Tokyo Disney Resort

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THE DISNEYLANDS OF ASIA

Part 3 - Tokyo Disney Resort & Trip Summary

Tokyo Disney Resort

April17 - 25, 2009 - 8 days
Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

Hong Kong Disneyland


 

Up Touring Japan Tokyo Disney Resort

 

Part 3 - Click to jump to specific date.

Friday, April 17  - Depart Hakone Yumoto, Japan - Trains & Shinkansen to Tokyo Disney Resort

Saturday, April 18 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Sunday, April 19 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Monday, April 20 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Tuesday, April 21 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Wednesday, April 22 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Thursday, April 23 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Friday, April 24 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Saturday, April 25 - Depart Tokyo, Japan - Fly to Los Angeles, California, USA

Summary

Friday, April 17 - Depart Hakone-Yumoto, Japan - train & Shinkansen to Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

Tokyo Disneyland HotelYou can have fun, stay, dine, shop and much more at Tokyo Disney Resort.  You'll find two theme parks, unique dining, a variety of shops, and accommodations including the three Disney Hotels.  Come stay at Tokyo Disney Resort, and experience and multitude of fun and excitement in this place where dreams come true.

Stay in beautiful Victorian rooms with the Disney touch.  Located directly across from the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel has 705 guest rooms featuring designs of Mickey Mouse and other Disney Characters.  A number of rooms are specially designed around specific Disney characters such as Peter Pan and Cinderella. 

Dave was very ill overnight with a high fever, so he got almost no sleep.  We had no idea how he was going to muster the strength to get to our final destination, but we both knew we would be better off  in a big city than here if medical attention was necessary.  Ordinarily we don't detail our illnesses in our blog, but because this time it plays such a dramatic role in what transpires next we will keep you posted.

Breakfast was delivered on time and was relatively normal including fried eggs and other things even Dave found edible.  He still thinks he has the flu, but it is odd he has no saliva production.  That's why he can't eat anything unless it is wet, such as fruit.  However, he manages that much and Bill finished off the rest except for the dried fish that are just too tough to even attempt to eat.

Check out time here is 10:00AM and they aren't kidding.  The maid came back and took our luggage downstairs practically while we were still packing it.  Time's up, get out!  Our train to Tokyo wasn't until 11:40AM, so we had a long wait at the train station.  We went down to check out and request a taxi to take us to Odawara station rather than take the local train again to get there.  We only had to wait a few minutes for the taxi and we were on our way by 10:00AM.

The ride to Odawara station was only about fifteen minutes, so well worth the $20 or so it cost for that option under the circumstances.  Dave took a chance at the station and went to the ticket counter to ask if we could change our reservation to an earlier train.  That was taken care of with no problem or cost at all.  In fact, the agent was really pleasant about it and even pointed us in the right direction after printing the new tickets.  We ended up on the 10:41AM train, so we only had about fifteen minutes to wait.

The train platform was nearly empty so we chose a good time to travel.  Only a couple other people boarded with us and the first class reserved car was nearly empty.  The non-reserved cars were almost full, so we'd say the extra cost of first class is worth it for the comfort value alone.

This time the train wasn't too hot and the trip was only about thirty minutes to Tokyo Station.  Then we were disgorged into the madhouse that is Tokyo Station.  This place is HUGE.  People going every direction, up and down escalators, down long corridors, God only knows where.  It was crazy.  We did know we had to take the local Keiyo line to Maihama station at Tokyo Disney Resort, so we started following the overhead signs.

We're not kidding that we must have had to walk several miles of underground passages, down escalators, up two escalators, down an elevator, we have no idea where we were, but we did find the platform and there was a train waiting for boarding.  We got seats and parked ourselves.  This was an express train, so it only made two stops along the way and we were at Maihama Station within about fifteen minutes.

It was only about 12:30PM so we didn't expect to be able to check into the hotel, but with Dave feeling sicker by the minute we did hope we could.  We checked in at the Welcome Center where they took our luggage to deliver to the hotel, gave us monorail passes, sold us park tickets that start tomorrow, and told us to go to the hotel at 3:00PM for check in.  There were probably forty agents working the counters and we were the only guests in sight.  Not exactly the crowds we expected to find here.

It was very cold and we weren't dressed for it, but we sort of walked around Ikspiari, a non-Disney shopping center attached to the Resort Gateway Monorail Station.  It was deserted.  In front of the train station is the bus transportation area with a large stainless steel fountain

The monorail here requires a separate payment due to a Japanese law that doesn't allow private transportation systems (or something like that).  The monorails itself is pure Disney with Mickey shaped windows and handholds.  The station has large murals depicting scenes in the parks and colorful lighted posters to greet visitors.  We watched a couple of trains arrive before heading into the station to take a ride around the resort.

After riding around twice, we disembarked at the Tokyo Disneyland Station which is also the location of the Disneyland Hotel.  The hotel is directly in front of the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland, so the location is perfect.  There were no crowds at all today, so we were disappointed Dave wasn't up to going to the park today.

We thought that since it obviously wasn't crowded today that just maybe they would let us check in early.  Dave appealed to the girl at the counter and even had a coughing fit for dramatic effect, but she wouldn't budge.  Well, she did say we could check in now, but then our room wouldn't be ready until 4:30PM.  If we check in at 3:00PM, we can have a room right then.  Pardon me?  What?  Yes, that's what she said.

Oh well, back down for a photo of the front of the hotel, which is a bit heavy Victorian for our taste.  The other Disneyland hotels have a lighter feel to them, but this one is sort of a hulk.  We were shocked to find plastic topiaries in front of the hotel that were very obviously plastic.  Statues would be a better choice if they can't grow topiaries for some reason.  Continuing past the entry signs you find some shops and a grand marble staircase with a beautiful mosaic of Alice in Wonderland on the landing.  The staircase leads up to the magnificent lobby.  Disney sure knows how to design stunning hotel lobbies and this one was no exception.

Giant crystal chandeliers hang from the multi-story ceiling with enormous lighted stained glass domes.  A soaring elevator with Disney characters worked into the design of the wrought iron soars skyward.  In the center is a fountain surrounded by opulent sofas and chairs where others were awaiting check in time already.  There were cast members standing around the lobby with the soul purpose of being nice to people and playing with the kids in between fluffing the pillows on the sofas when someone left.  This hotel also has the Mickey heads inlaid into the stone floor like the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel had.

We crashed in some comfortable chairs to admire the beautiful surroundings and await check in time.  They started checking people in at 2:30PM, so we dragged ourselves to the counter where no one was waiting except about forty clerks.  A bellman went to find the luggage we had sent ahead, which had arrived with no problems.  We were given early entry passes for Disneyland for each day of our stay although the value of this is debatable.  There is a special entrance for hotel guests but it is only open for thirty minutes.  We never get to a park when it opens anyway, so it is of no value to us and it doesn't appear to be busy enough to warrant it at all.

When we booked this hotel is was by default because the Mira Costa wasn't available.  So, we took the cheapest standard room with no view on floor one - three.  Imagine our delight to get a room on the seventh floor with the most amazing panoramic view over both parks.  It couldn't be better.  Which was a good thing considering what was about to transpire.

The room itself was very beautifully decorated in an opulent Victorian style.  The hidden Mickey designs are more subtle here than they were at Hong Kong Disneyland.  The design is printed in the wallpaper.  Can you find it in this photo?  Look again at this close up.  The clouds in the print over the sofa has clouds in a Mickey formation.  The headboards have an image of the castle in the center.  We didn't even see the characters woven into the damask pattern of the duvet until the room service waiter pointed them out.  The dresser top has the appropriate character from Beauty and the Beast at the top.  There are cute Mickey and Minnie silhouettes framed between the beds and the tea making area has some concept drawing from Beauty and the Beast.  There is also a sofa, two chairs and a small table.  The table has a hidden Mickey in the pattern of the wood around the sides.  Mickey is even woven into the design of the carpet.

Besides the beautiful view of the park, we also have a lovely view of a fountain courtyard below filled with colorful flowers and a variety of fountains.  Disney music blasts from this area, but it can't be heard in the room unless the window is opened.

The marble inlaid bathroom is amazing as well.  An ornate sink area is in the center with a room for the usual automatic toilet to the left and a huge bathing room with bathtub and shower to the right.  The best thing about the room for us at this point is that the beds are comfortable and the air conditioning works.  An annoyance though is that the room has motion detectors everywhere that are supposed to keep the lights and air conditioning on when someone is in the room, but sitting in bed watching TV or at the computer isn't enough to trigger them.  So, the lights turn off every twenty minutes or so unless you make an effort now and them to walk about or wave your arms.

We called room service and had a cute Mickey kids meal plus more fruit for Dave and then crashed for the night.

Saturday, April 18 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

Here is where our tale begins to read like the storyline of a classic Disney attraction.  "Dave and Bill set sail across the sea to explore exotic lands.  They arrived on the shores of Hong Kong Disneyland where the magic overwhelmed them.  Soon they were off to explore Japan where beautiful women sally forth in their spring kimono beneath the falling cherry blossoms.  All too soon they arrive at their ultimate dream destination, the gates of the Tokyo Disney Resort.  And then, something goes terribly wrong...."

Here it was that all the careful planning went right down the drain.  Over night Dave's fever spiked and he knew he had to see a doctor today for sure.  It was all he could do at this point to get out of bed.  Bill called the hotel service line and asked if they had a doctor on call.  No, all they can do is refer us to a hospital.  In the meantime they will send up an English speaker to the room with some medicine they give their staff to see if that will help.  Someone came right up with two tables and a waiver to sign that says if he gets worse it isn't their fault. Fair enough.  We decided to wait to see if this does anything.

Dave's condition continues to decline so Bill goes down to the desk to speak to a manager in person about what to do next.  The hospital is closed until 2:00PM, but if we want to go then they will call ahead to be sure someone speaks English and will give us directions and put us in a taxi.  After 2:00PM the hotel manager calls and says that we should go today rather than tomorrow, so please come down now and they will send us.

We pull it together, go downstairs with Dave looking like something of a cross between a carrot and a beet.  He's wearing a red jacket so maybe it isn't quite so obvious, but we're not sure that ruse worked.  The manager is standing the lobby waiting for us and he rushes over to explain to Bill, while completely ignoring Dave who is standing right there, that we are going to a big shopping center fifteen minutes away and that the hospital is on the eighth floor.  We finally figure out that he means clinic not hospital, which is fine.

The manager escorts us out to a taxi amid much bowing and scraping.  He told the taxi driver to point us in the right direction when we arrive, which he does, but we are dropped in the middle of a huge parking lot amid towering highrises and four billion people going every which way.  We are quickly confused and end up walking all over the place to no avail.

We go into the only eight story building we can see, but it is all shops.  Every other building we enter only goes to the fourth floor.  Dave runs out of energy and goes into a tiny dry cleaning shop to ask in Japanese where this clinic is.  The women in there recover from their shock of an American speaking perfect Japanese to them quickly enough to point us in the right direction, but we still can't find it.  One of the women runs after us and personally takes us to the right entrance and shows us the correct elevator.  How nice was that?

At the clinic, which is tiny and full of sick people, Dave plops down while Bill tries to communicate who we are (the hotel had called ahead for us).  No one speaks any English at all, but they do have a symptom form in English to fill out.  We mark almost all of the options except pregnancy and cancer.  Eventually a nurse came over and attempted to clarify the symptoms by making scratching gestures for the rash.  She also took his temperature which we later determined was 102F.

We forgot to mention that what prompted the doctor visit besides the fever was that this afternoon Dave broke out in a bright red rash on the entire upper part of his body.  His face looked like he'd been laying the sun for week except for white raccoon circles around his eyes.  It wasn't pretty.

Finally we get to see the doctor who barely speaks English, but she's very kind and makes an effort.  However, she insists Dave sit upright on a stool, which is nearly impossible for him ordinarily and challenging now.  He asks if he can lay down and she claims they have no beds.  There is one right behind her by the way.  I guess she figured he's sick what does he know.  Anyway, she asks to see the rash and the minute he opens his shirt she gasps and says, "Measles, you have the measles!"  Pardon me?  What?  Measles?  No way! WAY.  OK, so she didn't say "way", but she says it is very common in Japan and that's certainly what it looks like.  After looking down his throat, she asks if she can do a test for strep just in case, but Dave has had that before and this ain't no strep.  However, he hopes that is all it is and lets her do the test even though the one thing he doesn't have is a sore throat.

At this point Dave announces again that he has to lay down and soon.  She again says they have no beds here, so he says OK, but if he doesn't lay down he's going to fall down and he's too big for them to pick up off the floor.  She finally gets the picture and they put him in a little office with a cot where a kind nurse removes his shoes and lays him down.

Fifteen minutes later the doctor comes back in and says that the strep test was negative and it is most certainly measles, but she can't do any more testing here.  She talks behind her hand to Bill as though Dave doesn't exist when he is in fact maybe three feet away in the same room.  She tells Bill that maybe Dave should go to the hospital because his fever is so high, but she keeps saying she will prepare a letter that will admit us later if we decide to go.  Dave blurts out, "Hospital NOW, not later."  Oh, you mean you want to go to the hospital?  Well, duh, what has he been saying all day?  Ugh.

We ask how to get to the hospital because at this point Dave doesn't think he can handle another taxi ride.  She says OK, she'll have the hospital come get him, so she goes off to make the arrangements.  We hear the conversation over the partition in which she says she has an American there with measles who needs to be admitted.  She comes back and says the hospital is full and they can't take him today, so go back to the hotel with the letter she will give us and if he gets worse give the letter to the hotel staff and they will take us to the hospital.

She comes back shortly with the hospital letter and a prescription she says we can fill downstairs on the way out.  The bill for all of this was less than $100, including the test.  After all the questions about whether we had insurance we expected it to be much more.

Down one floor to the pharmacy which was devoid of customers but full of pharmacists, we had the prescriptions filled in no time. They also sold a sports drink similar to Gatorade called Pocari Sweat of all things, but it revived Dave enough to get him back in a taxi and to the hotel where he climbed into bed after taking his first dose of pills.  Now he just had to hope he didn't get any worse!

Sunday, April 19 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

Whatever the doctor gave him or maybe it was just a matter of nature taking its course, but Dave did feel somewhat better and got a good night's sleep.  He still wasn't capable of doing much besides laying in bed and eating fruit now and then, but that's better than having a fever 24/7.  He basically laid around and hallucinated all day while Bill holed up with the computer and refused to go out without him.

Once you know what it is you are inflicted with it is a relief of sorts.  So knowing you aren't going to die from it is enough news to just wait it out and hope you get well in time to actually see something here besides the inside of a hotel room.  Luckily the room is very comfortable and the bedding is plush.

Dave asked Bill to go down to the front desk and ask for a manager, then request that we stay at this hotel in the same room for the duration.  With this fantastic view, we'd rather just stay here and not bother moving to the Mira Costa.  At least there is something to look at for sure here.  What we'd get at the Mira Costa is anyone's guess.  The request was readily granted and we are booked in here through the 25th.  Bill also contacted our Japanese agent to let her know we will need to be picked up here instead, which was quickly arranged.  We had also contacted her about getting a doctor, but she thought letting the hotel do it would be more efficient, however, she would have done it if necessary.

This was pretty much a lost day.  Since Dave writes the blog and he's the sick one, you are getting this through his hazy memory at this point.

Monday, April 20 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

Things are looking up heath-wise today.  Although far from well, Dave slept through the night without any fever flare-ups and was able to eat a small waffle and potatoes, which is the first solid food he has had in a week.  He immediately fell asleep again after eating  and when he woke up an hour or so later he felt significantly better and was able to take a shower and start feeling somewhat normal again.  He's still red as evidenced by this lovely photo Bill took of him when he wasn't paying attention.

By mid afternoon he was interested in working on the computer again and actually wanted to eat something.  He belted down an entire sandwich and a bottle of tea, which continued his improvement enough that Bill was willing to go out and explore the resort for a few hours.  Dave holed up on the sofa with the computer while the maids cleaned the room so thoroughly it was almost unbelievable.  It took four of them working non-stop over fifty minutes to clean it and make the beds.  They had to change the sheets three times because they kept finding flaws in the fabric we never would have noticed.  We're talking a pulled thread, not a hole or stain, but they insisted on doing it over.  During this time Dave was wearing his surgical mask that all Japanese wear when they are sick to be polite and not spread their illness. How they do that is anyone's guess.  Every time he would breath it fogged up his glasses.  Too bad the person who was spreading measles didn't bother with this little nicety.

Bill went out for a few hours while Dave stayed up with the computer.  This was the first time in over a week that he didn't have to lay down after being up for a short time, so this is a major improvement.  Just keeping his eyes open for any length of time before this was a chore.  Let's hope this improvement continues.  If it does we might extend our stay so we can actually go out and see something.  Up until now the goal has just been to get well enough to fly home with the hope we can come back another time.  It would be a huge disappointment, but there is no point in ignoring reality.

Bill reported that the wait times for Disneyland attractions today was at the most about twenty minutes.  We can see the main entrance to the park from our room and we see almost no one arrive during the day.  On Sunday there was a huge line waiting to get in before the park opened, but today there was almost no one waiting and the line disappeared as soon as the gates opened at 10:00AM.  Both parks are open until 10:00PM every night.  The hotel also appears to be fairly slow.  There has never been more than one person waiting at the front desk, but there are always at least twenty cast members staffing the desk anyway.

We ordered room service again.  The food has been quite good according to Bill.  Dave can't taste anything, so even if he can eat it he has no idea if it is any good or not.  It looks nice though and the prices aren't too ridiculous for a Disney hotel.  It isn't the bargain Hong Kong was, but it isn't nearly as outrageous as Walt Disney World's food prices.  Dave was able to eat an entire meal of shrimp tempura with udon noodle soup for the first time in a week, so he's a happy camper tonight.

We keep forgetting to mention that we not only have a view of both parks, but also the nightly fireworks.  They are pretty much nothing worth writing home about.  They're about like you'd have seen thirty years ago at a U.S. park.  The castle isn't involved at all because the fireworks originate from off behind DisneySea to the left of the castle.  We're glad we saw them from the hotel and didn't wait around in the park for them.  The view of the erupting volcano in DisneySea is more exciting than the fireworks.  We don't know with what regularity it does its thing, but when it does it is quite a scene of fiery eruptions, smoke and sound effects.

By the way, the weather has been overcast and dreary since we arrived in Tokyo.  It rained the first night, but has only been cloudy and cool since then.

Tuesday, April 21 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

The weather forecast for today called for showers off and on all day, so Dave didn't think it was the wisest choice to go outside and at least walk around a bit.  He'll try for a walk around one of the theme parks tomorrow after the cycle of medicine has ended.

Dave continues to feel human again, but not quite there yet as far as actually going out and doing anything.  He had a big breakfast and polished it off with no problem, which is a big improvement.  Of course, he immediately fell asleep for two hours after the meal, but it is better than passing out like he had been doing.  The more sleep the better at this point.  He does need to make a bit of an effort to clean himself up though.  He looks sort of like an old hobo living under a bridge at this point.

Bill went off to explore DisneySea after he determined Dave was still feeling better after his nap.  Other than that, we have nothing significant to report up until noon today.

Bill returned from DisneySea when it started to pour rain about 6:00PM.  He reported that even if Dave has to travel around in a wheelchair tomorrow he has to see it, it is THAT fantastic.  He carried on at length about the amazing themeing, but most of all that there were no other guests there and zero waiting time for anything.  There were still cast members every twenty feet unlike a U.S. park where everyone is sent home when the park isn't crowded.  It doesn't seem to matter around here.  Slow or busy, everything is open and the park is fully staffed.  That is as it should be at Disney prices, but unfortunately those days are long gone at the Disney owned parks.

Bill went on only a few attractions, but said they were all very well done, especially 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Storybook Voyages of Sinbad.  The latter is sort of a Sinbad version of "it's a small world" except with real animatronics Bill described as amazingly realistic.  20,000 Leagues simulates a dive to Atlantis where something goes terribly wrong and your submarine loses power and has to be rescued by the undersea inhabitants of the lost city.  The underwater effect was very well done and quite convincing.  You'd swear you really were under the water, but the attraction is high and dry.  He also went on Tower of Terror twice and liked it, but said it isn't as good as the original in Florida, besides the theme being entirely different. He took a ride on Raging Spirits, a small roller coaster themed to a battle between fire and water or something like that.  It was quite slow and compact with the only "thrill" being a single loop and that was only thrilling because he was in the front seat.  it was beautifully themed, however.

His only complaint was that the place is so highly themed that you can't find the entrances to the attractions.  For example, he never did find Journey to the Center of the Earth or the Indiana Jones attraction because the entrances were so well hidden.  Even the ones he did find were just an archway in a wall or something like that.  If the ride didn't have a big FastPass sign out front he never would have noticed them.  Of course, if the park was busy there would be people going in and out, but with no one around it was very difficult.

Hopefully Dave can muster enough strength to go tomorrow.  He does plan to, but it's luck of the draw how he feels from day to day.  Today he was OK, but not great because his eyes were very dry and drops didn't help.  He did eat two large meals and a packaged sandwich for lunch, so eating seems to have returned to normal, which is fantastic.  There were no spikes in fever today either, but he still looks like a tomato most of the time.  He did lose the hobo look though, so maybe he won't scare any small children tomorrow.

As mentioned, it poured rain into the evening from about 5:00PM onward.  They had the fireworks show anyway, as they have every night.  We knew the show was short, but when we timed it at three minutes we were shocked.  It is a very poor show for a Disney park, but at less than five minutes why even bother?

An oddity we noticed today regarding the internet service.  When you sign on it says, "Please enjoy 1 day complimentary internet use."  Then there is no mention of a charge after that.  When the 24 hours runs out, you have to sign in again and get the same exact message about one day free, please enjoy.  That has been going on every day since we arrived, so apparently it is always complimentary, but you have to sign up again daily.  OK fine, but weird!

Wednesday, April 22 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

The weather is perfect today, sunny and warm with a nice cool breeze.  And, better yet, Dave feels well enough to try an outing to DisneySea today!  Woo hoo.

We had a room service breakfast, which was good and filling, but there are only two choices so we're getting really tired of it.  We'll have to try to find something else for tomorrow.  There is no restaurant information in the room, so it is anyone's guess what the hours are.  There is a casual buffet restaurant and a formal restaurant for adults only, which seems a bit skimpy for such a big hotel.

We stopped by the front desk on the way out to buy tickets for DisneySea.  We didn't buy multi-day tickets because we don't know yet how Dave will hold up being out for the first time in a week.  He's a little woozy, but other than that feels pretty good.  He doesn't necessarily look good, but he's not out to win a beauty contest.

DisneySea is a short ride around the loop on the monorail, so that part is easy.  There is a bit of a walk to reach the main gate from the station, but nothing terrible.  There was an announcement playing and apologizing for the inconvenience of something, but even after listening to it twice we couldn't figure out why they were apologizing.  All they were doing was announcing that you can now buy multi-day passes without specifying a certain theme park to attend for the first two days of it...in other words, it has become a park-hopper like it should have been all along.

OK, we're not even going to attempt to recreate the day exactly because we spent most of it exclaiming over every single thing we saw.  We'll say it right up front here and now, this is THE MOST AMAZING THEME PARK IN THE WORLD!  It is like walking through a work of art.  The themeing is absolutely flawless.  You can't see outside of the land you are currently in, so the illusion is complete no matter where you are.

The huge globe that greets visitors as they enter the park is more impressive in person that it appears in photos.  It is covered by water that slowly flows down, but doesn't drip off at the curve.  The whole thing rotates while being supported on a column of water (obviously held up by a big pole, but it is a nice effect).  You pass through a breezeway through the Mira Costa Hotel that forms the backdrop of the centerpiece Mediterranean Harbor section of the park.  Looming over the harbor is Mt. Prometheus, a volcano that erupts smoke and flame periodically.

The harbor area is Italian themed to the hilt including singing gondoliers plying the canals.  There are more table service restaurants in this park than we have seen anywhere.  Right next to the table service version is a quick service location or a buffeteria.  And every single one of them was open for business in spite of the light crowds.  There were also numerous shops, all of which were open also.  Not to mention carts selling flavored popcorn (we saw pepper, chocolate, curry, and caramel, no plain), snacks, drinks and souvenirs, but not to excess like at the U.S. parks.  And the guests were buying EVERYTHING.  There was a shop in the American Waterfront section selling generic teddy bears called Duffy the Disney Bear.  They were very cute, but that's all they were, nothing exciting.  That shop was packed and the bears were selling like hotcakes.  Most shops sold pretty much the same thing because most Japanese prefer to buy food gifts, so they were stocking up on that rather than park souvenirs per se.  We saw very little park specific merchandise at all in fact.  All we could find to buy that had the DisneySea logo on it was a keychain.

Anyway, we walked through the caverns into the caldera of the volcano which is set up like a giant mining operation run by Capt. Nemo.  Two major attractions are here:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was discussed yesterday, and the granddaddy of them all, Journey to the Center of the Earth.  The latter is the most amazingly well-themed attraction we have ever seen.  Even the sign out front looks like lava coming through the wall.  The ride starts out like a slow tour to show off the discoveries of Capt. Nemo, so you ride past fantastic glowing creatures, giant crystals, etc., about what you would expect, but in fantastic detail.  Then there is an earthquake that rattles your vehicle and diverts your vehicle into uncharted tunnels where strange pods hang from the walls.  Then you pass an otherworldly underground lake jolted by bolts of lightning.  As you round a corner an enormous bolt of lightning hits a nearby pillar and the car speeds up.  Then there is a burst of flame from the wall and we come upon an enormous animatronic lava monster who threatens to grab you.  Just in time, the volcano erupts and suddenly you are propelled at top speed in total darkness up inside the mountain until you are ejected out the side and plummet straight down the outside.  Have we said amazing yet? 

We had lunch at the Volcania Restaurant (a buffeteria) and it was so highly themed it could be an attraction in itself.  The food was good, a large quantity and reasonably priced for Disney.  Not cheap by any means, but not grab-your-heart material either.

We gawked at the atmosphere in the volcano, which includes big metal nets supposedly to catch the fresh lava before it hits the walkway.  In the netting are caught big blobs of cooled rock.  Who thinks of this stuff?  Everywhere you look is another fantastic themed scene to look at.  Really, you could just walk around and look at the details and have plenty to do.

Outside of the volcano is the Arabian Coast area that contains a two story carousel themed to Aladdin, a lot of shops selling pretty much the same thing, amazing fake shops stocked with bazaar type things just for show, The Magic Lamp Theater housing a live show we did not have time to see today, and the large animatronic attraction, The Storybook Voyages of Sinbad.  The best way to describe this ride is that it is sort of like "its a small world" on steroids.  The figures are about three times the size of small world dolls, but they are fully articulated advanced animatronics.  Not just some of them, but ALL of them.  There must be hundreds in total.  It is a really charming attraction and the figures are so expressive it is quite captivating.  We could ride it over and over.  We were handed a flyer in English to explain the storyline, but it is easy enough to figure out.  The flyer was a nice touch though.  We got the same type of information at Tower of Terror.

Adjacent to the Arabian Coast is Mermaid Lagoon including King Triton's Kingdom, a strikingly beautiful area filled with rides for small children.  The area is absolutely a work of art all by itself.  From a distance the spires and fanciful structures made from hollow shells and other such things from the sea appear to just be colorful mosaics.  Well, yes, they are mosaics, but the pieces of broken tile making up the mosaics feature characters from The Little Mermaid!  Not only that, there are shells, jewels, stones, you-name-it embedded in the mosaics.  They're incredible.  At night the spires of the building sparkle with fiber optic lighting and the effect is magical.  It is so beautiful it gives you chills to look at it.  It is beautiful inside as well, but the mosaics, fountains and bronze statues of Mermaid characters are the big draw for us.

Behind the volcano is the Lost River Delta featuring the small roller coaster Raging Spirits, which is probably the most pointless roller coaster we have ever been on.  It is so short it is over before you embark.  We were stopped by a cast member and told we were too tall to ride, but Bill rode it yesterday with no problem.  The cast member was relieved when he told him that and he let us through.  We know the height maximum is 6'5" or something close to that, but if he was going to stop us he should have had some sort of measuring device handy like they do for the minimum height limit.  Anyway, we wouldn't have missed much had we not been allowed to ride.  The ride is well themed, but that's all it has going for it.  This is the only ride in the park that is not worth more than a five minute wait.

Next door is Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull.  It is pretty much the same as the original at Disneyland with a few new effects.  For example, in Japan they could not use fire inside, so the flame in the main room was replaced with a tornado-like vortex.  There is a fantastic effect where the jeep stops and a big idol on the stone wall yells out something menacing and then blows a perfect smoke ring at you while the jeep speeds off.  The rest of the attraction is more or less the same, but doesn't have the same dramatic impact.  The rolling rock effect at the end wasn't very good at all, but if you haven't seen the original it is probably fine.

Keep walking around the back of the volcano and you'll pass a wrecked airplane along the river and all manner of themeing there just for the heck of it.  Next up is Port Discovery which is sort of the Tomorrowland of DisneySea.  There are two attractions here, the major one being a big simulator attraction called Stormrider.  The premise here is that you are going to be injected into a category five storm to experience it first hand, but not to worry because there is a big storm zapper sort of contraption that will stop the storm if it gets too bad.  This is demonstrated with a fantastic effect in the preshow.  Of course something goes terribly wrong and the storm zapper probe is hit by lightning and sent tumbling back toward us, eventually poking right through the top of the cabin.  It is pulled out just before it explodes in front of us.  Then the storm batters the ship, knocking loose ceiling panels and pipes.  Water starts leaking from the ceiling as the storm continues.  The simulator part is mild, but the in-cabin effects are very good.  We really enjoyed this one.

Next door is the amusing Aquatopia ride where you board bumper car type boats and ride around a shallow lagoon randomly just avoiding all sorts of water hazards.  The route is somewhat random with no real track, but you can see where you might go just because of the wheel marks on the bottom.  It is cute and worth a ride for the technology that makes it work if nothing else.  There was no wait, so why not?

Next land is the American Waterfront that is more shopping and restaurants than attractions.  There is a big replica steamship at the dock that contains a lounge and restaurant.  Adjacent to that is the Sailing Day Buffet, which is well themed.  There is also a Cape Cod section that is all shops and food outlets, but it looks nice.  The Tower of Terror is in the New York area adjacent to the ship.  There is also a Broadway theater playing "Big Band Beat", but we did not have time to see it today.  Tower of Terror, as already mentioned, is similar to the California Adventure version of the ride.  It does not have the Twilight Zone theme though, but that doesn't detract from it.  The effect when the idol disappears from its perch in the preshow room is amazing.  It literally vanishes before your eyes.  This ride is such a simple concept, but it works so well because of the amazing attention to detail from start to finish.

That pretty much sums up the attraction roster.  There are small boats for transportation on the lagoon and 1920's vehicles that roam the streets of the American Waterfront, but they move so slowly you can walk twice as fast with no effort at all.  They provide nice atmosphere though.  There is also an elevated railway, but something apparently went wrong because there was a crowd of security and supervisors taking pictures of the underside of the track at one point and the whole system was shut down shortly thereafter for the rest of the day.

There are also some minor walk through attractions like Fortress Explorations that bored us after about two minutes.  To each his own, but this seemed like a lot of money for not much except eye candy.

Now, let's talk about the special event that just began, The Spring Carnival.   The whole Mediterranean Harbor area and many other sections of the park are decked out in extra flower arrangements and displays for this event.  The flowers are stunning.  There is no way you could display flowers like this within reach anywhere else.  The park is beautiful enough without extra embellishments, so this is just colorful icing on the cake.  There was also some sort of show around the lagoon involving fairies that we skipped on purpose.  It was popular though judging by the crowds on such a slow day.

The big draws are the two lagoon shows, one in the afternoon called The Legend of Mythica and a nighttime spectacular called BraviSEAmo!  Where to begin on these extravaganzas!

The plots of both are very odd, but Mythica has something to do with the Disney characters unlocking a gateway to the world of Mythica.  This show takes place in and around the harbor and includes a cast of hundreds of dancers, jet skiers, kite flyers, and some of the most amazing float/barge/fountain/flamethrowers you have ever seen.  These things are HUGE and spout water hundreds of feet in the air, shoot flames skyward, eject fireworks, giant goddesses rise out of the opening petals of each float, and then a whole new batch of even bigger barges come out!  Our mouths were gaping the entire time.  There is NO WAY you'd see something like this anywhere else because no way would Disney pay for it (Tokyo Disney Resort is not owned by Disney).  However, it just goes to show you what Disney Imagineering can do with a budget gone wild.  This show was unbelievable, really, take it from a couple of jaded ex-cast members...this show rocks.

OK, so that brings us to the evening extravaganza, BraviSEAmo!.  This show revolves around the love between fire and water.  It starts off with a huge fountain barge that floats out spouting water.  There are also huge dancing fountains all around the lagoon that are beautiful sights in themselves.  From the gushers of the main float rises a huge maiden made entirely of water who forlornly searches for her true love to no avail.  Eventually she floats off and disappears when suddenly the volcano erupts amid much smoke, flame and fireworks.  Huge fireballs shoot skyward from jets around the lagoon as the music gets more heavy.  Suddenly, the center of the lagoon catches fire and the fire slowly spreads to form a huge circle covering almost the entire surface of the water. 

From this inferno begins to rise an enormous fire-spewing dragon that eventually towers over 6 stories, minimum, and IT IS FULLY ARTICULATED!  And it shoots fire in a controlled pattern from all over its body, from its mouth, from its head!  Flames shoot out, fireworks go off, basically it rages fire.  Then, the water goddess returns, realizes fire is her true love and the fountains embrace the dragon who is transformed amid sparkling lights to a calmly glowing creature on the water.  The dragon actually moves so fluidly that he exudes a personality.  The entire effect is absolutely enthralling.  We're sure someone stepped on our jaws sometime after they hit the pavement.  Now, this dragon isn't some tiny contraption.  The entire creature must be at least 50 feet, probably more like 100 wide and almost as tall.  It looks like it is made out of a metal latticework of some sort, not fabric and papier mache.  At the end of the show, the whole thing folds up and goes back under the water.  Incredible.  Simply incredible.

Now, we hate to put a damper on this whole experience and we'll chalk it up to not being something that originated with DisneySea.  The fireworks show, which is seen at both parks, is the worst fireworks show we have ever seen.  We knew from watching from the hotel that it was only three, count 'em, three minutes long, but we thought MAYBE with the addition of the soundtrack seeing it in person would be better.  Nope, even worse.  The fireworks are in no way synchronized with the music.  They shoot fireworks while some Disney music plays, period.  This show sucks, no two ways about it.  What the heck happened?  Oh well, we won't dwell on it, but IT SUCKED!

Dave had managed to stay alive way longer than he expected...until after 9:00PM in fact.  We looked through the shops to find something to buy to no avail.  If you want food gifts, there are millions of choices, but park specific merchandise does not exist.  We already bought the only keychain with the name on it and Bill wanted a plush of the tiger from the Sinbad attraction, but that's all we bought besides attraction photos.  Oh, and we had all of this sent free of charge to the hotel so we didn't have to carry it around.

We wandered back to the monorail which wasn't crowded at all and were quickly back at the hotel. We decided to see if we could extend our stay since Dave has recovered and wants to actually see something now.  We asked at the front desk and got the ludicrous answer that we have to call central reservations and make the changes.  The guy claimed that the hotel could not make changes here.  We know that isn't true because we already changed it when we decided to stay here and not move to the Mira Costa.  We'll try to call in the morning, but our luck getting anyone who speaks English isn't the best.  We need to know ASAP if there are rooms so we can change our return flight also.

Finally back at the room, we cleaned up and went to bed after posting the update for you.  We have so many photos that they will have to wait until we can create a photo gallery.  There are simply too many to process and post within the text in the time we have available, so please be patient.

Thursday, April 23 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

The weather was perfect again today, sunny and in the low 70's all day.  We didn't make it downstairs in time for the main breakfast buffet, so we had to go to the smaller one in the lobby lounge.  It was OK, but nothing to write home about.  What is it with the raw scrambled eggs in Japanese buffets?  Why even bother cooking them at all?  They are always cold and look like they were only waved over the heat for two seconds.  Blech.  They also seem to like raw bacon, although there is usually cooked bacon also.

We went to Disneyland for the entire day today.  They are finally offering park-hopper tickets that start on the first day you buy them.  Prior to this you had to specify one park or the other for the first two days, then you could park hop after that for one or two days.  There is a slight up charge, but it is minimal.  We didn't want to be locked into a certain park for tomorrow, so we were happy to pay the extra fee.

Although this was a normal attendance day, slow in fact, the park was PACKED.  Everything had at least a twenty minute wait and the popular rides such as Buzz Lightyear had an 80 minute stand by wait.  The new Monsters Inc. attraction that just opened yesterday had a two hour standby line and the FastPass return was already at park closing and this was only 11:00AM!

OK, so let's try to describe this park for you.  Tokyo Disneyland has a covered shopping area called World Bazaar that replaces Main Street.  It isn't as long as a typical Main Street either, but it is completely covered by a glass roof and you can turn right or left to go directly to Tomorrowland or New Orleans Square without going through the central hub.  The shops are typical of any park with a huge Emporium on the right and a gigantic store selling the typical Japanese take home gifts of food packaged in colorful tins.  This store is so popular that is had its own queue system for checking out and it was always packed.  No wonder they can afford to staff the park even on slow days.  They must make a mint on the food gifts alone.  We saw people buying piles of more than twenty of the tins and the average price was around $20.00.

To the right as you enter is Tomorrowland, probably the worst part of Tokyo Disneyland.  It looks as though nothing has changed since it was built in the 1980's.  The entrance is a copy of Florida's Magic Kingdom from 1971 except the waterworks are turned off and the facade has been painted bright blue.  It is well maintained, but VERY dated.  The attractions have been updated with Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters replacing Mission to Mars and MicroAdventure replacing CircleVision.  The wait for Buzz was the aforementioned 90 minutes all day, so we never rode it.  MicroAdventure was the same as all of the parks, fine, but too long.  The cast member in the theater offered to seat us with the English headphones, but we declined.  However, it was nice of her to notice us and make the effort.

Space Mountain is the weenie in the land, directly ahead of you as you enter over the bridge.  There is a restaurant flanking each side of the bridge, Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace, both fast food places typical of all of the parks.  Space Mountain still has its speed ramp going up to the entrance and is the same as the original version at Disneyland in California except it hasn't been updated to add the soundtrack.  The visual effects appear to be new and were very good, but without the sound it pales in comparison to the updated models.  There is also a big theater showing "One Man's Dream II" and Grand Circuit Speedway (or something like that similar to the Florida version of Autopia).  We didn't participate in either attraction.

Next around the perimeter is the platform for the StarJets, still high in the sky and reached by an elevator.  Across from the jets is the entrance to the extremely popular Toon Town with it usual population of wacky buildings and built in jokes.  The landscaping alone is worth a visit.  This was one of the most crowded sections of the park.  We got in line to ride Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin, but it broke down and all the lights came on, so eventually we left and did not make it back.  It looks about the same as the California version from the outside and in the elaborate queue.

Keep walking around the perimeter circle and you come to Fantasyland.  The first attraction is Pooh's Hunny Hunt which was closed when we walked up.  It was supposed to return from refurbishing tomorrow, but by the looks of the cast members standing around it seemed like it might open at any moment.  We got in line for the Daring Adventures of Pinocchio just across the road and glanced up to see Pooh's stand-by sign had a wait of five minutes showing.  By the time we got off Pinocchio in about ten minutes, the stand by time was up to 50 minutes and as we walked up the time changed to 60 minutes!  This is one popular ride and for good reason as we'll describe shortly.  We got a FastPass for a return two hours from now.

When we returned, the stand by line was still over an hour, but the FastPass cut it down to about fifteen minutes.  The indoor part of the queue is similar to the cheapo dark ride versions all other parks have except it isn't cheapo and there is more decor to look at.  The artwork decorating the walls is beautiful and elaborate.  Guests board a large honey pot which is dispatched in a group of three.  The pots are in no way attached and there are no tracks, just a blank floor you roll along.  The pots rush willy nilly into a small first scene with a brief cartoon explaining the ride, then you swirl off to scene after amusing scene of fully articulated animatronic characters from Winnie the Pooh.  The motion of the pots is completely random and you always seem to be headed for a narrowly avoided collision.  The order you left the station has no bearing on where you end up eventually.

The two best scenes are the one where the entire room bounces along with the pots as Tigger bounces around the room.  The other is the huge Heffalumps and Woozles scene where your group of three pots is injected into a swirling mass of already existing pots, plus one full of Heffalumps and Woozles.  In the corner is an enormous band of the things bouncing up and down and tilting from side to side.  It really is as though you are dreaming right along with Pooh.  The whole ride is so much fun that you forget that the technology involved in accomplishing all of this must be a marvel.

Continuing around the perimeter of the park you'll come upon "its a small world" and its familiar facade.  The ride is entirely enclosed, so the clock is just a big facade, but it looks nice.  The queue inside is brightly painted and probably one of the most attractive of the indoor queues for this attraction.  The ride itself is also one of the best renditions and features the flooded show scenes like in Florida.  Everything was in good repair and properly maintained, but the ride needs a sound system update.

Next to this is the elaborate Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, a buffeteria.  In the center of Fantasyland are Alice's Tea Party and the carousel.  There are also the usual dark rides, Peter Pan (line was too long), and Snow White's Adventures.  The speed of the cars in the dark rides is so fast it almost made us sick!  No kidding.  Apparently they need to keep capacity up or something.  We'd swear we almost got whiplash on Pinocchio!  Snow White and Pinocchio were about the same or slightly more elaborate than the California originals.

The Florida version of the Haunted Mansion is located in Fantasyland strangely enough.  The outside has some very elaborate gargoyles guarding the entrance signage.  The queue is covered in a similar way to the Florida version and you enter in the same way as you would there.  The ride itself is a non-updated version of the Florida ride.  It was nice to see this attraction is a perfectly maintained state.

Also in Fantasyland is the Mickey Mouse Revue, an animatronic show that was moved here from Walt Disney World when Tokyo Disneyland opened.  So, it is now over 25 years old.  It closes forever in two days, but it looks as though it opened yesterday.  We can't imagine even another Disney park maintaining an attraction in such pristine condition right up until it closes.  This is a really cute and technically marvelous attraction, but it is probably past its prime considering the sparse crowd and that most in attendance promptly fell asleep when the show began.  We enjoyed it though.

You quickly transition to Westernland from Fantasyland.  This part of the park is sort of a mish mash of overlapping lands, but they are similar in style so it works OK.  There is also a Critter Country that has only Splash Mountain on its attraction roster, but what an attraction it is.  We had to wait until just before the park closed to ride it when the stand by line was only five minutes.  All day the stand by was 120 minutes and all the FastPasses were gone by noon.  We can see why.  This is by far the best version of this ride in the world.  The show scenes are much more visible and spaced out so you can actually see all of them.  There are several short drops including a dip drop, plus the long one at the end, of course.  We were really impressed, and wet, by the end of this ride.  Buying the on ride photo was frustrating though.  You have to get a ticket from a woman in the exit queue with your number which you turn in to a cashier and pay.  Then you walk two feet to the left and get the photo.  The whole system was very confusing and may be the reason nobody but us was buying a photo. Everyone else on all rides with this feature just took a picture of the monitor.  We never saw anyone purchase one.  In fact, one time they had to call someone out of the back to even take our order!

Adjacent to Splash Mountain is the river with Tom Sawyer's Island, the rafts to the island and the Mark Twain Riverboat.  There is also the Western River Railway.  We didn't experience any of these attractions today, but they were quite popular and the setting was beautiful.  The river isn't as big as at the U.S. parks, but it was nicely done on a smaller scale.

This park still has the Country Bear Jamboree playing, but we ran out of time and didn't see it.  Their Golden Horseshoe is still very popular and requires advance reservations at least a month ahead.

Next up is Adventureland with the usual array of attractions.  They still have the Swiss Family Treehouse, but no one was going through it at all.  It is just sort of stuck there in the corner of the land, not being much of a draw no matter what is done to it.  They also have the Jungle Cruise.  There is a recently revamped version of the Enchanted Tiki Room presented by Stitch that we expected to be yet another travesty, but it was very well done and quite entertaining.  There is no pretense of this being any resemblance to the original show.  The four moderator birds have different names and one is a female.  The rest of the cast is the same as always.  An animatronic Stitch rises up out of what was the fountain in the center, but it is quite articulated and the show works well.  We were surprised how entertaining it was especially since we expected to be appalled.

Next around the bend and directly adjacent to Main Street is New Orleans Square.  It is pretty much the same as the California original expect it isn't anywhere near a river.  Pirates of the Caribbean is the California layout and incorporates the newest additions from the movies.  It was one of the better versions of this attraction and far better than the Florida one.

This has to be the only Disney park in the world where you can walk up and be immediately seated in the Blue Bayou restaurant, but that's exactly what we did.  The restaurant was nearly empty, but there are so many table service restaurants in this park it must disperse the crowds.  No need for Priority Seating arrangements here, that's for sure.  Every restaurant we passed had someone standing outside with menus trying to entice people to come in.  The meals we had were outstanding and priced reasonably for what they were.

We saw both the daytime parade, Jubilation, and the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: Dream Lights in the evening.  The latter is a well-updated version of the original Electrical Parade.  It features a lot of innovative LED lighting and very elaborate lighted costumes and other effects.  It was well worth waiting for, but we had no problem walking up ten minutes before it started and getting a prime viewing spot.  This is mostly because people are required to sit down in the front and they remain seated the entire time, so people standing in back can always see.  Plus it was only about six people deep in the seating area, if that.  The daytime parade was a re-hash of the 25th anniversary parade with different music, but it was fine and featured a lot of beautiful costumes.  The performers are so energetic and engaging it is hard not to be drawn into the whole thing. 

We ignored the fireworks, so we were finally able to ride Big Thunder Mountain, which was also one of the best versions of this attraction from all of the parks.  It didn't seem quite as fast as some, but it was much longer and the area it races through much more detailed and elaborate.  The animals you pass are more visible and all of the interior effects worked properly and were easily seen.  The queue is huge.  We'd hate to be here on a day when it is full!  Same with Splash Mountain.  When those lines are full the wait must be four hours or more. 

One problem here is that the locals know how to use FastPass, so everyone uses it. That means the popular attractions run out of passes by noon even on a relatively slow day like today.  We know how to use them also, but woe to some random tourist who has never heard of it.

On the way toward the exit near closing time, we happened to pass Star Tours where a cast member was outside saying the wait was only five minutes.  So, of course, we took a trip to Endor since we had nothing better to do.  The ride itself is the same as all of the versions, but the queue is huge.  There must have been at least ten fully articulated animatronics in the queue, plus the ones all of the versions have.  After you exit, you end up in what looks like an airport and there is another animatronic space creature directing traffic.  It is there for no reason other than as delightful decor.

We honestly tried to buy something with the Tokyo Disneyland logo on it, but things like that do not exist unless you buy the gift tins of food.  We searched every store and braved the Emporium at closing time and found nothing except generic plush and the aforementioned food.  The merchandise at this park was a bit more land specific in that they sell wood carvings in Adventureland and Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans Square, but finding something with the park name on it is impossible.  Oh well, we must be the only people in the world who want such things or surely they'd be offering them.

We have to mention that although this probably isn't the most coherent Disneyland in the world layout-wise, the cast members are fantastic.  Besides the fact that we haven't seen staffing levels at a U.S. park like this in our lifetime, that's for sure.  There were SIX castmembers operating Snow White for example.  At home there might be two if you are lucky, but there is usually just one bored person sitting there pushing buttons and loading the cars all by himself.  Not only does this enhance the service levels, but it reduces the stress on the employees so they remain friendly all day.  They were uniformly cheerful and smiling and always thanked riders at the exit and greeted them at the entrance.  Disney needs to take stock of what set them apart in the first place and taking a hard look at how Tokyo Disneyland is operated would be a step in the right direction.

After wading through the shops and buying something in the money machine that is the Confectionary Shop (aka food souvenir emporium,) all we had to do was walk straight out of the front of Tokyo Disneyland and we were back at the Disneyland Hotel.  We stopped at the shop selling prepared foods, drinks, etc., and picked up some Haagen Daas ice cream for a bedtime snack.  Then it was back to the room where we found that the maids hadn't thrown out the expired food we had left in and on top of the wastebasket.  Geez, how much more obvious do we have to make it that this is trash?  Maybe chew it first or something?  Oh well, better luck tomorrow when the packages start to explode!

Friday, April 24 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Disneyland Hotel

Today's weather has taken a turn for the worse and is overcast and quite chilly.  We went to breakfast in the main buffet restaurant, Sherwood Garden.  It was very disappointing for a hotel of this size.  All it was was an expansion of the exact same boring items and raw scrambled eggs from the lounge breakfast.  No wonder the gigantic restaurant was all but empty.  It was edible, but barely.

We wandered outside to take some pictures of the Peter Pan themed pool, which is TINY, and the garden we can see from our room.  Then we headed off to Disneyland, but had to go back and get jackets because it was too cold outside today.

We covered almost everything we cared about on our first visits to each park, but there were a few attractions we missed because Disneyland was so crowded last time.  Looking at World Bazaar it appeared at first glance that Disneyland wasn't as crowded today, but that was an illusion.  The stand by wait time for the new Monsters Inc.:  Hide and Go Seek attraction that opened this week was posted at 180 minutes and all of the FastPasses had already been distributed for the day at 11:00AM.  Keep in mind that the park doesn't open until 10:00AM!  We gave up hope of seeing this one.  Better luck next time when the novelty wears off.

Next we tried for a Pooh's Hunny Hunt FastPast, but the return time was already up to after 8:00PM tonight, so no go on that one either.  Off to Big Thunder we went and picked up a pass for 2:30PM, which is about when we expect to leave and go to DisneySea, so that was fine. 

In the meantime we picked up Country Bear Jamboree which is still playing the original show and looks like it opened yesterday.  Hearing the country bears speak Japanese was worth the price of admission.  We also sailed around the river on the Mark Twain, which was nice.  The river is much shorter than the U.S. versions, but they have installed various scenes along the banks that are actually in good repair.  We also rode the Western River Railroad, which is a steam train that goes nowhere because Japan doesn't allow private railroads to have more than one station or they have to be public (or something like that).  We were surprised that the train ride ended with a trip through the Primeval World Diorama.  We didn't know any parks besides Disneyland in California had that.  Since this train is an attraction and not transportation it does make sense to have something to look at.

We also went on the Jungle Cruise which is similar to the Florida version.  It does not have the upgraded effects like Hong Kong had, but the skippers did a great job and were much better than their Hong Kong counterparts.

Of course, we had to ride the Haunted Mansion again and we also did the Tiki Room with Stitch.  It wasn't offensive the second time around either, so they may have a winner this time.  Anything is better than the previous "Get the Fever" version.  At least this one features an original song (we think).

When people started lining up for the afternoon parade we pounced on Splash Mountain where the stand by wait had been 90 minutes last time we checked and the FastPass return was well into the evening.  We rode with just a ten minute wait, then ran over for our FastPass return for Big Thunder and walked right on.

That pretty much sums up our final day at Tokyo Disneyland.  We did stop for lunch at the Plaza Pavilion buffeteria restaurant.  We both had a Salisbury Steak dinner that was very good.  The salad and dessert were above average also, as was the price at nearly $50 for the two of us.  But, the food was good and plentiful, so we can't complain too much.

We took one last turn through the shops and again didn't find a thing to buy.  Back at the hotel, we cleaned up and rested a bit, then headed out on the Monorail to DisneySea for the rest of the evening.  Both parks are open until 10:00PM, so there is plenty of time in the day to see pretty much anything within reason, especially at DisneySea.

In contrast to the crowded Disneyland, DisneySea was comfortably empty.  We never waited more than ten minutes for even the major attractions.  There was a different show for Spring Carnival going on around the lagoon when we arrived called "Fairies Primavera".  We had skipped it based on the name last time we were here, but it turned out to be another colorful extravaganza featuring a cast of hundreds lining the lagoon, as well as more gigantic floats spouting streams of water.  We bought the CD of the soundtrack it was so peppy...not to mention it is the only soundtrack they have for sale!

We rode Tower of Terror again, as well as Stormrider and Aquatopia.  The latter is stupid, but still a lot of fun and the technology involved is amazing.  The park was so empty that we rode Journey to the Center of the Earth at least five times with never any more than a five minute wait.  It took longer to walk through the queue than the actual waiting time.  We also rode Indiana Jones, which continues to have some sort of timing problem with the climactic rolling stone ball.  The delay for it to start today was so long we had time to comment on it.  It really ruins the ride when something that major doesn't work right.

We took another dive to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is very odd, but nonetheless enjoyable.  The technique used to portray going underwater is very convincing.  The story is weird, but who cares?

By this time it was getting to be time to find a place to watch the evening extravaganza, BraviSEAmo! again.  Apparently it was too windy to open the seating area last time, but it was open today, so we stood in the back.  It never did fill up and we had a perfect view of this amazing show.  At the end of the show last time we saw it there was an announcement saying that due to wind conditions we had just seen an altered version.  Tonight they said the same thing except the excuse was "due to circumstances beyond our control".  We have no idea what was missing or changed and can't imagine it being any better than it was both nights we saw it.  Our jaws still hit the ground when the fire dragon rose up out of the lagoon.

After the show most people left or stopped to watch the God-awful fireworks show.  So, that made it easier for us to re-ride everything AGAIN.  It started to rain about an hour before the park closed, but we wandered over to the Sinbad attraction to ride it again.  This is also a bit weird, but the artistry involved is truly amazing.  There must be hundreds of fully articulated animatronics in this thing.  The ride is quite long and the scenes are vast, so the building it is housed in must be huge behind the scenes.

We slowly wandered toward the exit still gaping at how beautiful this park is.  King Trinton's Kingdom building is magical at night with the sparkling fiber optics twinkling.  Then again, what isn't magical about this place?  No matter where you look it is like walking into a painting.  We can't gush enough about DisneySea.  It is simply breathtaking.

Eventually we made it out to the Monorail and back to the hotel.  We stopped to buy our usual ice cream snacks and then retired to the room to pack up for our return home tomorrow.  We can't believe we have been gone for almost two months.  It seems like we just got here!

We are so glad we finished up with Tokyo Disney Resort.  The cast members are fantastic and DisneySea is amazing.  It was a perfect ending to the trip of a lifetime.  We even have enough Yen left over to pay the hotel bill without using a credit card.  That makes it free, right?

Click to view the Tokyo Disney Resort Photo Gallery.

Saturday, April 25 - Depart Tokyo, Japan - Fly to Los Angeles, CA, USA

We picked the right day to depart since it has been pouring rain all night and this morning.  We're not talking sprinkles either, but a steady downpour.

Breakfast was the very average and overpriced buffet in the Sherwood Garden restaurant.  This is the only option for breakfast at the hotel other than room service which isn't much better.  It's too bad because the food in the parks is pretty good for what it is and the prices aren't outrageous either.  The hotel seems to be set up to serve the most people in the least amount of time, but it isn't busy at all so they could be making a bit more of an effort in the food department.

After breakfast we stayed in the room until check out time at noon, then called for a bellman.  He took our luggage and stored it while we awaited our 2:00PM pick up time for the car to the airport. 

Dave freaked out the girl at check out by paying the bill in cash instead of the credit card on file.  She didn't say anything, but it was clear she was a bit unnerved by being paid over $5,000 in cash.  By the way, we brought about $8,000 in Yen with us and spent less than $2,000 of that, so we had plenty left to pay the entire Disneyland Hotel bill.  It came to just over 500,000 which translates to about $5,000, half what the bill would have been at Disney's Grand Floridian.  Other than the limited food choices, this hotel is so far superior to the Grand Floridian that it might as well be on another planet.

There was some sort of liquid on the stone floor where we wanted to sit, but someone came right over and cleaned it up.  It left a stain on the white part of the stone, but it did fade eventually.  The carpet throughout the hotel hasn't fared quite as well and it is uniformly filthy in contrast to everything else that is spotless.

Other than wandering off to the bathroom now and then, we just sat in the magnificent lobby for about an hour and a half waiting to be picked up.  At one point Dave turned the wrong way to the restrooms and had to ask a maid in the hallway for directions.  At first he asked in English and she didn't understand him at all, so he repeated the question in Japanese.  The poor woman almost fainted dead away she was so shocked.  Learning a bit of Japanese for the shock value alone is well worth it.

At one point Dave went outside to tell the doorman that we were expecting someone to pick us up and that we were sitting in the lobby.  The first person didn't understand and ended up telling someone else who did speak English that we were expecting two Americans to pick us up.  After straightening out that misunderstanding he said someone would come get us when the car came.  It was still pouring rain at this point.

When 2:00PM rolled around we saw one of the doormen looking around the lobby and assumed he was looking for us, which he was.  He escorted us outside and sent someone else to retrieve our luggage.  The car to take us to the airport was a van, so our luggage fit nicely.  The driver spoke very good English and chatted a bit before getting down to business and just driving.  He said the ride would only take about 45 minutes even with the rain and he was accurate.

At the airport we were dropped off outside the terminal.  The driver got luggage carts for us and loaded them up, then sent us on our way.  No tipping here either, so when you're done, that's it.  We had prepaid for the car through Michi Travel as part of their semi-package.

Narita airport is huge, but very pleasant inside.  It wasn't chaotic or noisy at all.  Japan Airlines must have hundreds of check-in counters and finding the right one for Business Class eventually required asking someone.  It was amusing walking by the First Class area and seeing all of the personal representatives that fawn on you when you fly First Class.  They should considering how much a ticket costs!

There was no one waiting to check in so we walked right up.  At first they wanted to charge us $198 to check a fifth bag, but when we agreed to pay it they all grabbed their heart and didn't know what to do.  She kept asking, "Are you sure you don't want to carry it?  It isn't that big."  Finally she asked how many carry-ons we had and seeing only two small ones said they would take the extra bag for free because we weren't carrying much.  In reality they just didn't want to process the payment which was fine with us.

We still had a lot of Yen left over, so Dave went to the cash exchange to change it back to U.S. dollars.  The exchange rate was fantastic and he ended up making money on the deal compared to what he paid for it at home.

That chore done we went through security and immigration with no problems at all, then went to find our gate.  It was in an annex so we had to take an automated shuttle bus out to the terminal.  It was typical Japanese efficiency with a train coming every two minutes, so there was virtually no wait.

We found our gate and planted ourselves out of the way for the 90 minutes we had until boarding time.  There was some sort of delay that caused boarding to begin about fifteen minutes late, plus the lines were going the wrong way.  It is always as though each airline has never boarded passengers before it is so chaotic.  Do they not know that people will crowd the gate and make it impossible to board First and Business Class first?  They did try though and we were on board quickly.

Our seats are in the upper deck of the 747, which is always nice especially on a long flight.  You don't have to participate in the cattle call that is downstairs.  There was an American woman ranting about a bassinet in the downstairs Business Class section, so we were very glad we chose seats on the upper deck.

Due to the pouring rain the departure was delayed for about a half hour.  We were supposed to leave at 5:20PM, but we didn't even start taxiing out until after 6:00PM.  We spent so much time driving around the runway we thought maybe we were going to taxi back to Los Angeles!  The flight time was announced at 9.5 hours, 10 hours, and then 9 hours, so who knows when we will actually arrive.  The in-flight system estimates arrival at 11:04AM, but it started out saying 11:20AM.  Oh well, as long as we do arrive, we'll be perfectly happy.

It was very turbulent during the takeoff, but quickly quieted down.  Meal service took forever and we were starving by the time they finally got around to it.  There was a choice between a Western meal and a Japanese meal.  The Japanese meal contained more food and it was somewhat better than the other option, but both were good for airline food.

Watching the flight attendant close the shades with a long stick was worth the price of admission.  God forbid she should just ask each person to close their own shades since most people were awake, but that might be too much of an imposition.

The flight was uneventful except for a few short bouts of turbulence.  We mostly dozed or watched movies on the personal video screens.  The advanced seats look space age and appear to be comfortable, but they are poorly designed and you end up with a hard bar in the middle of your butt no matter how you position the seat.  There was a lot of leg room and the seats do not recline into you, which is a plus.  747's are always comfortable to fly and this was no exception.

The food served for breakfast was pretty awful.  We both had the Western breakfast which was an English muffin sandwich with cheese and maybe egg and ham in it.  It was mostly just rubbery goo, but at least it was filling.  It came with a cup of yogurt and a small plate of fresh fruit that was nice.

Because the flight departed late it didn't arrive at LAX until 11:15AM, but that was just a few minutes late in spite of sitting on the tarmac for fifteen minutes waiting for a parking place.  Disembarking was fast and easy, but then you end up in the endless construction that is Tom Bradley International Terminal.  As far as we know, the corridors of this terminal have been torn up and in various states of construction for at least five years and maybe more.  There doesn't appear to be any end in sight.

The Immigration inspection area isn't under construction, but nobody seemed to stand in the correct lines, so there were lengthy delays while visitors were fingerprinted and photos taken.  When we walked up we were practically just waved through, but it still took a good twenty minutes to get to the baggage claim.  We were highly amused when we saw the ranting bassinet woman being hauled off for a thorough inspection.  Do people not realize that if you make a scene of any kind the officers might just delight in annoying you even further?

There was no rush though because the luggage had just started to come down the chute when we arrived at the carousel.  We found all our luggage and hauled it through Customs with no questions asked except did we have any food with us.  Like we're going to admit it if we do?  Anyway, then it was through the maze of construction and out to the street.

Bill had already phoned our pick up driver after we claimed our luggage, so he arrived quickly to get us at the curb and we were off toward home.  The drive took roughly two hours with little traffic to speak of.  We were home by 2:00PM and jumped by two very happy dogs who just might remember who we are judging by the reaction.

Ah, no more dressing up and wearing shoes every day!  Woo hoo.  That was a long stretch for us to be put together on a daily basis, that's for sure.  We'd do it all again though, no doubt about it.

summary

This was an amazing trip, a trip of a lifetime for sure and we don't use that term lightly.  We are proud of ourselves that we did it on our own and the choices we made turned out to be the best ones for us.  We'll overlook the whole measles thing if you don't mind.

The Tokyo Disney resort overall is probably the best Disney resort on the planet for a variety of reasons.  The biggest reason is because DisneySea is hands down the most amazing theme park on the planet.  Tokyo Disneyland isn't the most beautiful Disneyland in the world, but some of its attractions are the best renditions.  The cast members were uniformly friendly and helpful.  We have no idea how they remained so cheerful especially when Disneyland is jam-packed every day of the year.  We were shocked at how crowded it was and we'd definitely never consider showing up there during the busy season.  DisneySea was never crowded and the wait time for even the E-tickets was never more than about fifteen minutes.

Hong Kong Disneyland surprised us and turned out to be one of the major highlights of the whole trip.  Our experience there was magical and that is not a word we throw around like Disney often does.  The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is the best Disney deluxe hotel in the world no question about it.  And, it is actually a bargain for a Disney hotel, or any luxury hotel for that matter.  We would go back in a heartbeat.

The land portion of our Japan trip exceeded our expectations in many ways not the least being how nicely we were treated throughout.  Everyone was nice to us and rushed to help if we looked confused.  Learning some Japanese ahead of time was a Godsend.  The shock value was pretty funny, but it also helped smooth the way and open doors quite often.  We enjoyed all of our stops, but touring the old house with the equally old owner was probably the highlight.  Our first stay in a ryokan in Nara was also quite memorable. 

We weren't in love with Takayama or the accommodations we had there.  In fact, that hotel/ryokan was probably the worst place we stayed including the place at the airport when we arrived.  We wouldn't bother going back there.  Everywhere else was very nice.  We'd like to have spent more time in Kobe because the entire day was taken up with the extremely crowded day trip we took to Himeji.  We wouldn't do that again, but it was nice to see it once and sort of participate in the cherry blossom season with all of the locals picnicking on the lawn.

We can't believe how quickly the time flew by.  We really thought we'd get tired of traveling, but we didn't at all.  Only when Dave fell ill did it become a burden to travel.  Before and after that episode we were perfectly happy.  We wouldn't spend as much time in traditional ryokan again though.  That did become tedious, but we're glad we did it.  Bookending the trip with two different Disney resorts worked out very well and was a nice counterpoint to the traditional travel stops.  We'd do all of it over again tomorrow if we could.

The luggage forwarding service available in Japan really made our life easier with the cruise luggage in tow.  We sent it ahead every few days to the next big hotel and it was always there waiting for us.  If we were to go to Japan again we would pack way less clothing because it was no problem at all to have laundry done at major hotels.  We wore the same three outfits the entire time and only ran through clothes when it was hot in Takayama and Tokyo.

We'll have to work hard to top this adventure, but we'll try!

 

Up Touring Japan Tokyo Disney Resort

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