Traveling Around the World to Get to 'The World'

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

Traveling Around the World to Get to "The World"

I'm sure you have heard it many times: "The Walt Disney World resort is the most popular vacation destination in the world."

You can't argue with that statement; especially these days.

I can remember slightly more than a decade ago how January, March, September, October, early November and even early December were great times to visit Walt Disney World (WDW).

Why? Well, back then there wasn't much hype regarding those "off-season months."

But look at the WDW Calendar now:

  • January has the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend
  • February has the winter school vacation weeks
  • March means Spring Break
  • April, May, and June bring with them more school vacation weeks, the International Flower and Garden Show, Star Wars Weekends, and Grad Nights.
  • July and August speak for themselves.
  • Bring on September, October, and November and we are talking the International Food & Wine Festival, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and Super Soap Weekends.
  • Early December means more than just Mousefest as Pop Warner and others have made WDW their destination at that time of year.

So it is the most popular vacation destination in the world.

The key phrase in that sentence is "in the world."

I'm sure cast members way back when used to marvel at guests coming from all over the country to visit WDW.

Then there are the international visitors and in most cases over the years it's been our friends from the United Kingdom and Europe and of course those countless Brazilian tour groups.

But it doesn't stop there.

The lure of WDW and the joy and escape from reality it offers draws guests from even the other side of the world.

A fine example is Masayo Kano who hails all the way from Japan and understands what waits for her in Orlando.

This Japanese native has made 15 trips to WDW and is quickly closing in on the century mark for days spent at the resort.

She has also visited Disneyland some seven times for a total of 30 days.

Of course, there is also Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. Understandably, Kano has made quite a few more trips to these vacation sites—at last count 20.

She has never visited Disneyland Paris or Hong Kong Disneyland—I should probably say at least not yet. It's hard to say never when talking about a Disney destination.

She remembers her first visit to a Disney theme park.

"My first Disney theme parks visit was on April 16, 1991 to Tokyo Disneyland with my dear husband," Kano recalled.

That happened to be the year that Tokyo Disneyland was celebrating its eighth anniversary.

She recalls watching the new day parade and reflects that "Almost everything we did during that trip was just amazing."

Her memories still linger.

"I still remember I was waving so hard to other guests canoeing when I was on the Disneyland Railroad," she said. "I couldn't resist it because I felt so happy to be there."

That rings familiar to me.

"After we made a fun trip to Tokyo Disneyland, I noticed a magazine called Disney Fan at a local book store," she said. "I think it was still new magazine [the first issue was published in July 1990], I wanted to get it but I did not because I knew that if I got it, I'd fall more and more in love with Disney for sure and I wondered and worried what my husband would say when he saw that I got that book."

"That night, when my husband came home from work, he had the book in his hand," she continued. "I guess it was at that time we knew that the both of us were hooked."

You would have to be extremely hooked on Disney to go through the traveling nightmare Kano must go through to travel all the way from Japan to Orlando.

Take a deep breath and read what she endures to get to her beloved WDW.

  1. She drives one hour to Centrair Chubu International Airport.
  2. She then flies direct to Detroit, Mich., a 12-hour flight covering 6,500 miles, long enough to watch at least three in-flight movies.
  3. Once in Detroit, she boards another plane for Orlando. This leg of her trip is only 957 miles and takes another two hours.

Do the math folks. It takes almost 16 hours to go from Japan to Florida. I'll never complain again about my three-hour nonstop flight from New Hampshire.

The return trip is a bit longer; by about an hour and 15 minutes.

Her first visit to WDW was in November 1993. She had just visited Disneyland and then flew to the East Coast to visit Florida and WDW on a Magic Kingdom Club tour.

Of course, being a veteran of so many trips, Kano could now lead her own tour.

As for her favorite attractions in each park:

  • In Disney/MGM Studios it's the "Twilight Zone" Tower of Terror. She remarked how scared she was on her first ride but thought the attraction was well done and very detailed. "It never leaves me bored," she said, even though she still feels a little fearful when riding this attraction it still is fun for her. She does note that she enjoyed the attraction much more when the lap bar was there instead of the seat belts. What does she love the most about this attraction? "Screaming loud." In comparing Disney's California Adventure Tower of Terror to WDW's Kano said it is a bit disappointing and not well detailed. She also said that the Tokyo Disney Sea Tower of Terror is quite different. It's not based on the "Twilight Zone" and in her own words she says, "I don't get it yet!"

  • Her favorite Epcot attraction is Soarin' because it makes her feel "fresh" no matter how exhausted she feels. What does it for her is the "music, view, and smell." She brought her in-laws to WDW in 2006 and remembers the "oohs" and "wows" she heard as their seats were lifted into the air.

  • Tommorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) is her favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom because it's relaxing and comfortable and, as she best puts it, "I also love that I can get a sneak view of Space Mountain and some more." She loves riding the TTA at dusk because it is so "romantically beautiful." She enjoys looking below and seeing guests having fun.

  • Her favorite Animal Kingdom attraction is Kilimanjaro Safaris. She admits it wasn't always her favorite. In fact, she says she was very much afraid to ride this attraction back in 1998. This fear stemmed from television shows she had seen that had reported people getting injured in safari parks from lion attacks. What helped her was her friend who assured her that "It's Disney; you don't need to worry about it, besides even if you feel that the lion is very close to you, it's impossible for him to come to us."

    One reason why she likes Kilimanjaro Safaris is simply that "It's never the same experience no matter how many times I do it." One time she saw a white rhino family come close to the rover and wanted to get back on the attraction to see the rhinos again, but by the time they got back to that part of the attraction on another jeep, the rhino family was gone.

  • Her favorite Disney character? Goofy. "I like Goofy's personality very much," she said. "He makes me smile when I see him. He just does things the wrong way and he believes that they are the best and right way to do them. I love him because I know he is always kind, thoughtful, and very positive and optimistic. When he gets in trouble or gets people in trouble, it's just because he's doing something wrong but not purposely wrong. He's just so cute and sweet. In the same way, I like Tigger too but Goofy is the best."

Masayo is also a Disney Cruise Line fan and is anxiously awaiting her first Disney Cruise this March.

Finally, and what better way to finish off but to mention Mousefest; Kano is a huge Mousefest fan.

Her first Mousefest was in 2006 and she describes her time there as a wonderful fun experience with all the "famous people" on the Disney Internet community.

This was her chance to tell everyone how much she loved their Web sites and their guidebooks.

She describes how "I was overwhelmed and touched those Disney fans kindness. Most of them were surprised to see us that from Japan and welcomed us very warmly."

"I liked being on the ride or so with bunch of other Disney fans, people who get it, you know?" she continued. "When we were trying to get to the ball oom for the MegaMouse Meet [MMM], there were several volunteers welcoming and giving directions to us very generally and happily, that made us feel very much comfortable and took away a little worry or fear we had about MMM, we felt like we're welcomed and that's the Mousefest spirit I think."

This visitor, who is also my dear friend, makes a point that we all should remember.

In her own words: "No matter where we're from if we love Disney then we're friends, something like that I like the best."

She continues with her wise words, "Those who came for Mousefest are people who [I]get[/I] it, so that we share common fun, and more, so easily. Can you guess how much fun it was to see the Osborne Spectacle of Lights with a bunch of Disney fans, do Kilimanjaro Safaris and "Wow" together to see an alligator try to attack a bird? The car or elevator (depending upon the attraction) I end up riding in seems like I'm part of one big family and that's something I can't do without going to Mousefest."

She goes on to say, "We were so happy that we [she and her friend Michiko] joined Mousefest. Attending Mousefest opened more ways to enjoy Disney."

She now participates in Disney forums and listens to Disney podcasts.

I guess if we ever forget what Disney means to us we can always read the words of a very special Disney fan from the other side of the world and let her help us ... Remember the Magic.

Next Time: My perspective on Mousefest 2007.