Saturday, December 6, 2014

Determined to Find Critter Country

By this time in our day I appreciate the enthusiasm the people of Japan have as they frolic through the rain. I wouldn't say that anyone was literally splashing through puddles, but everyone was very determined to see as much as possible. I've been told that in Japan, dealing with the small, everyday negatives of life can be summed up in one small phrase, "sho ga nai" (show-gah-nigh). It literally can translate to "it can't be helped". In our part of the world we might say, "Don't sweat the small stuff". Whether it was in the city or here in the parks, people accepted busy stores, wet skies, long queues, or sold out fast passes. Disrupting the order can lead to a bad experience for all, and that's not their goal. Only being visitors and not native to the land, Eric and I were convinced this shone through in their excellent service. 

When Eric and I reached the parade route in the Hub area, we saw people waiting for the parade. This was not the normal massive sized crowd. There were less people on account of the weather. I asked Eric if he minded asking a Cast Member whether or not the parade would happen. It seemed to be drizzling a bit, so I was consulting the map to see what we'd do instead. But, Eric came back and he was told the parade was happening. Around that same time we could hear the parade music playing at the Westernland part of the route. I tried to play it cool and not show I was bursting with excitement! Finally, we would see the parade, "Happiness is Here"!

Just like we had noticed with the Halloween parade earlier, the dancers that accompany the floats had been cut for rain. Still, the characters on the colorful floats were enough for these two grateful Californians. I was geeking out as I took photos with both the iPhone and Nikon. 

All suited up in what appeared to be water resistant fabric and of course rain gear! 

The soundtrack for this parade has a very clever concept. Taking direction from the classic Main Street Electrical Parade, there is the main melody that acts as a background for each parade unit.  As the parade moves past a given point, the theme for that unit travels with that section. These musical sections are synced with the main melody that plays on a loop during the show. Although a rainy experience, it was a lot of fun.

By the time the parade ended it was "full on" raining and we didn't see a break in the clouds. From our parade viewing position, staring at us in the face was Cinderella Castle, our next stop. Recently the park opened a walk through where guests get to visit a few rooms of the palace. Although I had seen a few photos and a YouTube video, we weren't exactly sure what happens inside. 

The entrance for the tour is in the exact spot where in Walt Disney World one would enter for the Cinderella's Royal Table restaurant. Here in Tokyp, they used to have a type of mystery tour that would take you deep into the dungeons of the castle. I've seen a very dark video of that and I wish that tour was still there. But, it was gone and we were curious about this. One thing that seemed odd at the start is that we had to wait to ride an elevator to a higher level. I would've been fine taking stairs, which you do use in Florida's castle. 

Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is seen in the center, even Mt. Prometheus from DisneySea. 

When we stepped off the elevator there is a nice view of Fantasyland. Too bad it was so gloomy this day. I bet the colors really would've "popped" in the sunlight. 

The interior was a mixture of wall murals and small dioramas that retold the story of Cinderella. And of course, the design highly reflected the Rococo era. The small vignettes depicted Cindy's struggle with her horrible family, and then her bravery as she attended the ball. They appeared to have been commissioned by the park, and each one was different. In my opinion it is always cool to see people put a spin on images that we are used to seeing. 

The whole experience was cute, but almost a little too cute for me. I was certain that there would be a meet n greet opportunity with Cinderella, but that moment never came. Besides the murals we had been seeing, there are some fun murals that when photographed reveal a hidden message. 

I had to get my chance at it too! They seemed to come out better with the iPhone's flash. 

We took one last look around and two friends appeared from their secret door. 

Something we did not get a photo of was the glass slipper in the center of the throne room. People were in a queue to snap a photo of them "trying it on". Well, I didn't want to look like some creeper trying to get take a photo of random children, and some mothers, so we opted out of that shot. But, here is the throne of the palace.

While doing research for for our trip, Eric found out that the Snow White Grotto has an odd location. It is near the castle and right across from the Golden Horseshoe. It was just another addition to the list that gave Tokyo Disneyland its internet nickname, "Bizarro Disneyland".

If we turn around.....

With The Country Bears, singing in Japanese, and performing the Vacation Hoedown, we practically ran to the theater! The waiting area looked very similar to Florida's. One thing I couldn't wrap my head around was this: Why would this audience even care about a show like this? The lobby was full of guests, and so was the theater. I know that Western culture attracts interest from Japan, I'm told. But, this show about country living bears seems far away from the main stream culture. As Americans we understand this part of our culture, but what would Japanese citizens think of this show? I wish I could ask someone's opinion. If the show became unpopular in California, how was it still holding up in Tokyo? And, from what I understand they even change over for the Christmas show!

Throughout the show I could hear the giggles and laughter from the crowd. Because the only Japanese words I could understand were "there", "here", and "look over there", I couldn't tell what exactly everyone found funny. Don't get me wrong, the show is funny. I just wish I knew exactly what the crowd found hilarious. The whole experience of the show being in Japanese and the crowd reaction was cute. Everyone, including Eric and I, really had a laugh when "Achy Breaky Heart" was performed by Trixie. The way that wine sloshed around in her glass, it seemed she had a bad day. So my guess is that just looking at these bears, you can definitely see each one's personality. Maybe everyone here is saying to themselves, "Oh man, I know someone just like that!"

Right near the theater exit was the ice cream window where, for Halloween, they were offering Pumpkin Soft Serve. I had read about this on our friend Jeff's blog so I had to try it. Eric isn't a fan of anything with the word "pumpkin", so he ordered the vanilla. And, just like Jeff's husband Lance said, "Yup, that's pumpkin alright!" There wasn't even a slight hint of pumpkin spice. This tasted like what the canned pumpkin smells like before you add anything to it. I wouldn't say it was awful, but Eric did! He did try it and definitely wasn't a fan. 

And then, because we apparently were starving to death, we also tried the White Chocolate Popcorn. The both of us were fans of this flavor! We decided to try and find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy. In Japan one doesn't walk and eat simultaneously, it is not good manners. I should have also mentioned we stood in one place as we ate our ice cream cones. We hoped to find a place to eat our snack in Critter Country, maybe near a critter or a creek.

In this park, Critter Country is extremely close to Fantasyland. Haunted Mansion marks the end of Fantasyland. As one turns the corner, to the right, away from the mansion, you're in Critter Country. The narrow walkway, that appears to lead no where, will guide you to your laughin' place at Splash Mountain. What we found very different was that while facing the mountain, the trestle where the Steam Train passes is directly behind you. Something else that stood out is the attraction appeared to be flipped. As we watched, the logs left the station like normal, but float from left to right in front of the briar patch. And, the watermill is still on the mountain's left, but the watermill is the queue entrance into the building. We definitely had plans to ride this, but we would wait until our "Day 2" at this park to maybe utilize Fast Pass. (We actually don't end up using fast pass here, but in that post I'll tell you what we did).

Looking behind Eric, you can see the logs cross the opposite direction and enter a tunnel, not the watermill. While you're at it, checkout that cool pumpkin popcorn bucket hanging off that stroller!

Looking the opposite direction, we see the train passing over. 

It took us a bit to find the entire area of this land. We had seen online that there was a path in Critter Country that took guests through a tunnel to an open area. Here was our small dilemma. We saw the Splash entrance, seen here with a cute little door...

But, all the we saw to the right was the exit walkway from Splash Mountain. Being a little nervous on how we would explain this, I tried this door. Maybe it would lead us to that area? JK

After a little debate between Eric and myself, we decided to walk against traffic, toward the Splash exit. We wanted to see if maybe this path would split. It sure did! We found the tunnel that housed a small merchandise cart. As we continued through the tunnel, the area opened up again. Here we found the location where guests purchase their on board photos and a small food location. It was there that Eric bought his Mickey shaped churro. 

I'm glad that we were so determined to find this area because it turned out to be the prettiest area in the park. I can't stress enough that people need to get back into this corner and see it for themselves. The Splash Mountain area really appears to be a dead end, but push on through and you'll find it. 

In the next installment of Tokyo Disneyland Day 1, we will finish out the day with another hidden corner of the park and more entertainment! There are three more pieces of entertainment to be experienced on this day! Is all this too much? It's been great reliving this with everyone and I'll be back again with a lot of more! 

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