It’s been just over a year since we visited Tokyo DisneySea during Super Typhoon Vongfong, so naturally, it seems like as good of time as any to write a trip report about it. In looking through my photos from the evening, I thought it was an interesting and unique evening in the park, so I thought I’d write about it, and share some photos from the most empty night in a theme park I’ve ever experienced.
Before we go any further, it’s probably appropriate to answer the question on any non-crazy person’s mind: why enter a dangerous situation in a foreign country just to visit a theme park? Good question. I assume it’s some lingering and misplaced sense of Manifest Destiny innate in all Americans. Hey, at least we were using it for conquering theme parks as opposed to colonizing already colonized lands.
In reality, what we were doing was undoubtedly dumb from the normal person perspective of “hey, it’s really windy and rainy out, being in a theme park might be uncomfortable” but was in no way dangerous. So, (we think) it was hardly dumb from the perspective of a crazed Disney fan who travels halfway around the world to visit a park.
We actually became aware of the potential for trouble with Super Typhoon Vongfong early in our trip to Japan, about a week before it was set to make landfall. Given the tendency of weather-reporting to sensationalize storms and this sort of thing, and the reliability of such predictions, we weren’t too concerned, initially.
Fast forward to two days before the storm was set to hit Japan, when we were in Osaka, about to meet up with Jen and Guy Selga, infamous Pachinko hustler. We were set to spend two days in Osaka, with a day in the city and another day at Universal Studios Japan before heading to Tokyo late at night and starting our day at Tokyo Disney Resort the following morning.
We were all pretty worried by this point, with concerns about the storm itself and also being stranded in Osaka without a hotel if something happened to the transportation grid. Based on our trip the previous winter, we knew the rails could go down for hours in even mild wind, so this was a concern. We ended up shuffling our schedule, doing a whole day at Universal Studios Japan and then an early morning in the city before booking it to Tokyo from Osaka by Shinkansen.
We were at the Shin-Osaka Station by around noon, and it was already pretty nuts. We had the “unlimited” Japan Rail Pass for Foreign Visitors, which meant we didn’t reserve seats on the bullet trains in advance, and it was a bit chaotic getting a spot on the train. I suspect things only got worse later in the day.
It was an uneventful trip to Tokyo. We arrived in mid-afternoon, checked into Hilton Tokyo Bay, got some snacks, and then thought about what we might do the rest of the night. The options were pretty limited, and basically amounted to watching bizarre Japanese game shows, the buffet in our hotel, or going over to Ikspiari if we were feeling really adventurous.
Then one of us broached the topic of going to the parks. It was laughed off and dismissed out of hand at first, but that one comment was really all it took, as we were all slowly rationalizing the idea to ourselves and one another shortly thereafter. The storm had dissipated and mostly passed by this point, so the decision to go was in no way dangerous, just possibly crazy considering the amount of rain and wind at the time. Within 30 minutes of the idea first being presented, we were all buying rain gear in the hotel gift shop and getting ready to go to Tokyo DisneySea.
This was Jen and Guy’s first ever time visiting Tokyo DisneySea (here’s their version of this Tokyo Disney Trip Report), and I was actually more apprehensive about that than anything else. So many hyped-up places crumble under tremendously high expectations that they cannot conceivably meet.
Tokyo DisneySea is not one such place, as it absolutely lives up to the hype. About the only scenarios I can think of that would cause people to be underwhelmed are under-preparation when the park is insanely busy, or having a sour taste due to a really negative experience unrelated to the park. The latter could potentially apply when visiting during a tropical storm, and I wanted them to love DisneySea as much as we do…
We were all really hungry upon arrival, so a meal was the first order of business. Wanting to make a good first impression, we took them back to one of our favorite counter service spots in the park, Casbah Food Court.
Actually, no I won’t. You know me better than that. Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is a modern day gem, and indicative of what the Imagineers can do when given a blank creative canvas and the resources to build something on this scale. I really hope Shanghai Disneyland opens with something similar in style and quality as this.
You know that sense of anticipation, excitement, and uneasiness you get when you show something you really love to someone for the first time? That’s how I felt as we rode through Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage with Jen and Guy as they experienced it for the first time.
Like Ted and Marshall as they spy on Stella while she watches Star Wars, I probably spent more of the ride trying to see their reactions than I did actually watching the ride, myself.
My feelings about the attraction are pretty well-documented, so I wanted to get a sense of their actual reactions rather than waiting for them to tell me what they thought. Creepy? Sure. The problem is that they knew I would probably judge them as Disney fans (and let’s be honest–as people) based on what they thought of this ride, which might cause some people to crouch their opinions after the attraction accordingly. Fortunately, they are both honest and have excellent sensibilities as fans, and both loved the attraction. Phew, might’ve made for an awkward trip together if I had to formally repudiate them on the first day in the parks! 😉
Arabian Coast brings its A-game when it comes to light fixtures.
Our visit was during the excellent Halloween season at Tokyo Disney Resort, but aside from this photo of the popular Gyoza Dog, turned black for Halloween–a common culinary gimmick in Japan–there’s not much about Halloween in this report.
The concern mentioned above about a negative experience tainting Tokyo DisneySea for Guy and Jen, up until this point, proved entirely baseless. When we left our hotel for Bayside Station, it was incredibly windy and pouring to the point I think we all thought, “what are we getting ourselves into?”
By the time we walked from Aquasphere Plaza to Arabian Coast upon arrival, the rain had noticeably decreased. Ponchos were still necessary, but it was no longer a torrential downpour.
More importantly, there were virtually no other guests in the park. The photo above might be meaningless for those who have never been to Tokyo DisneySea, but this is the main Duffy gift shop in Cape Cod, which is usually swamped with people. We were the only guests in it when we briefly popped in.
Gelatoni, Duffy’s cat-friend had recently arrived on the scene at this point, and had his own Halloween merchandise available in the shop…
If I had to guess, I would say there were more Cast Members working that evening than there were guests in the park. I didn’t go around counting, but that’s certainly how it felt.
One thing I’ve noticed post-closing in the Tokyo parks is that the attraction greeters always, ALWAYS are waving. It doesn’t matter if the park has been closed for 45 minutes and there is literally no one around them, they are (presumably) trained to wave at all times. Perhaps it’s a courtesy to ghosts?
On a number of occasions on this particular evening, we’d approach a ghost-waving Cast Member, and we would wave back. Without fail, the Cast Members would instantly become giddy, usually giving us the double wave in return. When you get that two-handed double wave at Tokyo DisneySea, you know you’ve hit pay dirt!
Read and see more from our tropical storm adventure in Tokyo DisneySea on page 2!