Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 9

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It’s been a while, and in case you forgot or missed it, we left off the previous installment at the end of a day in Tokyo DisneySea, with Fantasmic!, dinner at Cafe Portofino, and some nighttime photography in Mysterious Island, Arabian Coast, and other locations before calling it a night.

The next morning was my second straight morning up before 3 am to get ready and head out for a 4 a.m. shoot. This time it was in Tokyo Disneyland. I prefer my sunrises to have some light clouds to bounce around vibrant and mixed colors, but that wasn’t the case either morning in Tokyo. Instead, we had mostly clear skies with an intense morning sun.

This worked better in DisneySea, where the environments were more varied and the early morning sun and shadows could be used to enhance the texture and dimensionality of the scenery. For whatever reason, this didn’t work as well in Tokyo Disneyland. I bounced all over the park trying to find good locations, but most spots didn’t pan out. It was still a fun shoot and I’m glad I did it, but it didn’t reap as nice of a bounty of photos.

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As we wandered around looking for scenes to photograph both mornings (and to a lesser extent, late at night), I noticed a ton of Cast Members out working on the parks. This was really impressive to see (albeit at times difficult to work around!) and the level of meticulous attention to detail in maintaining and refreshing the parks was something I had n0t seen elsewhere.

I don’t want to lift the current with specific details, but it went a long way to explain to me why the Tokyo parks have a reputation for upkeep far exceeding that found stateside. Some of the work being done was akin to the urban legend that Walt Disney World repaints the hitching posts every night…except I saw these things, so they clearly weren’t urban legend!

Here are some of the photos I captured that morning:

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The sun moves high in the sky pretty quickly there (I assume it moves with the same speed everywhere, so it was probably just a matter of “time flies when you’re having fun”), and once it was at a decent degree in the sky, I stopped shooting and we headed out.

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I was in desperate need of some coffee, but I decided to stop at the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel to see if I could get any empty lobby shots (it was still pretty early) before heading back to the hotel.

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Our early morning plan was basically the same as the previous morning in Tokyo Disneyland, again focusing on Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek. I promised my thoughts on Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek previously, and here they are…

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Unlike Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, which has drawn pretty much universal acclaim, I think the reaction to Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek has been more mixed, but still pretty positive. Sarah and I both absolutely loved the attraction, finding it to be an incredibly well done linear attraction that tells a CliffNotes version of the Monsters, Inc. story with a fun (interactive) twist of revealing monsters and other effects by shining a flashlight tethered to the ride vehicle at them.

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The Audio-Animatronics were advanced and lifelike (well, assuming a big blue monster is somehow “lifelike”), with very fluid motions. There is no comparison between the AAs at the Disney California Adventure Monsters dark ride and the AAs on this one. In fact, that Monsters dark ride is to Tokyo’s Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek what Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.

The real highlight of this attraction, to me, was how much was going on in the streets of Monstropolis. We rode through several times, and I was still noticing new details each time. Granted, I did take photos on my third and fourth ride throughs, but Sarah commented that she was noticing new things, too. By our last ride-through, I had set down my flashlight to focus on absorbing the details.

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Speaking of the flashlight, I think this is where there is a bit of a divide on the attraction. A friend of mine put this best by referring to the flashlight as a gimmick that doesn’t really add to the experience, but distracts you from the details. While I think he is right in a way, I think that puts too much of an emphasis on the flashlight.

This isn’t like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, where you are missing a big point of the attraction if you set down your gun and just focus on the experience. There, mediocre visuals are propped up by a fun gameplay experience. The two elements (visuals and gaming) play about 50/50 roles in the overall experience and are inextricably interwoven.

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By contrast, you can just set the flashlight down on Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek and enjoy the ride without suffering. In fact, that might be the better way to experience it if your time is limited. The flashlights here are not a crutch for weak visuals, they are their own element thrown on top of it all. Admittedly, I don’t think using the flashlight adds a ton to the attraction.

If anything, I did find myself fixated on them during our first couple of ride throughs, probably to the detriment of my overall experience. However, the fact that they are an optional component means that I don’t downgrade my opinion of Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek as a result of them.

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I think the argument can be made that if part of an attraction fails, the attraction fails, but that argument is better reserved for attractions where the experience is what it is and can’t be “corrected” by guests. In this case, I also think it’s going a bit far to say the flashlights “fail.” I don’t think they’re great, but I wouldn’t use strong language in either direction, good or bad, to describe them.

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People nowadays seem to love interactive and participatory experiences, so perhaps this flashlight element is actually a big hit with “normal” park guests. I just know that it didn’t do a ton for me, but we both still absolutely loved the attraction. It was right behind Pooh’s Hunny Hunt for us. (In fairness, we probably weighted unique-to-Tokyo attractions a bit heavier…their Splash Mountain is the #1 version, and on a good day, Walt Disney World’s Splash Mountain is my favorite Magic Kingdom attraction.)

From there we did Jungle Cruise, which was an absolute hoot. I didn’t really pay attention to the scenes because I was mesmerized by the skipper (I know that sounds really weird, but bear with me…). I didn’t understand a word he was saying, but his mannerisms were insane, and many of the punchlines were at similar points and had similar cadence as their US counterparts. I felt like I understood what the skipper was saying, even though I definitely did not.

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Jungle Cruise ended up being one of the most fun attractions we did, and I would strongly recommend that anyone who goes to Tokyo Disneyland do it a couple of times. Don’t get discouraged by the “no English” thing here, as Jungle Cruise might just be more fun when it’s in Japanese.

It was still early enough in the morning that efficient touring “rules” suggest we should have kept moving quickly, but we had seen just about every big draw, so we decided to take the rest of the day slow. That meant it was snack time in Adventureland, which leads into somewhat of a tangent.

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The great thing about Tokyo Disney Resort is the tremendous amount of detail. This can also be a bad thing, sorta. I’m inquisitive by nature, and in the US parks, I often find myself Googling things that seem like they might have “more of a story” to them. Luckily, Walt Disney World and Disneyland have some fantastic history-oriented bloggers and authors, so the answers I seek are usually pretty easy to find. The story behind the parks (and I’m not talking about backstory) definitely add to my enjoyment of the park. Tokyo Disney Resort might have similar bloggers and historians, but I have yet to find them (even searching through some Japanese blogs).

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Because of this, I have a lot of unanswered questions from the trip. Most are related to small details in DisneySea. Probably the biggest one in Tokyo Disneyland concerns this area of Adventureland. Walt Disney World fans, look through the next few photos and tell me what this reminds you of…

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Typhoon Lagoon, right?! Okay, maybe it’s not apparent just from these photos, but once you walk it, it’s clear from the design and tone that it shares some bloodlines with Typhoon Lagoon. I would consider this a sub-land within Adventureland, and I was really curious about it after we got back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything about this area, its history, or anything of the sort. I’ve since talked with some people who have more knowledge about Tokyo Disney Resort than me, and in fact, it was added to Tokyo Disneyland shortly after Typhoon Lagoon was built and it does share some bloodlines with Typhoon Lagoon, in that some of the Typhoon Lagoon design team also worked on this area of Adventureland with the intent of giving it a Typhoon Lagoon feel. One oddly divisive element of this land from a design perspective was the red buoy stuck in the pavement. So if anyone else was wondering, there ya go…

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One round of snacks isn’t complete without following it up with another round of snacks, so our next stop was at the Gazebo where we stopped for snacks, notably, the Pork-Rice Ball with Fried Egg, which is basically a bacon-wrapped fried eggs with a bit rice tossed in. It was glorious.

After that we did a few other attractions, all of which have been discussed here in detail, so let’s skip them rather than a doing a play-by-play account lacking any insight.

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We did do the Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes to work up appetites, and that was pretty fun. Right after we boarded the boat, the Cast Member at the front of was speaking Japanese (quickly) and it was clear that the four of us had no idea what he was saying, but every once in a while he’d wave his oar into the air. The Japanese people then said something in unison (I don’t recall what, nor did I have any idea what it meant at the time). I picked up on this pattern quickly, and every time he put his oar into the air, I enthusiastically thrust my oar into the air and made an animated expression while saying whatever it was that everyone was saying.

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He clearly knew that I had no idea what was going on, because he laughed each time I did this. For all I know they were mocking the Americans in the boat, and I was mocking myself. I doubt it, but that would’ve been pretty funny. About halfway through the boat ride the Japanese teens in front of me were taking “selfie” photos of their group–seeing a gap, I got into their photo with a big, dumb grin and a double thumbs up. Based on their reaction when they noticed me in the photo when reviewing the LCD screen, they were very pleased with the photos!

Lunch was at Blue Bayou. It’s funny (if dull humor is your thing): we don’t care for Blue Bayou at Disneyland, and Blue Lagoon at Disneyland Paris was probably the worst table service meal we’ve had, but we still wanted to do Blue Bayou in Tokyo. I guess that speaks to the power of themed dining in the parks, and the setting of Blue Bayou/Lagoon, specifically.

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There’s a lesson to be learned in this for us, and that’s probably that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Disneyland’s Blue Bayou when first-timers ask where they should dine. We think the food at the Disneyland version is only so-so (and expensive), but the ambiance is a big redeeming factor.

With regard to this Blue Bayou, I think I was the most enthusiastic about it. I thought it was an all-around awesome restaurant. The ambiance is great at all three versions, but the difference here was the food. It was actually good! Beyond that, it felt ever-so-slightly more upscale, with nice flatware and dishes bearing a Blue Bayou logo.

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I ordered steak, which was pretty good. Sarah and Kate both ordered some sort of pasta-rice dish covered in cheese and topped with scallops. I think they both thought the cheese was overpowering, but that’s insane. You can never have too much cheese. Being the hog that I am, after I finished my meal, I had half of Sarah’s. Granted, it was no culinary masterpiece, but it was tasty comfort food.

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I might have mentioned this before (this is what taking months to complete a trip report will do to you!), but my overall impression of Tokyo dining was very favorable. With the exception of the SS Columbia Dining Room and the BelleVista Lounge, every place at which we dined exceeded my expectations. Part of this is probably selection bias, as we did a lot of research to choose the “best” restaurants, but we also tried a few places on whims. I also found that prices weren’t bad (but in fairness, my baseline is Walt Disney World restaurants where the Disney Dining Plan has caused some serious sticker price escalation in recent years).

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Next on the agenda was the Happiness is Here Parade, which is the new parade that had debuted only a couple of weeks prior to our trip for the start of Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary. This parade was designed by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, the primary designers responsible for Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at Disneyland, and probably no less than 50% of the good merchandise at Disneyland. They’ve also done merchandise for Walt Disney World from time to time, and the upcoming Festival of Fantasy Parade at Walt Disney World bears a striking resemblance to their design aesthetic, so they’re either behind that parade, too, or someone has ripped off their style. Point being, our expectations for this parade were high because it combined this design team with an OLC parade budget…a match made in a Disney geek’s dreams!

Happiness is Here did not disappoint. I’m normally not too big on daytime parades, but I loved this one. It was high energy and vibrant without being tacky, and also featured some great designs. For Disney fans, there were also little Easter Eggs scattered on the floats. My favorite are these bumper stickers:

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A couple of these Tokyo Disney fans are likely to understand. A reasonable chunk of Tokyo Disney Resort fans visit Disneyland in Anaheim, so they probably get the Anaheim and Toad Hall bumper stickers. They’ll probably also get the Pleasure Island sticker, which seems to reference Pinocchio, not Walt Disney World. However, the Nature’s Wonderland sticker? My guess would be that about one guest per day ‘gets’ that one. It’s a nod to Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland, an extinct Disneyland attraction that I mention from time to time on the blog, and this sticker lists several locations on the ride, including Rainbow Ridge and Bear Country. I have never seen the design used on this sticker, and if it’s new art created solely for this parade, I’ll be really impressed.

Words don’t really do the parade justice. Here are some photos to give you an idea of what it’s like. Unfortunately, these don’t really capture the scale of the parade…

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Our next stop after the parade was Country Bear Jamboree. We’ll pick up with the awesome Tokyo version of this attraction in the next installment…wait until you see their pre-show and post-show areas! (I’m hoping you all are as big of fans as Country Bear Jamboree as I am, otherwise that might read like a real lame attempt at a cliffhanger!)

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It’s our goal to convince every hardcore Disney fan to try to take a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort sometime in their life (okay…every fan might be a bit overzealous…if we could convince 10 people to make the trip, we’d consider it a success!), and we’d love your help in spreading the word!

To read the other installments of this trip report, visit the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report Index

Your Thoughts…

What do you think of the flashlight interactivity of the Monsters dark ride? What about the glorious bacon-egg snack? Will you be sitting on pins and needles until you see photos from the Country Bear Jamboree in Tokyo Disneyland?!? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

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24 Responses to “Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 9”

  1. Christian says:

    Great report! I think that’s the Pearson Park Amphitheater on the Anaheim tribute. Not sure why Nature’s Wonderland is on there as well (I’m sure there’s a simple connection though). I plan on dining at Grandma Sarah’s & Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall in Disneyland next month. But Blue Bayou looks good too!

    Do you recommend getting a fast-Pass for Monsters then heading straight to Pooh or vice versa?

    • Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is a personal favorite! :)
      Assuming you’ll be starting your day with rope drop: RUN to Monster’s get fast passes (ride the attraction, too) and then RUN to Pooh’s and queue up!
      Hope you have a great trip!

  2. Kevin says:

    “bacon-wrapped fried eggs with a bit rice tossed in”. I need to find that recipe.

    Thanks for all the pictures!

  3. Grace says:

    Your posts have definitely made me want to visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea! Not too much out there about TDL so I do love all the info you provide and the photos of course. Still trying to convince hubby that it’s a good idea to let me tag along on his biz trip to Tokyo in January. He fears I’m going to be like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation and wander around Tokyo aimlessly by myself, but I keep telling him, it’s ok! I’ll be at Tokyo Disneyland while you are working!! (evil laugh) yes, can’t wait to hear about Country Bear Jamboree and other snacks/foods :)

    • Glad you’ve enjoyed the Tokyo Disney Resort posts! Occasionally while in Japan I explored the parks/downtown Tokyo alone and had a wonderful time. I highly recommend renting a MiFi for navigational purposes. Feel free to email me with any questions!

  4. Peggy says:

    You must get tired of hearing from me. We loved Blue Bayou there. Service was amazingly! We also tell more people about the impeccable cleanliness about the TDR parks– it was amazing. The castmembers take true pride in the parks and their jobs, and it shows!
    As for the Monsters, Inc attraction, when we visited the parks, this attraction had just opened up the week before. The mad crush to get to the ride was crazy. Getting to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt was a walk in the park compared to the craziness. That said– the times we were able to ride the attraction, I found the flashlight to be a distraction. I was too busy wanting to view everything on the attraction to point the flashlight. My family agreed. Maybe if I had a small child in our group I would have felt different.
    As always– your photos are the best! I love them. They truly make me want to go back!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    You’ve definitely made me want to visit! It’s on my wish list, probably not real soon, but someday. Thanks so much for all the detailed trip reports, they’re worth the wait. :)

  6. Stephen says:

    Your reports just get better and better, don’t they?

    I loved monsters inc ride and go seek. I might be shunned by the Disney community for saying this but I liked it more than Pooh’s Hunny Hunt!

  7. Rafael says:

    I’m already saving money for my trip!

  8. mitch says:

    Awesome trip report! I hope something of the caliber of pooh’s honey hunt or the monster’s inc ride come to the american parks at some point. I absolutely love dark rides above all other types of attractions, so I’m sure I would really enjoy those.

    I’m just curious, but do you ever have trouble remembering details of your trip several months later when you are putting together these trip reports? You seem to narrate the details like you haven’t forgotten a single detail.

  9. Dan Heaton says:

    Awesome job once again. It’s a goal for me to sometime get to Tokyo Disneyland. I’ve been to Disneyland Paris and loved it, but this just looks even more remarkable. Love these reports!

  10. Ben says:

    Tom, Sarah-

    You’ve convinced at least two!

    My wife and I are heading to Tokyo as part of a trip through Asia. We’re staying two nights at the Tokyo Bay Hilton. I’d love to ask you some more specific/logistical questions. Can you contact me via e-mail?

    -Ben

  11. Dave says:

    Nice, I’d love to go sometime, it looks like so much fun. I wonder how much the actors playing Mary Poppins and Burt make over there. It has to be pretty good since their physical resemblance to the character alone is pretty rare in Japan, but add moving to Japan and any talent… I’m not saying they’re rich, but I’d think it would have to be good to make it worthwhile.

    I wonder if what you were doing on the canoe was saying something close to what the rest were saying but not quite. Like everyone else was saying “paddle!” but you were saying “toilet seat!” or whatever…and they were just too polite to correct you. ;-)

    Dave

  12. Annie says:

    Great post!

    I definitely thought “Typhoon Lagoon” from just the first photo alone.

    I am so in love with that Aristocats float. I want a miniature. Nay, I REQUIRE a miniature. Or a pin? I’d settle for a pin. Are there, Disney? It’s me, Annie…

  13. Caitlin says:

    You have definitely convinced us to work on making this trip happen- once I show my boyfriend the bacon egg rice thing of glory in this post, I think he’ll be even more sold :)

    I don’t remember ever checking out Country Bear Jamboree at WDW on previous visits (7+ years ago), but based on your recommendation we did on our trip in September and it was everything you promised and more.

  14. Alison says:

    These pictures of Tokyo Disney give me a very specific heartache for the country my husband and I called home for 2 years! I made it to both Disney Sea (my favorite Disney park of all time) and Tokyo Disneyland while we were overseas. My only regret is that we went to each only once. I was surprised to see that they are celebrating their 30th anniversary – I was there for the 25th and we brought home a coffee mug and a Minnie Mouse in a kimono, which now belongs to my 2 year old daughter. It looks like the Japanese patrons still love the ears – that was a favorite on our trips – always had to have the ears!

    Thanks for the fantastic pictures and walk down memory lane.

  15. Lynleigh says:

    Another awesome report! Gorgeous photos, and entertaining as always. I was in Tokyo in 2007, and we considered going to Tokyo Disney, but at the time, shopping at the huge mall and gawking at dirty magazines they so freely display in bookstores seemed more entertaining to a bunch of 17 year olds. So much regret.

  16. Aly says:

    Great report, as always. I so enjoy reading your write-ups! Not sure if we have the funds to go the Tokyo soon, but definitely in the future! :)

  17. SirEdge says:

    First time to reply here, but I’ve always admired your posts on MiceChat as well.

    I’ve actually enjoyed the long wait between the posts since it seems to make things last longer.

    I’ve began to draw up plans to visit TDL within the next two to three years. It’ll require quite a bit of saving, especially since I’ve already made plans for this holiday season.

  18. KendraLeigh says:

    I’ve been totally convinced by your blog that my husband and I need to make it a life-goal to visit every Disney park. We were WDW snobs, but after reading your trip reports and repeating some highlights for him in what is likely a daily Disney conversation (meaning me talking about all things Disney and him nodding with forced enthusiasm, though he’s getting into it more and more all the time) I think I have him convinced we should start broadening our Disney horizons.
    We started discussing another WDW trip without our children (we have four), but the two who are old enough to understand what we were talking about were horribly offended and started threatening to go to WDW without us some day as payback. I certainly can’t let that happen, so I suggested we just go to Tokyo Disney instead, but my husband thought perhaps I was aiming too high for a semi-spontaneous trip. But it’s absolutely a must do at some point in our future, and I don’t think we ever would have considered it if it weren’t for your trip reports. I appreciate and enjoy all the thorough research and reporting!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Tokyo definitely is not an impulse trip. I’d recommend picking a date no less than a year out. Not that you need that much time to plan, but it really helps you fully prepare for it, and build the excitement. Maybe start with Disneyland for the semi-spontaneous trip…or just save the money for an awesome Tokyo trip?

      By the way, thanks for sharing that we’ve inspired you to broaden your Disney horizons. It really (seriously) means a lot to us when we hear things like this from people. It’s a big reason why we do this! :)

      • KendraLeigh says:

        You’re very welcome! I love this blog! I appreciate the tone, sense of humor, and also the extensive research. I’m a bit of a nerd – I went to school for English Literature and research papers are one of my favorite things to do EVER. The same research love has absolutely carried over into my Disney planning. I’m sending a link to my other semi-closeted Disney friends so they can experience your blog in case they haven’t already.
        I do want to plan a year or more out before any of the international trips because, aside from the obvious reasons (expense, language barriers, etc.) the planning and strategizing is so much fun. By the time we go on any Disney trip I’m practically skipping through the airport. This does backfire though, as the “let’s go for next Halloween” has become “can we work in a trip before this Christmas?” My husband suggested Disneyland as well, so we are debating which way to go. I foresee pro con lists for each option in the near future.

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