It’s no secret that Stephanie and I are Disney fans. This global trip has afforded us (quite coincidentally) an opportunity to visit every Disney resort worldwide, sort of a little subconscious Disney dream of ours. There are two parks at the Tokyo resort: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. We opted to visit Disney Sea since it is totally unique among all the other Disney parks around the world. Boy did we make the right choice! Disney Sea is divided into themed “lands” just like Disneyland, all of which have a sea related theme such as the Lost River Delta or the Arabian Coast.
But before we could enjoy Tokyo Disney, we had to get there on the tourist-thwarting Tokyo metro. After extensive planning (once again with the help of our hosts), we left the house at 5:15 am in case we missed any of the tight connections between our four trains. When we got there, we discovered two things. First, our fourth train was a five-minute ride on the Disney monorail for which they charge several dollars apiece. We avoided a wallet-ectomy by walking 15 minutes to the front gate. Second,my extensive metro planning had clearly turned me into a Disney Metro Route expert, because we made all the tight connections and arrived two hours before the gates opened.
While we waited for 9:00am, I studied the map and planned my onslaught of the park. It was then that I got my first happy surprise. Tokyo Disney Sea just opened my favorite Disney ride ever: Toy Story Midway Mania. Since it was near the front of the park (and we were near the front of the line), we opted to head there first and pick up a Fast Pass for later. (Disney’s Fast Pass system allows you to get a timed ticket for later in the day, and then skip the line when you come back.) This turned out to be such a good idea that EVERYBODY else in the park did the same thing. While we jogged there, a large crowd was full-on sprinting there. We actually had to wait ten minutes to get our Fast Pass, and by the time we had it the line JUST to get a Fast Fass was over 30 minutes long, and the stand-by line to get on the ride was already at a one-hour wait – all just ten minutes after the park opened. Sure enough, when we came back two hours later, all the fast passes for the day had been distributed, and the wait time stood at 110 minutes.
One thing that really surprised us (read: me) about this park was how little English was spoken by the staff and in many of the attractions. Now, I am not one of those people who demands that MY language be spoken wherever I go, but Disney is usually amazing about catering to many different languages. For example, in the States, many attractions have Spanish subtitles available on request. In Tokyo, however, it was Japanese only in many places. This only really detracted from one or two rides, but it’s difficult not to enjoy oneself. It is Disney after all. And Stephanie said she actually enjoyed the mystery of hearing only Japanese.
Then there were the other park attendees. Unlike any other Disney parks we’ve been to the local culture was very, very prominent, and it made for some fun people watching. There were roving packs of teenage girls in their school uniforms everywhere. So much so, that I wondered if Tokyo Disney Sea was a school trip destination. Even those girls who weren’t in uniform seemed to favor the Japanese look of a short skirt and knee socks. They were also kawaii (Japanese cute) in full force. There were fuzzy leg warmers, and patterned tights. There were all sorts of Disney headwear from hats to hair bands. There were stuffed animals (usually Disney ones, but there were teddy bears too) being carried around like a security blanket. Sometimes they even carried an extra tote bag (a cute one of course) for their menagerie. There were girls dressed exactly like each other for their day at the park, including one group of five all dressed like Minnie Mouse. The boys too got in on the act with brightly colored clothes, and kawaii headgear. We knew the men in Japan often carry a purse for their lady, but it was still neat to see it. At one point I realized that my full beard may well have been the only one in the park (if not in all of Tokyo).
Oh yeah, there were rides too. We loved “Journey to the Center of the Earth” in the Mysterious Island area – a steam punk-style train trip into the center of the planet where (apparently) all kinds of weird creatures live, culminating in a high-speed encounter with some sort of fungus monster. Exploring the depths of the sea in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was awesome too, and you’d never know you don’t actually go under water unless you *know*. Stephanie’s new favorite ride was “Sinbad’s Storybook Voyages” in the Arabian Coast, a ride which is somewhere between “it’s a small world,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It was all in Japanese, but, in true Disney style had a song that gets stuck in your head. (Listen here: Sinbad Ride Song). There is an all new “Tower of Terror” which makes no mention of the Twilight Zone, but really made me wish I could speak Japanese. And Stephanie loved several of the kiddie rides in Mermaid Lagoon, which were each exemplary models of “kawaii.”
One last aspect worthy of comment is the food. All Disney Parks have popcorn for sale, and consumption of Disney popcorn has become something of a tradition for me. Disney Sea took it to new levels. There are so many flavors of popcorn, that there is actually a map of where each flavor can be found in the park. Before we even entered, I knew I wanted curry popcorn from the Arabian Coast (thanks, Rebecca), but our map pointed out flavors like black pepper, strawberry, milk tea, cinnamon apple, and of course caramel. It was another Disney dream come true for me, and has me jonesin to try to simulate many of the flavors on my own. We also tried the burgers. They have a definite teriyaki flavor, and were so much better than the ones in Hong Kong.
When we arrived, I declared that we would never be able to see the whole park in one day, but somehow we managed it, even rode several rides a few times, and left feeling satisfied. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to see all five Disney resorts worldwide, my love of “complete sets” of things is also satisfied – at least until they finish building Shanghai Disneyland in 2015!