Friday, December 4, 2015

Japan trip Autumn 2015, Part 1 - Day 1: Tokyo DisneySea

(Sorry, I think I'm having some formatting issues where the picture are appearing blurry on the blog but when clicked to enlarge, they are full size and clear. I'm working to resolve this, but meanwhile still wanted to publish and start on these posts!)

Here I am at the airport again :O
This time I'm headed to Tokyo with my friend Christa, just us two! It's going to be her first time in Japan and she asked me to tag along. She lives in CA and chose to fly to Hawaii first to meet up with me so we could fly over together. Our flight left in the late afternoon on November 24.
We arrived at around 22:15 on November 25 and then had to go through immigrations/customs which was reasonably fast. However, we didn't get out that quickly because Christa's bag was pretty much the last one to come out of the carousel lol wtf. And when we finally got it, she discovered that the retractable handle was stuck in the down position -__-. Not the most excellent way to start the trip but luckily it's a 4-wheel spinner and was OK to roll without the handle although it was still very much a pain. 

We took the Keikyu line to Shinagawa and then transferred to the JR Yamanote line to get to Shinjuku.

We booked an Airbnb apartment about 2 minutes from the New South exit of JR Shinjuku station and arrived just around midnight, unpacked a bit and settled in. I stopped by the 7-Eleven just downstairs and then we went to sleep.


November 26 was our first real day in Japan, and our plans were visiting DisneySea! I had done a bit of research before we arrived, so we already had a general idea of what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. Check out my Planning for DisneySea post for more information.
Christmas Wishes was ongoing at DisneySea (Nov 9 through Dec 25) while we were there as well as Christmas themed shows and merchandise.

Getting there (06:30 to 07:30)
We woke up at around 05:15 and got ready, intending to be at the station at 06:15 to arrive at the park about an hour before it opened. Unfortunately, I was the reason the plan ran a little askew because while we were buying breakfast at the convenience store, I realized I forgot my jacket and had to go back and get it since I had anticipated it being cold. The store isn't that far from the apartment, but enough time had passed and we were already a bit late, so we ended up catching the next, next train. We took the JR Chuo line from Shinjuku to Tokyo and then transferred to the JR Keiyo line to get to Maihama. Tokyo is a big station but the Keiyo line in particular is pretty far away from where we arrived. There were quite a few moving walkways and escalators in between, and we needed almost all of the transfer time allotted to get to the right tracks.

We got to Maihama at around 07:15 and then went to the Disney Resort Line. There were quite a few people walking to the parks, but since it was raining and it was our first time there, we wanted to take the monorail. It's not particularly cheap, but it's an exciting introduction to the Disney experience :)

Christa decided to get an all day monorail pass because you can keep the ticket. I chose to just pay per ride because it was a little cheaper and just settled for taking a picture of her ticket lol.

We got off the monorail at the DisneySea stop (it's the last one on the loop) and then made our way to the lines. We accidentally got shuffled into the line for people allowed to enter the park 15 minutes early and had to bow out lol. It's not super confusing but I think we just happened to choose the wrong line.
We got settled in a correct/allowable line at about 07:30am. I've seen pictures of the lines outside the park before opening being a lot crazier, so I wasn't too worried and I guess it was good that we hadn't arrived much earlier because I'm not sure how much of a difference it really would have made.
It was raining the whole morning though.

Off to the races (08:00 to 21:15)
The line started moving at 08:00am exactly and we quickly got to the turnstiles within 5 minutes or less and joined the crowd rushing into Disney. There wasn't much running because the ground was wet and the cast members were cautioning everyone to go slowly lol. Most people heeded this but just walked at a very quick pace. We didn't stop to look at any of the preliminary stuff because 1. it was raining and not especially picturesque, 2. no one else was doing it, 3. we were trying to get our fast passes and on a ride ASAP!
Sorry there weren't many pictures of the first few things because it was raining (so I was holding my umbrella and not trying to get wet) and we were too busy rushing everywhere!

We first went to the Tower of Terror and got Fast Passes valid for 08:45 to 09:45. Then we speed walked to the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride where the standby wait was just 5 minutes (basically the time it takes you to walk through the queue) and we didn't really stop anywhere long enough for me to take a picture lol wtf. But really, that was good because there was essentially no wait!
It's a dark ride that starts off really slowly and then picks up at the end for just a matter of seconds before the ride is over. I really enjoyed looking at the details of the ride while we were going slowly but did wonder when it was going to pick up. The end part reminds me a little of the Matterhorn at Disneyland CA and was quite exciting although the end was a bit abrupt lol.

We then headed towards the Indiana Jones ride. On the way, we quickly devoured the convenience store breakfast I bought - a croissant for me and a musubi I gave to Christa. (When we went back for my jacket, Christa accidentally forgot her breakfast at the apartment :O.) Again, the wait was quite short and we were able to get on the ride without much waiting at all!
The ride itself is pretty similar to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland CA, but the theming is just slightly a bit different (since it's based on a different movie - Temple of the Crystal Skull versus Temple of the Forbidden Eye) and the DisneySea version is newer and is better detailed plus it takes your picture! I enjoy this ride at Disneyland and still enjoyed it quite a bit at DisneySea.

By the time we finished the ride, it was already about 08:45, so we decided to get a fast pass for Journey on our way back to Tower of Terror to use that fast pass. Our Journey fast passes were valid from 09:25 to 10:25.

Despite the fast pass, we still had to wait a little bit at Tower of Terror, but by then, the standby line was already 60+ minutes, so I'm glad we were able to bypass most of it. The queue for ToT is supposed to be quite nice so I tried to take a few pictures and didn't mind the 15-20 minute wait.
The theming is completely different at this Tower of Terror as compared to the one in California Adventure. It's not based on the Twilight Zone but rather on a fictional explorer/collector who steals an artifact called Shiriki Utundu and is subsequently cursed. The "tower" is his hotel and the queue contains all of the items he's amassed. There is an explanation offered by a cast member before you enter the elevator but it's in Japanese. I believe that if you ask for an English guide (or if you're just obnoxious enough that people notice you don't speak Japanese like some Americans next to us), they'll give you a pamphlet that explains the pretense of the ride.
The ride itself is incredibly similar to the CA one, but I think I like the CA one a bit better for some reason and I can't put my finger on it. It doesn't have anything to do with the theming (in which DisneySea far surpasses CA in many ways) but just the drops and lifts of the ride seem "less than" the CA version. I haven't ridden the CA version in a few years but I do remember enjoying it and maybe the DisneySea version just seemed more abrupt. Christa pretty much agreed with me.

Some merchandise in the gift shop after exiting ToT -

Once we finished at ToT, we had already been on our three priority rides by 09:15, so we decided to slow down our pace for a bit. While we were taking pictures outside ToT, I started receiving all of these "Message not found" text messages from "Unknown" on my phone, and I was freaking out trying to get it to stop because I didn't want to think about the international charges and it wasting my phone battery. Thankfully, we had a bit of time to troubleshoot that, and I got my phone onto Airplane mode to stop it.

Since we were near the Toy Story ride, we went over there to take a few pictures.
There were unexpectedly still fast passes available, and we were eligible to get another by then, so we got passes for 20:35 to 21:35 lol. We got the fast pass at 09:40, so this meant that we wouldn't be able to get another fast pass until 11:40. 

The Big Lotteria was also supposedly in the area, so we set off to look for that to find out if we were able to get reserved seats for the Big Band Beat show. It took us a little bit and some help from a cast member or two to find it, but eventually we did and were successful in getting reserved seats for the 14:30 show! Getting them in the morning was helpful because then we knew we had to plan around that show time but didn't have to dedicate time to waiting in the standby line to get in.

On the way to the Biglitteria, we had a cast member take our picture here lol.

By that time, we were well within the time frame to return and use our fast passes for Journey, so we headed back over there. This time I tried to take my time in the queue a little more, but the fast pass line still didn't really have much of a wait in the pre-elevator area, so the pictures aren't composed as nicely as I would have liked and most of these were taken while walking in a dark area wtf.
Elevator to take you "down" to the center of the earth (but actually it takes you up)!

After finishing Journey a second time, we continued to just kind of take it easy and went on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea ride because it was in the proximity with a 10 minute standby wait.
The wait was likely actually a little bit shorter and again walking in the queue takes up most of the time.
Imo it's a bit more like an "experience" than a ride but I guess you do move along a track. You're in the dark in a little submarine facing one of three windows with a light that you can control in some portions of the ride to explore the environment "underwater". It's a neat effect but the sub is really quite small. I can't imagine being in there if you're 6'+!

Vulcania (counter service restaurant serving Chinese food) was also in the area, so after finishing 20k Leagues, we took a look inside at the theming but decided not to eat anything.
If you look closely at the top third of the photo near the middle left, you can see the car from the Journey ride exposed on Mount Prometheus
The Nautilus Galley was close by and I had read good things about the gyoza, so we stopped there to split a snack. Many people were also purchasing the turkey leg here.
The gyoza is pretty straightforward although the shape is a little unusual. It was nice and hot and crispy but the sauce will help with flavor (as typical for most gyoza). Christa ate two of these and I tried one just because I knew I needed to eat something but I don't typically like gyoza.

We still wanted a bit more to eat and had passed this amazing smelling caramel popcorn cart several times before, so that was our next stop to finally buy some ourselves. Luckily, the line wasn't too crazy long, but there were these really annoying large pigeons lol.
I decided to just get a regular box.
But Christa got a Stitch popcorn holder for her popcorn!
Christmas stitch is too cute, but I knew I didn't have enough room in my suitcase to pack something like that. Most of the people, especially children but including many adults, at DisneySea had a popcorn bucket in some shape. They change the designs all the time and it was cool to see a variety!

Now with something to continue to munch on, we got seats for the 11:50 Perfect Christmas show at around 11:10. After buying the popcorn, we just chose the area closest to us called "Lido Isle" according to the map which already had quite a few people waiting. Cast members were using towels to dry the stage area and were also helping people find seats.

The view of Mount Prometheus from where we were sitting.

I specifically brought these plastic floor mats with me for us to sit on. I thought we would need them in the morning before the gates opened as well, but since it was actively raining during that time, everyone was standing. It worked just as well in this situation since it was still raining occasionally and the area was wet. Cast members were coming through the area and wiping down what they could, but we were fine with this mat.

It only got more and more crowded as the start time neared lol. The first two pictures below were supposed to show the across the harbor/other stages that were also intensely crowded but I'm not sure if you can really get the full affect. Despite the amount of people, the cast members kept everyone really organized and no one was disruptive and stood when they should be sitting, etc.

The show started a little bit late, but just by a few minutes. Donald was the first to come to our stage area and then he was quickly joined by some friends.
And Daisy and more dancers!
Then Goofy and Max rotated in from another stage area.
And also Mickey and Minnie!
Here comes the float with Santa!
and Duffy and Shellie May

and finally Clarice, Chip and Dale and Pluto joined us as well
until everyone got on the float and sailed away

The show ended at about 12:25 and we were eligible to get another fast pass at this point, but the current available return times for the Indiana Jones ride conflicted with our Big Band Beat reservation, so we continued to leisurely explore the park to kill a bit of time and wound up in the Port Discovery area. We decided to check out StormRider because it only had about a 10 minute standby wait.
Aquatopia was closed during our visit
StormRider is one of those simulation "rides" similar to Star Tours at Disneyland CA except I personally enjoyed the effects and overall experience in this one a bit better. The theme and premise are different with this ride ofc. The introduction is "performed" by a cast member (pictured above) in Japanese accompanied by video screens. There are a couple scrolling text displays in English if you want to follow along, but it's pretty easy to pick up the plot either way. If you get airsick, this might not be the right one for you, but if you allow yourself to be convinced by what's happening, it's actually quite good for what it is imo.

We continued a leisurely walk through the park from Port Discovery to the Lost River Delta, stopping to take pictures where we previously had just rushed past.

In front of the Indiana Jones ride

By the time we reached the Indiana Jones ride, the fast pass return times had changed such that we would now be able to watch BBB and also use the pass, so we got them. (Return time from 15:05 to 16:05.)

I hadn't had anything really substantial to eat at that point, so I stopped for a Yukatan Sausage Dog at Expedition Eats.
It's essentially as advertised - a sausage in a baguette, plain. The sausage does have a bit of spice in it which is not really my thing (since I don't like flavor wtf) but the baguette was nice and warm and not too hard or overly crunchy. It was definitely the best part for me. I considered going back to get another just to have the bread lol.

We continued to explore the park, going from the Lost River Delta to the Arabian Coast which we had not yet set foot in at that point.
Every area is incredibly picturesque, and we stopped as often as we liked for photos.

We didn't stop for any rides or food (Christa was looking for something to eat from a cart but didn't want to wait in a long line) and continued to Mermaid Lagoon - another area we had neglected so far.
Again, every aspect of it is so picture perfect even on a grey and overcast day!

Christmas Triton and reindeer dolphins
Inside Triton's Kingdom (indoor area with games, restaurant and gift shop)
We walked through the gift shop and I almost bought a Shellie May pouch at this point (everyone had one or something like it and I felt left out lol) but I didn't want to have to worry about it getting wet in the rain so I decided to wait.
Attempt at a quick OOTD picture whenever I see a full length mirror lol

We left Mermaid Lagoon through the gift shop and continued on our way to explore parts of the park we hadn't seen yet towards Mediterranean Harbor and the American Waterfront and also find something (small) for Christa to eat before the BBB show.
Many of the stalls we passed either had an insane line or she wasn't interested in the food. Truly, there are quite a few options though, especially in the American Waterfront area.
Front view of the Tower of Terror
She finally found a place with a short wait with something she was interested in called the Liberty Landing Diner.
She got a Pork rice roll which is essentially bacon wrapped rice.

We sat on a nearby bench while she ate and relaxed, charged and waited for the BBB doors to open at 14:10 for the 14:30 show.

We started over to the BBB venue at 14:10 and was able to walk right in with our tickets. It was good to sit down indoors in a nice chair for a while lol. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the show because pictures/recording isn't allowed, but it was a good show! It's a jazz show with a live band and singers and dancers and pretty much all in English. Because we were visiting at this time of year, the show had a special Christmas section complete with Christmas themed costumes and songs. I really wish I could have taken a picture or two, but at the same time, I guess I enjoyed the "magic" of the show a bit more without staring through my phone. I would recommend this if you like Broadway performances (singing, dancing, acting). I'm not really/specifically a Jazz fan but it was still really enjoyable because the talent level is quite apparent.

The show was over at about 15:10, perfect for our Indiana Jones fast pass return time, so we headed back to the Lost River Delta and quickly rode the ride again.
It was somehow more enjoyable the second time, I'm not sure why lol. Christa agreed though.

I wanted to try the Sindbad ride which we had bypassed earlier in lieu of checking out more of the park and finding something to eat, so we went back to the Arabian Coast after stopping to take pictures with the Raging Spirits ride since it looks really cool.
We had flirted with the idea of getting a Raging Spirits fast pass earlier (instead of the Indiana Jones one) but neither of us were extremely keen on this ride being a "must-do". I had read that it was a bit overrated so I wasn't overly excited about it although I did like the fire in the water effect lol.
However, at this point (around 15:35), since we were eligible for another fast pass and there wasn't another ride we were dying to get a fast pass for, we just ended up taking fast passes for at 17:55 to 18:55 return time without particularly caring if we were able to make it back for it.

We continued to Sindbad's Storybook Voyage ride which had a standby wait of 5 minutes.
The ride is very similar to It's a Small World where you sit in a boat floating in water and move along a set path between animatronic figures telling a story through music and song but the theming and story are obviously different. Many Disney bloggers had raved about this ride, and I had definitely wanted to see for myself.
I did really enjoy the effort/time put into creating the ride and the animatronics are zounds above It's a Small World but also newer as well, so that's only to be expected. It's not a particularly "exciting" ride, so I think you really have to curb your expectations there and just really want to be immersed in the storytelling to really enjoy it. I probably would have taken another ride on it at some point to get another look since the wait was only 5 minutes, but there were other things to do and see, so we left it at that.

I had also read some great things about the Casbah Food Court theming, so on our way out of the Arabian Coast, we popped in to take a look but neither of us was interested in eating there.

We passed Mermaid Lagoon again on our way to Mediterranean Harbor but didn't actually go into it and I was able to get a bit of a better picture of it.

It was a bit early for dinner (maybe around 16:30 at this point), but since we wanted to get seats for Fantasmic and then use our Raging Spirits fast passes right after, we stopped at Zambini Brothers' Ristorante counter service restaurant for dinner.

This was our first time sitting at a table for a meal at the park lol. I ordered a margherita pizza and Christa got meat sauce pasta and minestrone soup. (She had intended to order salad but somehow ended up ordering soup on accident and didn't feel like correcting it.)
It was a simple meal but filling enough. I don't think the taste was anything unexpected or out of the ordinary. Based on what we paid, I feel like it was pretty standard and extremely straightforward.

We left the restaurant at around 17:00 and was surprised to find the sun had gone down and the sky was completely dark lol. We headed over to the area we had previously sat in for the Perfect Christmas show ("Lido Isle") and got our seats for the 17:30 Fantasmic show. By this time, it was getting quite cold to just be sitting in one place outdoors lol.
Mount Prometheus after dark
Unfortunately, this area is not as good of a viewing area for Fantasmic as it was for Perfect Christmas, but I think it depends on what side you sit on. Where we were, there were a few lamps in the way and we had a complete side/profile view of the show. It's better if you're sitting a little more towards the center/entrance of the park and facing Mount Prometheus in your seat rather than being more extremely on the sides. I mean, our seats weren't overly terrible, but they could have been better if we had known a bit more about how the show would run. I focused a bit more on enjoying the show this time instead of trying too hard to take pictures since it was dark and my phone was already a bit low on battery.
I personally haven't seen Fantasmic at another Disney park in a while and my memories of it make it out to be quite lame lol. In fact, I don't really have any particularly strong or good memories of any other show/parade at another Disney park except that they draw huge disruptive crowds. In contrast, the crowds at DisneySea are well managed/well behaved/considerate and in comparison, this was much more enjoyable for me. I also really liked this presentation of Fantasmic as well and didn't really expect to. Christa, who has more recently seen and remembers better the other shows, said she preferred the Disneyland CA performance, although she agreed that this one is very different from that one and that maybe if we had had better seats, it would have seemed like a better show.

The show ran for about 20 minutes and then we rushed over to Raging Spirits back in the corner of the Lost River Delta to use our fast passes. The shows tend to draw large crowds of people away from the rides (us included) so we wanted to try and get to the ride ASAP to keep whatever waiting we would have to do to a minimum. Even with the fast passes, we still had to wait around 15 minutes, which really isn't that bad considering the standby wait time was about 70.
Apparently I didn't get any pictures during this time, mostly because I was trying to conserve phone battery but also because it was just dark everywhere. Good thing we had taken our pictures with the ride display earlier in the day!
I have to agree with a lot of the other ride reviews I read that called the ride overrated. It is as described - a roller coaster with a 360 loop, but overall not particularly exciting in any specific way and not worth a 70 minute wait to me. I wasn't unhappy that we used a fast pass on it or tried it, but I'm just glad we didn't try to get in the standby line.

We were feeling the jetlag/fatigue of being at the park all day at this point, so we decided that we would use our Toy Story fast pass which was still about a couple hours from the return time and that would be the last ride of the day (instead of staying until park closing at 22:30).
In the meantime, I wanted to ride on the Electric Railway (and didn't want to walk), so we went to Port Discovery to catch it one way to the American Waterfront. The wait was about 10 minutes.

Back at the American Waterfront, we wanted to find the New York Deli which, according to the online menus from TDS when I had done my research weeks prior, were selling the Little Green Men dumplings aka the aliens from Toy Story mocha ice cream. We had passed it earlier, so we found it pretty quickly but I was extremely puzzled when I didn't see the "dumplings" on the menu outside, so I quickly searched the menu again online and found it listed. We went inside apprehensively and saw the aliens in the mock food display on the side but again, not on the menu above the ordering counter! The lines were quite long and we didn't want to wait in there for nothing, so I ended up trying to ask the staff if the item was available to which he replied yes, but honestly, I still wasn't convinced lol. No one else was ordering it but it seems like a popular item! I even walked around through the tables and booths to see if anyone else had them on their trays but I didn't see any. It wasn't until I saw two people walk away from the counter with the product that I finally relaxed a little that we weren't wasting our time. The lines were still quite long and slow moving at that point, so I went to go find a table with our things while Christa waited in line.
In the end, it was certainly true that the New York Deli in the American Waterfront does sell the Little Green Men dumpling (mochi ice cream) lol, thank goodness. They come in trios - one vanilla, one chocolate and one strawberry. I don't like mochi so I just took a picture of it before Christa ate them.
This ended up killing quite a bit of time, and we didn't leave the restaurant until around 19:30 after taking some time to just sit down and relax.

The Colors of Christmas show (also in the Harbor area) was scheduled for 19:45, so we decided to just find a place to stand instead of trying to get a seat at that point.
These are terrible pictures, but I didn't have a good vantage point and also wasn't really expecting to take photos anyway. The show was pretty disappointing compared to the others, and we were glad we didn't wait any longer than we did to view it. It was mostly a light show featuring the Mickey Fantasmic hat as a Christmas tree with some ferries with characters on them zooming around. I wouldn't say that it was terrible, but I think, given the chance, we would just skip it next time. At least it was short though.

We still had about 40 minutes to kill before our return time for our Toy Story fast passes, so I went shopping in McDuck's and finally got my Shellie May pouch (at the very end of the day lol) which was pretty frivolous at that point but whatever. I hadn't actually bought anything else at that point except for food, so I figured I had to get at least one souvenir specific to DisneySea.
Then we literally just sat on a bench outside the store for 15 minutes and talked about how tired we were lol.

At about 20:15, to prevent ourselves from falling asleep on the bench, we walked over to the Toyville section to take some pictures before going on the ride. It really is quite wonderful looking at night with all the lights!

While we were in Toyville, the fireworks started going off at 20:30 that are supposed to be viewable "park wide" and we probably could have seen it if we ventured just outside the area a bit, but we were way too lazy at that point lol.
At 20:35 exactly, we presented our fast passes, and walked into the ride.
The fast pass is really worth it and you do end up bypassing a LOT of the people in the standby line quite quickly and we were seated within 10 minutes (probably less). The queue area is really quite nice though, especially compared to the ride at California Adventure. I almost wish we weren't just quickly walking through it so I could have taken more pictures lol.
As expected based on a bit of online research, the ride is essentially exactly like the one in CA (aside from the queue area) with just a much longer line lol. Since we were both reasonably familiar with the CA park, the ride wasn't too much of a big deal, but we were happy to use the fast pass on it and just walk on without an 80+ minute wait and have this be our last ride of the day.

We passed through a few gift shops in Mediterranean Harbor while making our way to the exit and purchased a few last minute things before exiting the park.
This globe is usually a huge photo spot during the day and I had anticipated going back to it at some point and taking a picture, but we never wanted to walk all the way back out there lol. I'll have to settle for this single night time photo on our way out.
We caught the Disney Monorail back to Maihama station and then backtracked our way to Shinjuku from there. By the time we got back, it was a bit after 22:00 and we just poured our exhausted selves into bed lol.

Final thoughts and considerations
eTicket
I had a lot of concerns about this a few weeks out before the trip. We had felt confident in purchasing them, but since there were a lot of warnings about printing only on A4 paper, I got a bit nervous as I tried to do more research. I didn't find a lot of personal accounts about using the eTickets from people who did not have A4 paper. I'm not sure if it's because they're aesthetically not as worthy of being a keepsake (as compared to the actual ticket you can purchase at the window) or because no one prominent (first 4-6 pages on Google) is writing about it in detail. Regardless, we had purchased them so we intended to try and use them. I had printed several copies of the ticket, all slightly different in terms of margins/sizing (although that wasn't necessarily wholly intentional) and brought them with me to the park, just in case. The ticket is not only important for entry but also for getting fast passes and trying the lottery for shows.
Essentially, the most important part of the ticket is the QR code. This, above all else on the ticket, needs to be the right size and flawless (no smudges or blurs). It is also the most ideal for it to be in a certain place in the corner so that it's easier to use at the machines.
The above picture is the exact ticket I used for park entry and also on all the machines within the park. I didn't have any particular issues with it or how the QR code was placed/located on the paper in this position. I believe this version of the ticket was printed on legal (8.5 x 14") paper and then cut down to approximate A4 size and folded 3 times. I also had letter (8.5 x 11") paper versions but this one seemed the most accurate to me, so this is the one we tried and was successful with.
If you scroll down to about the bottom third of this page from the TDR website about their eTickets "Attention on Printing Tickets", you'll notice the listed requirements. The one factor that kept tripping me up was the third aspect of #3 which asks, "Is the left edge of the two-dimensional barcode more than 2 cm apart from the edge of the paper?". The printed tickets that seemed the most reasonable looking to me did not meet this requirement in the slightest. I did have one version that did but it was also accidentally "fit to page" printed (vice "actual size" which was preferred") and therefore the QR code was a percentage smaller and that's why I had the actual 2cm. ????
But I guess regardless of all of this, the ticket we ended up using and had success with did not have this 2cm margin and was perfectly fine. I'm not sure where that requirement comes from or why it's listed that way if it's not necessarily true, but I guess the bottom line is that my e-ticket that looked as pictured above was functional for my day at DisneySea. I feel that if your ticket is printed and looks similar to this, you shouldn't have a problem either (but of course the best way to guarantee that is to actually print on A4 paper).

Cost
After reading through many different blog posts, I noticed that some people complained about the price of the park entrance fee! Idk if it's just my point of view as an American (usually the people who complained were not), but 6900yen, even being generous and exchanging at 1USD to 100yen ($69), is a good price imo! Well, considering the cost of going to just Disneyland in CA is now close to $100?? I practically consider the price of Tokyo Disney Resorts to be a steal at the actual current exchange rate, and we paid around $57 for entrance each. Maybe similar parks outside the US usually have a lower entrance fee? If so, I'm jealous lol. Anyway, Christa and I were personally happy with price of the entrance fee for what was available in the park.

Language barrier
There were a few people in blogs who riffed on the storylines for rides and shows mostly being in Japanese, but I find that so...odd. You are literally IN Japan. Despite the fact that it's a Disney Park which isn't Japanese in and of itself, why would the primarily language of anything in Japan be English? Sure, there are likely a few English speaking visitors each day, but to actually be perturbed by the lack of English, so much as to blog about it? I find that astounding and even a bit pretentious. I honestly feel like for some reason some people have this unrealistic expectation for everything to be available in English wherever they go, but really? I understand it as a warning to those who understand zero Japanese, but as a complaint I found it unsavory.
Beyond that, it's not impossible to understand what's happening in the shows or rides regardless of language, and if it is incredibly essential, a cast member will likely be able to help you out if you ask. Christa and I are nowhere near fluent in Japanese (we can understand bits and pieces of simple sentences), but we were able to get along in the park without too much confusion based on the primary language being Japanese.

(Rainy) weather
Our visit to DisneySea was on a day that there was anticipated rain. The weather reports for Japan are usually highly reliable and if it is supposed to rain, everyone will have umbrellas, even at a theme park.
There were also a number of people with ponchos. I personally brought both a small, foldable umbrella and a poncho. I personally preferred the umbrella because I found it easier and faster to use (take out and put away) depending on whether it was raining atm the or not. The poncho should have been good when we were walking but I refused to put it on properly and therefore it was whipping all over the place and I think it's preferred that you take them off before going on a ride so the seat doesn't get wet. Since we were constantly going on rides at the beginning of the day when it was raining, I think it would have been a pain to keep putting it on and taking it off and then storing it (while wet) in between.
Regardless, DisneySea was still a pretty well functioning park in the morning despite the rain although some areas were a bit slippery when we first entered. I think that after the crowds were able to clear up a little bit and it was no longer actively raining, cast members were then able to start "mopping" the water better as they did for the Perfect Christmas show stage area. I also saw cast members wiping down benches and other sitting areas too. We were extremely fortunate that none of the shows we wanted to see were cancelled because of the rain, but I know that in more extreme cases, that can happen and some rides can even be temporarily shut down.
The rain, clouds and overcast sky were bummers for photo taking, but we were still able to get some pretty good pictures without too many shadows from an insane sun at least. I wish we had had some blue sky in some photos (like in the Mermaid Lagoon area), but I'm not disappointed with what I have.
More generally, as it was late November, it was a bit cold, especially when the wind was blowing. I'm not overly used to cold weather and many aspects of the park are outdoors (especially the Christmas shows and Fantasmic) and some standby queues. However, I did feel like I was able to get along fine wearing a Heattech camisole under a knit turtleneck and long sleeve polyester dress with OTK socks and OTK boots with the option of taking on and off my faux leather cropped jacket and leather gloves throughout the day. The inside portions of some of the rides are a bit warm so it was good to have the option of layering for some occasions. Mid morning, I thought I would want to remove the turtleneck from under my dress, but in the end, I'm glad I left it on because I would have had to go through the trouble of putting it back on at some point later in the day and it wasn't unbearable.

Rides and shows
Luckily, we were able to ride most, if not all, of the main rides in the park with the exception of the children's rides and Aquatopia which was closed.
If I had to rate them on a scale of 1-5,
5 being the best, would recommend, would gladly experience multiple times in a day, would wait in line
4 being good!, would recommend, would experience again with a wait time but not a high priority
3 being alright, would likely experience again with a short wait
2 being OK, would experience again only to kill time or to rest feet while sitting with a short wait time
1 being very eh, would hesitate to recommend to others, wouldn't wait in line
Journey to the Center of the Earth (x2) - 5/5
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull (x2) -5/5
Tower of Terror - 3.5/5
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - 2.5/5
StormRider - 3.5/5
Sindbad's Storybook Voyage - 3.5/5
Raging Spirits - 2/5
(Electric Railway) - 2/5
Toy Story Mania! - 3/5
We also saw 4 shows which I would rate as follows:
A Perfect Christmas - 5/5
Big Band Beat (Christmas edition) - 4.5/5
Fantasmic! - 4/5
Colors of Christmas - 1/5
I should note that my ratings are obviously very personal and indicative of my having previous experience at Disneyland in CA as well (especially in regards to the rides that have CA counterparts). The ratings are not meant to say how "good" the ride is, but rather how much I personally enjoyed it based on what little time we had at the park, and what I would consider doing for another visit to DisneySea. Some of the rides I think I would rate better if I could have ridden them more than once, but I can only rate them as they stood based on what I can determine atm.
All this being said, I would highly encourage people to try each ride/shows for themselves at least once, and I was glad I got to do so for these rides and shows!

Crowds
I had consulted a couple crowd calendars that estimated the amount of people who would be at the park on any given day and one had very high numbers and another had more reasonable numbers. I think that the lesser number was likely more accurate because I didn't feel that we had to deal with a LARGE amount of crowding and fast passes didn't run out in the early morning for any of the rides (many did run out at around 17:00, give or take a few hours except Toy Story which ran out much earlier). This seems to go along with the weather (rainy) which usually discourages park goers a little bit. I mean, if you have a choice, why would you choose to go on a bad weather day when the rain could possibly interfere with your park experience? I am thankful that we ended up going on a day with a more moderate crowd which allowed us to go on some popular rides not once, but twice! Truly though, I do honestly believe that crowds can get very big and lines very long which would dampen a visit. Even with the "smaller" numbers at the park, we saw a line at a food stall that was at least 50 people long from what we could see wtf. For certain popular things at certain times of day, you just have to be prepared to wait! I think you just have to have a realistic idea of what the day will be like and do your best from there.

Fast passes
Fast passes were absolutely essentially to us being able to ride all that we did with very minimal wait times. In fact, we didn't ride anything via the standby line that had a wait with anything over 10 minutes all day. We either used a fast pass and had a minimal wait because of that (at max maybe 15 minutes for popular rides with a typical standby wait of 60+ minutes) or purposefully only chose rides with short standby times.
Because of this, we missed quite a few of the supposedly extremely detailed and beautiful queues. However, I'll personally take a short wait time over standing for an hour + and inching forward incredibly slowly just to see a queue although I don't doubt that they were amazing.

These were the fast passes we were able to grab and their return times in order of receipt:
Tower of Terror - 08:45 to 09:45
Journey to the Center of the Earth - 09:25 to 10:25
Toy Story Mania! - 20:35 to 21:35
Indiana Jones Adventure - 15:05 to 16:05
Raging Spirits - 17:55 to 18:55
The fast pass system at Tokyo Disney parks is no different than other Disney parks.
If you're unfamiliar with the fast pass system, it's essentially a pass that allows you to bypass the standby/"regular" line for a ride and instead take an alternate route through the queue which gets you on the ride faster. These are free but you do need your park ticket available in order to be eligible to get them. Not all rides have fast passes, but usually the popular ones do and only a limited amount of FPs are given out each day per time intervals and they will eventually run out unless the park is particularly empty.  There will be a sign at the fast pass ticket area letting you know what the current return times are for the passes that will be given out. You cannot choose your return times.
Inside the fast pass area, there are multiple machines that you can use. Simply stick in your park ticket as shown in the diagram (QR code up, I think) and the reader will scan it and then spit out a ticket. During popular/busy times, the time interval can even potentially change for a fast pass while you're waiting to get it because they only give out X amount per time interval! Each park ticket is eligible for one fast pass.
It's one fast pass per park ticket but any guest can use any fast pass and it's not locked to the person whose park ticket was used to get it. For example, if I wanted to ride ToT but Christa didn't, we could both get fast passes using our own park tickets (and therefore have two FPs) but I could go on the ride twice (solo) using each of the fast passes one at a time as long as I have one to present to the cast member. You can also give your fast passes away to others if you're generous and you're leaving the park before your return time or can't make it to the ride during your return time because of another obligation. May as well make someone else's day rather than just throw it away, right?
You are not eligible for another fast pass until the beginning return time for your current fast pass has passed or two hours have passed from the time you received your fast pass - whichever comes first. But you don't actually have to use the fast pass before getting the next one. For example, we got our first FP of the day with a begin return time of 08:45. The next time we'd be eligible to get another will be 08:45 regardless of when we rode ToT using the fast pass. We got our next FP (after 08:45) and its begin return time was 09:25, so we couldn't get another until it was 09:25 or later regardless of when we used our FPs at Journey. At about 09:40, we got fast passes for Toy Story that had a begin return time of 20:35 which is much, much later in the day. In this case, we would be eligible to get another FP at 11:40 (two hours from 09:40) instead of 20:35. It sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy. The fast pass itself will also help you out and tells you when you're next eligible at the bottom of the ticket in English.
To use your fast pass, simply return to the ride during the time interval represented on the ticket and present it to the cast member at the "fast pass" line entry point which should be clearly indicated with a sign. You must have it with you in order to be eligible and lost passes will not be honored. Each person on the ride needs their own fast pass. The cast member will look at your pass to see that you are actually eligible to get in the line and then you will continue with your fast pass into the fast pass queue until another cast member collects it somewhere around the middle or end where the fast pass queue meets the standby queue.
I read that a few people were able to use their FP despite the being late for their end return time, but we personally always returned before the final return time and did not worry too much about this. I do think that others in front of us may not have returned on time but were eventually let in anyway on some rides (after a bit of negotiating) and turned away at others, so it's definitely a gamble not to return at the appropriate time.
There is no consequence for not using a fast pass.

Lottery system
We also "won" the lottery for reserved seats at the Big Band Beat show which was incredibly convenient so we didn't have to wait in the "standby" line to get in.
This is a new concept to me so I tried to do as much research on it as possible. As far as I understand it, the lottery system works similarly to the fast pass system where you have a machine scan your ticket and a pass/ticket will come out if you are eligible. It's a bit different in that, for the shows, you have to pick which show time you are trying to get the ticket for and you only get one chance per show per day regardless of show times. For example, if we tried to get reserved seats for BBB at 14:30 through the lottery system and we did not "win", we would not be eligible for reserved seats for any BBB show that entire day even though are shows before and after 14:30. We then would instead have to wait in the standby line if we wanted to see any BBB show that day. So you either win your first time or you don't, and that's it until the next day (if you are spending more than one day at the parks). Another difference from fast passes is that you need to enter each member of your party's tickets at the same time if you want to see the same show. If I was at one machine entering for myself and Christa was at another entering for herself, there's a chance we wouldn't both win and then, for example, she could get a reserved seat and I wouldn't and I would be SOL for the day and would have to wait in the standby line on my own. Or, we would win separately and also be sitting separately. The upside to this is that if you win for your party of 6, you all get to sit together and it's all taken care of. The downside is if you lose, then you all lose big, but it's probably best to see the show altogether anyway.
There is one place to enter the lottery and it's called "Biglietteria" located at the edge of Mediterranean Harbor before American Waterfront.
(It's indicated by the green star in the upper left area.)
The lottery for each show time ends half an hour before the show starts (ex. 14:00 end for 14:30 show). I don't believe anyone has completely figured out how the machine picks winners and losers.

Battery life
I was using a fairly new iPhone 6s (purchased just a week before the trip) and sharing a portable wifi unit with Christa that had been provided by the Airbnb hosts.
Christa and I each had a brand new, full charged, small portable charger that claimed it would provide 1 full iPhone 6 (or equivalent) battery charge. I didn't use my social media or any internet sites too much during the day aside from some photo sharing, but I did take a fair amount of photos and videos by mid-morning and my phone was at around 50% or less by the time we were sitting down for Big Band Beat at 14:15. The portable wifi was down to 20% at that point and was the priority charge. Christa had already tried to charge it earlier with her charger and needed to charge her phone (as she was using SnapChat quite a bit). It was our first day using it and apparently the port on the wifi device or the charge cord had a bad relationship and it wasn't charging well in our bags because it would get bumped around and lose connection. We used my charger to save the wifi and ended up using our phones on power saver mode and turning off the wifi settings whenever we didn't need it so it wasn't searching for signal. I think that if you use your phone a similar amount to what we did, you might want to get a slightly better/bigger charger if you also have to share juice with a wifi device. There seems to be a "coin-operated" charging area in Ikspiari (near where you catch the monorail after getting off at Maihama station) but that requires 1. money and 2. you leave the park and 3. it might not work with a foreign phone. I think it's better to have a portable charger that will be able to move with you on the go and will be useful throughout the trip.
(I also had my old iPhone 5s I could use if needed as long as the wifi was still working but wanted to take prioritize using the iPhone 6s because of the better camera.)


Overall, we had a full, pleasant day at Tokyo DisneySea. The weather could have been better, but it certainly could have been worse. I was glad that we had a plan going in and was able to accomplish all that we wanted to do and much more. There were small aspects of the park that were left unexplored (S.S. Columbia for example), but we left feeling tired and with sore feet but satisfied with the day we had. Given the chance, I would visit DisneySea again but would want to try another season/holiday (like Easter/spring or Halloween) but would probably not enjoy it as much during the hotter months just due to the amount of walking you have to do and how little I enjoy being sweaty. I think as long as the crowds were at a similar level to what we had this day (or less), a one day visit will feel sufficient for the average Disney park-goer who has been to other parks before and does a little planning beforehand. But without a doubt, I'm sure we could have also spent another day there and still found exciting and interesting things to see, do or experience.

If you have any questions, I'll do my best to respond, but anything related to planning will hopefully be picked up/answered in my next post!
See also: Japan trip Spring 2016 Day 6: Tokyo DisneySea !
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Part 1 - Day 1, November 26: Tokyo DisneySea
     Part 1a - Planning for Tokyo DisneySea
Part 2 - Day 2, November 27: Hair Salon NALU, Shibuya & Harajuku
Part 3 - Day 3, November 28: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu
Part 4 - Day 4, November 29: Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari & Fire ramen in Kyoto
Part 5 - Day 5, November 30: Minoo Park, Kaiyukan, Tennoji, Namba & Umeda in Osaka
Part 6 - Day 6, December 1: Shibuya, Yokohama (Chinatown) & Seirinkan
Part 7 - Day 7, December 2: Ueno Zoo, Alice Café & Yebisu Garden Place
Part 8 - Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases
Part 9 - Budgeting for a week in Japan
Part 10 - Travel notes: Planning, Tips, Accommodations & Pocket wifi

Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts

6 comments:

  1. Yep - you definitely had a much better overall experience at Disney Sea than I did - and you did WAY more than we did - lol. I might have skipped over it by mistake but did you get your shelly may pouch in the end? Lol. ^^

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    1. Haha I did! Just before we did the Toy Story Mania ride. Easy to skip because I didn't even really get a picture of or with it except one!

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  2. It sounds like you had a wonderful time at Disney sea and all your planning paid off! :)

    <3 Sarah | Oh So Kawaii

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    1. Yes, we considered it reasonably successful!

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  3. Wow this is the most detailed breakdown of how DisneySea works I have ever seen. Thank you for the post!!

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    1. Haha I learned a lot from the posts from Disney bloggers I read before the trip!

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