The hotel, again
I have only two complaints about the Disney Ambassador Hotel:
1. No wireless. Not even exorbitantly priced wireless! There was an ethernet cable, but that’s not exactly helpful for my iPad.
2. The tea in our room was instant powdered tea. The only English word on the black tea was UNSWEETENED, but there was also no sugar — or at least, there was, but it was wrapped up in the sachets of coffee. So I drank instant green tea, and it was terrible.
DisneySea is a separate park unique to Tokyo Disney. It has a strong nautical theme, with waterways, a lagoon and lots of boats. It’s also aimed at an older demographic, with scarier rides and beer available from many concessions.
There’s also a bit of a steampunk aesthetic here and there.
Of course, there’s still heaps of appeal for kids, including the Mermaid Lagoon, a gorgeous indoor area with an under the sea vibe.
sea cucumber nudibranch.
The Mermaid’s Lagoon features the kelp cups, a smaller version of the teacup ride. We thought they were identical to the teacups, but NO! These cups rely on body weight to spin, so Z and I had a very unsatisfying ride until we figured that out.
Then it was Omo and Rie’s turn! Fun fact: Omo gets motion sickness. FUNNER FACT: the cups apparently broke during their ride, so she got another go! She looked like she was having the exact opposite of fun. Meanwhile, Z and I stood on the sidelines, CONSUMED WITH ENVY.
DisneySea was even busier than Disneyland the day before — it was the day before a public holiday, so the park was full of school groups. We only managed to get one FASTPASS before they ran out — but that was for Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which was worth it.
Basically, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a rollercoaster, but a fairly sedate one. OR SO IT SEEMS. You get in your cool steampunk car and travel through some amazing set pieces, with realistic insects, lava, some kind of monster, and real fire.
Then you’re plunged into darkness and emerge on the side of a mountain, where you plunge for a few seconds of SCREAMING TERROR before the ride ends.
Z and I shared our car with a bunch of teenage boys, who were trying really hard to be cool, only one of them had a very girly scream. So Z and I were like, “Oh, sugei!” which is a fairly masculine way of saying, “AWESOME!”
Another part of the park was based on Aladdin (and Sinbad, only not the Sinbad story everyone knows?), so it was basically a Disneyfied version of a stereotypical Arabian city. But it was very pretty nonetheless, and there were magicians doing magic tricks in the Agrabah Bazaar, and there was a two-storey carousel. Now, I like carousels, but I think the one I rode in North Carolina was better. Sorry, Disney.
We accidentally wound up watching a live show, in which Mickey and Minnie and their friends/teddy bears, Duffy and ShellieMae, celebrate the advent of spring, only to be foiled by Jafar and rescued by the Genie? It was hard to tell, not just because it was in Japanese, but also I couldn’t see much.
Duffy. Let me tell you about Duffy
Duffy the Disney Bear was first created for Walt Disney World in Florida, as a special edition toy to commemorate spring. He was adopted and given a new history by Tokyo Disney — basically, Mickey was going on a trip, and Minnie gives him this bear to keep him company. Then Duffy comes to life and gets a girlfriend, ShellieMae.
Duffy is the very first Disney character who didn’t first appear in a movie or TV show. Basically, he’s a big whopping marketing ploy, with a personality exactly like Mickey’s only less interesting. He’s hugely popular in Japan, but I’m not feeling the love. At first I was just, “Meh,” because I have no emotional connection with him, but that turned to resentment as I realised Duffy was crowding out the merch that I would have found interesting. For example, there used to be a lot of Ariel and Jasmine stuff in the relevant areas, but now it’s just Duffy.
Basically, Duffy, Imma happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but Mulan is the greatest Disney princess of all time. OF ALL TIME. (Except for those others.)
(Unsurprisingly, there was no Mulan whatsoever at Tokyo Disney. But one day I’m going to go to Disney Hong Kong, and if that park isn’t swimming in Mulan merch, I’m going to have to flip a table.)
Duffy rant over
Japan is a country that really appreciates its meat, so I was able to buy a smoked turkey leg at one of the concessions.
I felt like Henry VIII in the best possible way.
The DisneySea landscape is dominated by Prometheus, a vast artificial volcano that erupts once a day. All fire, no lava. Alas. (It’s still spectacular!)
DisneySea also features a ~New England village and Olde New York section, both of which are charming. I particularly enjoyed the “American” performance, which involved people dressed up as hamburgers and fries singing “Yankee Doodle” and … the Spice Girls? I like to think this is Japan’s revenge on Hollywood.
It was getting quite late in the day, and we still had a long list of rides we wanted to go on, and there were no FASTPASSes to be had. Rie, Omo and I queued for two hours to ride the Tower of Terror, while Z opted out in favour of not thinking she was going to die.
I’d like to say she made the right choice — well, it was the right choice for her, and I’m not going to criticise it one bit — but I really liked Tower of Terror. Which is a bit ironic, because I was absolutely sick with fear as we got closer and closer to the front of the queue. And don’t get me wrong, the ride was indeed terrifying, but it was also really fun. (I’ve heard the Anaheim version is even scarier, though!)
Our Tower of Terror faces. Note that Rie is doing NO HANDS. She’s well hardcore.
It was dark by the time we emerged from the Tower, and we were cold and hungry. But there was still the Toy Story ride to go! So we had dinner at one of the “American” joints, where I ate a Reuben which was perfect and amazing and lovely, even if New Yorkers would probably laugh at its modest size and lack of pickle. IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED, plus I took a gamble on the cheese and didn’t get sick. Basically, I was so tired I was saying “Ohayo” instead of “Arigato”, and I really needed that comfort food.
Thus fortified, we joined the Toy Story queue.
DisneySea closes at 10 pm. It was 8 o’clock when we hopped in line, and we were promised a two hour wait. WOULD WE MAKE IT? Yes, because they didn’t close the line until about twenty minutes later. The real question was, would our feet survive?
That question became secondary, though, because here, at the very last ride, was our old friend, Horrible Racist French Guy!
The Adventures of Horrible Racist French Guy, part 2
We were about halfway through the line when we spotted him. The line was closed, and he was with his daughter, arguing because they had hopped out of line and, because it was closed, weren’t being allowed back in.
At one point he spotted us, and his body language got even angrier. He was pointing at me, because I had earlier jumped out of the queue to run to the bathroom, and gotten back in without any problems. But here’s the difference: the queue wasn’t closed at the time! (Also, because we are grown ups, we had understood that I might not be allowed in, and made alternate plans accordingly. These alternate plans involved me sitting in a warm place with my book, so I was pretty zen.)
French Guy was all, “YOU ARE RUINING MY DAUGHTER’S DISNEY VACATION!” (we paraphrase, we were relying on body language here), and generally trying to intimidate the staff. A manager and an interpreter were called, and French Guy LEFT HIS DAUGHTER STANDING ALONE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SQUARE while he went off to try and stand over the staff. This didn’t work, because he was a few inches shorter than the shortest Japanese person present, but we were mostly appalled that he had his back turned to his daughter. Not that anything would have happened to her, because by now the entire queue was watching, plus I noticed a very discreet staff member was keeping an eye on the girl, BUT STILL.
(The daughter was pretty chill throughout. She mostly looked stoic and maybe a bit bored and embarrassed, until her dad summoned her over to explain how her vacation had been RUINED, and then she produced some crocodile tears.)
I kid you not, this went on for about an hour. I really admire the Disney staff and the way they handled it, because they were totally unfazed by his attempts at being intimidating, and the manager had obviously had training in mediation. (The interpreter mostly just radiated a desire to leave and go home.) French Guy wouldn’t back down, but the staff just would not give him his own way — well, they couldn’t. The queue was closed, the only way French Guy and his daughter could get back in was if someone gave up their place. Other people had been turned away as well, so it’s not like they could have made just one exception.
Finally, some kind of voucher was produced, and French Guy and French-American Daughter went off, somewhat mollified. It was a bit of a relief, because I had been expecting French Guy to turn violent. On the other hand, his bad behaviour was rewarded.
At last, the Toy Story ride!
Totally worth the wait and the bloody stumps my feet were turning into!
First you’re given 3D glasses, which are designed to go over regular glasses! This was so exciting, I took mine home, although I’m not sure if they’ll work in a cinema.
Glasses in hand, you go into your cart, which lurches from screen to screen. It’s like a shooting gallery, only the darts and balls you’re shooting are all illusions! And if you hit the right thing, confetti flies at you!
It was a lot like the Monsters Inc game, but far more satisfying and exciting, even though I have terrible aim.
And then we went home
I was so exhausted, I couldn’t even get excited about riding the Disney Monorail back to the station! Those three train rides back home felt much longer than the trip out on Monday morning, even with the Yamanote Line being merely busy instead of crowded.
On the very last leg, we found ourselves sharing the platform with a vast horde of drunk businessmen.
Now, contrary to stereotypes, the Japanese are incredibly ruthless when it comes to boarding trains. It’s just that they’re usually ruthless in a way that involves lots of queuing, and apologising as they elbow people in the kidneys.
Apparently that all changes after a few rounds of beer and some cigarettes, because these guys were pushing, shoving, all of that. Which isn’t that different from the trains at home, but the smell of beer and cigarette smoke was terrible. Smoking in public is quite taboo in Australia, but Japan still has indoor smoking sections in restaurants, and I really can’t get used to the smell.
Suffice to say, we were glad to get home and collapse into bed. Where I slept for ten hours, and we spent yesterday doing a lot of nothing. IT WAS GREAT.