If you have to spend a day at Tokyo Disney without park admission, this is the way to do it: Sleep til you wake up, amble down the hall to the concierge lounge for a ginormous breakfast, poke around the hotel taking pictures, shop til you drop at Ikspiari, have a fancy lunch at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, and cap the day with an omiyage-buying spree at Bon Voyage. (What I don’t suggest is following up a stay at the fabulous Ambassador Hotel with a night in a Tokyo hotel room the size of a steamer trunk with breathtaking views of a wall—more on that later…).
Because we didn’t have to be at any park gates an hour before opening, we got to sleep in til almost 9am. When we woke up, we threw back the curtains to reveal the Ambassador’s glorious Art Deco pool. More on that later too!
Next we dropped in at the concierge lounge to take advantage of the huge breakfast spread.
It doesn’t look like much in these pictures cuz it was in the process of being demolished by us, but they had quite an impressive variety of foods—way more than we got at the concierge lounge at the Grand Floridian on our honeymoon. They had Western food like cereal, pastries, Mickey pancakes (dry, hard) and bacon (flaccid), plus Japanese favorites like egg salad and potato salad—both of which were probably THE best versions I’ve ever had!
After breakfast we went back to the room and used the laptop to Skype Patrick’s parents, “Môma” and “P-Daddy,” who were so excited to see our room and chat with us and hear all about our adventures. We also got to show them this hilarious picture from that day’s English-language newspaper:
We still had plenty of time before our noon checkout, so after the call we took some more pix from our room and went exploring.
In the elevator on the way to the lobby, a little girl spotted my “Vegetarian” brontosaurus T-shirt (from Animal Kingdom!) and asked in perfect English, “Are you a vegetarian?” I pointed to the dino and replied, “I’m not, but he is!”
I was sorry we never got to eat in the lobby lounge—it has great atmosphere!
This shot’s dark, but it shows what the view looks like…
…And this shot shows what the view looks like when an alien spaceship lands outside!
The ladies at Guest Services all smiled and nodded and pretended to be interested when we pointed out where we lived on this mural
We found a family trying to take a picture in front of this topiary and offered to take it for them, so they returned the favor.
Then we went back to doing what we do best…
Back inside, we did a little more exploring, and Patrick took an all-new set of photos of the restaurants I’ve already exhaustively covered in this trip report. But I posted those shots so long ago, you prolly can’t even remember what they looked like, so here ya go!
Here’s a better shot of the pin set that was costing us hundreds and hundreds of yen in spendy hotel-restaurant meals an attempt to collect just the first one in the series…
A little before noon, we went back up to our room to pack up and grab a few last-minute detail shots to complete our ultra-thorough documentation of the Ambassador for you:
We only had to schlep our bags as far as the concierge lounge, which was nice. They put them in storage for us to collect later from the bell desk. From there, we went in search of The Most Gorgeous Outdoor Disney Pool Ever.
I still don’t understand why the pools at Tokyo Disney are only open in the summer. If somebody is nuts enough to brave bad weather in order to swim, why not? And the weather was fairly pleasant that March day—I totally would have gone swimming just to try this pool!
And check out the pool rules… I can’t imagine them being able to prohibit tattoos at an American Disney pool!
The one drag about the Ambassador is that it’s not on the monorail line, so we had to walk all the way through Ikspiari to grab the monorail and ride it one stop to the Disneyland Hotel. However, along the way, we got to see another wedding taking place at the gazebo!
We also found a display of the original cover artwork for the latest issue of Disney Fan magazine. This is pretty amazing: instead of using Photoshop to create the cover or even taking photos of paper cut-outs and assembling them in Photoshop, they created the entire cover as a paper cut-out, headline and all, and photographed it—and the original art was just sitting in a case in the middle of the mall!
At last we reached the monorail station and embarked on our brief journey.
The plan was to take more general photos of the resort for the PassPorter guide and check out the pool before having lunch at Canna and hopefully earning the last stamp we needed to get that $#&%@! pin…
Our first stop was the only laundry room in any Disney hotel at TDR. If we’d known about it before we checked out, we coulda used our keys to get in. Instead we had to settle for a peek through the door—not sure how this pic’s gonna read in a 5×8-inch black & white guidebook!
When we got to the tiny spa and asked if we could take pictures, they requested that Patrick stay outside. It’s basically just one small room and an entry area.
Back out in the lobby, Patrick couldn’t resist a few more detail shots…
We were keen to see the official front entrance of the hotel, since we’d never needed to use it the entire time. I wonder who ever sees it—I guess maybe people who arrive by private car? Because the shuttles and the train all seem to deposit you over near Ikspiari.
Patrick was cracked on getting a shot of the front of the hotel without these two big vans in it…
So we waited…
And finally, 10 whole minutes later, we were able to take this crooked shot!
The entry area feels a bit like the one at the Beach Club—low ceiling, old-fashioned fixtures, and these paintings:
Because the pool wasn’t open to guests, all the interior doors leading out there were locked. However, we discovered a way in by walking all the way around the outside of the building.
I dunno… I think the soon-to-be-demolished Neverland Pool at our Disneyland Hotel is still more interesting than this one. The Ambassador Hotel Pool retains its title as The Most Gorgeous Outdoor Disney Pool Ever!
Each arch on the Disneyland Hotel train station has different artwork themed to the different lands at Disneyland, and you’re gonna see it all!
Lunchtime at Canna! I’m kind of curious as to why this ultra chic fine-dining spot—which would be quite at home in Las Vegas’ sleek new City Center development or in downtown LA or New York or, duh, Tokyo—is shoehorned into a ornate Victorian-style family hotel at Disney. I mean, even the color palette doesn’t jive with the rest of the resort. Not that I’m complaining (goodness knows it’s hard enough to find truly fine dining at a Disney resort), it just seems like a weird match.
As at the SS Columbia Dining Room, Canna provided us with a sheaf of menus, most of which are pictured here:
I whipped out my calculator and began poring over each menu looking for the best way to spend the least amount of money and still qualify for the pin promotion. We decide to split a pasta dish and a meat dish.
OK, I *get* fine dining—we eat at plenty of nice places in LA with small portions and understand that quantity is not a measure of quality. But usually the portions are at least big enough to split and maybe augment with an appetizer (which is how we afford to eat at plenty of nice places in LA!). However, at Canna it took a particle accelerator to split our business-card-sized piece of veal tenderloin and the carrot stub it came with! I would say that the meal was nothing to write home about, but I really didn’t get to eat enough of it to tell… the pasta was fairly tasty though. I think this is a place we need to plan for next time: If we go in knowing it’s a special occasion restaurant and we’re just gonna pay the big bucks to each have our own dish, I think we’ll probably enjoy it.
One cool thing happened: It turned out that what we ordered didn’t qualify for the last stamp we needed to get the first pin in the dining series, but when our server sent the manager over to explain it (unprompted) he took pity on us and gave us the stamp and pin anyway—hooray! Now we can sell it for $3 on eBay!
After lunch we walked back to Bon Voyage to take pictures of merchandise prices for the PassPorter and round out the collection of birthday goodies we’d amassed for Uncle “Not-Traveling” Matt. …Aaaaand we went kinda nuts buying ourselves omiyage in souvenir tins! (I should add that all of it turned out to be surprisingly fresh and tasty. I actually still crave some of the snacks we brought back, something that has never ever happened with the stale pre-packaged food at Disneyland. I guess it’s cuz the Japanese individually wrap each cracker or cookie or candy inside the souvenir tin—bad for the planet, good for my tastebuds!)
Then it was back through Ikspiari to not find anything to buy for Uncle Matt at the Disney Store. I think we took a picture of this map cuz it was the first overview of the resort we’d seen:
We took more pictures of Becker’s because, well, I’d just heard so much about it before we got here! Never ate there though…
So, as we were poking around the gift shop back at the Ambassador, we realized that this sculpture we’d seen in all the shops would be *perfect* for Uncle Matt.
It was a limited edition, featured three great character likenesses, and just screamed “Japan”! (You literally have to cover the thing with a pillow every night to keep from hearing it scream “JAPAN!!!!”). The problem was, we were just $20 away from his limit and it was quite a bit more than that. So we cooked up this scheme whereby we’d return another, smaller figure from the same series that we’d already bought him, then take the credit and add some of our own money as a birthday gift to him so we could get him this much cooler sculpture.
In the US, this would have been a fairly simple procedure. In Japan, it became the 2-Hour Odyssey of Confusion. First we tried exchanging it at the hotel gift shop. After a lot of waiting around for a manager and much discreet hand-wringing and polite English conversation with a kind sales clerk, we figured out that a hotel shop could not accept the return of an item purchased elsewhere on property even if the shop sold that very item—but Bon Voyage could.
So we trudged back out through Ikspiari to Bon Voyage, where we tracked down a clerk who’d helped us earlier that day and spoke good English so we could explain our situation. He gathered some other clerks, and pretty soon there were SIX PEOPLE buzzing around a cash register, making phone calls, furrowing their brows, and shaking their heads as our pal sporadically tried to explain to us what was going on.
We took more pictures.
At last he told us that they were very sorry, but there was no way for them to give us a refund for the original sculpture. I pointed to some words in my phrase book to ask if we could just exchange it, and their faces all lit up—of *course* we could exchange it! WHEW!
You would think at that point I’d never want to set foot in another gift shop, but I was in “when are we ever gonna come back here?” mode, so I dragged Patrick back to the gift shop at the Disneyland Hotel, where I’d spotted a set of fabulous tea cups with the hotel logo and decided they would be perfect for drinking all that 100% Chocolate Café cocoa I bought. Bless that man for not complaining! (I’ll have pictures of all these souvenirs in the final installment of this trip report… what’s that you say? There will TOO be a final installment of this trip report! Sheesh!!!)
By now it was getting dark, so we decided to wait out rush hour and have something to eat before heading back to Tokyo and checking into the next hotel. We went for Mystery Dinner at Ikspiari food court, where I picked up a couple bento boxes of stuff that I didn’t know what it was… and it was delicious!
For dessert, Patrick got some fruity nonsense and I got the first cupcake I’d seen in Japan, at Starbucks, and discovered it tasted just like the ones at Starbucks in the US, i.e., dry. In fact the frosting was so dry, the entire blob popped off and hit the floor before I’d had two bites— doh!
When we got to the Ambassador to get our bags out of hock, the bell hop took one look at our ginormous pile of luggage and politely suggested we might have trouble hauling them on the subway, which had been my plan. Suddenly I felt very unprepared and almost stranded—I can’t believe I thought we could schlep six bags of luggage and souvenirs on the subway! Seeing my consternation, she dashed out to the front of the hotel and found a taxi big enough to fit our luggage (another challenge that hadn’t even occurred to me) found out how much it would cost to get us to our hotel, helped us cram everything in the car, and explained to the driver where we needed to go! We were SO relieved and grateful – I said, “I feel like giving you a hug!” and she said, “That’s OK!” so I did!
The taxi ride was fairly uneventful. One thing I thought was funny was being asked whether we wanted to go on the highway or city streets. I guess this is so you don’t think the guy is taking you the long way around the bend in order to run up the fare, but it’s not like we had any clue which would be better. Also very interesting was that traffic on the highway was bumper-to-bumper at 9:00 on a Saturday night. We live in traffic central, but you would never see this in LA on a Saturday night! Wait, OK, unless you were going past the Staples center after an event…
The first thing I noticed when we got back to Tokyo was that the cherry trees had finally blossomed! When the taxi turned down the small street our hotel was on, it almost felt like it had snowed—a carpet of petals lay under a tunnel of cherry blossom branches, and the night was illuminated by light reflecting off the white and pink flowers. It was magical!
Other, less magical things we saw…
We were booked into the Yaesu Terminal Hotel, the cheapest centrally located hotel we could find for our “extra” night between Disney and our 5-day stint at the Metropolitan Marunouchi Hotel. If I’d known we were gonna need a taxi, I would have booked someplace a little nicer but farther away for the same price. But this place is right around the corner from Tokyo Station, so it would have been walkable had we used the subway.
This is definitely the kind of hotel people are talking about when they say that Tokyo hotels are tiny and overpriced. Our room was conveniently located next to the coffin-like elevator. We had to split up our luggage and go up one at a time.
The room was so small (and devoid of closets) that we had to stack all the furniture except the bed in a big pile in order to fit our suitcases!
Meanwhile, the bathroom was so small that one could practically shower, shave at the sink, and sit on the john simultaneously!
Patrick pointed out that if we were staying at a friend’s house, we’d be OK with sleeping in a room this size, so that’s what he was pretending. I was just going by the size of the bathroom, which looked like the head on a cut-rate cruise ship, so that’s what I was pretending.
Because I am a lady, I was handed a convenience pack at check-in that included such items as…
Hey, free scrubbie, free hair clip—what am I complaining about?
…Well, I’ll tell you what I’m complaining about : the view! (which we had to wait to shoot until the next day)
That’s right, our view was of a wall. Oh wait, *and* a dangling bundle of cable! (I think that cost extra.)
Don’t look down.
I told you not to look down!!!
I decided we should go out and walk the route to our next hotel so we’d know exactly where to go the following day as we lugged all six bags. As we were leaving the room, Patrick was like, “Close the window,” and I was like, “Who’s gonna be able to get way up here?” and he was like “…Ninjas?”
So for the rest of the night, every time we heard a crash or a bang (which was often) we’d look at each other and whisper, “Ninjas!”