Posts from the ‘Japan’ Category

Japan ’09: Link to Blog

I was going to transfer my Japan ’09 blog from MobileMe to here, but MobileMe’s layout (mainly the separation of print and pictures), although super-easy for blogging, doesn’t make it easy at ALL to transfer. So if you would like to read about our visiting to Tokyo, Asakusa, Kamakura, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Toba, Parque España, Tokyo Disneyland (and its 25th Anniversary) or Tokyo Disney Sea, just click here and follow the links from my Welcome Page or click here for a direct route to the archives.

Japan ’05: Going Home

Woke up at 7:30am, got ready for the day, and packed the last of our stuff. Went on the ‘net really fast, just to let everyone know that we were not involved in the train wreck. Then, while the guys were getting ready, I went out to videotape the monorail circle from the front seat and the audio from the Miracosta elevator, where Mickey talks, in Japanese, to announce each floor (yeah, I’m still a big ol’ Disney geek).

Got back to the hotel and called Bell Services to come get our bags. We recommended they send 2 people and 2 carts this time (wink). Not only did we get that, but one of the bell people was a guy! (I think it was only the 2nd time throughout the trip that the bellman wasn’t a 20-something year-old female)

Went down to the bus stop by 10am and the bus picked us up at 10:32am, as expected. Stopped off at several other hotels near TDL, then off to Narita Airport. We stopped off at Terminal 2 first, then our stop, at Terminal 1.

Airport security hand- checked 2 of our checked bags (“It’s all just dirty laundry, I promise!”), then we checked in with United and Immigration without a problem (3 “checked” in the same sentence…am I good or what?). Went to Duty Free but didn’t find anything of real interest. Since Joe and I were flying Business Class (we had been saving Frequent Flyer miles for over 7 years…these flights cost 120,000 miles each), we were able to use United’s lounge until it was time to board our plane. Free WiFi…woohoo!

And here we sit, in seats 8A and 8B. As of this writing, according to the plane’s map, we’re over Canada, somewhere between Edmonton and Winnepeg. Steve is back in Coach, row 21, although he was able to upgrade to Economy Plus.

Some random thoughts on Japan:

…It is SO clean! If there are no garbage cans around, people just hold their trash until they find a garbage/recycling can, or bring it to their destination.
…Everyone is polite and respectful in one-on-one situations. Always. In crowded stores however, it’s not unusual for patrons to push and squeeze past each other without a word or eye contact.
…On the whole, Japanese children are much better behaved than American children.
…Although I would recommend knowing more of the language, you can get away with just knowing how to count to 99 and say rudimentary “yes,” “no,” “please,” “thank-you,” “you’re welcome,” “good morning/afternoon/evening,” “restroom,” “excuse me” and “I’m sorry.” Simple sentences (“restroom?”) and miming our needs helped a lot. So did the “deer in the headlights/I don’t know what you’re saying” look.
…Thankfully, there are MANY more escalators and elevators in the train stations of big and medium-sized cities than when I went in 1994. More signs in English, too.
…There are still a LOT of steps in Japan. LOTS. And hills. Steep ones. I am in MUCH better shape now than I was 3 weeks ago.
…I saw many more caucasians (businessmen and tourists) this trip than in 1994.
…In restaurants, it’s the norm to get just 1 or 2 menu’s for the table, you order your whole meal (including dessert) at one time, drinks are often in (approx.) 8 oz increments and “free refills” on drinks is unheard of (except for a few restaurants at TDLR). They DO understand “no ice” though .
…NOTHING in Japan is sweet enough.
…Some of the stuff in vending machines is WEIRD (Bikkle drink = milky lemonade??? Calpis. Pocari Sweat. Amino Supply.).
…Most of the stuff in 7-11, Lawsons, etc., is even weirder.
…Some of the Engrish is hysterical!
…I am still short in Japan. Very short. But not very, very short like I am in the States . Joe and Steve are very tall in Japan. But not very, very tall.
…I love toilets with seat warmers.
…Fanta grapefruit soda is AWESOME.
…Coca Cola barley tea is NASTY.
…Diet Coke exists in Japan but is very hard to come by.
…Don’t believe Ice Station Cool at Epcot…VeggieBeta soda does not exist.
…Kyoto, Nagoya, Hakone and Tokyo tap water are all LOADS better than Orlando tap water.
…Cherry blossoms and other Japanese flora are beautiful but suck for allergies…I haven’t had so many allergy-related problems since I was a kid (I outgrew most of my hay fever when I was in my teens).
…We want to go back again. In 5 years. Year 2010.

Update: It’s 7:08pm and we’re home. We landed at 5:05pm and Joe’s dad picked us up from the airport without incident. Drove to our house because that’s where Steve’s car was, as well as Big Joe’s (he had taken my truck to the airport because it can fit more luggage). After Steve left, we went to Joe’s parents’ house to see Amile (my mother-in-law) and pick up Pippi (cutest 14-1/2y/o poodle in the world). And now we’re home. We’ve been awake for about 21 of the past 24 hours and are pretty much ready to crash…just wanted to let y’all know that we’re home safe and sound and that you don’t have to read these journals anymore . Well, not until 2010, anyway.

And what was the first thing I ate in the U.S.? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups! America…what a wonderful country!

Sayonara!

Japan ’05: Back to Tokyo Disney Sea

Woke up 8am and finished our last-minute (high speed) internet and packing. It was very overcast, so no view of Mt. Fuji today.

I had been promised Starbucks and was going to hold them to their promise . I had asked for directions from the concierge a day or two before and after finding the place (an adventure in itself…at first all we saw were steps and we wanted either an escalator or an elevator. I eventually found the escalators…but not after Joe and Steve took the ramp into a dental facility’s elevator ), I was satiated with “good” coffee.

We did the reverse trip that we had taken last Friday, taking 3 trains back to TDL (we’ve been teasing Joe all trip about his continuous use of maps, even nicknaming him “Magellan,” but the truth of the matter was that he did a terrific job of getting us from city to city without getting lost even once). We had seen on the Japanese news stations that there had been a major train accident somewhere, but since we didn’t understand Japanese, we didn’t know the details. Our trains were all on time and the only indication of problems was written information that 3 train lines were “delayed” because of “accident.”

We arrived at Maihama Station without incident and made use of the advance check-in at Ikspiari, which was within walking distance to the station. We were able to get our monorail and park passes there, plus drop our luggage off with them, so we didn’t have to drag it with us all the way to the hotel. I made the mistake of saying “yes” when they asked me if there was anything fragile or valuable in my luggage…I had my laptop in my wheeled bag so I wouldn’t have to carry it in my backpack and they said they couldn’t be responsible for equipment like that…so the computer wound up in my backpack after all. Grrr…..

Free of luggage (except for the laptop), we went to the Bon Voyage gift shop, also right by the station, to pick up the souvenirs we saw on Friday but hadn’t wanted to drag with us to Tokyo.

Took the monorail to Miracosta and checked in. Although our room wasn’t ready yet, we were able to upgrade our room to a better view of Port Paradiso (that’s the best view they have…we wanted to go out in style ) and made arrangements for shuttle pickup to Narita airport for tomorrow.

After checking in, we went into TDS through the front entrance…we had never done it last week because we always took advantage of the park entrance within the hotel. As we entered, I found a locker for my laptop while Joe got his one roll of Advantix film developed (Note: I am finishing this entry up on the plane between Narita and Chicago and as of this writing, Joe and I taken 1,780 digital pictures and Steve has 2,626 under his belt…and both cameras have a few more pictures to be downloaded yet. That includes “let me take it a second time just in case” shots and the ones that, if they were on paper, would be burned ).

After entering the park, Joe bought a TDS watch and while he was waiting 10-20 minutes for them to remove a link, we went on the Great Search For The Mayor of Porto Paradiso. We are friendly with someone who was the Mayor for several months in 2001-2002 and so we REALLY wanted to find the Mayor. The last 2 days we had been in TDS, there was no Mayor to be found, at least not where and when we looked. Joe had tried to ask Guest Services about the Mayor back on Wednesday, but they didn’t seem to know much about him. Today I finally saw a group of some non-Asian performers so I asked them about the Mayor…the recommended asking their Stage Manager…who said he would still be out at 2pm, 3:10pm and 4:10pm…it was about 2:15pm by them, so we started looking where she pointed. And FINALLY we found him. We took a pic and, strangely enough, felt like we had accomplished something.

At this point, we split up with Steve to do our own thing.

After Joe picked up his watch, we went on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea again (twice, actually), because I wanted to videotape it with Night Shot (I’m back to my old habits of taping just about everything…I think I have 14 hours of videotape logged for this vacation).

Joe was getting hungry so we stopped off for lunch at Vulcania Restaurant, which is near 20K. The buffeteria-style restaurant was as well-themed as the rest of the Mysterious Island land, and had the best Chinese food we had had all trip .

We next saw the “Sail Away” show by the Columbia steamship. The entire show, (including the American songs like “By The Beautiful Sea”) was in Japanese, including the speaking roles by the non-Asian performers. It was very colorful and the music was moderately entertaining but I have no idea of the plot .

We met up with Steve at 4, got my computer out of the locker, went back to the hotel front desk and found out our room was ready. It took Bell Services 10 min to find all our stuff (some left here from last week, some left with Welcome Center that morning and some left with Bell Services after we went to Bon Voyage) and another 10 minutes to try to load it onto the bellman’s cart.

Our room, #4301, was a mirror image of our last Miracosta room, but with a couch instead of a bench and a table instead of a desk. Our view though, was awesome…we were just a few room away from the center of the building, looking over Porto Paradiso and the Mediterranean Harbor.

While in the room, we unpacked what we needed through the next morning and started re-packing to get ready to go home. Steve was still waiting for his battery to recharge so Joe and I went to the park. We went on the 3 best E-Ticket rides again (Indiana Jones, 20K and Journey to the Center of the Earth), then staked out our spots for BraviSEAmo.

BraviSEAmo had been down for rehab for the past 2 weeks and, in fact, we had come back to TDS this one day specifically to see it, since it was still not in operation last week. It was held on the water of Mediterranean Harbor and it was our understanding that it was the TDL version of Fantasmic (a nighttime water show). Joe asked a CM where was the “ichiban #1” place to see the show and she directed him to an area on the western side of the water, where about 2 dozen people were already sitting. We took our spots and waited the hour or so until the show. Show finally began with Mickey on a mythological-looking water cruiser, speaking to the audience (in Japanese), all around the harbor. And everything else was VERY Japanese. No narration…just fountains and some small fireworks, a big barge with a big person-shaped “god” made out of water (torso and head were simplified shapes and limbs were streaming, shooting water) and a spider/dragon shaped red thing that spewed fire balls out of its several “arms.” I think they had a fight or maybe they equalled each other out or maybe the water won…I dunno. The audience appeared enthralled. We were very “WTF?” Again, a time where we lost something because of the cultural differences. We taped it from “our spot” and Steve taped it from our room. Maybe we’ll understand it more when we watch the tapes. I doubt it though .

After BraviSEAmo, Joe and I went to Zambini Brothers Ristorante for dinner. Italian this time…I had rigatoni with meat sauce and Joe had gnocchi’s (we were amazed that the cashier could pronounce “gnocchi’s” better than most Floridians do…I grew up in an Italian neighborhood…they are NOT “guh-NAH-chees”…they are “NYOH-kees” ). Again, very good food. This restaurant has its own private label of real Italian wine, which includes a medallion and ribbon that commemorates TDS…we thought about buying one but decided it wasn’t worth $38/bottle.

Went on JTTCOTE one last time while we could, then headed back to the room to pack, when the park closed. I was POSITIVE we were going to have to use a shopping bag for some of our stuff but Joe is an excellent packer and between the 2 of us, we managed to get everything into 4 checked bags, 2 carry-ons and 2 personal bags.

Went to bed around midnight or so…and then Steve’s cell phone rang around 4:30am. Steve is computer programmer for an insurance company and is on call 24/7, even when he is on vacation. They apparently had a problem with a program so they called him. He and Joe got the laptop set up so he could fix the problem remotely, then all was quiet again.

Japan ’05: Guided Tour of Tokyo

Today was our 8-hour guided tour of Tokyo, provided by Sunrise Tours. I had taken the same tour, Dynamic Tokyo, when I went to Japan in 1994 and thought it was so good that we should do it this time.

We woke up at 6:30am (after going to bed at 12:30am…argh!) and were in our lobby for a 7:55am pickup. The bus, which was just a pick-up bus for several tours, came to our hotel right on schedule and after making 2 more stops, we went to a centralized processing place to pay for our tour (5% discount and a free sushi magnet because we paid with our Visa card ) and get on our tour bus.

Our tour guide was a young lady nicknamed Toyo and our driver was Mr. Sasaki.

First stop was Tokyo Tower, which looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower but is slightly taller and painted a reddish orange and white (it takes 10 men 3 years to paint it and it’s repainted every 5 years) The tower is 333 meters tall and was built in 1958, just in time for current Emperor’s wedding in 1959. We went to the observatory, about 150 meters up, and got to see a panoramic view of Tokyo. One floor down had clear sections of floor so you could look down…in typical Sharon fashion, I jumped onto it .

Next was the Imperial Gardens, which was part of the home of Shoguns hundreds of years ago. The gardens were beautiful, with lots of trees and a variety of bonsai that were upwards of 500 years old. We also saw 2 or 3 weddings taking place at the gardens. We attended a traditional Tea Ceremony here…tea ceremonies were started by a monk in the 15th century and the rules and manners of the ceremony were perfected in 16th. It represents tranquility, respect and harmony. Toyo had told us the basic rules for the ceremony, such as to talk quietly, what to say and what to do. The Tea Master completed the ceremony for us…purifying the utensils, making and whisking the tea until it’s frothy, passing it out for us to drink. Every movement is formalized, from which hand you use to hold things to when you eat the tea candy you have been given. Very interesting.

Next was lunch at the Mokushundo restaurant at the Chinzan-so Hotel. It was barbecue style beef, pork and chicken, as well as carrots, peppers, asparagus, onions and sweet potatoes. And lots of rice, well water and green tea. VERY good and very filling.

The hotel shares a garden with the Four Seasons Hotel. The garden was bigger than the last, with a 1,000-year-old 3-story pagoda, a 500-year-old tree, a shrine, several statues, most dating back to the 15th and 16th century, of gods.

While on the bus, Toyo would give us background information about what we were going to see next or just general information about Tokyo. FYI, it costs Toyo ¥85,000 (a little less than $850) per month for a 26-square-meter apartment (our bus was about 30 sq meters). It costs ¥40,000 (slightly less than $400) per month to rent a parking spot in a garage and you have to have proof of having the spot before you are allowed to buy a car! The average salary of a Japanese worker is about ¥5,000,000 ($50,000) per year. Japan has the highest number of restaurants per capita and the 2nd highest number of McDonald’s in the world.

Our next stop was a 15-minute picture-taking opportunity of the front plaza of the Imperial Palace. It’s a heavily guarded ancient wall and gate. Much more Japanese than interesting .

We next drove through the Ginza area and saw many high-priced places such as Coach, Mikimoto, Armani suits, etc. And lots and lots of people.

Next stop was a boat cruise on the Sumida River. We went under several bridges and were pointed out lots of sites by the pre-recorded tour guides (in Japanese and English). This part of the tour was a little disappointing…the boat had 2 levels, each with about 20 rows of seats that held 5 across. With so many people, if you didn’t get a window seat or next to one, your view was very obscured. We were the 3rd, 4th and 5th seat from the window in our row, so Steve went to the standing section in the back (also crowded, but he’s tall and could see over heads), Joe catnapped and I wrote this part of my journal.

We left the boat in a part of Tokyo called Asakusa. It has a huge shrine and shopping area. By day 18 of Japan, we were pretty much shrined out, regardless of the size. And the shopping was…touristy. Mostly crap . But we still managed to find a few items to buy.

The tour does not include return service to our hotel, which was fine since it wasn’t quite 5pm and we still wanted to stay out. So we had the driver drop us off in the Ginza area. We found another toy store but that was about it…most stores were either too expensive, something we had no interest in, or closed.

We hopped on a train and went to a town called Shibuya. By now it was nighttime and there was a LOT of neon signs and a lot of young people (late teens/early 20’s). We went to an HMV store (they sell CD’s) and I did the last of my “damage” with buying Disney CD’s (I got about 2 dozen this trip). We also walked around a trendy department store called The Loft for a little while.

Shibuya was a little too crowded for my tastes (I don’t get claustrophobic per se, but I tend to “shut down” in large groups of people because all I can see are boobs and shoulder blades) so we took a taxi to another town called Roppongi.

Roppongi was much less crowded than Shibuya but still had the neon and well-known establishments. We decided to have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Food was typical for a HRC and sort of started to ease us back into a U.S. state of mind.

Went back to the hotel after dinner because it had been an early morning after a late night and we were all exhausted. Joe and I are going to pack tonight…Steve’s waiting until tomorrow morning. We go back to TDS and the Miracosta tomorrow, so we can see the premiere of BraviSEAmo after its 2-week rehab. Then it’s the 20-hour flight home on Tuesday afternoon.

I might or might not write an entry for tomorrow (Monday)…depends on how much pressed for time we are on our last day. I hope you weren’t bored to tears with some (or all ) of these entries…I was partially writing them for the people who I knew might be interested in our trips and partially for my own benefit so I could better remember our trip (my memory is really, REALLY bad). I hope y’all at least got some enjoyment out of some of it.

Until next time…

Japan ’05: Touring Tokyo with Hiro & Midori

Woke up at 7:30am and got ready for the day, then went online while the guys got ready. I am SOOO behind on the stuff I read regularly online.

We’re on the 7th floor of our hotel and have a pretty good view. Joe woke up and happened to look outside…and we could see Mt. Fuji from our room! The girl at the front desk had said we’d be able to see it if it was clear enough, but we didn’t think that would ever happen…we couldn’t see it from the train rides between Kyoto and Tokyo or when we were in Hakone (when we were the closest to it), but were SO glad to finally see it!

Got a call from Hiro, who is Joe’s bowling friend (Hiro came to Orlando for 4 months last year to learn how to bowl better. When Joe told him we were coming to Japan this spring, Hiro gave him his phone number to contact him when we were in Tokyo)…he was running late and could we meet at 11am instead of 10am? Sure…

We caught a quick breakfast at a coffee shop near our hotel, called Benugo. I had a bagel with egg, bacon and mayo (yeah…mayo…the Japanese apparently love mayo). Not bad…better than the coffee . (I’ve been promised Starbucks on Monday, when go back towards TDL).

When we got back to our hotel, we found Hiro with his female friend, Midori. Hiro’s english is pretty limited and Midori’s even moreso, so they got one of the hotel’s staff people to translate for us, just to get a better idea of what we all wanted to do today. Then we were on our way.

First order of business was getting gas for the car. Now THAT was an experience! The gas station attendant wore a uniform, pumped the gas, emptied and cleaned the ashtray, cleaned all the windows and the rear view mirrors AND guided us out of the gas station, into traffic! And she did all of this with a smile on her face! The closest I had ever experienced something like that was when I was a VERY little girl, in the late 60’s, when they’d still check your oil and squeegee your windows.

Midori said we were going to Odaiba for shopping. While driving there, she and Hiro tried to get a better handle and Steve’s and my names (of course, they already knew Joe’s name). That was fun. The Japanese don’t have the letter V so Steve became, phonetically, Steeb. My name was even harder…I even had to get out my English-Japanese dictionary to help them pronounce Sha-ro-nu. But they still couldn’t remember (I heard they saying to each other “Sharomu? Sharonu? Shambu? Shamu?”) I said, “Not Shamu. Shamu is a whale!” They’ve both been to Florida, so they got the joke. Anyway, I guess they gave up because I was “Joe Wife” for most of the day. That tickled Joe to no end, because of all the times he’s been referred to as “Sharon’s husband.”

We parked at a mall, where we all agreed to meet in an hour. Joe, Steve and I went to a Toyota exhibition next door. They were showing off a bunch of cars (most only sold in Japan) and offered an automatic test ride in a mini car.

We all met up again and agreed to go on Tokyo’s big ferris wheel, which, in 1999, was listed at the world’s largest ferris wheel in the Guinness Book of World Records. It offered a great view of the city.

We next had lunch at Botejyu, an Okonomiyaki-style restaurant (that the kind of place I mentioned while we were in Hiroshima…egg pancake with “stuff” in it. I have no idea what we ate…Hiro and Midori just promised no octopus and no squid).

After lunch, we drove through the Ginza district and stopped in Akihbara, the electronic area. It reminded me of Times Square, with lots of people and lots of neon signs. We went into a few stores and bought some Apple stuff but not a whole lot…a LOT of the stores sold DVD’s and we can’t play Japanese DVD’s at home unless we have a DVD player that we dedicate just for Japanese DVD’s.

Steve had requested to see a toy store, so they took us to what else but Toys R Us . Actually, it was kind of cool because they had lots of totally different stuff from U.S. Toys R Us stores…even wound up buying 2 or 3 things there.

Hiro, as I said, is a bowler, so we went to his bowling alley (where he plays and sometimes works), which was conveniently located across the street from the Toys R Us. They use vending machines to rent the bowling shoes (not big enough to fit Joe’s size 12 shoes), which we thought was very cool. The rest of the bowling alley seemed to be about the same as any other, though.

The town we were in, Saitama, was where Hiro and Midori both lived, so they offered to show is Midori’s stationery store. By this point, we had a better idea of the “Hiro and Midori” story. Hiro is single, in his early 30’s and works at the bowling alley and in Midori’s store. He often sleeps at Modori’s house. Midori is probably 40-something. She’s married and they apparently have a lot of money because they own the apartment building that they live in (and the stationery store is on the bottom floor) (single family homes in Japan are only for the wealthy…I can’t even imagine how much it would be to own an apartment complex). They have been friends for about 3 years and are both passionate about bowling.

After seeing the store (and Midori asking us to each pick out something to keep, as a gift), we walked to a restaurant called Choya. It was an izakaya-style restaurant, which is the equivalent to a pub, with a wider variety of food and drink and a very casual atmosphere. After we reviewed the “food laws” (no squid, no octopus, nothing raw for Sharon, no mushrooms for Steve), Hiro and Midori ordered a bunch of different things. Most of the foods were identifiable but a few were not. We didn’t get most of the REALLY weird stuff on the menu (horse and whale meat), but one of the dishes DID have a huge fish head on it, the shrimp were whole (with heads attached) and both Joe and Steve sampled sea urchin. Hiro, Midori, Joe and Steve also played a game of “Russian Roulette” with some salmon sushi that had one piece laced with a lot of heavy-duty wasabi (Japanese condiment…EXTREMELY spicy-hot). Hiro won. Or maybe he lost. But he had tears coming out of his eyes . We noticed a hole in the wall of the establishment and made a comment about it. Hiro said, “Some Japanese are crazy. And some Japanese are son of bitch.” We just lost it with THAT one .

When we were so stuffed that we couldn’t eat another thing, we walked back to Midori’s place and she invited us into her apartment. We stayed about an hour or so…the 3 of them mainly talked about bowling. Before we left, Hiro gave Joe a cute photo holder from his bowling alley and Midori gave me a stuffed panda puppet.

Because Hiro had about 3 beers during dinner, he called and asked a friend to drive us back to our hotel. When they dropped us off around midnight, we exchanged addressed and phone numbers and promises to visit again in the future (them to Orlando maybe next year, us to Japan hopefully in 5 years).

It was really an awesome day. We didn’t get any touristy stuff done, but we got a taste of what “regular life” in Japan is like and discovered that communication is possible even if you really don’t know the other person’s language. We had a LOT of fun.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is our guided tour of Tokyo. Until next time…

Japan ’05: Travel to Tokyo, Ghibli Museum, Laundry

We woke up 7:30am and finished our packing. We called Bell Services to bring our luggage down and arranged for them to hold some of our stuff (mainly souvenirs and dirty laundry we won’t need on the trip anymore) until our return on Monday.

Since the breakfast buffet at the Miracosta was about $30 per person, we decided to take the TDL monorail to Ikspiari, the shopping area, and find a coffee shop. So we had coffee and danishes at a place called The Mono. Decent cinnamon buns, chocolate buns wasn’t chocolately enough (NOTHING in Japan is chocolatey enough) and the hot “American coffee” sucked (our next hotel is near a Starbucks, thank goodness!).

Before leaving the TDL area, we stopped off at the Bon Voyage shop at Maihama Station. It has a large sampling of everything they sell at the parks, plus some stuff we never even saw at the parks. I wound up buying 3 more shirts and seeing a few more small things we’ll get when we come back on Monday, so we wouldn’t have to lug them all around Tokyo.

From Bon Voyage, it was just a few hundred feet to the Maihama train station. We took trains from there to Shinkiba, then to Osaki, then to Ebisu Station. From there, it was a quick walk to our hotel, the Westin Tokyo.

Once we checked in, we made reservations for a tour on Sun (our first choice was Sat but it was filled) and got directions to a local coin laundry for reference for this evening.

We left our stuff with them, since our room wasn’t ready and we went to the Ghibli Museum.

The Ghibli Museum was one of the places Joe wanted to visit in Japan. It was a animation museum, with emphasis on Hayao Miyazaki, who is something of the the modern-day Walt Disney of Japan…he writes and directs his own movies, like “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and lot of others that I’m blissfully unaware of. The museum is very immersive, with the architecture and design lending themselves to be parts of the exhibits. They encourage you to wander, explore and discover. Although we couldn’t understand all of the exhibits, there were many parts of it which transversed language. The museum also currently has a Pixar exhibit (the Pixar animators apparently see Miyazaki as a god), which was very interesting.

After the museum, we went back to the hotel. Our room was now ready and again, it was a awesome place. HUGE room, a REAL American-style shower, Tempurpedic pillows upon request, you name it. And best of all, high-speed internet access! Not even Disney offered that!

As I’m typing this on my PDA, we’re at the local coin laundromat, doing our last laundry of the trip. I feel bad for the locals…at one point the 3 of us were using all 5 of the available washing machines and right now we’ve got all of the dryers (only 3, but they’re big ones) in use.

It’s later now…after bringing our stuff back to the room, we went back out to find dinner. As bustling as Tokyo is, a lot of places still close at 9 or 10pm, just like in Kyoto, Nagoya and Hakone. Finally found a restaurant called Beer Station, a German place near our hotel. Food was OK…not great…but better than McDonald’s, which was the only other place we saw that was open.

Made it back to the hotel, dumped the pictures from our digital cameras, caught up on some internet stuff and went to bed.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we’re meeting a bowling friend of Joe’s who lives outside of Tokyo. I have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow .

Japan ’05: 2nd Day of Tokyo Disneyland

Today was a “take it easy” day. We didn’t even wake up until 9:30am (almost a normal hour!).

Before we went to the park, Joe and I sent some of our luggage on to our next hotel so we wouldn’t have to lug it as much (Japan has this beautiful system where you can ship packages and suitcases to, from and between hotels for only about $20 per suitcase…with sometimes just 2 days here and 3 days there, it made things SO much easier!). Then we met up with Steve at Disneyland.

First business of the day was food and we decided to go to Blue Bayou, in New Orleans square. The restaurant looks exactly the same as DL’s in CA, complete with the far edge overlooking the beginning of POTC. The food was AWESOME…some of the best we’ve had in TDLR (in fact, the best we’ve had at a Blue Bayou…and the 3 of us have now been to all 3), and they even had free refills on the drinks! (we’ve come to learn that refills, let alone free ones, are not the norm in Japan)

Our next course of action was, of course, to hit the rides.
– Pirates of the Caribbean for the 3rd time (by the way, the men still chase the women in this one and the ladies are NOT carrying any food!)
-Tiki Birds (totally different show from both of the US versions…apparently the same premise (I guess…it’s all in Japanese), but doesn’t get a crowd of more than 50 people.
-Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (exact same as WDW’s…I guess…I haven’t gone on it in years)
-Western River Railroad (TDL version of the WDW/DL Railroad…narration in Japanese, it goes in a figure eight and only had one stop, at Westernland (remember…if it had more than 1 stop, it would be transportation and they’d have to charge extra for it)…nice views of the park and it has the dinosaur diorama that DL has)
-Tom Sawyer Island (VERY cool…they have Injun Joe’s cave, Fort Sam Clemens [where they sell vanilla, chocolate or caramel milkshakes] a teeter totter rock, a spinning rock, all of the cool bridges, lots of stuff that WDW doesn’t)
-Country Bear Jamboree (same as WDW’s and half in Japanese, half in English…the exit area is the same as what DL’s looked like…when DL had a CBJ)
-Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (track is nothing like WDW’s, don’t remember what DL’s is like, but this one is COOL, with different outside scenes, bats in one of the caves, etc.)
-Mark Twain Riverboat (seems to be the same as ours, with Japanese narration. One thing I noticed in the Japanese version that is different from the US versions…when you go past deer or any other 4-legged audioanimatronic animal, you can see that when they wag their tails, they actually have butt holes painted in the appropriate places )
-Roger Rabbit’s Toontown Spin (fun ride…don’t remember DL’s version to make a comparison)
-Grand Circuit Raceway (I guess the Japanese don’t know what the Grand Prix is) (half of the cars have steering wheels on the left, like real Japanese cars [they also drive on the left side of the street]. They also have sensors built in so you can’t hit the car in front of you)
-Star Tours (I sat this one out…this 39y/o body can’t do simulators like it used to…but the guys said it was exactly the same as ours. Entry queue and exit were different though)
-Dreamlights (for the 2nd time. What a good parade!)
-Jungle Cruise (just like at home, it’s a little “looser” at night time…the guide, we are POSITIVE, said something to the effect that we were Americans and had no idea what the ride was about (yeahRIGHT), but also spoke a few words of Engrish for us…”Oh, is erephent!”, made fun of the guest in the boat who was wearing Minnie ears…”Minnie-san,” etc.)
-Pooh’s Honey Hunt (for the 3rd time…hey, it was a walk-on at 9:45pm…the CM even let us each have our own car)
-Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (two times in a row, to close the park at 10pm)

The popcorn carts at TDL and TDS look the same as ours, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find “normal” popcorn. They have curry popcorn, sea salt popcorn, strawberry popcorn, caramel popcorn, soda popcorn (???), cappuccino popcorn, honey popcorn…all kinds of weird flavors. I tried the honey popcorn…it was AWESOME!

Joe and I also at ate at a buffeteria called the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, that was themed after Alice in Wonderland…it was VERY well-done, and one of the desserts was a 6″ Unbirthday Cake!)

Once the park was closed, we went to the Bella Vista Lounge, which was part of a restaurant at our hotel. Very good food…VERY expensive!

Just for the hell of it, we looked for the hotel pool (the use of which you had to pay for) and found it, after going up one elevator and down another. They really hid it well! Unfortunately, the pool closed at 8pm, so the door was locked. Probably the one par of the hotel we never saw. Ah well…

Tired as we were, we started to get stuff packed, since we were checking out in the morning. Finally got to bed around midnight, with a 7:30am alarm.

More next time…