The Craziest Place and the Happiest Place on Earth

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February 24th 2007
Published: December 29th 2007
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Cinderella's CastleCinderella's CastleCinderella's Castle

I love this place
When I first arrived in Japan I taught lessons about traveling since it is my passion in life. I told my students about all the incredible places I had been and intended to go, including places like living on a boat for a week in the countryside of England, eating the best baguettes in the world in the south of France, hiking the Swiss Alps, scuba diving in Mexico, drinking Czech beer in Prague, riding a camel in Tunisia, and wandering the canals and red light district of Amsterdam. As the year went on I boasted about hiking Fuji-san, riding a bicycle to Shikoku, and my desire to harvest rice. All these amazing things did nothing for my students. I soon realized that a) leaving Japan was not high on their priority lists and b) the temples of Kyoto were about as exciting to them as riding a cable car in San Francisco was to me.

It didn’t take long to figure that the only worthwhile place to visit in Japan for Japanese, no matter what age, that EVERY Japanese person knows, loves, and wants to go to at least once in their lifetime is TOKYO DISNEYLAND. Because of the
Micky Hand HoldsMicky Hand HoldsMicky Hand Holds

Does it get much better than this?
enormous popularity of Tokyo Disneyland and the Japanese obsessions with the characters, it is one of the most visited places in the world. Since I had been to Disneyland in California, Florida, and Paris, at first Tokyo Disneyland was not on my Japanese Destinations List. In addition, I am 24! Aren’t I a little old to be going to Disneyland unless I had a younger companion in attendance? I guess I am turning more Japanese than I thought. When Nikki, Larissa and I decided to go to the JET Leavers’ conference in Yokohama at the end of February, we planned to go to Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. I told my teachers and students that I was going to Disneyland and they were so interested! I finally found out what I needed to talk about for them to listen.

The Disney obsession in Japan is quite the phenomenon. Everything revolves around Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the gang. Other cartoon characters (Pokemon, Universal Studios characters and Totoro) are also very popular, but nothing holds a candle to Disney. Every person picks a favorite. Once chosen, they load up on stuff adorning that character. One of the teachers at
Mickey WindowsMickey WindowsMickey Windows

It just got better!
my school loves Donald Duck. So, all over his desk he has Donald paper, pens, pencils, and folders. Winnie the Pooh, ie Pooh-san (my supervisor’s daughters favorite) is HUGE here. I think Japan is the only country where I will see high school students toting around Disney characters on their cell phones, bags, pencil cases, belts, shoes, and pencils, and be considered really cool. In America, doing that is a straight ticket to nerdville. Having a favorite character is very important. Again, I think I have been in Japan way too long because I myself have chosen a favorite. His name is Rilakuma, ‘Relaxing Bear.’ He is this cute little brown bear and his whole premise is to eat and sleep all day. He is my Japanese Cal Bear. His main colors are blue and yellow- coincidence? I don’t think so! He is not an actual Disney character, so maybe I am not THAT Japanese yet.

Prior to leaving for Tokyo, being the huge geek that I am, I printed out the rides and special events taking place at the two theme parks. I admit, I was ecstatic to go! Late Friday night the three of us boarded the
Disney SeaDisney SeaDisney Sea

5th Year Anniversary
shinkansen bound for Tokyo, reading up on Disneyland. Saturday morning I woke up early knowing that I was going to Tokyo Disney Sea! Larissa and Nikki bailed to go shopping (Mickey or shopping, was there a contest?) and it was Naomi and I heading out to (one of the) Happiest Places on Earth. When we stepped off the train, the atmosphere was already different, the hustle and bustle of Tokyo miles away. I have decided that no matter your age, when you come to Disneyland you can’t help but be excited. Other Japanese visitors were decked out in their Mickey gear, returning again to experience more fun. I almost had a heart attack of excitement when the monorail pulled up to take us to Sea Disney - the windows and hand-holds were in the shape of Mickey! We bought our tickets, then made a scene when I screamed entering the park, my feet barely touching the ground I was so thrilled.

Disney Sea is only found in Tokyo. It differs from Disneyland because you can drink there (hence why more adults prefer this one), and showcases some of the more recent movies. It vaguely reminded me of Epcot Center
Disney meets Middle EarthDisney meets Middle EarthDisney meets Middle Earth

We started looking for Frodo
in Florida. The numerous ‘lands’ include Mediterranean Harbor , American Waterfront, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, and the Mermaid Lagoon. Since it was winter we figured crowds would be down. The architects of this park were very clever because although it felt empty, there were lines for miles tucked away. All the really cool rides had 1-2 hour waits. We thought it was similar to U.S. Disney and that you can get as many fastpasses as possible. At Mysterious Island we quickly went to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and got a fastpass - for 4 hours later! We scurried over to Journey to the Center of the Earth to get a fast-pass there, only to be informed that we could only get one fastpass every two hours! We totally wasted our fastpass! Yet neither of us were too discouraged. Tokyo Disneyland was absolutely gorgeous and we just enjoyed wandering around to all the different places eating and taking photos.

We wandered in to Arabian Nights (by foot, no flying carpet in sight) to get a dose of Aladdin. Not wanting to wait 90 minutes to see the 3-D Magic Lamp Theater, alternatively we went on the Caravan Carousel!
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We were out of place bc we didn't have ears
It wasn’t Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, but hey, the line was only a 5 minute wait. The Imagineering Team of Disneyland is amazing. The stuff they come up with is truly a dream come true. You honestly felt like you were in another country, then quickly reminded that you are in Disneyland when a big genie pops up around the corner. Next, we went to my Disney Mecca: Mermaid Lagoon!! As a child I used to watch Ariel the Little Mermaid once or twice a day, no joke! I was elated to be there and went running into Triton’s Kingdom. It lived up to all my expectations and more. There were turquoise walls lit with jellyfish lights. They constantly played songs from the movie. I could have lived there. I want to model a room in my house after that place. I sang all the Mermaid songs to Naomi. Naomi and I went on Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster and then got some lunch at Sebastian’s Calypso Café. Surprisingly, prices were not through the roof like at most theme parks. Naomi claims the food prices in Disneyland were cheaper than in downtown Tokyo.

Another very entertaining part of Disneyland is the wide array of silly costumes that the workers are required to wear. We voted the workers at the Calypso Café in Triton’s Kingdom to be the most hideous with their mixture of classing colors and pattern. The rest of the afternoon we roamed from land to land looking for rides with short lines. If there were none, we found food to eat, photos to take, and kept our eyes peeled for a life-size Disney character for us to terrorize. All day Naomi and I would walk up to the stalls selling Mickey ears. It seems that everyone who comes to Disneyland wears ears. We tried on EVERY single pair, but at the end of the day decided that we would not buy any (but that didn’t exclude taking photos!). The Mickey earmuffs were tempting, but honestly those would not be cool outside of Disneyland unless I was a Kabe Senior High School student. Wandering through American Waterfront was great. I felt like I was home! In Port Discovery we went on Stormrider, the weather-based equivalent to Star Tours. We ran into a fellow Cal Bear who helped us get chocolate covered popcorn without waiting in the 30-minute line. We went back for the 20,000 Leagues ride and were very pleased. Although some of the rides were rather lame, we realized if we just screamed with excitement the whole time and pretended like it was the best ride ever, it really was!

I figured that if I was going to go to Tokyo for Disney, I mind as well go all out and visit Disney Sea and Land. To save some yen, we decided to only go at night to Disneyland. On Tuesday evening after the conference (yes we actually did go to parts of the conference in Yokohama) Larissa, Carolina, and I (Nikki opted out) boarded the bus bound for Disneyland! I ran through the turnstile and started singing Disney songs immediately. As I said earlier, no matter the age the moment you get there you automatically become excited. Tokyo Disneyland is EXACTLY like Disneyland in LA. Literally, without the Japanese people there it would have felt like California. I think the only difference was the Pooh-san ride at Tokyo Disneyland.

While at the park the 3 of us acted like we were 10 again. We caved and bought Minnie Ears to wear
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Where you can find my heat throb Indy
the entire evening. We stopped in Tomorrowland for a Mickey-shaped hamburger and Mickey Nuggets. Then we headed to Tune Town for some Mickey-shaped Pizza. It honestly tasted better because it was in the shape of Mickey. Since it was night, a weekday, and winter, lines were shorter. For nostalgic reasons, we went on It’s a Small World. That was the first ride I ever went on at Disneyland. We also went on the teacups and braved the Haunted House. Many of the cooler riders were closed for repair. Our last ride was the Jungle Safari, which actually turned out to be way cooler at night! As the park was closing we went and gazed at the Cinderella Castle, dancing along to the princess songs playing around us, pretending I was Cinderella. On the way out we were sucked into a souvenir store and bought Mickey keychains to go on our cell phones.

What can I say, I am sold. I see why Japanese people love Disneyland and going there just makes you so happy!

The last day up in the Tokyo area I went to Hakone, famous for its incredible views of Mt. Fuji. It was a very
Arabian NightsArabian NightsArabian Nights

For a moment I thought I was in India
beautiful day and Mt Fuji looked amazing. I loved looking at it from a distance thinking to myself ‘I have hiked you TWICE!’ Due to my time restraint I did not have time to do the whole Hakone Tourist circuit including a gondola, museums, buses, a huge pirate ship and some temples. Instead I just wandered around the town enjoying the beautiful day. I was late returning to Tokyo and found myself running through the station to make my train- this seems to be a constant theme when I come to Tokyo. I made it and relaxed for the 4 hours home to Hiroshima.

Hakone, Yokohama, and Tokyo were great, but Disneyland and Disney Sea were the definite highlights. They truly are the happiest places on Earth. I have been to both Disneys, Space World, and Universal Studios Japan. That’s more theme parks than I have gone to in America! All I have left to visit is Hello Kitty Land!

Additional photos below
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Magic Rope

Naomi found a friend
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Mermaid Lagoon

Ariel's got nothing on me!
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Triton's Kingdom

This was my FAVORITE!!!

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