Japan

It’s been almost 12 months since I went on holiday to Asia and at the point of travelling I wasn’t writing any blog posts. But, as promised on my previous annual review post I am backdating this post to tell you all about the magic of Asia.

It wasn’t somewhere I ever saw myself visiting. Sure, it would be lovely, but realistically I thought that it was too far and too expensive so I would never get there. That all changed when my brother announced he was to quit his job and take off travelling for 12 months with his now fiancé. We decided to travel out to Thailand to meet them and combine this with our annual summer holiday/Disney trip.

After we decided on Thailand we then had to decide on which area or island we wanted to visit and settled on a few days in Bangkok, followed by a week in Koh Samui. We also decided to add a few extra days and fly out to Tokyo at the start of the trip to go visit Disneyland Tokyo, any Disnerd knows this is the best park to visit. So that’s what this post is about, I’m going to write up a separate one about Thailand otherwise you’ll be here hours reading.

Our first taste of Japan was actually at Heathrow Airport, when we went to our gate to board the flight we noticed how orderly and polite everyone was. There was no jostling for getting on the plane first and everyone was seated and ready for take-off on time with no issues. Once we arrived in Tokyo after over 12 hours of flight time we were exhausted, we made sure before leaving the airport though to get a “MiFi” internet hotspot so that we could use our phones while out and about in Tokyo. Although this was a massive help it maybe wasn’t required. Most places here, including the subway, have their own free-to-use Wi-Fi networks.

We got the Airport Limousine to our hotel which was located in Tokyo Bay near to the Disneyland Resort. We booked a room in the Hilton Tokyo Bay Resort in a Celebrio room with a view of the harbour. The hotel was enormous, the staff here were fantastic and the man at reception was so polite and patient with us due to the language barrier. For the size of the hotel it was never really crowded, I guess in summer season when the outdoor pool is open it might be a different story but we were here in March which is technically classed as out of season.  Our room was large, the view out over the harbour and over to Tokyo City was fantastic and once it was morning we realised that we could also see Mount Fuji in the distance. The hotel is within easy walking distance of the monorail which stops at both the Disney Parks and also at the main train terminal where you can transfer into the city itself.

Our first day it rained, heavy and consistently until evening time but this can’t stop you enjoying the Disney magic and it certainly didn’t stop the other thousands of people visiting the parks that day. I had done some research before we visited the park and was aware that you should really aim to be there in the queues around an hour before opening. As soon as the gates are open they are just whizzing people through, literally you couldn’t comprehend how quick they got guests through those gates and into the park. All the staff in the park, like everywhere in Japan, were friendly and always had a smile for you.

Our first stop was to buy rain ponchos, I got a fantastic little red Minnie Mouse cape although later in the day we decided to upgrade and bought an umbrella also. The entrance to the park is under a large glass roof with shops and cafes on the outside. There are several paths that lead off to different areas or you can continue straight down and through to the castle to pose for all your photos.

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Our first ride was Monsters Inc. so that we could avoid the rain for a bit, as soon as you enter any indoor areas in the parks you are asked to take off your poncho etc. so as not to get other guests and the ride wet. Literally everything in these parks is thought of! This was a great little fun ride, the theming on the queue is awesome as well, you basically enter the offices of Monsters Inc. and you queue through the reception area and back corridors.

Everywhere you went in the park while it was raining there was an army of staff trying to sweep away the rain puddles, I have never seen anything like this before and to be honest it didn’t really seem to be making much of a difference. A lot of the rides in Disney are the same as in other parks around the world but with their own twists on it, the main area you see these differences are in Disney TokyoSea, but more on that later.

Despite the rain we had a fantastic time, we managed to watch two of the parades including the night time light show which was great fun! One thing to note about the parade route is how organised it is, guests in the parks have little mats with them and they place these along the edge of the rope to sit on and watch the show. This is usually around 3 people deep and then anyone who wants to stand goes behind them, the staff along the parade route ensure this is adhered to and the people at the front stay sat during the parade so everyone gets a great view of the floats.

We didn’t get to go on all the rides in the parks due to the queues, most of the popular rides had wait times of around 2-3 hours and FastPass tickets are sold out first thing in the mornings. I think the longest we queued was for Space Mountain and this took us about 2 hours 30 minutes and it was well worth the wait, this is one of my favourite rides! The Japanese people don’t seem to have any objections to queueing for this long, there is no grumpiness or anger, they just patiently queue and take a hundred different selfies. Talking of selfies, oh my gosh, the Japanese love them but it’s always got to be taken at a jaunty angle and we found ourselves being slyly inserted into many of these. As Westerners we stood out quite a bit, in fact we only saw about 3 other couples over the few days that were of Western origin.

Another big draw to the Tokyo parks is the food, the popcorn of course is fantastic and people regularly queue for this. We tried a few different flavours and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the curry popcorn, I even ended up buying a Minnie Mouse popcorn bucket to keep topping it up with different flavours! They also have Mickey shaped everything, we had burgers and chicken dippers that were all in the shape of Mickey Mouse, we also managed to try some of the Little Green Men dumplings. These not only looked fantastic but tasted great, they were filled with three different types of custard – vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Although I really enjoyed the main park it was DisneySea which was the main event, this is the thing that is so different to any other Disney Park around the world and let me tell you why…

However you describe this park you really don’t understand how spectacular it is until you visit it. You walk in through the entrance and suddenly you are in the middle of a Mediterranean Harbour. The theming is just unbelievable throughout this park, we briefly saw this early on as we were rushing along with thousands of other people to join the queue for Toy Story Mania, we literally ran to this first thing and still had to queue for around an hour. That’s how busy this park is.

It’s worth taking the time to go for a stroll around the park and just take it all in, there are seven different areas and they all try and include outside and inside attractions as Tokyo sees every type of weather throughout the year. My two favourite areas were definitely Mermaid Lagoon and the Port Discovery area which is basically all Jules Verne themed.

The Mermaid Lagoon part is mostly underground, you enter and then wind your way down a slope where the theming shows you going deeper and deeper until you hit the ground floor, here there are loads of smaller rides but all great fun including bouncing jellyfish and a cave with lots of bridges and twisty turns to keep all ages amused.

The Jules Verne area is the busiest part of the park, it has two rides here that can’t be found in any other Disney Parks and as such the queue time on these can really build up. The longest queue was always for “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and even with being there first thing in the morning we still had to queue for around an hour. This ride is fantastic, it’s a bit like Test Track in that there are parts with rapid acceleration, it also reminded me a lot of Dinosaur in Florida.

In the centre of this park is the lagoon in the harbour and behind that is the volcano which explodes regularly throughout the day. The lagoon is where they hold their night time show which is their version of Fantasmic! It’s great and all the boats go around the harbour so that you get a good view wherever you are stood.

We spent our last day actually out and about in Tokyo, we saw a few of the main parts but I honestly could spend days here, weeks probably and not ever scratch the surface. We took the train from the Disney Resort, the train to the centre took around 30-40 minutes but the trains are easy to navigate and play happy little jingles which is fun. We were worried initially that it would be hard to get around in Japan but most places have signs in Japanese and English. We managed to see the infamous Shibuya crossing, Sensoji Temple and the Tokyo Skytree, all of which were fantastic sights. We left Japan too early, hindsight is a fantastic thing and we both wish we had spent longer here and a shorter time in Bangkok.

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Please make sure to check out my YouTube and Flickr accounts to see some short videos and more photographs from my visit.

Japan is a must-see for anyone without a doubt whether for the stunning Disney Resort or the main city itself. I can’t wait to go back and see more.

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