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  1. #1

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    Talking A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    As some of you know, I am set to return to my beloved favourite city of Tokyo on May 18th, 2013. After years of waiting I am quite excited to be going back, and would like to document it properly for those who would find it useful.

    I am quite an avid planner, and as my last trip to Tokyo in 2010 was the result of about 4 years of saving, it was the result of about 4 years of idle planning too. I didn’t just read most guidebooks on the subject, as well as most websites: I developed my own printed map and tips book combining all of my information. In comparison, this trip was thoroughly rushed. After waiting years to have both the money to return and for my partner to be able to accompany me, I finally had the money in January 2013 and decided ‘Do you know what? My partner can accompany me on the next one.’ This took pressure off of him to save money fast just because I’m talking about going back to Tokyo all of the time. I went in the winter last time, and I hit the big winter sales (New Year’s lucky bags, and the big January sales sometimes taking up to 70% off). This time around I wanted to try another season. I didn’t feel that summer sale time would be much fun weather-wise (Tokyo weather in July is kind of like living in a sauna to a dry weather Australian), so I was considering autumn weather in September, but then suddenly found out how cheap the flights currently were for May. BOOM! End of spring festivities it was!

    This gave me only about 4 months to plan, which for me was tiny, but luckily I had been obsessing over airlines, hotels, and other return trip ideas for a while. Within the month I had flights booked (two 7 hour legs, stopping for a few hours in Kuala Lumpur, flying with Malaysia Airlines), a private hostel room reserved to save money for shopping (a one person, 3 tatami room in Minami-senju, but the price was right at around ¥3300 a night!), and yen exchanged and put aside for most major expenses (train trips to and from the airport, Suica card, a food budget based on my daily spending from last trip, money for Disney tickets).

    Now I must confess that I am a huge shopper. I shop for fun. I try my best to be frugal, as I don't earn a lot, but I've found I make a lot of sacrifices in the area of food and home comforts for more shopping money. When I visit a new place, the shops are the part I am most looking forward to. When I go to Disneyland, I often look forward to the shops just as much, if not sometimes more so than the rides. The last time I went to Tokyo I had saved a lot of money, then was confronted with a country full of amazing clothes and gadgets that just aren't available in my country. I must admit, I went crazy. My only travelling companion was possibly a bigger shopper than me, which only encouraged me. I still find little things in my house from that trip which have never been used or even opened, because I bought so much. This time however, I had little time to save, and I am working on a much, much tighter budget. I am determined to keep myself in check and not let myself go like last time, while still letting myself have shopping fun. Will it happen? That remains to be seen.

    For fellow shoppers, I can’t stress two packing tips enough:


    1. The less you bring with you, the more you can bring back
    2. BRING A TRAVEL SCALE. If you think you’ll come anything close to the maximum weight allowed for your baggage, have something to weigh it with. Airlines will often charge you $15-$30 per kilogram your suitcase weighs over the limit, which could be seriously expensive. My first trip I packed up my suitcase and found it 5 kilograms too heavy! Luckily, I was saved by a promotion for members of the frequent flyers club allowing an extra 5 kilos exactly, but I never expect to get that lucky again.


    I thoroughly recommend making a packing list early on, and working out a) If you need everything on that list or if one item can fulfil several uses, and b) If there’s anything you’d like to bring that you don’t currently own. I know one doesn’t need a lot of travel gear for a big city like Tokyo as you can buy most things there, but some things are very useful and it’s good to have time to research and buy them bit by bit. I am a regular reader of websites like onebag.com, which teach you how to look for items that can serve multiple purposes and pack well. Despite my impulsive nature, this pre-planning allows me to make my light packing list and stick to it (Think of the souvenir space!).

    Once the basic planning was over, it was on to the frivolous stuff. I read up on stores and bars that had changed in Tokyo since my last trip, read the new guidebooks and websites (make sure the guidebooks came out AFTER the 2011 quake, as most new editions now did, otherwise you may find entries for places that have unfortunately closed or changed and be disappointed). Overall, Tokyo has not changed overwhelmingly since the tsunami/quake as it was far from the main disaster area, but there were a few casualties in the form of stores being closed to go be with their family and never reopened, or due to the electricity cuts or other damages. My printed guide from last time needed updating from both these events, the new destinations built since, and from the personal notes scrawled all over it when I experienced each destination in the book. I was also aware that one of my favourite anthropological and shopping haunts, Tokyo Disney Resort, had suffered some minor tsunami/quake damage, but had repaired most of it as far as I was aware. So I looked into some Disney research, and awakened a monster…

    I LOVE RESEARCHING TOKYO DISNEY. I had no idea how obsessed I would get over the next couple of months with tip sites, trip reports, forums, and even the basic official English language site. It had occurred to me that for the first time EVER I would be doing Disney parks alone. This meant I could be as commando or laissez-faire as I wanted, go for the exact rides I wanted, and spend my time hunting down as many popcorn buckets as I saw fit without enduring head shaking and light-hearted mockery (my partner refers to them as ‘feedbags’).

    For those of you who are confused as to why a Japanese culture fanatic who adores the rest of Tokyo would want to spend time on Disney, let me explain. Many people feel that going to Tokyo Disney is a waste of time when you could be visiting the sites of more ‘authentic’ (read old and traditional) Japanese culture. I believe that visiting landmarks, shrines and places that highlight the beauty and culture of Japan is very important on a trip, it’s just that I don’t believe that just because a place is modern or attempts to be Americanised it doesn’t fit this criteria. The beauty of Tokyo Disney is that it’s a place where the Japanese tried to be as Americanised as possible, but still came out so very Japanese. The strange rules added, the differences in food, the completely different merchandise geared to a Japanese taste, are all amazing to me, as they are statements that MODERN Japanese culture is still so strong, not even the all encompassing power of Disney could change it. Watching the differences in how Japanese patrons behave here, and how all of the conveniences have been geared toward that, is one of my pet field studies.

    These changes in culture at the park also allow for a variety of advantages you wouldn’t get at the American parks. When you go to a park in other parts of the world, you know there are rules, but what you find is a park full of screaming children and sneaky long-term patrons who have time honoured methods of breaking these rules. People exit ride vehicles during dark rides, stick chewing gum to the scenery, drop their food all over the place and let their children run amok. For the rule-abiding park goer, it just becomes an expectation that several someones will darken their day a little by pushing in front of them, dirtying and disrespecting the scenery, generally adding to noise pollution, and waywardly crossing in front of you when you least expect it with no apology. In most cases, these things are glaringly absent in Japan.

    Instead you find everyone lines up in order, trying not to cause too much bother to the other patrons (Sadly this does lead to one disadvantage – the lines can get LONG). There are somewhere between twice and three times as many Cast Members available any time to assist you, and they are ALWAYS SMILING (except in The Haunted Mansion, where it is the rule not to). The patrons adhere strictly to the rules, and rarely litter or deface anything, as this behaviour is selfish and dishonourable. Tokyoites grow up learning that in a city of so many people, one person behaving like this can ruin it for the rest. In addition, the Japanese cultural bias against eating while walking vastly cuts down on accidentally dropped food in the park. Due to a much higher love of characters here in Japan (seriously, their tv stations and electric companies have cute, cartoon mascots), most things are geared toward parades and performances here, and the Japan-only ones tend to be of high quality. The merchandise is different due to this also, geared toward specific character rather than park merchandise, and usually the items sold are either useful or disposable, as Tokyoites don’t have much room for collectibles in their tiny apartments. Everyone knows how to use the Fastpass system here too (it’s one of the rules which can be a disadvantage to commando park goers, but it does make me happy to see the patrons of a park actually using it effectively. These differences are like delicious food to my academic and travelling soul. So I absolutely love going to Tokyo Disney, and I believe it is a surprisingly cultural experience, so long as you define ‘culture’ correctly.

    Anyway, as I researched changes since 2010, my Disney reading got intense. I started trying to hunt down as many trip reports from the last 3 years as I could. I even got to the point where I would get quite unreasonably frustrated when someone would angrily complain about a thing being ‘backward’ or ‘inconvenient’ when I knew (from all of my other reading) that there was a perfectly logical explanation. “How could you not know that they do that because of safety issues with thing A/Japanese law B/to create convenience C/Japanese cultural difference D?!???!??” I’d worked myself into a pretty amusingly and unreasonably obsessive state. Logically however, I knew that most people are not an armchair anthropologist who reads surprisingly relevant Japanese cultural studies and ALL THE TRIP REPORTS, and if it was important some lovely person online would often explain the reason to them anyway.

    Tokyo Disney is different than the other parks in some odd and unexpected ways, but there are as many good surprises as bad ones. Sadly some people remain stubbornly determined that Japan is ‘backward’ and determined to ruin their Disney experience for ‘no good reason’, but that’s their funeral. Overall, I feel that if you approach the parks with the idea that every strange Japanese difference has a reason behind it, even if it’s just that enforcing the rules is important in a place with that many people, including when the many people aren’t in that particular spot, you’ll feel better about your experience. Sometimes it can be heavily frustrating or downright disappointing, but you don’t need to know the reason for the rule/omission/design choice – the park managers do. I must admit I have cheered myself up from a few disappointments by trying to figure the reason out, but this attitude still helps.

    Speaking of this attitude, it helps with Tokyo in general. Every traveller I know who has been to Tokyo, even with the best attitudes and expectations, has as some point been disappointed by a Japanese rule or custom that they didn’t know about which requires them to change their plans. This can be very frustrating, but its part of travelling to a country and culture different from your own, which is why we go, right? Luckily, I have personally found that every disappointment came with some form of silver lining. I would find wonderful things I never expected to find, and rules that I didn’t know existed that made things so much EASIER too.

    When I went to the New Year’s Lucky bag sales last trip was one such occasion. For those who don’t know lucky bags (or fukubukuro) are bags that are sold on New Years to thank customers for their year of patronage. They contain a large amount of merchandise for a very small fraction of the price, but the buyer is usually not allowed to know which merchandise it contains. It’s like a very expensive lucky dip which can turn out to be a huge bargain. Whether you like the merchandise or not, you are always guaranteed more value than what you paid, and the patrons of many places (notably Shibuya 109 fashion mecca) have system in which they run out the front of the store and hold up an item they don’t want, in the hopes that someone will come and trade with them. Now, given that in the top fashion stores you can buy a bag for ¥15000 that has up to ¥45000 worth of merchandise in it, I was expecting this tradition to be like a sample sale or Black Friday – full tilt jungle madness. I have seen girls in physical tug-of-war matches, tustles, and even full on fights at these sales back home, so I was prepared.

    What I found when I got to MaruiOne Shinjuku for my first lucky bag day was an orderly lineup split into careful sections to allow foot traffic to pass through, with uniformed men with signs every few sections holding signs saying “End of line (arrow pointing behind them)”. No pushing, no shoving, no line cutting from passers-by. I thought maybe this was due to the presence of the sign holders, and the trouble would start when we were let in. About half an hour before we were let in some ladies came around with a garbage bag for any rubbish we had, and showbags for everyone with maps of which stores were where inside, lists of the bags they had for sale, and some tissues and candies to keep us going. Still the line stayed excited, but well-behaved. Then the doors opened, AND…people were let in five at a time so as not to run in crowds up the escalator and hurt each other. When I got up to the store I wanted, nobody was fighting. Girls walked very fast to the bags and very quickly grabbed one, but nobody fought over them, nobody took them once somebody else had them, and everyone lined up happily to pay. I have never had an experience like this before or since, and the only ones that come close - you guessed it - all from Japan.

    Sadly, this time around there will be no New Year’s sales, but there will be shopping. I will be shopping the alternative fashions of Harajuku, from lolita to aristocrat to street to high fashion to just downright wacky. I will be shopping the hip boutique and youthful department stores of Shibuya, where you can barely fit between racks of clothing in some of the stores but I love every minute of it. I will be returning to my shopping paradise in Shinjuku, searching out my favourite collectibles, idols, games and character goods in Akihabara, looking to replace broken or worn out parts of my kimono collection in Asakusa, and of course searching for those perfect exclusive springtime Disney souvenirs. In between of course I would bathe at onsen and sento, meet fellow travellers, view beautiful gardens, monuments, temples and shrines, and photograph everything possible.

    Will I be able to stick to a budget this time and not go shopping mad? Will the new 30th anniversary Disneyland merchandise overwhelm me? We'll find out.

  2. #2

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Are you into lolita, cravatfiend? Depending on how long you're staying, I know the Tokyo group is planning something for ILD on June 1st.

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    I absolutely cannot wait to see what you end up buying! And of course the Tokyo Disneyland part as well.

    This is the one resort I'm DYING to visit so consider me eagerly awaiting each and every post.


    Visit my mice chat toy shop!
    http://micechat.com/forums/merchandi...oy-shoppe.html

    Track Disney Animation Presence in the Theme Parks Worldwide!
    http://micechat.com/forums/disneylan...ired-them.html

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    tomoyo - Sadly June 1st is the day I get back home! I hope you all have a wonderful time though

    Coheteboy - Glad to hear you're interested I should be updating soon.

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    NOTE: I will not be visiting Disney until my third day in Japan, so if you are only interested in the TDR portion, please skip about 3 posts

    Also please forgive the lack of pictures, the internet here is having trouble uploading them. I will update when possible!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One flight leg down, one to go. I spent the morning in an oddly dissociative state, feeling as though it wasn’t really me going. It wasn’t really me zipping up my bag. It wasn’t me going through security. I couldn’t really be finally going back to Tokyo. Luckily I was able to snap out of it when I had to say goodbye to my partner and roommate at the international terminal gate, and from there on I was on my own. The flight itself was fairly good. I had been informed both on my flight documents and by several websites that my particular flight would only have overhead tvs playing preset movies, not Audio-Video on Demand systems for each passenger. I was surprised, as I was pretty sure the whole fleet had the new systems fitted, so I had prepared for the worst while maintaining a healthy hope that the documents were wrong. It turns out they were! Hooray! I therefore got to spend most of my flight catching up on a couple of movies I missed in the cinema, a tv show on the making of wedding cakes, a travel show on Tokyo I hadn’t seen yet, a documentary on Rowan Atkinson’s early career, and an episode or two of Top Gear. TV and movie loving me was very, very happy


    So here I am at Kuala Lumpur Airport after a 7-hour flight, and facing another 7-hour flight in three hours time. Luckily that flight starts when I usually go to bed, so I’m hoping I can sleep (or what passes for sleep on a plane) most of the flight. I flew through KLIA last time I went to Tokyo 3 years ago, so everything is causing me a strange déjà vu. For one thing, it has become apparent to me that some places do indeed have a smell to them, even if it doesn’t seem that obvious. When I walked from the plane onto the bridge I caught a whiff of how the air smells here and BAM! Memories, right in the face. Thankfully they were mostly good ones.



    I am also embarrassed to admit that it took me exactly 8 minutes from stepping into the airport to browsing a shoe store. Seriously, once I realised what I was doing I cracked up laughing and checked my watch. I then wandered further into the airport and found myself doing all the things I did last time. Marvelling at how shiny things are, noting the huge line at Burger King in comparison to other food outlets, and once again immaturely giggling at the noodle bar named ‘Nööödles’. I then staked out a spot at DeliFrance, at a table by the window watching the planes taxi through the lights at night, and wrote this post for you, dear reader.


    Overall I can recommend countries like Malaysia for transfer airports, as it is helping me slowly wade in to the experience of being abroad again. Most people speak English extremely well here, but are culturally different. The signs all have English on them, but in smaller writing under the words in Malay. Most conversations around me are taking place in a different language. I’m glad that I have this chance to get used to things being a little bit foreign again before jumping back in to a culture that mostly functions in a foreign language. Having said that, my Japanese is much better than my Malay

    So I’m off to find something else to do for the next two and a half hours. I’ll report back when I’m standing on Japanese soil

  6. #6

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Day 1: Airport, Shinjuku and Sanja Matsuri (or so I thought...)

    (Please forgive the lack of pictures, the internet here is having trouble uploading them. I will update them when I get the chance!)


    This has been a big trip already, and it’s only the first day! I dozed on and off for the flight to Narita, finally giving up on sleeping properly when they started serving breakfast. Surprisingly the breakfast was not one the usual fare of pieces of scrap meat in sauce or “special” omelette (with surprising seafood pieces) kind of meals like last time. There was an option for plain cheese omelette with sausage and some of the most delicious strawberry yoghurt I’ve had in a while. This certainly lifted my drowsy spirits. Not long after that we began the turning circle over Tokyo and it was amazing. Watching the dawn sun over the clouds, then having them slowly disperse to reveal the city as we descended was breathtaking.


    The airport, as usual, was very Japanese. Incredibly sparse, with only things that are necessary and some occasional displays to introduce tourists to Japanese art forms and building techniques. I followed the crowd onto the train and through customs smoothly. It turns out I stillremember by heart things like where the toilets are in the arrival hall or how to get to the train counters. Station layouts as well it seems. The funny part however is that my Japan memory has occasionally been a little off, for example not remembering a whole block between two buildings of note, as the block had nothing memorable in it. It has been amusing to be certain these two buildings have always been next to each other only to realise I’ve been remembering it wrong for three years!


    I hit my first slight stumble of the trip when I confidently bought a ticket for the train I needed, found my way to the platform number on my ticket, only to be encountered by a train going TO the airport, not from. I was entirely confused, with only about a minute until my train departure. Luckily in my frantic looking around I managed to spot a doorway in the wall behind me – revealing the other side of what I had until then assumed was a one sided platform! Luckily I do a good last second train jump when I need to Crisis over, I enjoyed the train to the city immensely. I love how it passes both old-style Japanese houses with their rice and vegetable farms as well as big ugly shopping outlet buildings and wayward looking telephone wires and towers. It’s awesomely jarring to see these two sides of Japan juxtaposed.


    Thanks to my research obsession I had committed the route I needed to get to my hotel to memory and I didn’t even need to consult the map I brought (which was good, as it was buried in my carry on). I dropped my bags and headed for Shinjuku Takashimaya to buy my Disneyland tickets for in two days time. The lady at the counter was very helpful and I had no problems with the tickets, only problems getting myself out of the store without buying anything! I managed to stay strong though, as the less I buy there, the more park merchandise I can allow myself. I then decided to take an initial look at Shinjuku Closet Child, a second hand shop specialising in big Japanese Gothic and Lolita brand names. I had decided I would be very selective in my EGA/EGL buying this trip, which would mean having a good look around. I saw a couple of coats that I was really tempted by (those who know me will know more coats are the very last thing my wardrobe needs) but I decided to truly make a decision I would need to see what the other Closet Child branches, as well as actual outlets had to offer.


    This led me to Harajuku, and from there I lost control a little. I wandered wide-eyed from store to store amazed at the fun things on offer this season. I must have tried on 15 outfits at least, and stared at countless accessories. Luckily my frugal-mindedness still appeared to exist when it came to actual buying. I decided I would only focus on EGL clothing today, and ended up buying one fairly low priced second hand Baby, The Stars Shine Bright dress, one decora bracelet, one Angelic Pretty necklace (also second hand), and a few shirts and accessories that Closet Child amazingly had on a ¥600 ($6ish) and under rack!!! For me, this is a pretty good effort at not buying much when faced with Tokyo stores. I still feel I need one more dress in a particular style for my EGL shopping, but I know what’s out there now so it can wait until I’m sure and know my remaining budget. Meanwhile tomorrow I am planning to go to Shibuya and then Harajuku again, this time focusing on gyaru and street fashion. I highly suspect that quirky Harajuku street fashion will be my biggest buying temptation this trip, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.


    After taking my purchases back to the hotel and settling in, I ventured out again to see one of my favourite Japanese festivals: the Sanja Matsuri. The Sanja Matsuri celebrates the time when in 628 AD when two Japanese fishermen found a huge statuette of the Bodhisattva Kannon (often known to non-Buddhists as enlightened or skinny Buddha) in the Sumida River. A local Buddhist heard of this and taught the men the religion surrounding the statue. The three created a small temple for the statue which is now Senso-ji, Tokyo’s most popular temple. Sanja Matsuri was formed around celebrating this event. In 1649 Togugawa Iemitsu commissioned Asukusa-jinja, a Shinto shrine just behind Senso-ji, in honour of the spirits of these three men, solidifying the importance of the festival and the ability of the Japanese to allow these two religions to exist in harmony. In its current form, Sanja-Matsuri lasts for 3 days, and today was the day that large groups of people spent all day carrying giant portable shrines around the 44 districts of Asakusa, paying their respects, before returning to large crowds and fanfare in the evening.


    Well, large crowds was an understatement. I was lucky enough to get within a few rows of the front of the crowd, but we were constantly being crushed, pushed around, and generally maimed by the huge amount of people crammed into a small space. I chose to find this an interesting experience rather than a pain, and once I started giggling about it I got the woman next to me doing it too. It turns out she spoke English, and we kept each other in good conversation until the festival finished and the crowd dispersed. It was great seeing the performers, and to see the mostly local crowds cheering so hard for both their performers in the festival and their district.


    After this I stopped into an Asakusa restaurant for some ‘meat spaghetti’, a Japanese attempt at spaghetti bolognese with far less tomato than it generally requires. It wasn’t too bad, and I got throught the entire ordering/eating/paying experience in Japanese. I then headed for the hotel, as I don’t want to stay out too late on my own, and today has been a very long one with a lot of trains and a lot of walking. Hopefully I can get a good sleep on my futon and be strong of mind for tomorrow, a day of street fashion shopping temptations. Wish me luck!

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Loving your TR!
    For the love of Disney....

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Quote Originally Posted by cravatfiend View Post
    tomoyo - Sadly June 1st is the day I get back home! I hope you all have a wonderful time though
    Oops, missed your dates in the title! ^^; That's too bad, there's actually an ILD meetup being planned for TDL! I was hoping to go to that one, but I had to change my dates and am flying in on the 1st.

    What Baby dress did you buy? I enjoy living vicariously through other's Closet Child experiences.

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Cravatfiend, I love your attitude and how you turn something negative into a positive. I can't wait to read more! I was in Tokyo from late March to early April this year and I am missing it like crazy. Especially the parks! I will be living vicariously through you! Take lots of pictures, please. Especially 30th items/ decorations, I missed them by a week. So sad. : (

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Hi again everybody! Thanks for all the encouraging comments

    So sorry to have stalled my reporting, I got quite sick during my trip then had to make up for lost time. Don't worry, I still had a fantastic time and will be continuing the report now!

    tomoyo - The dress I got was the one very badly pictured below. It's by no means my dream dress but it's one I really like and in fabulous condition for the price.

    Attachment 30564

    ratoncitaloca - Thanks I know exactly how you feel, last time I missed a whole heap of celebrations by a narrow margin, and then desperately wanted to be back. That's why it's great that we all share our experiences!

    New update coming very soon.

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Tokyo Disney Resort Day 1, or Why You Should Take A Break


    From the title, it's possible to glean that this post may have some drama. You'd be right, but there's also a lot of fun, so follow along and you'll see

    I woke up to my alarm at 6am ready to get myself dressed and to Disney. I got dressed, put on sunscreen, make-up (which has better sunscreen in it than my stuff for my body) and packed my breakfast, and was out the door by 6:30am. I had researched the train journey previously and discovered that since my hotel was already on the Hibiya line, I could change to the Keiyo line at Hatchobori and avoid Tokyo station's staircase and tunnel of doom (To those not in the know, if changing to Keiyo at Tokyo station be prepared to lug your stuff down a really long staircase then walk a tunnel that literally takes about 10-15 minutes to walk).

    The whole journey I was on the lookout for a bottle of Coke Zero, as I understood it was not common in the parks and as it is my main vice I wanted to take one in with me. Amazingly Tokyo's millions of vendo were letting me down on this particular journey.

    When I finally reached Maihama station and exited the train, I couldn't help but notice something familiar. Was that...the Happiness is Here song playing as the station music? Yes, it was. Train stations in Tokyo each have their own unique bit of tinny music they play whenever a train stops there to subliminally let those on the train realise it's their stop if they tuned out the stop announcement. This by the way is also how Tokyoites are able to sleep on the train and somehow 'magically' wake up just before their stop. Their subconscious brain knows the music, and that of the station before. I stood for a moment in giggly marvel of the fact that Maihama had managed to change theirs. As it turns out, this is not the only time I would find 'Happiness is here' invading things like an adorable, well-meaning virus.

    Sadly, I continued out of the station before thinking to look at the vending machines, and neither the famous Becker's or the less famous Beck's Coffee House had diet cola to offer. So I continued on, figuring I'd either get lucky or go without.

    I passed Bon Voyage bang on 7:30am. I know this because I got to see the Bon Voyage employees do all the bowing and scraping that comes with opening the store. They were so incredibly smiley, they reminded me of the chirpy Japanese Disney cast members I had in store. I ducked in to the store quickly to see if I could grab a passholder (a sort of tiny, flat purse just for holding your ticket and fastpasses) because I'd heard for fastpass commandos like me they made all the difference. I was expecting to have to settle for something not that interesting, but my eyes quickly trained on an Alice one that I simply HAD to have. Within seconds I was at the register, able to communicate to the happy Cast Member that I would love her to cut the tag off, and bowing my way out the door to a chorus of 'Irrasshai!'


    Tell me friends, does this seem like something I would buy? When I get home I'm thinking necklace or giant pinbadge.

    The bag checkers did a cursory look in my backpack ('Ohayo gozaimasu ' *glances at my cardigan on top of all my stuff, doesn't look under it* 'Ok!') and I headed for a spot on one of the side lines that everyone seems to ignore. I was happily only about 3 or 4 people back. I then proceeded to spread out my scarf as a picnic blanket, eat my breakfast, check my game plan (Beginning with running past Star Tours for a fastpass, then heading to Pooh's Hunny Hunt), and spend about an hour typing my blog from the last day on my phone only to have it fail to publish and lose it all. Grr! A note to all blogging from a phone: save before posting if your app has the function. Don't worry, as you saw I was able to retype it in line the next day.

    As it came closer to opening time people started to look excited. A few minor characters came out to get the crowd riled up. They started letting the Resort guests in for their extra 15 minutes, and the rest of us tried not to look too scowly as they all streamed past the gates. Then Mickey and Minnie came out on opposite sides and started waving to people in line. 'Suddenly' Mickey saw Minnie and made a big show of rushing to get to her and hug her. I must admit this made me smile. These guys are pretty dedicated to creating special moments for the guests. The cast members then came out and did a long speech the gist of which I got was: don't push, have your passports ready, put your passport on the machine barcode down, and that's about all my Japanese would give me. Luckily if you know how to be nice and do what the guy in front of you does, you don't really need the speech. It's just an important thing to give the speech to the Japanese. Whenever you go to do anything, you get the smiley 'Here are the rules' speech. Even when you go to buy food you'll often get your food with a 'If you'll please proceed to the counter over there and pick up your milk, sweetener, straws and napkins'. Just smile, say hai, and look apologetic if you misunderstand anything.

    Quite suddenly after the speech, at 9 on the dot, they started letting us in. Here the big difference between Tokyo Disney openings and others showed itself in full force: people RAN. They have carefully filled the entry area with Cast Members so that if you want to run, you have to duck and weave a bit, but they don't stop you. Also for every 7 Cast Members or so they have one Security Cast Member who is holding up their hands yelling 'Please be careful. Move at a safe speed please!' but again, they don't stop you, and everyone either ignores them, or momentarily slows down to a jog as they pass as if to say 'Look, I'm slowing down' then immediately speeds up again once past each security guy. I'll admit, I did this. Mwahahaha!

    Unfortunately by the time I passed Monsters Inc I had to slow my run a bit because my asthma was playing up, but I rushed the rest of the way 'at a safe speed' and made my way to Star Tours for an 10am fastpass. Yes! If you are new to the fastpass system, it's basically a system where if you go to a bank of machines outside a popular ride and scan your park ticket, the machine will spit out a pass with a one hour window on it (starting from the first hour the park is open and moving forward in time as they sell out of fastpasses for that hour). If you return to the ride during your time window you can bypass a large part of the standby line and get on the ride faster. This ticket can turn a 2 hour line up into a 15 minute one, so I recommend getting one as soon as you can when you enter the park, and getting a new one as soon as you are allowed (it will say when you are allowed, in English, on your ticket).

    After the fastpass I began to rush over toward Pooh's Hunny Hunt. I was distracted however when I passed Space Place Foodport, and discovered there in their display window - Coke Zero! One 'Kora zero o kudasai' later I continued on my way to find Pooh's Hunny Hunt with a 5 minute wait!

    For those who don't know Pooh's Hunny Hunt, it is entirely different from the Pooh rides at other Disney parks for two reasons: it is popular, and it is popular for a reason. [SLIGHT RIDE SPOILERS AHEAD] The ride takes you through the story of the blustery day, Pooh's nightmares of Heffalumps and Woozles, and his attempts to get hunny using a blue balloon, but does so using ride vehicles that are not on a track, but guided by a radio control system that make your 'hunny pot' appear to have a mind of it's own. There are three pots in each set that will take different courses around each room, spin, go backwards and occasionally dance around each other in circles. It makes what would have been a cute animatronic story with great theming into a really fun experience. [END SPOILERS]

    This tech is why the ride commonly has 110 minute lines on only averagely crowded days, so 5 minutes was really, really good. I ran onto the ride. My only regret was that I got on too fast to take any pictures of the queue, where you pass rooms of Christopher Robin's house and then weave between giant pages from the Pooh books. The ride was just as fun as I remembered it, and I was hit with that amazing joyous feeling holiday planners get, that 'I'm finally here' feeling.

    When I got off the ride the wait was 20 minutes. I was weighing up whether to go again when I saw that the characters were out in force in Fantasyland. I quickly went and got photos with the Mad Hatter, who was slightly disturbed by the red and black card suits all over my hat and backpack, took photos of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and frightenedly snapped photos of Cinderella's Fairy Godmother from a distance.


    Beware her scary plastic mask face!

    I then realized Peter Pan's Flight had no wait, so I jumped on that. This ride not surprisingly takes you through the story of Peter Pan, and is one of the older, less technologically advanced dark rides, but I love it because it flies you over the scenes. Also because the ride vehicles look like this:



    Sorry for the blur, but it's the best shot I got of the little pirate ships. So cute! They're about big enough to fit two people.

    I then ran across and jumped on Haunted Mansion, also with a 5 minute wait. Yes, for those of you used to the other parks, the Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland here. The main reason for this is because for the Japanese, who have very strong and different ghost legends, ghosts very much belong in the realm of fantasy. Of course, it probably didn't hurt to save space in Adventureland either.

    [SMALL RIDE SPOILERS AHEAD] The Haunted Mansion is a ride where you get taken on a tour of a mansion that houses 999 ghosts, and they're looking to make it an even 1000. You are put in a two person magically moving chair and narrated by a ghost somewhere in your vicinity who takes you through hallways of haunted pictures, ghost parties, ominously knocking doors, haunted attics and graveyards just to name a few. [END SPOILERS]

    The scenes of this ride are lovingly done and include a lovely amount of detail to notice on subsequent ride throughs. I also love this rider's tech because your 'doom buggy', much like the Peter Pan's Flight vehicles, is constantly moving, and loads with passengers standing on a conveyor belt moving in time with the vehicle. This means it loads faster and the queue moves faster too. I also took note this trip that they keep their Haunted Mansion, and their dark rides in general, very dark in Tokyo. I had trouble making out some of the scenes at first. You also cannot see any technical tricks like the dusty scrims you can sometimes catch in other parks, as the Oriental Land Company who own Tokyo Disney Resort have the money (and the Japanese love of cleaning) to keep their rides very well maintained. I noticed this a lot in the parks actually. Most of the effects that have ever worked, do work, which is nice in comparison to the 'oh that broke years ago' issue going on in some parks.

    After the Haunted Mansion I took a wander through Cinderella's Fairy Tale Hall with no wait. This is an attraction that has popped up since my last visit, when the Cinderella's Castle Mystery Tour was still running. It's a sort of walk through gallery inside Cinderella Castle that has all sorts of artworks depicting scenes from Cinderella.


    Cinderella papercraft anyone?

    Some of the artwork is really detailed, moving, or even uses tricks of light to change it's shape. There are also images in the throne room that change if you photograph them with flash. You can take photos on Cinderella's throne and pretending to try on her glass slipper. I spent some time doing the 'I'm a funny gaijin' dance behind a mother to help her get her twins to look in the same direction for their throne photo (for my twin friends reading this don't worry, they got seperate photos too). I then took some very silly photos of myself, which I won't put you through the pain of. What I will show you is my favourite part about going into this hall: the fact that you exit part way up the castle.


    Fantasyland is pretty!

    It was now finally time to head for Star Tours, but as a fastpass junkie, I had to get a new fastpass on the way. You are able to get a new fastpass either two hours after you got your last fastpass, or at the time your current fastpass window begins, whichever is earlier. The queue for Space Mountain had already grown huge, so at one minute past I grabbed a fastpass for that and headed on to Star Tours.

    I would like to take a moment to point out how much I love fastpass. It's a system that rewards you for being the early bird and for being willing to structure your day, and that sits very well with a planner like me. The other reason I love it is because of the pure fun of actually bypassing the line. First you approach a ride like Star Tours to find a big line outside. Instead of getting in it, you idle on past to the fastpass attendant who waves you in to the building. Inside you will usually find a huge line looping backward and forward, full of people waiting. Try not to smile or wave smugly as you skirt around the side of this entire line in a queue of your own that is virtually empty. Feel free to let yourself think 'Later, suckers!' though, I always do Finally reach the part where the fastpass and standby queues merge, and enjoy the moment when the Cast Member stops the standby line to let you go first. A short line later you will be on the ride and out of here.

    This was very much my experience with Star Tours, in the first room I was even able to stop and take a picture of the room and the line I'd bypassed:


    I then spent 10 minutes or so waiting in a line where C-3PO was doing his planning next to R2 and a big version of the 'ship' we were about to 'board'. We all listened carefully as cutesy ladybot gave us the story on a television screen, then we were off in to the next room that took us through customs and security. Here we encountered entertaining talking droids, infra-red cameras checking us over, a really cute 'window' showing us the silhouettes of the variety of other types of passenger boarding at this station, and of course a few hitchhiking droids:


    Tee hee, Haunted Mansion, tee hee.

    We then moved into the loading room where I was all set to wait another 10 minutes to board when a Cast Member came up the line looking for a single rider. Score! I was loaded into the last seat at the back, which is right next to the entry doors and has no seats directly in front of it. Double score! I had great fun with this ride, especially it's randomly generated story, as in this run through we bumped into Vader himself within the first minute and were thrown around the hangar by his powers. I won't spoil any other scenes for future riders, but suffice it to say it was more exciting and fun than I expected a simulator ride to be.

    After this I wandered around for a little purchasing my Happiness Pendant (a special, light-up anniversary necklace that interacts with statues called Happiness Spots around the park), looking for Happiness Spots, and trying to find the popcorn bucket I wanted. I couldn't find the popcorn bucket, but I did get to two Happiness Spots. One in the the plaza, then on the way to one in Toontown, I discovered characters out in force yet again. Scrooge McDuck, Daisy, Chip and Dale, and the Three Little Pigs with the Wolf were all entertaining the crowd. Once I'd hung out with them for a bit I headed for the Happiness Spot, put the pendant on the statue, pressed the button, and the statue lit up and played sound effects. It was quite cute, especially because it seemed to thrill the kids around the place who didn't have pendants. One more Happiness Spot and I'd have visited enough to get a special medallion to wear on my Happiness Pendant, yay!


    The Pigs and Wolf enjoying a bit of farce, 'running into' the Jolly Trolley.

    After this it was 11:00, time to head for lunch before the lunch rush. I got into the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall with a small line, which ten minutes later stretched far out the door behind me. Hurrah for the early bird! Not long after this I was seated in what I consider one of the prettiest themed dining rooms in Tokyo Disneyland. It features giant flowers, a hedge maze, and a lot of castle scenery.




    I chose the Heart Shaped Hamburger Patty, which, face it, was theme park food, but the vegetables and sauce were nice, and I loved the tray and it's little crown. I also like how they carry your tray to the table they know is empty for you, it saves you a lot of time looking around awkwardly balancing a tray trying to find a seat without tripping over strollers.

    Now as my hotel room was about an hour's travel away, I decided to take my time with this lunch and take another long sit before parade time rather than taking a break in the middle of the day like most Disneyland lovers do. I'd done the parks before without a break, and figured I could do it with just some restful time in the middle. This would turn out to be a mistake, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

    I realized that soon my fastpass window would be up and Big Thunder Mountain still had fastpasses available, so I headed over to Westernland (the Japanese don't really understand the word 'frontier' as it's not a part of their history, so Frontierland makes little sense to them). I was distracted by a moment by a very animated Woody and Jessie from Toy Story but I soon managed to move through their crowds of fans. Bam! Third fastpass.


    I then headed back over to Tomorrowland, and once again did the VIP walk past a huge line onto the ride. I have a soft spot for Space Mountain, as I'm a bit of a wimp with coasters but since Space is all in the dark and I can't see how high up I am, I love every second of it. I will say Tokyo's version is a bit odd though with it's lack of music. All you can hear is coaster tracks and excited squealing. Still, so much fun. I then wandered around having a preliminary look at the Monsters Inc. store and giving in and buying the Star Wars popcorn bucket, which I also quite liked, since the one I wanted seemed to be nowhere to be found.

    I decided it was time for another rest so I bought an Orange Mickey Bar pop and wandered over to Fantasyland to eat it and people watch. As I sat there people started to gather around me to save seating for the parade. Hold on, I thought, it's hours before the parade and people are only usually allowed to set up an hour beforehand, and it's not usually nearly this popular. Ah but wait, this is a NEW, SPECIAL EDITION parade, and the only thing Tokyo Disney Resort visitors seem to like more than shows and parades are new things. The Cast Members weren't even stopping them as long as they were sitting on benches and fences and not putting down mats yet. This concerned me however as I had a fastpass for Big Thunder coming up and no-one to save my seat. Luckily, I realised at the last moment that the girl who I'd been speaking broken Japanese to for a bit after she sat down next to me might be willing to hold my place. I managed between bad Japanese, putting a scarf down on my seat, and showing her my fastpass to ask, and she was fine with it, so I ran over to Big Thunder. This is another coaster ride I love because while it has speed, it lacks the two things I hate on coasters: height and drops. True to fastpass standard I was on the ride quickly and able to be back at my spot, dutifully saved, in time for my new friend to go get some food while I saved her spot, and watched her bags! She must have trusted me, but I suppose she knew I wasn't going anywhere before the parade started.

    The parade was adorable and included a few characters I didn't expect, especially Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh who doesn't always rate a parade appearance it seems. I think I will always have a soft spot for Jubilation! and its variety of floats, but these ones were nothing to sneeze at either:


    The final float (excepting sponsor floats) with Mickey and Minnie.

    I was starting to feel quite tired, but once the parade route began to clear I ran over to Splash Mountain to take advantage of the single rider line. Single rider is a rule on a few select rides that if you're riding alone, you can use the fastpass queue without a fastpass to put you in a line for filling up ride cars with uneven passenger numbers. It's a really cool trick for taking a ride with a 110 minute wait, like Splash did at that time, and turning it into a 10 minute one. I had never had a chance to use it before as I usually go to Disney with at least one person who needs hand holding/wants a companion on all single rider applicable rides, but not this time. I walked up to the fastpass queue, indicated by status by holding up one finger and saying 'Singuru rider desu' and was waved through. I felt pretty cool as I wandered up the queue without a fastpass, then when I got to the section where the lady takes your fastpass from you, I explained again, and instead of waving me through she unclipped a section of the queue and motioned for me to go down an entirely empty queue right to the loading area! I then had to stand on a little line waiting for an uneven number, but this happened in minutes. So I now know that single rider is not only a free fastpass that can be used more than once, it's sometimes BETTER than a fastpass! Use it people. Even if you're with a group, unless you're planning a photo pose I suggest trying it at least once.

    Now, some of you may remember me saying something about hating drops. Splash Mountain, in order to create significant splashes, has quite a few of these, culminating in the big outdoor one at the end. I love the theming and the Brer Rabbit storyline though so I tend to ride it anyway. It was no less stomach churning this time, and my fellow riders seemed amused by my hesitancy so I decided my Splash Mountain photo pose would be the 'scaredy cat':


    See if you can spot me. Hint: you can't see my face

    When this photo came up at the booth after the ride the girls on the ride with me cracked up laughing, and when they saw I was laughing too had a giggly chat with me in Japanese.

    After Splash it was time to revisit one of my favourite Tokyo Disney foods: the maple churro. I had been thinking about maple churros since I had them on my trip three years ago and I was terrified they wouldn't be as I remembered, but I knew they sold them at the Splash exit so I got one. It was exactly the same! I savoured every memory-filled bite. After this I jumped on Mickey's Philharmagic because I was a fairly tired, there was little wait, and I hadn't seen it since Hong Kong Disneyland about 6 years ago. I then wandered around Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Westernland trying to get a read on the shops for when I did my buying.

    It was somewhere here, among the tired feet and previous Disney shopping memories that I got a bit gloomy. I didn't have someone to point the funny souvenirs out to. I didn't have as much money as last time, so I had to weigh up every single purchase. Was I spending too much money? I decided the shopping wasn't helping my mood so I headed off to the Hungry Bear for dinner. Unfortunately, the moodiness followed me there. I sat alone at a table in the corner in a spiral of unhelpful, unreasonable thoughts. Why was I sad? I was at Disneyland! I'd spent so much money on this trip, how could I not be enjoying myself? I decided to do a trip just for me, if I wasn't enjoying it what was the point? Was I ruining Disneyland for myself by having this freak out? Was it even worth coming back tomorrow? All of this effort for nothing!

    I had let myself get too tired, and I hadn't given my brain a break from the songs and the crowds and the rushing all day. I was having a textbook Disney crash. I'm sad to say, dear readers, that I sat at that table quietly crying into my curry, frantically messaging my partner hoping he'd cheer me up somehow. He did a half decent job, as he eventually managed to convince me that if this trip was for me, I could do whatever I wanted to, including leave. I decided I didn't want to leave, but instead wanted to get up, go see Dreamlights (the evening electrical parade) as it was soon, and then leave if I wanted, as long as it de-stressed me.

    I was still in a bit of a mood as I waited for the parade, but knowing I could leave anytime the parade actually reminded me why I wanted to be there. I giggled at my favourite childhood characters; I took note of the technical differences in this parade discussed online; I watched foreign cast members and remembered when I wanted to audition to be one. The magic wasn't exactly back, but the passion was there, and that was enough. After the parade I had a quick wander through the lands, checking for short queues but mostly enjoying the night scenery and reminding myself why I love these parks, and why I wanted to come back tomorrow. I left about an hour before closing, shaky but satisfied with my evening.

    That, my friends, was the story of my first Disney crash. I sincerely hope I never let it happen again, and I hope you can all avoid my mistakes. If you're doing a full day in the park, and there is any way to leave the parks and take a break, DO IT. Your feet, eyes, body and especially brain will thank you for it.

    Next up, believe it or not, a mostly enjoyable day at DisneySea!

  12. #12

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    I'm tired just from reading about your day! LOL!

  13. #13

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Great trip report. I gather you didn't do Monster's Inc unless I missed it.

    Lots of great information there about wise park-going!
    Born in a shoebox and making the most of it.

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    Hehe, it certainly was a big day! I get carried away writing about it as it seemed like I got so much done in a short space of time.

    Fukai - Unfortunately I did not ride Monsters Inc. this trip. I rode it several times last trip and enjoyed it, but this time I had other rides that I either had not done or had not done recently that took precedence. Unfortunately I live so far from any Disney parks that even the rides that are commonplace to the American park goer are exciting to me!

    I'm working on the DisneySea report between work shifts, hopefully I'll have it up soon

  15. #15

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    Re: A Shopaholic in Tokyo Disney - Trip Report May 18th - 31st 2013

    finally got around to reading your TR today during my work break It was great!



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