Monday, May 7, 2012

Epic Day at Tokyo DisneySea

There was definitely a sense of anticipation at exploring DisneySea (as opposed to DisneyLand, clever) for the first time, and and it turned out to be quite exciting in more ways than planned. This park was originally conceptualized for Long Beach, California but ended up being built in Tokyo instead. Other than two rides — Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones — the rest of the rides and shows were new to this very experienced Disney family.

The first thing I noticed is that, unlike in America, visitors here are eager to get an early start. We're one of those "crazy" types that always gets to the park super early to beat the crowd. We were once the very first family through Sleeping Beauty's Castle! We underestimated Tokyo. A full hour before opening, hundreds of people were already waiting, and hordes more poured out of each local commuter train that pulled up at the station. It was going to be a crowded day.
Looking across Mediterranean Harbor to the entrance of DisneySea

I also noticed that the Japanese weren't going to compromise their fashion style just because they were spending the day at a theme park. To make some broad, sweeping generalizations, the Walt Disney World crowd in Florida tends to be populated with people wearing family reunion Tshirt uniforms. Disneyland in California has the SoCal look with lots of girls in spaghetti strap tank tops and cut offs. Hong Kong Disneyland was filled with people wearing heavy winter coats worthy of a ski slope even though the temperature hovered around 62°F. In Tokyo, I was freezing my bum off in a microfleece shirt, jacket and jeans. All the ladies around me were dolled up in short shorts, thigh high stockings and platform shoes with a cute jacket on top. Many were munching on the numerous popcorn flavors offered — caramel, strawberry, black pepper, and curry.

I wished that I had more time to admire the grand Mediterranean Harbor at the entrance, but I knew we had to head quickly to the rides if we wanted to cut down on waiting in line. Plus, I think I would have been run over by the stampede of people if I had stopped. As usual, the family split up for part of the time with my hubby taking my older son on the high thrill rides while I escorted the younger two on the kiddie rides.

Steampunk at its best — a retro-style view of the future

Mount Prometheus is the centerpiece of the park and the biggest steampunk display I've ever seen. It's part of Mysterious Island which is based on the stories of Jules Verne and held what my kids declared to be some of the best rides at DisneySea. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea may share a name with the now closed ride in the U.S. parks, but that's where the similarity ends. In this much more exciting version, we climbed into a diving bell and dipped down "under water" to explore the deep sea. All three kids really enjoyed the joystick-controlled searchlight. Be forewarned that taller folks, like my husband, will have to practically lie down on the bench in order to see out the window. The best original ride in the park has to be Journey to the Center of the Earth. It has it all — detailed theming (decorations that set the mood), great storyline, surprises, and a high thrill factor. If the U.S. parks are looking to expand, they should strongly consider adding Mysterious Island stateside.
Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feelings

Despite DisneySea being positioned as oriented for adults and older kids, there is plenty for the younger set to do at Arabian Coast and Mermaid Lagoon. Arabian Coast has Jasmine's Flying Carpets which is a Dumbo-style ride. There's a two-story carousel, and of course, my kids wanted to ride on the top level. Sinbad's Storybook Voyage is a relaxing boat ride that would have made a lot more sense if we had remembered to pick up the handheld English translator unit.

If I understood Japanese, I could tell you what's happening on Sinbad's Storybook Voyage.

The Magic Lamp Theater has a fun 4D movie mixed with live action on stage. This time, we remembered to ask for the translator. It's the story of Genie and one of his other masters not featured in the Aladdin movie. The bucking seats accidentally knocked my iPhone out of my pocket, and I didn't realize it until after we'd exited. Imagine describing your iPhone to someone. "Um, it's black. It's an iPhone." I don't know if I was sadder at the prospect of losing a pricey item or the numerous pictures that hadn't been uploaded to the cloud. Luckily, they found it!

Up where they walk, Up where they run, Up where they stay all day in the sun...

The fantastical, Gaudi-inspired spires of Mermaid Lagoon beckoned us to cross over to this port-of-call. A kiddie roller coaster and another ride are at surface level. Then, you descend down into Triton's Kingdom which, joy of joys, is located entirely indoors. Disney was wise to plan a section which would be enjoyable no matter what the weather was like outside. Our first stop was the Mermaid Lagoon Theater where we once again remembered to get translator devices. It's a good thing because this version of Ariel and Ursula's story is different from the movie. The show involves a lot of dangling from a harness on Ariel's part (an aerial Ariel) as well as ginormous lever-controlled puppets. It's not to be missed, even if you've seen the one in Florida a thousand times. Triton's Kingdom also has three other kiddie rides, an indoor playground, a restaurant, ice cream cart, and a few shops. You could spend HOURS down here as we later discovered.

Jumpin' Jellyfish! This place is deceptively huge.

Fortress Explorations is a Renaissance-era citadel that reminds me somewhat of EPCOT and its numerous hands-on activites. If EPCOT is focused on the future, Fortress Explorations is firmly rooted in the past. Guests joined the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) to "witness first-hand the progression of our explorations and research." No rides here, but there was still plenty to capture our attention. Plus, what had started as a windy day was getting even more blustery, and this was a wonderful way to take shelter. It was too dark outside for the Camera Obscura to work properly, but I will admit that the life-size Flying Machine was a sight to behold (and climb on).

Come Josephine in my Flying Machine

At this point, the weather stopped holding back and really let loose. People made beelines for stores selling rain gear. I utilized my pushy American attitude to grab some instead of politely waiting while the lady in front of me took her time figuring out exactly which knee-length, white, semi-transparent, plastic raincoat she wanted. Even though we were in Port Discovery, we didn't do the rides. Aquatopia was outdoors and looked miserable in the lashing rain. We seemed to have missed StormRider, too. This Fast Pass-category simulator ride takes you into the middle of a typhoon. With the wind and the rain whipping around in real life, we wished it was all just a ride and we could get off.

My little girl is absolutely terrified of storms. More than one person has commented to me, "That's how my dog is around thunder." So, the younger two kids and I made our way back to Triton's Kingdom. Lots of people were streaming towards the park exit even though it was only mid-afternoon. My guess is that if people had a season pass or a multi-day pass, they were calling it quits for the day. I only saw half of DisneySea, so you'll have to rely on my hubby and son's report for the remaining ports-of-call. No pictures after this point because we were worried that our cameras would either be soaked or blown out of our hands. So much for my plan to go back and take a picture at the entrance.

Do not anger the Raging Spirits roller coaster.

The Lost River Delta evokes an ancient Central American civilization deep in a remote jungle. Like any good movie archaeologist, the rides explore ruins and anger the gods. Will they never learn? The Raging Spirits roller coaster was rated "medium thrill" by hubby despite its tight, 360 degree loop. Hubby actually exceeded the maximum rider height limit, so he slouched down and snuck on. I'm glad the gods didn't make him lose his head over it! The Indiana Jones ride is very similar to the one in California. But since this is one of his favorite non-rollercoaster rides, hubby didn't mind. Indiana Jones is the one DisneySea ride I really regret missing out on.

The sea was angry that day my friends.

American Waterfront has both the Tower of Terror and the S.S. Columbia which looks amazingly like the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. My hubby joked that Disney really went all out making the seas look stormy that day. Tower of Terror is my son's favorite ride at any Disney park, and he enjoyed the Tokyo version immensely. It has a different story but keeps the exhilarating, full-shaft drops.

The family reunited and decided to head to dinner during a lull in the storm even though it wasn't quite 6 p.m. We made our way to Zambini Brother's Ristorante in Mediterranean Harbor. While we were huddled down and walking, an announcement in Japanese started broadcasting over the entire park. That can't be good. I'm glad they repeated it in English afterwards. The Fantasmic show that evening was cancelled, and they may have announced that some of the outdoor rides were halted too. The part that took me by surprise was that all commuter trains back into Tokyo were shut down. Remember all those hordes of people streaming out of the train station that morning? How were they all getting home? Hopefully, most of them had already left. Otherwise, the taxi stand was going to be a mob scene.

So, we decided to while away our time at the restaurant. After eating, I stayed there with little girl while hubby took the boys back to Mysterious Island for one last go at the rides there. My younger boy commented that you could lean backwards, and the wind would completely support you. Also, wait times at rides were practically nothing.

At 8 p.m., a full 2 hours before park closing, we decided to leave. This should give you a clue to how bad the weather was at this point. I thought the best chance for us to comfortably hail a taxi was from the MiraCosta hotel. So, we donned our rain gear and headed back outside. By now, we couldn't even walk straight since the wind was blowing so hard. In the next day's newspaper, they printed a picture of semi-trucks on the road which had blown over on their sides. Flights into Haneda Airport had stopped, too. The MiraCosta was beautiful inside. Even if it's not storming, you should take a moment to explore it. The kids settled down in front of a TV showing The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (in Japanese) while we waited for our taxi to arrive. Much better than waiting outside at the park's taxi stand! On our way home, we had to take a detour since the iconic Rainbow Bridge was closed as well. All in all, it was an epic day in more ways than one.


  1. Disney doesn't ever seem to lose it's magic, no matter how old you are.

    1. If you ever make it to the Disney parks in Florida, you should explore all the fine dining restaurants there. They are really top notch. Some people even have entire food blogs dedicated to Disney food.

  2. Thanks for taking me back to this wonderful park. Sorry, you encountered some bad weather but I'm glad you still enjoyed it. It's interesting to see the contrast in crowds and your experience when visiting during Spring vs ours in the Summer. I see all the Duffy and Shellie Mae carriers in one of your pix. That trend totally baffles and fascinates me. =)

    1. I just went back and looked at your DisneySea post. Looking at our pictures, there is definitely a difference in crowd size. I wonder if your light crowd was because tourism had yet to bounce back after the earthquake and tsunami or if it's typical of mid-summer. I'll go and post some comments on your site, too.

  3. Wonderful makes me want to go to DisneySea right now! The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride sounds awesome. Too bad about the weather and crowd, but sounds like you had a great time nonetheless. And your comments about Japanese fashion even at a theme park made me true!


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