Saturday, 28 September 2013

Trip Day 5, Disney Day 3: Park Hopping

After a night of resting, I woke up on park-hopping day still feeling quite tired, but determined to enjoy my last planned Disney day – with a big break this time! This was also an important day for me, as it was my last planned day at Disney, so this was the day that I would allow myself to actually shop! I had spent a lot of time looking around the stores, so that I had seen all of the different styles and types of item on sale, and wouldn’t therefore buy one item then find a better version later. I was fairly certain I had a good grasp of what I wanted, what I could afford to buy and what I would hold off on buying (no matter how hard it seemed!). I had my full Disney shopping budget in my wallet in cash, and was determined not to overspend it. 

I decided that I wanted to try to get on Star Tours and Pooh one last time, so Disneyland was the natural choice for the morning. I arrived at the gates around 7:45-8am, sat down in line and ate the bagel I had brought with me while planning my day. The moment they let us through the gates I was off again to the Star Tours fastpass queue, and thanks to being well-rested and knowing my way around better, I was able to get a fastpass for 10am! Wasting no time, I quickly jogged out of there and headed for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt as fast as my asthmatic body would let me. The wait was still only 5 minutes, so I was able to have one last chance on the ride that always makes me smile. I knew the lines for this would be large by the time I got off and would stay that way for the rest of the day, so I did my best to sit back, smile, and soak up everything I love about this ride to remember later.

By the time I got out of Hunny Hunt, the ride lines were decently long and the park was in full swing. Since it was my last day and I’d already done all my favourite rides once, I felt comfortable now focusing on my shopping. I went back into the shop at the end of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and had my first proper look there (there’s a door you can take to skip the shop when leaving the ride, I’d taken it or rushed through the store the other times). The shop is gorgeously decorated, simply covered in fake honey pots and honeycomb, and with Pooh related souvenirs EVERYWHERE. Pooh is a big favourite in Japan. I had a look around, but nothing truly took my fancy more than other products I had researched or seen previously, so I decided I would return and buy later if I couldn’t find better. Proud of my first attempts at frugality, I continued on.

As I left the ride and continued through Fantasyland, I noticed there was no line at all for Snow White, and the ride attendants were smiling at me and encouraging me to enter in an oh-so-cute way, so I decided I would. Snow White’s Adventures is one of the park’s older rides, so it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of technology. It does however tell a fun little story, and it serves as a fantastic reminder of how far ride technology has come when you compare it to the rest of the park. 

A WORD OF ADVICE TO PARENTS: This ride is called ‘Snow White’s Scary Adventures’ in other parks, and I feel the omission of the ‘Scary’ in this case was a mistake. [MILD SPOILER] The ride is themed around the wicked witch, who often jumps out or cackles loudly at you throughout the ride. There is also a haunted trees area that unnerves some people [END SPOILER]. The rides elsewhere toned down the scary theme of the ride a little in subsequent renovations and kept the name, whereas here the ride is in its original form and lost the scary name. In previous rides I have seen smaller children upset by the ride due to not realising it would be creepy, so please keep this in mind if you choose to ride with young children.

I managed to get my scaredy cat self through the ride and out the door in record time, emerging to see a 5 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion. Being ever the Haunted Mansion fan, I took the opportunity to give it one last ride. No matter how often I see it, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amused by the fact that the Haunted Mansion staff are the only Cast Members that don’t smile at you like it’s their birthday and YOU just took THEM to Disneyland. Everywhere else in the park you can’t escape the smiley Japanese welcome of the Cast Members, but here they all maintain a spooky deadpan. There really is little that is more amusing than watching a cute little Japanese girl with a bob cut try to convince you she really is very spooky and doesn’t at all want to smile. I enjoyed their efforts as I went through the ride, appreciating one last time the amount they clean the Tokyo version and how you can’t see the mechanisms of the ride like you can in some versions. That and, you know, giggling like a little girl at all the attempted jump scares and singing ghosts. 

That's right people - the teacups with NOBODY RIDING. Too bad I don't have a good stomach for them.

After this I wandered in to Westernland, as I realised that it was not too long until my Star Tours fastpass window, and I was right near the Big Thunder Mountain fastpass machines. Big Thunder fastpasses don’t sell out nearly as fast in Tokyo as they do in other parks as long as there is a vaguely new ride available. As most of this park’s visitors are locals, new rides will always trump rides that are good but they’ve ridden several times before. As such the Star Tours and Monsters Inc. passes were gone by this point, but lucky me could still get a reasonably timed fastpass to one of my favourite rides. To waste time until the window I wandered through some of the more unique Westernland shops checking there wasn’t anything I needed. Most of it was either stuff that I could get later at the front of the park, Toy Story toys I could get at DisneySea later if needed, and fake ‘Western’ clothing and jewellery that is not nearly as exotic to me as it is to the Japanese. So I took some pictures of Westernland for a while, nabbed my new fastpass and started heading back toward Tomorrowland.

By this point it was 10am and the Star Tours line was huge. Luckily, my fastpass meant I could skip most of that. I took a nice brisk VIP walk past all the people waiting in the standby queue. Later suckers! I waited in the small queue after the fastpass merge point, but the line moved fairly quickly and yet again I was plucked out by a Cast Member for being a single rider and skipped a large wait at the end! The ride I took this time was different than the last one, as the ride randomises each ride from a huge amount of possible scenes (no Vader this time, but many awesome planet life scenes instead). Childishly happy with my ride and thrilled with how quickly I got on, I was back in the courtyard by 10:20am. 

At this point I could ignore the siren call of Tomorrowland shopping no longer, and I was drawn over to the Monsters Inc. shop. Monsters Inc. is a favourite of mine and I have a great weakness for the merchandise. My last trip (when I had a lot more spending money) I spent about an hour in this shop, buying all sorts of things. One thing I remembered from my last trip is that this store is one of the only places in the world I’ve ever been able to find blue Monsters Inc. hard hats in adult sizes. They’ve done them for Disney on Ice shows and promotions, but usually only in the smaller sizes. Here though, it is expected that young adults in their 20s (and beyond) will want to wear ‘cute’ things, so the hats are for us too. Last time I should have bought one, but went with a warm fuzzy Minnie hat instead as it was so cold in January, and I had regretted not getting the hard hat ever since. I made a beeline straight for the hats and tried one on. For a moment, it didn’t seem to fit on my big head, and I was about to get quite sad when I realised that it was adjustable on the inside and had been adjusted too tight. Crisis averted! My giant gaijin head only just fit in the highest setting, but it fit me darn it! I proceeded to wear the adorable, but surprisingly heavy, hat around the store while I also selected a Mike Wasowski pen, hair ties with Mike and Sully plushies stuck to them, and a few other themed products. Deciding it was best to stop there before I bought one of the hats that made it look like Mike was eating your head, I checked out with the lovely Cast Member who thoughtfully asked if I wanted fragile objects like the pen and the hat wrapped in bubble wrap. 

I then made a little tour through the other Tomorrowland stores, buying a set of Disney characters as Star Wars characters notebooks for my friends back home, who are doubly amused by the concept now that Disney has bought the rights to the Star Wars films. I also picked up a badge that proudly declared I had travelled on Star Tours, and a couple of sets of 30th anniversary pens and keyrings for friends and co-workers back home. I decided I would get out of there without buying any more Disney-as-Star-Wars merchandise, despite the temptation, as I had decided that the popcorn bucket and the badge would be enough Star Tours souvenirs for me personally, and I had bought enough Star Tours stuff for others. Once upon a time deciding that and sticking to it would have been really hard for me, so I did a little victory dance outside the store and received some ‘Hee hee, silly foreigner’ looks from passing families.

I then had to head out to Guest Relations at the front of the park for several reasons. Reason number one, I had heard that you can ask them for ‘Story Papers’ and receive an envelope of nicely decorated English language fliers about the story of each ride. I had never had real story papers in previous visits, and I really wanted to see them. Reason number two was that after returning home from my last trip to this park I had realised I lost my scarf, probably leaving it at the parade after sitting on it as a blanket. Back home I wouldn’t bother going to lost and found as the first person who saw it would probably keep it themselves, but here in Japan, the land of the honest passerby and the land of heavy cultural shame at petty theft, I thought I might have a shot. Reason number three was that I had now visited all of the anniversary ‘Happiness Spots’ with my ‘Happiness Pendant’, and I knew from reading Micechat that if you visited three or more you could collect a special prize, but I couldn’t work out where or how! Reason number 4 was that I knew there were coin lockers nearby, and I was now carrying quite a few souvenirs and a heavy hat.

I found a locker for my purchases and got in line at Guest Relations. Soon enough I had a lovely Cast Member who spoke a little English ready to help me. I asked ‘Sutori Paipasu o kudasai’ and received my Story Papers easily. I then explained (with some bad Japanese/miming when needed) that I had lost my scarf two days ago. The Cast Member then pulled out a special lost property form and proceeded to help me fill it out. She got me to point on a map to where I think I lost it. She asked, in carefully thought out English, for some descriptions of the scarf. ‘Colour?’ ‘Does it have pattern? Stripey?’ ‘Fringe or no fringe?’ ‘Square shape?’ ‘What brand?’ She then had me fill out my details, and sent the card out the back for others to look at. Finally I showed her my Happiness Pendant and how it had the right number of lights etc. She pulled out one of the tags that was on the pendant when I bought it and asked where mine was. When I explained it was at home, she told me that I need the tag to redeem the prize, and showed me a little map on the tag that shows where you can collect the prize, if you can read Japanese better than I can. She then asked me to take a seat in the waiting area while they looked for my scarf. 

Sitting there, I was a little sad that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to find my tag and get my happiness medal, but I consoled myself that the ridiculous, giant Mickey face of lights that is the Happiness Pendant is a pretty good souvenir on its own. It even talks in Mickey’s voice if you push the right button, though his voice makes it nearly impossible for me to understand what he’s saying in Japanese. I also didn’t think they would find my scarf, but it wasn’t that expensive so I told myself it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if my carelessness cost me a pashmina. Lo and behold as soon as I made my peace with this, a very happy looking Cast Member came out with my form and presented me with my scarf! She then got me to sign the form to say I had received it, and I bowed and directed several ‘Arigatou gozaimasu’s at the Cast Members as I left, a grin plastered to my face. 

Walking back through the World Bazaar I took my chance to pop in to the Disney Gallery and see all the amazing concept art for the early Disney cartoons. I took a couple of pictures before a Cast Member gently informed me ‘No photo’. I felt a little guilty after that, but I can’t say I’m not happy with the pictures I now have of some of the concept boards.

The really great find in the gallery however was not the gallery at all, but the gallery shop. The shop focuses on early Disney feature films, and while I could have spent the rest of my budget in there, I was happy to come out with a little box disguised as an old Snow White book, and a card with an ornately crafted cardboard Alice in Wonderland frame as the front, allowing you to put a photo in it, or just leave it as is with its adorable artwork. 

By now it was almost time for Big Thunder Mountain, so I headed back out to Westernland, making sure to pass as many delicious smelling snack carts on my way through as I could. That smell, more than anything, reminds me of Tokyo Disneyland even years after visiting. Just before this trip, and years after the last one, I had gone to a Japanese cultural fair in my home town where a crafty booth had decided to sell ‘Tokyo Disney-style Caramel Popcorn’. Passing by that booth and smelling that smell was like being slapped in the face with memories, and it left me smiling all day.

Once I reached Big Thunder it was time for my fastpass, so I quickly climbed the queue and waited in the small merged queue section before the ride. Directly in front of me was an American family, one of the only groups of native English speakers I had seen on my trip so far. It was a father and his two children, a girl of ten or eleven, and a boy of twelve or thirteen. They had both been on the ride before, but their father hadn’t, and they spent the entire queue telling him why it wasn’t scary, but was really cool. Their father was playing hard to get and playfully insisted he wasn’t sure it was that good, prompting even more excited hyperbole from the kids. It was cute to watch, even more so when I was put in the back of their ride car. This ride is fun on its own, but was made even more so by watching these kids throw their hands in the air and turn their father into a Big Thunder convert. As we got off the ride and out the exit, it was the father excitedly talking up the ride to the kids!

After leaving Big Thunder I took my last chance to head over to Tom Sawyer Island and explore. It’s a bit of a time warp looking at this version of the island, as all the other parks have updated and upgraded theirs, whereas Tokyo Disney maintains the original (I’m sure not in small part due to the fact that the racial issues of some of the statues and ‘Injun Joe’ are completely lost on the Japanese).

I got on a raft and was ferried across to the island, using one of the English language maps at the raft stop to find my way around. I laughed with other park goers as we stumbled across the barrel bridge, climbed the rocks, and avoided the stream of water occasionally spat by a rock that looks like a skull. I quite liked exploring Fort Sam Clemens, and although lactose intolerant me could not partake of the much lauded milkshakes sold at the canteen here, I did find some immaturely amusing signs.

Heading back to the mainland I wandered over to Toontown to take some last minute photos, high fiving a few Fantasyland and Toontown characters on my way through. I also took this opportunity to do some shopping at the Five and Dime, finding a set of pens topped with Mickey in his anniversary outfit for each celebration since opening, and a set of mechanical pencils each topped with Minnie wearing the Cast Member’s uniform for each area of Disneyland and Disneysea! 

Captain Hook's hobbies include photobombing Smee. Also this is the second time this trip that Smee initiated a high five with me!

After this I had done everything I had wanted to do at the Disneyland park, and I was feeling both tired and hungry. I decided it was about time for a break, so I wandered out of the park, making sure to say my goodbyes to everything in my mind, and headed for the Becker’s near the station to try these burgers I had heard about.

That’s all for today, but please stay tuned for Day 3 Pt 2: DisneySea Again!

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