It was Omo’s birthday on Monday, and we were going to Tokyo Disney, and we were going to stay at a hotel and be fancy ladies and have fun and IT WAS GOING TO BE AMAZING OR ELSE.
But this has been such a busy couple of days, and there was no wi-fi at the hotel, so I had to make a list of things to blog!
Then I posted the list to Instagram, because that is how I roll.
Tokyo Disney is three train rides from Omo’s place. Having grown up in a country with no Disney parks at all, this seems pretty amazing. We had to get up quite early, though, which is Quite Wrong for a birthday, and then we had to take the Yamanote line, the busiest in Japan, at peak hour.
Here is a nice photo I took over Z’s shoulder. The train got considerably fuller after this. Bit of an awkward time to have overnight bags.
Finally we arrived at Disney! But first, there was a vending machine at the station. Everyone knows about Japan’s magical vending machines, right? But no one told me they sold hot drinks as well as cold! Need a cup of tea? A soy coffee? Vending machine.
Cinderella’s castle was undergoing some repairs, so they had erected a screen to disguise the scaffolding. I know it’s cheesy and manipulative, but I really admire Disney’s dedication to maintaining the illusions.
Once we had dropped our bags off at the welcome centre (where they would be transported to our hotel) and gotten through the entry queue, we raced for the Monsters Inc ride FASTPASS line. (It has to be in caps. FASTPASS!) Passes acquired, we found ourselves in need of second breakfast, for we are like hobbits, only much prettier and not as horrible as Martin Freeman.
Food prices at Disney are surprisingly cheap. In Australia, concession prices at theme parks are outrageous — $7 for a bottle of water is not unheard of. At Disney, we paid 1,200 yen for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, bacon and tea or coffee. The serving sizes were modest, but in keeping with, you know, dietary guidelines. Pah.
The Adventures of Horrible Racist French Guy, Part 1
There was a family sitting at the table next to us — mum, dad, two kids, a baby. The mother was American, and had a very strong Californian accent. The father’s accent was a mixture of French and American, and he did most of the talking. (I guess he might have been Canadian, but — as you will see — he was so rude!)
Now, I have been trying very hard not to fall into the trap of thinking that we’re the only non-gross Western tourists in Japan, because wow, judgemental, egotistical and pointless! But this family were quite unpleasant. Well, the adults were. The kids just seemed like your average upper-middle class kids on holiday, ie, probably spoilt but how is that their fault?
First of all, they weren’t happy with the high chair supplied for their baby. High chairs in Japan don’t have all the restraints and so forth that you get in Western countries.
Secondly, they kicked up a fuss about removing their stroller from the restaurant. It turns out that strollers are like shoes, it’s good etiquette to leave them outside. I didn’t know this until Z explained it, but hey, I don’t travel with small children.
Thirdly, and most unforgivably, they were the kinds of tourists who haven’t bothered to learn a single word of Japanese, and think that speaking English very loudly will get them by. I really appreciated the irony of a Frenchman taking this attitude, right up until they started trying to bully the waitstaff.
At that point I was like, (1) they’re in Japan, a country with a very strong service culture, and (2), it’s Disney, where you’d go mad if you didn’t have a passion for customer service. And I don’t like people who are rude to service staff at the best of times! The father was all, “Can you speak English?” to a waitress who spoke quite good English but with an accent.
Z leaned over and explained what the problem was, and the father gave us the kind of “we’re all white people in this together, eh?” appeal for solidarity with his eyeballs. At which point, Omo said, “You know you’re in Japan, right?”
She instantly regretted it, but compared with the last time she intervened with a racist bully — similar situation, but in Australia; he called her a fat bitch and told her to get back into the kitchen, she laughed at him so he nearly punched her, I heroically hid outside — I think this could have been worse.
We settled down to finish our breakfasts.
Then I asked Z to ask the waitress where the bathrooms were, and she taught me the Japanese word for “toilet”. Which, come to think of it, I’ve since forgotten.
The father kind of started when he heard Z speaking in fluent Japanese. He didn’t notice me when I returned from the bathroom, and I saw him staring at Z and Omo with a look of profound hostility on his face. They had felt it, and were trying to ignore him, but we were all glad to pay for our breakfast and leave him behind forever.
OR SO WE THOUGHT!
We rode the tea cups! I don’t care that it’s a kiddy ride, I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I knew Disneyland existed. AND IT WAS AMAZING.
Also amazing: ahead of us in the queue was a quartet of horrible douchebros who were going to ride the tea cups ~ironically~. But they wound up having so much fun they forgot they were douchebros, and ran off to have more non-douchey fun. Teacups: MAGIC.
Then we rode It’s a Small World After All, because it was there, and … well, we figured we could get some snarky tweets out of it. There was pre-ride facepulling:
It’s a Small World has the unique quality of being both racist and creepy! One day, those dolls are going to come to life and start killing people. While singing. It’ll be great.
The nice thing about the ride is that it’s offensive to everyone. Even the brief representation of America involved a white doll in a war bonnet. It brings the world together to go, “What the fuck was that?”
Of note: most of the dolls are singing the song, right? But the Aboriginal and Maori dolls that represent Australia and New Zealand have their mouths shut. They just wave a bit. It’s a small world after all, but Indigenous people are still silenced. THAT’S ACCIDENTALLY PROFOUND, DISNEY.
I think it was Frontierland that had more war bonnets. You could buy them in shops, along with turquoise jewellery and beaded versions of Disney characters. I felt like going, “Guys, it’s the twenty-first century. Get with the times.”
Serious question: why did we get a FASTPASS to the Haunted Mansion? It seemed like a good idea at the time. Cute ride, but not scary in any sense. Although, Wikipedia has finally filled me in on how they create the illusion of the ghosts dancing in the ballroom, so that’s one childhood mystery resolved!
Unlike the Haunted Mansion, the Monsters Inc ride was totally worth the FASTPASSSSSSS. It was quite simple — you get a torch, and as your cart goes through the ride, you illuminate monsters — but fun.
Then the others did the Buzz Lightyear ride, while I did Space Mountain. Why did I think a rollercoaster in the dark would be fun? IT WAS TERRIFYING. Though I’ve been told that the Tokyo version is scarier than others, so I feel pretty hardcore having done it. Part of the problem was that I stood in the queue for so long — 90 minutes — that I somehow forgot what I was queuing for, so I got to the front, hopped in my little car and went, “…Rollercoaster. Right. SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!”
On the upside, I read quite a lot of my book while I was in the line.
Things Tokyo Disney is really into: popcorn. All over both parks there are carts selling popcorn in different flavours. They also sell plastic popcorn boxes that can be slung over your shoulder, in shapes like Mickey’s head, or Minnie’s bow, etc. I would have liked a popcorn box, but they were 2,500 yen, or about $25, and I thought they were just as likely to become clutter as storage space at home.
Things Tokyo Disney is not really into: princesses. I wound up buying very little merch, because it was nearly all Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, the traditional characters. And also Duffy, the very first Disney character who didn’t debut in film or TV. Duffy is a bear, and I resent him deeply. But more on that later.
Anyway, it’s not that I don’t like Mickey, Minnie, etc, but they don’t really excite me. But apparently the princesses are more of a Western thing. There was a bit of Snow White and Alice — the kawaii characters — but that was it.
I did buy this amazing hat, though, because I was really cold. It was incredibly windy on Monday, and I was freeeeezing.
This vast queue of people are lining up to buy giant smoked turkey legs. I was pretty impressed by this, but Rie says the turkey legs at Original Flavour Disneyland are even bigger.
One thing I need to do is write to Tokyo Disney in praise of their staff. Everyone we dealt with was really lovely, and gave the impression of being truly interested in our well-being. To survive Disney, I reckon you need the patience of a saint, a powerful dedication to customer service, and really good acting skills. I hope the Tokyo Disney staff are well-paid, because they were brilliant.
FOR EXAMPLE, Z bought Omo a rosette proclaiming that it was her birthday. A cashier in one of the souvenir shops saw it, and gave her the official Disney birthday sticker. But she didn’t just write Omo’s name on it, she also drew Mickey and Minnie, and added her own personal birthday greetings. And once Omo was wearing that, suddenly every single staff member we saw, from janitors to security and everyone else, was stopping to wish her a happy birthday. It sounds a bit trite, but it was very kind.
We stayed at the Disney Ambassador Hotel, which is one of the cheaper (BUT STILL REALLY EXPENSIVE OMG) accommodation options at Tokyo Disney. It has a really lovely art deco theme. You walk in and look around and think you’re in a really nice, grown-up hotel. Then you look closer, and realise there’s a Disney theme on everything. But it’s quite subtle. I like to think it’s my own approach to fannish nerdishness, in hotel form.
Incidentally, while I was in the US, someone suggested taking an anti-inflammatory when my feet got sore. THANK YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE. You saved my life. And my delicate feets.
We had dinner at the hotel’s buffet restaurant, which was a bit expensive, but delicious, and also ALL YOU CAN EAT. One side of the restaurant had Japanese food, the other side had western food. And, randomly, kimchi. I ate at both sides! Four kinds of fish! Beef AND chicken AND lamb AND pork! Vegetables! Steamed buns! And a tiny, delicious selection of dairy-free desserts.
BUT THAT WASN’T ALL. Oh no. There were … cast members. You know, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto. That crowd. (Things which have been bothering us: how is it that Goofy can speak, while Pluto’s just a dog? Did Aslan make Disney? Why is Goofy dating a cow? Who is the mother of his son? THESE QUESTIONS AND MORE MAY NEVER BE ANSWERED!)
All the characters came to our table to deliver birthday wishes to Omo, and we had our photos taken with Mickey and Minnie (but not Donald or Goofy, ‘cos NO.)
There was, however, one awkward moment when Donald Duck came up in my blind spot. I knew he was in the vicinity, but I didn’t realise he was right behind me! I looked up, AND THERE WAS A GIANT SIX-FOOT DUCK!
I jumped! AND YELPED!
Then everyone laughed at me, and I was really embarrassed, but I also felt terrible, because I didn’t want the person inside the Donald costume to think I was upset or hurt. So I sort of flailed around, going, “Sumimasen, Donald-san!” in what Omo tells me was a frantic kind of way. I wasn’t frantic! I just didn’t want Donald to feel bad!
Then Pluto made me choke on my food. I AM COMPLETELY JUSTIFIED IN MY CHARACTER PREFERENCES.
We had this great plan to go back to the park until closing after dinner, but we were just exhausted. We explored the gift shop and the hotel’s konbini — yes, our hotel had its own convenience store! With regular convenience store prices, which, because it’s Japan, are REALLY CHEAP! — and then we returned to our room.
The Japanese are really into baths, and why not? So I took advantage of the very deep tub, and the lack of water restrictions, and had a soak. And my feet thanked me for it.