#TBT: Japan, April 2005: Traveling In Tokyo Like A Local, With Some Locals

Woke up at 7:30am and got ready for the day, then went online while the guys got ready. I am SOOO behind on the stuff I read regularly online.

We’re on the 7th floor of our hotel and have a pretty good view. Joe woke up and happened to look outside…and we could see Mt. Fuji from our room! The girl at the front desk had said we’d be able to see it if it was clear enough, but we didn’t think that would ever happen…we couldn’t see it from the train rides between Kyoto and Tokyo or when we were in Hakone (when we were the closest to it), but were SO glad to finally see it!
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#TBT: Japan, April 2006: Travel From TDLR to Tokyo, Ghibli Museum, Laundry

We woke up 7:30am and finished our packing. We called Bell Services to bring our luggage down and arranged for them to hold some of our stuff (mainly souvenirs and dirty laundry we won’t need on the trip anymore) until our return on Monday.

Since the breakfast buffet at the Miracosta was about $30 per person, we decided to take the TDL monorail to Ikspiari, the shopping area, and find a coffee shop. So we had coffee and danishes at a place called The Mono. Decent cinnamon buns, chocolate buns wasn’t chocolately enough (NOTHING in Japan is chocolatey enough) and the hot “American coffee” sucked (our next hotel is near a Starbucks, thank goodness!).
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#TBT April 2005: Tokyo Disneyland, Day 2!

MODERN-DAY NOTE: When I originally wrote this entry for my personal blog in 2005, I didn’t include pictures. I have no idea why, short of how much time it took to do so. I’ll include a few in the course of the post but most will be towards the bottom. Please enjoy!

Today was a “take it easy” day. We didn’t even wake up until 9:30am (almost a normal hour!).

Before we went to the park, Joe and I sent some of our luggage on to our next hotel so we wouldn’t have to lug it as much (Japan has this beautiful system where you can ship packages and suitcases to, from and between hotels for only about $20 per suitcase…with sometimes just 2 days here and 3 days there, it made things SO much easier!). Then we met up with Steve at Disneyland.
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#TBT: Tokyo Disney Sea, April 2005: Day Two!

MODERN-DAY NOTE: When I originally wrote this entry for my personal blog in 2005, I didn’t include pictures. I have no idea why, short of how much time it took to do so. I’ll include a few in the course of the post but most will be towards the bottom. Please enjoy!

Not in as much of a hurry today, so woke up at 8:30am and didn’t get out of bed until nearly 10am…ah, heaven!

Today is a day to notice more and more of the little things (in the rain).

Details, details, details…
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#TBT: April 2005: Tokyo Disneyland (Day 1)

MODERN-DAY NOTE: When I originally wrote this entry for my personal blog in 2005, I didn’t include pictures. I have no idea why, short of how much time it took to do so. I’ll include a few in the course of the post but most will be towards the bottom. Please enjoy!

DSC07065We woke up at 7am and again got out of the room at 8:45am. Took the monorail to the TDL Station and saw the CROWD of people trying to meet and greet the characters. Popular characters like Pooh and the Fab 5 had lines that were close to 100 people long but Max, the Fairy Godmother and Jiminy Cricket were easily accessible.

World Bazaar is TDL’s version of Main Street. It’s essentially the same thing as Main Street, but with a covering (to protect against rain and snow) and with openings on the side arms (the area is shaped like a cross) to let you into Tomorrowland (to the right) or Adventureland (to the left).
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#TBT: April 2005: Tokyo Disney Sea (Day 1)

MODERN-DAY NOTE: When I originally wrote this entry for my personal blog in 2005, I didn’t include pictures. I have no idea why, short of how much time it took to do so. I’ll include a few in the course of the post but most will be towards the bottom. Please enjoy!

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 5.03.12 PMTokyo Disney Sea (TDS) was scheduled to open at 9am, so the 3 of us were awake at 7am and out the door by 8:45am. We bought 4-day park hopper passes wherein we have to pick our parks of choice for the first 2 days and then can park hop for the other 2 days. So our plan was to go to TDS today today, TDL tomorrow and figure out Wed. and Thur. when we got to them.

Since we’re staying at the Hotel Miracosta, TDS is just outside our lobby (much like the Grand Californian at Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel in Disneyland Paris). That was SO convenient! As low as the crime rate is in Japan, everyone still has to go through a bag check, though. The security guards who do bag check are much nicer than stateside, though.

Caught a quick breakfast at Mama Biscotti’s Bakery, the pastry shop in the first land (called Porto Paradiso), which is the equivalent of “Main Street,” except it’s more horizontal than vertical and looks more like a seaside Italian town than Main Street USA. I had a really good almond cream danish at the bakery, but I guess Disney coffee is Disney coffee internationally…just so-so. Joe had a cranberry muffin and a chocolate chip muffin and Steve (our friend traveling with us on this trip) had an apple danish.

We then meandered to the Mysterious Island land, which housed various attractions based on Captain Nemo. During the entire walk from Porto Paradiso to this area, my mouth was just wide open, I was in so much awe. I mean, the attention to detail went as far are carved “N’s” (for Nautilus) on the queue stanchions. For those of you who live in or have visited Florida, the closest attention to detail that I’ve ever seen is at Islands of Adventure and this park just blows IOA away. For the first 3 or 4 lands, I would just say “unbelievable. Totally unbelievable,” over and over, it was just so beautiful. So perfect.

We had read that some attractions can have a wait of 45 min just to get your Fastpass and a stand-by wait of 3 hours. We purposely didn’t go to the parks on a weekend, figuring the crowds would be horrible. Well, for us today, most rides were a WALK-ON! I don’t know if it was because it was a Monday, or because it was on the chilly side or because the World Expo in Nagoya is taking all the crowds, but we had NO lines ALL DAY LONG. It was absolutely, positively wonderful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyway, the first attraction we went on was Journey to the Center of the Earth. The queue for this ride was amazing. It has little displays everywhere but we couldn’t see them all because the line wasn’t going to those places. We got through the queue to the loading area, which is set up with a main line leading to a elevator, which takes you to the ride loading area. The elevator is similar to the old Living Seas Hydrolator except this one actually moved a floor since you load and unload from the same door. The ride vehicles are themed to earth digging cars with pointed fronts and enclosed cabins. You are seated, 3 rows of 2 seats, and sent off into the ride. The ride is based on the book of the same name. You are shown the wonders they have found, something goes wrong and you have to get back home. The ride show is great but the ride system is the amazing part. Imagine a Test Track like car, with the acceleration possibility. Put the high acceleration on a 30 degree incline with curves in the dark. Top off the hill with some zero-G lift and then back to the mountain for the finish. It’s amazing.

After riding that twice, we headed to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. How can I explain this one? You go on a 20K-themed queue (lots of nautical equipment and caves) to get into the biosphere vehicles, which looks like brown, metal submarines. The ride vehicles hold 6 people (2 at the front window and 2 at each of the side windows). The way they do the ride is amazing. Think of the old 20K ride at WDW where you and the show are underwater. Well here, the windows are double-paned and between the panes is water that they can make bubble or stay still, so you can feel like you’re under water, or going up or down (with the bubbles) without actually being under water. You’re on a winding track that shows audioanimatronic fishes and sea monsters and the giant squid and whatever else you would normally find in a 20K ride, except that they’re all dry but they LOOK like they’re under water because of the water in the glass and some lighting effects. During parts of the ride, you have the opportunity to aim flashlights “outside,” to get a better view of what’s under the “ocean.” I know that’s a horrible description, but it’s unlike any other attraction we’ve ever been on. It’s also way too dark to videotape well, even with night shot. Sorry. Or, as they say in Japan, Gomenasai!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next land we visited was Mermaid Lagoon, which is based, of course, on The Little Mermaid. They have an indoor area with some kiddie rides (albeit beautifully-themed kiddie rides) that we didn’t go on, but we did visit the “Under the Sea” show at the Mermaid Lagoon Theater. Normally I would think that a show in a area like this would be a little fluff show to lead to the Ariel meeting area. Having read in advance, we went in anyway. This show is amazing. It is theater in the round. Ariel rises out of the center of the stage suspended by 2 wires. This contraption allows her to spin around 360 to simulate doing flips in the water. The wires are connected to a huge rig on the ceiling which takes Ariel flying around over the audience. Other characters from the movie are in the show too, either as HUGE puppets, or on wires, or both. The show is a condensed version of the movie with emphasis on 3 songs (in English) and some dialog (in Japanese). We all left the show with open jaws, not expecting anything like that.

The Sleepy Whale Shoppe was a cute gift shop that looked like a big whale. You go in through the whale’s mouth, where the carpet is rubbery-gushy and pinkish (because it’s his tongue), and then turns blue because you’re in his gullet. The ceiling of the shop shows his backbone and ribs. You exit around where his appendix would be, by the way ;-). Very well-done.

Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster was the equivalent of Gadget’s Go Coaster. A cute little kiddie coaster that was about 45 seconds long. There was no line, so we went on.

The next land we visited was Arabian Coast. It was themed to be a cross between Aladdin and Sinbad, with a little generic Arabia thrown in, as well.

Caravan Carousel. This is a merry-go-round. But by now, we know nothing is simple in this park. The Carousel is 2 levels with elephants, camels, horses and the Genie from Aladdin. Each side of the carousel has a painting on it of an Arabian Scene and the music is from Aladdin.

Sinbad’s Seven Voyages. This is a Small World-like boat ride. The entry area tells of the history of Sinbad, in Japanese. You then get on the boat, and follow Sinbad on his journeys. The animatronics on this ride are first rate. The movements are generations ahead of anything we have in any of our parks. We might have a character or 2 which are amazing, but every little doll in this ride is capable of amazing movements.

As we left the Arabian Coast, we saw the construction site of their new roller coaster, Raging Spirits, which is set to open this summer. Between that and the brand-new version of TZTOT that they’re building (not a cookie cutter version…new theming, new storyline, and I bet new effects too), it gives us a good excuse to go back .

The next land we visited was Lost River Delta, which is based on Indiana Jones and adventure in general. Here there are lots more trees and lush greenery, to give you the feeling that you’re deep in the woods.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. This is essentially the same ride as at Disneyland Park in California but the ride has a different theme. Since the story is in Japanese, we really don’t know what was happening. It had something to do with a skull and it had snakes and bugs and a wind vortex in it, among other things . The most amazing part of this attraction is the queue. The exterior is a huge Aztec temple. HUGE! You enter the temple, and see the dig in progress. The entry hall is immense. The line winds around the first room 3 times to reveal more on each level. Amazing stuff.

We had lunch reservations at our hotel at 1:30pm so around 12:15 or so, we started our way back to the Hotel MiraCosta. We took the Disney Sea Transit Steamer Line, which was, in essence, a Friendship Boat, but with a retractable roof for adverse weather conditions.

We still had a good 45 minutes before lunch, so the guys agreed to look at some shops in Porto Paradiso. The variety of merchandise is amazing and although the guys whisked me out of the stores much sooner than *I* would have liked, I knew I’d be back. Soon.

Lunch was at Silk Road Garden, a Chinese restaurant at our hotel. I had an appetizer of spring rolls and a main course of fried rice with shrimp and asparagus. Joe and Steve got a meal for 2…a choice of 5 appetizers, a small entrée and a dessert. The food was good but as we quickly discovered about TDLR restaurants, VERY overpriced.

After lunch, we decided to split up for a while. Joey was tired so he went back to the room for a nap. Steve went back to the park to hit some more rides and I went shopping. I’m up to about 7 new Disney CDs that I didn’t already have . The merchandising TDS has is terrific because they still have land-specific items. So besides the generic Fab 5 (well, 4…I saw very little Pluto) stuff, they would have a line of clothes and gifts and toys and stuff specific for Mermaid Lagoon, The Lost Delta, etc. VERY cool.

Anyway, we met up again at our room at 5pm.

After taking some pictures of our room from the outside (our room overlooks the entrance to the park), we went back to TDS.

We walked to the American Waterfront land, which doesn’t have any major attractions/rides, but has access to the DisneySea Electric Railway (think WDW Railway). From there, we rode to Port Discovery and went on Stormrider, which was a Japanese-language simulator based on being able to manipulate the weather. From what we could tell, no one can manipulate the weather, by the way.

We then took the Electric Railway back to the American Waterfront to see a stage show, “Encore!” at the Broadway Music Theatre. It was a review of songs from older popular Broadway musicals, such as Oklahoma, Evita, Cats, Chorus Line, Porgy & Bess, 42nd St., Beauty & The Beast, West Side Story, The Music Man, Gypsy, etc. The 3 of us enjoyed the show immensely, partially because it was almost all in English.

We next walked back to Port Discover, to go on Aquatopia. This is another one that’s hard to explain. You’re in a car that’s designed to make you think you’re floating on water, but on close inspection, you’re actually only in a few inches of water. The water has vortexes, waterfalls, squirting fountains, etc. The cars take you on what feels like random variations of paths always JUST missing the fountains, etc, thanks to the wonders of a GPS system.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost of the rest of the night was spent on going back on the attractions we enjoyed most, such as Indy, Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20K. We grabbed a Gyoza Sausage and apple tea soda at the cart that supposedly has LONG lines during normal days (we had no line), and took some pictures of the full-size Nautilus submarine for Steve.

Just before the park closed, we went on the Fortress Explorations, which is the equivalent of Fort Sam Clemens, with LOTS of places of interactive play and places to explore. The theme of this attraction is “wondrous machines and scientific instruments.” Very fun for kids, including these 3 grown-up kids.

The park closed at 10pm so after the guys stopped off at Mama Biscotti’s again for dessert, we went back to the room, very happy and utterly exhausted. None of us can remember the last time we did a full day at a park .

Tomorrow is Tokyo Disneyland. Until next time, Sayonara!

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#TBT: Japan, April 2005 – Hakone’s Yunnesun Hot Springs Theme Park & Travel to Tokyo Disneyland Resort

Today we decided to go to the Japanese baths before making our way to Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

The guys woke up around 6am but I stayed in bed until a luxurious 6:45am (kill me now). The room was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit because Joe decided to shut off the heat last night, thinking the heating element of the space heater made too much noise. I guess he didn’t think the earplugs we’ve been wearing every night to drown out the sound of Steve’s snoring would work on the (comparatively) quiet sounds of the heater, too? So after some good-natured ribbing about ice forming on the tips of our noses, we started our day.

Today’s breakfast in our room included scrambled eggs, Vienna sausages, a variety of breads and spreads, OJ, coffee and, you guessed it, salad and soup (cream of something…not bad though…actually comforting, since it was so damn cold in the room!). The coffee came with 2 teeny-tiny itsy-bitch creamers again, but this time I was prepared and had looked up how to ask for more, in my Japanese-English dictionary. So when the server lady came in, I said, “Mo sukoshi miru-ku, kudasai?” (“A little more milk, please?”), with my best deer-in-the-headlights look (I should just patent “that” look by now, for all the times I’ve used it in this trip). She smiled and said….something…in Japanese (I hoped it was “Sure, hold on just a sec and I’ll get you a decent amount”), then left. And after some anticipation-filled minutes (did she understand me and would she come back?) then my Milk Savior returned!…with 2 more teeny-tiny itsy-bitsy creamers. So now I had maybe about an ounce of the white stuff. Tops. And to add insult to injury, it turned out that IT WASN’T EVEN MILK! It was non-dairy creamer! Grosser than gross, even worse than celery! Needless to say, I bought another canned ko-hee that morning.

We finished packing and left our suitcases with the ryokan staff at the top of the cable car station and went to Yunessun.

We took a total of 4 pictures at Yunessun because water parks and digital cameras don’t mix (MODERN DAY NOTE: that’s no longer the case and I found some pics on the ‘net for you – scroll down just a bit). So Click Here to get to their web site in English and then click on “Yunessun” on that page to learn more about the water park and what it had to offer.

Yunessun (“bath park”) was a short ride by bus. So short, in fact, that Joe said maybe we should walk it. Steve and I quickly veto’d that idea and it was just as well…think of Lombard Street in San Francisco. Uphill. With no sidewalks. For what turned out to be about 2 miles. Sorry Joey…but no!

We paid to get in (about $35 per person) and changed into our bathing suits. The place has about a dozen and a half different kinds of baths that you can soak in. We didn’t do them all, but managed to try out jacuzzis with plain water, rose water, lavender water, coffee, sake, green tea, red wine, Dead Sea salt (where the salt burned every boo-boo you didn’t know you had…not the most comfortable place to be after you’ve shaved your legs in preparation for going to a water park [grin]) and a few others.

This sign at Yunessun had some of the best Engrish for the whole trip. Sorry that it’s not very easy to read….verbatim, it says:

To Guests:
For your comfortable stay
-No food and drink arrowed ahead.
-Person who is not in good physical condition, over drunk or tattooed is not permitted to enter.
-Manners disturbing other guests, such as running or shouting around in the premises, is prohibited.
-Dyeing hair, washing clothes in the bath room or restroom is prohibited.
-Children under 5years should be accompanied by adult.
-Your wristband is a very valuable thing(same as your purse).Please make sure that you wear it on your wrist at all time. Please notify staff immediately the wristband is lost.
-Beware of losing contact-lenses.

Yunessun had full shower facilities, which we took advantage of, especially since our room at the ryokan didn’t have a true shower…just the bath area with the buckets of hot springs water. Being sticklers for rules, we did not dye our hair while there.

Overall the bath park admittedly wasn’t the highlight of the trip, but it was an interesting way to spend 2 or 3 hours. Anyway, after our showers, we went back to the ryokan cable car station and picked up our luggage.

We had just left the luggage there, almost completely unsupervised, the whole time we had been at Yunessun and, as expected, they were safe and untouched when we came back to pick them up. Japan is SO cool!

We took a bus to the Odawara train station, then a train to the Shinjuku station. From that huge, crowded train station, we caught a train to Tokyo Station. Finally, we found the train on the Keiyo Line and stopped at Maihama Station.

WE’RE HERE!!! Tokyo Disneyland Resort!

“First view” of TDLR, from the train. Cinderella Castle and Space Mountain are pretty “obvious” and if you use your imagination, you can make out Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, to the left of the castle. That tall, rectangular building to the right of the castle is going to be TDSea’s version of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror…complete with a new building (to match their NY Waterfront area) and new storyline.

Tokyo Disneyland, as seen from the Maihama Station. It’s so close, I can almost taste it!

Sign above one of the escalators as you exit the train station platform

We went to the Welcome Center to try to get early check-in and have them bring our luggage to the hotel, but since they ended that service at 4pm and we got there about 6pm, we had to take the monorail to our hotel. Pity.

As with the rest of Japan, there is an extra charge for the Monorail, since it is considered to be “public transportation.” We got an all-day pass for ¥500 and took the monorail to the 3rd stop (Tokyo DisneySea Station).

A map of the monorail route. We were at the Mainhama Train Station station (which was also the stop for the Ikspiari shopping plaza and the TDL Ambassador Resort Hotel), colored in red, and the route went counter-clockwise to Tokyo Disneyland Station, Bayside Station (where TDL’s “sister” hotels were…sort of like Hotel Plaza Blvd at WDW) and Tokyo Disney Sea/Miracosta Station.

A wide view of the monorail station closest to Maihama Station

Anal-retentiveness is definitely the rule!

Here it comes!

Outside of a TDL monorail trail

The windows of the monorail are in the shape of Mickey heads and the grab handles are “hidden Mickeys” as well.

Plus they have old Disney memorabilia in clear cases in each of the cars. VERY cool!

The inside of the cars are so unlike the monorail cars we have at WDW or Disneyland…more open, “subway-style” seating, padded seats and everything!

Lots of space to sit “up front” too…and when people leave, others simply and quietly take their spots. There’s no “driver” of the monorail trains…it’s all automated

Our hotel, the Miracosta is just BEAUTIFUL. The attention to detail is amazing…so much so that words can’t fully describe it. Inlaid wood on the floors and in the elevator, Mickey says full sentences in the elevator (in Japanese…”Konbanwa! Shi desu!” “Good evening! This is the 4th floor!”), the initials of the hotel on the light stands, elevator floor indicators like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (but done “right,” with class), and the list goes on and on. I actually had tears in my eyes to see what Disney can do if there is money to be spent.

After drooling over our hotel and room for a while, we went back down to the main lobby. Stopped off at the hotel gift shop and realized that whatever money we hadn’t spent on junk this trip was going to be blown away at TDL. Instead of the crap we’re used to at DL and WDW, almost everything at TDL is cute, useful, you name it. Even Joe, who is not into shopping, was finding stuff that he wanted to get.

Before shopping though, we still needed to get something to eat, so we took the monorail to Ikspiari, the shopping mall owned by Oriental Land Company, who owns most of TDLR. We found a pizza and pasta place…Joe had a 4 cheese pizza and Steve and I both had spaghetti Bolognaise. Nothing special but certainly not bad.

By the time we were done, many of the stores in Ikspiari were already closed but we found a few interesting ones that were still open. One store had a bunch of American stuff and we smiled at the Wrigley’s gum, Diet Canada Dry ginger ale, Tide detergent and Fiestaware dishes.

Japan has a lot of soft ice cream but you have to search to find hard ice cream. I was in the mood for some hard ice cream and had seen a picture of a store that had some but couldn’t read the name of the place to correspond it to the map. So I asked the Information Booth…which was a trip!

Me: Sumimasen, konbanwa (Excuse me, good-evening) Do you speak English?
Info Girl: A little.
Me: (going into my simplified English mode because I’ve already exhausted the extent of my conversational Japanese): I want to buy ice cream but I don’t want soft ice cream. I want hard ice cream. I found what I want on that map but I can’t read Japanese writing. Can you help me?”

And the girl not only came out of the Information kiosk to look at the map with me, but she brought us to the gelato shop!!! Where on earth would you see that kind of service in the US???

Anyway, the Gelato shop was right near the Disney Store. So of course we went in. I don’t even bother to go into TDS in the States anymore…there is nothing there that I want or need. Even this TDS catered more to kids than they did to adults, but the selection of stuff was just unbelievable…SO many more types of merchandise. And get this…they have ORANGE BIRD merchandise! (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Remember, this was 2005. Orange Bird couldn’t be found ANYWHERE) I couldn’t believe it!!! Just blew me away! Anyway, I bought about a half-dozen Disney CDs that I didn’t have (yes, there are a handful I don’t own yet!) as well as a set of stickers for some friends.

Joe was getting tired by then so we went back to the hotel and met up with Steve, who was nursing a migraine (he had left us after dinner). It’s 11pm as I’m typing this and both guys are already asleep. We’re gonna wake up at 7am tomorrow so I think I’ll stop and write more tomorrow. Until then, sayonara!

Like this post? We have plenty more just like it and would love if you decided to hang around and clicked the button on the top of this page to follow our blog and get emailed notifications of when we post (it’s usually just once or twice a day). Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!