11 June 2012

Tokyo Disneyland

Today we visited Tokyo Disneyland; it is the first of the two parks built here in Japan. We received little tickets when we checked in that allowed us into the park 15 minutes early. Luckily, as mentioned in my post this morning, we were up at 5:30am, so getting to the park early was no problem. However, when we checked the park opening time, online it said 9am. We walked over to the park from our hotel, less than a 15 minute walk. We arrived at the park at 8:40 am to see the gates already open and loads of people running in! [Later on tonight, we met another American couple who encountered the same thing and said they saw a sign saying that the park opened at 8:30...] Anyway, we only wanted to get FastPasses for Pooh's Honey Hunt and Monsters Inc. Hide & Go Seek. Because we can do Pooh's Hunny Hunt at home, we joined the masses headed for Monsters. There we found that the FastPass return was already at 14:00! The FastPass machines are Giggle-o-meters that giggle each time you scan a park ticket. :) FastPasses in hand, we went in search of the egg hunt booth to get our maps for the Easter egg hunt that is part of the Easter Wonderland event going on here (through June!). But first, we were lured in by the ever present and hard working scent emitters and got in line for our first popcorn choice of the day; caramel in a Mickey egg popcorn bucket. Here, there is an incredible proclivity for collecting things it seems. Popcorn buckets were seen around nearly every neck; all different kinds! The buckets themselves are pretty expensive at 1500yen, they are around $20! But refills are only 500yen and T cleverly noted that a regular, non-souvenir box of popcorn is only 300yen, so we bought that when we refilled. Ok, now that we have our feed bucket, back to the egg hunt sign up location hunt... There were two booths to sign up for the egg hunt, easily found in the courtyard in front of the castle. We signed up for the standard course (versus the expert course which only had Japanese maps) and went off on our hunt! Not having a real plan for the rest of the day, we started off in a random direction and found ourselves at It's A Small World, looking for our first egg. No luck with the egg here, but we did test our Japanese again and found a Cast Member who explained how to actually do the hunt. Turns out you get 5 stickers (yes, we did know that) and there are eggs all around the park. The map showed you the general locations of the eggs, but you had to affix the stickers to the proper locations. The eggs outside It's a Small World were very cute international children eggs, but none of the 5 that we were expected to find. Oh well, the standby wait for the ride was less than half an hour, so we went for it. The ride is not the re-done one that is now at WDW, but the old version from the nineties. It's still good though and the shortest standby wait time we saw the entire day! One ride down, we went to Critter Country and found our first egg; a rabbit from Song of the South! One down, five to go! In search of our next egg sighting, we began to catch the delicious scent of curry popcorn! Following the scent, we passed our second egg; bandit Donald! The line for the curry popcorn was longer than the caramel popcorn line, but we decided it was worth it, judging by the smell. Rating: Oishii!!!! By this time, we were seeing people setting up for the parade already. Interesting Cultural Note (ICN); people here are clean in all kinds of ways. For the parade, people brought their own ground coverings, portable, cutely decorated mini tarps to sit on. They laid down the tarps in perfect rows and took off their shoes to sit on them. The Cast Members helped to arrange the rows and made sure that everyone in the 3 seated rows was sitting in such a way that people behind them could see. The parade was very elaborate, more like a moving show. The group of floats were interspersed with incredibly costumed dancers and the whole troupe would stop, perform their whole show and then move down the parade route. We managed to see the whole parade from our amazingly good spot which happened to be at the beginning of the parade route and then caught snippets of the parade for the next hour or so as it went along its full route. Video of Parade

Parade (and curry popcorn) done, we were back on the egg hunt. We found a Snow White statue with 7 dwarf eggs, but none of them was the ones we needed. In Toontown, we found our Pluto egg and decided to ride Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, judging that the wait was short by the appearance of the line (mistake). The lines here are even more cleverly designed than WDW it seems. The wait was at least half an hour, maybe longer. However, as many other people have mentioned on trip reports and blogs, the theming here is fantastic! The entire line trail is themed to the zillionth degree, leading you up to the ride literally with details from the movie. The ride itself was pretty short, and quite scary. The tiny girl riding with her dad behind us was scared and crying by the time we got off (though she was scared silent for the whole ride). ICN: as soon as they are able, children here walk on their own. Many of them even carry their own backpacks full of their own diapers, bibs, water bottles and other necessities. There are far fewer strollers, and they are generally only used for babies who cannot walk yet (evidenced by their bare feet). Even with babies, more frequently we saw them being worn in baby bjorns or similar devices or just being carried by their parents. On our way again, we passed another popcorn station selling Stitch buckets of caramel popcorn. I had been seeing these awesome buckets all around the park and surmised that they were on sale now based on how many we saw. They are so cool, I wanted one! But when we discovered that they are 2000yen; ~$25, I decided a close up photo was good enough. :( The popcorn scent emitters were working their magic on us though and we were hungry (also it was around 12:30, so lunch time). The lines for all the sit down restaurants were super long besides the restaurants were quite expensive 2000+yen per person. So, we decided to go the quick service route. We had heard about Mickey buns, like Chinese Char Siu Bao, but shaped like Mickey. We walked by a restaurant selling them and decided to try one Mickey and one Minnie. Mickey had pork in his head and chicken in his ears - rating: oishii!!!. Minnie was described as "strawberry milk" flavour, so we were apprehensive. Her ears were a thin strawberry jam and her head full of cheese (danish-like) - rating: oishii!! The buns were good, but like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, we were still hungry. Thinking we'd get more food at better prices in Ikspiari (the Downtown Disney like place), and decided to leave the park. We also found our Lady egg: Before leaving, we figured we'd turn in our egg hunt map and collect our prize! Note: if you have been paying attention, you will undoubtedly notice that we only managed to find 4 of our 5 eggs. The last one was Mushu, and we cheated off a little girl and just stuck our sticker where she had hers... shameless. But we got our prize! A yellow egg containing mickey clothing stickers (his shorts and gloves) and a Mickey egg necklace thing. I kept insisting it must open up, but again took cues from the 3 year olds around us and decided it was just for wearing. Prize collected, we headed towards the exit. On our way out, we passed a Tomorrowland Terrace clone and saw people eating ... eggs with Mickey shaped yolks?! WHAT?! We had to get one. We tried out our Japanese again, and this time T was smart enough to start out with "sumimasen, Nihongo sukoshi hanashimasu" (sorry, I only speak a little Japanese - which really should be 'I don't speak any good Japanese'). Our lovely cashier immediately pulled out a picture menu, but continued to jabber at us in polite Japanese. Here's what we got: Mickey hands fried chicken sandwich and beef & veggies with rice and MAGIC Mickey egg T's theory on how the eggs are made; they must have half egg shaped molds into which the egg whites are poured, with a piece that keeps the yolk space free. When the white is solid enough, the yolk is poured in; explaining how the yolk is so smooth and wet still. My theory; MAGIC. By this time it was just past 2pm and having been up since 5:30am, we were tired! We were about to leave the park when we passed the entrance to Captain EO - only a 10 minute wait time posted! Plus, T had never seen it and it's no longer in the US parks, so in we went. Half an hour later, we know why it's not in the US anymore. It's a very odd story (not much of a story...) about Captain EO (Michaeru Jakuson) and his weird muppet alien friends who visit an even weirder Borg-esque planet and convert them all into fabulous, rainbow 80s dancers; including their spider-ish overlord lady. All of this is done in 90s 3D with Michaeru Jakuson's magical rays of light goodness, signing and pelvic thrusting. Finally, time to leave the park. Sore feet were gladdened to find a bus that took us directly to our hotel! Yes, we hear you remembering that the walk was less than 15 minutes, but still, we took the bus. Good thing we took it too because this way, we discovered that there is also a bus to Disney Sea, the second park and our destination for tomorrow! Here, the monorail costs money, (though we have not yet figured out for certain how much), so the free bus is a great alternative. Back in our room, we had a nice 2 hour nap, completely missing our Monsters Inc FastPass return which was to be between 15:55 and 16:55. We woke up and it was night time. I checked our credit card bill on my phone to see what kind of exchange rate we got when we bought our park tickets last night and also discovered we'd been charged for our hotel room!! WHAT?! We booked with DVC points! Off to talk to Guest Services and hope that someone spoke English. The four people at the desk were very friendly and nice (as usual) and eager to help us figure it out. Unfortunately, it seems the best/only way to do this is to call the US Member Services people. Toll free number, but no international line... At $2/minute, that doesn't seem like a good idea. Emailed our DVC guy in Florida. Just inside Ikspiari, we saw a DVC model showcase and stepped inside to find Shito, another very friendly and also amazingly good English speaking Cast Member. We explained our hotel situation and he was on it right away. He took our information, contacted the US DVC people and assured us that they will email us tomorrow. Confidence level in getting our $$ back; pretty high. :) Walking around the park, we noticed a lot of ladies wearing leggings under their shorts/skirts/dresses. It's somewhat colder than what we'd expected, so I decided I need to join the Tokyo fashion. We headed into Ikspiari again to look for leggings. We found a store which sells only feet/leg coverings and found a variety of UV protecting, quick drying, compression (?) and other things leggings. 1050yen; bought. Feeling better about our room situation and leggings in hand, we found a curry place to have dinner. T ordered again with his improving Nihongo (Japanese); improved by the repetition of "Nihongo sukoshi hanashimasu." As he was ordering, we noted another American couple also trying to order. After our respective meals, the other couple approached us asking if we are American. They are from LA and the whole time we chatted (maybe 5 minutes) both T and I kept thinking about how loudly the girl was speaking! ICN: Everyone here speaks very quietly. Even in the parks, where the Cast Members positioned EVERYWHERE are talking constantly, they never speak above a regular voice level. Here in the Ambassador Lounge area, people pretty much whisper the whole time. After dinner, we explored a few shops, but they were closing (9pm). Now here we are back at the Lounge. We found out that we actually are not allowed in the lounge because it is for suite guests only, but we can be squatters and sit right outside and steal their wifi. Signing off for tonight! Oyasuminasai! (Good night!) As always: click the photos to be taken to my Flickr, where you will see many more photos and descriptions.

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