March 27, 2018

Japan 2017 Trip Report - Part Two

After a hearty breakfast and a 10 minute wait outside the hotel, I boarded the bus to Disneysea! As mentioned earlier, it's about a 25 minute ride to the park, even with minimal traffic. Like its American counterparts, guests at a Tokyo Disney resort are allowed early entry to the park. But (and it's a big but), Japan's early entry is only 15 minutes prior to regular admission! They call it "Happy 15 Entry". Now if you're anything like me, you're knee jerk reaction was "Only 15 measly minutes???"! I'm paying premium resort prices and would want at least the standard hour we get back at home. But here's the thing - the Japanese are zealous in their love of all things Disney. Whatever you think is extreme in terms of fan dedication, times it by three for Japan. When I arrived two hours prior to park opening, the regular entrance lines stretched to Nova Scotia and back! And even the early entry crowd was already a mile long. After being hit with this sober realization, a 15 minute head start didn't seem so inconsequential anymore. 

Though the Japanese will go through great lengths to assure a good spot or position in line, the crowds are always well behaved, orderly, and conscientious. When early admittance began, the line moved quickly because things here move with precision and speed. In the USA, you always have that one or two persons/family with missing/invalid passes or a ton of questions that holds up everything. In Japan, something like that is almost nonexistent. And since the majority of park goers are locals, the cultural difference makes even security checks amazingly quick. You don't lose much of those valuable minutes from the time the first guest enters the park. Running too is not allowed, but I'll be darn if even senior citizens are walking at a pace that left me eating dust!

Disneysea is laid out with seven themed areas or "port of calls".  You start at Mediterranean Harbor which then branches out to the other six: Arabian Coast, Port Discovery, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Lost River Delta, and American Waterfront. The first thing to catch your eye upon entering is the fountain globe...a spherical marvel to behold. I wouldn't argue that Mount Prometheus in Mysterious Island is the centerpiece of the park (much like the various castles). But, I would not chide anyone for seeing this as the icon of Disneysea either. I've attached several images of the globe taken either at sunset, the blue hour, or night. I have a few day shots, but it's really after sunset that the globe truly astounds!

Mediterranean Harbor is modeled after a traditional Italian city with its Venetian gondolas and canals. It's also home to the Hotel Miracosta...a full service resort that resides within the park. It's Disney theming at its finest, a careful construct of illusion mixed with real tactile experiences. The hotel not only serves to house guests, but it plays a strong role in transporting one to a romanticized European city. 

Hotel Miracosta is my favorite Tokyo resort (and 2nd overall to the Wilderness Lodge), but I will cover that more extensively in another installment. My words could never do justice to the amazing detail and craftsmanship of this area, so hopefully my pictures will help impart some of the area's beauty...

To be honest, I tend to view live shows/parades at Disney as a necessary evil...LOL! Meaning that I will grudgingly do it, but rarely feel its worth the time and energy of waiting in big crowds and long lines. I've been even more reluctant when it comes to the Japanese productions as Mickey and Duffy are often the star attractions. It's true I'm not a fan of the mouse and even less so of the bear. My affinity for Disney stems basically from the animated classics and the parks itself. But I knew going in I needed to sample the shows just to give my reports some balance and variety. 

"A Perfect Christmas" was the first show I attended at TDS. I had noticed guests staking out spots in front of the river as soon as the park opened. I made a mental note and made plans to watch the show on the following morning. Knowing the Japanese culture, I knew I needed to move at top speed in order to secure a good spot for photographing the show. I did a little reconnaissance earlier and found that the prime spots near the gates were reserved for families who booked vacation packages through Tokyo Disney. It's a specially priced package that includes park tickets and stays at the Disney resorts. It's something I had initially wanted to book, but it's only available to parties of two or more so I was out of luck (my wife opted for Alaska with her best friend so I travelled solo).

If you're planning to stay at a Disney resort with family, I would definitely look into this option. After package seating, the next 5 feet or so are reserved for guests who prefer sitting. The Japanese are very conscientious when it comes to ensuring proper views for everyone (video cameras cannot be held above head level and children sitting on parent's shoulders are a no-no), so they allocate seats accordingly. Past that, there is an open walkway followed by an area for standing guests. For photography purposes, I chose the front row of this area for a clear and unobstructed view. 

I ended up standing next to a gentleman from England who got there before me (he too was planning to photograph the show). He was the first person I heard speaking fluent English in a couple of days so of course I stuck up a conversation. He met his Japan wife  in college and ended up moving to Tokyo to raise a family. They were planning to leave for Europe after their park visit, so it was an exciting time for all of them.

After a wait of little over two hours, the show finally began and I must say it was almost worth the wait. Of course Mickey & Minnie were the stars, but what really made it for me was the appearance of Scrooge McDuck! He's an under rated character that I've never seen at the USA parks so this was a treat. The show itself was well choreographed with an extensive use of props and stage scenery. Santa Claus puts in his obligatory appearance at the finale in a huge sleigh. What the storyline or dramatic push was remains a mystery since it was entirely in Japanese, but the visuals are enough that the language barrier never puts a damper on the show. The backdrop of Mount Prometheus gives "Perfect Christmas" a very surreal and cool look, something no other Disney park can offer.

To be continued...

Photographs copyright 2018 Len Yokoyama


Mark Taft said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos of the sphere! Almost looks like Herb Ryman concept art for EPCOT Center. What a great photographer you are!

Len Yokoyama said...

I think I lucked out on the Aquasphere! It was a combination of nice light and getting lucky with the settings!