Our visit to Tokyo Disney starter off trying to negotiate the airport, and transportation to Disney. Neither my wife or I spoke any Japanese, but it was fairly easy to get around. We chose the bus rather than the train (let's call it a fear of transferring), which is a little more money, but goes straight to the park. The Japanese people, who I know speak at least little English, are afraid to try for fear of embarrassment, so it is a little hard trying to find where to buy the bus tickets, and where to catch the bus. But they do try hard to help, and we made it OK.
After about a one hour trip (it is probably a 30 minute trip, but we dropped people off at different hotels, and ours was the last stop), we arrive at the hotel, the Miracosta. It is stunning, to say the least. The attention to detail is amazing. It looks like an Italian village, and everything is bright and shiny. We drop off our luggage, and we go buy our passes. You can buy a 3 day pass, but you don't get to go to different parks on the first 2 days, so we choose Disneyland for the first day, DisneySea the 2nd. The 3rd, we can go to both. We then go to the monorail. In Japan, any "ride" that goes over a certain distance has to be run and regulated by the government, and the monorail qualifies. So, you have to buy a separate ticket (which of course we don't find out until we get to the station). That is why the Disney railroad does not circle the entire park like it does in Florida and California. (Side note: At the expensive Miracosta, you do not receive free monorail passes, but at the Tokyo Sheraton, which is connected to the monorail line, we received a free pass, even though we stayed just one night there).
The monorail is VERY cool! It has mouse-ear windows, and the straps that you hold on to are black mouse-ears, with the familiar red and yellow shorts. We travel around DisneySea, and you can see Tokyo Bay, which is right next to the Disney park.
The biggest difference between this and either American park is that "Main Street" is covered. It gives it more a a mall-type of feeling, rather than one of an old Main Street like Walk liked. We hop off and start our day with a quick lunch at the Great American Waffle Company (not waffles, just sandwiches), and head to our first attraction, the old favorite Pirates Of The Caribbean. It is funny, because some of it is in Japanese, but most of it is English. Almost all the rest of the attractions are mostly Japanese. All the signs however, are in English. Then it's off to the Jungle Cruise (which is not nearly as funny when you don't speak Japanese, but the guide DID make a couple of jokes for us, as we were obviously English). We are part of a very, very small minority of guests at the park, and we see maybe 10 Anglo looking people the whole three days we are there. Anyway, the rest of the park is pretty much like the American versions, except for something called the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, which is a guided tour through the castle, where you "conquer the evil forces of Disney villains", and someone gets picked to wield a sword and gets a medal. It is all Japanese, so we don't understand most of it, but it is pretty cool. The best ride is Pooh's Honey Hut, which they have in Orlando (and now California), but a little different here because there is no track that the vehicles follow, and you seem to be getting hurled everywhere. It is definitely better than the Orlando one, and a true highlight.
We have dinner reservations at Restaurant Hokusai, which is also only at Tokyo Disneyland, but stop back at the hotel to change, and get our first look at our room. It is beautiful, and we have a nice view of the Aquasphere, and some of the Mediterranean buildings of DisneySea. The appointments are very nice, and we got our share of Mickey Mouse souveniers! We head back to the park, and have dinner. There is a lot of people waiting, but our advance reservations work pretty well. The menu is a little limited, but the food is good for our first dinner in Japan. Overall it is a pretty good meal, a nice introduction to Japanese food as the Japanese see it. We then head back out into the park to catch the Electrical Parade, which is WAY better than the US parks. There are a lot more floats! Then we finish Tomorrowland, and of course Space Mountain. Unfortunately, due to high winds the fireworks show gets cancelled (I hear this happens often). All-in-all, Tokyo Disneyland is in itself not a reason to travel all the way there (unless you are one of those die-hards trying to check out all the parks), but the obvious is reason is DisneySea, which is unlike any other park, but not as good as we might have expected, after looking at all the beautiful pictures.
DisneySea is much more crowded than Disneyland. After a quick breakfast at Mama Biscotti's bakery, we start our tour. It is truly beautiful, and the Mediterranean village is awesome, and it almost feels like you are walking around Italy, except for the fact that everyone is Japanese, there is no music, and all the workers are Japanese. In Epcot, I love touring around the countries, because they have Italians, from Italy, that work there, just like they have Norwegians in Norway, etc. The music is loud enough to hear, and the street performers and shops help really make you feel part of the country. At DisneySea, it isn't like that, and you feel more like you are looking at things in a museum or something. The merchandising is a lot different in Japan too. Not too many clothing items, and every shop you go into, you will find these tins of cookies, candies and snacks. In Japan, when you go on vacation, it is customary to bring back gifts for everyone, and the tins are reasonably priced for this, between $3 - $10. The people here go ABSOLUTELY NUTS for these things! They even have shopping baskets to carry all your stuff in while you are looking around! Anyway, we scope out a few items I might want later, and move on to the next area, Mysterious Island, which has the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride (not the old one, but a newer version), and the Journey To The Center Of The Earth ride, which is in a volcano. The Journey ride has a HUGE line, so we get a Fastpass for later, and wait in the 20,000 League ride. As lame as the old ride at Disneyland was, it still had some coolness to it, but this one is just lame. It doesn't even go under water (at least the old ones were IN water), and none of the animatronics are in the water either, so you never feel the illusion. Ride tip: Ride as a single riders and you will get through much faster.
Next is the Mermaid Lagoon, which is geared towards children, but is very cool. It is based on the Little Mermaid movie, and the characters and decorations are from there. The outside has a couple of rides, a small rollercoaster, and around-in-a-circle ride. The cool part is inside. You walk through the entrance, which is decorated with fake coral and tiles, and you walk down a ramp like you are slowly going under the sea. It is darker inside, with brightly colored plants and animals all over. The ceiling looks like you are underwater, and the floor does too. There are a few rides inside as well, mostly for kids, and a show called the Under The Sea, which is based on the movie, and has performers on aerials (and Ariel on an aerial!), and they sing, and there are "puppets" too. I haven't seen the WDW version, but this one is very cool.
Next up is the Arabian Coast, but the big ride there, Sinbad's Seven Voyages, is closed for refurbishing (it hasn't even been a year!). We ride the double-decker carousel, and eat lunch at the Casbah Food Court. Again, unlike Epcot, where the Morocco part feels like Morocco, this just doesn't quite do it. At least the music is audible though. There is also the Magic Lamp Theater, which is a typical 3-D attraction, liek Bug's Life. It is based on Aladdin, ans is lot's of fun.
Then we move on to the Lost River Delta, which is really just the Indiana Jones ride that they have at the US parks. It is still cool, but something I noticed is that in Japan, they don't have as elaborate waiting lines. They are much better in the US at preparing you for the ride, getting you in the mood, and getting the setting right. Once again, the decorations in the area are cool, but it doesn't quite do it. They don't really explain the different areas very well. Why is it called the Lost River Delta? Where is it? What kinds of characters are there? There are two attractions here, the Indian Jones Adventure: Temple Of The Crystal Skull, and a show, Mystic Rhythms. Indy is pretty much the same, but like I said, the queue is less elaborate, stoyline less coherant (in part due to the language barrier). Mystic Rhythms is wonderful. It's in an old building made to look like a sort of abandonded hangar, and the stage and building are first rate. It's a jungle themed show based on some sort of gods or something of wind and fire and water. Lots of acrobatics, and trapeze stuff. As good as any show I've seen at any park.
The next area is Port Discovery, and the same questions aply here as Lost River Delta: Why is it called the Port Discovery? Where is it? What kinds of characters are there? It is definitely supposed to be a futuristic area, and there are lots of cool decorations.
There are two rides here, Aquatopia and Stormrider. The line for Stormrider is pretty long, and we soon find out that Fastpass is the ONLY way to go (too bad we don't have one!). They keep letting people with Fastpasses in the line, without letting the other people go. And it's hot! But, it isn't too bad, and we finally get on. The concept is they have these flying vehicles called Stormriders, and they fly into the eye of storms, shoot a missile that detonates down inside the storm and dissipates it. So that is what we are doing today. It is a motion simulator ride, but it holds about 100 people, so it is pretty big. The ride is pretty cool, there are some twists and turns (of course, the mission goes awry), but since it is in Japanese, we don't get the full effect. Still it is loads of fun, as good a simulator as any Disney has to offer. Then we go on Aquatopia, which is a trackless ride, where you are on these things that look like bumper boats. You can pretty much see where they go, and even though it seems like they are riding on the water from far away, when you are right there, you can see it is only a few inches deep, and you can also see the tire tracks, so it really isn't a surprise where you are going. It would be better in the dark..
Now it is time to use our Fastpass for the Journey To The Center Of The Earth ride. We make our way back to the volcano. The line wends its way through a tunnel in the mountain, and the decorations are really cool. They use the old cloth wire and glass connectors for electricity. Again though, they don't ever tell you about the journey while you are waiting in the line (and this is NOT due to a language barrier). The ride is cool, but too short. It is a combination of a dark ride and a roller coaster, but not on a roller coaster track, more like a regular car. It's pretty fast too! Easily the best ride at the park, and one of Disney's best, on a par with Tower of Terror for thrills. Also at Mysterious Island is Vulcania, which is sort of a buffet-style restaurant in the volcano, and they have some decent Asian food. Decor is SO cool though!!!
Then we walk over to the American Waterfront section, which is a representation of 1900's New York, and also a Cape Cod area. The highlight is a ¾ scale size steamship. There are no rides in the section, except for the elevated train ride which bisects the park, and steamboats which also go to different areas of the park. The sets and decorations or cool. There are two major shows in the area, Encore!, which is in a Broadway style theater, and is sort of a compendium of Broadway hits, and Sail Away, which takes place at the steamship, and is a sort of "launching party". Encore! is a nice show, with great performers and a cool venue, and a great addition in Tokyo to give the visitors a taste of a Broadway musical. Sail Away is a typical Disney song-and-dance show with characters. It is cute.
We then head over to the "fortress", which is a old Mediterranean fort that you can walk around, and a sailing ship docked on the water. Lots of little things to experiment with, but no major attraction. We are supposed to eat dinner at Magellan's, which will be the "expensive" restaurant on our trip. We walk in, and it is nicely decorated, and we get our seats, and look at the menu. It seems to be a prix fixe menu, and there are only 3 choices, and none of them are jumping out at us. Rather than pay a lot of money ($40 each I'd say) for a meal we wouldn't enjoy, we decide to skip out, and go to one of the counter service Italian restaurants, Zambini Brothers, and have a serviceable pasta dinner.
The last thing on the agenda is the DisneySea Symphony (the announcement, in Japanese, sound like they say, Dis-a-nee Shi-Shi), which is a water/laser/pyrotechnic show with Mickey, based on the Sorcerer's Apprentice part of Fantasia. The Japanese people LOVE their shows and parades, and start lining up for them two or three hours ahead of time, whether or not the park is crowded or not. The show is similar to Fantasmic and IllumiNations in the American parks, but not as good. There is supposed to be a big fireworks show also, but like last night at Disneyland, it is cancelled due to weather (winds).
Since we could only get two days at the Miracosta, we have to move over to the Sheraton for our last night, so we get all packed up, and call the bell desk to have them get our luggage. The Sheraton is still on the monorail line, so we don't have to go far. The bell girl doesn't speak a lot of English, but I manage to ask if there is a way someone can bring our luggage over to the Sheraton. I say, "luggage", then point and say "Sheraton". She understands, and says yes. That is cool. Now we don't have to schlep it around. We head over to DisneySea to hit a couple things we missed, and then plan on going back to Disneyland in the afternoon. Since it is almost lunchtime, we head over to Vulcania, which is sort of a buffet-style restaurant in the volcano, and they have some decent Asian food. (An aside for those who are looking for Diet Coke - the only place in DisneySea to get it is at the Cape Cod area).
Then it's back to Disneyland. We pretty much have the run of the park, and do almost every ride again in just a half day, with time out to eat a Mickey-shaped burger in Tomorrowland. I am also scoping out what fun merchandise I want too. There really is not much to choose from, but we end up with Mickey spatula, a couple of glasses, a nice pen, some cool old luggage stickers and a cutting board. And of course, a few of the gift containers for friends and family. A couple of funny notes about the Japanese. Every time they take a picture), they make a peace sign, and sometimes the girl will flip up their leg (like the women in the 50's used to do when they kissed). Also, they wear "outfits" to come to the parks, and although there are still people with shorts or jeans on, most people have nicer pants, even when the heat and humidity are stifling. And some of the women are decked out in leather boots with 3 inch heels. I don't know how they can walk around all day in those things! Some of the T-shirts they wear are funny too. They have funny English sayings on them, and we aren't sure they even know what they say. Things like "Psycho. Therapy. Which do you choose", and "Please don't talk to me informally but don't forget me", and one with all the lyrics to Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty". There is also one with "Betty Ford Clinic" with big red stars on it too. Very odd. We finish up and return to the hotel, to find our luggage delivered, and see that they upgraded us to a nice room on the bay side with a nice view.
Last day!!! We don't have a lot of time today, as we have to be at the airport around 1:30. There is a shopping village connected with the Disney Resort, called Ikspiri, but it is not really like any Downtown Disney, but more like any mall you might find. Not much help for the Japanese-challenged either, and nothing spectacular as far as shopping goees. There is also shop called Bon Voyage just outside the parks on the monorail line that has some cool stuff in it.
All in all, DisneySea is a beautiful, beautiful place, but not many rides, so lines are constantly long. I never really "got into" the themed areas as much as I would in the American parks, part due to the language barrier, but also part due to the layout and cast members. While the folks in Japan often laud their cast members as the best, I have to say that while they WERE helpful, they were certainly not as animated as their US counterparts. The wandering actors and characters in the US are often as fun as some of the rides, and the characters in TDL and TDS are not quite up to par.