Tuesday, June 5, 2012

[Disney] Day 19: The Day Theme Parks Were Ruined For Me Forever (Tokyo DisneySea Time)

Woke up at that wonderful time of day known as "too god damn early". We've been close friends these past few weeks, me and too god damn early o'clock. It was so early, in fact, that there was nowhere within walking distance that would serve me food. Emergency breakfast it is. And what else would a nerdy white guy in Tokyo eat for emergency breakfast:

Breakfast of champions
I'd worry about you judging me, but if you're reading this on Day 19 then much like Osiris, you've already judged my soul. Come for the Disney, stay for the Egyptian mythological references?

The day before had been wet and dreary but today looked promising. It was time for me to lose my Disney innocence and visit what is reputed to be the nicest theme park in the world: Disney TokyoSea.

I got to the gate around 8:20 for a 9 AM park opening and the lines were not too bad. Right before opening, looking backward, this is what I saw:

This must be how Shaq feels in the US
My original plan was to read American Gods on Grandma's Kindle (thanks Grandma!) while waiting in line to enter. But a few spots in front of me there were two Americans and I take my chances for conversation in English when I get them. She's a middle-aged mother of two and she was there from Portland with her son, who had just graduated college. We chatted about the park and I gave them a few tips for their time in Tokyo. After the park gates opened they went to take pictures of the morning show and I made off to Journey to the Center of the Earth, the premier attraction in the park.

I'd like to tell you that Journey was the most amazing ride I've ever been on. I'd like to tell you that it took my breath away. I'd like to tell you that I look forward to the next time I get to ride it. Wait, the last one is true. It turns out that the *$&#ing ride was down for refurbishment the entire time I was going to be at Tokyo Disney. For those keeping track at home, that's now two of the three premier attractions that are unique to Tokyo Disney that I will not get to ride. Sigh. Not a great start to the day.

At least I got this information from a comprehendible source. As I was coming up to the entrance to Journey, there were a couple of American guys who had done all the hard work in talking to the Japanese cast members and who were able to explain that to me.

I rallied nicely and walked next door to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea...which was still closed for the morning as they got the start-up routine going. GAHMRGLFRGLFIRKDINGBLAST.

Okay. No problem. Lots of rides here, most of which I've not done. Time to try out Stormrider, a Star Tours-like motion simulator that I was convinced was located in the front of the park. Just about the time I got to the front of the park I realized I was completely and utterly wrong and it was in fact located in the back of the park. That's okay, Americans need exercise!

On my way to Stormrider I ran into a brother and sister from Orlando who were also staying at the Sheraton. I'd seen them at TKDL the day before and we'd chatted briefly in the elevator at the hotel. We ended up going on Stormrider together. They were going to be in Tokyo for 10 days and planned on spending the entire time at Tokyo Disney. I got the impression that they were a bit intimidated by the thought of going into Tokyo itself. I totally understand that! I'm the guy who didn't go into Zurich because the ticket machine scared him off. But hopefully I convinced them that it was at least worth paying for a guided coach tour.

So. Stormrider. Cute ride. The subtitles for the preshow, which was incredibly cool and detailed, were in English (um...the preshow was cool and detailed, not the subtitles....though they were also cool and shut up English is hard). The ride itself was all in Japanese but let's be honest: you're flying a plane into the eye of a hurricane and shit goes wrong. You don't really need to know what, you can kinda see it on the big screen in front of you. Nice attraction, even if it took someone explaining the ending to me.

The Pocky effect was wearing off and it was time for foodstuffs. The snacks in the Tokyo parks are fantastic. I'd put them up there with EPCOT snacking, which is high praise indeed. I had some strawberry popcorn and it was tasty:

The only thing that saddened me about the snacking is that none of the carts had diet soda for sale. I drank quite a bit of Aquairius, which at least had relatively little sugar compared to US sodas.

This is the dawning of the age of overpriced drinks
Before heading back to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I tried to make lunch reservations at Magellan's restaurant. Instead I got directions to the bathroom. Unless she was actually trying to tell me what she thought of me wanting to eat in Magellans and the best she could do was send me to the bathroom. Either way, I'd have to try that again later.

Even in the unfathomable deep where dread Cthulu lies slumbering, they serve Coke. Huh, sounds a lot like Atlanta actually.
Here's what I want you to focus on in all the photos from today. That's right, there's homework attached to this trip report. You'd best do it or I'll know. Somehow. Someway. I'll know. And you won't be able to live with the guilt of my crying myself to sleep over it. So just do what I say and no one gets subjected to Jewish guilt, okay?

Look at the details. Look at all of the theming that exists solely for the purpose of making it a believable environment. TDS is absolutely incredible at that. There are times and places in the park that frankly seem even more real than the real world.

This, for example, is not a ride vehicle. It's just there because if we were actually explorers going under the waves with Jules Verne we'd see a nautilus like this around.

I'd like to take one of these for a spin around Sarasota

These lamps were really cool. Probably my second-favorite Disney lamp. That's right I have a favorite, what of it?
The ride itself was cute. It was a lot like Finding Nemo at DL, except better. The ride vehicle came equipped with a flashlight that you could shine out at things and different show elements would interact with you if you illuminated them. It was a cute enough ride that I went on it three more times during the trip.

Next I went on a quest for sea salt ice cream. A Cast Member sent me into Triton's Kingdom, which is this absolutely giant enclosed space themed to be King Triton from the Little Mermaid's kingdom. It's very much an area for kids, but I still strolled through to check out the theming.

Sure it's just a giant warehouse full of kids rides, but it's a beautiful giant warehouse

Sea salt ice cream! I feel like I could eat this for 358/2 days, exactly and no more.

I'm surprised &#^$ing Duffy didn't make his way onto this ice cream lid
Very tasty. It's like vanilla but a little better.

Next up I headed to Arabian Coast. This is, hands down, my favorite area of any theme park I've ever been to. As a built environment it is absolutely, positively perfect. If all of the Japanese people had suddenly become Middle Eastern I would have fully believed I was in a Muslim trading center circa 600 years ago.

The major attraction (for me) is Sinbad's Storybook Voyage. It's a ride on a boat with a song playing throughout. So like It's a Small World, except it doesn't suck. It's probably one of my five favorite rides at a Disney park, which also explains why none of you will ever want to go to a Disney park with me. Most people would pick a thrill ride. This charmed the pants off of me (err, not at all literally because holy crap would that be inappropriate even by my admittedly lax standards). I rode this thing five or six times and I'd go on it again right now if given the chance.

The song, which is thankfully in Japanese, was very catchy. And the animatronics! They are so much more advanced than the crap they keep giving us in the US. The range of motion and the fine motor skills. The singularity is at hand!

Top 5 favorite Disney ride right here

Y'know, in case the animatronics somehow left you confused about the story of Sinbad


This is just the queue. I felt like I'd already done the ride by this point

I'll admit it: I desperately wanted to run up and punch the crap out of Iago. 

This is the centerpiece to the Aladdin carpet ride. Same ride that exists in multiple other Disney parks in the world but here they have this absolutely gorgeous centerpiece that turns it from a crappy Dumbo knock-off (almost wrote kock-off, I'm sure you'd all love that) to a really immersive piece of decoration
Right next to Arabian Cost is the Lost Delta. This area of the park appeared to get quite busy because there was a roller coaster (Raging Spirits) and the Indiana Jones ride. I chose the single rider option for Indy and rather than waiting 40 minutes I was able to walk right on. The single rider line was much easier to figure out here than in DL: no elevators, no confusion.

The ride itself is very similar to California except with a slightly different theme. Well, that and the fact that every single effect worked the way it was supposed to, nothing was broken and the ride never stopped. Grr. Screw you Disneyland.

There's just a fire that burns here all day because it fits. God it's all so perfect 

The queue for Indy was absolutely fantastic

This is one of my many shots of Mount Prometheus, the giant volcano that serves as the central icon (or weenie as Walt called them) in the park, like a castle or the geodesic dome at EPCOT. Here's the thing about Mount Prometheus: it's ugly. But that makes it amazing because you know what? Mountains are pretty damn ugly. It's realistic in a way that the castles are not.

Don't get me wrong, I love the castles. They have their own reality - they are a reflection of what we wish castles were; they are the fantastic culmination of what we want castles to be. Mount Prometheus is not and it's wonderful for it:

I decided to head back to Magellans to take my chances on making a reservation. This time I managed to get across that I wanted to make a lunch reservation. Then came the big moment. There is a "secret" dining room in Magellans behind a bookshelf. It only has eight tables. You usually have to book it months in advanced but the park looked as slow as it is ever likely to get. I really wanted to sit back there but how do you get that across to someone who shares five or six words with you. I tried various combinations and then hit on "secret dining room". Her face lit up. Bingo! I'd be back in a hour for lunch.

Magellan might have been my favorite explorer. There's no reason you need to know this. Keep moving.
I spent the next hour just wandering around taking it all in. TDS is one of the three or four most beautiful places I've ever seen. I spent most of my time that morning just walking around, simultaneously in awe and angry as hell at the American Disney parks.

I also ran into the mother and son from Portland again. They were pleasantly surprised at how much they'd been able to accomplish. We walked over to Tower of Terror together, with the thought that I'd walk through the queue with them. I love the theming on ToT and TDS was supposed to have a different story - not Twighlight Zone at all. But I don't actually do the ride because I hate drops and that's basically all it is.

The wait at ToT was 60 minutes. Easily the longest wait in the park. So much for that. We all grabbed fastpasses and I gave them mine so that one of them could ride it twice that night. We said goodbye and I headed to explore Fortress Exploration (seems a bit repetitive, that sentence).

Much like how Sinbad is It's a Small World minus the massive craptitude, Fortress Exploration is what happens when you take Tom Sawyer Island and make it awesome. There are photos later, but it's a free-range exploratory area full of cool stuff to do and see.

At that point I basically just wandered and took photos until lunch.

Very similar to the Portofino Bay hotel at Universal in Orlando, except possibly even better detailed

Why does their Tower of Terror look so much cooler than ours?

This was a very cool room

The only problem with Tower of Terror is that it intrudes on so many sightlines
The following photos are from inside the secret dining room:

Heart shaped bread

There, easier to see. No you cannot consume my heart and take my powers.

The only hot drink I had in the first month of the trip. Delicious!

Those who know me know that I'm on a quest to try every creme brulee on property in Orlando. This was probably the second best I've had behind the maple creme brulee at Le Cellier in EPCOT.

There is a dining room behind a bookshelf. How cool is that?
This is the rest of the restaurant - the nicest theming in a Disney restaurant I've ever seen and I swear I'm not just saying that because my livingroom is cartographically themed or anything.

I really wanted one of these but to get it I had to listen to a two minute video of Leonardo Da Vinci talking to me in Japanese. The woman running it thought I knew Japanese and just talked at me for a few minutes before it became clear that I just wanted the map/handout. Awkward.

Since 20000 Leagues remained a walk-on, I rode it again. In two days time I would dream longingly of how empty the parks were at the beginning of the week.

Walk on to a fairly popular ride in the middle of the day? Jackpot!

Hah - I always knew I was shallow!

That's a double-decker carousel. It was gorgeous. I need to stop looking at these photos or I'll be back in Tokyo in the next six months

More theming that serves no purpose other than to immerse you in the area. Arabian Coast is easily my favorite area of any Disney park.

I'd buy these, but I'd basically be condemning myself to a life of celibacy, wouldn't I? 

Bout damn time someone recognized it. 
Back on Sinbad again! Woot!


I want this guy for my front lawn

The largest animatronic I've ever seen up-close. He had to be 15 feet tall.

This shit's bananas. I believe it's spelled b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

We wants the red head! Give us the red head!

Why would the Sultan close a building?

Ah. Yeah. That'll do it.
I absolutely love how many planes you can see flying over Tokyo Disney. I assumed they were all landing in Haneda. It's almost as cool as the mountains at HKDL and, to many of my readers from Flyertalk, it might even be cooler! I tried to get photos of planes flying past every cool thing I could.

DVC is everywhere. It's like a really expensive cult.

I was virtually certain this said McDicks from far away. Probably a good thing it doesn't.

Probably necessary so people could afford all the popcorn

I really have no comment to this
This next photo is the most important of the entire trip:

I mean yeah, the cranberry popcorn was fantastic (my favorite of the flavors) but it's also the place where I met Kevin and subsequently Jay. You might remember them from earlier as the guys who had hustled over to Journey at the start of the day and who informed me of its closure. Kev was standing behind me in line at the popcorn stand and we got to talking. As we were all heading to the Legends of Mythica water parade/show at 2:30 we decided to go on over together.

Kevin and Jay are quite possibly the two biggest Disney parks fans I've ever met. They were probabbly the first two people I've met in my life who not only instantly understood the logic behind a round-the-world Disney trip, but who could subsequently inform me of everything I needed to know about Disneyland Paris and that I should have known about HKDL. We ended up spending the rest of the day together (and most of the day together on Day 21). It is not often that I feel completely inadequate in my Disney knowledge, but it was nice to be able to learn so much. Plus they are both fans of shows (Kevin in particular) and, as you may have gathered by their complete absence from previous parts of the trip report, I usually can't be bothered. But I was enjoying hanging out with them and so I went to the TDR shows and they were fantastic. Starting with Legends of Mythica:

The show takes place both through floats on the water and by performers on the land. Usually Disney afternoon shows/parades are hum-drum affairs that do just enough to keep the kids occupied during the heat of the day. This, on the other hand, was a spectacle and would have been worthy of a nightime slot at any other park.

Ah! Unfamiliar crotch!

Those are giant floats on the lagoon in the background

After Legends of Mythica, Kevin expressed a desire to try Aquatopia. I had heard from several people/places that Aquatopia was the water equivalent to Autotopia, the incredibly lame oh-my-god-why-the-hell-does-this-get-so-much-prime-Tomorrowland-real-estate car ride in which you go ten miles an hour around a track while inhaling gas fumes. Kevin's a completionist though, so on we went:

Turned out to be one of my most favorite rides. It has a seemingly-trackless system like Pooh and every ride has some random elements to it as you spin around a (very, very, very) shallow lake in your boat/car/buggy thing.

Our next goal was to catch a show in the Lost Delta but we had some time to get there so we rode Stormrider and then caught the Steamer (that's a boat). There was some question as to where exactly the boat left off, but as we passed through the docks in other lands it became clear that it let off exactly where we picked it up. Still fun!

It's a steampunk band that plays really good covers of Beatles songs on marching band instruments. This is why this is the greatest theme park in the world.

Hmm, Kirin and Tinker Bell on the same bottle. I like it.

I assume this is like the Friends of Bill W on cruise ships. Maybe the Korea Holics come here too.

Look at me, I'm riding Sebastian Cabot! That came out wrong.

S'good advice is all I'm saying.

Ah! It's coming right for us!

This was created to reinforce the idea that DisneySea is connected with Tokyo Bay. Brilliant.

As Jay pointed out, this is a doubly-brilliant reference since it's got C-3PO and it's crashed right outside the Indiana Jones ride (another George Lucas series)

I guess I'm taking photos of bathroom signs now?
We made our way over to Mystic Rythms. The outside of the show building is completely unassuming. Heck, even the stage is unassuming:

But then the show starts and your like oh my god this is incredible. There was an ending effect (SPOILER ALERT) where they basically filled the entire theater up with fog so thick you couldn't see your neighbor. Just amazing. What to possibly do after that? Ride Sinbad again! It's been days since I've been on it and I'm still singing the song even though the only words in English are "compass of your heart".


Mmm, Mickey's Maple Custard Balls. Chef would approve.

We spend a good deal of time walking through Fortress Explorations and I got to see the other half that I was frankly too lazy to find earlier. Jay in particular was a font of knowledge about the park as this was his third visit. I was quickly coming to realize that between my love of Tokyo, my desire to see the rest of Japan, and my absolute crush on TDR that I too would be back soon.

That's a life-size version of Da Vinci's flying machine. You can get in it and make it go. Pretty cool, no?

Absolutely any caption I can think to put in here is inappropriate so it's best you just move on

Did I mention that Mt. Prometheus also goes off ever 30 minutes or so? 

At that point we really just needed to kill some time before Fantasmic! started. So we wandered aimlessly seeing what there was to see as the lights came on in the park.

DisneySea was absolutely gorgeous at night

You can't see it in this photo, but there was steam coming out of the manhole. Why? Why would they have steam coming out of all the manhole covers? Because it's realistic, that's why.

The new Toy Story area looks fantastic, even if I'm not thrilled they are adding it to the park
Eventually we found some standing spots for Fantasmic! I was going to skip Fantasmic! because I've seen it at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and while I think it's cool, I was getting sleepy. Then Jay said that this was an evolved form of Fantasmic! as I should have guessed since everything else in the park was, too. I stuck around for it and holy crap it was awesome. Perhaps the funniest part was that the only spots still available near us by show time were the standing-room spots behind us, the three "giant" Americans. What? Why doesn't anyone want to stand behind us? I'm sorry I'm so huge!

That's a giant animatronic dragon and, unlike the ones in WDW and DL, this one always works
I made a call to stay at the park until closing, figuring I'd not be so motivated on future days to see the park with all the lights on. We grabbed a quick counter service pizza dinner and then strolled the park.

Church in front of Tower of Terror. Absolutely great at night.

As we neared park closing I said goodbye to both of them and made my way back to my hotel room. 15 hours of touring behind me and all I could think was "I'm never going to look at Walt Disney World the same way again". It'd be like if your parents gave you the keys to a Maserati for your driving test and then when you got home they showed you your new car: a ten year old Mercury Tracer station wagon. Sure, you'd still love the Tray-Wag (can you tell who drove a Tracer wagon?) but you'd always be thinking of that one magical day in the Maserati. Sorry, WDW and DL, you are now the Mercury Tracer of theme parks. That's okay though - Six Flags is like the Edsel so at least you're a step above them!

And with that I went to bed, all future theme parks ruined for me. When can I move to Japan?


  1. Hello! Random stranger here! I'm also falling in love with Tokyo through your posts. Also: you're hilarious!

  2. Very glad you are enjoying it! With the exception of the scarcity of public restrooms, I absolutely loved everything about Tokyo. It is so unlike anywhere else I've ever visited but it still somehow felt like home.