Henry and Kate were enjoying the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel that morning, so Sarah and I did our own thing until lunch. We started out in Tokyo Disneyland, with quick rides on the usual suspects before heading back to Toontown. Tokyo Disneyland’s Toontown was a lot like the Anaheim Toontown, which is to say it was the nicer version.
We started there with Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, which is an attraction we enjoy in Anaheim. This was a perfect example of the “Tokyo Disneyland Difference.” We had just been on the Disneyland version about a week prior, and the differences were striking. It’s substantively the same, but the Tokyo Disneyland version just popped more. It was like having poor vision and putting on glasses for the first time. The paint was fresh and clean, everything moved fluidly, and the attraction looked great.
The crazy thing about this is that, prior to riding the Tokyo version, I couldn’t have pointed out anything necessarily “wrong” with the Anaheim version. It doesn’t stick out as having a lot of broken effects or being poorly maintained, and the difference between the two versions was STILL pretty dramatic (so imagine comparing an attraction with habitual maintenance problems in the US, like Splash Mountain).
Here are some photos from Toontown:
About the time we were done in Toontown, we spotted Henry just standing around, randomly posing and waiting for…anyone…to take his photo in the ironically sized doorway. Exciting morning for him.
After this we mostly wandered around, repeating a few attractions and exploring Critter Country some more. Critter Country ended up being the surprise of the trip–it was definitely my favorite land in Tokyo Disneyland, and I think I was not alone in that sentiment.
I was hoping Grandma Sara’s would be open early for a light meal, and so I could explore it more, as I really didn’t have a chance previously. On the plus side, the restaurant was open, on the downside, it was not open for business. In hindsight, I’m okay with this, as there were no other guests inside! We had this same type of luck wandering into “closed” restaurants at Disneyland Paris, and I’m now convinced the best way to get restaurant photos is to just visit before they are open for the day. No clue if it works at Walt Disney World, as we’ve oddly never tried there.
Anyway, Grandma Sara’s was absolutely awesome on the inside. The amount of detail, the attention to design, and the number of nooks and crannies to explore was impressive. If you go here while it’s open, you’ll undoubtedly have to awkwardly hoover over other guests’ tables to see all of the details, which is probably impolite, so I highly recommend visiting it during off-hours. It’s a good restaurant, so be sure to visit while it’s actually open, too.
After that, we grabbed some snacks from Cafe Orleans. These were unsurprisingly delicious.
We then headed to World Bazaar to explore the shops. Up until this point, we had been fairly underwhelmed by the merchandise at Tokyo Disney Resort. It was overwhelmingly character driven. I don’t find fault in this, as that’s clearly what sells there.
On World Bazaar we stumbled into the Disney Gallery, which definitely improved our opinion of the merchandise. It was a beautiful shop and display area, with many great items. Had we gone a few years ago, I probably would’ve spent way-too-much in there, but as I’m trying to cut back on Disney collectibles, we only bought a couple of things. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed up there.
I ended up spending more money next door, where CDs and Blu-ray were sold. The big “decision” there was whether or not to buy the ~$150 Blu-ray 30th Anniversary set. I ultimately held off, and held off again when we stopped at Ikspiari the next morning on the way out of TDR…but then I ran back to Ikspiari only a couple minutes later and bought it. I should get some credit for resisting twice…right?
Between Ikspiari and that shop in World Bazaar, I bought that Blu-ray set and 7 CDs. Two of the CDs were exclusive to the shop in Ikspiari, and one of the tracks on the exclusive CD is an instrumental version of “Illuminations: We Go On.” Mind you, this CD is ONLY sold at that one store, in Ikspiari. It cannot be purchased in the US. I thought the track selection was interesting, given that. Perhaps the Illuminations track is or has been used somewhere in Tokyo, too?
We also stopped by Club 33 to pose for standard “pretend we’re dining here” photos.
I don’t know what this says, nor do I recall why I took a photo of it. Seemed important at the time?
This Cast Member kept posing for me, but I was going for an “action” shot…which I couldn’t really communicate to her. It ended up being a little awkward, with me just standing around with my 70-200mm lens, waiting…
After that, we wandered around World Bazaar some more. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this (you know I’ve stretched this trip report out too long if I don’t even remember what I’ve written in it), but World Bazaar didn’t do a ton for me. This is somewhat disappointing as I’m a big fan of Main Street, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
I think the big issue for me was that it mostly felt large and characterless. While I liked the expansiveness elsewhere in Tokyo Disneyland, World Bazaar almost felt too large and utilitarian, and lacking in character.
It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what was wrong–perhaps it was the flatness, the plain pavement, or the sheer size–but it didn’t resonate emotionally for me. It never really felt “alive” and except for wandering around that morning, I can’t think of any time we really hung out there. I really am not entirely sure why, and maybe it’s a personal thing, but it felt a little hollow.
I’m still glad that they went with the covered World Bazaar (although I think the cover is out of necessity due to snow, and is not a totally voluntary design choice), as I like things that make the individual Disney theme parks unique, but it stands as my least favorite “Main Street,” with Paris’ remaining the runaway favorite.
Perhaps when we visit Tokyo Disney Resort at Christmas, we’ll spend more time on World Bazaar, and my opinion of it will become more favorable?
In addition to wandering around World Bazaar, I made a point of taking some infrared photos (here’s more info about infrared photography, for those who are curious). Before that last day, I had only taken the camera into Tokyo DisneySea once (for a morning shoot) and had taken less than 30 photos with it. It was one of three cameras taking up valuable space in my luggage (I also carried a backup camera for my Nikon D600, which I fortunately didn’t have to use at all). It’s tough to travel with only a carry-on bag when a good chunk of space is devoted to cameras, tripods, etc!
I only ended up with about 50 more infrared photos over the course of that day, and suffice to say, I don’t think the infrared camera will be traveling with me on future international trips. It just takes up too much space for how much use I get out of it. On the plus side, I wouldn’t be surprised if I now have the world’s largest collection of infrared Tokyo Disneyland Tomorrowland spires photos. If that isn’t prime bragging rights, I don’t know what is.
Following the slow-paced morning, it was time to head over to Tokyo DisneySea for lunch at Magellan’s. This was actually our first day taking advantage of Park Hopping. Granted, we only had the ability to Park Hop the previous day (in Tokyo, 4-day tickets only allow Park Hopping during the last two days of the ticket), but we hadn’t taken advantage of it. Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland abut one another, but unlike Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, it’s the backside of the parks that abut. This means that you must use the monorail to Park Hop (or walk a decent distance). The monorail is highly efficient, but there was so much to do in Tokyo Disneyland that we never really felt the need to hop the previous day.
We started by getting some photos of us with the cool Aquasphere-themed characters in Tokyo DisneySea. Since there are no character attendants and this is basically a free for all (and a VERY popular one, at that), this was like a sport. We decided not to treat it as full-contact.
We rewarded our success with more Sindbad’s. We hadn’t done it in over a day!
I had heard about a “secret room” at Magellan’s where you can ask to dine. I couldn’t find any information in English about it online, so I figured it was either super-secret, or not real. Banking on it being super-secret, I decided to ask a Cast Member if we could dine in there, hoping that I wouldn’t have an odd ‛lost in translation’ conversation with him not understanding what the heck I was talking about wanting to dine in some room that didn’t exist.
It did exist, and we were obliged. We didn’t know what to expect of the secret room, but I was hoping that it was going to be super secret. It turned out to be a “hidden” wine cellar with a button that needed to be pressed to be accessed. There was one other party dining in there at the beginning of our meal (by the end, we were the only ones there…besides the Cast Members standing guard), so I guess it wasn’t quite as secret as I thought. Still, pretty cool. Since we weren’t able to get into Club 33 (if, against all odds, there are any Club 33 Japan members reading this, we’d love to hear from you!), this was a nice consolation.
In just about every way, Magellan’s is the greatest Disney restaurant ever. The big thing for us was the dichotomy of theme and elegance. Normally, if a Disney restaurant executes a theme pretty well, it is not an elegant restaurant. (Good examples here would be Sci-Fi Dine-In or 50’s Prime Time.) This is a debatable point, as I know many people consider restaurants like Jiko or Napa Rose to be themed, but I’d argue that they aren’t themed so much as they are contemporary American fine dining “themed” restaurants decorated with specific motifs. Granted, Jiko does have a distinct look that you won’t find anywhere else, but I don’t think the South African decor makes it themed to that.
In any case, Magellan’s was both themed to a high-brow explorers’ club, and also elegant in its execution. It was sort of like the Adventurers Club for billionaires, and exactly the type of place I could imagine Harrison Hightower relaxing for a meal of exotic game.
I could gush and gush over Magellan’s theming, because I think the restaurant is that worthy of praise. Everything about the design is exceptional, and it’s clear a lot of money went into that restaurant. No detail is spared, and it seems like every possible “upgrade” was made to the finishing and design. Photos don’t even begin to do it justice.
Food is actually the only (I know food is sort of important at a restaurant…) area where I don’t think Magellan’s is the top Disney restaurant. There are probably a handful of superior restaurants around the world. Of the places we’ve been to, it’s definitely top 5.
Magellan’s can be quite expensive, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It was $171.94 for the two of us, but that was because we each ordered the most expensive lunch sets on the menu, and we each got expensive drinks. I totally got suckered into the Duffy Spring Voyage collector’s cup because it had the S.E.A. logo on it. If anyone is a member of S.E.A., it has got to be Duffy, right?! We could have spent about half of what we did, and still had a great meal.
As you can see, the presentation of every dish at Magellan’s was fantastic. Portions were on the small side, but that seems to stem from it being a combination of fine dining (known for smaller portions) and located in Japan (also known for smaller portions). We didn’t leave Magellan’s hungry, but we didn’t leave stuffed like is more apt to be the case at a US restaurant. The good news, if you’re American pigs like us, is that you’ll be ready for more snacks an hour or so after your meal!
Each of our meals were four courses. Here’s some of what we had:
Like so many of these things, I will do a dedicated review of Magellan’s at some point, but for now, all you need to know is that Magellan’s is an absolute must-do if you visit Tokyo Disney Resort. While we liked almost every table service restaurant we did, this is the only one that I’d consider an absolute must-do for anyone who makes the trek to Japan.
For now, here’s a brief tour:
When you add the thoroughly amazing ambiance (that is without equal) to the ‛top 5′ cuisine, it should be pretty easy to see why Magellan’s is the best Disney restaurant we’ve ever visited.
Finally, I’ll leave you with the S.E.A. flag flying high over the club’s homebase, Fortress Explorations. We’ll pick up the final installment of the trip report there, becoming honorary S.E.A. members…
SPAM YOUR FRIENDS. We’re into the home stretch of this trip report now (only ONE installment remains) and we want your help. As we’ve been saying, we want to convince everyone to visit Tokyo Disney Resort. It seems like we’re sorta close to this “everyone” goal, as literally everyday we hear from people planning trips to Tokyo, who claim to be doing it because of us. Not to get all emotional on you, but hearing this really makes our day. Anyway, to help us get to “everyone” we’re asking that you spam your friends via social media (or via blog, email, snail mail, courier pigeon, etc.) with the link to the trip report. It’s not like you don’t spam your friends already, and we’re pretty sure they’d rather read this than hear about your latest Fitbit stats or how many sheep you’ve raised in Farmville. So please click the “share” buttons on the side and help us out. Thanks!