but finally in japan i made up my mind -- i am going to finally visit tokyo disneyland, dammit!
"but wait!" you say, "what about all the excellent cultural opportunities you're spurning in order to go to disneyland. first of all, i've been to tokyo twice before, so i feel less pressure to go see "the main sights" that are on the tourist checklist (i checked off most of them a few years back), and more free to just wander wherever strikes my fancy. secondly, i think that visiting a leisure area (even a disney one) in another country actually gives you a large insight into that country by seeing how people play and enjoy their leisure time. and finally, having worked at walt disney imagineering in the past on designing theme park rides (a really fun job, btw), i'd always been curious about tokyo disneyland.
since there are now two disney theme parks in japan, the original tokyo disneyland, and tokyo disneysea, i read through the listings of the rides in both parks and decided to visit tokyo disneysea (it tends to feature the more "fast action" rides like tower of terror). plus, it's new!
so after roughly 90-minute morning train ride from tokyo to the theme park, where i shared the ride with suit-and-tie wearing locals on their morning commute to work, while i commuted to my day at disneyland, the doors opened at the JR Maihama station and I entered the world of disney, tokyo-style.
it's not exactly a regular disney park -- while disney imagineering designs the park and the rides, the park itself is actually owned and operated by a company called "oriental land company". this might explain some of the surprising un-disney-like inconsistencies, like the way the signs are in english-first japanese-second (why?), but the park staff only speak japanese for the most part.
a few off-the-cuff impressions:
1.) park signs and labelling are in both english and japanese -- handy!
2.) park "cast members" only speak japanese for the most part -- tricky, especially when they're trying to tell me "here's how to secure the safety bar on this ride."
3.) the park restaurants sell beer and wine -- sweet!
4.) all the voiceovers in the rides are in japanese only -- confusing! (for me)
5.) nobody builds theme parks (and rides) like disney, especially with their attention to detail. i loved my visits to wallabi world and jerudong park on this trip, but tokyo disneysea beat them hands-down.
thanks to the fastpass system (where you register for a time to come to the ride and skip the long lines!) i was able to visit every ride i wanted to in the park, ran around like crazy checking everything out, and generally had a great time fooling around at the park. if you'd like to see my photos from that day, here they are.
let's hear it for theme parks... nothing like a day of total theme park immersion to refresh a traveller on a long trip!