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.