A long time ago, in a land far away from Japan, two roommates traveled by plane from Oregon to California. It was my first year of college and my roommate Maiko’s study abroad year at Lewis & Clark.
Together we went to visit my aunt and grandmother in Los Angeles and San Diego! It was April 2006, Spring Break. Needless to say, we had a blast! We went to Universal Studios, San Diego Wild Animal Park, and Disney Land. An amazingly fun weekend with family and theme parks!
Looking at these pictures makes me feel all nostalgic! We were 18 and 19 years old back then!
So in continuation of these adventures…
When I went to Tokyo last week, Maiko offered to take the day off of work on Thursday (4/11/2013) so we could go to…
Tokyo Disney Sea!
It turned out that she had to be in a meeting that morning, but was able to take the afternoon off! I was so excited to be going to a theme park with her again! Plus, she had two free tickets that she had won at a raffle at a wedding. We were set!
I ended up having a relaxing morning, then heading out for some shopping. I stopped at Shinagawa station first (at the mall within the gates) and ended up finding some vegan doughnuts. I bought two for us to share.
Seasonal Limited Sakura doughnut and Soymilk Cream-Filled Doughnut!
I preferred the Sakura (with white azuki bean paste inside) and Maiko preferred the Soymilk Cream. :)
I met Maiko at Tokyo Station at 12:20pm and we caught the train to Maihama Station where the Tokyo Disney Resort is. We ate our convenience store lunches at the Disney train line station.
Here’s me eating lunch! (Note: My point-and-shoot camera broke a couple days before and showed no signs of coming back to life. But I was so happy that Maiko brought her nice, new camera!)
We ate our doughnuts on the train… The magical train with Mickey-shaped windows that takes you to the place where dreams come true…
And then we were there!
I hadn’t been to Disney Sea since July 2005 when I went with my summer language school group. And even then it was during Japan’s summer vacation and the park was so crowded that we only had time to ride two attractions. Plus, we were with a group and had to leave the park before dinnertime. I had fun, for sure, but it wasn’t the best way to experience Disney Sea.
But this day with Maiko was perfect!
It was the first week of school for Japanese kids and practically no one was at the park! Not crowded at all! When we arrived at the park, we were literally amazed at how empty it was.
The first thing we did was grab a FastPass to use at the Indiana Jones ride later on in the day. Then we passed by some photo opportunities and decided to take a picture with Goofy! The wait to take pictures with him was only 10 minutes, while the waits for Mickey and Minnie were about 30 and 20 minutes. Aww, poor Goofy!
Maiko also mentioned this to me: In Japan, they have these characters called Duffy and Shellie May. Apparently the story is that Minnie Mouse sewed this teddy bear named Duffy for Mickey Mouse and gave it to him as a gift. Shellie May is the female friend of Duffy. Let me tell you, these teddy bears were EVERYWHERE. The waiting line to take pictures with Duffy was almost TWICE as long as the line to take pictures with Mickey. I was like… “What the heck? Why are these bears so popular?” I don’t really understand, still, but apparently they are kind of cute and romantic? As a set?
I prefer Mickey and Minnie.
As we were walking around Disney Sea, Maiko asked me if it reminded me of Venice. And actually, parts of it really did. The main entrance area of the park (Mediterranean Harbor) is totally modeled after Venice/Italy. Even the street signs are the same. The whole park is a little international (maybe like Epcot?) because they have an Italian area, an American Waterfront part with a steamboat , and an Arabian area (for Aladdin). This is in addition to Journey to the Center of the Earth/Leagues Under The Sea, Little Mermaid’s castle, Lost River Delta, and the futuristic Port Discovery. Disney Sea, I think, prides itself on its scenery and architecture. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why they say Disney Sea is more for adults. You can walk around, enjoy the views, and take lots of pictures. (The rides are also geared more towards adults, in my opinion!)
After taking a picture with Goofy, we headed straight to the Tower of Terror. Maiko had the Disney Resort app that tells you the current wait times for all of the rides and Tower of Terror was the shortest at just 10 minutes. We barely waited 10 minutes.
I really really really really loved Tower of Terror. It was SO fun! Just my kind of ride.
Then we went to the new Toy Story attraction (which opened up last year), where you rode in a car with a friend and shot 3D objects at the targets. I was winning against Maiko up until the very end at the bonus round! And then she beat me. :P
Next it was time to head to the Mermaid Lagoon. We took some scenic pictures along the way.
We both love Little Mermaid, so we really wanted to take a picture with Ariel. Took less than 10 minutes to see her! She was a bubbly American who spoke really really really fast.
We got some curry popcorn (YUM) and headed down inside Ariel’s castle to watch the show. Ariel was being played by a non-Japanese person, but she lip sync-ed in English and Japanese. She spoke her lines in Japanese, but the songs were in English. It was a little strange… I guess! We wondered why they didn’t do it all in one language.
By the way, the popcorn is kind of a special thing at Tokyo Disney Resort. The flavors we saw were Curry, Black Pepper, Strawberry, Caramel, Apple Cinnamon, Milk Tea and Salt. We both don’t like sweet popcorn, so Curry was perfect for us.
We took some pictures at the Mermaid Lagoon area:
It was getting later in the afternoon at that point, so we started to think about dinner and our plans for the rest of the evening.
We rode Raging Spirits (a fun rollercoaster where you get to go upside down), took a picture with Donald Duck, and went on StormRider as well!
We also used our FastPass for Indiana Jones. The line for standby for Indiana Jones was really really short anyways, but we still got to ride a little faster with the FastPass. So much fun!
By the time we were done with all of that, it was pretty late. It was also dark by then and getting colder. As you can see, the weather was pretty good… But still cold at night! I could have used one more sweater, but we both persevered. We were also hungry, having not eaten since our convenience store lunch and the curry popcorn snack. It was time for food!
…Except there was a long wait at the one restaurant that had a purely vegetarian option. We got to the restaurant around 7:15pm and waited a little while, but then decided to eat dinner after the Fantasmic light show in the Bay Harbor (which was at 8pm).
So we went to the souvenir shops, where I was kind of annoyed at the massive amounts of Duffy/Shellie May merchandise and disappointed at the lack of normal character merchandise.
The Fantasmic show was incredible. All of the lights, characters, fireworks, displays, music… were amazing! Perfectly timed! Fantasia-Mickey Mouse came out from a little mountain-island in the middle of the harbor, which turned into the sorcerer’s magic hat with the help of a billion LCD screens. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.
The show lasted 25 whole minutes! And then, finally, there was food. We only had a wait a couple minutes for a table this time. We both ordered the vegetarian spaghetti dish and shared a baby green salad. It was really nice to sit down at a nice restaurant. The girl who took our orders spoke really quietly and was kind of cold for some reason, but the girl who kept coming over to our table to refill my tiny little water glass was really nice.
In fact, the people who work at Disney are really some of the best staff in the world! They have a hard job, but a lot of them are really friendly and welcoming. Even the Japanese people will talk to me without being afraid that I don’t speak Japanese. It just makes the experience all the more awesome. Really like you are in a fantasy land away from everything.
We had time to ride one more ride and do a bit of shopping before the park closed. Maiko mentioned that when we were younger, we probably could have gotten to the park when it opened in the morning and then could have stayed until closing at 10pm. But now… we get tired! Haha. It was true, we were tired.
Tower of Terror was really close to where we ate dinner, so off we went with our iron stomachs. There was no line for the ride (and that is not an exaggeration). We walked right in.
When we were done and exited the attraction, I asked if we could ride just one more time… So we walked right back to the entrance and got on again.
Tower of Terror… 3 times in one day! Great Success!
And then… Just like that… Our day was coming to an end… We hit the souvenir shops one last time and took a few more pictures.
Isn’t the harbor gorgeous at night?
On the way out, we saw this awesome sculpture/statue commemorating the 30th anniversary of Tokyo Disney Resort. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the whole park and many souvenirs had this theme.
The tagline was: The Happiness Year
Our day at Disney Sea certainly was happy. And fun. And heartwarming at the same time. I still feel the same emotions that I felt when I was a kid. Special Disney magic just does that to you. I still tear up with I hear certain music.
But more importantly, I got to spend quality time with a friend who I had not seen in a year and a half. Ever since our year as roommates at Lewis & Clark College ended in 2006, I think we’ve seen each other about once a year. A visit in 2006, my year in Tokyo from 2007-2008 (we were able to meet many times), a visit in 2009, and when I moved to Japan again in 2011.
As we went around the park and spent the day together, I kept thinking to myself that it was like nothing had changed between us. We might be different people, at different places in our lives, but our friendship was more or less the same. I asked Maiko if she felt the same way and she did! Things just fall right back into place.
I’ve moved around a lot in my life and I’ve called a lot of places “Home”. But actually, I think that being around certain people make me feel like I am home.