Japan Blog: Day 2 (Part 2)

Finally, I get to talk about our day at Tokyo DisneySea! We woke up extra early with the intention of getting to the park when it opened, but once we discovered the beautiful temple near our hotel we had to stop and explore it first. (You can read about the temple in Day 2 Part 1.)

Tokyo DisneySea

To get to the Disney resort grounds, we had to transfer subways and then transfer again to the Disney rail line. We were surprised that we had to use our IC cards to get onto the Disney railway. This would be like using your New York City MetroCard to transfer onto the Walt Disney World monorail!

Now is as good a time as any to mention that each stop on the Japan subway system plays a little tune when the subway doors are closing. When we got to the Disney line the tune was Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah! We got to ride in the front of the monorail car, which was Mickey themed. I was practically giddy by the time we got off at the DisneySea stop around 9:30am.

Mediterranean Harbor

It was a hot morning—not Florida hot, but definitely toasty in the direct sunlight. We learned that the Japanese dress very conservatively, even in the heat. There wasn’t a pair of shorts or tank top in sight. To protect their skin from the sun, many people wore hats (mostly Disney themed) or carried umbrellas. In fact, when we first entered the park we saw a mass of people sitting around Mediterranean Harbor under their umbrellas waiting for the first Villain’s World performance of the day.


I knew that the park would be crowded, but the amount of people milling around the front of the park was still overwhelming. We grabbed an English map and tried to orient ourselves with the park.

As with all Disney parks, there is one large iconic structure located at the front and center. For DisneySea, this structure is Mount Prometheus—an “active” volcano that intermittently erupts fire. The volcano happened to be spewing fire when we first walked into the park, but I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to catch it. The blasts don’t last very long. In front of Mount Prometheus is the giant Mediterranean Harbor at the center of the park.

Mysterious Island

First, we made our way to Mysterious Island to grab a FastPass for Journey to the Center of the Earth. After that we waited in the 40 minute line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is also located on Mysterious Island.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Unfortunately, I was never on the Disney World ride of the same name before it closed so I’m not sure if they were same. For this ride, passengers boarded tiny submarines six at a time. Unlike most ride vehicles where there are rows of benches or seats, 20,000 Leagues had three separate benches each facing a round submarine window. Our backs were toward the other passengers in our car, but we could turn around and see them since there was no barrier between us.

During the ride, our submarine submerged and we sailed past beautiful animatronic sea life. There was some sort of story behind our journey, but the narration was in Japanese. Even so, it was a delightful ride. My only complaint was the height of the submarine windows. Since they were very low to the ground, we ended up stooping the entire ride (so we could see) and had sore necks by the time it was over. I’m a little over 5’7 and Adam is about 6’1, so I imagine we are much taller than the average Japanese rider.

Next, I got out our handy park map and brought us to Mermaid Lagoon, themed after one of my favorite Disney movies The Little Mermaid!

Mermaid Lagoon

What Mermaid Lagoon lacks in thrill rides, it makes up for in atmosphere. The outside of King Triton’s Kingdom is absolutely stunning.

The castle is covered in a mosaic of multicolored ceramic tiles, shells, and gems that sparkle in the sun.

After admiring the intricate design on the outside of King Triton’s Kingdom, we decided to explore the inside. We didn’t realize it would be huge! There were indoor kiddy rides, a water play area, gift shops, and Sebastian’s Calypso Kitchen—a counter service restaurant.

At this point we decided that we wanted to grab something to eat for lunch, so we got in line at Sebastian’s. I knew ahead of time that the only restaurant in all of Tokyo DisneySea that offers a vegetarian meal is an expensive sit down place called Ristorante di Canaletto, but I thought I would be fine just ordering a side salad and fries at Sebastian’s. MISTAKE. The “salad-in-a-cup” had what I can only assume was some sort of fish paste on top and the fries were not very appetizing. I ended up scooping half the salad out onto a napkin to avoid eating the fish paste and the fries were sort of soggy. The best part of the meal was the mango & yogurt mousse dessert that came in a souvenir Flounder mug. I definitely wouldn’t have ordered it if it hadn’t come with the cup, since anyone who has ever met me knows that I prefer chocolate.

Adam ordered the chef’s special, which was just a sandwich and fries.  At least his sandwich was shaped like a seashell so it was sort of cute. All in all, we wouldn’t recommend this restaurant.

After lunch, we were eager to get out of King Triton’s Kingdom and walked over to the Arabian Coast, which is essentially Agrabah from Disney’s Aladdin. It was particularly enjoyable to walk through this land because we had just seen Aladdin on Broadway for my birthday, two days before our Japan trip.

As with Mermaid Lagoon, the Arabian Coast also has an incredibly intricate design aesthetic.

Lost River Delta

At this point we were able to get another FastPass (although it still wasn’t time for us to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth, yet.) We walked over to the next land, Lost River Delta, with the intention of getting a FastPass for the Raging Spirits roller coaster, but we discovered that it was closed for construction (boo!).

Instead, we got a FastPass for Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and moved on to the next land.

Port Discovery

Port Discovery is arguably the most boring land in the entire park. It is supposed to be themed around a “futuristic marina,” but it lacks the charm of Disney World’s futuristic Tomorowland.

StormRider

Since there was a short wait time, we got in line for Port Discovery’s main attraction: StormRider. The pre-show featured a live cast member showing off the Center for Weather Control’s latest invention: a giant laser gun that has the power to eliminate storms. (Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to build a land around a ride that is a glorified version of The Weather Channel?)

Even though there were screens featuring English subtitles for the pre-show, the premise hardly made sense. We were introduced to a prerecorded captain and his sidekick and learned they were going to fly into the center, or “eye,” of a dangerous storm and eliminate it using their big storm zapper. The audience was going to fly behind them in an observation vehicle to see how it works.

After the pre-show, the audience entered the ride/theater, very reminiscent of Star Tours in Disney World. We buckled in and “took off,” watching a large screen as we heard Japanese commentary from our captain. Much like Star Tours, the room bobbed and weaved along with the film. Toward the end, the storm zapper gun ended up going through the roof of our observation ship, pointing toward the audience. I cannot imagine an American audience feeling comfortable with a giant gun pointing at them, but we enjoyed the ride nonetheless.

American Waterfront

Afterwards we made our way to the final land, the American Waterfront. I knew of this land before the trip and had been looking forward to seeing how the Japanese depict Americans—I was not disappointed. As one of the largest lands in Tokyo DisneySea, it’s actually divided into a couple parts. First, we walked through Cape Cod, which Adam and I dubbed “Duffy Land.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with Duffy, let me introduce you. Duffy is Mickey’s stuffed bear, and “your friend forever.” (Challenge: How many Duffys do you see in the following photo?)

As far as I know, there aren’t any Disney movies behind Duffy, just merchandising. And boy, is there merchandising! There were at least four stores entirely dedicated to Duffy merchandise. There was also a Duffy live show and a Duffy meet-and-greet located in the American  Waterfront.

As we continued to walk through the park, we began to understand just how much the Japanese love Duffy. Nearly every man, woman, and child had at least one Duffy item on their person at any given time—many had several Duffys! We saw people carrying Duffy keychains, Duffy backpacks, large Duffy stuffed animals, and even plastic Duffy popcorn buckets—sometimes all at once. At Tokyo Disney, Duffy is king.

After Cape Cod/Duffy Land, Adam and I made our way through the rest of the American Waterfront. Much to my delight, this area was themed after an old-fashioned New York City, complete with a Broadway Music Theatre, New York Deli, and (in my opinion) the crown jewel of the American Waterfront: McDuck’s Department Store.

Yes, Scrooge McDuck—the wealthy, money-obsessed duck who is the embodiment of consumerism and capitalism—has found a home in Japan’s version of America. (And yes, those are dollar sign flags atop the store.) Out front there is the serene fountain made of stacks of gold coins.

Inside, the walls are embedded with gold coins and covered in portraits of McDuck himself. While this may seem like an offensive view of Americans, please know that we still have the last laugh—McDuck’s primarily sells Duffy-themed merchandise. U-S-A! U-S-A!

 

Villian’s World

Finally, we made our way back to the front of the park where we stood to watch the afternoon performance of “Villian’s World.” Instead of an afternoon parade on land, Tokyo DisneySea utilizes the water-filled Mediterranean Harbor for its park-wide entertainment. This show was Halloween themed and incorporated several large ships  each for a different Disney villain: Jafar, Hades, Evil Queen, Captain Hook, Malificent, and Ursula. Besides the show’s theme song (which irritatingly repeated “Welcome to the villain’s world!” over and over again), all the dialogue was in Japanese. I gathered that the villains tried to take over the park, but when Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Chip, and Dale appeared on board the ships, they saved the day.

There were beautiful costumes and lots of dancing from performers on the platforms around Mediterranean Harbor, but unless you were standing right in front of them it was hard to see. My favorite part was when the synchronized jet skis raced around the ships. Overall, the show was a cool concept, but nothing groundbreaking for Disney. I could have gone without seeing it.

Next, we walked through Mediterranean Harbor and got ourselves some much-needed ice cream. Sadly, there are no Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream bars (my favorite) at Tokyo Disney, so I got the Tiramisu Ice Cream Sandwich and Adam got the Sea Salt Ice Cream Monaka. Mine was good, but Adam’s definitely wasn’t like a salted caramel treat like he was expecting. We think it must have been a mistranslation of “seashell.” We’ve seen lots of humorous mistranslations on our trip that I will recap in a later post.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

After our snack, it was finally time to use our FastPass for Journey to the Center of the Earth! (The park was so crowded that our FastPass time was for the afternoon.)

For this ride, you get in a train that’s headed for “the center of the Earth” (hence the name). At first you leisurely roll past beautiful caverns, then the train speeds up and you whip past strange, almost extra-terrestrial wildlife. The ride concludes with an adrenaline-pumping drop down Mount Prometheus. It’s a close call, but this was my favorite ride of the park!

Tower of Terror

Next, we went all the way to the other side of the park to ride Tower of Terror. We decided to wait in the standby line for this one since the FastPasses were all sold out for the day and I didn’t want to miss it.

The premise of this Tower of Terror is very different from the ones in Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Instead of traveling to The Twilight Zone, visitors tour of Hotel Hightower (which has been preserved by the mythical New York Historical Society) after the mysterious disappearance of its owner and namesake, Harrison Hightower III. Mr. Hightower, the noted adventurer and collector, filled the hotel with self-portraits and the conquests from his many explorations.

After going through the lobby, guests are brought into Mr. Hightower’s study to hear a cast member explain (in Japanese) the story of his last expedition and listen to the final phonograph recording (also in Japanese) Mr. Hightower recorded before his mysterious disappearance. During the recording, a stained-glass image of Mr. Hightower collecting a tiki comes to life. Then, with a flash of green light, the actual tiki idol sitting in the room begins to glow and lets out an evil laugh.

From there, the audience is then ushered into the elevator to take the traditional Tower of Terror plunge. I loved this ride and the haunted tiki motif. The attention to detail was superb, and I only wish I could have understood the  pre-show dialogue. As you can see from the ride photo, Adam and I had a great time! (I’m seated directly in the center at the top of the aisle and Adam is next to me on the right.)

Caravan Carousel 

Next, we ventured back to the Arabian Coast (I so wish we had pedometers on to track how many miles we walked this day!) to scope out some rides with reasonable standby wait times. The double-decker carousel with a five minute wait time was just what we needed! I’m sorry to report that we rode on the lower level instead of just waiting the extra five minutes for the top. At this point in the day we were both feeling exhausted from looping the park so many times and I made a poor judgement call when the cast member asked if we wanted to wait extra for the upper level. (Also, the stairs looked super unappealing to my aching feet!)

Throw in some camels, and this is just like your traditional carousel set to Aladdin themed music. I did get to ride an elephant beside a little girl on the Genie, so all was not lost!

Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage

After our uneventful carousel ride, we happened upon the most underrated ride of the park: Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. This ride had virtually no wait time at night and we walked right on. (I’m not sure if it had one earlier in the day when the park was more crowded, but I almost feel like this ride deserves a long wait time.) The vehicles for this ride are large boats, very similar to the boats used in Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World. We got seats in the front row in a nearly empty boat.

Before we boarded, I asked a cast member for an English translation sheet (thanks for the tip, Mom!) and she handed us each a small, double-sided strip of paper with Sinbad “comics” featuring scenes throughout the ride and English translations. At first I tried to strain my eyes to read it while on the boat, but it was way too dark to see. Instead, I enjoyed the ride and read the translations after we disembarked.


I’m hesitant to compare this ride to It’s a Small World in Disney World (mostly because IASW can become irritating after the second room) but that’s the most similar ride in terms of size, structure, and feel. (For all you It’s a Small World haters, hear me out before you completely write off Sinbad!!)

Passengers sail through rooms following the delightful adventures of Sinbad and his pet tiger Chandu (think of a baby Rajah from Disney’s Aladdin.) Sinbad reminded me (a bit) of an Arabian Robin Hood, protecting the seas from bandits and wrongdoers and sharing his bounty for the common good. Each scene was more beautiful than the next, and you can’t help but fall in love with the heroic Sinbad as he sings out his catchy theme song in a rich baritone voice. (I later learned that the song was written by legendary Disney composer, Alan Menken.) “Follow the Compass of Your Heart” was mostly in Japanese, but our handy Sinbad handout included an English translation of the lyrics.


I would estimate that many of the rooms were nearly as large as the ones in It’s a Small World, which was unexpexted considering how few people were actually on the ride. The technology was similar to IASW, but Sinbad had way more realistic animatronics and an actual story to follow.

I wish I took more pictures throughout the ride, but I was too awestruck to even think about photos until the very last scene when I grabbed this precious shot of Chandu.

Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage was one of my favorite rides of the day, possibly even surpassing Tower of Terror!

Fantasmic!

Having seen Fantasmic! several times in Disney World, I knew I didn’t want to miss it at DisneySea. The premise of the show was basically the same: Sorcerer Mickey uses the power of dreams to fight  Disney villains and the forces of evil.

In Florida, the show takes place on the water in front of a large outdoor theater. Clips from lovable Disney films are projected onto large fountains of spraying water in time to music. At the height of the show, Sorcerer Mickey stands on a high peak and fights a dragon.

Instead of a theater, Fantasmic! at DisneySea takes place on the Mediterranean Harbor and guests stand to watch from all sides of the park. This brought the show much closer to the audience, but it was sort of strange to watch from the side of the harbor instead of head-on like in Florida. The biggest difference between the show’s was that in DisneySea, Mickey stood atop a giant floating sorcerer’s hat made of LED screens. There were also clips projected on spraying water throughout the harbor, but because it was windy they were nearly impossible to see. We had to look at the screens on the hat to watch. The dragon at the climax of the show was much more impressive at DisneySea and breathed real fire! Mount Prometheus also erupted in the background at crucial parts in the show. My photos from the show came out terrible, but in this one you can sort of see the dragon coming out from around the hat.

The soundtrack for the show was half in English and half in Japanese. I noticed that the “wordier” songs, such as Aladdin’s “Friend in Me,”  were in Japanese, while others that don’t rely as heavily on lyrics to convey a message were in English.

The show was dazzling, but standing to watch was sort of a bummer. We didn’t have to worry about not being able to see over people’s heads since we were much taller than many of the people around us, but our feet were already really tired from looping around the park so many times during the day. We were practically limping away at the end.

When Fantasmic! was over, they made an announcement that we had seen a “modified version of the show due to weather conditions.” I’m assuming this was referring to the wind. A few minutes later they made another announcement that the evening’s Halloween fireworks show had been cancelled due to the weather. To be honest, I was relieved the show was cancelled because I didn’t think we could make it through another 45 minutes of standing.

Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

Remember when we got a FastPass for Indiana Jones earlier in the day? Well, after Fantasmic! it was finally time to ride. We had to trek back through the Mysterious Island, Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon, and the Arabian Coast to get to Lost River Delta. We were exhausted, but I insisted that we go on this last ride before we left. After all, this trip may very well be my only trip to Japan. Who knows if I’ll get another opportunity to come back?

Indiana Jones Adventure is very similar to the Indiana Jones ride in California, but based on the Temple of the Crystal Skull—you know, the worst movie of the Indiana Jones series. The ride vehicles, loading platform, and even the various rooms seemed nearly identical to its California counterpart, just with a more extraterrestrial spin and a Japanese-speaking Indy. (Full Disclosure: I haven’t been to Disneyland in California since I was about 12-years-old, but I was experiencing some major nostalgia on this ride.) There was even the giant boulder at the end, to which Adam exclaimed mid-drop: “Wrong movie!”

It was nice to get in one last thrill ride before we left, and you can tell from our ride photo, thrilled we were! (We’re seated in the front row, far left.)

After a long, long day, Adam and I dragged ourselves back to the front of the park so we could catch the monorail and then take the subway back to our hotel. I’m happy to say that I did everything I set out to do at the park—all in one day! It was definitely exhausting, but well-worth it.

I can’t wait to share the rest of our trip with you! This post took so long to write (mostly because I wanted to describe everything in painstaking detail) that it caused a backlog on the rest of my posts. Even though I just got home, I still plan to finish writing about the rest of our trip—so stay tuned for Day 3!

Japan Blog: Day 2 (Part 1)

Hello, lovely readers! Thanks again for following along on our Japan adventure! To see the earlier installments, click here for Day 1 (Part 1) and here for Day 1 (Part 2).

For our second full day in Tokyo, Adam (generously) gave me free rein—so naturally I chose to visit Tokyo DisneySea! We woke up extra early so we could eat breakfast at the hotel and then get to the park before it opened at 8:30am. Today we ate outside even though it was slightly chilly. During breakfast I tried a strange new food that I later learned was a lychee. It was sweet and a bit slimy. I definitely won’t go out and buy them at the grocery store, but I was proud of myself for trying a new food—which can be challenging if you’re a vegetarian.


On our way to the subway station, we decided to quickly walk past an interesting looking Japanese building that we could partially see from our hotel. Lo and behold, a gorgeous temple! We then made the decision to spend a bit of time exploring the ancient building before heading to Disney. (Ah, I can practically hear the Disney fanatics crying out in dismay! It’s my hope that once you see the photos, you’ll understand our desire to explore the temple first.)  The top part was what we could see from our hotel. We didn’t realize how big this temple was until we actually walked up.

We learned that this is called Sensoji Temple, one of the oldest temples in Japan. Below is the main hall of the temple.


We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple, but we did take part in an interesting ritual. Behind a large barrier, somewhat like a chain link fence, were rows of seats and a large alter. In front there were rows of bureau-like structures with tiny drawers and several counters with wine bottle-sized cylinders. (There were similar stands outside where we were allowed to take photos.)


After silently observing a few people, we figured out what we needed to do. First, we went up to the counter and made a donation, then picked up a cylinder and gently shook it horizontally a few times before pouring out a skinny wooden stick—much like an incense reed. Each stick contained a few hand-written Japanese characters that corresponded to the characters written on one of the drawers. After we finally found the matching drawer, we opened it and pulled out a piece of paper containing a fortune. The papers were written in Japanese and English so we could read them. Adam and I both got “bad fortunes,” but at the bottom of the page it said in bold something along the lines of “don’t worry because you can make your own luck.” Even though you’re supposed to keep it, I put my fortune back in the drawer. (I definitely don’t need to go around carrying something that says “bad fortune” on it!)

Afterwards we went back outside and explored the surrounding area. There was a beautiful fountain with ladles for cleansing your hands (probably something we were supposed to do before we went inside the temple) and a sand-filled well with burning incense.

The was a giant arch leading up to the temple, and a few other small temples in the area.


We enjoyed walking around and exploring the area. I still can’t believe how close this all was to our hotel and how we almost missed it! After about a half hour or so we left the temples behind and walked to the subway for our day at Tokyo DisneySea!

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I recap our day at Disney!

Japan Blog: Day 1 (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, click here.

On our first day in Japan we had a personal tour guide, Ayano, to show us around and help us acclimate ourselves to the city. As I mentioned in part 1, we spent the morning exploring the restaurant row near our hotel, then strolling the beautiful grounds of the Imperial Gardens. From there we walked to Tokyo Station, which we learned had recently been given a facelift. We found the surrounding area, as well as the station itself, to be immaculately clean and modern. I cannot stress enough how antiquated the New York City subway system is in comparison. Everything from the IC cards (Japan’s version of the MetroCard) to the trains themselves were fast, efficient, and easy to use. Our guide showed us how to navigate the trains, which was much easier than I was expecting, and even helped us reserve train tickets for our upcoming trip to Kyoto.  

Similar to New York’s Grand Central Station, Tokyo Station is filled with bustling shops and restaurants—including a Starbucks! Beneath the main level of the station, we were dazzled by “character row,” a line of shops each dedicated to a popular Japanese character or mascot. We visited the shops for Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Tamagotchi, Nanana, Sailor Moon, and tons of other popular Manga/Anime characters. 

 
There was even a shop dedicated to Snoopy from the American classic “Peanuts.” All of the characters were adorable, but it was the loveable Bananya (a play on the Japanese words for “banana” and “cat”) that won a place in my heart—and my suitcase home.

 

After shopping, we ate lunch at a ramen restaurant in Tokyo Station. Ayano recommended this particular place because it had vegetarian and vegan options. Instead of ordering from a menu, we actually had to order from a machine outside the restaurant that prints out a ticket of your selections. Adam loved ordering from the machine. (Side note: Adam has been fascinated by the vending machines all over Japan, but more on that later.) 

 
We sat down and were soon served the most delicious ramen. Mine was filled with vegetables and noodles made of veggies, Adam’s had pork and regular ramen noodles. Since the Japanese tend to show appreciation for their meals by loudly slurping their food, the restaurant offerred plastic bibs. Even though I ate my meal quietly, I still I wore the bib because my chopsticks skills are a work in progress. And I’m glad I did—a few noodles didn’t make it all the way to my mouth! 

 

After lunch we took the train to Shibuya Station and crossed the insanely busy Shibuya intersection. It’s a famous spot because all the crosslights turn red at the same time, causing a mass of pedestrians to pour into the street. It’s just as amazing to watch from above as it is to be part of the crowd. The area is often compared to Times Square in New York, but Times Square is much larger and more commercialized.

 

Just before we crossed the intersection, we saw the Hachikō dog statue which commemorates the Akita dog that faithfully met his person at the train station each day after work. Even after his owner died, Hachikō continued his daily trek and waited in the same spot each day for 9 years. When we got up to the statue, we noticed that someone had placed their two pet cats below Hachikō.

 

Next, Ayano took us to Takeshita Street—an adorable shopping strip that’s known for its Harajuku baby doll-style clothing stores and pastry shops. Everything in this area was bubble-gum pink, cute and fuzzy, and/or delicious sweets marketed to teenage girls. We saw lots of girls dressed in Harajuku fashions walking around and enjoying doughnuts and crepes. This street is also home to the first crepe shop in Tokyo, which has since grown in popularity and spread throughout Japan.

 
Before we said goodbye to Ayano, she walked us to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. She explained that this is the tallest building in Shinjuku and has an excellent view from the top. 

 
Once Adam and I were securely in line for the elevator, we exchanged gifts with Ayano. She gave us two origami peacocks, a handwritten postcard, and special celebration cookies for my birthday. When we got to the front of the line, Adam and I piled into the elevator with a hoard of tourists and took an express ride to the top floor of the skyscraper. The view was amazing!

 
Afterwards, Adam and I wandered around the busy streets of Shinjuku to explore and get a taste of the bustling nightlife. Adam loved the arcades and won me an adorable stuffed animal from a claw machine. 

 
We soon learned that many of the arcades and shops have multiple levels—and the further down you go, the seedier they become. I watched as Adam played Pachinko in one of these sketchy, smoke-filled underground arcades. Neither of us could figure out the game, but it plays loud music and flashes bright lights as silver balls randomly drop through pegs.

 
He doesn’t like to brag about it, but Adam is actually a Tetris expert. I watched as he got the highest score of the day for the Tetris machine he was playing on! 

We could have stayed all night, but we knew we had to get up early for our trip to Tokyo DisneySea in the morning. Thanks to Ayano’s help earlier in the day, we easily navigated the subway back to our hotel. All in all, it was a wonderful first day in Tokyo. 

Stay tuned for Day 2!

Japan Blog: Day 1 (Part 1)

This post is going to be broken up into two parts because I am utterly exhausted. Adam and I actually woke up before our alarm this morning—for anyone who knows me, this is an amazing feat—because we were eager to start our Tokyo adventure. We walked non-stop all day.

First, we ate our buffet breakfast in the hotel while gazing out the window and watched as the locals headed to work, walked their dogs, and rode bikes outside. There were plenty of vegetarian options for me to sample, and Adam tried a few types of fish. It was a relaxing start to what turned out to be a very busy day.

  
After breakfast we met with our personal tour guide, Endo Ayano, in the lobby and got moving. First she took us to a convenience store around the corner from our hotel so we could pick up a couple of items that we forgot to pack. Many stores in Japan are bright and colorful, and this one was no exception. You could buy any number of trinkets, makeup, and decorations. It was sort of a cross between Claire’s, a dollar store, and a Duane Reade. Also, much to my delight, many stores are decorated for Halloween this time of year. From what I gathered, the Japanese love holidays (and costumes!) and have fully embraced American Halloween. 

Afterwards we walked through restaurant row, which was actually filled with niche shops that sold items to restaurants. Some highlights include the store that only sold bowls, a knife shop, and the “fake food” store. In Japan, it is customary for restaurants to have sample dishes displayed out front. Even though the sample food looks good enough to eat, it’s actually made of plastic!  This shop exclusively sold those plastic samples.

  
Next we took the subway to the Imperial Gardens. The Japanese subway system is much cleaner and easier to follow than the NYC subway. If there is any interest, I’ll happily write a separate post explaining this further. We’ve only used Japanese public transportation for one day, and I already prefer it to its NYC counterpart.

  
The imperial gardens were lovely today, but they must be spectacular in the spring when everything is in bloom. I’d love to come back someday to see the cherry blossoms! We saw the ruins of the Imperial Palace and toured the surrounding grounds. Much like Central Park, once you’re inside the gardens you forget that you’re still in the heart of a bustling city. We saw pine trees cut in the shape of bonsai trees, tea trees, bamboo, the palace moat, ponds filled with koy fish, and waterfalls.

  
Look for part 2 soon! Tomorrow we are headed to Tokyo DisneySea!

Japan Trip: Itinerary

As promised, here’s the itinerary of our trip!

Day 1: Tokyo – Private Tour (Part 1 & Part 2)

Day 2: Tokyo & Tokyo DisneySea

Day 3: Train from Tokyo to Kyoto

Day 4: Kyoto sightseeing

Day 5: Kyoto (day excursion TBD)

Day 6: Train from Kyoto to Mount Koya

Day 7: Train from Mount Koya to Osaka

Day 8: Train from Osaka to Tokyo

I can’t wait to tell you all about today (Day 1) and I’ll fill you in once I get back to the hotel tonight.

-Kim