Tokyo Disney Resort

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Page Updated:  12/15/2015


March 20 - 30, 2014 - 10 days

Hilton Tokyo Bay




Tokyo Disney Resort - Click links below to jump to specific date.

Introduction & Planning

Day 1 - Thursday, March 20 - Fly to Tokyo, Japan

Day 2 - Friday, March 21 - Arrive Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 3 - Saturday, March 22 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 4 - Sunday, March 23 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 5 - Monday, March 24 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 6 - Tuesday, March 25 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 7 - Wednesday, March 26 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 8 - Thursday, March 27 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 9 - Friday, March 28 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 10 - Saturday, March 29 - Tokyo Disney Resort

Day 11 - Sunday, March 30 - Depart Tokyo Disney Resort


Introduction & Planning

Welcome to our exciting return trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort, followed by our "Journey to Hokkaidō" and the "Pagodas to Paradise" cruise back to California. 

This epic journey requires several pieces to fall into place before we can make it all work. Keep your fingers crossed that we'll get it all together sooner rather than later.  We travelled to Tokyo Disney Resort in 2009, so we are well versed in what it takes to put together this kind of trip on our own. 

Here are the major points we learned in 2009:

  1. Reservations at the Disney Hotels are very difficult to come by.  The resort takes reservations online, but be warned that these sell out almost immediately and the most desirable rooms are never available online at all.  You can make reservations exactly six months in advance for a maximum of five nights.  If you want to stay longer than that, you will need "special permission" which will require a personal phone call to the reservation center.  MAKE THIS CALL YOURSELF!!!  Tokyo Disney Resort does not pay travel agent commissions, but even if your travel agent is willing to make the call for you, take our advice and, again, MAKE THE CALL YOURSELF.  We can't stress this point enough!  It may take several attempts to get an agent who speaks English, but be persistent and you'll be rewarded.  The English-speaking agent we spoke to was extremely helpful.
  2. We can personally recommend the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and the Tokyo DisneySea Hotel Mira Costa.  Dream on if you think you can get a coveted Porto Paradiso view room at the Mira Costa, but it doesn't hurt to try.  The next best view is a park view at the Disneyland Hotel.  Rooms at either hotel are comparable.  The Disney Ambassador isn't connected to the monorail and we'd choose one of the "Official" hotels over the Ambassador considering the price.
  3. Food options at the Disney hotels are mostly limited to mediocre buffets and are extremely expensive.  Eat in the parks for better variety and value, or go to the Ikspiari mall adjacent to the Welcome Center for more options.
  4. The "Official" hotels closest to the Bayside monorail station are, in order of distance, the Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay, Hilton Tokyo Bay, and the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay.  There are several other hotels adjacent to these, but the three mentioned are the best bets unless you are on a budget. The remaining official hotels are geared more toward Japanese guests, but if you are comfortable with the language you can save some money by choosing one of them over the upscale chains already mentioned.  There is also a hotel built under the train tracks called Dreamgate Maihama owned by JR, but we were not able to access the reservation page to check prices.
  5. Almost none of the Cast Members at the parks or Disney hotels speak English.  We had more problems with the language barrier here than we did anywhere else in Japan.  However, the service is amazing even by Disney standards, so just be patient and speak slowly.  Better yet, take some time to learn some rudimentary Japanese phrases and you'll open all sorts of doors with the locals.
  6. Tokyo Disneyland Park becomes extremely crowded at 2:00 PM when schools let out.  DisneySea is generally more manageable during this time of day.  FastPasses sell out quickly for the most popular attractions.  To get onto Big Thunder Railroad, the Haunted Mansion or Splash Mountain, get in line when the fireworks start.  Everyone in the park, except you, will be watching the fireworks (which are nothing special). Do not time your visit to correspond with any Japanese holiday!!
  7. When you arrive at Maihama station (about 30 minutes from Tokyo station on the Keiyo line), walk to the left to the Welcome Center.  You can check in to the Disney hotels and the Official hotels here and have your luggage delivered to your room for free.  You can also buy park and monorail tickets here.  English is clearly not a priority, but the staff tries very hard to be helpful and is extremely polite.
  8. There is NO WAY you will be allowed to check in before 3:00 PM.  Don't even bother to ask.  And, do not check in early if offered this option!  This will delay getting into your room until 4:30 PM.  Don't ask, we don't understand the logic either, but that's what we were told.  Just go to the Welcome Center, drop your bags and go to the parks until after check-in time.  We waited in the lobby and ran to the front desk the moment we saw them checking guests in, which was around 2:45 PM.
  9. If you need something unusual while you are staying at a Disney hotel (Dave needed to see a doctor last time, as you may recall), ask to speak to a manager.  The same advice applies if you are told "no" by someone at the front desk in response to a simple request.  Always be polite and never make a scene!
  10. The best time to visit the resort is during the two-week period before and after the Golden Week holidays.  Do not even consider going to the parks during Golden Week, any other national holiday, or over a weekend unless there is absolutely no other alternative.

We will keep you informed of all plans and reservations as they evolve.  All dates, hotels, and plans are subject to change up until we actually arrive at Tokyo Disney Resort. 

If you have any questions or suggestions, please post your comment in our Forum.

By the way, you can determine the rough dollar equivalent to any Japanese Yen prices we quote by removing the last two zeros from the Yen amount.

July 23, 2013:  Tokyo Disney Resort will not accept reservations until exactly six months before arrival.  Therefore, nothing has been booked as of this date.  Our intention is to fly from San Diego to Tokyo non-stop via Japan Airlines.  We are hoping to use the AMEX Platinum Airline Program to get 2-for-1 business class tickets, but this remains to be worked out.  Flying one-way is a bit of an issue price-wise, but we'll see what we can come up with. 

We are strongly leaning toward booking either the Hotel Okura or the Hilton instead of a Disney hotel this time.  We can get a luxurious suite at one of these hotels for the same price as a regular room at the DisneySea Mira Costa.  The Bayside monorail station is right across the street from the Okura and the Hilton, so they are nearly as convenient as a Disney hotel.  All of the recommended official hotels provide a free shuttle to the monorail station if you are too lazy to walk the short distance.

September 24, 2013:  We have confirmed that the wonderful house sitters we had for our previous trip will be returning for our Japan adventure.  Now we can relax and start booking!

November 7, 2013:  We decided to forego a Disney hotel this time and booked a room at the Hilton Tokyo Bay, an "official" Disney Resort hotel.  We simply couldn't stomach the Disney prices, over double the cost of any other nearby hotel, when the rest of this trip will be so expensive.  This Hilton is very nice and gets excellent reviews.  It is across the street from one of the Disney Resort Line monorail stations, so it is only a minor inconvenience to stay here.  We'll have to pay for monorail passes, but that is a nominal extra cost of just a few dollars per day.

At the Hilton, we booked a Celebrio Select room at the AAA Stay and Save rate of ¥27,360.  Our HHonors Diamond status should get us free breakfast, internet and an upgrade, but we won't hold our breath on the last one.  This type of room looks like something out of the 'Jetsons' and that's not necessarily a good thing.  Maybe it is more comfortable in person than it looks online, but we'll see.  Supposedly we get free soft drinks every day, too.  There was an issue with the reservation though.  Somehow a preference for a smoking room appeared in our requests.  We do not have this preference in our profile!  We will contact Hilton online to fix this and report back on what they do.  UPDATE:  We didn't have to wait long!  Customer service responded within two hours with a new confirmation reflecting the correct non-smoking request and an apology for the glitch.  Considering that all of this started at 1:00 am, that's great service!

January 10, 2014:  Well, the time has come to book the flight to Japan.  This means making a call to American Express to try to use the Platinum Card International Airline Program.  What this is supposed to provide is a free business class ticket for each one that is purchased, theoretically making the price 2-for-1.  We know from doing some research that this is about as legitimate as the 2-for-1 cruise fares, which is to say it is completely bogus, but we'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Yesterday, Dave called Amex Travel Services and spoke to a very nice agent who was more excited than we are about going to Japan.  However, she was very difficult to understand due to a heavy Jamaican-esque accent.  Dave is good at understanding people with heavy accents in general, but this time it was a chore.  He told her that we want to fly from San Diego to Narita in Japan.  She came back with a list of airlines so long that Dave knew she didn't understand the departure airport.  So he said, "I think the only airline that flies directly to Narita from San Diego is Japan Airlines." Agent:  "Oh yes, I see, that's wonderful!  It is non-stop, too!!"  Uh, yeah, we know, that's why we asked for it. 

OK, so here's the deal.  A one-way business class ticket for two people is $8,406.80.  That's not happening unless the freebie applies, which it does not.  The only ticket one may book using the Amex program is a round-trip, full-fare, non-restricted business class ticket.  That adds up to $6,540.60 for one paid ticket, plus a matching free one.  Dave pointed out to the agent that if he books and pays for TWO round trip tickets through JAL directly, the cost is $6,380.54 total.  There are some penalties for changing the reservation, etc., but it is not totally non-refundable.  The agent carried on about how if we cancel the Amex tickets it will only cost $39 and, "This is a great deal."  We will buy travel insurance to cover cancellation anyway, so it is a moot point.  Dave hesitated for a second and she hustled him off the phone because she had to start training someone who had just arrived.  Good move honey, because this isn't working!  Again, she was very pleasant, but misunderstanding instructions and not knowing anything about the flights wasn't exactly instilling confidence in Amex Travel.

Dave tried to book the flight directly through the JAL website, but he realized he didn't have Bill's passport, so he put it off until later today.  While he was mulling all of this over, something dawned on him.  Since we aren't using the return leg of the round trip, can we book the cheapest economy class fare for the return leg and still fly to Japan in business class?  After some poking around on the JAL website, it is determined that, why yes, we can do that!  Woo hoo!!  Here is the end result and price comparisons for two business class tickets:

1.  Japan Airlines - One Way Business Class:  $8,406.80

2.  American Express Platinum Program Round Trip:  $6,540.60

3.  Japan Airlines - Round Trip Business Special:  $6,380.54

4.  Japan Airlines - Round Trip - Business & Economy Combo:  $4,240.54

By the way, there was no mention of this combination class booking option from the Amex agent.  Dave came up with that all on his own. 

The flight is confirmed and paid for at the total fare of $4,240.54. We reserved the last two seats available that aren't in the center section.  They happen to be bulkhead seats, which don't particularly matter in business class, but they are marked as "good seats" on  We did not reserve  seats for the return flight because we aren't using the tickets. We made the return flight for several days after we get home from the cruise.  Our intention is to cancel the return leg of the flight on the off chance we get a few hundred dollars back.  If not, we're still ahead of the game, so no harm done.  Unfortunately, this tactic wouldn't work if we were cruising to Japan and flying home as we did previously when we paid the exorbitant one-way fare.

[Note:  After we returned home, we cancelled the return leg of our flight and received a refund of $352.57 per person for the taxes on the unused segment.]

January 14, 2014:  Travel insurance to cover the non-refundable parts of our flight and medical coverage/evacuation for the entire stay in Japan was purchased from Allianz Travel Insurance for $260.00.

March 3, 2014:  We booked a private car transfer from Narita Airport to the Hilton Tokyo Bay with TokyoAirporter for ¥18,774 (including all fees, tip, etc).  We prepaid through PayPal, but the option is available to pay cash upon arrival for a 4% discount.

March 8, 2014:  Our transfer from home to the airport was booked today, as well as the pick-up from the port when we return.  We're being picked up at 9:30 am for our 12:45 pm flight out of San Diego.  Japan Airlines allows baggage check-in for international flights up to 45 minutes prior to departure (60 minutes for coach), but we feel it is better to be safe than sorry, so we'll arrive early.

We ordered about $3,000 worth of Yen online through Wells Fargo Bank, which is the maximum they allow per day.  Their exchange rate is significantly better than going through EZForex or similar companies and delivery to our home is free of charge.  On the surface of it, the ordering part was very easy.  However, they had to call us the next day to ask for a repeat of all of the information we had already given, "Just to be sure you are the person who placed the order."  We appreciate the caution, but the funds came directly from our Wells Fargo checking account and are being sent to the address on file, so where is the possible security breach?  Our intention was to get double that amount of Yen, but we will get US dollars and make the exchange at the airport when we arrive instead of ordering it at home.  And yes, we are expecting to spend that much, if not more.  In Japan, costs of meals and attraction admissions add up very quickly!

March 19, 2014:  We checked in online for our flight and printed our boarding passes.  After packing and re-packing several times, we managed to cram everything we need (we think) into two small bags each.  Our house sitters will arrive this evening and then we're good to go tomorrow morning.  Of course, our final day at home was fraught with mini-disasters...our driveway gate went off the track (and is too heavy to easily fix), Dave's desktop computer forgot who he is, a huge light in the garage fried, and we discovered a leaking sprinkler valve <sigh>.  Why do these things have to happen the day before we are leaving?  Oh well, none of them are worth fretting over since there's nothing we can do about them now, so off we go on another epic adventure.

Day 1 - Thursday, March 20 - Fly to Tokyo, Japan

The car service picked us up right on time and we were on our way to San Diego International Airport around 9:30 am.  We arrived just before 10:30 am and walked right up to the check-in counter with no wait at all.  We had already checked in online and printed boarding passes, but we gained no advantage by doing that.  We were given new boarding passes anyway and what we did online didn't appear to have any effect on the time involved, which was minimal anyway.  After checking in, Bill was directed to the Business Class Lounge, but Dave's clerk said nothing about it.

First we had to pass through the usual security checkpoint, expecting the worst.  However, there was no line at all and we didn't even have to take the laptop out of the bag, remove belts or shoes, etc.  Dave was randomly chosen to have his hands checked for bomb residue, but that only took a minute at the most. 

We missed the door to the lounge because it is marked as American Airlines.  We didn't see the tacked on Japan Airlines sign until we were walking back in the other direction.  The check-in at the lounge was very friendly.  The woman at the desk asked if we wanted cocktails (we didn't) and told us there are sandwiches and soup "in the back" and, "Please pardon the construction."  We didn't see any construction, but the lounge sure could use some.  It is dingy and straight out of the 1990's.  There are no windows at all.  The chairs are comfortable enough and it wasn't noisy or overly crowded.

We were told there would be an announcement when boarding begins, but everyone started to leave at 12:10 pm and we followed them.  There was a crowd at the gate, but it was mostly people waiting to board a Hawaiian Airlines flight departing at the same time.  We'd estimate that more than 80% of the people on our flight are Japanese.  As far as we could see, there were only six or so Americans in Business Class.

The flight is on one of the new Dreamliner planes, but there were really only two elements that suggested anything out of the ordinary.  The windows are slightly larger, but if it hadn't been pointed out to us beforehand we wouldn't have noticed.  They don't have shades at all, but rather an LCD coating that tints the window dark similar to the way Transitions lenses work to darken glasses.  They worked fine but they are never truly opaque.  We could always see out even when they were darkened completely by the flight crew after the meal.  Other than that, the only thing different is the LED lighting in the cabin that changes colors, but it is more of a gimmick than an advantage.  The bathrooms have the typical Japanese automatic butt-washing capability and motion sensor faucets.

The downfall of this particular airline's Dreamliners is the horrible design of the seats.  They have all the bells and whistles one would expect in Business Class and there is a lot of space (we couldn't reach the bulkhead with our feet and we are over six feet tall).  But, the seats are extremely uncomfortable.  It is impossible to sleep in them because there are no comfortable positions.  They're passable, but nothing special.  The in-flight entertainment system has a lot of potential, but it only had twelve songs on the playlist for the easy listening category.  The on-demand movies were all of the recent Oscar nominees/winner, with one Disney movie (Cars) and a Japanese children's movie.  The touted anytime food ordering via the TV was not mentioned on board, although the option still exists by calling a flight attendant.

The meal was served almost immediately after takeoff.  We had a choice of a Japanese or Western meal.  We both chose the Japanese meal.  Click to view the MENU. The Japanese meal consisted of an appetizer of mushroom mousse and a container with diced avocado and two shrimp.  This was served to everyone.  The next course was a bento box of nine different cold selections that were beautiful to look at, but slightly less appealing to eat.  We both liked three of the items, but the rest were non-descript flavor-wise.  The entree was a small portion of some absolutely delicious teriyaki beef that was good enough to pay for in a restaurant, as was the miso soup that came with it.  Dessert for everyone was a small cup of what was called banana cheesecake, but was more like a vanilla custard over a piece of banana with strawberry topping.  It was fine, but nothing special.

After the meal the flight attendants handed out bottled water, dimmed the lights and darkened the windows.  We tried to sleep, to no avail.  Bill watched a couple of the movies while Dave pretended to be asleep.

The second meal may be ordered any time after the main meal.  We both waited until two hours before landing to order the Fried Chicken Cutlet Sandwich and some fresh fruit.  The portions were very small, but the flavor of everything was nice.  The sandwich came with a green salad dressed with a ginger/sesame vinaigrette.

The flight was completely smooth until around two hours before landing when it became turbulent for less than fifteen minutes, and again just before landing.  All in all the flight was fine.  If the seats were more comfortable we'd have no complaints at all.  The crew was attentive and friendly, too.

Day 2 - Friday, March 21 - Arrive Tokyo, Japan - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

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

Discover the magic of Disney from the Hilton Tokyo Bay hotel. As an official hotel of the Tokyo Disney Resort®, the hotel offers easy access to Tokyo Disneyland® and Tokyo DisneySea®. Located on the eastern shore of Tokyo Bay, the hotel combines ocean views with ease of access to central Tokyo, just a 30-minute drive away.  Choose the perfect room — from modern guest rooms to family suites. Delight the family with a Happy Magic Room decorated in the style of a fairytale wonderland or choose a celebrio room for ultra-modern decor. There is no charge for children under six when sharing a room with parents or guardians.  Swim a few laps of the three-lane indoor pool or refresh in the garden pool surrounded by lush Japanese gardens (open from late July until the end of August). Keep fit at the fully equipped fitness center and enjoy a reviving aromatherapy session at the Grand Phyto salon. Dine in one of five food and beverage venues. This hotel's restaurants provide a choice to suit every palate, with Shanghai or Mediterranean specialties and various Asian treats from a 25-meter-long buffet.

 Find more about Weather in Tokyo, JP
Click for weather forecast

We landed at Narita Airport at exactly 5:00 pm, about five minutes late.  It took over an hour to get through the switch back of lines to get through immigration control, but it was well organized and the agents spoken English.  There were some odd signs ala 'Alice in Wonderland' that pointed in two different directions for the same thing.  Then there was another sign a few feet away that essentially said, "This is the wrong line for that," but it was, in fact, the correct line to be in.  Several other signs said no phones and no photos.  Yeah, right.  Every other person in the line was on their cellphone!

The next step was to claim our luggage, which was easy because everyone else's was gone already (remember most people on the flight were Japanese nationals and they skipped the huge line for foreigners.)  From there we walked through Customs with barely a stop.  The Customs agent spoke English and was very pleasant.

We met the driver from Tokyo Airporter car service in the arrivals lobby.  He helped us get to the foreign exchange window nearby and waited patiently while Dave changed US dollars for Japanese Yen ($3,000).  This was handled with typical Japanese efficiency.  Well, except when a supervisor caught Dave's eye from behind the glass wall and gestured that he liked his goatee.  It was odd, but at least he was being friendly.

Our driver spoke enough English to get his point across, but we didn't have a conversation with him during the hour or so it took to get to the hotel.  There was a moderate amount of traffic, but nothing ridiculous that we haven't seen far worse of at home.  We arrived at the Hilton Tokyo Bay at 7:15 pm.

The van was met at the curb by a doorman who took the luggage and handed it off to a bellman who took us to the front desk.  There was no wait at all.  The woman at the front desk was extraordinarily efficient while still very friendly and genuine.  Plus, she spoke fluent English, as did every employee we met here tonight.  She hurried off to get our pre-ordered rental cell phone and Wi-Fi hotspot that we had completely forgotten about at this point.  We also received passes for a free breakfast buffet every morning for being Diamond HHonors members.  The breakfast buffet is $38.00 per person (roughly), so that is a big savings.

An extremely energetic and friendly bellman took us to our room.  When he found out we worked at the original Disneyland way back when, he was practically beside himself with glee.  He spoke perfect English and could not have been any more helpful.  Why can't the actual Disney hotels have at least a few English speaking staff?  Obviously they are available since the Hilton is staffed with them.

We got the type of room we reserved, no upgrade as per usual.  We are on the top floor with a park view.  The room is tiny and decorated in a sort of Jetsons/futuristic way that makes no sense at all in relation to anything else at the hotel.  This is a huge convention-style hotel that is original to the resort, so it is from the 1980's.  It has been completely re-done over the years and looks quite nice.  The lobby on our floor is weird with purple lighting and futuristic carpet patterns. The lighted cubes in the corners change colors if someone sits on them. 

Our room, as most Japanese rooms are, is a twin with two slightly oversized twin beds, two very uncomfortable blocky chairs and an accident-waiting-to-happen glass table on wheels.  In the corner is a lamp that slowly changes colors.  The bathroom is surrounded on all sides by translucent glass that looks nice, but it makes a bit of a spectacle when the lights are on.  It is divided into a wet room for washing and soaking in the tub (with its own TV), a Munchkin-sized sink in the middle, and a toilet room with one of those robotic auto-wash heated toilet seats.

After cleaning up a bit, we went downstairs to the buffet restaurant for dinner.  A very friendly host greeted us and told us there are two buffets, one Asian and the other Mediterranean.  We didn't understand him at first, although he was speaking English, so we chose the Asian one not knowing exactly what he said about the other one.  The restaurants are beautiful with plenty of seating.  The Asian buffet was very popular.  The Mediterranean version looked more upscale.  We were offered drinks by a waiter.  The soft drinks come with either one glass for about ¥700, which is outrageous, or an unlimited serve yourself version for ¥850.  Dave only wanted one glass, so chose the former.  He received a tiny glass that was only 3/4 full.  He'll know better next time, assuming there is one.

We have no idea what the price of the buffet is.  We didn't ask and nobody volunteered the information.  The food was delicious, by the way.  Several Asian cultures were represented.  There was Indian curry, Japanese tempura, sushi, Thai noodles, etc.  Everything except some boring Udon noodles were the best we've ever had.  The dessert buffet was about what you'd find on a cruise ship.  Nothing stood out as fantastic, but it was OK.  There was a huge chocolate fountain that delighted several children.

What shocked us was when the bill came.  It was ¥13600!!  That's $136, by the way.  As good as the food was, it was not by any stretch of the imagination worth that price.  We hadn't intended to make a habit of eating at the hotel anyway, but that sure does reinforce our resolve to eat in the parks and not here!

Back in the room, we cleaned up and got ready for bed as quickly as possible.  Tomorrow is supposed to be an outing to Tokyo since we expect the parks to be way too crowded to bother with on a weekend.

Day 3 - Saturday, March 22 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

Click to view a map of the Tokyo Disney Resort.

We both woke up at 7:00 am, so we had plenty of time to organize our plans and make it down to the breakfast buffet that is included with our stay (because we are HHonors Diamond.)  We're in complete disarray this morning and not quite in travel mode yet, so we're not as efficient as usual getting up and out of the room.

Breakfast is served in the same restaurant where we had the buffet dinner last night.  There is a separate line for HHonors members, although there was no wait at all and the restaurant wasn't busy in the least.  We're a bit surprised because it is still quite early, around 9:00 am, and the parks don't open until 10:00 am.  We were seated promptly in an area we think is for guests eating for free because no one ever brought a bill or anything to sign.  The hostess collected our coupons when we arrived.

We were seated at a window table overlooking a Japanese garden with the hotel's pool beyond.  The pool is only open for one month out of the year (no kidding), so we're not sure why they even have it, but it looks nice enough.

The buffet covers the same space as at dinner with a mix of Western and Japanese fare, but heavily leaning toward Japanese.  If you are not a picky eater, there is just enough fill up on.  On the other hand, if you are fairly adventurous, there are a lot of interesting dishes to try.  There were steamed dumplings of some sort, a miso soup with meatballs we think might have been some kind of fish, sashimi, grilled fish, an array of toppings for rice, cold cuts, fried eggs pre-cooked and sitting on individual plates (cold), and other items that attempted to be Western.  The dessert area from last night was converted to serving juices and pastries that were to die for.  In fact, all of the food was outstanding.  We're not sure it was worth ¥3800 per person, but that really isn't all that outrageous for a resort hotel in a location like this.

After breakfast we wandered outside in front of the hotel to check the weather.  It is sunny and in the high 40's this morning with the afternoon high expected to be in the low 50's.  So, we determined that we'd need to take jackets with us today.  We would prefer not to carry them around all day because most Japanese buildings and museums are way too warm to suit us.  However, low 50's is too chilly to risk it even if we are indoors most of the day.

Speaking of being too warm, our room at the hotel is definitely too warm for us.  We have the air conditioning set at 65, but it never gets below about 74.  We assume it is set this way purposely because we read comments on Tripadvisor saying the A/C doesn't work properly.  It isn't unbearable, but we'd prefer it if the temperature was around 70 at night. There is a narrow vent on one side of the window that opens for ventilation, but it doesn't work when the shade is down.

Being a Saturday, there is no way we are going to the Disney parks today!  So, the plan is to go into Tokyo and visit two of the museums we think we can tolerate.  We hit the road, or rails as the case may be, around 10:30 am.  There is a free shuttle bus from the Hilton to the JR Maihama train station at the entrance to the resort.  It was already waiting out front when we stepped outside, so there was no wait.

At the station we stopped at a ticket machine to buy two SUICA IC cards for ¥2000 each.  This includes a ¥500 deposit and charges the card with ¥1500 that can be used for all means of transportation in Tokyo and elsewhere, and to buy things in convenience stores and vending machines.  The machine was easy to use and provided detailed guidance in English at the touch of a button.

With card in hand, we touched it to the entry gate at the station and took off on the next train toward Tokyo.  Two stops later we disembarked at Shin-Kiba station.  Exiting the station, we touched the cards to the exit gate and it deducted the calculated fare from the total on the card.  Here, we transferred to a subway line for a few stops, then to yet another subway until we reached the Ryogoku station outside the Tokyo Edo Museum.  The subways are easy to use and have been upgraded with English signs and announcements since the last time we were here in 2009.    The stations now have automatic gates to prevent anyone from falling onto the tracks. We printed out Google instructions for getting to our destination, so it was very easy to figure out where to go.

We are endlessly amused by how quickly Japanese commuters fall asleep on the trains and subways!  When a man fell asleep with his legs sticking out into the middle of the car, a conductor came into our car at the next stop.  He picked up the sleeping man's legs and rearranged them without ever waking the guy up.  How he knew someone needed to be rearranged is anyone's guess.  Perhaps there are cameras hidden somewhere.  It wasn't crowded, so he wasn't creating any sort of problem.  It took almost exactly an hour to reach our destination with no more than a few minutes wait for each train.

At the museum, we followed the signs that lead to what we found out later is the back entrance to the museum.  We didn't know until later when we exited a different way that the museum building is designed to resemble an old warehouse.  Click HERE for more information.  Admission is only ¥600 per person and well worth it.

Dave knew from advance research that we should ask for an English-speaking volunteer guide, so we went to the counter set up for this purpose.  We were asked to join another couple who had just arrived.  At first they were OK, but the man was one of those know-it-all types who constantly points out his vast knowledge of Japanese culture.  He did have some knowledge of it, but he took every opportunity to tell the guide what he knows about just about everything.  The guide was an older Japanese woman who was quite interesting.  If it weren't for this other guy we'd have really enjoyed talking to her.  As it was, it was tolerable, but not something we would do again unless we got a private tour.

The museum starts on the top floor of the building where guests cross a replica of the original wooden bridge that lead to all roads out of Edo.  There is a full scale model of a kabuki theater in the center of the room where there are constant presentations of various types of performances.  The Edo-Tokyo Museum was founded on March 28, 1993, as a facility to preserve the historical heritage of Edo-Tokyo and it does an adequate job of presenting that history.  However, without a guide it would be less than fulfilling for a non-Japanese speaker because the most fascinating information came from the guide, not the brief English explanations on the displays.  The guide was informative, spoke very good English, and interjected a few funny stories along the way.

At the end of the two-hour tour (the tour can be as long or short as you want), she pointed out something none of the four of us knew ever existed.  Did you know that during the war, Japan sent 10,000 "balloon bombs" to float over the United States?  These were weather balloon sort of things with a bomb hanging from the bottom.  When they reached their target, they would explode.  Apparently, over 8,000 of these devices made it all the way to the U.S. and into the center of the country.  You learn something new every day!

Our intention was to stop for a bite to eat after the museum, but we wasted too much time when we exited at a different place and had no idea how to find the subway station again.  With the help of the GPS in our phone, we realized we needed to go back to the other side of the museum where we did manage to find the same pathway we came in on.

Back at the subway station, we retraced our route two stations to emerge near the Fukugawa Edo Museum.  Although we had a Google map of the walking directions from the subway station to the museum, we couldn't figure out which direction to turn.  We were standing looking at a big map outside the station when an older Japanese woman walking her dog came over and asked in English if she could help us.  She pointed us in the right direction and told us which street to turn on.

We had to walk maybe six blocks to the museum, which we found with no problem once we were on the right track.  The Fukugawa Edo Museum is much smaller than the Tokyo Edo Museum.  The purpose is to show how people lived back in the day through exacting replicas of a fishing village of homes, shops, street scenes and warehouses.  The admission is only ¥400 per person.  Considering that we almost finished the entire place in about fifteen minutes, we were beginning to think even that was kind of steep.  That is until one of the volunteer guides saw us and asked if she could show us around. Click to view a MAP of the exhibit.

There are no explanations on any of the buildings because they want visitors to experience the village as if they have really gone back in time.  Once again, the guide was delightful and this time we had her all to ourselves.  She took us through the village and explained how people lived their daily lives, etc.  She brought the whole place to life in an entertaining and informative way.  The "town" runs through a cycle from day to night every few minutes with roosters crowing and other sounds appropriate to the time of day.  The skylights open and close to emit more or less light to create the effect along with LED color-changing lighting.

When we finished our tour the time was approaching 4:30 pm and we knew better than to try to use the subways much later than this, even on Saturday.  We walked back the way we came to the subway and took the same route back to the Tokyo Disney Resort.  We arrived around 5:30 pm and went to the ticket machines to add more money to our SUICA cards.  These cards work for the Disney Resort Monorail also.

We set off in search of food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  There is a popular Western-style eatery under the station, but the line was out the door.  We kept walking toward Ikspiari which is a sort of Downtown Disney that is owned by the same company (not Disney, by the way) that owns the Tokyo Disney Resort, but it was not designed by Disney.  It is quite elaborate, but lacks the exacting planning that Disney is known for.  There are a lot of dead ends and incoherent pathways leading every which way.  Through the center of the mall one can reach the Disney Ambassador Hotel and DisneySea, but we stopped in front of the enormous Disney Store and Disney timeshare models. 

Eventually we found a directory and determined that the restaurants are on the second floor.  There we found several tempting options, although most had long lines.  We ended up at the Monsoon Cafe we had read about online before we arrived.  We're not quite sure what the theme is supposed to be.  It sort of looks like a Rainforest Cafe without the big design budget.  There was a short line, but it moved quickly and we were seated with just a few minutes.

We couldn't quite figure out how to order and how much food we would get.  The menu is in English, but we still didn't grasp how it worked.  We both ordered a Satay Platter and Bill added some steamed dumplings.  When the waitress acted surprised that we wanted two of the platters we were afraid they would be huge, but they were anything but that.  None of the staff appeared to speak any English at all, but we were able to order by pointing at the menu.

The platters consisted of four different skewers of meat (chicken, beef, pork, and something else that was ground and packed onto a skewer).  Each had a different sauce.  All of the food was very good and VERY inexpensive.  All of our food plus an iced tea and a glass of wine came to ¥4250.  By watching other diners we figured out that you are supposed to order several different dishes to share, similar to what happens in a tapas restaurant.  The amount of food we got was nowhere near sufficient for us and the waitress never asked if we wanted anything else.  You are supposed to order everything you want up front, which is what everyone around us did.  We would return because the food was good, but next time we'll order more food.

There was an entertaining wedding reception going on in the middle of the restaurant complete with the Japanese version of the Chicken Dance.  We thought it odd that all of the guests were young and there did not appear to be any parents or older people present.  Everyone seemed to be having a good time and it never got out of hand.

After we received the check, which took FOREVER, the waitress came back to ask us something.  Dave knows a little Japanese, but he didn't have a clue what she wanted until she made driving gestures.  He correctly surmised that she wanted to know if we needed to have our parking validated.

It was 7:30 pm by the time we finished eating, so we took the monorail back to the hotel.  We were both still hungry, so we stopped at the convenience store in the hotel to buy some pre-packed sandwiches and some fruit.  Dave used his SUICA card to pay for the food that added up to ¥1650.  We went back to the room and scarfed down what we bought.  The food was fine, nothing special, but sufficient to get us through the night.

Bill promptly crashed the moment he laid on the bed.  We're not particularly feeling jet-lagged or anything, but it was a long day (for us) walking and being properly educated on the history of Tokyo.

Day 4 - Sunday, March 23 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

There are a few odds and ends about the Hilton room we keep forgetting to mention:  The rooms have an electronic doorbell/do not disturb/make up my room function like the ones recently added to Crystal's ships.  There is only one door hanger that you are supposed to put on the door when you are checking need to stop at the front desk.  The window has an electrically operated blackout shade that makes the room totally dark, which is nice.  Sleepwear is provided (as it is in most Japanese hotels).  Here they are long size fits all, including gigantic Westerners like us.  Now if they could make the air conditioning work, they'd really have something here!

Today's weather is about the same as yesterday...sunny, 48 degrees at 8:00 am, expected to get up to the low 50's later.  We prefer chilly temperatures when we are out walking around, so we don't mind.  Plus, it is only going to get colder as we start moving north next week, so we might as well start getting used to it.

Today is DisneySea day!!  Woo hoo!!!!  Even if the park is crowded and we can't get on many attractions, it is so beautiful that it is worth the price of admission just to look at it.

We went to the breakfast buffet again, which was fantastic.  The food is to die for, no kidding.  There was a delicious corn soup (one of three kinds) today that we could eat every day.  As long as you are willing to try something besides Western food, you're in for a treat here.  The breakfast restaurant was nearly full, although there was no wait for a table.  We're fairly certain that the section by the windows is for Hilton Honors members because it is where we and the only other Westerners were seated both days.  The service is very attentive and even the busboy spoke some English.

The most pleasurable thing about being in Japan at a Disney resort is how well behaved the children are.  Even tiny little kids were helping themselves, properly, to the buffet.  Not a single one was screaming or running around the room.  NOT ONE.  You sure can't beat the cuteness factor of sophisticated children!  Oh, and the staff will slam on the breaks if a guest might cross their path.  A waitress was carrying a huge tray of dirty dishes to the kitchen when Bill stopped to let her pass.  She adamantly refused to continue and put the tray down until he relented and walked by her.  In the U.S. you'd be lucky not to be trampled by the staff.

On the way back to the room we stopped at the booth in the lobby to buy our park tickets.  A bell woman helped us, who, by the way, spoke impeccable English.  A 4-day Magic Pass costs ¥16000 per person.  That is a bargain at roughly $40.00 per day.  You must choose one park for the first day and the other one for the second.  On the third and fourth day you may park hop.  We chose DisneySea for today and Disneyland for tomorrow.  By the way, we checked the wait time app for DisneySea at 9:00 am and the stand-by wait for Toy Story Mania was already FOUR HOURS!  The park opened at 8:00 am!!!  Yikes.

Click to view a map of DisneySea Attractions or Shops/Restaurants.

We arrived via monorail at DisneySea around 10:00 am.  In summary, we walked through all of the "ports of call" in the park in about four hours.  During that time, the only attraction we actually rode was Sinbad's Storybook Voyage because the wait was only fifteen minutes.  Everything else had a wait of at least an hour, but many of the most popular were over three hours.  Toy Story Mania, the newest attraction in the park, never had a wait time of less than 100 minutes even at closing time.  DisneySea does not have nearly as many attractions as does Tokyo Disneyland, so there is a lot of walking to get a FastPass or go back to an attraction.

Even with the crowds this is without question the most beautiful theme park in the world.  Everywhere you turn is another amazing detail that could only be created by Disney...and even then, only when someone else with deep pockets is paying for it.  If this was a park owned by Disney they would have cut out half of the interesting details before the ink was dry on the plans.  As it is, we were constantly amazed at the no-expense-spared themeing of this place.  There are things such as a fake dry dock along the shore that probably cost an extra $100,000 to build that could have easily been deleted to save money and nobody would notice.  Who else would build a replica of a steamship, including teak decks that serve no purpose other than making it look authentic?  The interior of the "ship", which is in reality a building on dry land, is rich with period details.  While there is now a minor attraction in the ship (Turtle Talk with Crush), the original purpose was to house a restaurant and bar.

Probably the most wonderful aspect of the parks in Japan is how genuinely friendly the cast members are.  If they aren't welcoming you to wherever you happen to be passing them, they are waving at you.  Literally every single one of them catches your eye and says something pleasant.  Every single one, without exception for the entire day.  Attraction hosts wave goodbye and hello to every carload of guests they dispatch.  We'd be exhausted trying to be that pleasant for eight hours!

It is impossible to recall the exact sequence of events that transpired today, so we'll have to make do with some general notes about what we did and when.  We'll have over two hundred pictures posted as soon as we have the time to process and upload them, but that probably won't happen from this hotel because the upload speed isn't the fastest in the world.

As already mentioned, we arrived at around 10:00 am and went directly to the FastPass machines for Journey to the Center of the Earth.  The return time we got was 6:05 pm and it was advancing by ten minutes as every minute passed in real time.  At 11:30 am we picked up FastPasses for the 'Tower of Terror' with return time of 8:40 pm.  At 4:00 pm, we got our last FastPasses for the day for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with a return of 7:40 pm.  Here is the Wait Board upon our arrival to give you an idea of what we're up against today.

In the meantime, we rode only Sinbad's Storybook Voyage that rarely has any wait at all because of its high capacity.  It is sort of like an elaborate version of "it's a small world" except with a Sinbad theme and hundreds of fully articulated animatronic figures.  We can't quite decide if the ride is cute or creepy, but it certainly is unusual.

We ate two meals in the park today.  The first was lunch at Zambini Brothers' Restorante in Mediterranean Harbor.  We only went there because it didn't have a line out the door.  There were hour long waits to buy popcorn at almost all of the carts in the park.  The wait to buy a gyoza bun inside Mysterious Island was two hours.  By the way, the popcorn here is sold in various flavors such as strawberry, caramel and soda (whatever that is).  They sell the normal salted version in one place and it is the only one that never had a line.  Each stand sells only one flavor, so if you want a certain flavor you have to look for it.

Back to our lunch...we ordered Spaghetti Bolognese and some sort of baked rice and chicken casserole, plus two iced teas.  The cost was a very reasonable ¥2230.  This restaurant is counter service, not table service, but the food was quite good and a decent portion.  The guy who took our order spoke enough English to help us, which is an improvement over the last time we were here when almost none of the employees spoke English.  We found the language situation much improved overall with everyone at least making an attempt and most fluent in the most frequently asked tourist questions.  Another interesting tidbit about today is that we counted only eight non-Japanese guests the entire day.  

Other than Sinbad, we didn't get on any attractions because the waits were just too long.  We did see two live shows though.  The first was Mystic Rhythms in the Lost River Delta area.  It had something to do with Fire, Earth and Water, but it was mostly acrobatics and essentially 20 minutes of interpretive dance.  The set was very elaborate with a big waterfall and pool from which sprung aerial acrobats.  We probably wouldn't go see this show again, but for a theme park production it was very sophisticated.

The other live show we saw was Under the Sea in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater.  This was another extravaganza that had some amazing special effects and puppetry.  It was fairly short, but if it was a bit longer it would be worth paying to see outside of a theme park.  The theater is huge and fully equipped to fly actors and large puppet contraptions around the circular room.

Beyond those shows, all we did was wander around and take pictures...240 pictures to be exact.  One of the standouts design-wise is King Triton's Kingdom in the Mermaid Lagoon area.  This is basically a bunch of kiddy rides enclosed in a building that simulates being underwater.  The mosaic tile work on the outside is truly a work of art.  Then again, what isn't in this park?  Honestly, we can't imagine anyone but Disney coming up with and executing even half of what can be found here.

At 4:00 pm, we had our hand stamped and took the monorail back to the hotel to collect Bill's jacket (it was relatively chilly all day) and rest for a few minutes.  Then it was back to DisneySea to await our FastPass returns for the three attractions we were able to get them for.  All FastPasses for remaining attractions were distributed by 3:30 pm, by the way.  So, we weren't able to get any more even though our window had opened for another one.

After riding Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is incredible, we went back to Lost River Delta for dinner at Miguel's El Dorado Cantina.  We thought it might be amusing to have Mexican food in Japan.  Dave ordered the Special Set Meal that included spicy chicken with rice and beans, a small key lime cheesecake square and a choice of beverage for ¥1280.  Bill had a teriyaki pork taco, which was odd, but tasty.  Essentially it was a fried pork cutlet inside of a flour tortilla.  The "meat" tasted OK, but it had the consistency of a chicken McNugget.  The total bill was just under ¥2000, again, a good value for what we got.

We used our FastPass and rode '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', which is another odd attraction, but very elaborate.  The simulated dive beneath the sea is very convincing, but the story is strange.  Even if the narration was in English we're pretty sure it wouldn't make much sense.  It has something to do with kindly undersea creatures saving us from certain disaster after a giant squid attacks our dive vessel.

At some point in the evening we managed to get a ride on Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster which is a tame family-oriented ride that lasts all of 30 seconds (yes, we timed it).  Bill couldn't get into the seat in time and the ride operator had to come over and release the lap bar so he could rearrange himself.  Let's just say that this ride wasn't designed for adults. However, that didn't stop any of them from riding and that includes one Sumo wrestler-sized man!

We rode the DisneySea Electric Railway back to the American Waterfront area to see if there were any standby seats left for the next showing of Big Band Beat.  No luck with that as it is the most popular show in the park.  Most tickets are given away in a lottery with balcony seats being first-come, first-served for each show.  We were told the next available show is in about 90 minutes, but we never made it back to that area to see it.

By this time the 8:00 pm showing of Fantasmic was taking place in Mediterranean Harbor, but we didn't have time to get a good vantage point, so we skipped it.  The fireworks were cancelled for weather-related reasons.

We tried to get in the line for Stormrider in the Port Discovery area, but the cast members didn't seem to be admitting anyone without a FastPass, so we opted to walk back to Lost River Delta and try for the Indiana Jones Adventure instead.  The wait was 35 minutes which meant that when we emerged the park would already be closed (both parks close at 10:00 pm).  This ride isn't quite a well done as Disneyland's version, but it does have a couple of fantastic special effects that ours does not, so it is a still a remarkable attraction.

One major disappointment at this park as well as at Hong Kong Disneyland is that the shops carry only generic Disney crap and almost no attraction-specific merchandise or anything of significant quality.  Even the shop at the end of Tower of Terror, obviously intended to sell attraction-related merchandise, only offers the exact same trinkets sold everywhere else.  The shops themselves are each beautiful and unique, but the merchandise is useless junk.

As expected, the park was closed when we finished our ride, so we started walking to the front of the park.  There must have been dozens of cast members along the way waving and thanking everyone for coming.  Probably the most shocking thing we saw all day was the staffing level at the popcorn carts.  There were four to six employees working each one even late in the evening when it wasn't at all busy.  We saw four people cleaning each cart!  There is no way in hell a U.S. park would allow that many people to work when there isn't a huge line waiting to cough up the cash.  The staffing in general is far superior to anything we will ever see at home.  There were extra cast members just standing on the street outside of restaurants and attractions for no other purpose than to be pleasant to passersby.

We made it back to the hotel by around 11:00 pm.  Surprisingly enough, the monorail wasn't packed so the ride was pleasant enough.  All in all, even though we didn't get on many attractions, we definitely feel we got our money's worth.  We were very happy with our day.  The weather was perfect for walking around.  However, we did manage to totally wear ourselves out.  Hopefully we won't be completely paralyzed tomorrow morning.

Day 5 - Monday, March 24 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

The weather today is again sunny and in the low 50's, going up to the low 60's this afternoon. We dawdled around and didn't go down to breakfast until the last minute, which in this case is 10:00 am.

Dave caused a spectacle at breakfast by asking what one of the steamed vegetables is that is always on the buffet.  The waitress said it is daikon, but she wasn't satisfied with that explanation.  We told her we understand what daikon is, but she wanted to give us the English word.  Several hundred (well, maybe four) other employees later, someone came up with "radish".  The reason he asked in the first place is that it is delicious.

The breakfast buffet has been exactly the same every day, so we're glad there is a large variety.  We don't mind eating the same thing every day if that is the only option, so it doesn't bother us if there are no changes.  The hotel lobby and breakfast room are much less busy today, so we are hoping that applies to Disneyland, as well.

Our 4-day Magic Pass only works for Disneyland today, so we'll be heading there at around 11:00 am.  We aren't as frantic about seeing every little detail at Disneyland Park, so hopefully we won't be walking our feet off collecting another FastPass every two hours like we did yesterday.  We really need to learn how to plan these trips better and not put the all-day-walking at the very beginning when we're not yet used to it.

Click to view a Disneyland Attractions or Shops/Restaurants Map.

We took the monorail from Bayside Station to Disneyland Station, arriving there around 11:00 am, as planned.  There was no wait to enter the park and it seems a little less crowded...from the entrance.  We noticed some PhotoPass photographers in front of the floral Mickey so we stopped to have our picture taken.  They automatically take a picture with your own camera first without being asked, which is a nice gesture.  Of course, you may buy the professional photo if you choose to do so, but there is no pressure at all.  Both of the photographers we interacted with spoke English.

Inside the portal of World Bazaar (TDL's version of Main Street USA) we found the crowd!  We went directly to the Wait Board to pick up English maps of the park.  The photo was taken just after 11:00 am.  An hour later, none of the attractions with 2-hour or more waits had any FastPasses left.  By the time we decided to get one, the only attractions left that didn't have a return time after 9:00 pm were the Haunted Mansion and Star Tours.  An hour later and Star Tours was also after 9:00 pm.  When Bill checked the wait time app at around 10:00 am, Winnie the Pooh was already out of FastPasses, as was Big Thunder Mountain Railway.

It would take much too much tedious detail to explain exactly what we did all day, but in general we walked in a clockwise direction.  To the left of World Bazaar is New Orleans Square, then Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, and Toontown.  Tomorrowland is to the right from World Bazaar and adjoins Fantasyland.  Toontown juts off to the right where the two lands meet.

To say that the park is crowded would be an understatement!  Only the oldest and tamest attractions had waits of less than 30 minutes.  The first attraction we came across that we were willing to wait seven minutes for was The Enchanted Tiki Room:  Presented by Stitch.  We saw this the last time we were here and it is a decent update of the classic attraction.  The only reason there is a wait for this at all is because it is a fifteen minute show with one theater.  We arrived just as the doors opened, so we had no wait at all.

Next we arrived at the Country Bear Jamboree.  It is still the original show that opened at Disneyland in 1972 except most of it is in Japanese.  For a show that is 30 years old, it looks like it might have opened yesterday.  We really miss these classic Disney animatronic shows now that their time has apparently passed.  We had to wait seven minutes for the next show.  It appears that they are only using one theater even though it is very crowded.  That is the only reason there was a wait.  There was never a line out the door.  However, the theater was nearly full, so it is still fairly popular here.

We contemplated taking the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island, but opted instead to get a FastPass for the Haunted Mansion, returning at 6:25 pm.  'It's a small world' is next door to the Haunted Mansion (both are in Fantasyland), so we got in line.  The sign said the wait is 20 minutes, but it took somewhat longer than that.  Nothing ridiculous that we weren't willing to wait for though.  The ride is similar to the version at Walt Disney World.

Since we were in Fantasyland anyway, we got in line for Mickey's Philharmagic.  Last time we were here, this show was still the animatronic version they imported from Walt Disney World.  Now it is the same 3D show as in most Disney Parks.  It is fine and the wait was only 25 minutes.

A new addition since we were here last is Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall in the castle.  This used to be a walk-through show of some sort, but it had closed by the time we visited in 2009.  It was closed for several years before opening as this attraction.  There isn't much to it, but no expense was spared in the decor.  You take an elevator up into the castle and then walk through several rooms that have displays of small vignettes relating to the Cinderella story.  Each one is a different style, so it appears perhaps they commissioned different artists to make them.  No signs had any information about them, so we're not sure what the point really is.  The tour concludes in a hallway with murals on the wall where a cast member offers to take a photo with your own camera.  Some animatronic mice pop out of a hatch on the wall occasionally.  The last room is a throne room with a magical glittering throne guest may sit in for photo ops.  A cast member came over and told us to stand in front of one of the pictures for a flash photo.  The flash makes the word "Friends" show up that isn't visible to the naked eye in normal light.  There are several of these pictures around the room, a glass slipper to try on, another one in a display case, and a couple of other things.  It is a nice way to kill ten minutes (there was a 5 minute wait), but we're surprised they bothered with this at all.  There isn't anything to it.  It looks like it should be a meet and greet opportunity, but there is no mention of that ever happening.  Of course, if it were a meet and greet with Cinderella, the wait would have been several hours.

It was 2:00 pm by this time, so we went to the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall for lunch.  We knew this was the place for us because the sign declares that the food is "Fit for the queen."  This place is so highly detailed in its theme that it is an attraction in itself.  We've never seen anything like it.  The outside of the building is elaborate enough, but the inside is even better.  We walked past life-sized card guards and into the whimsical buffet area.  This restaurant is a normal Disney buffeteria with plastic food displays to choose from.  All we had to do is point out what we want, but most of the servers on the line spoke some English.  As we keep mentioning, this is a big improvement from 2009 when almost no one here spoke English.  Of course, the service is outstanding and so attentive you can't even look slightly bewildered without someone coming over to help you.

One of the desserts is an "Unbirthday Cake", but the rest of the food is pretty much the same as at other buffeterias in the park.  However, the food here is decorated along with the theme.  Dave had the burger patty meal, a green salad, and some strawberries for dessert.  Bill had the chicken meal with a Caesar salad and two small cakes for dessert.  The total came to around ¥5,000 which is quite a bargain for a Disney theme park meal.  The food was better than it looks in the pictures, good in fact.  A cast member carries your tray and finds a table for you, which is a nice touch.

We've lost track of what we did when from this point onward, but we did finish walking the rest of the park.  Part of Toon Town is surrounded by construction walls, but we assume it is for an ordinary rehab and not for anything new.  The Jungle Cruise is closed and being updated to have a different experience at night than during the day.  Why they want to encourage guests to ride more than once with crowds like this is anyone's guess.  The line will probably be five hours long day and night.

We decided to have a flashback and see Captain EO that is still showing here.  It opened in 1987 and came back for its 25th anniversary in all the parks that originally showed it.  Talk about going back in time!  Yikes...Michael Jackson was still black and everything.  Honestly, it was pretty embarrassing and we're surprised they have kept it going for so long in this park.  When we were here last time this theater was showing Honey I Shrunk the Audience which is a much better 3D experience than Captain EO.

It was time for our FastPass return for Haunted Mansion, so we wandered back to Fantasyland while taking more pictures along the way.  Count the number of cast members in THIS PHOTO who are there for no purpose other than being pleasant.  There are five of them in the picture, but there actually are at least double that number out front.  This is true of all attractions in both parks.  They even have an extra person stand at the end of the lines at food carts to answer questions and indicate where the line starts.  By the way, THIS is the line for turkey legs at 1:00 pm.  The cart is on the other side of the bridge around the corner.  Does anyone else find the notion of gnawing on a turkey leg in a theme park as repulsive as we do?  Gross!

We were getting very tired by the time we came out of the Haunted Mansion (which, by the way is pretty much the same as the WDW version).  We decided that we were satisfied with the day, so we walked back to the front of the park.  The line for Pirates of the Caribbean said it was 20 minutes, so we figured "why not?"  We thought the queue was the same as at Disneyland because the facade and just inside the doors is the exact same layout.  However, the have added a huge indoor queue off to the left, so it is very deceiving.  The line did only take 20 minutes, so they weren't lying.  TDL has the updated version of the attraction with Capt. Jack Sparrow added.  It is more like the Disneyland version with just a few changes to the layout.  The animatronic figures throughout are far more articulated than what we have seen in the U.S. parks.  However, we haven't been to our Disneyland is quite a while, so it could be they have been upgraded, too.

In the exit gift shop we bought a small model (Matchbox car size) of the oh-so-cute Resort Cruiser Bus and one of the vehicles from Journey to the Center of the Earth.  These are the only park-specific items we have come across so far.  The price was a reasonable ¥2650 total.

It was approaching 6:30 pm, so we decided we'd find some dinner and call it a day.  Most of the restaurants we passed had huge lines out front because the Electrical Parade goes by them at 7:00 pm.  We ended up at the Plaza Pavilion buffeteria where we ate last time we were here.  There was a short wait, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Strangely enough, the food selection was the same as at the Queen of Hearts restaurant without the extra theme added to them.  This time, Dave had the chicken meal, which didn't have bones in it, but was otherwise exactly the same as Bill's lunch.  The total price was the same, around ¥5,000.  We never cease to be amazed by the number of cast members working here.  They had two people out front, at least ten people to carry each guest's tray to a table, another five or six to clear tables, at least ten people behind each of the two serving lines, plus untold numbers of cooks and dishwashers in the kitchen.  We're also happy to report that the costumes worn are equivalent or better than what we wore at Disneyland in the heyday of costuming before they allowed employees to take them home with them (which resulted in much theft and a cheapening of the costumes in general).  The jackets for the women are the form fitting wool jackets our female cast members used to have with the embroidered piping in the front.  Every restaurant, shop and attraction has its own distinctive costume here, none of the generic general purpose type you'll see these days in the U.S. parks.  Oh, and most of the costumes have shoe covers appropriate to the era, even in food locations, which is something we never had at our parks.

We were about to lose the ability to walk and the parade was about to start near the castle, so we hightailed out of the park just before 7:00 pm.  It dawned on us that we had forgotten to pick up the photo taken of us this morning, so we stopped by the Photo Center that is just outside the portal into World Bazaar.  The ticket said to claim it before 4:30 pm, but the cast member didn't bat an eye over us being nearly three hours late.  She could not have been any more pleasant or helpful, although she did not speak English that we could tell.  It wasn't a problem at all in this case.  The picture was only ¥1500 and included a folder with a picture of Mickey & Minnie, and one of Chip & Dale with a female chipmunk character we have never seen before.  The cast member said she is "Chris", we think we heard correctly, but we could be wrong.

Speaking of characters, they still roam around randomly in both parks here.  Best of all, there are many nearly forgotten characters that we have never seen out in the U.S. parks, but only in a parade.  Yesterday we saw Gepetto out with Pinocchio and other characters from his movie we never see anymore.  Today we saw the Big Bad Wolf, Wendy, the Fairy Godmother and the Prince, and several others.  They are out standing in the street, not in a special meet and greet.  They can still get away with that here because people are so polite even though the characters are beyond popular.

We took the monorail back to Bayside Station and walked to the Hilton.  We arrived at the same time as the shuttle bus from the station, so using the bus option doesn't save any time at all.

Now that we are more aware of prices overall here, we went to check on the price of a one-day passport to either park.  One day is only about $63.00, a far better deal than the $99.00 Disneyland now charges.  With the 4-day passport we bought, the per-day price goes down to $40.00, which is a bargain in anyone's book for a Disney park.

We stopped at the convenience store in the lobby to buy some soft drinks and fruit for later, then went back to the room and crashed.

The percentage of non-Japanese to Japanese guests at Tokyo Disneyland is slightly higher than at DisneySea, but not by much.  We didn't see more than a handful of obviously Western guests the entire day.  We have noticed a definite improvement in the number of cast members who speak at least enough English to help foreign guests.  They have always been extremely helpful and all menus and signs are printed first in English, so it wasn't an insurmountable issue before.  But, it does make it a lot easier on us when the employees can at least answer simple questions related to their position.

Day 6 - Tuesday, March 25 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

Today's weather is the same as it has been since we arrived, cool and sunny.  We went down for the breakfast buffet at 9:30 am, then took our time getting our act together to go to Disneyland again.  We've confirmed that the buffet is identical every day, so it is getting a bit tiresome.  We mixed it up today by having cereal for the first time in addition to other things.  We may have to start eating seaweed and fish heads to mix it up as we move forward.  OK, there are no fish heads on the buffet, but there is a whole section of things we don't recognize and wouldn't eat on a bet...we're not picky eaters, but some of the bowls of "stuff" look quite revolting.  Dave tried a sort of yellow cake thing in the "weird" section this morning and it was fine.  It was some sort of cold egg cake that was slightly sweet.

Checking the wait time app, it appears the parks are even more crowded today than yesterday, so we're not expecting to get on any additional attractions.  At 10:00 am, FastPasses are already gone for the most popular rides.  We don't mind all that much since only one of them is unique to Tokyo, Monsters Inc.: Ride & Go Seek.  That ride opened the week we were here in 2009 and there was no way in hell we could get onto it then.  Its popularity hasn't diminished since then, apparently.  Actually, the culprit is the low capacity of some of these attractions, not overwhelming demand.  DisneySea suffers from having only one so-called "people eater" attraction, Sinbad's Storybook Voyage.  Omnimover attractions process the most people per hour (Haunted Mansion is an Omnimover attraction), with boat-based rides running a close second (such as Pirates of the Caribbean and 'it's a small world').

So, we'll head off to Disneyland and wander around in the shops until we wear ourselves out again.  We're already running on low energy, so we'll see how long we last today. Even the Bayside Station is embellished with hidden Mickeys.

We arrived to huge crowds at 11:00 am via monorail. We took a right turn toward Tomorrowland to check the wait time for Monsters Inc.: Ride & Go Seek...140 minutes, FastPass sold out already.  Next along the path is the updated version of Star Tours with a posted wait of 90 minutes.  We figure that we don't have anything else to do, so we got in line.  A strange thing is going on with the queues here.  Every attraction has a switchback outside that isn't full, but is made to stretch out as far as possible.  However, all attractions have huge indoor queues as well that are mostly unused.  The indoor queue for Star Tours is very interesting with a lot to look at, so wouldn't it be better to use the rest of the indoor space rather than make us stand outside in the sun?  Anyway, the actual wait was only 30 minutes, which made us very happy.  The ride itself is the same as the updated one at our Disneyland except there are six simulators.  The 3D effect is outstanding, but it doesn't add a whole lot to the overall effect.

Including the wait and the ride, our total used time so far is only 45 minutes.  We walked toward the main entry path into Tomorrowland to check various wait times.  Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters was showing 140 minutes, but since it is an Omnimover we were hoping it was less, so we got in line.  The line barely moved at all during the fifteen minutes we were in it, so we gave up and walked back to Monsters Inc.  We'd rather wait two hours for something unique to Tokyo if we are going to wait at all.  FastPass is really screwing up the stand-by waiting time.  There are long periods of time when the stand-by line doesn't move at all.  This is especially true when the next FastPass return window becomes available.  We lucked out on Star Tours because we arrived after most people for that block of time had already arrived.  No such luck with Buzz...they never stopped coming in, so the stand-by line never moved.  If there were no FastPass at all, we doubt most waits would be longer than an hour.

The Monsters Inc. wait was showing 120 minutes, so we got in line.  The queue moved, but very slowly and sporadically.  However, overall the wait was about 90 minutes.  There isn't much of anything in the queue to look at, so it was very boring compared to waiting at Star Tours.  On top of that, this ride is worth waiting maybe fifteen minutes for, certainly not hours.  We were impressed when the cast member at the door made a special effort to come over and explain to us in English how the ride works after she announced it to everyone else in Japanese.  This kind of thing is common in the park and much appreciated.  The attraction is sort of on the level of the Monsters Inc. ride at Disney California Adventure with better animatronics.  The point is that you are supposed to point your "flashlight" at targets in the ride to make funny things happen.  A. The things that happen aren't funny and B. This is a simple dark ride not an E-ticket.  We can't imagine anyone waiting 120 minutes more than once for this attraction.  But, at least we saw it this time around, so we can check it off the list and never have to do it again.

It was 2:00 pm at this point, so we started looking for something to eat.  The closest option was the Plaza Restaurant, but the menu was limited to some weird Asian-inspired options that didn't look appealing at all.  And, um, how do they make hard boiled eggs with the yolk shaped like a Mickey head?

On the back side of the same building (facing Star Tours) is the Pan Galactic Pizza Port.  We decided to give it a shot.  There is a very elaborate animatronic scene above the order windows.  The premise is that this is a failed franchisee of some galactic chain and they're not happy with his performance.  At any rate, there are only four menu options...a double-sausage pizza, a calzone, a green salad with vegetables, and something else we have forgotten.  You may order a la carte or as a set that includes a beverage.  Two pizza sets came to only ¥1800, which is a bargain.  The pizza was a little odd, but it was tasty enough.  We wouldn't classify diced ham as sausage, but it was meat so that probably counts.  The pizza boxes are printed with ads for delivery anywhere in the galaxy.

The new-ish 'Happiness is Here Parade' starts at 3:00 pm, so after lunch we walked back out to the hub to find a place to watch it.  The park only allows guests to save places for an hour before a parade and they require everyone in the first forty feet from the street to remain seated the entire time.  That makes it very easy for taller people like us to arrive at the last minute and still be able to see everything.  The parade features a catchy, very peppy theme song and elaborate floats that resemble children's pull toys...well, sort of, that's our best guess at the whole premise.  The dancers' costumes are very creative.  You can't help but be in a cheery mood after this parade.

We wandered over to see how long the wait for Pooh is today.  Yeah like, no way...140 minutes, FastPass gone within nanoseconds of park opening. This ride is well worth waiting for, but 140 minutes is ridiculous for a 5-minute ride. We started walking toward the adjacent Toon Town  and got caught up in a one way traffic pattern that made no sense at all.  In order to get back to Toon Town, we had to go all the way to the hub and back.  If this had been in the states there is no way it would be this orderly when there appeared to be no point to the guest control. 

Eventually we ended up in the line for Roger Rabbit's CarToon Spin.  The cast member at the end of the line told us it is a 55 minute wait.  By the way, there are at least two, if not more, cast members at the end of every line telling each arrival the wait time even though it is posted on a sign right behind them.  And, they are VERY pleasant about it.  The ride is the same as at Disneyland in California, so there is a lot to look at in the queue once you get inside.  The wait was much less than 55 minutes, probably 30 at the most.

Toon Town is extremely crowded all of the time mostly because it is a small area with a lot packed into it.  The theme is amazing...even the manhole covers are custom to this area.  One of the food carts selling bottled water and juice has a big cartoonish refrigerator behind it just sitting there for no purpose except to be amusing (which it is).

We walked through Fantasyland to see if any of the waits for the dark rides were manageable (they weren't).  We watched a cycle of Alice's Tea Party, which was very entertaining.  At least one person in each group looked like they were about to throw up while their friends or family worked hard to spin the cup even faster.  Unfortunately, nobody actually did vomit, so we weren't rewarded for our time.

Although we know the wait for Splash Mountain is ridiculous, we walked over just to look at it.  Then we took a ride on the Mark Twain because there was no wait.  Tom Sawyer Island was just closing, but it was still full of guests wandering around.  It is much more elaborate than big surprise there.  The scenery around the river for the Mark Twain is also more detailed and in better condition than ours.  There are several scenes with animals and several Indian villages that are completely animated.  The Mark Twain is a copy of the one at Disneyland, so it is exactly the same.

We kept walking counterclockwise, stopping to check the wait for Big Thunder (140 minutes) and some shops in Westernland.  We did find one that actually sold something appropriate to the land instead of cheap trinkets and plush.  It sold western wear and hats that seemed pretty popular.

Next we arrived in Adventureland.  Dave climbed the path through the Swiss Family Treehouse while Bill waited.  He didn't feel up to the stairs at this point.  It is nice to have a flashback to before Disneyland evicted the Swiss Family in favor of Tarzan.  The treehouse is identical to the original at Disneyland.  Bill reported that the nearby rest room is in disrepair, which is surprising in a park that is overall so well maintained.  The Plaza Pavilian Restaurant is also in desperate need of a refurbishment.

At this point we were approaching 6:00 pm, so it is time to find a place to eat again.  We tried several place in World Bazaar, but they had huge lines.  We're shocked that there are still people pouring into the park at this hour.  Way more people are arriving than departing. 

We ended up at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square because the line wasn't outside the door.  We waited only about fifteen minutes, if that.  We long for the good ol' days when the cast members' costumes at the U.S. parks were elaborate affairs that required dry cleaning.  Nowadays they've been reduced to things that can be washed at home.  Here, they are beautiful and made with heavy, expensive fabrics such as brocade and velvet.  There's certainly no skimping on quality.  Dave asked one of the hostesses if he could take a picture because the costume is so beautiful.  She was delighted that he wanted her picture, which was kind of charming.

Another BIG difference between this Blue Bayou and the exact same place (in size and layout) in Disneyland is that there were TWELVE, count 'em, TWELVE hostesses seating people, not counting the three who were in the foyer and outside greeting people.  And, no reservations required!  Actually, there is a Priority Seating plan, but you have to arrive at park opening in person to get the allotment of reservations for the day.  So, nobody gets them and it is first-come, first-served which is as it should be in our opinion.

Our waitress spoke a small bit of English, but we didn't have any problem ordering by pointing at the menu.  Dave had the Chef's Special Set that included Duck with Vegetables Soup or an appetizer we can't recall, a Beef Steak entree, bread or rice (the bread was fantastic), a Fruit Tart dessert, and a choice of beverage. Bill had a green salad and the Filet Mignon entree, with a beverage.  The total bill for all of this was ¥7200.  In the U.S. version this meal would have cost well over $100.  Oh, and the food was delicious!

After dinner it was approaching 7:30 pm when the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade - Dreamlights would start.  We debated about whether to bother staying since we saw it last time we were here.  Eventually we found a good place to watch from, so we stayed.  Boy, what a difference five years makes!  The parade has been completely done over with LED lights that make possible all sorts of special effects that wowed the crowd.  The parade is essentially the same floats as in 2009 with several new ones added.  The genie from Aladdin float changed colors and patterns must have cost quite a bundle to make that effect work.  The parade starts with the usual Blue Fairy float, but much larger than our version was.  The finale consists of several large floats depicting a "small world" theme that change from twinkling white to colors in sync with one another.

Rather than get caught up in the forced flow toward the exit, we clung to the fence we were standing by until most of the crowd had moved on.  We thought just maybe the wait time for Pooh and others would shorten, so we made another walk around to check.  No luck...Pooh - 120 minutes, Big Thunder - 140 minutes.  We didn't even bother looking at Splash Mountain.  In the meantime, we stopped to watch the clock parade at "it's a small world" just for the heck of it.  We were going to stay for the fireworks (which we know are nothing special), but they were cancelled.  As far as we know, they have been cancelled every night since we arrived.

Pirates of the Caribbean was a walk-on so we took another ride before we finished our night at Disneyland around 8:30 pm.  We took the monorail back to the hotel where we arrived at 9:00 pm.

The weather is supposed to deteriorate over the next few days with rain and thunderstorms predicted through Sunday.  There should be a break on Thursday, but we'll see how it goes.  We're hoping maybe it will keep a few people away so we can get on a few more rides at DisneySea, but we're not counting on it.  We did some research online and discovered that we are here during Spring break for local schools.  That explains why there are so many kids out so late.  We're fairly certain the parks are nearly always this busy nowadays.

It is so nice to see children and teenagers who know who to behave.  Gee, most of the kids actually appear to like being out with their parents!  What a novelty.  On the way out of the park, kids were still behaved and chatting quietly with their friends or, surprise, surprise, interacting with their parents.

Before we departed this morning, we left a bag of laundry on the floor.  We didn't expect it to be picked up by the maid because it says to call a certain extension by 9:00 am for same day service.  We intended to call when we got back to the hotel so we'd get it back tomorrow.  Guess what?  The clean laundry was folded in white paper bags tied with a ribbon, sitting on the bed when we got back!  When we opened the bags later we discovered each item sealed in an individual plastic bag.  Collared shirts had cardboard inserts to keep the collar from being crushed.  T-shirts are folded with tissue paper to prevent wrinkles and sealed in plastic.  It almost looked like they sent us all new clothing.

Day 7 - Wednesday, March 26 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

It is overcast and somewhat cooler today.  The forecast is for showers and a high of 60 degrees.  That's all fine with us.  We can hope it will cut down on the crowds, but we highly doubt it will make a bit of difference.  Now that we know it is Spring break it all makes sense.

We're going to DisneySea today.  The tickets we have allow park hopping for the last two days, but we haven't found any need to do that yet.  It wastes so much time walking around trying to get a FastPass or find a restaurant without a giant line that we are exhausted by early evening.

We were in the breakfast restaurant a bit earlier than usual and were seated in the Mediterranean side of the room.  The food is exactly the same as it is on the other side with no variation at all from day to day.  This side is separated from the Asian part with huge glass panels with water running down them.  They've done a great job of updating this hotel.  There is a banquet lobby with a grand staircase that looks straight out of 1980, but everything else is up to date and attractively done.  So far we haven't run across any smoking or the smell of it.  In the parks, we only saw it because we happened upon a designated smoking area.  The park makes no effort at all to make it appealing.  In Hong Kong they had the smoking areas set up with benches, but here they just put up a sign in a back alleyway and put out some big ash receptacles.  No seating, no shade, nothing to make it look appealing.  And no one bucks the system and smokes walking around.  We're inclined to believe that if the government made an announcement that everyone should stop smoking immediately that everyone would quit cold turkey and never mention it again.

An interesting side note we keep forgetting to mention...the spiel at the beginning of attractions that usually says no flash photography and the like now includes a line about not using devices with a lighted LCD screen during the performance.  And, by the way, everyone follows that rule.  If a cast member tells someone to move, they actually do it without talking back.  If you get distracted in the queue and don't move ahead quickly enough, someone will run over and move you along.  It sure is refreshing!  No line jumping, no sitting on the railings, no leaning on the is like a utopian theme park where everyone does what they are supposed to do.  What is really amazing is that people stand in these never-ending queues and don't fidget or look annoyed.  Yesterday in one of the longest lines, we saw people bring food from a counter service place.  They carried their trash with them until they could find a trash can.  Ah, bliss...

At the monorail station, a group of women rushed up to us and one of them asked if we would take a picture with them.  She said that, "I find Americans so hot."  We're pretty sure they were Filipino or something and not Japanese.  We obliged them and went on our way.  We've had this kind of thing happen here before, so it wasn't a total surprise.

Any notion that DisneySea might be slightly less crowded today was dashed the moment we looked at the wait board.  None of the popular attractions had FastPasses left at 11:00 am and the waits were AT LEAST 240 minutes or more.  Fat chance we'll get on any of the majors today.

We decided to just sort of wander around, so we turned left to the American Waterfront's New York Street.  To give you an idea of the reasonable prices for food here, this is a picture of the menu in front of the New York Deli.

We happened upon the Broadway Music Theater where they were still allowing people to join the wait for the "Big Band Beat" first show at 12:30 pm.  This is the only showing that doesn't require going to a lottery to obtain a seat.  We were so impressed with the velvet cast member costumes that we took a picture of one of them.  They are green velvet and every single one of them looks brand new with not a crease or wrinkle to be found.  There were at least twenty "ushers" walking around out front yelling out God-only-knows-what to random passersby.  While all of them are very pleasant, we have yet to figure out what the point is of standing there yelling a spiel to literally nobody.  This happens all the time.  Suddenly a cast member will blurt out an elaborate explanation of something while absolutely nobody is nearby and/or paying attention.  It is very odd.

The wait was about an hour in an orderly holding area in the street in front of the theater.  Eventually we were ushered into the spectacular lobby and to the auditorium with its huge stage.  Seeing the inside of this theater is almost worth the price of admission.  Who says they can't make theaters like they did in the old days?  Sure, maybe most of it is plastic, but you can't tell the difference.

"Big Band Beat" is a live show featuring swing music.  Although there are a few token Disney characters in the show, they aren't the focus at all.  This is a full-blown Broadway-style production with spectacular costumes and non-stop musical numbers sung live by talented (for a theme park) performers.  The show is 30 minutes long and is on a par with the best cruise ship entertainment but with better costumes and a live band. We were impressed and agree it is a "must see" at DisneySea.

Knowing there is no way in hell we'll get on any rides today, we wandered around admiring the details of this park.  You could just randomly hold up your camera and take a picture anywhere and it would show something beautiful.  Nothing ever pops out as fake or inappropriate that ruins the illusion that all of this is the real thing.  It is so beautiful it is like an artist's rendering of a theme park sprung to life before the accountants got to it and deleted anything expensive.  Everything is the best that money can buy...the cast members' costumes are the best in the world, there are pots of flowers everywhere that wouldn't survive for two seconds at home within arm's reach, and lush orchestrations set the mood at every turn.  Really, this is the perfect theme park environment.  Our favorite detail is the water "leaking" through the "seawall" in Port Discovery.  Behind this gate is a service road, the monorail, and then a huge actual seawall.  The water on this side of the wall is filtered fresh water and is not connected in any way with the bay outside.

Around 1:30 pm, we wandered over to the Venetian Gondolas area figuring the wait would be minimal for this attraction.  The cast member at the bridge told us they are closing until 3:30 pm for the show on the lagoon.  We had forgotten about that, but we didn't mind.  He gave us a souvenir map to ease our disappointment even though we didn't act as though we cared...because we didn't.  It was a nice gesture, that's for sure.

As already mentioned, the park is extremely crowded today.  The line for Caramel Popcorn, which appears to be the most popular flavor, stretched so far into the distance we couldn't see the end of it.  No wonder they need four cast members to staff each cart!  We're not sure how they can make it fast enough to keep up.

We kept walking to the Fortress Explorations area which encompasses the fort and the ship seen in photos of the harbor.  The cannons on the ship can be fired by pulling on the fuse.  This causes a burst of steam and the floor around the cannon to vibrate in such a way that the blast seems quite real.  Below decks the ship is all stocked and ready to go on a voyage of discovery.

After walking around a bit more and taking a ride on Sinbad's Storybook Voyage (15 minute wait), we were hungry again.  We arrived at Magellan's in the fort at around 2:00 pm.  This is the fanciest and most sought after reservation in the park, but we walked right in and were seated.  In fact, we were seated in the "secret" wine cellar dining room behind a mysterious hidden door.  Dave made an impression when the hostess asked for his name out front.  She didn't understand him, so he pulled out one of the Japanese name cards we had made for our 2009 visit.  This caused another hostess to come over and exclaim how nice it is.  They both got his name right from the formal Japanese writing, so we know it isn't saying something obnoxious.

Unfortunately, the card led the hostess to think that Dave speaks Japanese.  This was further reinforced when she asked if he speaks it and he replied, "A little," in Japanese.   She continued to rattle on in Japanese trying to explain the secret door and how to get in and out of the room on our own.  Luckily we had a waitress assigned to us who spoke very good English and was able to explain everything quite well.  To get into the hidden room, you count up four carvings on the door frame and push it in.  This opens the door elevator-style.  The main dining room is no slouch either, by the way.

This restaurant offers three set meals.  You can choose soup or salad, a main course, and a dessert, plus coffee or tea.  Prices range from ¥3800-4500 for lunch and ¥5800-7500 for dinner (same choices, but we assume larger portions).  Both of us chose the Cream of Pumpkin Soup appetizer, which was very good.  The Braised Beef Cheek and the Pork Cutlet entrees were both outstanding, but the portions were small.  However, a similar meal in a "real" restaurant would have fetched over $100 per person, no doubt.  There were small dollops of mashed potato around the plate, each one topped by something different...a cooked cherry tomato, a fresh potato chip, two green get the idea.  The presentation was beautiful.  Dessert was the Sherbet of the Day (plum) that was surrounded by fresh berries.  The rolls served with the meal were delicious.  Our total bill came to just over ¥5800, which is an amazing value considering what we got and the beautiful setting.

After lunch we wandered around some more.  It started to sprinkle a little bit, but not enough to wet the ground.  We took the DisneySea Transit Steamer from a different dock than the last time so we could make it all the way around the waterways.  The boats that leave from the American Waterfront dock make a full circuit, but there is no way to know this without asking someone.  That's exactly what we had in mind, so we were happy with the ride.

We had every intention of watching the afternoon show on the lagoon, but we got distracted and forgot about it.  We've seen it before, but it is such an extravaganza that we would be happy to see it again.

Eventually we remembered the Venetian Gondolas and walked back in that direction.  The wait was 30 minutes in a pleasant covered area.  Standing in what is essentially a water-filled alleyway between the Mira Costa Hotel and the park, you would swear you had been transported to Venice.  The details are that amazing.  Everything looks absolutely authentic without a single misstep in the theme to pull you out of the illusion.  The ride is a leisurely cruise out into the harbor (briefly) while the two gondoliers interact and say amusing things.  We have no idea what those things actually are, but the other people in the boat laughed.  As far as we know they were making fun of the gigantic Americans in the boat.

With over an hour to kill before we need to find a place to watch Fantasmic! at 8:00 pm, we walked over to Mermaid Lagoon to see "Under the Sea" again.  There was no wait and the show was as impressive as it was last time.  It is too short, but is otherwise a top notch performance.

We arrived back at Mediterranean Harbor at 7:00 pm and asked a cast member where we are allowed to stand.  He said, "Standing area here," so we just stood there for an hour before the show started.  Tokyo's version of Fantasmic is totally different from ours except for some of the music at the beginning and end.  A life-sized erupting volcano to back up the huge Maleficent dragon that rises out of the Magic Mirror certainly adds to the drama.  The show is certainly an extravaganza, but we preferred the original BraviSEAmo water show we saw during a previous visit.  There isn't anything wrong with it and we're glad we saw it, but we probably wouldn't make a big effort to see it again.  The fireworks were cancelled again tonight, by the way.

After the show, we turned around and walked straight into the Portofino Cafe to have dinner before going back to the hotel.  This restaurant is an Italian buffeteria.  Dave had a Special Set Meal with diced ham and eggplant spaghetti (much better than it sounds), a green salad and a fluffy cheesecake-type dessert.  He also received a choice of any beverage.  Bill had a baked shrimp casserole over rice and a sort of Jell-O type dessert.  All of the food was quite good and the total price was only ¥3800.

On the way out of the park, we stopped to buy a miniature Duffy the Disney Bear as our Christmas ornament from DisneySea.  This bear is quite the phenomenal success here.  People carry around their Duffy bear dressed in various costumes.  The in-park stores that sell him are a mob scene all day.  They bring him with them from home or buy a new one when they arrive.  We've never seen so many stuffed animals being hauled around anywhere.  Disney has tried to drum up the same success with Duffy at California Adventure without much success.  We also bought a full-sized Duffy to give as a gift.  The total bill was ¥5200.  The bears are very good quality and we can see why people would like them, but they have nothing at all to do with Disney other than being a marketing gimmick.

We wandered through some of the other stores at the front of the park, all of which were jam packed solid.  If these parks aren't a money machine, we don't know what is.  The merchandise flies off the shelves so quickly that the staff can't keep up with the stock on the shelves.  As soon as they re-fill something, it is empty again.  While the prices are quite reasonable overall, the volume is such that they have to be rolling in profit here.  Disney must rue the day that they didn't opt for any ownership in these parks.

We rode the monorail back to the hotel where we arrived at around 9:00 pm.  The air conditioning is working properly for the first time since we arrived which makes us very happy!

Day 8 - Thursday, March 27 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

We aren't very efficient this morning, not getting to breakfast until the last minute, which is 10:00 am here.  The buffet closes at 10:30 am, but they start freaking out that you won't be done in time at 10:00 am.  In Japan, closing time means "get the hell out".  However, we find it hard to believe anyone would have the balls to actually ask someone to leave.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse, but we were aware of the forecast for rain, so we're ready for it.  It is much cooler than it has been, too.  It probably won't make a bit of difference in the crowd level in the parks.  The rain isn't a downpour; it is just sort of drizzling.

After breakfast we  stopped at the ticket booth in the lobby to try to decide which kind of passports to buy for our remaining three days here.  As mentioned previously, a 1-day Passport for either park is about $62.00, a Senior Passport is $55.00 (Dave qualifies for that one, but he's not sure he wants to admit it).  Buying a 2-day Passport brings the price per day down to about $54.00 per day, and so on until you reach the lowest per diem with the 4-day that is $40.00.  We're shocked at the low prices.  No wonder the parks, restaurants and shops are so slammed all day and night.  People can actually afford to go to the parks and buy things.  Annual Passports are $800.00 for both parks with park hopping or single park Annual Passports for $520.00.  It looks like they are trying to discourage the sale of too many annual passes, which certainly appears to be a good move considering how crowded the parks always are.

We've noticed that there are designated viewing areas set aside as reserved for parades and shows in both parks.  We have no idea how one gets into these areas.  The Disneyland parade viewing comes with a Guided Tour and some other areas are marked "Vacation Package Guests".  We were sort of tempted to take a guided tour just to get onto more attractions (they go through the FastPass entrance), but they are only offered in Japanese.  What's with that?  Disneyland and Walt Disney World offer tours in all major languages!

We've decided to buy 2-day passports to cover Disneyland today and DisneySea tomorrow. That will leave Saturday for exploring the Disney hotels and buying train tickets for our departure on Sunday.

Oh wait, never mind!  It is raining a bit more, so upon more thought we decided to do our Disney Hotels tour today instead.  So, off we went on the monorail to the first stop after Bayside Station, which is DisneySea.

There is a separate exit from the station to the DisneySea Mira Costa Hotel, but you could also use it to get to the entrance of DisneySea and avoid the crowd going through the main entrance.  Usually there is a cast member standing there, but no one was there today.  We don't think they would stop anyone from going that way because they have no reason to keep anyone from going to the hotel.

The walk is along a partially covered bridge, then down several flights of stairs. That puts you at the main entrance to the hotel.  Disney sure does know how to build spectacular hotels!  There is a huge fountain in the motorcourt that hardy anyone ever sees.  Almost no one arrives to the hotels by car, so a very small minority of guests staying here ever see the front door unless they make a special effort like we did.

Disney also has a way of creating breathtaking lobbies that are beautiful without being overwhelming.  The Mira Costa's lobby features a bronze ship model topped by a magnificent domed ceiling

Off the lobby is another striking room, the Oceano Buffet restaurant and a fancy Chinese restaurant.  Wow, talk about imaginative decor!  Everywhere you look is another work of art.  The hostess station alone features a custom made screen and inlaid wood.  The dining room is even more elaborate. The decor in this hotel practically drips luxury.  As with DisneySea, there is something amazing to take in no matter where you look.

Off the lobby is the hotel's private entrance to DisneySea with a spectacular view of the harbor.  The hotel also features a small gift shop that is the same as at all of the hotels, selling the exact same trinkets and plush you'll find in every Disney Resort shop.

We walked back to the monorail station and continued on to the Resort Gateway Station.  To get to the Disney Ambassador Hotel we had to walk through the Ikspiari mall.  It isn't as far as we thought mostly because there is an exit from the monorail that put us in the center of the shopping area rather than near the train station.  The hotel is not attached to the mall (the shopping area was not designed by Disney because they wanted too much money and Oriental Land Co. told Disney to shove it).  Ikspiari is nothing more than a glorified mall and a poorly designed one at that.  It looks OK, but the layout is confusing.

From the mall we ended up in a courtyard behind the hotel where the entrance leads to the hotel's restaurant row area.  Outside there are Mickey details in the building's design, but it is minimal and not intrusive.  The art deco theme is very well done.  There are three restaurants in the hotel:  Chef Mickey (character buffet), the Tick Tock Diner for sandwiches, and the Empire Grill.  The Grill is more bar than restaurant, but it does serve food, as well.  All of the rooms are beautiful to look at.  There is also a lobby lounge that serves drinks and fancy dessert sets.

As usual for a Disney hotel, everywhere you turn is another magnificent scene.  The lobby of this hotel isn't as frantic as the other two and the whole place has a more laid back vibe to it.  Now that we know it isn't all that far from the monorail station, we would probably consider staying here.  Of course, if money is no object then you definitely should choose the Mira Costa.  The Disney Ambassador Hotel has the best food options, in our opinion, while the Disneyland Hotel has the worst.

There are beautiful murals behind the Front Desk and Guest Services, a golden Hollywood sculpture with Disney characters in the center, and a grand staircase with Mickey running up one side of the railing and Minnie up the other.  The main entrance is sort of an afterthought.  It faces nothing, so we're not sure why they wasted their money creating it.  You can only see it if you walk out in the street specifically to look at it.

We tried to find the pool area because we heard it is the best of the three hotels (that doesn't say much because the other two are nothing to write home about).  The directory listed it on the second floor, but it isn't marked on the floorplan.  We climbed the aforementioned grand staircase and found a fancy Bridal Salon at the top facing a long corridor of reception rooms.  All of the hotels at the resort have this sort of facility because weddings are a big business for them.  We can only assume that one would have to sell their house to pay for a Disney wedding at one of their hotels.

Well, we found out where the resort puts the employees who don't speak any English.  We couldn't find the pool, so Dave asked a cast member in the corridor.  We got the deer-in-headlights look back.  We gave up on him and looked up the way to say "swimming pool" to the next person.  By the way, the translation is "swimming pool", so how hard could it have been for that guy to understand the question?  Dave asked the woman manning a cloak room.  She didn't speak English either, but she did understand what we were asking for.  She indicated the pool is closed (which we already knew...they are open for about six nanoseconds per year).  Dave pointed to his camera and said we just want to take a picture of it.  She asked us to wait and went in the back.  We expected her to come out with a map or something, but instead she asked us to follow her and she took us all the way there.  That's a good thing because we never would have found it on our own!  Nothing like hiding it so no one will ever find it.  Although the doors were locked, we were able to get a photo through the glass and it is indeed the best of the Disney Hotel pools.

Satisfied that we saw everything available to us at the Ambassador, we walked back through the mall to the JR Maihama Station.  We need tickets/reservations for the shinkansen trip to Sendai from Tokyo on Sunday, so we decided to get that taken care of since we're at the station anyway.  Dave printed out all of the expected routes to show at the JR reservation window, but the line was quite long.  We didn't mind waiting, but we didn't feel it was appropriate to hog the sole agent's time making a reservation and asking questions when there is a line. 

There is a ticket machine right next to the reservation window for buying reserved seats on the shinkansen, so we decided to give it a shot.  At first we couldn't find the English button, but only because it wasn't where we expected it to be based on other ticket machines we've used.  With that sorted out it is just a matter of following the prompts to get what you want.  It helps to know the time you want to depart, but it will guess if you don't care that much.  It lists all trains available during the time frame you want from the station you indicate or from where you currently are.  Dave was confused when his paperwork didn't match the machine, so he cancelled it to look up the schedule on Hyperdia again.

Luckily, Bill's phone works here so we looked up the schedule online and chose another train that would connect with the local train we want to Matsushima.  Back at the machine, the tickets were purchased with no problem.  The machine even asked if we wanted to buy the ticket from Maihama to get to Tokyo station, but we don't need that with the SUICA cards we have.  We booked the Green Car (first class) to Sendai.  The machine lets you choose your seats the same as you do online for an airline. It shows a diagram of the car with all available seats and you just touch the ones you want.  We paid with our American Express card and it went through just fine.  You do, however, have to know your PIN code to make it work.

From the train station we followed the original entrance bridge toward Tokyo Disneyland.  Before there was a monorail or any Disney hotels, this was the only way to get to the park from the station.  There is a huge store called Bon Voyage at the beginning just in case you forgot to buy something in the parks.  Needless to say, it was packed and everyone we saw bought something.  The outside of the store looks like a giant suitcase on its side.  The door is one of the flip locks.  Even the air conditioning vents in the store are Mickey heads.

Adjacent to Bon Voyage is the portal that leads to Tokyo Disneyland, followed by the bridge that leads to the park entrance, Tokyo Disneyland Station, and the Disneyland Hotel.

As you know, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel in 2009 right after it opened.  It is the newest of the three Disney hotels, but it has the most limited dining options.  If it weren't for that major issue, we might have stayed there again because it was very comfortable and the rooms are very nice.  As last time, none of the employees we encountered today spoke a word of English, although they couldn't have been any nicer.

The hotel faces the monorail station, beyond which is the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland.  We'd estimate that the walk from Disneyland to the hotel is about the same distance we have to walk from the Bayside Station to the Hilton, so there isn't a huge advantage to staying here in that regard.

As with all of the other hotels, when you enter from the monorail you are coming in through the back entrance.  In this case you enter a ground floor corridor where there is a huge buffet restaurant called Sherwood Forest and a fancy Asian fusion restaurant called Canna.  To get to the lobby you ascend a beautiful staircase with a mosaic depicting Alice in Wonderland on the landing.

To say that the Disneyland Hotel's lobby is magnificent is not doing it justice.  It is breathtaking.  There are gigantic crystal chandeliers hanging from a soaring domed ceiling.  An elevator enclosed in a character bedecked wrought iron grill rises from floor to ceiling.  There is a fountain in the center and a beautiful lounge off to the side.

Dave saw a group of children standing quietly in a half circle and went over to see what they were looking at. They were so quiet that he thought maybe there was some sort of activity going on to keep their attention.  They were just standing politely in front of a TV showing a Disney movie while their parents waited to check in!  By the way, Disney hotels do not allow early check ins.  All of the lobbies we saw today were full of people sitting around waiting for check in time while the front desk was empty.  The Disneyland Hotel has a beautiful front entrance with a Sorcerer's Apprentice fountain hardly anyone ever sees.

We walked back to the monorail station where we noticed some leftover earthquake damage.  The resort is built on reclaimed land, so all of the structures are supported by pilings that go down to bedrock.  The ground is another story.  When the earthquake caused the soil to liquefy and sink, the buildings stayed put.  So, there is now a slope around all of the buildings, monorail beams, etc., where before the paving was perfectly flat.

We took the monorail back to the Hilton where we arrived at just after 3:00 pm.  The convenience store in the hotel sells tasty prepared salads, sandwiches and bento boxes, so we went there to get something for lunch.  We each got a sandwich, plus a salad and some fruit.  The bread on the sandwiches is the whitest white bread we've ever seen.  It is also quite fresh and fluffy.  All of the food is good for what it is and the price is reasonable.  We also bought some umbrellas and the clerk took the tags and plastic off for us so we could use them right away.

The 3:00 pm parade was going on at Disneyland when we got back to the hotel.  The music is WAY too loud in the park to the point that it is distorted somewhat.  We're not just old and think music is always too loud either.  When we can hear it clearly enough to understand the words when we're in our bathroom with the door closed, it is too loud.  We do have a view of the parks from our room, but it is across a huge parking lot, a road, and hotel's parking.  At least the music is perky and cheery.

After lunch, Bill crashed while Dave tried to catch up on the blog and processing our photos.  Dave found out what it is like to visit a Japanese doctor last time we were here.  This time he may have to see a dentist.  Word of advice, do not have dental work done right before you leave on a lengthy trip abroad!  He was never in pain before, but now he practically has to sit down to get over the pain every time he eats something.  Luckily it isn't constant so it doesn't disrupt anything and if it doesn't get any worse he'll put up with it.  Otherwise, we'll be looking for an English-speaking dentist in Sendai or Sapporo when we have some time to kill.  Fun, fun, fun!!

Around 8:00 pm we went down to the overpriced Asian buffet again.  The food is quite good with a nice variety, but ¥5200 per person is too much, plus another ¥850 for a "drink bar" that is just a self-service machine with several kinds of soft drinks, tea and juice.  But, we were tired and it served its purpose, so we're happy.

Day 9 - Friday, March 28 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

The weather has returned to normal...high 50's, hazy sun, no rain in sight.

Breakfast at the buffet was the same as usual.  It is getting tedious having the same choices every day, but at least we know what we like and don't like.  There are two items in the Japanese section we both like a lot, so Dave asked the chef who spoke to him yesterday what they are.  One is a baked egg cake, served cold.  We've had it before in a ryokan and we thought it was some sort of egg dish, but weren't sure.  It is egg, fish stock, sugar and "starch" poured into a flat baking pan.  The other is a "bean curd hamburg"...looks like a tiny hamburger patty.  It is tofu mixed with an egg, spices and chopped vegetables.  It would make a great veggie burger made into a bigger patty.  The chef was delighted that Dave talked to him and he encouraged him to ask again if he wants to know anything else. 

We are still amazed at the high level of the English skills at this hotel.  Maybe because it is a Hilton it is required to have English-speaking staff, but it is still a surprise.  Last night we had to stop at the front desk because Bill's computer wouldn't connect to the free internet.  The front desk clerk actually understood us and came up with a solution that worked.  Today we asked about delivering our baggage to the next hotel and the bellwoman was able to answer us and tell us what we need to do which is take it to the Home Delivery counter down the hall.

We bought 2-day Passports to cover today and tomorrow.  We chose Disneyland for today and DisneySea for our final day.  We're satisfied that we have seen everything we care about, so these last two days will be wandering around and waiting in hours long lines should we choose to do so.  It costs about $210 for two 2-day Passports.  No park hopping allowed. It is strictly one park per day that you must select when you buy the ticket.  We have no clue what the point of that rule is, but it has been that way since the beginning.  Allowing park hopping on the third and fourth day started about five years ago.

If we thought the parks were busy up until now, we hadn't seen anything yet!  When we arrived at Bayside Station, the electronic signs that normally announce the arrival of trains said, "Ticket sales have been temporarily suspended."  We already have tickets and are guaranteed admission, but this means the park is at near capacity.  We would NEVER in a million years go to our local Disneyland under those circumstances, but what choice do we have now?

At the Tokyo Disneyland station, there were cast members checking tickets before you could even get to the bag check (that is hundreds of feet from the ticket booths).  Everyone we saw already had tickets and we were admitted with no problem.  From then on it was business as usual except the usual 180 minute waits were 240 today and all FastPasses were sold out by 11:00 am.  Oh well, we'll just wander around and see what's up.

What's up is that since two days ago, the park has started to transform into "Disney's Easter 2014".  There are cute decorations around the floral Mickey and the front entrance has been decked in flowers and banners.

Sunday is Bill's birthday and he wants to see how attentive they are here compared to Hong Kong Disneyland (they were VERY attentive, to say the least).  We weren't sure what they call their version of City Hall, but we found it after we asked at the main gate for an English map.  It is in the same place where guided tours are booked, so there was a line.  Dave asked the tour guide standing by the door if they have birthday buttons and she went off to get one.  They have big stickers here, no buttons, but she took the time to write his name on it and she was very nice.

We started walking through a very crowded park in a clockwise direction because when we arrived there were still FastPass tickets available for Big Thunder Mountain.  In the ten minutes it took us to walk over there, they were sold out for the day and the wait was 260 minutes!  There is no way we'll wait for anything for over four hours.  So, we kept walking.

We ended up at the rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island.  We skipped this last time, so we figured we would check it out.  The wait was about ten minutes, so basically nothing.  The island is more elaborate than ours and still has all of the elements that lawyers have eliminated at home.  A unique feature is Skull Rock that emits steam and spits water on unsuspecting guests.  They still have a fort and the snack window is still operational.

The wait to get back to the "mainland" was a lot longer because we took the secondary raft back just to be different.  There was no wait at the Country Bear Jamboree, so we went in to see the show again.  As much as we love the classic animatronic shows, this one needs an update.  The technical aspect of it looks good and new, but the show is very tired and got almost no reaction from the guests.  There were some cute Country Bear Easter egg characters on the outdoor balcony.

Another attraction we wouldn't wait more than five minutes for at home is the steam train.  In Tokyo it doesn't go anywhere because if a train has stops it has to charge a fare.  So, it is a ride called Western River Railroad.  The wait was 45 minutes, which is 40 minutes too long, but short considering the circumstances.  By the time we made it to the main waiting area in the station, the overflow queue had doubled in size.

Most of the trip is through the backside of the Jungle Cruise that is walled off as it is being upgraded.  There are a couple of scenes with an Indian Village, plastic (obviously) deer, and some "tiny cute animals" as the spiel said in Japanese (Dave remembers the strangest Japanese words).  Oddly enough, the ride ends with a trip through Primeval World.  WTF?  We have no idea, so don't ask us what this has to do with anything.  It is the same as the one at Disneyland.  The Grand Canyon Diorama would have been a more appropriate choice, but whatever.

The next attraction that didn't have an hour wait was the Enchanted Tiki Room:  E Como Mae presented by Stitch.  We much prefer the original show, but this one is acceptable and MUCH better than the previous update that ended with the tiki birds singing "Hot, hot, hot".  Still, we wouldn't push anyone aside to see this again.

It was time for the "Happiness Is Here" parade (3:00 pm), so we went to claim a spot to stand.  Most parade viewing is sitting on the ground, which isn't easy for us to do.  We went to the same spot we were allowed to stand last time for the Electrical Parade.  The grass in the area in front of us looks too perfect to be real, but it is.  We had to touch it to be sure.

The parade has some very elaborate and/or amusing floats with a peppy theme song.  The Japanese sure do love their Disney parades!  It is fun to watch their reaction to seeing various characters.  Kids and adults alike delight in everything Disney.

After the parade we hightailed it into the Crystal Palace Restaurant right behind where we were standing.  There was no wait.  This is a true buffet, not a buffeteria, and costs ¥2500 per person.  Each guest is greeted and the procedure explained.  There is a time limit of 90 minutes and you can eat as much as you want during that time.  The hostess asked for Dave's name, so he showed her the Japanese name cards he printed out.  She was suitably impressed.  Then we were escorted to a cashier to pay and let loose on the buffet.  We were impressed by the wide selection.  Based on our other meals in the park we expected this one to be quite limited, but it was equivalent to a Sunday brunch at a fancy hotel.  The food was very good, too.  Click to view Dave's meal and Bill's meal.  Bill went back for another round, but Dave got all he wanted the first trip.  They don't have trays, so you have to either balance several dishes or make more than one trip.  The desserts are served in bite-sized portions, but you can have as much as you want.  Someone escorts you to a table so there's no searching for a place to sit.  It wasn't full when we were there, but it was an off hour and Japanese like to eat at the appropriate time.  At noon there was a huge line out the door.

We wandered toward Fantasyland after eating and saw that they had replaced the statues in Snow White's Grotto with giant Easter egg renditions of the dwarves.

After resigning ourselves to the fact that if we want to go on any rides we'll have to wait for hours, we got in the 30-minute line for Snow White's Adventures.  It actually was 20 minutes and moved quickly.  The ride is more sophisticated than the Disneyland version, but it is still just a dark ride.  Fantasyland is the most crowded of the lands because of the narrower walkways and concentration of attractions, but today it was truly ridiculous.

Next, we got in the 60-minute line for Peter Pan's Flight.  This version is similar to the one at Walt Disney World with the galleons that don't stop for loading.  The line moves relatively quickly because there is no FastPass offered.  We were in line with the only unruly children in the whole of Japan who insisted on trying to talk to us.  They were driving everyone around us insane, including other little kids.  Their mother could have cared less what they were doing.

We kept walking through Fantasyland, stopping for a ride on "it's a small world" that only had a 10 minute wait.  By the time we finished that attraction, it was time to find a place to watch the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: Dreamlights.  We ended up at the border of Fantasyland and Toontown, which is where the parade ends.  We had to sit on the ground with everyone else, but it was only 30 minutes total, so tolerable.  This parade is fantastic and puts anything our parks present to shame.  The Genie from Aladdin float is quite a spectacle!

Our parade viewing spot was across from Pooh's Hunny Hunt, so we rushed over there the minute the parade was over.  Dave bucked the system and made it, but Bill got caught up in the weird enforced traffic pattern and had to circle back around.  The wait was posted at 100 minutes and that's exactly what it was.  We still can't figure out why they are using the outdoor overflow queues while the indoor main queue is unused, but there must be a reason because it is the same story at every attraction.

We were a bit surprised and impressed that they didn't cut off the line because if the timing is accurate the park would be closed before we got out.  Now, we think they SHOULD keep all lines open until the closing announcement, but that practice has long been eliminated at home.  You can never count on an attraction being open for the full park operating hours, which is unacceptable in our opinion.

Anyway, the wait was long, but not unbearable.  If it weren't for FastPass, the line would move continuously.  As it is, it stops for long periods of time while they insert FastPass guests into the line.  That said, this ride is well worth the wait even though it is only five minutes long.  It is just oh-so-cute and the technology used with the trackless system is amazing. 

When we came out, the wait was posted at 35 minutes with the park closing in 15.  We got back in line with no objection from the SIX cast members standing out front (not counting the two manning the FastPass entrance).  The line moved very quickly because all FastPass guests had already been accommodated for the day.  Just goes to show how much shorter the lines would be without FastPass to clog everything up.  Our second ride was completely different than the first, which is the whole point of the trackless system.

The park was closed when we got off our second ride on Pooh, but some shops were still open in World Bazaar. Everything else had been kept open until the closing announcement.  We're talking outdoor vending carts, shops and restaurants at the farthest reaches of the park.  The only carts that close early are ones selling ice cream or other things nobody wants when it is cold.  By the way, the fireworks were cancelled again which means they haven't done them since we arrived.

We strolled out of the park with everyone else, boarded the monorail and made it quickly back to the Hilton.  The laundry we had left for the maids was sitting all clean and folded, pants hanging in the closet, when we returned.

Dave sent an email to an English-speaking dentist in Sendai to see if he can get an appointment when we are there in a few days.  If not, he can live with the problems, but he'd prefer not to if there is some solution to it.

Day 10 - Saturday, March 29 - Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

It is quite warm today, in the 70's, but it should take a dip tomorrow and the rest of the week.  We're in no hurry to get out of the hotel today, so we had breakfast and dawdled around trying to figure out what to do today.  Our tickets are for DisneySea, so we know we'll end up there at some point.

Dave heard back from the Dentist in Sendai who, "Will try to remove your severe pain in emergency."  The appointment times he offered are too early for us to get there, so we're waiting to hear from him again with a more specific time.  At least he sort of speaks English which is more than we can say about our ability with Japanese.

Just before noon we left the hotel for DisneySea expecting the worst because it is Saturday.  Dave took his small bag full of supplies down to have it shipped ahead to the Sendai hotel.  It is small and not at all heavy, but we have to negotiate Tokyo station tomorrow and one less bag to maneuver will make a big difference.  After that we will probably carry all of our luggage with us.

The woman at the delivery counter was extremely helpful and filled out the form for us (which was all in Japanese).  She spoke enough English to help us with no problem and was quite pleasant.  Previously when we passed this counter it was a mad house, but there was no one there today.

We walked over to the monorail station as usual and found it relatively quiet.  There were no notices about the parks not selling tickets, which is encouraging.  There were no crowds at the entrance to DisneySea either.  We were very pleased to see that the huge Sorcerer Mickey hat had been removed from in front of the iconic Aquasphere.

Bill wants a birthday sticker again to see what happens at this park, so we stopped at Guest Relations to ask for one.  Luckily Dave dredged the Japanese word for birthday out of the back of his mind because the girl at the counter didn't have a clue until he said it.  After that she was very helpful and produced the same sticker with his name written on it as he got at Disneyland yesterday.

DisneySea is now decked out for Mickey & Duffy's Spring Voyage.  The lampposts around Mediterranean Harbor are bedecked with flowers and banners, as are many other places in the park we'll talk about later as we come to them.

After checking the Wait Board, we found only one attraction with FastPass still available that doesn't have a return time after 9:00 pm.  That one is Stormrider in Port Discovery.  The return time at noon is for 2:40 pm.  We decided to take the DisneySea Electric Railway to Port Discovery to save some walking.  In the second floor queue we marveled at how meticulous the theme is carried out no matter where you look.  From the queue you would swear you are in old New York.

We arrived at the FastPass Distribution machines for Stormrider to find a huge line.  It moved very quickly, but still.  The return time advanced fifteen minutes during the time Dave was standing there waiting for an available machine.  The process is quite efficient.  The machines don't take your ticket, you just hold it under a barcode reader and out pops your FastPass.  Of course, Dave ended up stuck behind someone who doesn't know that you can't get another FastPass for two hours or until you have used the one you have, whichever is shorter.  It took him several minutes to give up and decide the machine is broken, which it isn't.

With nothing else to do and all wait times approaching three hours or more for attractions, we wandered over to the Lost River Delta area and got in line at the Safari Greeting Trail.  Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had waits of 45 minutes, but Goofy was only 30, so we waited for him.  The area is themed nicely and fits in well.  Each character has a safari hut with a nice backdrop for pictures.  The PhotoPass photographers take your picture, but the attendants offer to take a picture with your own camera, too.  The Goofys changed when we got to the front of the line.  He indicated that he had to go to the bathroom by crossing his legs and jumping up and down.  Within a few minutes, the new Goofy arrived.  Of course, they pretended that the same one came back.

The attendants, photographers and Goofy couldn't have been nicer.  Goofy pointed out Bill's birthday sticker, so that caused a scene.  Every CM we saw today said something nice about it, including ones who were leaving on breaks or just passing us on a walkway.  It really is a nice touch, but you do have to remember to stop by Guest Relations and ask for the sticker or button as the case may be.

We know the wait for Sinbad's Storybook Voyage is always short so we headed in that direction.  We got sidetracked at Jasmine's Flying Carpets when we noticed that there is a viewing balcony behind it.  Besides the view of the carpets as they fly around, it affords a great view over the Arabian Coast area.

Sinbad's Voyage was closed indefinitely, with at least ten CM's standing outside to apologize.  They quickly dragged out Aladdin and Jasmine to pose for photos to take guests' mind off the terrible inconvenience.  Jasmine was all swoony over Aladdin, much to his horror and ours.  We honestly thought they were about to make out.

We went with the flow of traffic and ended up in the bazaar area.  The arbor over the walkway is decked out with Spring flowers with the Genie's face in them.  The fountain in the courtyard now has a big floral display of the Genie replacing the water at the top.

Back at the steps down to Mediterranean Harbor, we found that all of the flower beds had been changed since two days ago and the lampposts are decorated with flowers (fake, by the way, but they look nice).

We decided to find a place to stand to watch the Legend of Mythica water show at 2:30 pm.  We went back to the place we were allowed to stand for Fantasmic! and waited the 45 minutes until show time.

If you ever need an example of an extravaganza, this show is pretty much the epitome of one.  It opens with one big, elaborate fountain barge in the center of the lagoon from which rises some sort of goddess.  Besides fountains and smoke, a team of jet skiers pops out of the sides.  The jet skis are covered with mythical fish of some sort; they aren't just plain old skis, silly.  This is DisneySea after all.  Ordinarily there are fireworks also, but it was too windy for that today, for which they apologized at the end of the show.

After a bunch of caterwauling by the goddess, a group of huge floats joins the spectacle carrying dancers in exotic costumes.  Besides the intricate detail in these things, they are quite large.  A Disney character pops out of the front of each barge while Mickey ends up in a golden galleon in the center of the fountain barge in the center.  The jet skiers race around with colorful flags during all of this.

Just when you think this must be the best it can get, a goddess rises out of the center of each of the barges while the dancers transfer to shore to dance along the waterfront.  An amazing thing about all of this is that this show opened with DisneySea, but everything looks brand new.  The dancers' costumes could have been made this morning they are so pristine (this is true of all employee costumes at the resort, by the way).

The main goddess again rises up above Mickey and, apparently, declares that everything is right with the world.  Then a flotilla of even bigger and even more elaborate floats joins the lagoon.  These floats are twice the size of the ones already out and carry gigantic mythical creatures that are, by the way, fully articulated!  The unicorn flaps his wings and moves his legs, the three-headed monsters' heads are independently articulated with mouths opening and closing and moving from side to side while the float spews fog.  Another barge sports a huge fire breathing dragon.  While it is sad that you can only see Disney at its best when someone else is paying for it, we can be thankful that it is alive and well here at Tokyo DisneySea!

Our FastPass return for Stormrider was coming up soon, so we wandered through Cape Cod, with another Duffy Spring Voyage display, and over to Port Discovery.  The line in front of the attraction was so long that we couldn't find the FastPass entrance.  Eventually we asked a CM and she said that the giant line IS the FastPass line.  Ugh.  The wait was over 45 minutes with FastPass, but two hours without it.  That's because they only added fifteen (yes, we counted) people from the Stand By line to each show and they are only using one of the two simulators.

Stormrider is a simulator attraction like Star Tours, but the simulators are much larger.  The premise is that you are going on an observation mission to the center of the worst storm ever, but not to worry because the airship has a storm buster probe.  This is demonstrated to dramatic effect in the pre-show.  Of course, something goes terribly wrong and the probe ends up literally stuck through the top of the simulator.  It is pulled out just in time, but it leaves a gaping hole through which the rain comes in...all over us.  Water sprays in your face while electrical fires shimmer in the side panels.  It is a good effect, but it is probably time for an update to the technology.  It is a good ride though and worth a reasonable wait...maybe 45 minutes, but not more than that.

After the ride we went to the nearby Horizons buffeteria for a late lunch/early dinner.  Each tray added up to about $20.00, so it was a reasonable price for very good food (for a theme park).  The interior of the restaurant is themed so thoroughly it could be an attraction on its own.  One half of the huge space is a character dining buffet for a fixed price.  There was no wait for either side of the room and the CM's were very friendly.  Come to think of it, who isn't?  When they aren't actively working, they are waving at passersby and yelling out niceties.  If you can find a friendlier park, please let us know!

It was around 5:00 pm at this point and we weren't up to standing in any three hour lines.  So, we decided to wrap up our visit to DisneySea and the Tokyo Disney Resort and go back to the hotel.  On the way out we stopped to look at more Spring displays and take just one more photo of the intricate details of New York St.

We stopped at the photo shop to pick up our picture with Goofy (¥1500).  Bill had taken off his birthday sticker and had it in his hand looking at it when the clerk noticed it.  She made a huge scene that eventually involved everyone in the room breaking into applause.  It was a memorable way to end our visit to the resort.

At the DisneySea Station we waited with what seemed like everyone in the park for a monorail.  Once on the train it wasn't crowded and most people got off at the next stop for the JR station anyway.

Back at the hotel, we stopped by the convenience store for some sandwiches and snacks for later, then crashed in our room for the rest of the night.  We did manage to sort of arrange our luggage as we prepare to go back to reality and changing hotels every few days.

We noticed the lights at DisneySea indicating the start of Fantasmic!, so we ate our snacks while we watched the fireworks and the volcano eruption from our window.  Someone spelled out 60+ in flickering votive candles on the roof of the entry drive below us.  We don't know why, but it was very pretty.

Dave didn't hear back from the dentist, so he'll try to contact him again on Monday if he doesn't get back to us before then.  There's no avoiding the fact that Dave will have to do something about this issue before he gets home though.  We have no clue what the cost of dental work is like here, but we're about to find out.  Last time we were here, a doctor visit was quite cheap, so we'll hope for the same this time.

Apparently, Dave literally walked his feet off because Bill noticed his toe was bleeding when he was just sitting there.  Geez, what else can fall apart?  It doesn't hurt, so he's pretending it didn't happen.  Besides, it isn't any worse than the time he caused the same thing by walking all over Chicago.  We'd post a photo, but it would need the "Graphic Content" disclaimer.

Day 11 - Sunday, March 30 - Depart Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay

That "60+" spelled out on the roof with candles last night was explained in a letter from the manager.  It had something to do with a worldwide energy conservation gesture where everyone was supposed to turn off all non-essential lighting for two hour starting at 8:30 pm.  We didn't witness the lights turned off, but the candles were nice.

It is raining this morning and in the high 50's.  We'll be on one of three trains all day, so it shouldn't make any difference to us.

On the way to breakfast we stopped at the Hilton Honors counter to ask the clerk to translate the dentist's address into Japanese to show a taxi driver.  She was very nice about it and we assume what she wrote is accurate.  Taxi drivers usually use telephone numbers input into their GPS to find locations, so now we have two options to give him.  This is assuming it all works out and Dave goes to the one in Sendai in a few days.  By the way, all this is is mostly an annoyance.  He's not suffering 24/7 or anything like that.  The concern is that it might get worse and we'll be in some backwater where nobody speaks English.  We have two options before then, Sendai and Sapporo, both of which have "extra" days built into them so we won't miss anything if we need to take a day off sightseeing.

We'll depart the hotel before 11:00 am and take the local train from Maihama (Tokyo Disney Resort) to Tokyo Station.  From there we'll catch a shinkansen to Sendai (about 2 hours), and then take a local train from Sendai to the end of the line at Matsushima-Kaigan Station.  That wasn't the end of the line until the tsunami washed away the tracks north of there, but for now that's as far as you can go by train along the coast.


Wow, just WOW!  Tokyo Disney Resort does Disney better than Disney, no question about it.  The cast members are beyond helpful and friendly, staffing levels are higher than we've ever seen in the U.S. parks, and (gasp) the prices are affordable.  They've got a winning formula here that we doubt our parks could ever hope to achieve.  So, if you want to see the best that Disney can deliver, you'll have to fly to Japan.

We learned several things since our last trip, plus there have been some changes, so here they are:

DisneySea's popularity has caught up with Disneyland's, so no more short lines at either park.  Suck it up and know that you're going to be arriving at the crack of dawn to get a FastPass for your favorite attraction or you're going to waiting in three-hour lines.  Luckily, for the most part, the attractions are worth the wait.  The ones that are copies of the U.S. originals are done better in Japan due to the bigger budget.

The English skills of the in-park employees improved greatly over 2009.  Everyone we dealt with spoke at least enough English to help us.  Last time almost no one spoke a word of English.  We were two of only a handful of non-Japanese in the parks or hotels for an entire week, so there really isn't much incentive for them to make any effort.  But, we're glad they did as it made it easier for everyone.

Don't miss any parade, water show, or live show or you'll be sorry.  Trust us you don't want to skip them.  We'll maybe can skip the show in the Magic Lamp Theater, but that's all.

Last time we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel.  This time we opted for the "Official" Hilton Tokyo Bay, which we preferred.  The prices for the Disney hotels are the only things here that are overpriced, in our opinion.  The food options are very limited at the Disney hotels.  They are very nice, no question, but not THAT nice.  The service at the Hilton was equal to or better than the Disney hotels and that's saying a lot.  The service at Disney hotels is fantastic, except that no one speaks any English.  At the Hilton, everyone speaks very good English.  We'd judge the staff at the Hilton equally helpful and as friendly as Disney's.  They're just as plentiful, too.  The food at the Hilton is very good, but is extremely overpriced.  We received the breakfast buffet for free as part of Hilton Honors and it is great.  But, at $35.00 no way is it worth that.  The dinner buffet is $58.00!  We ate dinner in the parks or at Ikspiari for less than half the Hilton prices.  There is a 24-hour convenience store in the lobby that sells pre-made sandwiches that are cheap and tasty, plus a bakery and coffee shop similar to Starbucks.

The official hotels are served by the Disney Resort Line's Bayside Station across the street.  The Hilton, Okura and Sheraton are all just a five-minute walk from the station which is about the same as the Disney hotels.  There is also a shuttle bus to each hotel if you are too lazy to walk.  The Disney hotels don't have that option because theoretically they are closer to the stations.  At the Disneyland and DisneySea Mira Costa Hotels, the monorail is free.  Everyone else pays ¥250 per ride.

We recommend buying a SUICA or Pasmo IC card for the monorail, buses, metro and trains around Tokyo and elsewhere.  You can also use them in vending machines and convenience stores (including the one at the Hilton).  You can buy a SUICA card from a machine at JR train stations and a Pasmo at Tokyo Metro stations.  Both are easy to buy, use and recharge.  You can recharge the cards at the Disney monorail ticket machines, but you can't buy the cards there.  We used the cards easily for the monorail, train and metro in Tokyo.

English signage and support is greatly improved in the train stations and aboard the trains.  There were always announcements and signs in English for the stops.  There were some in 2009, but it is much more coherent now.  We only got lost once and it was our own fault for not paying attention.  We don't know what English will be available outside of Tokyo and we're not expecting much, but in the greater Tokyo area you'll be fine.

You can buy reserved seats on the shinkansen (bullet train) from touch-screen machines at the train stations.  This is much easier than dealing with a ticket agent who may or may not speak English.  Just push the "English" button and you're all set.  You can select regular or green car and choose your seats in advance.  It couldn't be easier.

As we have said over and over again, if you are a Disney fan you must, we repeat MUST, make a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort.  Don't put it off any longer!  Start making your plans now.

All photos from the Tokyo Disney Resort can be found HERE.

This adventure continues on the Journey to Hokkaidō page.


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