Day seven -Harajuku, Nippori, Shinjuku

Today was better than yesterday by a measure of leagues. Is that a phrase I can use? I had a very big beer at dinner and it seems like that’s a fine sentence. Anyway, Anna and I both woke up feeling much better and we had a bit of a sleep in and then another breakfast at Doutor. Then we went to Harajuku again.

It was instantly nicer, quieter and less loud all round. We went to Bic Camera and I used my google translate to ask about three into two prong plug converters again. This time I was able to purchase one! Very exciting all round.

We headed then to the Mame Shiba cafe, and booked a time for about an hour later. In that time, something truly magical happened. I found gorgeous boots that fit me, in Harajuku. Look at these glorious beasts:

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Unfortunately this meant we had to carry them for the rest of the day but BOOTS! ❤ ❤

also Anna became a Sanrio character, as she was always supposed to be and we went to Kiddy Land which is a multi-storey toy shop. Kiddy Land may have been a mistake as we went a bit too far from the Shiba cafe and were a bit late back but it all worked out all right.

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The mameshiba cafe is a newish addition to Takeshita St and is quite busy as a result. You’re only allowed a half hour with the doggos.

The Mameshiba cafe is called that because all the dogs are the Mameshiba breed: smaller than regular Shiba Inu. They’re very cute, and all seem pretty chilled out about the whole situation. The room is a tatami floored space with high shelves for your bags to keep them out of the dog’s way. There’s lots of low tables and one shiba was having a nice nap under there when we came out.

The dogs were active, investigating everyone, having scraps with each other, pursuing a particularly in demand pink rubber bone and accepting pats. I made particular friends with a little black one who let me rub his jaw and then promptly rested his face in my hand and went back to sleep with me supporting the weight of his head. I nearly died from the cuteness.

In lieu of lunch we had the Harajuku special, gigantic rainbow candyfloss. Last time we tried this we only got the three colours, aka small. Yesterday I lost my head and went for the large five colour option. It was really, really good. Each colour is a distinctive flavour, and the purple grape and green melon were particularly tasty. It was just… a lot of sugar. We probably should have had an actual lunch.

Then we were back on the Yamanote line to get to Nippori Textile Town, which is a part of Tokyo with a whole lot of fabric stores. I’ve been wanting to go fabric shopping in Japan since my first visit in 2012 but it’s always been an easy thing to put off. Not this time! I was determined.

Nippori is a fair distance from our usual stomping grounds of Shinjuku and Harajuku, it was on the direct opposite side of the Yamanote loop which meant about a half hour train ride. However once you arrive in Nippori it’s very easy to track down the fabric stores.

I’d done my research and I knew which shop I wanted: a massive store called Tomato, which as it turns out, is over five different locations on the same street. We looked in a couple of them, whole stores dedicated to braids and notions and buttons, or just knit fabrics, or just fancy brocades, and went to the big five storey one with patchwork fabrics on the top two floors. Hooooo boy.

The top floor had the generic patchwork fabric, similar to the kinds of things I can get back home, lots of US imports. They had fat quarters for 150 yen which is just a bit over $2NZ, back home a fat quarter would generally be $5-7 unless on sale. So I grabbed a few, and some special shiny fabric Japanese ones with Shiba inus and such on them.

The fourth floor was racks and racks of gorgeousness, and Anna obligingly offered to carry the bolts I picked out for me as I chose. I picked up a lot of lovely Japanese prints and some character stuff as well. It turned out the character stuff was on sale, so I could have picked more pikachus maybe… but I can get pikachu fabric back home so I didn’t. All up it was quite a haul and heavy to bring back on the train.

We went straight for dinner instead of going back to the hotel, dumping shopping and going out again (it just seemed easier to get it all done, plus we were both hungry from missing lunch.) Anna had researched some good nearby sushi places, the first one we tried was under renovations but the second one was open (Itamae sushi) and had tables free. I had a massive beer, Anna got her first plum wine of the trip and we had some exceptional food. I had the salmon, crab and minced raw fish bowl and Anna had one of the nigiri platters. We also got salad, octopus and prawn miso. It was freaking delicious.

Then we went back to the hotel room and crashed out. It was a very good day.

Day six – Shinjuku, Harajuku

It feels weird to stay in a hotel which is just a hotel. The walls here are plain beige, there’s no hidden Mickeys to spot. The room is nice enough but it’s not the ridiculous level of luxury we had in the Disneyland hotel. When we walk out of the lobby there’s no Disney music playing, and there aren’t copious amounts of staff wishing us a good morning or waving at us with Mickey gloves or Disney plushies.

It’s amazing what you can get used to.

We had a slow start to the day Sunday, because Anna woke up in pain and needing painkillers and to sleep it off. I used the time to catch up on blogging and have a nice birthday morning bath.

We went to Doutor for breakfast, which has been my favourite breakfast spot in Japan since 2012. It’s a chain coffee shop, which prides itself on imported coffee. I’m not a coffee or caffeine drinker but they do a delicious, rich and not too sweet hot cocoa which is the stuff of dreams. The food is Western/Italian inspired. Lots of baked goods, sandwiches and pastries. Anna and I both had filled rolls and split an order of cheese toast. The cheese toast is delicious and may be all I eat for breakfast from here on in.

After doubling back to the hotel to pick up our rail pass vouchers we located the ticket office. This was a roundabout trip because they’ve split off the JR rail pass ticket exchange from the main ticket counter, but we happen to be staying very close to the offices we needed so it wasn’t too much of a drama.

The JR pass allows us to ride a bunch of the shinkansen (bullet trains) for free and most local rail as well. It’s super convenient and only available for tourists, so we had to show our passports. The system is very streamlined though, you join the queue and a staff member checks your vouchers, then gives you a form on a clipboard to fill in while you queue. She then checked we’d filled it all out correctly, so by the time we reached the front of the line everything was in order and the desk staff just had to issue the passes proper. It seems so obvious to have this level of service, a staff member checking on you as you wait, but I can’t think of a single place it happens back home.

Newly minted rail passes in hand we went into the station for our first trip on our beloved Yamanote line. The Yamanote line is a big circle which travels through main suburbs of Tokyo and we caught it a lot last time.

We got off at Harajuku and headed to Takeshita St. There’s some construction happening so things looked a little different on the approach. It turns out that Sundays at Harajuku are very, very busy. We hit a couple of favourite spots: Paris Kids for cheap jewellery and accessories, Daiso, a sock shop and wandered up looking for our favourite sushi place, Sushi-nova. Unfortunately it has shut down permanently 😦

Then we looked at some fantastic shoes, just gorgeous things and all relatively cheap, just to realise that they don’t make them quite big enough for us. I could get my feet in the glorious shiny hidden wedge sneakers, but only just. As I put my foot down I could already feel the squeeze, there’s no way I could walk in them comfortably for any length of time. It’s very sad. Plus there’s all this gorgeous fashion, a lot of it which Anna would love to own but it’s all sized to tiny Japanese teenagers. It’s quite alienating in a way. You can look at all the beautiful things, you can buy them, but you can’t wear them.

We found the shiba cafe I’d read about, but the return time on it was hours away. We found the gigantic rainbow candy floss place, and it had a huge line out the door. Plus the street, which is always pretty busy, was packed and mostly with tourists who weren’t picking up on the etiquette. The flow towards the train station/up the street is on the left and the flow down the street/away from the station is on the right. If you try and battle against the flow it doesn’t work. If you stop in a group and spread several metres into the flow to work out what you’re doing next, it messes the flow up. It was all very annoying.

Around the time we realised we couldn’t get into the shiba cafe right away I just kind of broke. Combination of PMS, exhaustion, disappointment and a little child me inside saying ‘but it’s my birthday!’ all welled up and I just started weeping. I’m sure part of this is also missing Disney, and being sad that Harajuku wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be, and being away from home on my birthday. This is pretty embarrassing to write about, but the fact is that it happened, and I like to be honest about this stuff. I just started crying and Anna took us to a cat cafe where I calmed down some.

The Mocha cat cafe is one floor up at the top of the street, and the street slopes up so you can see quite a lot of the crowd from inside, and you can see the fluffy cat butts from the street.

It’s a really, really nice place. The rooms are spacious and quiet and vaguely Alice in Wonderland themed without using any of the trademarked material. The walls are dotted with cat platforms at various heights and little cubbies the cats can go to when they don’t want interaction. There were water fountains around the room, and lots of chilled out cats. They limit how many people can go in at a time, so when people come out someone new can go in. They also offer unlimited drinks from two huge vending machines. It had been a cold morning but it really warmed up while we were in Harajuku so I had two green melon fantas and an orange soda and still felt a little thirsty.

The cats were all exceptionally fluffy and very relaxed. They were playful, some of them very happy to chase the teaser toys provided, or nudge up against you or as one cat did to Anna, spend a while sniffing your feet. They had a few different breeds as well and we made friends with a squash nosed munchkin ginger. It was a nice place to chill out.

We headed back to Shinjuku on the train and it happened again, I was weeping. It just leaked out of me and I couldn’t stop it. Back in the hotel room I just let it happen and Anna reassured me that it actually made sense. I hadn’t thought of it in these terms but it was the first day we’d had in months where we didn’t have to do something. There wasn’t a schedule, I didn’t have to pack up or organise or be somewhere, we were just doing things as they happened. My mind was given a chance to relax, and all the stress and the emotions were coming out.

I felt a lot better after that, and decided to treat the rest of the day as a sick day. We sat in bed, drank sodas and juices and ate snacks and watched Brooklyn 99 which has apparently become comfort TV for me. After a couple hours of that I felt much, much better. We got laundry done and then I realised what I really wanted to do: visit Tokyu Hands and UniQlo

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Conveniently, we’re staying about five minutes from a huge up market department store called Takashimaya Times Square, which includes a Tokyu Hands and a Uni Qlo.

What is Tokyu Hands? It’s a huge home and craft themed department stores. There’s a floor for kitchen including bento supplies, waffle makers, chopsticks and baking ware. There’s a floor for leather working and tools, there’s a floor for cards and gifts (we picked up some delightful Studio Ghibli mini jigsaws) and a whole entire floor of diaries, pens, stickers, washi tape and other stationary. That last floor was what got us. We spent quite a lot there. It was so much fun. They had all the 2019 diaries out, so there weren’t so many notebooks as there were last time, but we picked up … enough things. We found a wedding album designed to take instax sized photos, which is perfect because we had all our guests take photos of themselves with my instax, so we have a stack of pictures to store. They had a whole bullet journal section and Anna’s eyeing up a new one for next year, I’m considering trying it out, because with all the stickers etc it actually seems feasible for me.

We headed to UniQlo which is a clothing store which I adore. This one wasn’t a huge one, and I need a huge one, but it still had some gorgeous things. I tried on a rather fancy blazer which I’m thinking about. There were some very cute baby things and wool sweaters. They always have a Disney range as well, and usually some art and artist t shirts. This store didn’t seem to have them, so we’ll have to check out another one. Or maybe I’ll just wait until Osaka when we’re staying by the giant one … we didn’t buy anything there as we didn’t have our passports and you can get tax write off as a foreigner, but I’m keen to go back and check out some things.

After that it was a stroll back to the hotel, sort out hanging the still slightly damp laundry and another relaxing netflix and snacks evening.

Overall it wasn’t my best birthday ever, but it ended just fine. We’re here for a long time so that we can have restful days, I tried to fight it a bit, but I did need the rest.

Day five – Disney resort to Shinjuku

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We had a couple of rides we hadn’t done yet, and a couple we wanted to do again. One of those was Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. I mentioned the other day that it’s unique to Tokyo Disney, but I don’t think I said how popular it is. On Wednesday we got on the ride okay because the park wasn’t too busy. Weekends are a different beast. If we wanted to ride Pooh’s again, we had to get into the park as early as possible and join the crowd waiting to get to the ride.

Because we had to check out and drop off our bags for storage we didn’t get in on our early entry tickets the way we did the other day. In fact we went around the long way to get to the early entry zone but went in just at the same time everyone else did. That meant there was already a massive crowd of people surging forward, and most of them had the same goal as us: Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. But some of them had other plans, some went to Monsters Inc Ride and Go seek and a whole lot went to stake out a good space for the parades, a few hours early. Parade space is highly prized, people will spread out a mat or a blanket and sit there for hours.

They opened the line for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt at 8am, people ran towards the ride and we had to make the quick choice between fast pass and standby. We went fast pass. Standby just means you wait in the line. In 8 minutes the return time for fast pass went up an hour and the standby line went from nothing to 50 minutes. The Japanese Disney crowd really loves Pooh Bear. We got a return time of 10.10, which all things considered wasn’t too bad, we were relatively near the front of the fast pass queue despite not running.

Those secured we went to ride Peter Pan’s Flight which generally has a twenty minute or more wait time on it, and has no fast pass option. Neither of us have ridden it before so it was quite exciting, the wait time was 15 mins that early and it was a quick enough wait. The ride is very sweet, you get into a little pirate ship and fly out of the Darlings’ bedroom, over London and through the stars to Neverland. There you see some animatronics acting out bits of the movie and Peter stealing Captain Hook’s ship to save his friends. It’s very charming, but it’s over very fast. I’m glad we did it but I don’t think I’d queue for it again.

We had the closest food option for breakfast: Pizza, grape drink and cheesy potato bites. I chose the seafood pizza and it was probably the best seafood pizza I’ve had in years. Maybe I was hungry which helped, but the crust was good and crisp and the seafood delicious.

We made a plan for gentle things to do we were both interested in: ride the Western River Railroad, Jungle Cruise, maybe Pirates again, while we waited for Pooh to be ready for us. We did the Jungle Cruise first.

I have a lot of love for that ride based on an old viewmaster reel I had of it. We had a whole set of Disneyland themed reels and one entire one was the river cruise. As a kid I didn’t understand that the animals weren’t real and that the skipper of the cruise boat hadn’t really fired a gun to ward off the hippos. As an adult, it’s all pretty clear, but if you commit to the ride, it’s a lot of fun. Of course it’s all in Japanese. Our skipper specifically asked us to sit up the front and at one point she interacted with me. I think the basic context of it was this: we were passing under the waterfall, and she gestured to the seats on the waterfall side and said ‘you’ll have a good view of the falls’, she gestured to the other side ‘you’ll have a good view of… this rock wall’ and then she gestured to the centre where we were sitting and said… something. Then she said something I have to assume was ‘you don’t understand anything do you?’ so I shrugged and shook my head and everyone in the boat laughed. It was kind of inevitable and I was happy to play along. It is a little annoying though, we learned enough Japanese that I can recognise some words in a sentence but not all of them. I can parse what someone said to me with time, maybe a few minutes, but not in the moment. I’m hoping it’ll get better over the trip!

One point of note about the Jungle River cruise, if you ever see a cute animals photo collection or some internet cuteness pictures passing this off as a real elephant? It’s not, it’s a sculptured robot from the Disney cruise.

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The Western River Railroad is right above the cruise entry so we hopped aboard the train for some casual racism and a nice sit down. It’s a ride which follows the course of the ‘Rivers of America’, which is populated by statues of Native Americans in various situations: waving at the train, learning off elders and hunting statues of deer. It feels quite uncomfortable to a modern eye. Similarly to the wench auction in Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s something that was designed in the fifties and probably should’ve been left there.

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Mark Twain paddle steamer with Big Thunder Mountain in the background

However we did get some nice views of the park from the railroad, and when we went into a tunnel we unexpectedly traveled through time and saw dinosaurs. Didn’t expect that at all!

We had enough time to get across the park and get into the fast pass lane for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. It’s a very charming ride, and we had a different experience to last time with our honeypot moving into different areas of parts of the story. We got a better look at Kanga and Roo, and in the weird Heffalumps and Woozles sequence, we went to a different mirror. I was glad we got to ride it again.When we got in the fast pass lane at 10.10 am the fast passes had sold out for the day, the park closes at 10pm. The standby queue was at 160 minutes. It’s a good ride, but I’m not sure it’s worth that wait!

We didn’t have much else to do at Disneyland, but it had got chill enough that I wasn’t warm enough in just a t shirt, for the first time since we landed I got cold! I had seen a cute and relatively plain hoodie at the store so we battled through the crowds and I got a warm fleece hoodie.

We took the monorail with the intention of stopping off at Ikspiari mall for some early lunch while we waited for Fortress Explorations to open at Disneysea. However for some reason or monorail stopped at Disneysea and everyone was ordered off, so we went in since we were there.

We knew there was a huge wait time or distant return time for our favourite rides, so we went to a villain’s world show in the square and then checked out Fortress Explorations. The villain’s show is… almost a fashion show? This was the minions one, where original characters who are minions of the villains from the movies appear and try to recruit people to the dark side from the audience. It was all in Japanese of course, but you don’t need to understand the language to get the idea. The minions are all exceptionally good looking people, and their costumes are stunning. Example pics from a few years back, we couldn’t get close enough for good pictures, really. There were six of them out, we had Frollo girl Bell (Hunchback of Notre Dame), Hook (Peter Pan), Malefi (Sleeping Beauty), Hades (Hercules), Ursula boy (Little Mermaid) and Dalmation boy (10` Dalmatians). There’s others which must come out at other times.

My favourites were the Cruella de Vil boy and the Frollo girl (big hat, not Hook). Anna loved Hook and the idea if not the execution of Ursula boy.

Our feet were sore from standing so we went for the closest food again, and had a terikyaki chicken roll, which was kind of weird and kind of delicious. It was raining by this point, but it hadn’t noticeably thinned the crowds. Everyone just got out their umbrellas and continued on.

We spent some time in Fortress Explorations, I sailed a little boat for a bit, and we happened to be in the alchemy lab at the time a Japanese kid brought in an interactive DaVinci Challenge map and activated special effects in the room. it was super cool. The map has a special watermark which when placed on a panel starts up an animation of DaVinci in the map and gives instructions of ways to interact with the room. The room lights up and shows details and it was really cool.

My favourite room though was the planets one which was a sort of manual orrery where you could turn a crank to move one of the planets around the sun. Absolutely gorgeous design.

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nice view from the fortress

Well exhausted by this point we left the parks, and hit Ikspiari, which is a great big mall in between the Disney parks. The idea was to get lunch but by this point we were both slightly losing it. Anna was so tired (and her feet so sore) she couldn’t make a decision about what to eat. We chose Pie Face and I got her to go sit down and got her a mince pie and a grapetiser (probably the most kiwi meal she’ll have in a while) and I had chicken and mushroom pie and appletiser. She felt better with the rest and the food, but over the meal the noise in the place started to make me really anxious and my stomach knotted up into a solid lump. Anna took charge of getting us back to the hotel to pick up our bags.

We agreed that a taxi straight to the next hotel would be worth the money. Otherwise it was at least two trains and navigating Shinjuku station and neither of us felt up to it. Sometimes you have to be easy on yourself and pay a little extra, especially after four days of 20k+ steps.

Our taxi delivered us to Shinjuku and our home for the next four nights: Hotel Sunroute. I had a bit of a tired meltdown and napped, then we went to the Family Mart over the road, bought an array of snacks and foods and settled in for a quiet night in our room. We watched netflix, ate and drank and rested. It wasn’t a very glamorous way to spend our ‘one week since we got married’ anniversary, but it was definitely what we needed.

Real talk on emotions and struggles:

Taking care of each other isn’t always easy to do, especially when you’re exhausted yourself from the same things that your partner is exhausted by. But it’s always worth it, I’ve found. I could’ve got annoyed with Anna for not knowing what pie she wanted, and made a thing of it, and had a fight, but instead I chose to be helpful. I sent her to sit down, knowing the kind of thing she likes to eat. I could do that for her, I could be of service to her in a time of need. I could show my love for her by navigating the foreign language and trying to understand the way the restaurant worked and bringing her food and drink. Then, when I said to her ‘the noise is starting to freak me out’ later on, she returned the favour and got us out of there, rubbed my back and said soothing things so I didn’t just break down in panic.

Travel is hard, especially when you’re in a country where you don’t know the language, but we chose to strengthen our relationship instead of adding more stress. We showed our love by looking out for each other.

This honeymoon is going really well ❤

 

Day four part 2

We had a really good rest in the afternoon, and we needed it. But heading back into Disneyland on Friday night we got a fair bit done! We went back in for dinner and our Big Thunder Mountain Railroad fast passes.

I was impressed with how different the ride was at night. Various parts of the surroundings were lit up. The railroad is surrounded by a pretty full on faux American West mine and mountain. There’s a bit where you go past stalactites, another when you race under a tree with oposums on it, or wolves whose howls follow you as you zoom back into the mine. At night there’s an extra bit with bats in the mouth of one of the caves.

We had another example of how Disney goes the extra mile to make each experience a little unique when we went onto the Star Wars ride again. It had a very short wait time so we figured we might as well.  The ride is a motion master, and they have six different rooms for it. In the evening we went into a different room and as it turned out, a different experience. On Friday morning the ride featured us being chased by Darth Vader, crash landing on Naboo and almost getting eaten by a sea monster. The ride on Friday night seemed to be Last Jedi inspired, as Kylo Ren intercepted us on take off with a huge army of stormtroopers. We skimmed over the surface of the planet with the ice foxes, got caught up in a battle, Poe Dameron talked us through a dog fight in orbit and it ended with us apparently joining the resistance. It was awesome!

The park restaurants were pretty busy but we found space at Grandma Sara’s Kitchen. It’s designed to be home-style cooking, and make you feel like one of the critters off the Splash Mountain story. I had the seasonal set and the highlights for me where the potatoes and the apple/cinnamon crumb cake. Holy crow that cake was delicious.

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We also got on Buzz Lightyear with our fast passes from when the system had broken down. It’s a fun ride, you get in a little ‘toy’ spaceship with a gun on front. You move through various animatronics of space aliens and robots. The story is that you’re helping Buzz Lightyear defeat his nemesis Zurg. The animatronics have targets on them and if you hit them in the centre with your laser gun you get points. Some targets are worth considerably more than others and they’re much more difficult to hit. I managed to get a couple of the 10,000 point targets so I was feeling pretty smug.

Pirates of the Caribbean also had a short wait time so we rode that again which was very enjoyable. We came out of Pirates in time to see most of the Castle Projection night show which was very impressive. It has themed sequences for most of the big rides, and it was fun to spot them. Also it’s the classic combination of lights, animation, fireworks, music and special effects which made Fantasmic so impressive.

We went back to the hotel via the store so I could get the Mickey rainbow t shirt. I love my Donald one so much I just had to have another one!

The schedule we kept, going into the parks early and going hard while it’s relatively quiet, then heading back to the hotel to rest in the afternoon, then heading back to the park after dark really worked for us. We got to do a lot of rides early in the morning and late at night, and work the fast pass system as best we could. We could prioritise different things each day, so I definitely recommend staying close enough to the park so that you can duck in and out.


A little word on Japanese toilets..

Most of them have built in bidets. They come in a lot of different brands, but generally all are built into the toilet with a control panel on the side.

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You can control where the water is aimed, what temperature it is and how much water is coming at you. It’s a little intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, but the stop button is generally red and has a little square, so it’s easy enough to stop whatever’s going on.

The options change a lot depending on how fancy the installation is. Some have seat warmers, some have little sound effects like running water noises so you don’t have to feel awkward about any noises you make. The extremely fancy ones have blow driers so you don’t have to touch anything down there at all.

It’s amazing how much cleaner you feel after using the washlet. Anna and I have agreed that one of the first things we do whenever we get our own house is have these installed on the toilets.

 

Day four – Disneyland again

We had a bit of a sleep in today, we weren’t at the park for opening and we had breakfast in our hotel room! I also used google translate to ask for a three into two prong plug converter so that I can charge my laptop and make these updates, as the fancy ‘all countries’ plug converter I bought isn’t the right voltage to support the laptop.

Today we didn’t Disneybound, but wore our new rainbow duck shirts and Halloween ear hats. They’re very photogenic I feel.

We spent most of the morning in Tomorrowland, where we rode Star Tours and Space Mountain. It was also the morning of character themed food, we ate Mickey chicken  nuggets, and then went to Sweetheart cafe for various themed pastries. It was all ridiculously tasty. The nuggets had a crispness to the batter and the interior tasted like real pieces of tender, juicy chicken rather than the chicken mince I’m used to. The pastries were all perfect, fresh and light.

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Apple and Walnut Mickey muffin, dark cherry Danish and grape jelly dessert.

We had fast passes for Buzz Lightyear’s astro blasters, but the system was down when we went to redeem them so we didn’t ride it. We were assured we could ride it later in the day, so that’s tonight’s challenge.

We went on the haunted mansion again, which was still excellent. Alice’s tea cup ride, where I discovered my beloved REALLY LOVES speed. For those who haven’t ridden this iconic ride, you get into a tea cup, which whirls around a giant teapot. It’s quite spinny to start with. But each cup has a steering wheel in the middle, which you can turn to increase the spinning velocity of your particular cup. It goes very, very fast if you make it. The both of us were laughing hysterically, forced into the edge of the cup by the centrifugal force and the world around us was a literal blur. When the cup finally slowed down I could feel how dizzy I was, even though the ride was still going and we were still whirling around.

The park was noticeably busier today, it being Friday and a lot of Japanese people here for the weekend. It was harder to get around and the waits for a lot of rides were longer. Besides that, third day at Disney and we’re more tired and our feet more sore. I had a brilliantly restful sleep last night but Anna didn’t have that luxury, so we took things a little slower and didn’t try to do too much.

The Halloween costumes on the guests continue to be amazing. Lots of excellent couple and group costumes, and some princesses so good we’re not sure if they’re the real deal or guests. You have to look for handlers to be sure.

After the haunted mansion we caught most of the Dreaming Up! parade, which I was glad to see again. It’s a beautiful parade and the costumes are all a bit next level. The weather was also on the verge of packing it in, so I got quite a nice atomospheric shot…

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Ever since I read about them being a special anniversary thing, I knew I had to have the duck butt ice cream. Today Anna made it happen for me, and lo, the duck butt was delicious. It’s a nut and chocolate chip vanilla ice cream scoop with a powdering of chocolate underneath and a ‘chocolate crunch’ bar, which seems to be like chocolate covered rice bubbles and was very, very good.

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We went back to the hotel for a rest and to avoid the crowds, and checked into the Alice in Wonderland room. It’s another beautiful and fully themed room, this time with a couch instead of a day bed.

Then we both napped, because three days at the theme parks is pretty exhausting.

Quick notes about some of the Disney magic we’ve seen:

  • A member of the cleaning staff with some kind of magical sound effect machine in his wheelie bin, making boing and bing and whoosh noises to match up with the mime interactions he did with guests
  • Two members of the cleaning staff having an impromptu breakdance party
  • Leaves raked into the shape of a Mickey head
  • A cast member comforting a lost child, giving them a sticker and letting them play with her ID while on her headset to report the child lost
  • Cast members praising people in great costumes and giving them prizes. (We’re not sure but guesses include fast passes, priority seating to shows and day passes to the park.)

Also the return to the park hand stamp is invisible except for under UV light. I’m paranoid I’m going to wash it off, but this morning I saw my one from yesterday while we were on space mountain so they must be very cleverly done.

Day three part 2 – Disneysea at night

I read somewhere that people refer to Disneysea as ‘what Disney imagineers could do with unlimited resources’. We got a little gimpse of that last night when we had a quick look through Fortress Explorations, had dinner at Magellan’s and then saw the Fantasmic night show.

Fortress Explorations is a science based experience next to Magellan’s restaurant. It features a bunch of beautiful interconnected rooms with things like pendulums or little boats you can sail, or an anamorphic painting and viewing dome. We didn’t have a lot of time to check it out, but what we saw was gorgeous. It’s all based around a made up organisation called Society of Explorers and Adventurers (or SEA), and between that, Magellan’s and our steampunk inspired outfits it was an epic night.

Magellan’s is designed to make you feel like one of the members of SEA, and it’s exquisitely detailed. The central piece is the globe, which is just stunning. Above it, a map of constellations in the dome, all gorgeously painted. The food at Magellan’s is fine dining, we chose the Pacific course menu (Anna pointed out the irony of coming all the way to Japan to eat ‘pacific’ food, but we both wanted the lobster…) 20181011_192416

We had entree, salad or soup, the main (lobster shown above) and a dessert, and although each course looked small it was all really filling. Also there was unlimited bread which was warm and delicious and I had to hold myself back from eating too much of. It was all very European, but I figure once we’re in Tokyo proper we’ll really get into Japanese food. Magellan’s was a lovely experience, lots of attentive servers, great food and gorgeous surroundings. It was also the first fancy meal Anna and I have had out together since we got married, so that was nice, too.

We finished up at Magellan’s just in time to nab a spot down by the water for Fantasmic. Fantasmic is a water show, featuring boats and floats and shooting water and special effects all set to music. We were sort of behind it, at Fortress Explorations, but it was still mind blowing and breath taking. There’s a snake boat, giant bubble balloons with animations playing on them, projections onto sheets of mist and a literal fire breathing dragon. It was aces, and I was all set to head to it again tomorrow for a better view but Disneysea is closing at 6.30 Friday for some reason. Sad panda face 😦

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Also the volcano erupts sporadically throughout the day and I got a great view of it during Fantasmic. The ride Journey to the Center of the Earth comes out just to the left of the bottom of the cone and then goes right back in.

After Fantasmic I dropped a little money on accessories for my Duffy Bear and Gelatoni Cat and we went on Aquatopia again. It’s very lovely at night, cool breeze, pretty lights in the water and just very atmospheric. After that we went on Nemo and Friends Searider, which is a new ride since we last visited and was very fun. It’s a motion master styled ride, based on the story that you are helping a scientific investigation by loading into a fish shaped vessel and being shrunk down to fish size. There was a great demonstration of the shrinking technology before we went into the vessel, it was very realistic. Once the ride starts you’re ‘launched into the water’ where you promptly meet Dory, Marlin, Nemo and friends. It’s a charming experience, and the ride had little screens along the sides which had animation as well. We really enjoyed it.

After that it was time for another ride on Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was a lot of fun but the ride broke down for a couple of minutes just before we got to the scary/fast bit, so it felt somewhat disjointed. I did have the fortitude to look to the side as we shot out of the volcano and got a fleeting yet gorgeous view of the harbour and all the lights of Disneysea.

Exhausted, we wandered back to the monorail and our room. A hot bath to soothe the muscles and then bed.

Day three – Disneysea

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Another early start, and a much less cheery/excited one as we’re both still in physical pain from the big day yesterday.

After the rest when I updated this blog, we went back to the park for the night parade, some more shopping, and a wander around looking at the lights and seeing if we could get on any rides quickly. The night parade and fireworks were amazing, but we both felt too tired to stay another hour for the projection show, so that’s tomorrow night’s mission.

I slept okay in the Tinkerbell bed, but my body had a lot of things to tell me about the hours of walking and standing and the various ways it’d been thrown around on rides. I woke up at two am ish with no way to get comfortable as whichever way I lay something hurt. Lesson learned: last night I didn’t have a bath before bed, so my muscles weren’t forced to relax. Will not make that mistake again!

So today we got up, got into our Disneybound gears (Ariel for Anna and Prince Erik for me), and we navigated the Disney Resort Monorail and got to Disneysea. One of the many benefits of staying in a Disney hotel is free monorail passes, so when you get to the park to use your early entry you don’t even have to pay. I guess it’s probably covered in the room rate, but whatever, it feels nice. The monorail, like most things around here is very in theme.

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Where Disneyland is a pretty close copy of Anaheim Disneyland, Disneysea is a different beast. it’s an immersive park designed to make you feel you are in different worlds. The worlds include a Mediterranean harbour, a New England American waterfront, a mythic Arabian inspired Agrabah, a Mermaid Lagoon and some steampunk inspired zones called The Mysterious Island and a gigantic volcano forming the centre of the park. The volcano goes off every now and then, with booming, smoke and fire plumes.

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Last time we’d visited Disneysea we didn’t quite do it ‘right’. We didn’t research before going and we missed some entire zones. This time I researched the crap out of the park and we went in with something of a plan. We’d missed the most popular ride in the park last time: Toy Story Midway Mania, which is a game ride, you get in a little carriage with a toy gun loaded on it. The ride takes you through various passageways where you fire at targets and a running total is kept of how much you’ve hit.

As soon as the park opened we followed the crowd of early entry guests directly to this ride in the American/New York zone. It was only a ten minute wait so we decided to skip the fast pass and just get on the ride. It was a lot of fun, and the ride’s theming is beautiful, lots of gigantic toys and furniture to make you feel like you’re tiny. We liked it, especially the game aspect (Anna won points wise, although I had a better hit rate), but I’m not sure I’m desperate to ride it again. It’s not in my top ten rides, let’s put it that way. But I’m glad we experienced it.

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After that we had an American hot dog for the first part of breakfast and headed to my favourite ride at Disneysea: Journey to the Center of the Earth. It’s heavily steampunk inspired. We had about an hour until the fast pass return time, so we went on 20,000 leagues under the sea which is another excellent steampunk ride. Predictably, you get in a little submarine pod and go under the sea, you’re attacked by a kraken and then rescured by alien-esque Atlanteans. It’s pretty neat! After that we had a special Halloween food item, the Queen of Hearts sausage gyoza bun. It was… very strange. I liked the bun part very much, it tasted like a bao bun, but the filling was an oddly crunchy sausage mince and I don’t really understand what the flavour was. Anyway, we tried it!

Before riding Journey we made a dinner booking at Magellan’s, which is a fancy, mostly hidden restaurant overlooking the harbour at the base of the volcano. Looking forward to trying it out tonight!

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is another miracle of immersion. The line ( which you race through with a fast pass) sets the scene: a mining operation deep into the Earth in some kind steampunk world. You get into an elevator down to the start of the ride, and the elevator is designed to appear rickety, and make loud, disturbing noises and blow air at you. Then you get off into a place cluttered with boxes and crates and are loaded into a weird drilling bulldozer looking vehicle. The ride starts out beautifully with crystal caves and large, strange funguses but quickly turns to disaster as you get deeper and deeper into the Earth. I won’t spoil the ride but it goes from lovely and slow to a fast roller coaster through the dark and you shoot out the top of the volcano. It’s absolutely brilliant and very thrilling.

Then we went over to the Lost River Delta and booked fast passes for Indiana Jones, which is (as I understand it) very similar to the Indiana Jones rides at other parks. Last time we went it really freaked me out but this time I managed to mostly enjoy it. There was still a lot of screaming with the giant snake and the boulder almost crushing us, but it was fun too. We went on Aquatopia, which is a lovely and calm ride where you zip about on steampunk boats on the water.

From there we went to the Mermaid Lagoon and explored ‘Under the Sea’, we managed to time our arrival nicely with the start of the Mermaid Theatre show, so we went into that and holy crow. It’s a huge theatre decorated to look like the undersea. A gigantic animatronic King Triton appears up in the corner and people animating large puppets played Flounder and Sebastian. Then Ariel the Little Mermaid appeared suspended from wires so she could ‘swim’ around the theatre and over the audience. There was projections and props and music and it was really impressive. That actor playing Ariel must have some brilliant core strength.

Before the show started Anna made friends with a little Japanese girl who noticed she was dressed as Ariel. She pointed at Anna’s shiny, scaly leggings and then shyly showed us that her black dress had tentacles attached to it. They smiled and Anna said she was ‘kawaii’ (cute) and the little girl showed the rest of her family Anna. After the show we met up again in the gift shop, and the little girl showed Anna that her seashell necklace was homemade. I asked if it was okay to take a photo and her mother said yes, but I won’t share it here as we didn’t ask permission to share it online. Suffice to say both Anna and the tiny Ursula were beaming in the photo and afterwards. It was a really lovely encounter.

After that we wandered to Agrabah and saw a couple of costumed characters, and rode the Sinbad the Sailor ride, which is a beautiful boat ride through the story of Sinbad. It has some seriously impressive animatronics and the scale of it is huge. It’s also a ride with a beautiful soundtrack and special effects like the smell of bananas during a sequence where Sinbad is working with monkeys to harvest bananas. (I think. It’s all in Japanese so the story isn’t always clear.)

We were both pretty tired out. Although it’s not so hot today which makes things easier, Disneysea is a difficult park to negotiate. It’s huge, and over several levels, so although in Disneyland you’re mostly on the flat, it’s up and down and stairs and round mountains at Disneysea. There are also less attractions, so you do have to walk further to find things. Besides that, we’re coming off a big day at Disneyland. We were joking it felt like we’d already spent a full week at Disneyland.

We did a little shopping, I got a new friend.

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Then we made our way back to the hotel for a rest. On the way we picked up some snacks for lunch at the konbini and had a nice picnic in our hotel room. Tonight we head back for dinner at Magellan’s, to see Phantasmic (a water based night show) and another ride on Journey to the Centre of the Earth, having got a slot in the last fast pass time frame of the night.

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Day two – Disneyland!

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View of the Disneyland hotel from the park side.

The time difference between Japan and New Zealand meant that we got a pretty decent sleep and still were happily awake by 6.30 local time. This is good because our special early entry meant we wanted to be at the park by 7.30.

We got dressed in our Disneybound outfits (Peter Pan for me, Tinkerbell for Anna) and headed over to the special entrance just for hotel guests, we got in a half hour before everyone else!

It’s a busy park and a very hot day.  However with our early start, and careful use of fast passes, we got on a bunch of rides. Started the day with Space Mountain and then got fast passes for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is a unique ride to Tokyo Disneyland, a trackless ride where you spin about in honey pots and follow animatronics of Pooh and his friends through a storm, a nightmare and searching for honey. It’s very cute, and sort of scary in the Heffalumps and Woozles sequence. The scale of this ride is kind of hard to explain, but I was in awe staring up at a huge Heffalump at one point.

We had breakfast at Camp Woodchuck lodge, which sells waffle sandwiches, delicious fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles with coleslaw and maple syrup. It was really good!

We stopped to watch the Spooky Boo! Halloween parade, which was very cute and we loved the dark Halloween style costumes.

Speaking of costumes, through the month of October, anyone visiting Tokyo Disney is allowed to dress in costume as long as it’s appropriate and a Disney character. Today we saw countless gorgeous Anna, Elsa, Snow White, Cinderella and Belle costumes. As well as a few Giselles from Enchanted, Judy and Nicks from Zootopia and fairies, Pooh Bears and Rapunzels. It’s wonderful spotting all the outfits and how much work everyone’s put into them. It made our Disneybound outfits feel a little underdone, but there you have it. The festive atmosphere is really fun.

We also rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (one of my all time favourite rides), the special Halloween Nightmare Before Christmas version of the Haunted Mansion, Roger Rabbit’s toon spin, It’s a Small World (Anna’s first time!) and Pirates of the Carribbean (my first time!)

I’ve been to two Disneyland parks before over three separate days and all those times Pirates has been closed. So today I finally got to ride it and it was great fun! The animatronics of Jack Sparrow are eerily realistic. I know the California ride has been updated to be a bit less… gross, but the Tokyo one has not been updated, so it still shows a scene of women being auctioned off to pirates and then being chased by pirates. It’s quite uncomfortable, but I’m pleased the California Disney updated anyway.

For lunch we considered a couple of restaurants but they were very busy, so we went to a place near the castle which had spare tables outside under umbrellas. It was right over a stream from the parade route so we sat at the edge, enjoyed our lunch and got a good view of the 35th Anniversary ‘Dreaming up!’ parade. This parade has next level floats with huge moving parts and finishes with Mary Poppins flying over London and Peter and Wendy going from standing to various arial stunts based on the wires moving them up and down. It’s breath taking.

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Baymax and Hiro from Big Hero 6
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Peter and Wendy midair

It was a very hot day. Humid and up to 27 degrees celsius. This made everything a little bit harder, because there’s not a whole lot of places at Disney which are shady or air conditioned. It’s a lot of walking too, the park is big, and fast passes require you to go to the ride, and then return back in an hour or more, so there’s lots of doubling back.

We did a lot of shopping too. There’s lots of cute Halloween themed things and anniversary merchandise, but I particularly had my heart set on a rainbow theme t shirt I’d seen online. I saw a lot of people wearing them in the park and they’re so cute (and so freaking gay) and I really, really wanted one. Finally found them in the back room of the big clothing store in the first set of shops in the park. I got the Donald one and Anna got the Daisy one to match. Pictures when we wear them on Friday 🙂

For the record, I’ve done a lot of research about Tokyo Disney and I have to credit TDR Explorer, who I read avidly.

I’m writing this from our Tinkerbell themed room, where we came to crash out for a while at 3.30 pm. The Tinkerbell room is very thoroughly themed, and super cute.

Soon we’re heading back for the night parade and night show and to track down a bag Anna wanted and a Tigger bomber jacket I want :3 maybe we’ll squeeze in another ride or two as well.

Day one- Transit, Unaccustomed luxury

20181009_113142.jpgt planning on blogging about the actual plane trip but I feel I have to.

We bought our tickets to Tokyo at the New Year’s Sale Air NZ held. The sale was so good for travel dates this far out that we only had to spend a couple hundred more to upgrade from economy to premium economy.

We’d been looking forward to extra space on the seats and some extra leg room. We were not prepared for how fancy the service actually was. We were given hot towels, decent sized pillows, little amenity packs with socks and a dental kit, slippers to wear on the plane, a drink once we were in the air (sparkling wine, and when the hostess found out we were on honeymoon she brought us more in fancier glasses). The food was next level. It tasted freshly made, and gourmet. And there was an entree, fresh baked bread selection and dessert for each meal.

Halfway through the usual five-ish hour gap between meals we were served afternoon tea of club sandwiches and our choice of dessert (Anna and I both went for the chocolate profiteroles, which were a massive cream puff with solid chocolate on top). Plus, if we got peckish, we could order snacks and drinks off the menu for free from our screens.

I find it hard to sleep on planes, but with my extra room and a little footrest you could raise, I managed an hour or so of broken sleep. Not quite as good a nap as I’d get at home, but still something.

On the plane Anna and I watched Ready Player One together, which was amusing but also quite, quite stupid. Then I watched Incredibles 2 and the first two episodes of Sharp Objects (brilliant, watching the rest of that one on the plane back.)

Once we’d landed, we were among the first off the plane, after the business class people, and our bags which had been tagged ‘priority’ were waiting for us on the carousel after we’d cleared immigration.

We exited the bag claim and right away found the bus tickets counter and purchased tickets direct to our hotel at Tokyo Disney Resort. Unfortunately the next bus to the resort was in an hour, so it was like our quick exit from the plane wasn’t as useful as we’d hoped. I was glad not to have missed it though, as it was the last bus of the day.

While we waited for the bus we had our first Welch’s grape juice of the trip, which is a delicious purple grape drink. While we sat and drank just inside the terminal from the bus stop we were unexpectedly interviewed for Japanese TV.

A team of three, a camera person, a front man and a translator making notes asked us where we were from, what we were looking forward to doing in Japan and what our anime t shirts were about. Totally random, I wonder if they’ll use any of that footage? I guess I’ll never know either way.

The bus took about an hour to get to Tokyo Disney Resort, after arriving exactly on time at ten past six. I got very excited as we approached the Resort. I just love how magical everything is, and this year is the 35th anniversary of it being opened, so there’s extra decorations and things happening.

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is expensive, but since it’s our honeymoon we wanted to splash out. I knew it would be fancy, but I didn’t anticipate this level of fancy.

The lobby is a gigantic Disney themed atrium with massive chandeliers and Disney mosiacs, sculptures and fountains. As we checked in we were given an anniversary/wedding card signed by Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Then a bellhop escorted us to our room. It was just a standard park view room but it was so incredibly plush.

Every aspect of the hotel is either subtly or not so subtly Disney themed. It’s delightful. We were pretty exhausted from the flight but we managed to have a little wander, explored the stores attached to the hotel (a convenience store or Konbini, and a Disney merchandise shop. As we were outside we were lucky enough to catch some of the fireworks over the beautifully lit up train station which is between the hotel and the gates to the park.

The hotel room had a bath so I washed Japanese style on a stool under a shower and then we each had a soak in the bath. I put on the hotel provided pajamas, which were super comfortable. As we were getting ready for bed, I heard a boom and we realised from our room we could see the night show, which is a combination of fireworks and animated projections onto the Cinderella castle. We couldn’t see a lot of details from the hotel room but it was still super cool.

Finally we crashed out, and I had a very good sleep, ready for a big day ahead…

Getting ready to leave

Two days ago I married a gorgeous woman in a perfect garden wedding in our local park. The weather was clear and stunning, we looked awesome and our friends and family brought a lot of love and joy to the day.

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The honeymoon starts tomorrow, with a morning flight to Narita airport, Tokyo.

Today is dedicated to prep, changing some wedding gift money into yen, doing some laundry, last tidy of the house and of course, packing our bags.

For those of you who like details, here’s what’s on my packing list. Trying my best to pack light because it’s easy to launder clothes in Japanese hotels.

Wear on the plane:
Trackpants or leggings
T shirt
socks
shoes
a warm layer
jacket

In carry on backpack:
emergency clothes in case of lost bag (socks, undies, t shirt)
USB charge cable
kindle
travel journal
notebooks (Japanese language notes, travel info)
pencil case with pens and things
wet wipes
painkillers
headphones
eye mask
laptop
water bottle (Frank Green <3)
sharktopus (my travel mascot)

Clothing:

1 pair pajamas
5 pairs underthings
5 pairs socks
4 T shirts (including Harry Potter house shirts for Universal Studios)
3 pants/jeans
2 warm layers (one zip hoodie, one flannel shirt)
shoes
rain jacket
Disneybound* outfits

Bathroom stuff:
Hayfever meds
deoderant
face cleanser
face moisturiser
sunscreen
hair wax
sanitary products

Misc:
plug converters
chargers for phones
laptop cable
day packs
washing liquid pods
washing peg hanger thing
my 5 year journal
2 x powerbank

 

 

*Disneybounding was invented because adults are not allowed to dress as Disney characters at Disney parks. The idea is to evoke a character through mostly regular clothing. Examples here.