Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Mild Case of the Grumpies at The Happiest Place on Earth

If you are going to visit "The happiest place on Earth," it would be well-advised to make sure that you are actually happy.  We waited until our last full day in Japan to explore a version of a theme park that is no more than twenty minutes from our front door; and while we weren't exactly unhappy, we were definitely at the point in our trip when the novelties of what we initially thought were the most charming customs and unique characteristics of Japanese culture were seriously beginning to wear off.  Our mental state, aggravated by an epic forced march through the bowels of Tokyo Station, followed by a sardine-can train ride, had us feeling (for the very first time) a little wistful for America - a land where dignity and restraint, minding one's manners, and respect for others are policies almost unanimously vetoed in favor of the freedom to anyone who will listen. 

Don't misunderstand me, we truly loved Japan.  We even loved Tokyo Disneyland.  It was pretty marvelous getting the opportunity to see such a concentrated version of American culture as experienced in a foreign country.  We were just a little grumpy (and maybe sneezy, sleepy, and dopey too).

Despite our grumblings, things were looking up when we got to the ticket booth and realized that we could visit both of Tokyo's Disney parks for less than the price of a one-park ticket at home.  We began the day at Tokyo Disneyland where the recently-debuted "Happiness is Here" parade, as designed by our good pals, was taking place (an entire post will soon be dedicated to its awesomeness, stay tuned).

Main Street, U.S.A.
Although I was never around to experience Disneyland's early days, Tokyo Disneyland gave me the impression of the old park before the Fantasyland makeover, before the crumbling of Carnation Plaza, before the demise of the PeopleMover.  The walkways of Tokyo Disneyland are wide.  The lands are are spare and there are many places to rest one's eyes.  The concession carts are simple and not thematically linked to the area of the park in which they vend.  With few exceptions, the park looks very much like 1962 (don't quote me Disney fanatics) and we think that is a good thing!

Pirates of the Caribbean

Our first ride of the day left us hopeful that all the lines would be as short; we walked right on to a ride 
that, except for a few glaring differences (only one drop), is a very close comparison to the original.

The Jungle Cruise

We had no idea what our skipper was saying but we still laughed in all the right places!

Country Bear Jamboree

Even though half of the program was in Japanese, I can't tell you how comforting it was to revisit the old
gang.  I was always an ardent fan of Disneyland's musical attractions - live, animatronic, and otherwise!


We were so intent on getting to Disneyland that we did something I've heard people say was possible but I firmly believed to be an urban legend - we forgot to eat.  By the time we had gone on Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, and Country Bear Jamboree (the last two representative of Tokyo Disneyland's greatest genius - keeping these two attractions intact), it was well past lunchtime and we were starved (understanding that this is a completely-relative term).  On the hunt for a corn dog, or a hamburger, or anything really, it had never occurred to us that in this bastion of Americana, we would be at a loss for American food.  Come on, who wants to eat a fried pork cutlet served with curry before going on Space Mountain, for goodness sake?!!  Eventually, Mary found a pizza topped with teriyaki and mountain yam and I discovered a Mickey-shaped chicken sandwich and salad in a cup. If we had only found the hot dog vendor earlier, we might have known how an egg-teriyaki dog or cabbage-avocado cheese dog would have tasted...maybe next time.  And yes, those are Mike Wazowski pastries!

The Enchanted Tiki Room

The Tiki Room, my all-time favorite attraction at Disneyland was a huge bust at Tokyo Disneyland 
in spite of the beautiful buildings.  Let's put it this way, less Lilo & Stitch and more tradition, please.

The Haunted Mansion

It is only natural to compare each Disneyland ride to its Japanese counterpart.  I was hoping to experience this ride sans the Nightmare Before Christmas layering; still, with pride I say that Anaheim's Haunted Mansion is superior - at least when it comes to the facade.  A decaying Southern plantation is much more frightening than Toad Hall.  Be warned, Tokyo Disneyland doesn't tolerate any hijinks; I may or may not have shut down the ride after knocking on the next "Doom Buggy" over - old habits die hard.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Now this is where Tokyo has California beat; Tokyo's Big Thunder seems
faster, longer, and more fun.  Somehow the Wild West is wilder in the far east.

Splash Mountain

I hate Splash Mountain.  I've always wondered why such a huge ride would be dedicated to a movie deemed so inappropriate that Disney refuses to release it from the archives.  I also wondered why I waited through a traumatic, hour-long line only to be launched down a giant flume based on the dictates of Mary.  Can you tell from the photo that I'm not having a good time? 

Cinderella's Castle

I hate to say it, but this waking beauty kind of puts Sleeping Beauty's 
Castle to shame...I've always been more of a Cinderella fan anyway.

Mary put together an Instagram video of our Disneyland experience. 
Please don't take offense; a natural mimic, I spent our whole
 two-week vacation trying to refine my impressions and received
a host of compliments on my accent.

Having hit most of the highlights of Disneyland, it was high time (according to the Mickey Mouse clock) for us to head over to Disney Sea via the monorail.

The Monorail

The mickey clock, windows, and ring-handled straps almost made the monorail
worth the fact that we had to pay for the ride - unheard of at Disneyland, CA.

Built just on the other side of a seawall from the actual sea, Disney Sea is a water-themed park rather than a themed water park; each land is dedicated to an area of the world that has a connection (if only very loosely) with a large body of water.  Instead of a railroad that circles the park (like Disneyland California), Disney Sea takes guests on a circular tour of the park via water taxi!  Although we arrived at the the park after sundown, the incredible effort taken to create beautiful landscapes and interesting environments was quite evident. 

Sinbad's Storybook Voyage & The Arabian Coast

The motivation for going on the Sinbad ride was found in the absence of a line.  Initially, I thought that the ride was quite lame but after a few minutes, I was duly impressed by the art direction and quality of the animatronics.  Plus, the boat full of bananas really smelled like bananas!

Mediterranean Harbor

This land was probably my favorite if only for its beautiful views and realistic atmosphere;
hotel rooms of real hotel guests look down on cobblestone streets and glittering harbor.

Lost River Delta

Lost River Delta is home to Indiana Jones and the roller coaster, Raging Sprits.
Not wanting a raging headache, I let Mary ride it alone while I returned to 
The Arabian Coast for a ride that was more my speed - Jasmine's Flying Carpets

Mysterious Island

Still seeking a bit of a thrill, we went on Journey to the Center of the Earth.; Mary failed to explain that it is basically Splash Mountain revisited, only drier.  We also went on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride - a submarine treat!

The American Waterfront

Perhaps, it was because we were feeling just a touch homesick that we found this area so special.
From the Queen Mary lookalike to the New England port town to the mini Atlantic City, the American Waterfront 

I will admit that it did seem odd to me to dedicate an entire day of our once-in-a-lifetime Japan adventure to a byproduct of distinctly-American culture - and maybe it was.  A trip to Disneyland is a requisite stop for those visiting Southern California but what American tourist makes it a point to go all the way to Japan only to visit Disneyland?  Actually, I can answer that.  We spotted a few couples/families who, in all their obvious Disney dorkery, apparently devote every vacation to exploring the world's Disney theme parks.  While we're not quite that dorky, we are happy to have visited Japan's "Happiest Place on Earth."

Can you believe than in the Mr. Tiny archives, there is a commemorative
medallion from Tokyo Disneyland's opening day in 1983?!?!!
The hoardings archives are a bit like Mary Poppins' famous carpet bag!

Do you think Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth?  If you went all the way to Japan, would you spend a day at Disneyland?


Mr. Tiny


  1. Nice pictures! I don't think we would spend a day there if we go one day to Japan. I have always asked my self why half of Disneyland Paris visitors are american.... To have also visited, Orlando and Anaheim ones, it's pretty always the same attractions!
    But it's always out of time, feeling like a child for a few hours... perhaps not the happiest place on earth, but makes you forget your problems for one day at least!

    1. Thank you! It was odd to see a few other Americans at Disneyland. I felt like we had a valid reason to be there...but I guess they probably did too!

  2. Love the photos and fun times! If I had enough time I'd check out Disney in Tokyo but a trip to the Ghibli Museum would be paramount ;) Looks like you guys had a blast, I explored a lot of Okinawa but can't wait to visit the Japanese mainland.

    1. Thanks! There is so much of Japan to explore. I know that we missed a lot (Mt. Fuji) and can't wait to go back!!