I’ve always wanted to visit to Disneyland. It’s a childhood dream that never left me even as I grew up. On our first trip to Japan, we’d visited Tokyo Disneysea. It made sense to visit that one first because it is a one-of-a-kind Disney park with its nautical, exploration and adventure themes that’s targeted at an audience older than that of the regular Disneyland theme parks. And it’s not the most expensive theme park every built without reason — the landscaping is lavish and meticulous and the attractions are lots of fun. So, if you were to visit Japan only once, Tokyo DisneySea would be the theme park on your itinerary. Even D, who wasn’t much interested in Disney growing up, found it fun.
Given our love affair with Japan, however, we didn’t foresee visiting another country with a Disneyland anytime soon, so this second time, we went to Tokyo Disneyland. The weather forecast shows this day as the only fine day in the entire week so we shuffled around our itinerary because no one likes going to Disneyland in the rain!
It’d been a while since we’d had a noodle dish, so we stop by place near Ueno Station. I order the soba with vegetables and bonito flakes, while D orders the soba with pork and egg. This is a super simple eatery, but the food was hot and not bad at all. The staff also seem not to mind getting into the kitchen by crawling underneath the counter (for real!), and the walls are decorated with shower caps, which was rather neat.
We catch the train to Maihama Station and walk to Tokyo Disneyland. Unlike Tokyo DisneySea, which is a 20 minute walk from Maihama Station, Tokyo Disneyland is only 5 mins. Everyone seems to have seen the weather forecast because there’s a huge number of people — I have never seen so many kids in my life! Which begs the question, why aren’t they at school!? We even saw a couple dressed in their high school uniform so obviously truanting, but authorities don’t seem to care in Japan.
After getting our tickets, we get past passes for Space Mountain, the roller coaster ride, before finding a spot to view the parade. I’ve always felt that, even though admission is very expensive, Disney really does give you good quality attractions. And this is especially so in their parades, not only in terms of the performances, but in relation to the detail in the design of the floats and costumes particularly. Anyway! It’s Christmas, so some of the floats in the parade are suitably themed.
I have a soft sport for things that look like food, but aren’t! There’s Marie from the Aristocats (above, top left) in her candy float, and then there’s Goofy with a candy cane dancing atop a cake. Some of the performers accompanying the float are also dressed as candy canes or macarons.
And then there’s the three little pigs atop an elf shoe (the angry one is so adorable); Huey, Dewey and Louie as elves helping Santa give out presents from his sack; some rather creepy-looking, hind-leg walking reindeers; and of course, to finish off there’s Minnie and Mickey in the final float.
There’s a mini racing track complete with mini petrol pumps. You don’t actually race because the cars are attached to a track underneath. But what’d you expect — it’s an attraction for kids!
The estimated time at the standby entrance for the Star Tours was 20 minutes, so we hop into the queue. The attraction itself is a 4D ride through space — the seat shakes and tilts and jerks, so you feel like you’re in the space ship. It’s only a couple of minutes long, and it’s about another 15 minutes wait when you’re in the building. But there’s lots of Star Wars paraphernalia to amuse you while you wait including a heat detection camera.
At the end of the ride, you exit into a walkway that leads to the Galactic Pizza Port. The display above shows various robots making various foodstuffs. And even the water fountains are suitably themed!
We later went on Space Mountain, which is the roller coaster ride for which we got fast passes. It’s a roller coaster ride in pitch black darkness so you have no idea where you’re going, and so adds to the thrill (and terror!) of the ride. Prior to actually going on roller coaster rides in general, I’m not very keen — the idea of it scares me a little — but I go anyway ’cause I do so love the adrenaline rush that comes afterwards!
I initially wanted a Mickey Mouse shaped cheeseburger but the queues for that were extra crazy (the queues for everything were crazy, but this was particualrly so), so I settled on a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream sandwich (Y300). Mickey doesn’t make things taste amazing, alas!
Toontown — the place where all the Disney characters live! And also coincidentally, where all the young kids in Disneyland converge. I’m convinced everyone who wants to visit Disneyland should visit when they’re kids. Kids are less self aware and don’t seem to mind crowds. Mickey was doing a meet and greet inside his house, so the queues were upwards of 90 minutes long! Minnie was not around, but her house was open for inspection — she had the dishwasher running, an amazing number of cheeses (and only cheeses) in her fridge, and a cake baking in the oven.
There’s a pretty fountain in the middle of Toontown. Donald Duck was doing a meet and greet outside the City Hall, which faces onto the fountain. There’s also a bunch of (fake) shops in Toontown, including this bankrupt compensation law firm (the legal geek in me was quite amused). I later found out that these shops were mostly a disguise housing the absolutely huge Pooh’s Hunny Pot ride nearby.
Here’s Chip ‘n’ Dale’s tree house open for inspection, complete with acorn and cashew butter — is cashew butter possible in Real Life? There’s no Chip or Dale around, though.
I really do love the attention to detail — here’s a drain pipe that looks like red and white bendy straw, and a tree with a Mickey Mouse shape cut out of it.
Before we know it, it’s time for another parade! These photos aren’t necessarily in the order the floats came out in, but rather grouped according to theme. The top float features a giant Mickey Mouse sitting on Goofy’s shoulders with Donald Duck at the back — Mickey and Minnie Mouse are also in the basket underneath the balloons. The bottom left float various Donald Duck’s siblings and the dwarfs. And the bottom right float features Toy Story characters on a giant tricycle. I realise it’s actually difficult to tell which characters are in costume, and which are immovable parts of the the float’s design.
Produced during my teenage years, I don’t automatically associate Lilo and Stitch with Disney. But I do like Stitch — he’s so adorable in the movie.
Alice in Wonderland gets a mention. The performers carry a giant teabag that they place into the giant cup to make tea. Cute!
There’s the elephant carrying Aladdin and Jasmine, which followed the gypsy on a bike. And there’s the Disney princesses on the back of a white swan. Amusingly enough, most of the Disney princesses were Caucasian, rather than Japanese or Asian generally.
And Winnie the Pooh! I love bears, so Pooh Bear is my favourite Disney character. There’s a rather amazing ride called Pooh’s Hunny Pot in Fantasyland, which we didn’t get to go on unfortunately — it’s one of the most popular rides in the park.
There’s a special Winnie the Pooh themed popcorn cart selling honey flavoured popcorn outside the Winnie the Pooh section. D and I aren’t too keen on honey, though, so we end up trying every other flavour throughout the day — chocolate, curry, and soy sauce. The soy sauce popcorn, which was sold by a cast member in futuristic looking clothes from a futuristic looking cart, was particularly moreish after a getting accustomed to it. The chocolate popcorn, however, was from the World Bazaar area, so looked suitably Western.
And there’s the iconic Cinderella Castle, around which the Tokyo Disneyland is centered. It’s really quite beautiful and looks much taller than it actually is due to forced perspective. Underneath the castle is a shop selling various glass sculptures. At special times throughout the day, you can see someone making the sculptures from glass tubes.
We head towards Westernland to catch the Mark Twain Riverboat. It’s a real steamboat, even though it runs on a hidden track. The boat takes passengers on a scenic route around Westernland, Adventureland and Critter Country. Along the route, you see Native Americans camping in front of teepees, a cabin house on fire, as well as fake deers. The views from the boat are really quite beautiful at sunset.
We’re quite tired by now, so we hop on the Western River Railroad to catch a steam-powered train around Adventureland, Frontierland and Critter Country. I’ve never seen so many prams in my life as I have seen parked outside this attraction. Some of the kids in the queue and on the train were fast asleep so I don’t really see the point of their parents taking them on the ride. Anyway! You see some of the same fake animals seen from the steamboat here, but you also go through a primeval world with dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs before returning.
The illuminated Christmas tree and decorations in World Bazaar are particularly beautiful. Disney really knows how to create an atmosphere! A brass band dressed in white played Christmas carols are regular intervals.
The window displays outside the shops in World Bazaar are so detailed and pretty.
And of course, Cinderella Castle at night! This was taken after the Storybook illumination where images are projected onto the face of the castle to tell a story. It was really quite spectacular, especially from a technical point of view — various aspects of the facade were incorporated into the story, for example, to create the illusion of a door or a stair case.
The highlight of the evening was the Dreamlights Parade — the photos really speak for themselves. People take parades seriously in Japan — almost an hour before it began, people were already setting up camp along the path. After killing some time by visiting Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a 4D film that features scents (like pie!), vibrations and wind, we join the crowd in the cold.
Once the sun sets at Disneyland, it gets really cold due to its proximity to the ocean. We knew this from our last visit and were well prepared with our coats, but we were still surprised at actually how cold it got, especially considering how very warm it was during the day.
We stayed for the fireworks, but they seemed to be shared with Tokyo Disneysea, so they weren’t all that spectacular from where we were. So, the Dreamlights Parade was definitely the highlight!
We head back to Ueno, stopping by at First Kitchen for some dinner. Here’s a funny story: every morning since we arrived at Ueno, I had seen this sign for corn pottage potato chips. And I love corn soup, so the idea of fries dipped in corn soup sounded delicious for a cold night.
So, I show photo of the sign to the guy behind the counter, and we pay. We get the fries and D’s meal, and I’m still wondering where my corn soup is. Before I ask them about it, though, I open the bag of fries to see if they put the corn soup in with the bag. Did they? YES, THEY DID. In the form of corn pottage seasoning. It’s not what I expected, but corn pottage seasoned chips taste pretty amazing!
Of course, then, I’m too embarrassed to order another meal, and get a chicken drumstick from Circle K Sunkus afterwards.