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July 2, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort Part 6

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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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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..

Tokyo Disney Resort

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. :-)

Tokyo Disney Resort

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...

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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. :-)

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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...

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

But maybe that's why he flames.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.)

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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 26, 2014

Tokyo Disney Resort - Part 3

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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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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...

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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).

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.)

Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.)

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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...

Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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. :-)

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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. :-)

Tokyo Disney Resort

"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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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!

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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?

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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

Tokyo Disney Resort

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 Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort

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.

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About Tokyo Disneyland

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