Monday, October 27, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 2

Tokyo Disneyland Tomorrowland
If you missed it, please see part 1 of this trip report.

After lunch we headed over to Space Mountain to use our Fastpasses we obtained earlier. The Space Mountain structure is interesting in Tokyo Disneyland because the entrance is like Disneyland's version where you have to go up to a second level to get inside the mountain. There is no Magic Eye Theater under Space Mountain in Tokyo, you just have to go up a speed ramp (like they had in Disneyland from Space Mountain's opening until 1997 when it was removed).

Tokyo Disneyland - Space Mountain
As for the ride itself, the layout is an exact copy of Disneyland's. The only differences are the loading area has a slightly different theme (it's more alien-ie, if that makes sense), and there is no on-ride audio. The on-ride audio in Disneyland's version definitely adds a lot to the experience but it was cool to ride it the old fashioned way in Tokyo.

Tokyo Disneyland - Happiness is Here
A bit later we were walking through the hub and saw thousands of people sitting and waiting for the parade. Parades are a huge deal in Tokyo Disneyland but we hadn't planned to view any of them. I looked at the entertainment guide for the day and saw that the parade was about to start in about 10 minutes, and we saw some pretty good seats available, so we grabbed them to see what all the fuss was about. I'm glad we did, I got to see up close how much joy the parades bring the visitors to the park. I saw a ton of people clapping and singing along, and waving, one recurring thing I kept seeing during the trip was how much Japanese people love to wave. Look at that picture above, notice how everyone is sitting and therefor everyone can see? Sitting is required when watching a parade at Tokyo Disneyland. It makes for a great parade viewing experience, why can't the other parks do this?

Tokyo Disneyland - Happiness is Here
Tokyo Disneyland's parade is called "Happiness is Here" and it was added last year for the park's 30th anniversary. It's a typical Disney park parade with a ton of characters, dancers, and a ridiculously catchy theme song that we were singing for the rest of the trip. An impressive aspect of this parade was the huge size of some of the parade floats. I'm not a parade person but I did enjoy Happiness is Here, especially after seeing the reaction from the crowd.

Tokyo Disneyland popcorn bucket
With a parade out of the way I decided it was time to continue the Tokyo Disneyland experience by trying a box of one of their famous flavored popcorns. Popcorn is huge in Tokyo Disney Resort, we saw lines of over 30 minutes in length at each popcorn stand. Many people have the very cool, but very expensive, themed popcorn buckets (which I forgot to take a picture of, oops), but those can be as much as $20. I had to desire to lug on of those buckets across the pacific ocean so we got a standard box of popcorn for about $4.

Tokyo Disneyland popcorn flavors
This is the list of all the special popcorn flavors in Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea has a few different ones. The first flavor we tried was curry which was quite good, and ended up being my wife's favorite. I personally enjoyed the Honey popcorn, but even then it didn't blow me away. I was expecting an explosion of whatever flavor the popcorn was advertised as, but instead the taste was more subtle. But don't get me wrong, it was nice having a bunch of options.
Pirates of the Caribbean in Tokyo Disneyland
Pirates of the Caribbean is one of those Disney rides that is so familiar to me. I've been on it hundreds of times back home at Disneyland (and a few dozen on the unfortunate version in Magic Kingdom), but it was great to experience Tokyo's Pirates. All the praise I gave Haunted Mansion in the last trip report can also be applied to TDL's Pirates of the Caribbean. Everything was crisp and well maintained, animatronics had fluid motion and looked great, and the sound was crystal clear. I should also point out that Tokyo's PotC has the same entrance facade as the original at Disneyland, but it's missing the bridge that was added in the 80s, it's also missing the stairs that lead up to what is currently the Dream Suite in Disneyland (formerly the Disneyland Gallery). It's a cool little throwback for long time Disneyland visitors.

Tokyo Disneyland - Cinderella Castle as seen from World Bazaar
At this point in the day the lines were long and all Fastpass tickets had been distributed so we opted to slow down a bit a take and walk around the park. World Bazaar has always been one of those strange Tokyo Disneyland oddities to me, I mean a covered Main Street is just so weird. But it makes a surprising amount of sense when seeing it in person. I never noticed until Tom pointed it out but the roof looks like the old Exhibition structures from the old World's Fairs (like the International Exhibition of 1876 section of American Adventure at Epcot). It just works really well.

Tokyo Disneyland - Mark Twain and Splash Mountain
We headed over to the Rivers of America to take a sunset ride aboard the Mark Twain riverboat. Tokyo's Mark Twain is pretty much an exact copy of the one in Disneyland, which is fine because it's a beautiful ship. Rides like the Mark Twain (and railroads and Main Street Vehicles) are what I think the quintessential Disney experiences are in any park. Things like boats and trains are why Walt wanted to build the parks in the first place so I consider them a must ride.

Tokyo Disneyland - On the Mark Twain
Tokyo Disneyland's Rivers of America does not disappoint. There was plenty of beautiful scenery to take in, and like RoA in other Disney parks, it makes you feel like you're in a different world.

Tokyo Disneyland - Burning Cabin
And they still have a burning cabin! That's been missing from Disneyland and Magic Kingdom for years, it was great to see that again.

Tokyo DIsneyland - Splash Mountain
Coming back around the river we got a great look at the Western River Railroad and Splash Mountain. Westernland is one of the most beautiful lands in all of Tokyo Disney.

Tokyo Disneyland - Seafood Stew
Time for dinner, like I mentioned in the first part of this trip report, lines for quick service restaurants were all over 30 minutes. Just by chance we walked by a little spot called The Gazebo and saw that they had seafood stew in a breadcone. The stew had a thick rich and creamy base with shrimp and scallops. Very good, but due to its size it’s definitely more of a snack than a full meal.

A photo posted by Guy Selga (@guyselga) on
Also at The Gazebo was this delicious Pumpkin Custard dessert. The cone part is chewy and a bit sweet, and it’s topped with a creampuff, marshmallow, and a chunk of dried pumpkin. The real star of the show is the pumpkin custard that fills the bottom part of the cone. Overall, a great dessert.

Enchanted Tiki Room Aloha E Komo Mai
Our last stop of the night ended up being *long title incoming* The Enchanted Tiki Room: Aloha E Komo Mai. Unfortunately this ended up being the only dud of the trip.

Enchanted Tiki Room with Stitch
Basically Stitch is the boss of the Tiki Room, or is mistaken as the boss of the Tiki Room. I couldn't get a clear idea of the show because it was in Japanese. Listening in English also did not make it any more clear and didn't make me enjoy it any more or less. The Stitch animatronic is impressive but the songs fell flat with me.

Tokyo Disneyland - Halloween floral
That ended our first day in Tokyo Disneyland. Overall it's a great park with a lot of familiar rides as well as some great new ones.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
Before I end this part of the trip report I wanted to mention the great room we had at Hilton Tokyo Bay. We booked one of the standard "Celebrio" rooms.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
The room was large, a little bit bigger than a standard room at a deluxe Walt Disney World hotel.

Tokyo Disney Resort - Hilton Tokyo Bay
The bathroom also had plenty of room and a great shower.

Looking out at Tokyo Bay
Our view of Tokyo Bay. Overall this was a great hotel, and was less than half the cost of the official Disney hotels. The one complaint we had was that there was only 5 power outlets in the entire room. This was fine with 2 people but when we were splitting the room with Tom and Sarah we had a severe shortage of outlets with everyone trying to charge their phones, mobile wifi routers, and portable chargers. Otherwise Hilton Tokyo Bay was great and we will definitely stay there again in the future.

That's it for this time. In the next installment I will talk about my first trip to Tokyo DisneySea! See you later this week!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 1


After years of salivating over the thought of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, I finally made the long trip to Tokyo in October of 2014. My wife and I had been talking about a Tokyo trip for years now and earlier in 2013 we began to finally make an effort to save money so we could actually take the trip. I have to admit that I am to blame for us taking so long to visit the Tokyo parks. Even though we've wanted to do it for a long time, I kept going to Walt Disney World because it was an easy vacation to plan and take. From 2008 to 2013 we went to Walt Disney World twice a year, basically whenever I could find airfare for under $250. Airfare combined with renting DVC points and/or splitting the cost with friends made a WDW vacation doable, not cheap by any means, but it wasn't breaking the bank. It got to a point where my wife told me "Guy, seriously, I'm done with Florida for now." By the time 2013 rolled around I completely agreed with her. It was time to get serious about Tokyo.

In Janurary 2014 my boss called and informed me of a plan he was thinking about doing where he sent a TouringPlans team member to every Disney destination on the planet. By coincidence the property he chose for my was Tokyo Disneyland. It couldn't have been more perfect. I could visit my dream destination and produce content for work while doing it. Full disclosure before I continue, my full time job paid for 4 days of the trip and I paid for the other 5.

In July 2014 I wrote a TouringPlans blog post about some initial thoughts on the trip:
Tokyo Disneyland has always been a bit of a mythological and mysterious place to me. In the late 80s and early 90s (before I had the internet in my home) I would always see glimpses of it in the old Disney News Magazines. The pictures I saw of the park made it look similar, but different enough that it always held my curiosity. Tokyo Disneyland continued to stay on my mind in 2001 when Tokyo Disney Resort’s second gate opened, DisneySea. Every picture I’ve seen of DisneySea make the park look absolutely spectacular.

I've decided not to go in to any non-Disney details of my trip in this series of blog posts. We visited various parts of Tokyo and spent a couple of days in Osaka (including a ride on the Shinkansen bullet train!), but I'll stick to my bread and butter. I will say this, Japan is a beautiful and fascinating country.

Day 1 - Tokyo Disneyland:
Our first day in the park began bright and early at Tokyo Disney Resort's Bayside Station. The monorail system at Tokyo Disney is extremely efficient. For most of the day, and even late at night, the trains arrived every 4 minutes. Inside they are clean and have plenty of room for the tens of thousands of people that make use of them every day.

My wife and I had landed in Tokyo 2 days prior. The previous day was spent sight seeing around Tokyo, but we were careful not to wear ourselves out. At this point I was beyond excited to experience the parks and couldn't wait another minute. We were up and ready to walk to Bayside Station at 6:30 AM.

We stayed in Hilton Tokyo Bay which ended up being surprisingly affordable considering it was a nice hotel with huge rooms AND located less than a 5 minute walk away from a monorail station.

We arrived at the front gates around 80 minutes before opening and found large lines had already formed. I always heard about Tokyo Disneyland's legendary crowds so I had somewhat prepared myself mentally, but seeing them in person was a whole other ballgame. By the time the park opened the lines were huge. I couldn't even fit the beginning and end of the line in my panoramic picture above.

Even with the crowds being so large I was impressed with how quickly they got everyone through the turnstiles. All that is needed for entry is a simple scan of a bar code, which the guests does themselves. Unlike Disneyland and formally WDW where guests hand their tickets to a cast member, in Tokyo everyone just waves their ticket over a bar code reader.

After about 10 minutes we were in the parks running to our first destination. Yes, running. Opening time at Tokyo Disneyland is insane. People run, like full on spring to their first ride of the day. I soon realized why. Wait times can quickly rise for headliner attractions. If you don't ride in the first 30 minutes of park opening you're looking at waits of over 90 minutes or more. Fastpasses are available but run out by early afternoon. On this particular day all Fastpass tickets were sold out by noon.

A photo posted by Guy Selga (@guyselga) on
 Our first task was to obtain Fastpasses for Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek. This is one of the parks most popular rides and is usually one of the first to run out of Fastpasses. This is one of 3 rides that people run to first thing in the morning, along with Pooh's Hunnt Hunt and Jungle Cruise. With Fastpasses obtained we ran to Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This strategy paid off as our wait for Pooh was only 15 minutes. By the time we were off the ride it had gone up to 70.

My thoughts on Pooh's Hunny Hunt is that it lives up to every bit of hype that it has received over the years. It's fun, charming and endearing, but also a technological wonder. The ride uses a trackless ride system that gives it a feeling of organized chaos. In one room you're bring blown around by the wind, in another you're bouncing with Tigger, and in the final act your car or "Hunny Pot" is dancing with other pots in a giant Heffalumps and Woozles fever dream that Pooh is having. It's no doubt one of the best rides Disney has ever done.

Even the queue has some nice details. It looks like Christopher Robin's room!

 On-ride is even better, check out all the details in the first two photos. The last picture is of Pooh's fever dream I was describing earlier.
Next up we went back to Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek to redeem our Fastpasses. This was a ride that I haven't heard many great things about on the internet. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It's mostly a standard dark ride but the twist is that each rider has their own flashlight. Riders use the flashlight light to shine on monsters that are hiding throughout the ride. Some monsters trigger gags when the they are hit by the light. For example at one point you may shine the light on a monster hiding in a locker, when he knows he's been seen he'll reveal himself make a wacky face.

What stood out was how great all the monsters inside the ride look. As you can see in this picture it looks like Mike, Boo and Sully jumped right out of the movie.

Next up was Haunted Mansion, which like Disneyland, currently has its seasonal holiday overlay installed. Again, I wasn't expecting much from this because I had seen it so many times in California. But there were enough differences to make it worth riding a couple of times. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures from on the ride due to it being so dark. The most notable difference is how much Sally appears in this version of the ride. In Disneyland's version she is notably absent (with the exception of appearing next to the exit ramp), in Tokyo she appears three times, two of which are full sized characters.

Sorry for the picture quality in that one, But I had to show my favorite appearance by Sally. Shes sitting there watching the little cat thing frantically playing the piano. It's a funny little scene. The outside of Tokyo's Haunted Mansion resembles Florida's version.

But there are some neat little differences like rock work and this side house.

After Haunted Mansion we really started to notice how busy the park had become. Luckily even with the large crowds, guest flow was fast and crowd control was excellent. This is also helped by the fact that walkways in the parks are large enough to handle the crowds that parks receive. Plenty of cast members were on hand to make sure that queues and crowds moved at a steady pace, without feeling rushed. 


At this point in the day we were getting hungry and so was everyone else in Tokyo Disneyland. All of the quick service restaurants in the area has decent sized lines so I picked Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall. I am a big Alice in Wonderland fan but the only reason why I wanted to eat here was to get a picture of the heart shaped meat patty. Yes, it may be strange to wait a half hour just to get a picture of heart-shaped meat, but I'm a Disney blogger and these are the kind of poor life decisions we make.

At least Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall looks really nice inside! Everything colorful and looked like it was straight out of the movie.

The visual menu which was in almost every restaurant inside and out of Disney. I'm a big fan of these.

The kitchen area has oversized pots and pans and a giant cartoonish oven. Everything looks great. The order process is buffet-style, kind of like French Market or Plaza Inn at Disneyland. You pick the food you want and then bring it to the register.

And there we are, the heart meat patty! It looked better than is tastes. The potatoes and brown sauce were good, but the patty itself reminded me of microwave dinners my grandma would give me as a kid. Luckily we had much better food during the rest of the trip.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Tokyo Disneyland trip report! I'll be posting it on Monday, October 27.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Guy Disney Vlog #13 - Tokyo Disneyland Merchandise Haul

I'm back from Tokyo Disneyland and currently working on a huge trip report. For now here's a video of all the merchandise I picked up while I was out there. Enjoy!