OK, just to warn you, this is the longest update in the history of Disney trip reports. I didn’t want to break it up over two installments cuz then it’ll take even LONGER for me to finish this report, so… here we go!
Tuesday! Our deal was that if Patrick finished shooting at midnight the night before, we’d go to Disneyland, but if he didn’t get home til 3am again, we’d go check into our hotel and visit Ikspiari but not do the parks til Wednesday. Well… he got home at 3am.
But when I woke up at 5:30am, I lay there agonizing over whether we should go to the park that day anyway so we could have an extra half-day there, and on a weekday to boot. So I woke Patrick up (I know, more Bad Wife points!) and we dithered some more. We finally decided just to go for it. Also, I, the uber-planner, learned from him, that our hotel had a shuttle straight to Disney! I’d been seeing the Good Neighbor hotel sign all week but never registered what that meant. There are only 15 hotels in all of Tokyo that offer this service, and we just happened to have been booked into one by the ad agency!
So that made it even easier to go ahead with our plans. We packed up all our stuff and checked out. I may or may not have made off with a year’s supply of free slippers…
The bus was a plush motorcoach like the ones they use for Magical Express in Florida.
They even had Disney propaganda on a video loop—in English!
The trip is not particularly scenic, but we were super-excited to see what it looked like outside of downtown.
We got really excited when we spotted the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, our home for the night. I can’t believe I thought it was a Ramada on the trip in from the airport, but, in all fairness, it was dark…
This is where the buses drop you:
I left Patrick to wait in this line while I took our luggage and checked into the hotel.
I was given inactive room keycards and a map to our room location. We were told that the key cards would become active after the 4:30pm check-in time. They will only do this if you give them a “local” phone number on which you can be reached if things change—otherwise, you must go back to the desk and get active keycards at around 4:30pm. We assured them that they could reach us on my US cell phone, though, so they let us do it.
When I went over to buy our park passes at the end of the check-in desk, I was offered several types of passes not available on the TDR website or to the general public. These were:
2-day Park Hopper: ¥11,600
3-day Park Hopper: ¥14,500
4-day Park Hopper: ¥16,600
I wish I’d known about these ahead of time because we wouldn’t have locked our schedule in to be all day at each park for the first 2 days. However, I have heard that this is just an occasional offer and they might not always have it.
The line at the park:
A few characters came out…
And suddenly everyone was standing!
I sashayed up bearing breakfast from the hotel sundries shop just a few minutes before park opening—because for some reason they opened it at 8am instead of the 8:30am posted on the web site. Good thing we’d left in plenty of time!
As soon as we passed through the turnstiles, we took off running with the crowds. Ordinarily most of us would have been heading for Monsters, Inc., but since it was closed, we all ran to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.
What I forgot is, I’m in no shape to be sprinting 5+ football fields at 8am! This is where it really hit me how much larger Tokyo Disneyland is than Disneyland and even the Magic Kingdom. My chest was burning and I began to drop back as we rounded the side of the castle—and the guy running next to me actually fell to the ground! The theme to “Chariots of Fire” was playing in my head as Patrick came up from the back of the pack and I passed him the baton (my park pass).
When he got to the FASTPASS machines for Pooh, every single one had someone feeding 10 or 15 park passes into it! FINALLY we got our FASTPASSes and hopped in the standby line, which only took 5 minutes.
The boarding area…
We only got one shot inside the ride, but it turned out pretty dang good considering we never stopped moving.
I was skeptical—not a huge Pooh fan, frankly—but Pooh’s Hunny Hunt really is as spectacular as they say. It wasn’t as frenetic as the spinning cars of Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, and you get spun around to different parts of the rooms each time you ride, so there’s always something new to see. Fabulous!
From there, we knew we’d better dash over to Big Thunder Mountain. And by “dash” I mean “amble along, stopping to take a bazillion pictures…”
Sweet merciful crap—15 minutes after opening, the line was already 70 minutes long, and the line to get a FASTPASS stretched almost to Adventureland!
Just to give you an idea, here is the end of the line to get a FASTPASS:
And here is a map showing it in relation to the entrance of Big Thunder:
We already had an FP for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, so we hopped in the standby line. We’d known going in that the parks would be Top Season-crowded, but to actually get there and not be able to tour with off-season ease took some getting used to. However, I gotta say, the standby lines were all managed so efficiently that they were constantly moving. So even though it took us almost an hour to get on the ride, we never had long stretches of standing and wondering when we’d ever get there.
Here is a collection of photos I call “Things Patrick Could See from the Standby Line”:
When we got to the fountain, we made our traditional Big Thunder Mountain wish. Since they only come true if you use a nickel, we were sure to use a ¥5 coin.
(It’s going to be like this for most of the day—we didn’t get on very many rides, and the lines were long, so we passed the time by exhaustively documenting the ones we did get on!)
I thought it would be fun to shoot as many popcorn buckets as possible, but it turned out to be more difficult than I thought because they’re usually moving!
The Verdict: Big Thunder was FUN! And it felt longer than the one in the Magic Kingdom (which is already longer than the one at Disneyland). I really wish we’d had a chance to ride it again, but for the rest of the trip it was always out of FASTPASSes by the time we got there, and the standby line was hours long.
By this time our window had opened up so we went to get FASTPASSES for Splash Mountain. No, wait—Patrick went to get FPs and I went to see if I could get a reservation for lunch at Blue Bayou. I’d made all our dining reservations before we left town, but since we’d started the Disney trip a day earlier, they were all for the wrong park days now. However, I needn’t have worried: We walked right in to every sit-down restaurant we tried for the whole week! I don’t quite get it—the parks were packed, but the table-service restaurants were not. Maybe that kind of dining is not as popular in Japan as it is at the American parks?
What Patrick Saw Along the Way:
We met up at Haunted Mansion, where the line took about 40 minutes and gave us time to shoot another bazillion pictures.
The long line also gave me a chance to try my first-ever Disney turkey leg cuz I was starving and it was something Patrick could hop out of line and grab easily. I s’pose now I’ll have to try them in the US parks just to compare. We discovered that the flip side of all the crowding and pushing and shoving reported in the Japanese parks is that nobody bats an eye if you get in and out of line to do things like deliver turkey legs for your starving wife!
(Sorry—I made Patrick take lots of pix of these cuz they were pink!)
And we have one inside shot for you….
So Haunted Mansion was interesting—it felt like a pre-renovation version of WDW’s Haunted Mansion… cuz it is. It was interesting to see what that one used to be like, but it seemed to need more music and sound effects.
After that we browsed the shops around the castle and poked around Tomorrowland. I really wish I remembered more about this part of the day—in fact, I wish I remembered more about Tokyo Disneyland, period. We only spent 1 1/2 days here, and while I wouldn’t give up my 2 1/2 days in Tokyo DisneySea for anything, it makes me wish our first trip to the resort had been for 5 full park days instead of 4 days and an Ikspiari day on checkout. But they don’t offer more than a 4-day park hopper. However, 4 days will probably feel like enough for a repeat visit.
As close as we could get to the Snow White ride…
We were both quite taken with the entrance to Tomorrowland. I love the color combo!
Quite, quite taken with it…
I couldn’t pass up this photo op…
…And I couldn’t capture it either—why didn’t I shoot from directly in front, down at eye level?
Looking back toward Tokyo DisneySea…
Our FASTPASS window was scheduled to open 5 minutes before our reservation at the Blue Bayou, so Patrick waited in the line for FASTPASSes at Space Mountain while I ran over to Adventureland to keep our reservation. I waited in the lobby and they were totally cool about him showing up about 10 minutes late.
The Blue Bayou felt a lot like the one at Disneyland, except the front row of tables is closer to the water. Most of our interior shots are not that great. I did some ham-fisted editing in Photobucket so you can see better, but…
Lunch was great, and not too expensive! I’d heard so much about how pricey the food is at Tokyo Disney, but compared to Disneyland prices, we found it quite reasonable. I mean, look at that menu—even with the exchange rate, those prices are all still 10%-20% less than at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland or Le Cellier in Epcot. And we split a meal, so the bill only came to about ¥30—about what we’d pay at Café Orleans for a couple of Monte Cristos!
In fact, almost all of our table-service meals—even at Magellan’s and the SS Columbia Dining Room—turned out to be cheaper than our counter-service meals because we ate at lunchtime and we split meals. If we’d had the sense to split our counter-service meals, we would have saved even more money.
After lunch we poked around the New Orleans Square area. It was eerie how, in certain spots, you would swear you were in Disneyland, but then it would fade out and you’d be back in the Bizzaro World version.
Off to Adventureland!
Our destination was the Enchanted Tiki Room. We are big fans of the original version, and we hate the Magic Kingdom’s “Under New Management” version with the intensity of a thousand exploding suns. We were hoping Tokyo Disneyland’s Stitch-takeover version would at least fall somewhere between the two.
I held my breath to see if Patrick would get up and start to walk out like he did when we saw The Tiki Room – Under New Management, but he stayed put. Basically, as long as no one utters the phrase “Who turned out the lights,” he’s good…
Stitch’s version of the Tiki Room was much better than Iago’s, but it felt like it was missing something. The Stitch animatronic looked great but hardly did anything. I was expecting him to be a little more frisky.
Next, I got to show Patrick a part of Adventureland that I knew he was going to love: the Carl and Russell figures from “Up.” You can tell how much he loved it by how many pictures he took!
I also got a chance to use my Japanese when a group of girls asked us to take their picture in front of the vignette. When they said “Thank you” in English, we asked them how to say “You’re welcome” in Japanese. And them Patrick finally figured out the meaning of the only mnemonic device he remembered from his previous trip to Japan: “Don’t touch your moustache” stands for “dō itashi mashte,” or “You’re welcome”!
Big Thunder FASTPASSes were sold out and we knew we wouldn’t be walking on to any other E-Tickets that day, so we made our way to Tomorrowland for that short-line sure bet, Star Tours.
As I predicted, Patrick adored the extended queue theming. Hope ya like Star Tours, cuz here come a bazillion pictures of it!
The loading area…
The exit queue…
We still had time before our Splash FASTPASSes were good, so we headed over to Critter Country to explore the counter-service restaurant Grandma Sarah’s Kitchen. So you know the kind of children’s illustrations that show a cut-away of what it looks like underground where animals or bugs live? Patrick looooves those. This place is like one of those brought to life—it’s like a rabbit warren with little houses in the walls—so Patrick looooooved this restaurant. I was blown away with how much attention to detail they’d invested in a counter-service place—The Hungry Bear should be this cool!
You enter in the upstairs seating area and then go downstairs for more seating and to place your order.
There’s also a small outdoor seating area that overlooks one of the Splash Mountain flumes, so logs go right by your table!
Finally it was time to ride Splash Mountain. The queue was THE most impressive of any of the three versions we’ve seen, and I think the ride might be the best too. Every effect was working, the number of characters is second only to Disneyland’s, and the whole environment was completely engrossing—you never saw the side lanes where they move logs in and out like you do at Disneyland. Even better, they appeared to have turned off some of the splashier effects due to the cold and cloudy weather, which made the ride that much more pleasant.
Critter Country is devoted entirely to Splash and Grandma Sarah’s Kitchen, but there were a few interesting things to shoot on our way out.
I wonder if Japanese ducks also prefer Cheetos…
I took Patrick back to the Room o’ Cash Registers and tried to convince him that they had once been jam-packed with people.
Then I took him to the sweet shop and described the empty shelves and throngs of tourists. I’m not sure he bought it—the place looked pristine!
Check out the 3-D Winnie the Pooh balloons—why don’t we have those?
Eeeeeeee! Club 33!
This is one place we’d really have loved to compare, cuz we think its American counterpart is totally overrated.
This is all we (accidentally) saw of the afternoon parade. Sorry!
At this point we were just killing time until our outrageously late 4:30pm check-in at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. (Well, they let us check in that morning, but our room keycards wouldn’t be active til 4:30pm.) I mean, even DVC lets you check in at 4pm!
So we lurked around the lobby and took some more pictures…
They have a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Tokyo too—apparently the urge to look like a pageant contestant is universal!
Here’s Canna again… we’re getting closer, but I think the best photos will come in a few days when we actually eat there.
We were soooo tired from getting up early and going to bed late that we went up to the room (which they’d shown us on a map when we checked in) and tried the door with our key card starting at about 4:28pm. When it still wouldn’t open at 4:34pm, I wandered the halls til I found a bellhop and asked her for help.
Magically, at 4:37pm, our key worked and we got into our opulent park-view room—Disney officially calls it a Standard Superior Room (Park Grand View) (5th-6th Floors). It was practically a suite, with a little hall, a huge main room, a giant shower/tub room, the vanity area, and a separate toilet room.
The bathroom had a soaking tub and a hand held/stationary shower—no need for a curtain cuz the whole room acted as a shower!
This was the absolute coolest amenity in the room, and when we got one at all three Disney hotels, we began to wonder if maybe fruit is a delicacy or in short supply in Japan…?
I sorta feel like we did our Disney hotels backward by starting with the newest. Before, I’d always thought Mira Costa would be my favorite, and then the Disneyland Hotel, and then the Ambassador. But after actually staying in all three, the order got kinda mixed up. Because it’s older, Mira Costa’s rooms turned out not to be as large or as nice as Tokyo Disneyland’s. On the other hand, the Ambassador’s rooms turned out to be much nicer than I’d expected, probably because I had this preconceived notion that the Ambassador was going to be weakly themed and generic like the Paradise Pier or Disneyland Hotel in California. More on that later… back to the Disneyland Hotel!
I was really impressed! I am not a huge fan of Victorian décor, but it’s very tasteful and understated at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. And the guest amenities more closely mirror those at the American Disney hotels—like the little sundries shop where you could get refrigerated meals and snacks, and the guest laundry room. Neither Mira Costa nor the Ambassador had these. The laundry turned out to be the biggest deal because I had been banking on washing all our clothes halfway through our trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out that none of the other hotels had a laundry room until we’d checked into Mira Costa (be glad you didn’t have to sit next to us at any time in the following weeks!).
The only thing that disappointed me about the hotel was the “Park Grand View.” We’d booked so last-minute that it was the only room type left, except for actual suites. Now if I’d bothered to look at a map of the resort beforehand, I would have seen that the hotel does not sit over the entrance to Disneyland like it does in Paris and is all the way behind the monorail station. But I didn’t, so I was expecting the Park Grand View to be some fantastic view down Main Street (OK, again, forgetting that there is a ROOF over Main Street!… I was kinda distracted in the weeks leading up to the trip!).
Instead, we saw this:
OK, admittedly, it’s not like our Dumpster-view room at Wilderness Lodge. But given the choice, there is no WAY I would ever again pay hundreds of extra dollars a night just to see a monorail station and some roofs with a tiny castle in the background. And this is coming from someone who considers the phrase “The hotel is just for sleeping between park-hopping” to be sacrilege—I am all for nice amenities and nice views! At MiraCosta, I would splurge for the park view. Here, I would save my pennies and take whatever is cheapest—you’re still in the nicest hotel at the resort!
So what was the first thing we did when we got to the largest room we’d ever see in Japan? Take a nap! This is what it looked like when we woke up:
Then it was back out to find some dinner. We headed for the Queen of Hearts banquet hall so Patrick could shoot the amazing theming. (I have to warn you—a lot of our night shots are kinda blurry. This is prolly because I never stop marching Patrick around the parks long enough to get a really good picture… Bad wife!)
We decided to get two meals and each eat half so we could try stuff out. We got the Flank Steak with Gravy and the Fried Seafood Assortment with Tartar Sauce, although it was hard to pass up the unappealingly named Heart-shaped Meat Patty with Tomato-Brown Sauce! (¥1,280)
These were really good for counter-service food, and I declared it an all-around great dining experience. After dinner we walked right on to Small World, which was fabulous—and you get so close to the sets!
We got off the ride just in time to walk up to the Dreamlights Electrical Parade. Again, I’m not a big parade fan, and I’m sorta mystified by the appeal of SpectroMagic and even the Main Street Electrical Parade. I mean, OK, lights. I like lights! You should see me at Christmas! But these parades always feel kinda cheesy and dated to me, and definitely not as spectacular as they should be considering they’re covered in lights. Anyway, after seeing Legend of Mythica rewrite the book on water pageants, I had a hunch this one was going to be good too.
It was starting to rain, but bless that Patrick—he stood out in it to shoot the parade for me while I stood on a porch in Frontierland.
I liked this parade so much that (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) later in the trip I actually purchased my first-ever PINS, which depicted two of the floats. But that’s only cuz they’re made with some kind of magical sparkly stuff that must not be available in the States because I’ve never ever seen pins this beautiful before!
Then we cashed in our Pooh FASTPASSes before dashing to Main Street to find a covered spot from which to watch the fireworks.
OK, so… it’s about Tokyo Disney’s fireworks… We’d been warned that they just did one show visible from both parks and it wasn’t as spectacular as the ones in the States. But we needed to see for ourselves. Plus, this was TOKYO—everything Disney is better here, right? WRONG!!!
The fireworks were HIGH-larious! They only lasted a few minutes, were not synced to the music, and were about as interesting as something put on at a high school football game half-time. If you blink, you miss them. In fact, they even have a voice-over that announces the grand finale because otherwise you will think they are just getting warmed up! It became a running gag whenever we saw the first firework of the night to intone “And NOW… the THRILLING conclusion of ‘Disney Magic in the Sky’!!!”
It was actually kind of refreshing to find an Achilles heel among all the unending perfection surrounding us. And it meant we had one less “must-do” on our list every night—another bonus!
Off we went to cash in our Space Mountain FASTPASSes! The queue was great—sort of like the alien version of Disneyland’s Space Mountain. The ride was good, but it had no music in the cars and for some reason felt faster than our version.
As reported, the park does begin to clear out after Dreamlights, plus the rain was helping. We were able to knock out a bunch of Fantasyland rides before park closing. We may have been imagining it at Space Mountain, but the Fantasyland rides were definitely faster than ours in the States—maybe to help cut down the long lines?
Our last ride of the night was Haunted Mansion.
Then we got to go back to the hotel and take the best showers EVER!