Friday, October 31, 2014

Finally Landing in Japan!

The build up finally exploded into shards of happiness as we boarded Singapore Airlines to Japan! I'm normally not an excited passenger on a plane, but we had read many nice accolades about this airline. 

The crew loaded the plane from the rear to the front. Why doesn't everyone else do that? And, they didn't let passengers with seats closer to the plane's nose congregate at the jetway's entrance. Again, a no brainer that no other airline seems to realize. 

For the most part, the flight was as pleasant as the crew. Dressed in two pieced, matching, Asian inspired printed dresses, the flight attendants were beautiful! It had been a while where we had seen a full crew presented without a hair strand out of place and extremely tiny waists. (How do they get away with hiring only a certain sized female?) 

I want to get to the juicy Japan stuff, but I have to mention how good the food was. I had an Indian, vegetarian meal. I didn't ask what it was, but I willingly ate it! It had excellent flavor and packed a punch of spice! 

We also had a Sauvignon or Cabernet Sauvignon from which to choose. I was amused how the attendants were walking around and refilling everyone's wine like it was a party. They'd fill the glass and parted with a simple "Cheers!" I also want to quickly mention that we had a flavorful dessert. 

Upon arrival into Japan we made our way through a quiet set of hallways. Once we saw the "Welcome to Japan" mural, a lot of people became excited. We were pretty exhausted, but also anxious to get the trip started. 

As mentioned in other posts, we booked our accommodations through Airbnb. Our first host was waiting for our arrival near the customs checkpoint. His name is Koji. He seemed relieved to see us as the approaching storm Vonfong would soon arrive. Koji was very willing to help us with our bags. Eric and I were so glad to find out he spoke excellent English and happy we decided to pay extra for him to pick us up at the airport. I know in that tired state we weren't ready to face the transportation system(which ended up not being so bad).

The apartment was very spacious. It had two rooms/living area, kitchen, balcony, and our own Japanese style bathroom. No shoes were to be worn inside, but we had expected that. Eric and I were very interested in getting the full, cultural experience. As we explored the place, the rain was pounding against the windows. We hoped the typhoon would pass befire the following day as we didn't want our first Disney experience in Japan to be during a storm.  

Although there were scattered clouds the next morning, it appeared we were in the clear of the typhoon. It was slightly humid. This structure was at the bus terminal that sat outside the train station. We would take the same bus over the next four days to get to the Disney Resort. Eric and I were very nervous we would get on the wrong bus. I was sweating bullets because we were leaving later than planned and I wasn't sure the driver would take my bills. I was sure they wanted coins. In broken Japanese I asked a street sweeper (like one you'd see at Disneyland) if we were at the correct stop for the parks. He answered me in decent English that we weren't! He pointed us to the correct waiting area and mentioned it would be a pink bus. I'm glad we decided to ask. Who knows what we would've ended up visiting?

When Eric and I joined the queue at the correct stop it became clear THIS was for Disneyland. There were two girls dressed in Sully pajamas. And, there was a guy with a refillable popcorn bucket. Why didn't we catch that before? The pink #7 bus pulled up to the curb and we stepped up into it. 

"Disneyland?" Eric muttered to the driver. He was also a bit nervous. The man motioned to the fare price on the screen. After fumbling with the yen for a moment we both popped our coins into the machine. (It's important to note that we also bowed. This would be the start of many bows to come.) I noticed there was also a slot to insert cash and change could be given. It was all automated. Relief!!! The buses have Japanese and English announcements. That helped a great deal! (Especially when Disneyland was mentioned) It seemed so considerate because I doubt they actually HAD to have bilingual information. Looking around on the bus, Eric and I were the only two that spoke English. 

When the bus pulled up to Disneyland we jumped off with the rest of the people. We didn't realize that the bus was about to then drive to DisneySea, where we wanted to go. Again I started to panic. After the bus ordeal set us back a bit, it was now very close to park opening. So what that meant was we didn't get to queue up for the main gate with everyone else. Our saving grace was that we weren't trying for Toy Story fast passes, like the rest of the attendees. But, with these thoughts shooting through my brain, Eric and I needed to find the Monorail to catch a lift to DisneySea. After close examination, we realized we were at the far left end of the Disneyland entrance. And believe me when I say, VERY CONFUSED of the layout. Once we spotted the Monorail station and figured out how to get up to the platform, we felt we had our structural bearings. 

Yes you can read about it, and watch YouTube videos, but standing there while feeling overwhelmed is very different. And, the clock was ticking. I could almost hear it tapping at my head as the seconds marched on. 

After excitedly using the ticket machines to purchase our passes to the monorail, we quickly boarded the train. Once we were on the move we had a great view of the parks. It was amazing and more than surreal to see these places with our own eyes! Eric and I didn't know where to look. We pointed left and right as we stared in awe toward the parks. 

"FUJI-SAN!!!! FUJI-SAN!!!" We were both shaken violently from our shoulders and spun around as we again heard "FUJI-SAN!!" There was a woman, Japanese I assume, pointed to the opposite side of the train. We peered across and there it was. Mount Fuji! It was far away, looking tiny, but we could see it! In unison Eric and I both exclaimed "aaaaaaah!!" Then the lady started laughing. She said something to her companions in Japanese and they all imitated us. It was a funny moment. That was the beginning to what would be an interaction with some of the most glorious people on earth. 

Mt. Fuji is "center-left" in this pic

We were staring at what was equal to a pool of ice cream and were about to jump into it head first! The gates were open and we were so close to entering! Our hearts were pounding and our minds racing! Would all our homework and gathering of information pay off? We were about to find out! 

"Ohio Gozaimasu! Irashai!" the Cast Member exclaimed as we clicked through the turnstile. 

A lot has been said about DisneySea on many blogs. Eric and I have read them. The best description I can give to you, the reader, is this: If you've been to Disney California Adventure, that dwarfed feeling you get while standing near the bute and rock archway of Cars Land is how the entire park of DisneySea is. It's total immersion! 

This look on Eric's face melts my heart! It is priceless and says everything about how much anticipation had built over the years. We have dreamed for this moment, together, for a very long time. 

Everything at this moment happened so quickly. It was pandemonium as park goers ran, skipped, and even pushed every which way they could. Eric and I were fully prepared for this and joined in the fun! In the U.S. parks an experienced park enthusiast might out wit his fellow attendees. Not here! In Japan all the people attending are professionals and know exactly what to do! 

Eric and I didn't join the rest of the DisneySea universe as they headed to American Waterfront. They were after the coveted Toy Story Mania Fast Pass. Eric and I knew we were headed straight to Journey to the Center of the Earth attraction. We knew the exact route. Our goal was to obtain our fast pass and then ride the damn thing! 

The Mysterious Island area of the park is known to many Disney fans everywhere. Steam is leaking from craters and water is boiling where the lava meets the sea. It had a tone of Victorian influence coupled with obvious steampunk aesthetic. When Eric and I reached the inner part of the mountain it was too much to take in. We didn't fall down and sob, but I think we both felt like it. 

The two attractions here draw sources from the idea that Captain Nemo has burrowed into the volcano to enter worlds not explored by man or woman. He created a drill that could grind the rick like no other machine. With that machine he carved us all a path to the center of the earth. On on the attraction that shared that name, that's exactly where we go! 

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a tour through Nemo's discoveries of the subterranean world, and maybe too deep. After passing crystalized sculptures of light we visit gentle creatures that look friendly. They greet us with nods and "coos" as we roll between the huge, glowing, purple mushroom structures that are their home. It's all very larger than life. But we start to see evidence that we might be going down too deep. 

Our massive vehicle starts burrowing past pods of convulsing eggs. We can see small embryos inside their slimy lairs. And, we can hear a roar from the road up ahead. Where is this metal beast taking us? Did Nemo come across this as well? We reach the source of the roar! A loud alien-like monster with multiple arms and he isn't happy at all that we have found his hiding place. 

We rocket into an upward spiral through a dark tunnel of sparkling mud and oozing barnacles. The speed gets so fast that we start to wonder how it can pick up such energy. I'm not trying to say we were breaking the sound barrier, but for this chunk of metal it was impressive. At the top of this spiral we see daylight for a moment as we plummet, and I DO mean plummet, down a hill. It's one of those drops that you feel deep in your gut. (Seeing the drop from the walkway gives a false sense of how it feels to ride. It feels worse) 

What a way to start the long laundry list of attractions that we would experience! I had read about that downward drop on my friend Jeff's blog of but I didn't think it would be that intense. I was wrong! 

As mentioned, the closest attraction to "Journey" is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Sticking with the same theme, the vehicles that take you through liquid space are very impressive. Sitting in groups of two, or small three, we face our own window to view the relics lost at sea. It's all narrated in Japanese, but you still get the sense that although you've set out on a routine exploration, something goes awry! It's especially obvious that control has been lost when our vehicle gets caught in the grip of a larger than normal squid! The captain seems to think quickly on his feet as he electrocutes the beast! But, maybe too much power was used? Our vehicle loses power and sinks further down and we find ourselves amidst the underwater world of amphibious creatures. Judging by the "gliphs" on the wall, this could be The Lost City of Atlantis! Maybe we found Nemo's intended destination after all? The "Atlantians" seem to glow in the dark and have a whole colony of others just like them. Luckily these creatures use a sort of colorfully glowing power to recharge us, even pushing our ship to safety. And then hooray! We make it back to Nemo's seaport, Mysterious Island. 

Here we see the famed Gyoza bun that park goers wait almost two hours, on busy days, to eat. Since it was only 20 minutes into the day, we went straight up to the counter to order. The soft dough has been dyed black for Halloween. I am told that the flavor is similar. It tasted like an egg roll/sesame dressing. It wasn't a highlight of the trip, but since people normally wait so long for it, we felt like we had cheated the system. And look at this! Wouldn't you want to write home about it? 

Seeing that it was time for our Journey to the Center of the Earth fast passes, Eric and I were now able to obtain a second fast pass. We decided to hop over to get Tower of Terror passes. We'd return to this area just after that. Taking a route that in our minds was surely the way to American Waterfront, we went the wrong way. It was still too soon for us to visualize the park in our heads. Eric and I ended up walking into the electrically run land of Port Discovery. 

When we arrived here it was clear we were lost. We're men! Gay men, but still Men. We don't use maps! So we broke down and whipped out the map to find out how many wrong turns we took. It was great to be lost because it was so exciting to be in a Disney park we hadn't visited before. After doubling back through Mysterious Island, we found our way across the park to Tower of Terror. 

I was very amused to hear that the attraction's area music was lifted from the film Psycho. The score to that movie is amazing and sets a very ominous tone. It was perfect! Luckily the fast pass return time was still before 11 AM. There was still so much to see and it wasn't even 9:30 yet, plenty of time!

As we made the long walk back to Journey to the center of the Earth for our fast pass time, we came across a beautiful view of the park. As Eric mentioned throughout our trip, DisneySea is a park begging to be photographed! It's evident that so much thought went into this place!

Something equally as grand are the Cast Members that make this all happen. The standard for service in Japan is high, even at a convenient store. So, here at Tokyo Disney, the service is really more than through the roof. It would appear they have all situations thought out before they happen and they're very informative when it comes to loading/unloading their ride vehicles. And as expected, it's all started and finished with a delicate bow. 

Our second trip through the "Journey" attraction was as wonderful as the first. Eric and I were excited to get back to Port Discovery and see that area in a little more detail. 

Speaking of details, there's so much to recall and so much to share! I think you guys need a break today! I hope you've found this fun and or helpful (if planning a trip) so far. There's a lot more to come!

Scientist Goofy!?! (at least that's what I've called him)