Journey Through Japan: Tokyo Disney Volume II

Day 20, 20JAN2017

Tokyo Disneyland is very much like the original California Disneyland or Florida’s Magic Kingdom. The park is designed in the traditional hub and spoke method and has many of the same land and rides as that of California’s Disneyland.

The park’s hours today were 1000-2200, and Josh and I arrived in the ticket line to purchase our one day pass at 1030. The hotel down the street from our AirBnB offers a free shuttle bus service to the parks and dropped us off right outside the front entrance of Disney.

Unlike my previous Tokyo Disney post which went into extreme detail, I shall endeavor to keep this post much shorter. To that end I’ll proceed chronologically highlighting only the best parts of the day.

As I mentioned, Tokyo Disneyland is very nearly identical to Disneyland, with a few differences. The first difference is apparent as soon as one steps into the park. Instead of walking under the nostalgic train station that affronts Disneyland, you instead walk under Victorian-era arches into a glass-ceiling “World Bazaar.” I imagine the purpose of the ceiling is to make this portion of the park endurable during rain or snow – both of which we experienced in the park today!

The place looks very much like what I imagine the building constructed for the 1852 Great Exhibition looked like: Victorian, glass, new age lighting fixtures, and plenty of stores boasting curiosities for one to dive into. The standard Emporium is located at the front end of the Bazaar with various boutique store fronts and cafes claiming to specialize in this, that, or the other, but really all selling the same Disney merchandise.

Learning from our Tokyo Disney Sea fast pass and line experience, Josh and I grabbed a fast pass for “Space Mountain” before we set out for sustenance.

And sustenance is what we found. Josh and I commenced our morning with the standard hearty breakfast: an American cheesy hot dog, Japanese Kirin Apple Soda, and a Mickey-Mouse shaped waffle drizzled with maple syrup. Yes, health conscious are we!

The waffle deserves a nod at this point in my discussion for it was absolutely delicious, the smell alone was worth the price of 410 Yen, but the fresh whipped cream, toasted pecans, and maple syrup on top of it all? Wonderful.

Fueled, we were ready to hit the rides. We decided instead of heading straight back to Space Mountain we’d meander around the Bazaar. As in the traditional Disney Castle Parks, Tomorrowland is located directly right of the main entrance. We opted to go left after breakfast and as one does in California or Florida, we walked into “Adventureland.”

I place Adventureland in quotations here because what Tokyo Disneyland has actually done is morphed the world bazaar with its Victorian era design with that of New Orleans Square and then this architectural façade transitions into the more traditional Adventureland with the jungle cruise, Tiki room, and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Think California Disneyland and simply swap the order, now you’re in Tokyo Disneyland!

Even though the park was predicted to reach over 50% capacity today, Josh and I seriously lucked out. Apparently today was one of the coldest days on record for Tokyo, and the crowd count supported this notion. We literally walked onto our very first ride: “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Seriously, the boat only had three of the six rows filled.

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Again, very similar to the California version, Pirate’s hosts the Blue Bayou restaurant and as you begin the ride you leisurely drift by the sound of a banjo picking in the background, fireflies swarming you, and the humid heat of the south rising up. The remainder of the ride is a parallel of the American version: the song and the Pirate marauders are conducted entirely in English, the narration however is in Japanese… “Dead Men Tell No Tales” warned in Japanese just doesn’t quite have the same touch.

After Pirate’s Josh and I indulged in the first of several iterations of Tokyo Disney’s infamous popcorn. Our first flavor today was Soy Sauce and Butter. Sounds peculiar, and yes, it tastes exactly as it sounds.

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Tokyo Disneyland has two big hit rides, these two rides are only at Tokyo Disney and therefore take on quite a following. The rides: “Monsters Inc., Ride and Go Seek” and “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” both offer fast passes, and by the time Josh and I finished swashbuckling on the high seas, we walked past the Monsters fast pass distribution to see it was already distributing return times for 1705 – it was barely 1100 at this time! Knowing we’d incur a two hour wait before we could grab another fast pass, we bit our lips and chose to grab a fast pass for Monsters then and there.

Then we were off exploring Tomorrowland. The land itself felt much smaller than the US versions, but interestingly what I observed is that all the pathways in Tokyo Disneyland are far larger and wider than the ones in the US. This made navigating and finding where one was going much easier. Fast pass tickets in hand, we walked past “Star Tours: The Adventure Continues” and saw that the line enticingly claimed it was no more than a ten minute wait. We jumped at this short wait time! Within 15 minutes we had completed our spy mission into the Galaxy and Beyond, and were off to Space Mountain to use our fast pass.

The fast pass option at Space Mountain does not really give you much of a leg up over the standby people. This I believe is a fault of several rides that preexisted fast passes – and in their development did not include two entry locations. For this reason, both standby and fast pass have to line up to use the same single entry escalator, then once atop the escalator you’re re-divided, however the lines wrap the same distance it would appear, and so ten minutes after walking around the upper level, you then hand off your fast pass, only to enter the building and that is when you wait another thirty minutes before you board the ride. It’s not too terribly long of a wait, but be weary. The ride itself is now nothing line its American cousins which have both received recent updates and are in my opinion far superior. Regardless, it is still a high speed thrill ride in the dark – be sure to stow your hats and glasses.

After Space Mountain it was time to explore the park and find our way over to the more adult style rides: Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.

We wound back through Tomorrowland, the World Bazaar, and Adventureland and it was in Adventureland Josh and I found pure happiness. The below photo depicts the best tasting, fizzy, yet, crispy, yet juicy drink Josh and I have ever tasted. This snack item from 20,000 Leaks Under the Sea (the pun just gets me!) was amazing, and the only item we came back to buy again in Tokyo Disneyland.

Drink in hand we moved from Adventureland into Frontierland as it is called in the US, but Westernland as it is referred to in Tokyo. The attention to detail, as usual in Disney parks, was fantastic.

It was raining, so we naturally ducked into the first indoor attraction we came across: “Country Bear Theatre.” As those who know this jamboree from the Florida park, you know it’s a down-home good time riddled with inappropriate jokes of a bygone era.

In Japan I couldn’t tell you a thing about the jokes or the narration, no one laughed, but then I have yet to hear a Japanese person laugh in public. The entire show was in Japanese with the exception of a handful of songs, which were in the standard southern tenor of the US version. We walked out of the show feeling as though we’d watched one of the more bizarre things in our lives, but then again, we did see the Robot Cabaret a few weeks ago, so its wasn’t really that bad.

After Country Bear we bee-lined for “Thunder Mountain.” By far, my favorite ride in the Disney castle parks, it evokes the nostalgia of a young girl, just tall enough to ride roller-coasters, yelling at the thrill of learning to first raise her hands on a ride next to her Dad.

I love this ride and honestly could ride it over and over. Interestingly, unlike in the US version where the tight curves of this ride force you and your seat mate to squish the living daylights out of each other, the Japanese version has a seat separator. If you’re booty is bigger than mine you won’t find this ride comfortable, and along that note if you’re any taller than me, most of the rides will cause you to be squeezed in (Josh was uncomfortable several times because his legs and knees barely fit).

After Thunder Mountain we were ready for some lunch, and Josh found the absolute best place in all of the park. We know this because the place served fried chicken and waffle sandwiches. Period. Dot. Nothing else needs to be said.

Camp Woodchuck Kitchen is a brand new counter service restaurant at Tokyo Disneyland and is designed around the Disney Fab-Five’s kids going to camp. It’s ingenious! Imagine Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, at summer camp, and this is what you get.

The restaurant has waffle sandwiches and various seasonal drinks. Josh and I ordered the fried chicken maple syrup sandwich and the avocado spicy shrimp sandwich, then added the sparkling bubble-tea lemonade and the hot ginger lemon tea.

The detailed decorations in this lodge-like canteen were incredible, fishing tackle boxes, rock collections, trophies, a black board with the camp’s daily schedule, and various troop patches on display. I could have spent another hour wandering around looking at all the decorations, but Josh and I had other rides to experience!

Departing Westernland one enters Critter Country. Akin to the version tucked away as part of Frontierland in the California Disneyland this land hosts Splash Mountain. Unlike the California version, Critter Country is its own land entirely, cut off from Westernland and surrounded instead by the Rivers of America and Fantasyland.

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Josh and I quickly grabbed fast passes for Splash Mountain while passing through, then found our way to the second big ticket ride: Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. The ride claimed there was but a thirty minute wait standby, so Josh and I opted to order a second round of popcorn, this time we aptly purchased the honey popcorn, and then we stood in line.

The line actually went by fairly quickly. This speed was probably due in large part to the fact that there was plenty to visually stimulate oneself while in the line. The line is a series of pages torn from the original A. A. Milne stories, and since all the pages are in English it makes for a quaint way to pass the time.

This ride was absolutely fantastic. I wish I had a stronger vocabulary such that I could use more profound words to describe my delight with regards to this ride, alas, I don’t. So fantastic it is. I refuse to ruin it for anyone who may one day visit Tokyo Disneyland, so all I’ll say is that this ride is absolutely nothing like any ride I’ve experienced before, it’s whimsical, transporting, and nostalgic and the US versions of the Pooh rides do not even begin to compare to this ride.

After Pooh Josh indulged my second favorite ride at Disneyland and set sail on the happiest cruise that ever sailed in “It’s a Small World.” Yet again we boarded a boat where only three of the six rows had passengers. But the ride was as adorable and sparkly and induced just as many warm memories as the US versions regardless of its apparent unpopularity here in Tokyo. For those who are curious: the song is not sung predominantly in English on this version.

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After It’s a Small World we perused a few Fantasyland stores and then I made a bad decision. I allowed Josh to talk me into riding the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party tea cups, which in Tokyo is actually called “Alice’s Tea Party.” The appreciation of Alice in Wonderland in Tokyo is quite significant, there is an entire restaurant dedicated to her theme, but I’ll get to that later.

Josh did as he normally does when he finds a way to bug me – he became incessant and spun, and spun, and spun us around in that tea cup. I looked happy at the beginning, proud of myself for getting on this ride which I have avoided for nearly a decade. Then, as the video I posted to Instagram under #mcandjbontour will show: Josh enjoyed this far too much. Afterwards my smile was missing.

In need of water and a sit down we then watched “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” which just as its Florida cousin, is in dire need of a technical upgrade. I will say though that the crowd control in Japan is impeccable. When the doors open to allow people to find seats in the theatre everyone waits for ushers to approach, and then you follow said ushers to fill in each and every seat orderly and without the grumpy family who wants to sit in the absolute middle of the stadium holding everyone else up. Its incredible! And once the crowd has taken their seats, those who entered the stadium early (such as Josh and I) and were therefore sitting on the ends, we were picked up by the ushers and taken to empty middle row seats. Its all so well planned and polite.

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After the show it was time for “Splash Mountain.” Luckily for us the day had become even colder – I joke about the being lucky part. But we are tough and we pressed onwards with the very apparent possibility that we’d soon be both very cold and very wet.

Interesting to me the ride is the same as that of the States, and although the narration and the song is done in Japanese, because all the characters are in the same spots doing the same scenes as they do in the US, I can only imagine the story line is the exact same as well. I ponder whether the Japanese get the cultural nuances embedded in the story?

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Thankfully we did not get soaked, although Josh’s raincoat hood fell down during the plummet so his face was pretty wet.

Walking out of the ride we happened upon “Racketty Raccoon’s Saloon” where we shared a Mickey-shaped Churro.

Then, with the sun setting and the temperatures further dropping, we made our way back – through as many stores as possible – to Monsters in Tomorrowland for our fastpass.

On the way Josh and I bought another churro – they really are the most beckoning of foods what with the smell of warm pastry and cinnamon! But this time the churro was a light sabre churro, what I mean is, the pastry was glowing bright green due to “melon soda sugar.” Yeah, it was next level churro-licious.

Monsters turned out to be somewhat of a let down. I’m not quite sure the storyline, which is odd because Disney typically does a great job visually explaining the plot regardless of a language barrier. I think perhaps there was a birthday party going on, but the ride was an interactive one where you could cause things to move or light up if you shone a flashlight on the Monsters Inc. symbol. The instructions were in Japanese along with the narration, and so I really was more confused than anything. While it could have been fun to shine lights on the items, there were always at least six people looking at the same things as you, trying to activate the same few things, so there really wasn’t much sense of excitement.

After Monsters it was time to look through the stores of the World Bazaar before they became too busy when the park closed. I spent this time actually to address a few post cards – no kidding the Stationary Store in the World Bazaar had writing desks set aside for people in my similar state who wanted to write letters.

Once mailed, Josh challenged me to a few “penny arcade” games. I lost at table hockey, go figure, but we both won at the love measure, apparently our love is “burning.”

It was now time for dinner. I imagine some of you are thinking by now, “Gosh, how much more can you guys eat?!” Well, it’s Disney and there’s a lot of walking, walking by amazing smelling food. So you have to just give in and try it all, it’s part of the experience!

For Dinner we chose the “Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall.” This is what I meant by an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant. This place was bursting with elaborate décor.

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We actually, to be truly honest, chose this place because of the theme and not necessarily for the food, although the food was good. You enter the place through the hedgerows where the cards are painting the roses red, and then through the door knob past a row of solitaire guards, and into the kitchen where gigantic pots and pans hang from the ceiling.

Once you’re grabbed your food – Josh steak, myself rotisserie chicken – a polite hostess finds a seat for you either in the stain glass or the garden section. The theme of this place made it completely worth it, highly recommended.

After dinner we were drawing near to our ejection time. The park’s crowds were incredibly thin, but the icy wind was picking up. We jogged over to “Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters” in Tomorrowland where Josh, in his usual fashion, destroyed me in a friendly yet extremely competitive game.

In search of a final popcorn flavor to end the night with we stumbled upon the “popping pod” and ordered caramel popcorn, then before departing Tomorrowland for good, we actually snuck in a second run at Star Tours. I’ve read there are up to 64 different variations of missions and scene sequences with the new ride, and our second ride today was indeed very different from our morning jaunt.

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Pleased with Tomorrowland, we headed back to the jungle in Adventureland with one intention: purchase round two of the sparkling bubble tea with pop rocks and fruity-pebbles. The drink was remarkable and we hadn’t quit thinking about it.

Happiness in a glass, Josh wanted to show off his gaming skills and so we took a detour so he could play “Log Toss Game” at the “Jungle Carnival.” Unfortunately Josh did not win, four chances of tossing the log into the holes he missed each time, fortunately if you lose you still walk away with a collector pin so I was mighty happy!

Our final attraction for our day in Tokyo Disneyland was “The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents ‘Aloha E Komo Mai!’” For those who adore the nostalgia of the old Tiki Room, avoid this version like you would a house on fire. For those open to new ideas, this actually was extremely appealing. I enjoyed the upbeat song choices, there was more of a modern Hawaiian theme here compared to the classic version. I was hesitant, I’ll be completely honest, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised.

Well that’s it for Tokyo Disneyland. I imagine this was yet another lengthy post, but the trip and my adoration for Disney parks in general, deserves the time!

Josh and I took the JR train home after Disney and after a brisk twenty minute walk from the train station we managed to meet our AirBnB host Nick. He’s British but has lived in Japan the past seventeen years!

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