Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tokyo: Day 4 (Wednesday)

This is going to be a very long post, so be ready for that. I'm splitting this up into parts. First I'll discuss my day and the order of events without much detail on my thoughts of the park itself. Then I'm going to spend the rest of the post reviewing everything, from the attractions and shows to the food and drinks. So first up, how my actual day went.

(Note: Because I took over 100 pictures, I'm only going to put a select amount on this actual blog post. But all will be posted to my Facebook eventually.)

Getting There

I had trouble falling asleep last night, most likely due to all the crazy sugar content from the day before (I've actually had so much junk food on this vacation, I'm actually looking forward to going back to the cheap, healthy Korean food soon). So I ended up only getting a little under 6 hours of sleep as I set my alarm for 6:25. Now, I thought that'd be a good amount of time to catch the bus in the morning. You see, it took me a while to figure out how I was even going to get to DisneySea, as it's a good distance away from where I'm staying. But I found there's a bus terminal near the "New South Exit" of Shinjuku Station. And looking on a map, New South Exit is immediately across the street from where I always enter the station.

(Side Note: I finally figured out why I was getting lost coming out of the station. The signs were sending me in the direction of the West Exit, whereas I needed to be coming out the South Exit, which are basically on opposite ends of the station. But hey, at least I finally figured that out, right?)

Anyway, in actuality, the bus terminal is not, in fact, right across the street. It's still not complicated to get to, but instead of the 10-minute walk I thought I'd be taking, I ended up having a 25-30 minute walk. Needless to say, I didn't make the first bus that would get me to the resort by 8 AM. Instead, I had to catch the next one which would get me there by 8:30, right when the park was to open. I also had to buy the bus ticket from a little machine that was entirely in Japanese. But fortunately, it was a machine designated for the Tokyo Disney bus, so I just had to keep hitting the lone button option to get my ticket. The trip itself only took about 40 minutes to get me to DisneySea.

Then I had the unfortunate issue at the ticket gate. I had my email reservation print-off, but the poor woman had no idea what it was or what it said. She actually had to call for somebody who knew at least some English to help her. But then that woman read over it and had to look up stuff in a manual to double check and see if it was OK or something. The whole thing took like 10 minutes. And once they finally said it's OK, I handed her my American Express that I reserved the ticket with, and she looked at it like she'd never seen a credit card before. But she scanned it and I finally got my ticket to enter the park itself.


Remember how I went into that super specific detailed itinerary for what I'd do here? Oh how naive I was. Basically, the second you enter the park and the magic, wonder, and scope of it hits you in the face, any plans one might have had go immediately out the window. Granted, I'm glad I had an inkling of what I wanted to do this day, but trying to do it with any sort of organization was a silly, silly idea. Before I even entered the park, 3 rides had already sold out of FastPasses for the entire day, and lines were already pretty long. Not like 2-3 hours long (except for Toy Story Mania, which just got longer and longer as the day went on).

Though before I get into that, I need to address a little something. After 3 days of non-stop walking and sore legs/knees/ankles, you know the most difficult thing about traversing a foreign language-based Disney theme park for 12 hours? Doing it alone. I actually didn't think this would bother me that much, and to be fair, I think I handled it well enough. I liked the freedom of doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted without having to match up my needs/wants with those of somebody else. But at the same time, waiting in all those queues would have been so much better with somebody to talk to. It also didn't help that prior to everything you did there, the attendants would ask you (in Japanese) "how many?" And when they realize you're goin' solo, there's a half-second, blink-and-you-miss it reaction of shock on their faces before they re-compose themselves, smile, and move you through. In fact, my legs haven't felt this rested since I got to Tokyo with all the standing/sitting I did today. And the language barrier didn't bug me much. I got the gist of everything, and almost everybody spoke at least minimal English if you needed help (it's just backstories for rides or dialogues for shows were in Japanese, so that went over my head).

Oh, also, I had to carry my umbrella around all day yesterday because it was supposed to rain in the morning and never did. I think I was one of like 5 people in the entire park who brought an umbrella. It was very annoying.

Anyway, back to the main event. If anything from my original plan stayed the same, it's the fact I got my FastPass for Tower of Terror and then made my way over to Journey to the Center of the Earth. Where things changed is that you have no control over when that FastPass allots for you to do something, so I had to be back for the Tower of Terror between 11:45 and 12:45. But I'll get to that later. Though while we're on the subject of FastPasses, the two main experiences I really saw them in action (Tower of Terror and Journey) were horribly handled. For example, the Journey FastPasses were beyond priority level. It was like for every 15 FP people they let through, they would let through 5 regular line people. It was like the only reason the regular line was moving so absurdly slow was because of the FastPass line. And then the Tower FP was totally useless. It got you quickly through the lobby queue, but then you had an equally long second queue in the next room that you did not get to FP through. It was almost a joke, and I would have hated to have had to go through both lines at slug speed.

So back to the order of events. Keep in mind this was a very long day, so I might miss a few details or misremember, but I'm pretty sure this was how it went down. After 90 minutes with Journey to the Center of the Earth, I wandered into the next area, Port Discovery, and checked out StormRider, as its line wasn't really all that long and there was a nice cool mist of water being sprayed into the outside line (they did fairly well with keeping people cool here).

After StormRider, it's about 11 AM already, and I had noticed a lot of people who had these nifty towel things. They're basically hooded capes, but towels. They go over your shoulders and button at the front, and the top is a hood. And of course they have different Disney characters. I thought it was a cool idea to both keep the sun off my neck/ears, yet also catch any sweat. So I found a store and bought me one with Goofy on it. And then I was hungry, so I got me one of those Gyoza Sausage Buns.

As I wandered off with my "Gyoza Dog," I found myself stumbling upon the end of a show in Mediterranean Harbor. Not sure which show it was, but I caught a little bit of it on video. And speaking of video, here's a short collection of random video I took of the park, including snippets from this one show.

By this point it was going on noon, and I was within my FastPass time for the Tower of Terror. You can deduce from my earlier sentiments how that FastPass system worked for me. Oh, and when I finally did get into the "elevator" part, the poor girl attendant couldn't speak much English and was very embarrassed about having to check for a yellow strap at my side to make sure my safety belt was properly attached. Once I realized what she was looking for (which was after at least 1-2 minutes of awkward reaching from her), I found it for her really quickly. Also, I know how that sounds. Shut up.

I felt like something cold and saw lots of people with ice cream, so I got me an ice cream sandwich and had a sit down to eat it. Then it was off to the Lost River Delta and the Indiana Jones Adventure, which was a surprisingly fast experience.

Though it was going on 1 PM now and the heat was starting to rise quickly. I needed to find stuff to do indoors. Fortunately for me, the Mermaid Lagoon was right next door, and it's almost entirely inside. I hit up the Mermaid Lagoon Theater for the "Under the Sea" performance, which killed about 35-40 minutes altogether (walking around, waiting, and then the show itself).

The bulk of Mermaid Lagoon is for little kids, though, so I went next door to Arabian Coast (AKA the Aladdin area) and wandered around for a bit. Then, still hot out, I figured I'd go to Sinbad's Storybook Theater, especially since the line was basically non-existent.

Out of that, I continued around Arabian Coast and found a place that sold Soft Serve Ice Cream on Watermelon-flavored Shaved Ice. That was a combination I could not pass up, especially at the height of the afternoon.

I took up a shady bench and finished that off when I realized it wasn't even 4 PM yet and I was quickly running out of stuff to do. How was I going to fill up another 5 hours until the Fantasmic! show? Well, first I'd check out 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which was at a good, solid 30-minute line.

And after that, I had forgotten about the Legend of Mythica show during the 4 o'clock hour back in Mediterranean Harbor. So I ended up with a pretty great spot to view the show with just 5-10 minutes prior to the show starting. And I also managed to record the entire 25-minute show. If you're interested in seeing it, you can watch it below.

OK, so it's now 5 PM. I have 3 hours to kill and absolutely nothing left on my Must Do list. I wander around but quickly see a line forming in American Waterfront (which is like 20s/30s-era New York) outside a Broadway Theater. There's a show starting in about 30 minutes called "Big Band Beat," which I was wary of joining due to most shows being in Japanese. I won't go into much detail just yet, but let's just say... I'm really glad I got in that line. Best decision I made all day.

You know what weren't the best decisions I made all day? The next two things. OK, so a huge selling point for adults to come to DisneySea is that it's basically one of the only Disney parks in the world that sells beer/alcohol. Now, I don't like beer. Never have, probably never will. But. This is vacation and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drink alcohol at a Disney park. So I found a place in the American Waterfront that sold beer from a cart. They had two options. One was Budweiser Draft. The other was called Beer Cocktail (Orange). I'll let you guess which one I went with. And yes, it was basically Budweiser with a slight orange flavor to it (and an actual orange slice!). I drank it... didn't care for it. My next decision came about because I realized I needed at least some kind of proper meal that wasn't just some form of sugar and flavoring (outside the Gyoza, anyway). I went to a burger joint called Cape Cod Cook-Off and got a bacon burger with fries and drink. It was decent, but I honestly haven't had a good hamburger in months and it's really starting to get to me, so that just kinda made it seem worse than it was.

As the night went on, I still had about an hour to an hour and a half until Fantasmic! and absolutely no ideas on what to do. All the lines had seemingly doubled the later it got, which surprised me. I figured the park would have died down as evening/night came on, but it only seemed to get busier. I went to check out the Magic Lamp Theater, but the line was halfway across the Arabian Coast. Then I figured I might as well check out and see how long the line was at Journey again. Maybe I'd hit it up for another go-around. Nope... the wait time was pushing 90 minutes. Toy Story Mania's wait time was laughably long at over 2 hours. I really wasn't feeling like a roller coaster in Raging Spirits. And I wasn't in the mood to get soaking wet, so Aquatopia was out (though I did watch people on it for a while).

So I just chilled and wandered about back to the Harbor when I saw people had already started grabbing spots for the show... like an hour early. After a bathroom pit stop, I tried to find a spot, but the spot one attendant basically forced me to take was horrible. I had to sit on the concrete (well, on my towel cape on the concrete), stuffed close with everybody else blanketing it up for the next 30 minutes. Then when the show started, we weren't allowed to stand, so I had to watch the whole thing through the bars of a gate. The show turned out nice, but the viewing situation was horrendous.

And that was that. I took in the last gift shop and bought a Tokyo Disney cup before heading off to the bus stop to find my bus back to Shinjuku. (Overall, if you don't count transportation or the actual ticket, I think I only spent somewhere between 50 and 75 dollars. If you count the ticket and transportation, that still only makes it something like 125-150 bucks total. That's not too bad for a Disney excursion, right?) Anyway, I only got mildly sunburned, on my arms and hands--at least from what I can tell right now (and I can't feel it, so that's a good sign). And I ended up getting back to my hotel by about 10:30-ish. It was a long day, but it was really fun. I hate that I had to do it all alone, but I still had a really good time.

But now... it's time for the juicy stuff. The attractions/shows/food reviews!

The Food

This section will be short and sweet (no pun intended). Just a quick description and what I thought of each.

Gyoza Sausage Bun - Best food decision I made all day. It sounds disgusting and doesn't look all that appetizing. I wasn't sure what I was going to feel about it, to be honest. It's basically chopped, steamed sausage and cabbage inside this cooked dumpling dough. But it's freakin' delicious. The meat melts in your mouth, and the dough has a soft, pleasant consistancy. I can understand why everybody goes for these things here. I actually want another.

Ice Cream Sandwich - Not that great. The chocolate wasn't that good, and the ice cream was almost flavorless.

Soft Serve Ice Cream on Watermelon Shaved Ice - On the other hand, this ice cream was delicious, and the watermelon shaved ice really hit the spot during the heat.

Beer Cocktail (Orange) - Already mentioned this one. I'm not a beer fan, so I didn't care for it. The hint of orange helped slightly, but not nearly enough.

Cape Cod Cook-Off (Bacon Burger/Fries) - Not bad. I had better fries at the zoo the day before, though they appeared identical. The burger itself wasn't anything special. The bacon was nice and thick, though. And it had a special sauce on it that wasn't too bad.

Side-Note: I'm sad to say I did not try any of the flavored popcorn the park had to offer. It was everywhere and of all types--strawberry, caramel, black pepper corn, curry, etc. I was tempted by the strawberry popcorn, but I'd had way too many sweets and wasn't hungry, so I passed on all the popcorn.

Side-Note 2: Don't worry, I also drank lots of water today, as well... just thought I'd toss that in there for people who don't realize I drink more water than most people as it is.

RANK (Worst to Best)

5) Beer Cocktail
4) Ice Cream Sandwich
3) Cape Cod Cook-Off
2) Soft Serve Ice Cream on Watermelon Shaved Ice
1) Gyoza Sausage Bun

The Attractions

For this section, I'm going to order the attractions from least favorite to favorite. Now, there are a few factors for order going into this. If I just wanted to talk about the ride itself, it would be an entirely different order. But I'm also factoring in stuff like queue time, the atmosphere of the queue, and whether or not the ride was actually worth the time I spent waiting in line for it. So let's get to it, shall we?

6) Sinbad's Storybook Theater

The queue for this one was nonexistent, and for a reason. I walked in with a few other people and got straight onto the ride. This is basically the "It's a Small World" of DisneySea, but not nearly as memorable. You're in these little boats and go around a watery path watching an animatronic adventure story of Sinbad's travels. And yes, there's a song that's sung throughout, as well. This one just had me kind of bored the whole time, and this is the only one I felt might have been too long. But it did get me out of the sun for a little while.

5) StormRider

The wait for this one was only about 20-25 minutes. Although it was an outside wait, they had a constant mist spraying at you for the majority of the line that kept you cool. Once you finally got inside, you waited in different lines as an actress gave a speech about the weather center and all the technology and everything they do there (fortunately there was an overhead thing that translated it all into English). The idea is that they have learned to control major storms and send in these StormRider ships to experience it from the eye of the storms. And then they can destroy the storms with this giant laser cannon thing.

The ride itself is a giant emulator room, easily the biggest I've ever seen. The CGI for the ride on the screen was decent at best, but they did mix in practical effects, as well (and they even sprayed you with water at times, which was a fun surprise). It all had a very nice atmosphere to it, though you could never really get past the knowledge that it was clearly fake. On the whole, it was worth it because the wait was pretty short as it was.

4) Tower of Terror

I know--so low on the list? It's a fan favorite of the park. The ride itself is great and thrilling, which you'd expect from a free-fall ride. The reason I ranked it so low is because the queue system for this was ridiculous, even with a FastPass. You have the lobby queue when you first go in, which I still didn't bypass all that quickly and still waited there for about 10 minutes. Then they move you into a second area where everybody goes--regular and FastPass people. And this line I was in for at last another 30 minutes. It didn't help that they sent me through with a group for the attraction, but then stopped me again right before the tour to make me wait alone to go with the group after that.

Besides the queuing, though, it was fun. There's a lot of decent atmosphere in the line with fun or creepy decorations to look at. Then you start this tour to get some backstory (none of which I could understand--something about a millionaire who took a cursed idol from some native tribe and was attacked by spirits... that's what I gathered, anyway). There was one amazing effect where a cursed statue disappears right before your eyes, and I'm still not sure how they pulled that off. And then, of course, the elevator drop was excellent. So the ride itself is great, but the queue experience was very disappointing.

3) Indiana Jones Adventure

On the other hand, this was my best queue experience. There were a couple rides, such as this one, that had what they called "Single Rider" express lanes. So if you're going alone, they put you on a separate express path that basically shoots you to the front of the line. I started off in the regular line at first, which was fine, as there was some nice atmosphere to it. But when I saw the Single Rider sign, I told the attendant and she sent me on through. It went from what was probably 30 minutes to an hour wait to maybe 10 minutes altogether.

The ride itself was fun. You're in a convoy and riding along on a bumpy, winding adventure. You're attacked by all sorts of stuff like giant snakes and even the big boulder near the end. It's a very fast, twisty, bumpy ride and is a lot of fun. And though it seems like there definitely could have been, there were no roller coaster drop moments. But it was still thrilling enough. This one probably had the best mixture of wait time in comparison to thrills of the ride itself.

2) Journey to the Center of the Earth

So here it is: One of the big fan favorites of the park. From the time I entered the line to the time I got off the ride, the whole experience lasted about 90 minutes. The line zigzagged all over the place and only seemed to move a handful of feet every 5 minutes. Of course, I came to discover why once I reached the front of the line: They were entirely too focused on the FastPass line rather than trying to balance them out. However, as it was the first ride I went on all day, it was pretty much what I expected from it, even if it turned out to be the longest queue I had all day. The entire thing was inside the volcano, so you were surrounded by fake rock walls. But you also had the gadgets and decorations to go along with the ride itself. I would have liked to see just a little more to it throughout the main queue, but on the whole, it really sets up a nice atmosphere for the attraction.

The ride itself was super fun. I got to be at the front of the cart, too, so I saw everything unimpeded. It was very imaginative and fast moving. And there's a medium-intensity roller coaster drop near the end that I wasn't expecting. Not a huge drop, but a big enough one to catch me off guard and actually make me yell. Sadly, I do wished it were a little longer. I expected there to be more of an actual peaceful journey before the chaos started and threw you into the coaster aspect. But the whole ride lasts maybe 2-3 minutes. Because of that, 90 minutes of waiting for a 2-minute ride didn't exactly blow my shirt up, and that's the only reason I wasn't about to get in line for another 90 minutes to do it again later on in the day. Overall, especially for my first attraction of the day, it's about what I expected it to be. And as I had high expectations for it to start with, I'd say that still ranks it pretty well.

1) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

This ride might not be the most thrilling or exciting of the bunch, but it had a perfect mixture of everything. The queue time was only about 30 minutes, and 2/3s of that was out of the sun. There were some nice props throughout the line, and you never seemed to be stuck in one spot for too long.

When you finally get on the ride, you're in this tiny submarine structure with only a few other people. The length of time you're on the ride is perfect, giving you just the right amount of journey and wonder before the chaos starts. And then it calms you back down a bit. But what really makes this work is how it looks and its interactivity. Unlike StormRider, this one I actually felt was real. It gave me the sense I was actually underwater as there was this curved glass that distorted what you saw to give it a watery feel, and they'd send bubbles up the window to make it all work even better. Never once did I feel like I was just looking through a window at a dry stage. Also, every now and then, they'd activate these green spotlights that you could control using a joystick on your side of the sub. What was even cooler was that some of the animatronics actually responded to it. So if you shined the light towards some sea creatures, they would duck behind rocks and the like.

So yeah, while it might not have been the biggest or most thrilling of the rides all day, it had a great atmosphere, a great look, a great length of time, and (most importantly) a respectable queue time.

The Shows

Similarly, I'm going to rank the shows in order from least favorite to favorite. Though I'll be honest, I actually think I liked the shows more than the attractions, so even the lowest ranked show was still pretty awesome. In this case, I'll be looking at wait time for the show, length of the show, and quality/entertainment of the show.

4) Fantasmic!

It's a bit upsetting that the reason I waited around until night turned out to be at the bottom of the list. But it's not really for the show itself. It's more for my experience with the show. I basically had to sit on the hard ground for 45 minutes to watch the show from a poor angle through a barred gate.

It also started off a bit slow, but it definitely picked up (I mean, this thing has Mickey Mouse fighting a fire-breathing dragon with magic!). It has all sorts of stuff going on--water works, smoke, lasers, fire (even the lake itself catches first at one point), fireworks, animatronics, music, boats, Disney characters, and giant screens for animation from all the major animated films.

The story really picks up when all the villains get together and kidnap Mickey and trap him inside the Magic Mirror and then kind of take over the show for a while. It did turn out to be a lot of fun and very well done. But I just wish I had experienced it a little better.

3) Legend of Mythica

Honestly, putting this at #3 really shows the insane quality of the next two on the list. I'm not going to go into what this show entails since I recorded the entire thing and you could watch it. It's pretty awesome and just has so much going on at all times. it almost feels impossible to see everything going on.

2) Mermaid Lagoon Theater ("Under the Sea")

I didn't have to wait around too long for this. I went inside and sat on the waiting room floor for about 15 minutes before they let us into the theater. No pictures were allowed, but I did manage to grab a couple secretly. They do offer English subtitles for the dialogue/non-singing bits, but I forgot to ask for it, so I'm not exactly sure what the story was.

Basically, the show starts off with Ariel singing Part of Your World and being caught by Sebastian. But then Flotsam and Jetsam show up and take Ariel to Ursula, who sings part of Poor Unfortunate Souls. But then I guess they defeat Ursula or something and Ariel decides to stay a mermaid and Sebastian does Under the Sea (with a short reprise from Ariel for Part of Your World).

What's amazing about this show is its production value. The show lasts about 15 minutes and is super colorful and fun. There's acrobatics/aerial/wire work. There's puppetry. And then there's the enormous animatronic that is Ursula's head and hands. She really stole the show for me and was just jaw-droppingly awesome. By the time it was over, I thought this was going to be one of if not my favorite thing of the day.

1) Big Band Beat

And to think this one wasn't even on my radar, and I went purely because I had nothing else to do. I only had to wait outside for maybe 20 minutes before they let us into the building. The building was basically a big old opera/broadway house (balcony and all) and a huge stage (the only picture I could take, prior to the show starting).

The show lasted 30 minutes and was an homage to the Roarin' 20s era of jazz, swing, blues, tap dancing, and show stoppers. It was a very classy act without a single dull moment. And it was a mix of real people and Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie, Daisy Duck, and Missy the Cat). There was an actual Big Band playing live, and none of the performance was faked (except maybe singing from the Disney characters. That could have been a recording for all I know). But even the characters danced and played some instruments, so the people in the costumes had to have actual talent in those regards, as well.

I really can't even begin to describe just how fun this whole show was--oh, and it was entirely in English, so that was a huge bonus on my part. And it actually felt the most like something uniquely Disney (outside of the obvious Little Mermaid show). So yeah, this definitely tops my list.

OVERALL RANK (Attractions and Shows)

10) Sinbad's Storybook Theater
9) StormRider
8) Tower of Terror
7) Fantasmic!
6) Indiana Jones Adventure
5) Journey to the Center of the Earth
4) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
3) Legend of Mythica
2) Mermaid Lagoon Theater ("Under the Sea")
1) Big Band Beat

Final Thoughts

The park was a ton of fun, even if sometimes all the waiting in line wasn't. The park itself basically has the feel of mixing together Epcot (with the overall world travel feel) and a little Magic Kingdom (particularly with the Steampunk Tomorrowland-ish feel that were given by Mysterious Island and Port Discovery). Ironically, the two most linked to Disney--Mermaid Lagoon and Arabic Coast--felt the weakest (particularly Arabic Coast, which is stretching the whole Sea theme as it is). The only reason I say Mermaid Lagoon is weakest is because it's basically the kiddy land, so it didn't have really anything for me to do there outside of the magnificent theater show.

If you ever get a chance to check out Tokyo DisneySea, I totally recommend doing so. Oh, and sometimes the volcano erupts fire when you're least expecting it, which is pretty awesome.


  1. oh wow....thanks for the wonderful pictures and videos along with your descriptions, i felt like i was there. you just can't beat Disney for entertainment!
    can't believe you had a beer go nick! your pictures are great, is that your camera or your phone?

  2. Like I mentioned on Facebook, this place looks amazing. I think it would be stunning to go and not do any rides. EPCOT is that way, but that pales in comparison to DisneySea. From what I heard, the company that runs it in Japan told the Disney Imagineers they would spend basically anything and weren't worried about profits up front. I'm sure they're doing just fine now.

    Is that Indiana Jones ride similar to the one at Disneyland? The one in California has an amazing queue and is a blast to ride. I remember doing the 20,000 Leagues ride in Florida as a kid, though it's long gone. I'm expecting it's a lot different than the one you rode.

    I was in Orlando for work back in 2008, and I had a free day and went to Disney World solo. It was a weird experience and very similar to what you mention. The freedom might be nice, but not talking to anyone at a theme park feels odd, especially in lines. Still, it does allow you to get a crazy amount of things done.

    1. I've actually not been to Disneyland in California, so I'm not sure if the Indy ride is similar or not.

      Yeah, it would have been nice to be with other people at the park. Going alone was the biggest downside, as I said.