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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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
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
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
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
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"
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
March 3, 2014: We booked a private car transfer from Narita
Airport to the Hilton Tokyo Bay with
¥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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
3 - Saturday, March 22 - Tokyo Disney Resort -
Hilton Tokyo Bay
Click to view a map of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 out...no 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 nightshirts...one 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
We arrived via monorail at
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
who are there for no purpose other than being pleasant.
There are five of them in the picture, but there actually are at least
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 ours...no 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
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
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,
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
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 constantly...it must have cost
quite a bundle to make that effect work. The parade starts with the
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
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 walls...it 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
"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
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
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
beans...you 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 one...you 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