Julie Grant -- May 2001 -- Tokyo Disneyland (Offsite)
INTRODUCTION / PRE-TRIP
I decided to write a trip report to contribute to the limited supply of Tokyo Disneyland English language resources. While researching this trip, I found that guide books only contained a paragraph or two about Tokyo Disneyland "as a side trip for the kids," and the internet lacked the quantity/quality of resources which are available to people planning trips to Disneyland or Disneyworld.
BACKGROUND: In May, 2000, John, my sister, my great-aunt, and I cruised aboard the DISNEY MAGIC. The cruise was my sister's college graduation gift from my great-aunt. Lucky for us, we were also invited along. In December, 2000, on the spur of the moment, John and I went to Disneyland to see "It's a Small World Holiday" and the "snow" on Main Street.
We were not planning another Disney trip until August, 2001, when we'll be returning to Disneyworld. Then, just after the New Year, my husband was asked to be the best man at his friend's wedding. His friend is an American attorney practicing law in Tokyo. Initially, the bride and groom planned to get married in the States in June, 2001 - he's from the U.S. and she's from Japan. The bride changed her mind in late March. She wanted a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, formal kimono and all. She also wanted to change the date to May. The location was not a problem as we had always planned on visiting our friend in Japan "someday." The date, however, was problematic due to a conflict with my teaching. Luckily, the wedding fell during finals week. Then and there, I decided to give take-home exams. Grades would be due the day after we got home. No problem. I was willing to stay up all night grading exams for a chance to go to Japan. Then the light bulb clicked on... "Hey, isn't Tokyo Disneyland in Japan?"
AIR FARE: The last week of April/first week of May is Golden Week in Japan. They have several national holidays during this time (for example, Children's Day on May 5). As a result, EVERYONE takes their vacation at the same time. So lucky us, we were going to Tokyo just as everyone was returning from their holiday. Two concerns: (1) airfare was sky high, $1400 to $4000, for coach seats; and (2) most seats were sold out two months in advance. We were wait listed for flights on both United Airlines and Air Nippon Airlines departing on May 5 and 6, and crossed our fingers. Why ANA? They are a code share partner with United Airlines so we can earn United Miles when flying ANA. Finally, in late April we were offered ANA seats on May 6 for $900 each. We snapped them up!
HOTEL: Wanting to stay "on property," I visited the Tokyo Disneyland official website (you can access it in English, Japanese, and Chinese - the easiest way to find it is www.disney.com) and found a listing for 5 official hotels including a Sheraton and a Hilton hotel. I focused on these two because they had 1-800 numbers in the U.S. I looked up both the Sheraton and Hilton websites. Sheraton had the cheapest room for 16,500 yen ($140 per night). The cheapest room at Hilton was going for about $250 per night. I called Sheraton's 1-800 number and reserved a room. Because I'm a Starwood member (I earn points for staying at Sheraton, Westin, W, etc. hotels), all of my room preferences (non-smoking, high floor) were automatically added to my room reservation. I also asked for a theme park view. At the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel, there are two types of views, Tokyo Bay water view or theme park view.
By the way, Tokyo Disneyland also has its own brand new hotel called the Disney Ambassador. But no, I didn't want to pay $300+ per night. The Ambassador has a character breakfast at Chef Mickey's. Unfortunately, only hotel guests are allowed to make reservations for it. When Disney Sea, a second Disney theme park, opens this September, it will have a hotel right in the park called Tokyo Disney Sea Hotel Mira Costa.
GOAL: To enjoy the attractions unique to Tokyo Disneyland.
Days 1 and 2, Sunday, May 6, 2001, and Monday, May 7, 2001
Anticipating a full flight, John and I wanted to get to the airport early. We dropped off our dog at John's parents' house right after breakfast. Shortly after that, John's dad picked us up and drove us to the airport. We arrived nearly two hours early. After checking-in we spent time browsing through duty free shops and having a snack - a latte for me and a burger for John.
FLIGHT: Very crowded. We had a choice of a Japanese or western style meal. I had the western meal and John had the Japanese meal. The western meal was beef stew on pasta with a green salad and chocolate cake for dessert. The Japanese meal was a mixed rice dish with cold noodles on the side and various pickled vegetables. My first lesson: In Japan, if you have a choice between Japanese food and western food, choose Japanese. My food was so-so, typical airline food. But John's food was yummy. Going over the international date line, we lost a day. We left on Sunday afternoon and arrived Monday evening.
TRANSPORTATION from Narita Airport to Tokyo Disneyland: Narita Airport is located outside of Tokyo. During my trip planning, I had found that cab fare from Narita into Tokyo runs over $200. Not for us.
Another option was trains. Japan has an extensive network of both trains and subways. There is a train station right under the airport. So a second option was to take the Narita Express to Tokyo Station and then transfer to the JR train line for a 15 minute trip to Maihama (this is the Tokyo Disneyland station.) Because we were attending a wedding, we were traveling relatively heavy with two suitcases and a garment bag. We did not want to lug our bags on and off trains.
A third option, and the one we used, was the Airport Limousine service. Despite the fancy name, it is just a plain old bus. The bus goes directly from the airport to hotels in Tokyo, Tokyo station, and Tokyo Disneyland/Maihama area hotels. From the bus schedule which we had pulled off the internet (go the Narita Airport website), we thought we would miss the last Maihama bus of the day (6:35 p.m.). Our alternate plan was to catch the train. As luck would have it, we were seated near the plane's exit. We were one of the first ones off. We got into the foreign customs line where we waited for 30 minutes. Got our bags at the luggage carousel and exited customs at 6:30 p.m. Directly across the exit was the Airport Limousine service counter. The woman at the counter didn't speak English but got the picture as I repeated the magic words "Tokyo Disneyland". We purchased a ticket and ran to the bus stop right outside the door where they were making the last call for our bus. They announce the buses in Japanese but the buses have English signs.
Lesson: At the very least, change enough money to get to your hotel. Most bus tickets appeared to cost in the neighborhood of 3,000 yen (one way).
Another Lesson: Catch a flight arriving before the last bus of the day leaves for Tokyo Disneyland. Arriving at the end of Golden Week, we couldn't pick and choose our flight.
There was almost no traffic this evening and it took only 40 minutes to arrive in the Tokyo Disneyland area. We made two stops to drop off passengers at two other hotels and then arrived at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel.
SHERATON GRANDE TOKYO BAY HOTEL: We were greeted at the bus by the hotel porter who took our luggage and escorted us to the lobby which was one flight up. Check-in was quick and easy. Language was not a problem. I just showed my Starwood card and was checked-in within 2 minutes. I got all my room requests, including a non-smoking room facing the theme parks. Out of nearly 800 rooms at the hotel, only a few (something like 20) are non-smoking. You are not guaranteed a non-smoking room even if you request one.
Note: Despite the fact that many Japanese can understand a little English, not many, including Sheraton and Tokyo Disneyland employees, could speak it well. Later, we found that people spoke better English in Tokyo.
We walked onto our balcony and WOW! The view was incredible. We were on a high floor overlooking Disney Sea. Right in front of us was Indiana Jones Adventure/Temple of the Crystal Skull. To the right was a large volcano, Mysterious Island. To the left was Tokyo Disneyland with Space Mountain, Cinderella's Castle, and Big Thunder Mountain.
Our room at the Sheraton was comparable to any of the deluxe hotels at Disneyworld. (On our most recent trip to Disneyworld, we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn.) We had two double beds, a large marble bathroom, television with CNN in English, a mini-bar, a pot of boiling water ready to make complimentary tea, house slippers, an in-room safe, hair dryer, and a video game set-up.
TICKETS: After checking out the room and view, we went to the lobby to the concierge desk to purchase park tickets. One of the benefits of staying at the official hotels or the Ambassador Hotel is that you can purchase park tickets at the hotel. No long lines at the gate for us. Also, I was told that if the park gets too crowded and closes its gates, official hotel guests are still admitted to the park.
Disney sells a 1 day passport, a 2 day passport which must be used on two consecutive days, and an entrance passport which only allows you admission into the park but no rides. With the admission only ticket you have to purchase separate admission for each ride in the "A" through "E" ticket format - "E" tickets include Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Tours, Space Mountain, etc. and "A" tickets include the Main Street Horseless Carriage. I suspect that Disney may have stopped selling "A" through "E" tickets because we didn't see anyone using them and our English guide map stated, "Guests may use any remaining attraction tickets until March 31, 2001." On the other hand, we saw lots of 1 and 2 day passports still being presented at ride entrances. Also, Disney was still selling plastic passport cases with either a pin or lanyard. Maybe the people presenting passports were trying to get some use out of their passport cases? We never presented our passport at any of the ride entrances, nor were we asked to do so. Hmm...
We purchased two adult 2 day passports which we charged to our room. List price is 9,800 yen ($80) each. But we got a discount with our Magic Kingdom Card. Yes, you heard me right. If you have an unexpired Magic Kingdom Card that you were keeping for sentimental reasons, lucky you. You get a discount on park admission tickets. They don't even accept the Disney Club Card. Who knows how much longer this will last, but it is worth a try.
We were given an English language guide map. Very helpful. Unfortunately, it was generic and did not have any parade or fireworks times listed. Must look into that tomorrow. English language maps are also available in the park at Main Street House (it's on your left as you enter the World Bazaar).
Useful information: Tokyo Disneyland recently began accepting American credit cards. Many places in Japan, especially smaller places, don't accept any credit cards. It's cash or nothing. For example, one gift shop at Mt. Fuji (a very touristy area) would not accept the credit card of the lady in front of me. Lastly, if you need cash from an ATM, you'll have to find an ATM specifically made for foreign bank cards. My suggestion is that if you are planning on going to areas outside Tokyo Disneyland, carry lots of cash.
We returned to the room, unpacked, watched a little CNN Biz Asia ("Hey, John, isn't the anchor our neighbor Dalton?" It's a small world after all.), requested a 7:00 a.m. wake-up call, and went to bed.
Day 3, Tuesday, May 8, 2001
WEATHER: overcast, low 60's, constant sprinkles in the mid-afternoon to early evening.
CROWDS: Almost non-existent. We did not wait more than 10 minutes for any ride. We suspect the light attendance was due to the fact that Golden Week had just ended.
7:00 a.m. came too soon. No Mickey wake-up call. We were ready to go by 7:45 a.m., picked up our English language newspaper at our door, and went in search of breakfast. The only restaurant open at the time was serving a breakfast buffet for 2,800 yen. No thank you! The hotel bakery was not scheduled to open until 10:00 a.m. Not very convenient. We decided to brave our hunger pains and head out to Tokyo Disneyland.
TRANSPORTATION: All official Disney hotels and the Ambassador Hotel have free bus service. The bus runs every 5 to 10 minutes. It was a 5 minute bus ride from the Sheraton to Tokyo Disneyland. Each hotel has its own bus going to the park. On the return trip, however, the bus stops at all five official Disney hotels. Lucky for us, the first stop returning was the Sheraton. The Ambassador has its own bus.
When Disney Sea opens this fall, there will also be a monorail stopping at Tokyo Disneyland, Disney Sea, Ikspiari shopping center, and the resorts.
TOKYO DISNEYLAND: We arrived at the Tokyo Disneyland bus stop at 8:05 a.m. At Tokyo Disneyland, there is no rope drop. The park opens exactly at the official park opening time. Not a minute sooner. Today, the opening time was 9:00 a.m. We walked over to the gates and found one without anyone else in line. First in line! Woo Hoo! By a half-hour before park opening, though, each line had at least a hundred people. It was very cold and I had not to brought a jacket. Brrr..... We read the newspaper cover to cover while waiting in line. Also, I got some pretty good pictures of the floral Mickey face located just inside the entrance.
At 8:45 a.m., characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Fairy God Mother, the Three Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio, and a few more, came out inside the park (we were still outside) and started dancing to various Disney tunes. When the park opened at 9:00 a.m., they stayed to greet guests. If you want to meet characters, this is the time to do it.
We ran, as in sprinted, to Pooh's Hunny Hunt in Fantasy Land. The cast members politely ask you in Japanese to be careful, but they don't tell you to stop running. John and I are pretty fit, but lady with a stroller nearly ran us down. At Tokyo Disneyland, Main Street is called the World Bazaar. It is under a glass roof. The whole thing looks like a very large Crystal Palace. Very cool! At the end of the World Bazaar is the Walt and Mickey statue. Unlike Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, it's quite a ways away from the castle.
We had no time to enjoy the World Bazaar. We had to get to Pooh. Fast, fast, fast! To get to Pooh, we went through the World Bazaar, headed right around the circle, and took the bridge just to the right of Cinderella's Castle. Kept running until we saw the lines. There were two lines. On the left was the line to get Fastpasses, and on the right was the ride with the standby line. There was almost no-one in the Fastpass line so we quickly got two Fastpasses, return time 9:40 a.m. We then cut across the walkway and entered the standby line. It was a walk-on. We walked through the outside part of the line, barely stopping inside to enjoy the scenery. Once inside, we saw large "pages" from a story called "Pooh's Hunny Hunt." They're all in English. If you read the pages, you'll get a feel for what's to come. The ride itself is in Japanese.
The story goes something like this. Pooh asks Christopher Robin for his blue balloon. Christopher asks why, and Pooh replies that he needs it to get hunny. Christopher says you can't get hunny with a balloon. Pooh says that he knows a way, just point him at the tall tree and let him go. The ride is Pooh's adventure. In the first room, Pooh floats by the tree and we see the characters in the 100 acre woods. Next, we see Tigger bouncing and we bounce along with him. Then we go into Pooh's dream sequence. In his dream, we see bees taking hunny from our ride pots and exploding, and an exploding cannon - trust me it's not scary at all. We then ride through the tree branch where Pooh gets his hunny. The end.
Pooh's Hunny Hunt is the BEST dark ride ever. You ride in hunny pots, with two people in front and three in back. Three hunny pots travel through the ride together. What makes this ride so interesting is that the pots are trackless so they separate and go in different directions. They spin, swerve, and bounce. This also means that you get one of three different rides depending on which pot you ride. I've been on Pooh at Disneyworld and it is a completely different ride.
Next, on to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This was a walk-on. Aside from appearing to have more dark areas (caves), the ride was pretty similar to Disneyland.
We passed the Golden Horseshoe. They were taking reservations for the Hoop-De-Doo Revue dinner show. We hopped in line and made reservations for the 6:10 p.m. show. You pay when you make your reservations. Cost: 3,500 yen per person.
Across from the Golden Horseshoe, there was a pin cart in front of the Western Land shops. We stopped and I purchased several Pooh's Hunny Hunt pins. One has Pooh in the Hunny Pot and another is a book-style pin which opens (magnetic closure) to a Pooh picture. The pins run about 600 to 800 yen. Yes, they are cheap. But be careful because many of the pins are no longer tradable with Disneyland cast members due to revised trading rules prohibiting trading of epoxy covered pins.
Our Fastpass window for Pooh had opened so we returned to Pooh and rode with a 10 minute wait. This time we were able to view all of the exhibits and read the "story" before getting on the ride. It's easier to understand the ride having read the story. Got out of Pooh and noticed that they still had Fastpasses available (I had heard that they run out of Pooh Fastpasses by lunch). Picked up two more Fastpasses for tonight.
On to Space Mountain with a 10 minute wait. The monitors in line are identical to Disneyland and are in English. In most instances, where there is the same ride in all 3 parks (Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland, and Magic Kingdom), the ride more closely resembled Disneyland over Disneyworld. On to Star Tours which was a walk-on. The pilot/robot spoke in Japanese, but having been on the ride so many times previously there was no problem in the translation.
It was 11:30 a.m. and having missed breakfast, we were getting very hungry. Blue Bayou doesn't take reservations, but at this hour, we had no wait. We were seated next to the water. We watched the boats from Pirates of the Caribbean float by. The restaurant looks exactly like its counterpart at Disneyland. For my starter, I had potage (500 yen) and John had seafood gumbo (500 yen). The potage was very buttery. Yum! John didn't much care for the gumbo - too fishy tasting for him. My entree was veal medallions (1800 yen). Tasty but tiny portion. John had beef stew (1700 yen). Too fatty and too tiny portion. We ended with coffee (380 yen each - no refills). Portions were extremely small. At home, I NEVER finish an entree. Here, I licked the plate clean. Small portions seemed the rule rather than the exception for almost everywhere we ate at Tokyo Disneyland.
We walked through the New Orleans shops. It started to drizzle and we purchased two rain ponchos (500 yen each).
Since my goal was to enjoy the attractions unique to Tokyo Disneyland, we headed Tomorrow Land to see Meet the World. The attraction is similar in concept to Carousel of Progress. You enter a theater which spins around a center stage. The ride itself tells the history of Japan. A girl and boy playing on the beach meet a talking stork who takes them through the history of Japan. It is quite interesting to see a nation's history through its own eyes. Maybe this is how foreigners see the American pavilion at Epcot? Phones in the last row translated the show into English - although they were, at times, hard to hear over the Japanese. They need headsets for this one.
By 2:00 p.m., we were starving again. We stopped by Galactic Pizza Port and each had a sausage and mushroom slice with a cup of coffee to warm up - the weather had not gotten any warmer this afternoon.
A note on snacking: The Japanese don't seem to like eating and walking at the same time. Thus, there were only a few carts selling popcorn (plain and caramel) and ice cream. It was difficult to locate a spur of the moment munchie.
Fortified, we did Cinderella's Castle Mystery Tour. It is a 20 minute walking tour with a guide through Cinderella's castle. The guide speaks only Japanese. Even if you don't understand the language, it is worth going on this tour to see the inside of the castle. The plot is easy to understand. It is about good versus evil culminating in a battle against the dragon Maleficent. Hint - volunteer when the guide asks for one near the end of the tour. If you're chosen, you'll get to carry the sword, defeat the dragon, and be awarded a cool medal.
Next, we did the Mickey Mouse Review. Had no idea what this would be. The pre-show is a movie showing the history of music in Mickey cartoons/movies. It is in Japanese and quite difficult to follow along. The actual show is in a large auditorium. Audio animatronic Disney characters performed various Disney songs. It reminded me of Country Bears Jamboree. John thought it was boring. (He naps in Country Bears too.)
We visited the Haunted Mansion - Japanese spoken words with songs sung in English.
We rode It's a Small World. The large outside facade is similar to the one at Disneyland. In the last room where all the dolls are dressed in white, instead of singing in English, they're singing in Japanese.
A show was starting in the Enchanted Tiki Room so we walked right in. The show is called "Get the Fever." The four main birds are named, Lava, Buddy, Scats, and Danno. They sing, "Fever," "In the Summertime," "Hot, Hot, Hot," "I Wanna Be Like You," and the "Tiki Room" song. We enjoyed this a lot! But then again, the Tiki Room (both the old and new shows) is one of our favorite attractions at Disneyland/Magic Kingdom.
It was time for our 6:10 p.m. dinner reservation at the Hoop-De-Doo Revue. The show was easy to understand as half the songs and half the speaking was in English. The show closely resembles the one at Disneyworld, but is slightly shorter. It was a lot of fun!
Dinner was served family style. We started with a salad topped with smoked trout and a creamy dressing - very delicious! The entree consisted of sausages (no, they were really hot dogs), prawns, scallops, prime rib, and corn on the cob. It may seem like a lot of food when listed, but really it was not much at all. We were served only one of each item. No seconds. The prime rib was too fatty for me. Apple pie was served for dessert. The crust was VERY chewy. Yuck! Non-alcoholic beverages were unlimited.
After dinner, we walked on to Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride was the same as Disneyland except the skull and crossbones at the beginning spoke in Japanese. Same "yo ho, yo ho a pirate's life for me..."
We rode the Western Land Railroad which, oddly, is located in Adventure Land. This train makes no stops. You board, tour Western Land, Adventure Land, and Critter Country, see the Dino Diorama and Grand Canyon, and return to the starting point. John didn't think it was a steam engine.
We walked through some Adventure Land shops. We found a great shop called Chiba Traders. The shop sells traditional Japanese items with a Disney twist. We found faux lacquer bowls and boxes with hidden Mickeys, Mickey chop sticks, paper lanterns and fans with Mickey and Minnie, and rice crackers in tin cans with samurai Mickey, Minnie and Donald. We purchased several tins of rice crackers, and a fan and a lacquer box for my mother-in-law who was watching our dog. We took our packages to the lockers (located on the left just after entering the park) (200 yen).
Next, John visited the western shooting gallery (200 yen for 15 shots). All those video and arcade games finally paid off. He got all 15 targets.
It was time for our second Pooh Fastpass. Used it and got on within 10 minutes. By this time, John had had enough of Pooh.
We walked through the World Bazaar Shops. In one shop, we spotted the entrance to a Disney Sea exhibit on the second floor. Disney Sea will open this September. At the exhibit entrance, we picked up a free souvenir map printed on very good quality poster paper. At each "port of call" or land, we stamped our map. It is quite a nice collector's item. I'm having ours framed. Each land had exhibits of ride vehicles, scale models of the rides, and artists' renderings of the land. Having seen the exhibit and the view from our hotel room, we've just got to find a way to return soon.
Did more shopping. John hates to shop but knew that we had to purchase some things for our offices. To avoid a last-minute rush tomorrow, we decided to purchase several tins of cookies and candies on the way out. We later learned that in Japan, it is a tradition to bring home omiage (gifts). Disney has parlayed this tradition into quite a profitable venture. Most shops in the park had wall-to-wall boxes of cookies, cakes, candies, and rice crackers. Prices started at 500 yen. I have never seen such a variety of gift food items outside of large department store food courts. This evening, the stores were packed! We squeezed our way through the stores grabbing items. Luckily, we didn't have to read Japanese to buy cookies/candies as every item had a box open for inspection. We picked the shortest cashier line and was out of the store in 10 minutes!
We left the park at around 8:45 p.m. and headed for the new Disney Bon Voyage Store. It is located right outside the park gates, past the resort bus stops. The entrance is on the second floor. It is large but not as big as World of Disney at Disneyworld. We saw that many of the items for sale in the parks were also for sale here. Instead of carrying a bunch of packages and using a locker, we could have done most of our shopping here. Live and learn. We purchased Tokyo Disneyland golf balls for my father in-law who was watching our dog, and a couple of the Tokyo Disneyland pin trader pins for me.
We walked to Disney Ikspiari which is a shopping complex located about 5 minutes from Bon Voyage. To get there, exit Bon Voyage and follow the bridge away from Tokyo Disneyland. Ikspiari has many shops (some familiar like Disney Store, J. Crew, GAP, and BCBG), restaurants, and an AMC 16 theater Cineplex. We didn't go into many shops because it was late and we were tired. Just as we got to the Disney Store, the fireworks started over Cinderella's Castle. We saw the fireworks from the Disney Store courtyard. We were all alone. It was a terrific view. After the fireworks, we walked through the Disney Store. We stopped by a bakery and purchased some muffins and croissants for breakfast tomorrow. We dragged ourselves back to the resort bus stop. A resort bus was loading passengers. Got on, returned to our hotel, requested a 7:30 a.m. wake-up call, and crashed.
Observation: Japan is a smoking country. For example, most restaurants in Tokyo did not have non-smoking seating. If there was such a designated area, it was right next to the smoking area. Think of the U.S. 30 years ago. On the other hand, except for certain designated areas, Tokyo Disneyland is entirely non-smoking. From what we saw, the rules were strictly enforced.
Day 4, Wednesday, May 9, 2001
WEATHER: less overcast than yesterday, low 70's.
CROWDS: Slightly heavier than yesterday - probably due to the better weather. Our longest wait was 20 minutes.
Woke up at 7:30 a.m. This morning we got off to a later start because: (1) we had seen the Tokyo Disneyland opening yesterday; (2) we were tired and wanted to sleep in; (3) we didn't have to do the Pooh sprint; and (4) we needed to ship our luggage into Tokyo this morning. Got ready and had our breakfast (pastries from yesterday) on the balcony.
We're checking out tomorrow and catching the train and subway into Tokyo. We don't want to carry two suitcases and garment bag on the train. Planning this trip, I had learned that the Japanese don't travel with their luggage. Instead, they ship their luggage to their hotel and back home again so that they can travel light. At 8:15 a.m., I went to the concierge desk to enquire about this service. I filled out a form (the concierge translated the words and I filled in the blanks in English), had the delivery service charged to my room, and left one suitcase and the garment bag. Hopefully, we'll see them again in Tokyo. They have our wedding clothes. Cost was about $12 per item. Also, the service requires 24 hours for delivery (pick-up was 3 p.m. for next morning delivery in Tokyo).
Got to the park at 8:45 a.m. Lines at the entrance were very long. Lines for tickets were even longer. Lesson: If you can purchase your tickets elsewhere, do it. We read some of our newspaper. The park opened at 9:00 a.m. and by 9:10 a.m. we were through the gates, headed for Fantasy Land. We ran to Pooh but both the Fastpass and standby lines were 45 minutes long. We decided that three times would have to be enough for us.
Our first stop was Peter Pan's Flight. Because there was no line, we rode three times in a row, getting off and then zipping back on. Then we rode Snow White's Adventures twice. Both rides were like their counterparts at Disneyland.
We were getting hungry again. We remembered seeing a Great American Waffle Company in the World Bazaar. We headed there. On the way, we spotted the entrance to the infamous Club 33. This is the exclusive members' only dining club at Disney. The entrance is right next to the Great American Waffle Company (upon entering the park, proceed into the World Bazaar and then make your first left. It's across from the East Side Café.). I just had to take a picture. We must have looked silly taking pictures of a doorway. The door was locked and we didn't see anyone going in or out at this hour. We proceeded to the Great American Waffle Company and each had a Mickey shaped waffle with strawberries/blueberries and whipped cream (380 yen each) and coffee (180 yen each). This appears to be the best meal deal on property. Tasty waffles at a reasonable price.
On to Tomorrow Land and the Visionarium (Timekeeper). The pre-show had monitors in both Japanese and English. The last two rows of the theater had headsets with English translations. It's not the Robin Williams ride. I suspect this is the original attraction from Disneyland Paris. After this, we rode Space Mountain then headed off to Fantasy Land for more Pooh Fastpasses. The Fastpass line was now only 5 minutes so we got 2 Fastpasses. At 10:45 a.m., our return time was 4:15 p.m.
We headed to Toon Town to ride Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. The posted wait was 20 minutes. Since I didn't know when, if ever, the one at Disneyland will re-open, we decided to wait. It was the same fun ride as Disneyland.
Visited the Haunted Mansion again. The posted wait time was 20 minutes. At Tokyo Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion is in Fantasy Land.
It was about noon and we were hungry again. We spotted the Hungry Bear Restaurant which sells curry. Very good curry. Learning from past experience, John and I both had large servings of the pork cutlet curry (1050 yen each). I had a large orange soda (260 yen) and John had a large iced tea (260 yen). Our first filling meal!
Stuffed, we headed next door to the Country Bear Theater. Saw the Country Bear Jamboree. Half the songs like "Ballad of Davey Crockett" are sung in Japanese, and half like "Blood on the Saddle" are sung in English.
Took the Mark Twain across the Rivers of America. Hey, they still have canoes here! We spotted at least two canoes and the passengers looked like they were having a lot of fun. While waiting for our river boat to pass, the guides had the passengers waving their paddles at us.
The standby line for Big Thunder Mountain railroad was 45 minutes so we got 2 Fastpasses with a return time of 3:15 p.m.
We remembered seeing an ice cream cart in Adventure Land so we headed there. I had a monaca bar (vanilla and strawberry ice cream in a shell which tasted like an ice cream cone) and John had an ice cream sandwich.
We did the Tiki Room again, followed by Pirates, and more shopping. We also did the Jungle Cruise. The cruise was all in Japanese, but it appeared that our guide was doing the same tried and true jokes. For example, the guide pointed to the waterfall and appeared to be saying, "Look, the backside of water!"
A note about the Tokyo Disneyland cast members. I've got to gush here. They were FABULOUS! Every cast member from our Jungle Cruise guide to the ice cream vendor was incredibly energetic, happy, and helpful! Sadly, this observation was all too obvious when compared with our recent experience at Disneyland where I noticed that many cast members were missing that spark of pixie dust.
Our Big Thunder Fastpass window was ending so we rode that (walk-on). By the time we got off, it was almost time for our Pooh Fastpass window to open. We went to Pooh via Tomorrow Land so that we could pick up a couple of Space Mountain Fastpasses (standby time was 45 minutes, Fastpass return time was 5:15 p.m.)
We were walking from Tomorrow Land to Fantasy Land when we were stopped on the border. A cast member just pulled a rope in front of us. Turns out the 4:00 p.m. Party Express parade was starting. Yesterday, we had decided not to do any of the parades when we saw a lot of people holding places (they spread out picnic blankets) two hours in advance. Now we had front row seats for the parade without even waiting. What luck!
After the parade, we proceeded to Pooh which we rode for the 4th and final time this trip after a 10 minute wait.
Slowly, we made our way to Tomorrow Land, visiting a few shops along the way. We arrived at Space Mountain a few minutes before our Fastpass time. We waited and entered Space Mountain at our appointed time.
After Space Mountain, we were headed out to the hub via Tomorrow Land and what do I see, but a couple of non-cast member pin traders, big fat books and all. I had to stop and look. On sunny days, you can find them right outside Cosmic Encounter (a pin store) in Tomorrow Land . I made two trades. I traded two Disneyland pins for the 102 Dalmatians Ikspiari pin and the 2001 Disney Store countdown pin. I had brought more pins to trade, but because I didn't see any traders out yesterday, I decided not to carry them today. Bummer....
We had no plans for dinner. I wanted to eat Japanese food at Hokusai (a nice sit-down place). John thought it was a little pricey. I got grumpy. We compromised and ended up at the Boiler Room BBQ in Adventure Land. Wish we hadn't. For 680 yen, we each got two teri-glazed skewers with two tiny rice balls. I had pork and hamburger, and John had pork and chicken. Very sweet and greasy. Don't eat there, don't eat there, don't eat there. Don't say I never warned you.
To erase the memory of the Boiler Room, I wanted a tasty dessert. Luckily, just a few doors down was Café Orleans which serves crepes. John and I shared a chocolate crepe (crepe filled with chocolate mousse and topped with whipped cream and sprinkles) (350 yen) and coffee (180 yen). Tokyo Disneyland has excellent coffee! Well worth the price for a tiny cup.
We walked to the Cinderella Castle end of the World Bazaar and were sitting on a bench contemplating our next move. We were quite tired and feeling jet lagged. Just then, we looked up at the second floor above the Home Store and what do we see, but the dining room for Club 33! No mistake. There are no restaurants on the second floor and we could see tuxedo clad waiters and chandeliers. Took a photo and decided to call it a night.
We went back to the hotel, stopped at the snack shop for a couple of sodas, and went to our room. At 9:30 p.m., we stepped onto our balcony and watched the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle. What a great way to end our stay at Tokyo Disneyland.
Day 5, Thursday May 10, 2001
WEATHER: sunny, mid-70's.
We slept in today. Woke up at about 8:30 a.m. Got ready and checked out by 9:30 a.m.
TRANSPORTATION: There is a free shuttle bus from the hotel to the train station. It runs less frequently than the Tokyo Disneyland bus. Since the train station is a short walk from Tokyo Disneyland, if we were in a rush and had just missed the train station bus, we would have caught the Tokyo Disneyland bus and walked. Waited less than 5 minutes for the train station bus. With the 5 minute ride, we were at the train station before 10:00 a.m. We purchased our tickets from one of the machines (look at the English language map for ticket price) and hopped a train to Tokyo.
The rest of our trip was spent at the Akasaka Prince Hotel in Tokyo enjoying wedding festivities with the groom and his family. The wedding took place on Saturday, May 12, 2001, in a very old Shinto shrine where we enjoyed various scriptures and blessings, Japanese dancing, court music, and sake. I was told that these days, not many Japanese people are even afforded the opportunity of witnessing a Shinto wedding because most women want white gown western-style weddings. Also, even if a couple chooses a Shinto wedding, since the ceremony is private, it is witnessed only by the immediate family and very close friends (best man/maid of honor and their guests). John and I felt honored to have been invited to share such a special occasion.
By the way, our luggage arrived in perfect condition by noon on Thursday. Thanks for reading!