costumes are beautiful and the whole impression is one of such energy and enthusiasm, it doesn't seem long at all when you're watching it.

P1030701.JPG

It's a fun show, and although all the dialogue and probably around half of the singing is in Japanese, the heart of it is slapstick, which is pretty translatable to any language.

P1030712.JPG

So although this certainly doesn't circumscribe all the events of my trip, this finishes up the bulk of what was seasonal or new from the last trip reports we had from this region. If anyone has any questions about travel to TDR, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

My best advice however, is the same as it always is: If you've been wanting to visit and just haven't made the time--GO. Travel is often difficult, time-consuming, and invariably expensive. Obviously, it's probably a bad idea to spend the baby's milk money on a few nights at MiraCosta...but if it's that you're just waiting for the perfect time to go, you could be waiting awhile.

P1030751.JPG

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. " --Ferris Beuller

December 28, 2011

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 4--Christmas comes to Tokyo DisneySea

jeaninebanner.jpg

In case you missed them: PART ONE, PART TWO and PART THREE

If Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) was well and truly decked out for the holidays, Tokyo DisneySea (TDS) was certainly not far behind.

P1030346.JPG

Each land there has a Christmas tree of its own, specifically themed. Among them:

P1030434.JPG

Mermaid Lagoon...

P1040136.JPG

New York Harbor...

P1030489.JPG

and Port Discovery.

An unofficial mascot for the winter season seems to be Pablo, the Cold-Blooded Penguin, from the Three Caballeros.

P1030490.JPG

Pablo can be purchased in any of a number of convenient sizes and formats.

IMG_0205.JPG

Planning tip #8: If you want it, buy it.

The Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) seems to change out their merchandise at a much faster clip than the US parks do. Things that you see in the shops at the beginning of your trip may sell out mid-week, and be replaced by different lines of merchandise altogether by the end. You may be used to being able to do all your shopping on Main Street after park closing, but usually the Tokyo shops close pretty close to regular park closing. A few of the bigger stores at the very front of the park may be open a little later (particularly the ones selling decorative packages of cookies,) but you can't really count on the other ones being available to you for very much longer. You may also be used to doing your shopping at the end of your trip: Remember, that because of their ticketing system, out of six days in the parks, you may only be able to park hop for two of them. If you go in to the parks for four days, then buy an extra day or evening to finish up shopping, you'll only be able to go to one park...so choose wisely. Ultimately, what I've found, is that if you find something you're reasonably sure you want, you should just go ahead and buy it then, because there's no guarantee it will be there later, or even that you'll be able to get to it, subsequently.

P1030481.JPG

The real attractions for the holidays at TDS, however, are the shows. Terrifically executed and phenomenally popular, they are completely worth the time and effort it takes to secure a spot for them.

The morning show, taking the place of the regular "Be Magical!" presentation, is "Christmas Wrapped in Ribbons." As with all the shows, there's a heavy character component, with all the different mascots for each of the separate lands coming together to sing and dance.

P1030904.JPG

Here's a great YouTube video that gives you a good idea of the show from a variety of different viewpoints.

The next show is a regularly scheduled one which is given a holiday overlay:

P1030409.JPG

Big Band Beat is a revue of various swing and big band hits. Along the way, various characters come out and perform different numbers, with Mickey doing a big spotlight drum solo towards the end. For the holidays, they add on some seasonal songs and snowfall at the end. There is a live band and I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS SHOW. I actually did prefer the show that preceded this one, which was a collection of Broadway show tunes and had no characters, because there was just something mind-blowing about sitting in this gorgeous theater, with the live orchestra and the swell performers doing the show completely straight and in English (it is located in the New York Harbor area,) and then remembering that YOU ARE IN JAPAN, IN A THEME PARK.

Because of the inclusion of the characters, you don't get quite as good a sense of total displacement, but it has great production values, and all the performers keep to an extremely high standard. If it means anything to you, I (through really bad timing,) managed to get in line when the wait was two hours long, and I saw it twice. Unfortunately, they prohibit photos or video during the show...but I imagine anyone determined could find some online anyway.

P1030841.JPG

The third and main new show of the season is Christmas Wishes--it takes place in an outdoor theater, and is popular enough that they assign seats for it based on a lottery system. You get to stick your ticket into a machine and select one of the show times for the day. You either win, and get another ticket with a seat number, or you get the sad trombone of failure. If you lose, you're done for the day--you can't try again for a different time.

P1040114.JPG

The costuming is elaborate and beautiful, and the show is basically a collection of character-performed holiday songs set loosely in a framework of what each character wishes for Christmas. The singing is in English, but all the spoken words are in Japanese.

P1040135.JPG

With its completely unironic good cheer, it reminded me strongly of the old "T'was the Night Before Christmas" show that they used to have during the MK Christmas Parties...which always kind of reminded me of the old Lawrence Welk shows. It's a cute show with higher production values and more performers than anything you're likely to see in a US park.

Here's another terrific video by papaMICKEYokwy of the first part of the show (the second half is posted on his YouTube channel.)

That makes up the bulk of the major holiday offerings from TDS, although there were a thousand more decorative touches/signs/etc., around the resort and the parks.

Next time: Odds and Ends.

December 27, 2011

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 3--Christmas comes to Tokyo Disneyland

jeaninebanner.jpg

In case you missed: PART ONE and PART TWO

At Tokyo Disneyland (TDL,) Christmastime comes in a timely and comprehensive fashion.

P1030822.JPG

Even the monorail stations have their own decorations.

P1030670.JPG

As with every other Disney Main Street, TDL's World Bazaar has their tree sparkling and gleaming already, surrounded by eager photographers.

P1030818.JPG

TDL's holiday offerings include a wide variety of entertainment, including their own version of Disneyland's "Nightmare Before Christmas" Haunted Mansion overlay.

P1030588.JPG

Although it looks relatively similar on the outside, as if the DL decorations had been transported and planted on the WDW mansion, the inside has a number of variations on the theme--a large cake multilayered cake in place of the yearly gingerbread house in the ballroom scene, for example.

P1030753.JPG

A seasonal overlay also comes to the Country Bear Jamboree--nostalgia writ large for those of us who remember it from Disneyland.

DSC01383.JPG

Of course they had a Christmas parade--the floats are charmingly decorated, and seem to feature these elves quite a bit, which are either cute or off-putting, as your tastes run.

P1030789.JPG

There seem to be two show stops during the parade, which are reasonably long, so positioning is important if you want to see the whole thing. If you ask the CMs where you should stand in order to get a good view of the stop, they are likely to ask you what your favorite character is, in order to direct you to the area where that float stops.

Some great but lengthy YouTube video of the parade:

Although people stake out their places fairly early for the parades, it is in some aspects much less stressful to try to watch them at TDR, because of the relatively strict control the CMs exercise (although always in the most cordial and polite manner) over the audience. There are designated areas for sitting, versus standing, and people are repeatedly admonished to remove hats and hairbands to facilitate other people's view. Raising cameras or children over the level of your shoulders is similarly not allowed.

Planning tip #6: Don't mistake politeness for weakness.

Because, in general, Japanese service is usually considered to be very conciliatory, with a high degree of deference, it can sometimes be tempting to assume someone coming in with an aggressive manner and a disinclination to follow rules would just be able to ride roughshod over everybody. The reality is a little different; for the most part, they have developed certain methods and procedures for various circumstances (sometimes extremely efficient and rational, sometimes less so) and there are typically no alternatives or exceptions permitted. My personal belief is that their culture is deeply dependent on conformity to a group standard, with any deviation seen as an invitation to chaos. Is a certain level of inflexibility a fair tradeoff for a more ordered, considerate way of doing things? You make the call. Either way, it can make for a more relaxing viewing experience when you don't have to worry about someone coming and standing right in front of you two minutes before the parade, or yelling and screaming at the CMs until they get their way.

Along with the myriad decorations that pepper the different lands, there is, of course, an abundance of seasonal merchandise to purchase as well.

Planning Tip #7: The souvenir you want, may not be the souvenir you get.

One thing interesting about the TDR is how different the general tastes must be as far as what they want to buy. They don't seem to have much use for t-shirts there--there are very few for sale, and you don't see many people wearing them around the parks. The ones they have are fairly generic looking, and only a couple even have "Tokyo Disneyland" written on them. While the assortment of pins available seems to have increased in the past years, there is still nothing like the mania for them that you have here, in the States, and the trading of pins inside the parks is prohibited. Mickey ear hats must have taken a dive in popularity as well, because I don't think I saw any this last trip--jillions of hairbands and furred hoods were sold in their place.

P1030878.JPG

The mainstay of TDR shopping is 1) cell phone charms, and 2) cookies. Individualizing the appearance of their cellphones seems to be a huge deal there, so there are endless seasonal trinkets around. The Japanese people also have an elaborate gift-giving obligation structure known as "omiyage," which, as far as I can tell, requires them to buy massive quantities of cookies and candies for their friends and family whenever they go anyplace, so massive Emporium-sized stores are dedicated to that.

Back to Christmas: A castle show also takes place with holiday fireworks. One of the aspects of TDL that has always been a little lagging compared to the Western parks, is their pyrotechnics. Japan in general, and Tokyo in particular, has a long history of devastation by fire, so I think there are strict regulations about how extensive shows like this can be. Nevertheless, I thought this show was greatly improved over the previous one I saw there, which seemed extremely short.

P1030647.JPG

Their nighttime parade, Dreamlights, also gets some holiday touches, with new wardrobes for a number of the characters, and at least a Santa hat for others.

P1030612.JPG

DSC01209.JPG

So that was the bulk of the holiday offerings over at Tokyo Disneyland, not counting the million little (and not so little) decorative touches and photo opportunities.

P1030660.JPG

Next time: Christmastime at TDS.

December 2, 2011

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 2--Happy Anniversary DisneySea!

jeaninebanner.jpg

So the first day in Tokyo DisneySea (TDS,) was the last day of non-holiday programming for the season. Typically the week between the Halloween and the Christmas festivities is pretty dead, but this trip it was fairly packed the whole time--probably because of the 10th Anniversary.

Planning Tip #4: Bring money for the monorails.

Unlike in the US parks, trains and monorails are vital to the transportation of the bulk of the population in Japan, and are consequently more tightly regulated there. The train in Tokyo Disneyland (TDL,) actually has only one stop in its circuit, apparently because any train with more than one is regarded as transportation and comes under higher, public jurisdiction.

P1030888.JPG

The monorail (also known as the Disney Resort Line) has four stops: Resort Gateway (where you get off for Ikspiari and the Maihama Railway Station,) TDL, Bayside Station (closest to the Disney Official Hotels,) and TDS. It's clean, well-run, and extremely cute. Would you pay to ride the monorail if it was reliable, arrived every 6 minutes, and looked like this?

IMG_0263.JPG

For their anniversary celebration, TDS had an abundance of new merchandise and decorations.

P1030345.JPG

IMG_0203.JPG

P1030361.JPG

More impressive even than the rides at the Tokyo parks are the shows. They almost all utilize a staggering amount of CMs and tend to be much more elaborate than similar shows in the US parks. This becomes even more remarkable when you consider that they change out their shows much more frequently than we do here, with different parades every few months as the seasons change. What this means, is that, for the locals who come regularly, the new shows are the main attraction--and they are willing to wait for them.

Planning Tip #5: Be prepared to wait.

If a new show is out, and there's something like two hours between performances, it is not uncommon for the viewing area line to be full for the second showing before the first one has occurred. For parades and shows that abut general walking areas, they have rules that people can't put mats and blankets down to save places more than an hour ahead of time.

The Anniversary show was called "Be Magical!" What I always find amusing in some of these shows is that they ask the audience to participate by doing hand gestures, pointing, etc at certain times during the performance...but they are actually meticulous enough to have a rehearsal period before the show, in which CMs come out and teach everyone the exact order they want--perhaps thinking that people would not participate if they weren't prepared, for fear of making a mistake.

Here's a great YouTube video someone took of the first ~1/2 of the show:

The show takes place in the Mediterranean Harbor area, with different characters coming out to interact with viewers at several different locations around the water, thus increasing its repeatability. It's a fun show, with a huge amount of characters.

P1030378.JPG

The symbol of the celebration was the Sorcerer Mickey hat--large ones, each themed to their respective land, were placed around the park.

P1030488.JPG

Plastic magical wands were sold in the stores for around $25 which caused some sort of interactivity--lights, music, dialogue--when waved around each hat. The wand lit up a separate light for each hat you visited, and when you had filled up the wand, you returned to the store and received a fairly nice medallion as a reward.

P1030461.JPG

In keeping with the whole Sorcerer Mickey theme, they introduced a new nighttime show this year replacing BraviSEAmo!...Fantasmic. I have to say, I was less than excited when they announced this, given that Fantasmic isn't really a new show for us here. Steve Davison directed a supercharged "Fantasmic 2.0" however, which is really spectacular. It centers around a huge collapsible illuminated hat that is alternately a screen for animation and a stage that expands and contracts with the action.

P1040008.JPG

While the story is pretty much the same and includes a lot of similar elements to the versions with which we're familiar, there are some new structures, such as a circular mirror frame that pours down water for its own projection screen.

P1030476.JPG

Their dragon, while a little more abstract than DL's, has a terrific entrance and exit.

P1030741.JPG

While the show does make an attempt to give everyone something of a view, even floating around huge balloons in areas of the harbor where the water screens aren't visible, my main complaint would be that this is a pretty hard show to see. In what seems to be a developing Davison trademark, if you really want the full effect of all the water screens and close-to-the-water floats, you need to be in a relatively small viewing angle...and you'll be competing with all these people for that space.

P1040009.JPG

After three nights of trying to get a decent view, I finally capitulated and paid to eat dinner at Oceano, one of the restaurants in Miracosta, so that I could watch Fantasmic from the balcony. It wasn't cheap, but the alternative to never get a good look at all, was unattractive.

Besides, Oceano is a gorgeous restaurant in and of itself. It's a buffet, which makes it a great choice if you're interested in trying a bunch of different, sometimes curious foods.

P1040016.JPG

So that was the bulk of TDS' 10th Anniversary events. Given that I was there at MK this year for WDW's 40th Anniversary, one can't help feeling a little like the farmer who showed the ostrich egg to the chickens--"this is just to show you what's being accomplished elsewhere."

P1030494.JPG

Next time: Christmastime at TDL.

November 26, 2011

Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 1--Prep and Landing.

jeaninebanner.jpg

Long-time blog readers may remember the one of the last times I paid a visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort, it was Tokyo Disneyland's 25th Anniversary (those who have an interest to do so, may check out my report from that trip: http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/tokyo_disney_resort/ ) This year being Tokyo DisneySea's turn to have their 10th Anniversary, I decided it was time for another look.

TDS%2010a.jpg

Since that trip report, Jack Spence also visited the resort and did an insanely detailed blog on all the lands and attractions that were there at the time: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/tokyo_disney/ Consequently, I'll try to focus more on things that might have changed since those blogs, rather than repeating the information already out there. I'll also try to highlight planning tips that I've found to make my trips easier.

Planning tip #1: Upgrade the flight over, if possible.

Flights are expensive, and international flights are even more expensive. International flights in business or first class are often astronomical, but can be obtained cheaper with the use of frequent flyer miles. Often, if you sign up for the credit card for whatever airline you're hoping to fly, you can earn a large sign-up bonus of 50K+ miles that can be enough to upgrade an economy ticket to the next class up, usually with a copay of some $200-400. As someone who usually stays at the Pop when she visits WDW, this seems like an expensive and unnecessary indulgence; but man, as the years pass, those 10+ hour flights are not getting any shorter. As someone who also can't make these trips all that often, it becomes more and more worth it to just bite the bullet and spend the money, rather than end up incapacitated for the first day or so, with fatigue and puffy extremities.

Additionally, I've had an uncomfortable tendency to get a horrific cold by the end of my Japan trips, which would chronologically put my exposure time likely on the plane ride over. While everyone on the plane is still breathing the same recycled air, I have noticed a decreased incidence of illness when not riding in economy for the first flight (as always, correlation does not imply causation. The placebo effect is, however, a wonderful thing.)

If you've read my earlier Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) blog, you know I'm a fan of the Airport Limo Bus, and did in fact manage to get a flight over there in time to catch the last bus directly from Narita Airport to Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel. While my first choice (in my dreams) for hotel would be the TDR's Miracosta Hotel, and my TDR Official Hotel first choice would be the Hilton Tokyo Bay, the Sheraton has the advantage of being slightly cheaper, particularly with its cash-and-points option, that allows you to use half the miles and pay half the price for rooms at times of low-to-average occupancy levels.

P1030672.JPG

It's a perfectly nice hotel, but with a little more of a convention/wedding hotel atmosphere than a family/Disney oriented one. I did love the view from my room this time around, which, shortly after I arrived, gave me a pretty good view of the fireworks.

P1030341.JPG

One thing to remember about the resort is that everything closes up fairly early--most of the employees rely on the train/subway system for transportation, which does not run all night long. Consequently, almost everything will be closed by 10pm in order to give the CMs time to put everything in order and be able to make it home. So if you're looking for food after that time...it's pretty slim pickings. I think the latest place in the Ikspiari mall I found open was Ku'Aina (one branch of a Hawaiian burger chain,) which was open until 11:30pm.

One of the advantages of staying in the Official Disney Hotels is that you can purchase your tickets at the hotel in advance, and can get into the parks when they've been closed (for capacity) to all other ticket sales for the day. One change I noticed this time, was that the hotel had a sign out announcing that they no longer took credit cards for tickets--only cash or vouchers.

Planning Tip #2: Exchange slightly more cash than you'd expect at the beginning of your trip.

In Asian countries in general, I've found a greater reliance on cash versus credit cards than in the US. Personally, I'm used to paying for gum with a credit card, but there? Not so much. Unless you're lucky/wise enough to have your money in a bank that refunds ATM transaction costs, you'll probably pay a fee every time you take money out--so I try to take out all I'll need right at the beginning, at the airport (there is no shortage, unfortunately, of things to spend it on.)

P1030590.JPG

Credit cards will also generally charge a foreign currency exchange fee from around 1-3%--if you think you're going to make a significant amount of charges, or if you're likely to make a habit out of international travel, you may want to find a fee-free card. Most of those have an annual fee but many waive it for the first year, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is what I used on this trip.

P1030422.JPG

Planning Tip #3: Check the resort calendars.

The TDR multi-day (four days maximum) tickets mandate that you choose a specific park for each of the first 2 days of the ticket in advance. After that, you can park hop for a maximum of 2 additional days, before you have to buy another ticket...at which time you're back to single park days again*.

This, coupled with the fact that the resort frequently changes up its entertainment on a seasonal basis, means it's relatively important to find out if there's some reason to be in a given park on a given day, because there's not much flexibility for changing your mind afterwards. In my case, the first full day I had was the last day before the holiday season started, and consequently the last day they would be performing their Anniversary show "Be Magical" at Tokyo DisneySea (TDS) until January. My choice then was to get a four-day ticket with the schedule "TDS, Tokyo Disneyland (TDL,) Park Hopper, Park Hopper." This is printed right on the ticket you get, and might end up being important if you aren't staying in one of the Resort or Official hotels, because if one of the parks gets busy, they'll deny entrance to off-property folk who don't have a pass specifically designating that park for that day.

Next time: We finally get into a park.

*The exception to this is if you stay at an official Disney hotel (one of the Ambassador, Miracosta, or Disneyland Hotels,) you can buy tickets that allow you to park hop from the first day. These are slightly more expensive than the regular tickets.

Return to Blog Central

About Tokyo Disneyland Resort

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Tokyo Disneyland Resort category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is the previous category.

Tournament of Roses Parade is the next category.

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