18 min read
Introduction and Arrival
Hello! My name is Dan, and I’m a Disney addict. Yeah, this is no AA meeting, but hey, we’re all hooked. That much is obvious. So, I’ll be a tad vain and begin with a little bit about myself.
Being a big fan of Disney films – both animated and live action – since childhood, one could say that I was brought up to love this stuff. It’s a real lifelong love. My love for Disney parks started when I was very young as well, with family trips to Walt Disney World in Florida every couple of years. In fact, one of my most vivid early memories is the wonderful original version of Journey into Imagination at EPCOT. I mean, it’s Figment and the Dreamfinder! What’s not to love? And yes, I’m still a giant Figment addict/collector to this day.
Having mainly been to the Florida parks, a first trip to Disneyland happened in 2011 for the D23 Expo (which is a blast – go if you can). What I loved about it so much was that even though both U.S. parks shared a lot of attractions, they were all different on each coast, boasting a particular unique charm. Having done this, the thought of possibly exploring the other Disney parks on the planet began to fester.
Last summer, the lady and I made a trip to Europe for a music festival, and we managed to put in a stop to Disneyland Paris. While much maligned amongst many Disney fans, we both absolutely loved the place! Yes, even the Studios park, which has some very fun and exclusive attractions such as Crush’s Coaster and the very new Ratatouille ride. Great times, and we’ll be returning there this year.
So, this all brings us to Tokyo. The much hyped best Disney destination on the planet, yet many from this part of the world haven’t been. A trip to Japan is no small feat, but it’s also very doable with good planning. So, the decision was made to make this happen in late April of 2015. We were going to Anaheim for Star Wars Celebration and Disneyland, and we found that flights were very reasonable flying out of LAX to Tokyo, so we decided to make a mega trip out of it. Before you ask, yes, we did a stopover in Hong Kong as well, to conquer every Disney park on the planet. Oh, what a feeling!
Fast forward to late April, we arrived in Tokyo in the late afternoon on a Monday. We booked a bus to our hotel – which was the MyStays Maihama – and relaxed a little. Those 11 hour flights can take it out of you! By the way, if you’re planning a trip to the Tokyo Disney resort, and want to save some cash, the MyStays Maihama is an excellent choice! The proximity is close – about a five minute walk to the gate of DisneySea – very clean and comfortable, and the staff is top notch. I’ll definitely stay here again!
That evening, we explored the Shibuya area of Tokyo, which is like Times Square in New York City, but 100 times nicer. There was a lot of rain, but we endured, and it was awesome. While there, we checked out the Disney Store, of course! A few exclusive Tsum Tsum and a few other awesome trinkets were picked up, before it was time to head back to the hotel and get some rest before our big first day. Getting off at the Maihama station, there was a little welcome sign that made the anticipation rise even more!
First up in the morning, DisneySea!
Day 1 – Tokyo DisneySea
There was a lack of sunshine on this Tuesday morning, but clouds weren’t going to dampen anything, with our first park visit – Tokyo DisneySea!
There are a few ticket options available, and we chose the four day option. It’s a bit different than in the U.S. parks, however, with you having to choose a single park to visit for the first two days, with the ability to park hop reserved for the last two days.
We immediately chose DisneySea for the first day, as there was no way we were going to wait a day longer to experience what may be Disney’s most unique and heralded park.
As soon as we walked up to the main entrance, there was a decent sized line, as to be expected. Attendance at these parks is massive, so good planning is required in order to do what you want. We arrived about a half hour before gates opened, and that arrival time served us relatively well. However, crowds weren’t too bad because of the time of year and the fact that it’s a weekday, so we got off very lucky.
Immediately, we’re greeted by the gorgeous Hotel MiraCosta. The hotel itself forms the entrance to the park – similar to the Disneyland Hotel in Paris. One couldn’t imagine a better entryway to this illustrious park. There’s also a giant globe/water fountain of which is a nice touch, and perfectly fitting.
There were also Easter decorations adorning the entrance, which was a nice touch for the huge Disney’s Easter celebration that was going on. The Spring/Easter celebration is a big one for the resort, which was a main draw for the timing of this visit, in order to see all of the special shows and decorations related to the event. That and the lighter crowds! Not sure which factored in more, but I’ll take both!
Having read about and seen many pictures of the park’s icon, Mount Prometheus, I thought I was prepared for how cool it was going to be seeing it for the first time. Nope! No way to prepare for how gigantic and incredible this behemoth is. It actually looks and acts like an active volcano, with smoke sputtering out and occasional spurts of flame! What insane detail! We both stared at our surroundings for a few minutes, jaws flat on the ground, barely believing this place was real.
After the initial shock resided enough for us to be able to function – at least enough to get both legs moving – we managed to stumble our way to check out Mount Prometheus further, as well as grab fast passes for Journey to the Center of the Earth, which we got for a time that was only about an hour later. Score!
Journey is located inside the giant icon, and the closer one gets to this thing, the more impressive it is. We both kept looking at each other in awe, saying things like, “This place is incredible,” “I can’t believe what we’re seeing.” And yes, this guy teared up just a tad. Manly, happy tears. Shut up.
Once we had our FastPass for Journey, we headed over to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. There was zero wait for it, which was pretty constant for the whole trip. A model of the Nautilus is inside the Volcano, as we walked the downward spiral of a queue to where the ride entrance was located. The whole area represented Captain Nemo’s Vulcania fortress, which was done up to every detail imaginable.
The ride itself is an immersive dark ride that has tons of replay value. Your ride vehicle is a submarine that is submerged underwater – not really, but the incredible water effects inside the window of the ride vehicle create the illusion perfectly – as you explore the depths of the sea.
The coolest feature? There are parts of the ride where you get to use a flashlight to explore the area, which enables you to find many of the creatures within the ride. There are a lot of cool things to discover, making this attraction one that can be repeated constantly, and the experience is still unique and fresh. Nice start!
The plan from here was to hope to get a FastPass for Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. No, this isn’t related to the movie, and thankfully, there’s no Shia LaBeouf audio animatronic. How horrible would that be?!
Unfortunately, George Lucas was doing some “creative changes,” which resulted in the ride being down. This turned out to be just a horrid rumor, and it was just some technical difficulties. Gotcha! Not really, I know.
After the failed attempt, we began to wander back towards Mount Prometheus, taking in the scenery, and hopping in line for StormRider. This is a simulator attraction where you’re in a vehicle flying into a storm, with a laser weapon of sorts that is supposed to be able to neutralize a storm. This is going to go off without a hitch!
With an introduction that was completely in Japanese, we didn’t get the nitty gritty of things, but the gist was pretty simple. It was a cool lead in. The ride itself is incredibly cheesy, but in a very good way! The in-theater effects were fantastic, and it was a great time overall. With the now announced re-imagining of the ride to a Finding Nemo attraction, this would be the first and last time riding this one. If we had that information when there, we would have definitely tried to get on again, but I don’t have a Delorean, so that won’t be happening. Yet.
Afterward, we happened to see a cast member doing some mop art! Neither of us had ever seen this done live, so it was super cool to watch.
The CM was very talented, and did a spot-on representation of Dale. Another one of those little touches that makes the Tokyo parks extra special.
With our window to use our FastPass for Journey ready to go, we made our way back to Mount Prometheus. This one was one of the most anticipated for me, as this is well hyped as one of the best attractions on offer.
The ride system is very similar to that of Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers in the U.S. parks, for sake of comparison. However, the substance of the ride is obviously unique and very different in just about every way.
The queue is very detailed, as there are labs and other details present to give one the feel of the research that is to be going on.
Before reaching the final part of the queue, you enter an elevator that takes you down to the center of the earth, and to the ride vehicles.
Once you load the ride vehicle, which is absolutely gorgeous and has a steampunk vibe, it’s off to a Journey. One to the center of the earth. You like my jokes. Admit it!
There are a lot of cool creatures to be seen, as well as one mega awesome one that’s a bit of trouble, which I won’t spoil for anybody who hasn’t been. Needless to say, it’s spectacular! Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the best Disney attractions on the planet, combining perfect dark ride elements with the thrill ride aspect intact as well.
After that, we walked around the absolutely gorgeous American Waterfront, and snapped a picture of the massive Tower of Terror and some of the surrounding area. Let it sink in for a moment.
There are also plenty of characters running around that one wouldn’t ordinarily see in the U.S. parks. That’s a big deal for such a goof like me, as character interactions are a great experience. In this area were Bernard and Bianca of “The Rescuers” fame. Such a treat!
Next up was time to give Toy Story Mania a go. The line wasn’t too bad, so we took the plunge. Check out the outside façade, as it’s massive and just plain beautiful. You even get to walk through Woody’s mouth. Do that anywhere else!
The main reason I wanted to do this was for the drastically different and over-the-top queue elements. Needless to say, the Tokyo parks win the day, with an elaborately detailed queue, with the main features being Andy’s room. The bed is gigantic.
The best effect? Once you’re on the ride, it goes under Andy’s bed! With that in mind, it feels like the entire game is being played there, which adds to the depth and escape from reality that the attraction features.
This is an attraction of which I’ve experienced countless times at Walt Disney World, and a few times in Disneyland as well. The actual ride experience is pretty much the same across the board, except this was in Japanese, which adds to it a bit. I love hearing these characters speak a different language – like a cool novelty.
Considering the entire experiences – entrance façade, queue, ride experience – this is certainly the best, all-encompassing version of this attraction. There’s a reason it’s so popular here.
It was time for a snack, and the sausages on a bone have been talked up in a few places, so we found the stand where they were sold and we each grabbed one. Delicious, and somehow, it being on a bone enhanced it. Odd, but it works. It was also dinosaur themed, and dinosaurs are awesome. Any anti-dinosaur people – you disappoint me.
We then headed back to the Lost River Delta, to see if Indiana Jones Adventure had re-opened. It had, and it must have been relatively recent with a minimal wait, so we went for it.
It’s a similar attraction to the one in California, but with the ride system being a little different – electromagnets are used for the vehicle movement effects as opposed to hydraulics – and it’s a bit smoother. The giant snake is a little different, and the bug scattering effects are done better here. Indy speaking Japanese is awesome, too.
As for which version is better, they’re both even for me. There are enough differences in the attractions to make each stand out, so it would be a crime to consider skipping this. The track layout is similar, being the main similarity. Do this for sure!
Afterward, we grabbed a fast pass for Raging Spirits, and we headed back to the Mediterranean Harbor for our late lunch reservation at Ristorante di Canaletto.
We had managed to secure dining reservations for four different restaurants for our stay – one for each day – and this was probably my most anticipated.
It’s themed to being a waterside restaurant in Venice, with both indoor and outdoor seating. We both desperately wanted the outdoor seating, to have a view of the Venetian Gondolas and all of the wonderful exterior architecture. That’s exactly what we got, and the ambiance was perfect. Pretty romantic, too, which was quite nice. Our server was very attentive, which was a universal experience for any cast member at the Tokyo parks.
I got a steak, which was perfectly seasoned and prepared. Delicious. The lady got a seafood pizza, which I sampled, and was also tasty. Most seafood pizzas are sort of unspectacular, but this one was top notch.
This also brings me to the topic of food pricing. Table service meals are cheaper in Japan than they are in any of the other parks. There are special sets, which are an all-inclusive set meal, and ala carte entrees. So load up on reservations and enjoy some of the best Disney restaurants in the world, and pay less than you will in the U.S. parks. There also is no tipping in Japan, which adds to the savings. They actually believe in paying their workers a living wage. Imagine that!
After our fine meal, we headed over to the Arabian Coast. This is a well-done themed area, with the centerpiece being Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage.
This is an elaborate dark ride, portraying Sindbad’s many adventures. The ride system is a boat ride, and it’s loaded with more audio animatronics than I could count. I’m not sure, but it could possibly be the most audio animatronics in a single ride. The motion is so fluid with every single one. It’s incredible how lifelike and beautifully done this entire ride is. The green giant is still awe inspiring. No more spoilers!
The song played throughout the ride, “Compass of Your Heart,” is so catchy that I still find myself humming the tune to myself. The infamous Alan Menken penned the song, and in a rare live performance, did a short English version of it. Enjoy!
The other main feature of the ride is the absolutely adorable Chandu the tiger. He’s Sindbad’s pet/traveling companion/lover of bananas, and is one of the very best theme park specific characters EVER. He’s Figment level awesome, and this is coming from a guy who has adored that little purple dragon since childhood. Of course, a plush of him was purchased immediately after riding. He enjoys riding on my head. It’s his laughing place!
To this humble fellow, this is one of the best dark rides in any Disney park. It may be the very best one that doesn’t feature the trackless ride system (if you don’t know what that is, there’ll be more on that later). I can’t gush enough about how much I adore this attraction. I could sit on this thing on repeat for hours, and if you think I’m kidding, try me!
The lines for this are also almost non-existent, so it’s an easy ride to do whenever you feel like it. Or easy to ride again, as you inevitably will.
Afterwards, it was time for our FastPass for Raging Spirits, so we headed in that direction.
The best comparison I can give is to the Indiana Jones coaster in Disneyland Paris, but this one is more engaging. You’re riding through “an excavation of ancient gods,” a description via the English park map, complete with a loop and a lot of quick turns. It’s a fun ride, albeit short, but it isn’t worth any sort of long wait, which this ride can garner. We got super lucky with our FastPass. Entertaining for a thrill, but not a whole ton more.
Next up was getting a spot for the last showing of the special and brand new Easter show, titled Fashionable Easter. This is a show that’s presented in the Mediterranean Harbor, with many viewing points. We scoped out a spot on the right side of the harbor, as the central viewing area was filled up tightly by this point. The good thing is that there isn’t really a bad perspective from what I could tell, so this worked out just fine. As you can see, Chandu approves.
The show itself had dancers and boat floats representing the different ports of call throughout the park, each with very distinct and gorgeous costumes. Each float also had different characters associated with it. Among the included characters are Goofy, Max, Panchito, José Carioca, Chip, Dale, Clarice, Donald, Daisy, Stitch, Duffy, Shellie May, Minnie and Mickey. Quite a lineup, with a few characters featured that are rarely – if ever – seen in the U.S. parks. Different boats made stops at different parts of the Harbor, where some of the characters would get off and do a fun routine. Goofy and Max, as well as Minnie and Mickey, did so near our location.
The music for the show was catchy and spectacular. The production value was top notch, and everything was seamless. The storyline was all in Japanese, so it went over my head. It wasn’t very important to the enjoyment of the show, however, so it’s not a huge thing. The podcast here on this site explains the show in greater detail than I can, so check that out for sure.
Overall, an amazing show of which we don’t get in the U.S. parks. The new stage that they built in the harbor – this was the first show to feature it – was well designed and very functional. Well done, DisneySea! Check out video of the show here, which was filmed by this site.
A showing of Big Band Beat was due up in about a half hour, so we immediately hopped – get it, hopped, Easter – in line for it. Many times, there’s a lottery system where you scan your tickets in hopes of getting a time to see the show. They use this on more crowded days, but seeing this was a Tuesday and a slower day in the park, there was no lottery at all for the day. Again, we lucked out. The show definitely filled to capacity, however, so we still had to wait a little bit, but it’s a cakewalk compared to how crazy it can be for this and other shows.
Big Band Beat is a high-energy, Broadway style show that involves jazz numbers, all while incorporating Disney characters into the performance. The show is incredibly impressive, with every performer being immensely talented. The aesthetics are lavish, the songs are performed flawlessly, and the way the characters are interwoven throughout is fantastic. The number in which Minnie and Marie perform, as well as Mickey’s insane drumming skills, are the main highlights of a show that is one giant highlight.
Hands down, this is my favorite show at any Disney park. We only got to experience it once, but I’m eternally glad we did.
Afterwards, we noticed that there were still FastPass available for Tower of Terror, so we grabbed those and did some sightseeing around the park. Taking the time to really soak in the ambiance and extreme details of these parks is essential. It heightens your appreciation, and adds so much to the experience. And no park is more detailed than DisneySea.
It was also dark out at this point, with the beautiful lighting of the park giving the place a whole new perspective. These parks are even more fantastic at night. A few evening photos for your pleasure!
During this time, we sampled some of the famed Tokyo Disney popcorn! A limited time flavor, white chocolate, was out of this world delicious. The caramel was good, too, definitely besting the heavier flavor of the caramel in the U.S. parks with a bit more of a subtle approach. Nothing touched white chocolate on this night, though! We also got special Easter popcorn buckets, as well as a Toy Story Alien bucket that was out of this world awesome. The high quality of the popcorn buckets as compared to the usually shoddy quality of the ones in the U.S. was staggering. The ones in the U.S. don’t even close properly half of the time, and while some are very cool, they don’t touch these. Not even close.
We also managed to hop on Aquatopia with no wait. This is a ride that’s definitely more fun to ride in the evening as opposed to during the day. The lighting makes a huge difference, and it feels more unpredictable when it’s darker.
By this time, it was Tower of Terror time. This is far and away the largest and most impressive version of the hotel; however, there is no Twilight Zone tie-in. The reason for that being the fact that the show was never aired in Japan, so the locals would have no idea of what it’s about. So instead, a completely original story was created for it.
To be brief, it focuses on an explorer and all-around scoundrel named Harrison Hightower, who “collected” artifacts from around the world. He was proudly showing off his latest, an African statue named Shiriki Utundu. Hightower mysteriously disappears that night, with only the statue being found in the elevator. Now, the hotel is closed, but open for tours, of which you’re on. And the “something goes horribly wrong” sort of narrative comes into play. I won’t spoil the rest of the story.
The queue is loaded with artifacts that Hightower had collected over the years, including a giant statue. They really went all out on the theming of this ride, as it’s immense both in scope and detail.
You first go through the hotel lobby, with many murals of Hightower’s expeditions. Next, you get a rundown of the back story from a tour guide, and enter Hightower’s private study, where the tour guide plays Hightower’s last interview on a phonograph. Some super cool effects happen next, of which I’m not going to talk about. Have to leave something to the imagination!
There are six loading rooms, each themed to show off artifacts from different parts of the world, which is very cool and adds replay value.
The actual ride itself is similar to other versions, without the extra room that the elevator car moves through in the Walt Disney World version. It’s a pretty simple up and down sequence. The odd part is that the seatbelts also have a shoulder restraint, where all of the other versions only have a lap belt. It does take some of the fun out of the ride, as the little bit of “liftoff” that you get without a shoulder restraint is one of the most fun parts of the ride experience.
The queue and all of the buildup scenes make this my favorite version of Tower of Terror in that respect, barely edging out the Florida version. The actual ride sequence, however, isn’t as good as some of the others. Still an incredible attraction that must be done as much as possible!
At this point, we had one more thing on the agenda for the evening – meeting the almighty Duffy!
As people who know me and my Disney obsession well enough, I’m a giant Duffy fan. I mean bordering crazy. I love his story and what he represents, even though they don’t do the best job of portraying it in the U.S. parks. I have more plushes than I can honestly count, most of them coming from special events and seasons in Florida, where they usually release a special Duffy plush.
This is the home of Duffy – the place where it all began. Where his greatness is truly appreciated and revered. Yes, I felt like I was in Duffy heaven, where in actuality, I was! So naturally, it was a requirement that I meet Duffy. So that’s what we did. And it was as perfect as I had imagined, especially with the Duffmeister sporting his snazzy Easter/Spring outfit. As you can see, I was really going nutty. Don’t judge me.
As you can see, we also acquired some of the famous over-the-top character hats that Japan (as well as Hong Kong) is famous for. They have a few basic ones in the U.S. parks, but the quality is night and day in favor of Japan. We each got two – myself Pooh and Mike Wazowski, the lady Stitch and Bullseye – and I wish we would have gotten more! The amount of people we’ve made jealous by wearing them in the American parks is hilarious. Disney really needs to up their game over here, as the Tokyo resort owns them in every single area of merchandising.
By this point, it was time to call it a night. We were both quite tired, and wanted to make sure we got a good night of sleep, for tomorrow was our first time to visit Tokyo Disneyland!
Stay tuned for all the adventures had in that wonderful park! Thanks for reading my long-winded rambling.