Korea + Japan 09/18 – Tokyo DisneySea

For the second time on this trip, there were a lot of news stories and rumours going around about typhoons interrupting proceedings. Never knew what to believe, but figured do what the locals do. They were getting on with their daily business and, after excessively waterproofing ourselves up and selecting the park with the least weather affected attractions, we did the same.

Day 11 – Tokyo Disneysea

Took me until arriving at this place to realise it’s Disneysea as in Disneyland, but with sea and not just some arbitrary suffix. Weird how you read things.

Walked through the turnstyles to find the Universal globe without Universal on it. Alright, not what I expected.

Through the main street plaza.

Ah, there it is. That volcano thing.
So many things I’ve heard about this place, let’s see what it’s really all about. To clarify my position, I knew enough to be subject to a lot of hype and positive things, namely ‘the best park in the world’ to many, but knew little to nothing of the actual attractions it had to offer in terms of what they are and what they do, so it was a spoiler free experience in that sense.

First thing that hits me is the sheer number of staff they’ve paid to literally stand around all day and wave at you as go past. They’ll do other things like give you information, point you in the right direction and take photos for you, but it’s still crazy.

Headed up to the volcano first, without any sort of plan of action, which probably seems more crazy to some people. Walked straight onto our first attraction – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Wasn’t familiar with the source material for this and didn’t know what was going on, but it pretty much fixes what I slag off the Legoland submarine simulator for not doing and that’s having a sense of scale in the underwater. It has lots of big impressive sets to go past and some cool effects with Krake getting electrocuted and such. The windows were pretty low compared to the seating arrengement and it was a bit uncomfortable looking through them for that long, but otherwise interesting and enjoyable.

Picked up a fastpass for Journey and, bad weather still in mind, headed off for an outdoor attraction. Felt rather foolish in the queue as it was now about 35°C, sunny and everyone was sweating profusely. Time to crack out the sun cream.

#1 Ragins Spirits

An old Intamin coaster with the layout of a fairgound Pinfari – or Disney Paris’ Indiana Jones with more mist and a slightly better aesthetic.

That hardware in this park though… why. +1.

The actual Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull was next door in the form of his dark ride and far more amazing.

Everything in the queue and on the ride itself looked incredible.
Having only done Fantawild equivalents of the ride system, the way it chucked itself around felt vastly better and was a welcome surprise. Particular highlights were a big stone face aggressively shouting something in Japanese then shooting a smoke ring at us – couldn’t stop laughing at that one, and then the bit with the boulder – can’t even explain the magic involved. Made me very happy.

So now we’re cooking, back to Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The fastpass takes you straight to some lifts which were fine, maybe could have done something. No, that’s a different ride.
The station area was in another league to what we had seen so far and I was completely mesmerized by this stage. Caves and crystals and bottomless pits, it was hard to walk and take it all in that the same time. That’s some funky looking ride vehicles rushing up towards us.

Again I’m not familiar with the source material for this, but the ride itself had too high of a reputation that I’m not sure it lived up to. None of the sets made a lasting impression on me like the ride queue just had, some weird looking flowers underground and THE set was at best an “OK, that’s cool” moment. The change in dynamic of the ride at the end was fun and unexpected, giving it a bit of a thrill element at least, but that led to an underwhelming ending of mincing over an empty bridge back to the station.

Talking of lasting impressions, I think I’ve skipped over the Nemo & Friends SeaRider simulator from earlier. Bit of a long-winded batching procedure into the bays for the ride, which you then had to turn away from to watch a pre-show that contained a nice magic trick.
Actual ride was decent enough. Easy to follow, though I haven’t found Dory yet.

Tower of Terror was next, something I already know and love. At least I thought I did.

I like the alternate story, all the paintings in the hotel lobby of the rich guy being a troll and stealing all these artifacts around the world from their local owners. The pre-show is fantastic, while it doesn’t quite have the goofy charm of the Twilight Zone, it has a mind-blowingly good bit of Disney magic and a decently sinister undertone. The Japanese staff are far too lovely to keep that tone flowing into the loading areas and lifts, but I’ll let that slide.

It’s either like Dodonpa in that I’ve done far too much since the good old days and the ride just felt really weak, or it’s an actual recurring theme that we’ll be seeing again in this resort on the next day – everything seems slightly tamer here.
We had already picked up a fastpass for it before going in, so got to reconfirm those feelings later on.

The weather did actually seem on the turn now, it got very, very windy, to the point that poor Japanese girls were being affected by it while walking around, staggering slightly against the force. Better go get that other cred then.

#2 Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster

This family ride was great. I’d been worried about how much time would be lost queueing at the crappy creds in these parks, but they were hauling arse on 2 trains and it took us no more than 10 minutes. A station fly by, complete with staff waving, made the experience particularly enjoyable.

The food options here were a lot better than I’ve had at other Disney parks. Let’s look at the map. Pizza? Yes. Low budget? Yes. Done.

Longest queue of the day went to Toy Story Midway Mania. It flowed well enough and had plenty to look at however.

Bit disappointed to be honest. I regularly slag off the Fantawild equivalents of these rides for having nothing going on between the screens, but this had exactly the same issue, though the actual games on the screens were far superior and a lot of fun.
Maus or that new Happy Valley one can beat this any day.

Time to head back to the other end of the park and find Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage.

This was ridiculously quaint and very much my kinda thing. Love the way he’s contently singing the same tune throughout the entire ride, no matter what the scene contains. Leaving home, beating up pirates, tigers mauling people, coming home, all with a smile on his face.

And that was Disneysea.

I kinda get the place. I can’t think of anywhere else that rivals the aesthetic they’ve created with the visuals of the park and the blending of the areas, it all looks incredible and the pictures should speak for themselves. Using the Disney scale and budget to pull off a more refined, highly concentrated and compact theme is a great concept, and I’m already trying to take what I’ve learnt from it into my latest creations in the game world, so it’s certainly made an impact.

For me, it comes down to the attractions themselves just not being particularly outstanding. My favourite on this day was Indy, and unfortunately that’s not a Disneysea exclusive. The biggiest issue is that we ran out of things to do quite early in the day (even with us being rather inefficient in our approach), and then struggled to think of much we wanted to do again.

We would have stayed for the show at the end (see events below), but it would have been ‘killing time’ until that happened.

We had completed everything that we wanted. Fancied another go on Indy while we were near, but it had broken itself for an indeterminate amount of time. Settled down on a bench outside it to reflect on the above. Anything else worth doing? Nah, not really. Just space things out until the park closing show? The wind was still blowing strong and announcements were being made throughout the park about a cancellation of a water parade that was due to take place. Then the sky darkened and a different announcement played. “Due to the weather conditions, the train service from the Disney Resort to Tokyo may be suspended later.” Hmmm. Essay incoming.

This turned out to be the most unfortunate timing in the world. It was a ‘maybe later’, so a HUGE amount of people, including ourselves, made the intelligent decision to leave te park at this point rather than run the risk of being stranded. We headed to the entrance via the Electric Railway ride (for the league obviously), which ended up being rather hilarious.

The station is up high and looking out over the sea so there really was quite a gust up. The staff were all excitedly shouting, losing hats, clutching onto railings and holding up wind speed measuring devices to see if they could keep operating within regulations. They could. But other rides were closing around us.

Left the park. Took the monorail. All fine.
Walked to the station, bought a ticket, went to the platform. The trains aren’t on time?! That’s the end of the world in Japan surely.
The train arrived, we got on the train and then it didn’t move for half an hour. It was at this point that I really started to dislike the Tokyo train system.

No announcements were being made, no information was being given other than a screen onboard scrolling through other lines that had delays and cancellations due to typhoon. Locals were constantly second guessing and getting on and off, on and off, while no one had a clue what was going on.
We were looking down below and there was a constant stream of buses leaving outside the station. The train kept filling up to the point that it got uncomfortable to stay on for too long, and we made the decision to abandon it and try something else. The staff here were beyond useless and manage to be the only rude people in the entirety of Japan (almost, wait for it). The first response we got was a plain ‘I don’t know’ and clearly not caring, the second was that we were being completely ignored, so we left the station.

Couldn’t work out the buses directly outside the station, later discovering that they only went on very local routes within the island that encompasses the Disney Resort and not getting you out to Tokyo.
There was also a taxi rank here, but with a queue that was both impossible to determine and never moving because there were virtually no taxis coming through it.

We went to the Disney ‘Welcome Centre’ towards the monorail station and asked if they could point us in the direction of a useful bus. “No, I don’t speak English, but I’ll find someone who can.” Person who speaks English: “No, we CAN’T help.” They then just stared at us.
Ok then.

Spoke to staff in the Disney ‘Ticket Office’ of the monorail station next. They were more than happy to help, pulled up a chair, jumped on a PC. Phoned someone who could describe to us in a bit more detail what they were looking at on the screen. “Take Bus 1.” Done.

Went back outside to bus 1 in the area outside the station. Got some nervous glances from the locals queueing there, with one eventually checking where we were going and telling us this ain’t the bus you’re looking for. Move along.

Back to being confused again, asked a guy who seemed to be directing people to buses, who told us to walk over to a separate bus station, nearer the entrance to the main park.

Walked over to the separate bus station to find queues stretching as far as the eye could see for certain stops. Did a quick walk past them all to see if we could find our number 1, but there was no number 1.

Asked a guy who seemed to be directing people to buses on this side, who pointed us down to the other end, towards the other queue that was impossible to fathom. So we can’t even get to the front of it to see what we’re queueing for. And these queues just weren’t moving. They potentially contained thousands of people, and all visible bus activity was at best half hourly.

Went to the ticket office of the main park to ask for a 14th opinion. They seemed completely out of touch here, first recommending a taxi and then being surprised by our response – huge queue, NO taxis. Can’t phone one because all of Tokyo is currently phoning for a taxi. “Take bus 9.”

Bus 9? Couldn’t find bus 9. Ended up methodically working out every stop in this bus station. All the quiet ones were going to nearby hotels, all of which were still on the same island, and not Tokyo. Buses with regular numbers didn’t exist at all. This leaves the final section, for which there are now 3 distinct, but massive queues.

Managed to squeeze our way to the front of these to actually find the first person who had a vague idea of what was going on. He asks where do we want to go and holds up a clipboard with a list of major stations in the Tokyo area. These aren’t buses, these are direct shuttle coaches, but I’m not fussy at this stage.
I pick a station that I know is near enough to us to get us off the damn island. He puts us in a specific queue.
And now we wait.

The train never moved. We could see the station from where we were queueing. It sat there, with people on it, just like we sat there. For 3 and a half hours.

Coaches would come and go, very sparingly. 90% of them were to stupid Yokohama, which kept us mildly entertained because no one was going there (and the park there spited us the other day), so ourselves and locals around us would react with disgust to the arrival of each and every one. There was another taxi rank behind us here, with another indeterminate queue and again, no taxis.

The wind was blowing, but it never rained. The whole evening was filled with the uncertainty of is this an actual serious weather event and if so, isn’t their poor handling of the situation potentially very dangerous? It was interesting to say the least, we even got to see the spotlights of the show in the main park go off.

Somehow, very slowly but surely, the queues began to dwindle and there was light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed like we had ended up making the worst decision, with almost no one left in the area by the time we boarded our coach, but there was clearly no right decision either.

No more than 5 minutes before we boarded our coach, a man announced that the train line was back in operation and sure enough, we watched the very same train we had abandoned ~4 hours earlier trundle over the bridge from the window of the coach. The coach was weird, with your standard 2 seats on either side of the aisle, but then little fold out seats on every row that completely blocked the aisle by the time everyone was in and as such had to be assembled in a very specific order. Wouldn’t want, say, an emergency to occur with that going on.

Drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like far too long, with the coach spending 90% of its time in tunnels on the return journey. Not the Tokyo I remember. But we got there, very tired and very hungry. Had a midnight snack in a restaurant as if nothing had happened. Took the metro back to the hotel.

Bit of a long day that one. But don’t worry, only have to do it all again in less than 7 hours.

Day 12

Korea + Japan 09/18 – Fuji-Q Highland
Korea + Japan 09/18 – Tokyo Disneyland

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