Today was Patrick’s last day of shooting on the commercials. Since he hadn’t stumbled in til 3 that morning, we had time to go to breakfast before he was due back at the studio that day. We decided to see what a traditional American breakfast looked like in Japan, and the guy at the hotel desk suggested a chain called Jonathan’s. I have heard it likened to Denny’s, but it was way nicer than the last Denny’s I went to!
We still couldn’t get over seeing smoking sections in restaurants. As if smoke wasn’t going to come billowing into the non-smoking section through those two wide-open doorways!
Now this, I liked—you just ring the bell any time you want service. Think how much waving and hollering of “Honey! HONEY!!!” that would have saved my grandmother…
Self-serve beverage station—10 different flavors of tea but no hot chocolate.
At first glance, it appears to be a typical American breakfast…
…But why only a shot-glass’ worth of syrup?
Breakfast was pretty good. The pancakes had the consistency of bread, and there was only half a piece of flabby bacon, but the hash browns were AMAZING! Thanks are again in order for the Portuguese, no doubt. Plus, the single tiny piece of bacon was more than made up for by…
SLAB o’ TOAST!!!
I was very excited to see that Jonathan’s accepts PASMO/Suica as payment!
According to the guidebook, there was a shrine just up the street from our hotel, so on our way back, we stopped in for a peek.
The present Hie-jinja Shrine was built in 1967, but it has existed at various spots in the area since 830. It’s a Shinto shrine dedicated to Oyamakui-no-kami, who protects against evil, and in about 2 weeks it will host the Sanno Matsuri festival, one of the most important in Tokyo.
When we were there, I caught a glimpse of the first of four weddings I would see that day!
Another interesting thing about this shrine is that it was the command center for a 4-day rebellion in 1936, when 1,400 soldiers attempted to wrest power from the increasingly military-controlled government and return it to the emperor.
But the most interesting thing about the shrine to me was that they supposedly let chickens roam the place! But we didn’t get to see any…
After that Patrick went on his way to the photo shoot, and I grabbed a train to Tokyo Disneyland!
This time I was headed to Tokyo Disney to get a tour of the wedding facilities from the Director of Resort Operations and the General Manager of Hotel Miracosta. This was very exciting because I got to peek at three real weddings and was even escorted inside Tokyo Disney Sea for the very first time in order to see a Gondola Wedding processional.
However, if I paste those 200 photos into this update, I will break this web site. So if you’re interested, you can read the mini-trip report about it HERE!
After a whirlwind tour covering Mira Costa, Tokyo Disney Sea and the Ambassador, my hosts deposited me back at Mira Costa and I decided to treat myself to lunch in the hotel.
There’s one check in desk for both Silk Road (upscale Chinese food) and Oceano (Mediterranean combo buffet and table service). Oceano’s buffet looked like it would be my cheapest option, but I took some pictures of Silk Road first!
I am not a huge fan of buffets, but I’d been excited about Oceano ever since I saw a picture of the inside.
Hmmm… that pic doesn’t really do it justice—lemme borrow Jack Spence’s shot:
It turns out the restaurant has two separate seating areas. The one pictured above is for those who order the buffet. Behind it is another area where you sit if you’re ordering a set menu or a la carte.
The ceiling of the buffet seating area:
The table-service area:
I wish I’d snapped a picture of the menus, but as I recall, the set lunch menu was about $52/person, while the lunch buffet was a mere $37/person. Because I am a rabid comparison shopper, I’m sure I did the math on the a la carte options and the buffet still worked out the cheapest.
Off to the buffet!
There will be more about the dessert display later—consider this your amuse bouche!
I adored the silverware rest! I wish they had them over here—I can’t be the only one out there who shudders when they put silverware directly on a table that’s just been swiped with a dirty rag.
I got a little bit of everything…. everything except vegetables!
OK, on my second pass I felt guilty and got some vegetables…
And some more Beef Wellington with an adorable pastry Pooh! Hmmm…. That didn’t come out right… Oh boy, now I’m just making it worse!
I also ate this.
So the verdict on the food was… pretty dang good! There was nothing that really stood out and made me think I simply had to come back, but it was all fresh and warm and tasty. The baked goods were all textbook examples—the croissants were especially flakey and delicious. I’m gonna chalk that one up to the apparent fascination with French pastry.
It was also a great way to try a bunch of unfamiliar things with no commitment and always have a fallback, so I’d recommend it for picky/wary eaters.
During lunch I caught my first close-up glimpse of Duffy mania. The two women seated next to me had quite a collection amassed on the banquette. While one of them was at the buffet, another diner came over and asked if she could take a picture of the Duffys but was told, “They aren’t mine—you’ll have to wait until she gets back and ask her.” Huh?! So of course then I was bound and determined to get my own, unauthorized shot of them!
What happened next was sheer dumb luck and, I think, the universe taking pity on me for my previous ill-planned visit to Tokyo Disneyland. In fact, had I known such a thing existed, I would have spent all day agonizing over timing everything perfectly so I’d be inside the restaurant at precisely the right moment, but instead the opportunity just dropped in my lap. A waiter came around and announced that the daytime water show Legend of Mythica was about to take place inside Tokyo Disney Sea, and we were all invited to go out to the restaurant’s exclusive viewing platform!
My first (and might I add “wrong”) instinct was to skip it so that I wouldn’t spoil the surprise of seeing it with Patrick on our first real day inside the park. But then the last few days flashed before my eyes—riding Monsters Inc, bumming around Ikspiari, going into TDS for a wedding—and I realized “In for a penny, in for a pound!”
This isn’t a very good pic, but it shows you where everything is in relation.
OK, so, I’m always on about how the only Disney park entertainment I like is fireworks, and I never waste time watching any of the various other shows, from parades to the various theatrical productions in the parks to the castle and street shows, etc. Well, I don’t know if it was the music or the spectacle or just finally getting to experience Tokyo DisneySea in person, but Legend of Mythica so captivated me that I was almost in tears. Aaaaannnd I took 90 pictures. Gulp!
The show is almost 30 minutes long, though, so here is the best video I was able to find on YouTube (broken into 4 parts). If you don’t have half an hour of your life that you never want back, just play the first video in the background for the music as you scroll through the pictures I took.
OK, first there was this beautiful fountain…
…And then there were fireworks!
…And then there were crazy Jet-ski guys!
…And then I remembered my camera had zoom!
(Sorry the lighting’s so bad in these—the only part of the Disney Experience that the Oriental Land Company is not able to control is the trajectory of the sun!)
…And then these super-elaborate floats came out!
… And the floats had PEOPLE on them!
…And the people had KITES!
…And the fountain had a LADY in it!
…And then GOOFY popped out!
…And Donald! (just for Wazzo)
…And then Mickey was at the top of the fountain tower!
Even Goofy had to shield his eyes at the dazzling spectacle…
(Sorry—I’m really bad at picking selects)
…And then the floats docked and scores of dancers ran off them into the streets of Mediterranean Harbor!
…And then the guys on Jet-skis flew STUNT kites!
…And then ladies appeared at the tippy-top of EVERY float!
…And then there were more fireworks!
… And THEN…. Even MORE floats came out, and these ones had crazy huge Animatronic MONSTERS on them!!!
The hydra-headed guy was my favorite—he was a bad mutha!
And then, somehow, whatever conflict was supposed to be occurring was expediently resolved in some way that was not clear to me because the show ended swiftly. I’m going to say it was all due to the heroic efforts of Donald because that’s all I have pictures of:
Back to the buffet!
This one was being created by a pastry chef at an action station, so I figured I had a pretty good shot at getting it sans fruit.
This is what I managed to dig up for the fruit-averse:
This I wouldn’t have recognized if I hadn’t just been on a tour of the wedding reception facilities—it’s a Donald napkin fold!
Another thing I got worked up over was the quality of the drinking glasses. I don’t usually eat in places that trust you with glasses that are paper thin.
I was so excited, I even popped a couple of these sugar cubes in my purse—gawd knows what for, since I don’t drink coffee or tea. Instant sugar rush, perhaps?
There was also some swiping of these…
After lunch I set out to photograph parts of the wedding facilities I’d missed on my whirlwind tour. Those shots are all on that page, but here are a few other things I saw.
Now I haven’t been to Vegas yet, but I thought these were some pretty dang swanky restrooms for a convention center…
Back outside, I took a quick ride on the monorail to Ikspiari.
I shouldn’t have bothered shooting this restaurant—it closed a week after we left.
I had a lot of fun taking pictures of the restaurants at the Ambassador Hotel. They’re all in a row in a wing on the courtyard between the hotel and Ikspiari, and they’re all so well themed.
Tick Tock Diner, in particular, is a masterpiece of Imagineering.
It’s more of a bakery/sandwich shop than a diner. Here’s the menu for you:
Empire Grill is like a swanky Art Deco steakhouse.
The set dinner menus are really steep—like $110/person!
Even Chef Mickey is classy!
All the celebrities who’ve eaten at Chef Mickey:
Hana is the traditional Japanese restaurant.
I don’t know if you can read these menus, but I’ll throw ’em in:
I poked my head in the lobby of the Ambassador. I’ll have Patrick’s shots of that later in the trip, but here’s my attempt at capturing the gorgeous mural of Los Angeles behind the Guest Service desk:
The gift shop had some fun items, including Angry Tortilla Chips!
I am not a huge Beauty & the Beast fan and, as previously mentioned, don’t drink tea, but I almost almost ALMOST bought these for being so dang cute!
Back to Ikspiari!
Here’s the little pavilion where you can have Mickey and Mickey do a ceremonial wedding license signing after your Ambassador Hotel wedding.
But look at it from the other side and it’s smack up against the mall!
Back over at the Disney Store, they had entertainment in the courtyard.
OK, who wants to go virtual shopping with me? This way to Bon Voyage!
This was my first trip inside Bon Voyage, and I was surprised by how not-huge it was compared to the World of Disney stores at the American parks. Especially when you consider how much the Japanese like to buy omiyage!
I love how crazy-elaborate the ear headbands are. It took me a while to figure out the ears are wearing earrings!
These are clips you wear in your hair! I don’t know if I could get away with wearing one even at Walt Disney World…
Every time I saw these I had to figure out what they were all over again: character face masks!
Surprisingly, although we did see many face masks during our trip, we only saw a few people wearing these—even at Disney.
One of the few art/collectible pieces I saw at Disney. Most of the merchandise tends toward the disposable.
Keep your feet warm and mop the floor simultaneously!
They had a sort of “Cutie” version of Ariel that I saw all over the place. Adorable!
Cell phone charms. I don’t really get these, because who has a cell phone with any kind of antenna from which to hang stuff anymore? I noticed later that newer Japanese cell phones have a slot that you can stick the end of the charm in, but I’m still kinda baffled…
OK, so, in addition to an aversion to non-firework-related Disney shows, I refuse to wear any Disney-branded clothing. My friends and family already think I’m a Disney nut—why confirm their suspicions? The only thing I own with the name on it is a shirt that says “I got married at Walt Disney World and all I got was this lousy shirt,” and I only made it to wangle free desserts on our anniversary trip to WDW. However, if you’re sensing the theme here, you will know that in Tokyo, all bets are off.
Suddenly I was gripped by the desire to own a shirt that proved I’d been to Tokyo Disney (actually, this probably all started with the whole Hard Rock Café T-shirt-collecting craze of the ’80s). As others had warned us, there is not a whole lot of merchandise at Tokyo Disney that says “Tokyo Disney” on it. So when I spotted this shirt and saw that it was on sale (a sale! Can you believe it? And not just a Disney sale, a TOKYO Disney sale!!!), I had to have it. Even though it is identical to shirts sold at the US parks and waaaaaaay more disco than what I would normally wear.
Unfortunately, all they had was a size small. Gigantor no FIT in small – RAAAAAWRRRR!!!!!! Fortunately, they also had a sweatshirt. And it was on sale. And it was a medium. Hooray!
I couldn’t find a dressing room in my 5-second scan of the store, so….
Time to check out!
Thoroughly exhausted from my spending spree, I decided to head back toward Ikspiari and look for dinner.
When I had lunch at Oceano, they gave me a card for a promotion where you can collect limited-edition pins for every two meals you eat at a Disney hotel restaurant (except the one that you had first kinda doesn’t count cuz you still need two more after that to get the first pin). The catch (and, no doubt the reason for the promotion) is that you’re never at the hotels at lunchtime because you’re in the parks, and meal prices almost double at dinnertime. Another catch is that you have to order a buffet or a set or course menu that costs ¥1,900 or more (and it always costs more…). Basically, it is a terrible deal for anyone with even basic math skills, but all day the wheels in my head had been turning trying to figure out how we could get that first pin without going broke.
My quest led me back to the Ambassador looking for dinner.
There’s a lovely lounge in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel where you can get drinks and light snacks. I thought maybe eating there would count for the pin promo, but they didn’t have a set menu in the evening. I have no pictures of the place, but I did shoot the fake food!
I read all the restaurant menus and settled on Hana as the place where I could eat the cheapest (Tick-Tock diner also didn’t count toward the pin promo). To refresh your memory, cuz I posted these pix, like, 3 years ago now…
I got tempura!
It was OK, but not, like, the best tempura I’ve ever had. Back to the train station!
When I got back to Tokyo Station, I realized I still hadn’t bought our bullet train tickets to Kyoto for the following week. You can’t buy them from outside the country or I would have done this before we left the US. I dunno if I really needed to buy them in advance, but I’m an uber planner, so I figured I should do it while I was in the station.
This turned into an hour-long slog from one end of the ginormous station to the other and back again as I was sent from person to person in search of the shinkansen ticket office. First I got a guy who told me to use the ticket machine, but when I did, it said wouldn’t take credit cards (again… why?!).
When I asked him again, he told me the same thing. The third time I asked he sent me halfway round the barn to the wrong JR counter…
The person there sent me in the general direction of the right counter, but I had to stop for more directions a couple times.
FINALLY, when I’d seriously gone all the way around the, like, five city blocks that comprise Tokyo Station, I found the office and muddled my way thru an order.
I was already wiped out from a day of ambling around Disney, so when I finally found the right ticket counter after 45 minutes of frustration and discovered the guy didn’t speak English and that my phrasebook and 2 weeks of language lessons weren’t helping me, I was practically in tears. Granted, it was the only time in three weeks when I felt overwhelmed by the language barrier, and I think being utterly exhausted didn’t help. The guy at the counter was very persistent, though, and eventually, through sign language and my pigeon Japanese, he figured out that I wanted two reserved seats on the first shinkansen to Kyoto the following Tuesday and that I was very, very tired. Then it was back down to the subway to catch the Marunouchi line for Akasaka.
When I got back to the room, I started packing for our departure for Disney the next day. What I didn’t know is whether we’d be able to go down for park opening and do a full day or have to go down later in the day and wait til Wednesday to go to a park. It all depended on what time Patrick got in from the shoot, and at midnight, things weren’t looking good…
What *was* looking good was my souvenir haul for the trip so far!