Heyyyy Hermano: Tokyo and DisneySea

I swear that my family loves the fact that I’m in Japan solely because it’s a grand excuse to travel and visit “me”. Having been surrounded by an overabundance of older brothers that are busy with their own things, I guess I’ll take the facetime where I can get it. Fortunately for me, my oldest brother graciously made it out to one of the busiest cities in the world to celebrate his birthday. Needless to say, each day was a flurry of walking, shopping, and shoving food into our faces. I’m relying solely on my photos to actually determine what happened because although we/I vowed to never become our parents when we traveled (wake up at 6AM chop-chop, let’s go to all of these things before lunchtime, don’t stop moving we’re on a schedule), there’s far too much to see and if you laze about, you’re only failing to do justice to Tokyo and Kyoto. Luke, I love you, but in the future I’ll need an onsen and a chuhai to unwind.



We met in Narita Airport (NRT) in Tokyo and wandered a bit before hopping on a train into Tokyo. The Narita Airport is pretty nice and a great airport to waste time in. We even found a Coca-Cola vending machine, which Luke thought was the bee’s knees.

naritaairportThis is the real reason why my brother came to Japan.


After exchanging money at a Japan Post (JP) ATM, we hopped on the Keisei Skyliner, one of the many options available for travelers trying to get into Tokyo. Depending on your personal budget, there are many ways to get into metro Tokyo but the differences between the trains seem to be relatively minimal so it’s really a matter of personal comfort. The local JR trains do run the full gamut but you also run the risk of being on a packed train at times. We took a local train on the way back and I need to admit, when you’re headed to the airport and away from the alluring metropolis that is Tokyo, every stop feels like an eternity and you regret saving $5 on your train ticket when you could be hanging out in Akiba instead.

It was the eve of my brother’s birthday, so he valiantly fought jet lag and we made our way to one of Tokyo’s many themed restaurants – Alice in Wonderland. There are several Alice Fantasy Restaurants, for which information can be found here. We settled on Alice In A Labyrinth, the restaurant found in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Like many businesses in Tokyo, it was found on one entire floor in one thin building. Many businesses advertise which floor they are on and it can look really hectic when you’re walking around outside.

ginzabusinessesJust a brief example of a quieter side street in Ginza.


The Alice themed restaurant was definitely on my brother’s list but I think that we both left feeling like, “eh, well, we know what that’s all about now”. I made a reservation for a 2,000 or 3,000 yen course meal but, like most themed/entertainment restaurants, you also need to order a drink.

aliceinalabyrinthentranceIt’s wonderfully odd. But predictably expensive.

aliceinalabyrinthtablesIt’s a little stunning how well they utilize the space of this small floor.

aliceinalabyrinthmenuThe menu is almost laughably non-functional. The wall of this diorama slips out and it’s the menu. The ridiculousness of it was almost worth the entire dinner, really.

aliceinalabyrinthfirstcourseIt’s not an Alice crepe salad thing without キューピー mayo, apparently.

aliceinalabyrinthsecondcourseCheshire cat is laughing because we could have been eating 100 yen onigiri from a conbini instead.

happybirthdaybrotherI called ahead and requested a birthday dessert. Those blueberry eyes look demented though, sorry Luke.

Predictably, Luke hit the jet lag wall not soon after the cake arrived and we made our way back to the hostel. We crashed hard, both of us sapped from traveling cross-country and cross-continent. That night, I slept particularly well knowing that the next day would be spent at what many people call the best theme park in the world – Tokyo DisneySea.


Good God, the dogs are barking just thinking about how much my feet hurt after going to DisneySea. If there is one thing that you should really learn from my adventures in Japan, it’s that Japanese people simply do not give half a shit about waiting in lines for anything. That demands that you wake up as early as humanly possible because when it comes to theme parks, Japanese people seem to be content knowing that their park ticket will get them into maybe two popular rides and that’s it. If you’re not early, you’re already late. If I can stress anything about DisneySea (and later, USJ), it’s that time is really of the essence. If you arrive an hour earlier, you’ll save three later on.

DisneySea is a very affordable theme park – Disneyland is so painfully expensive, it feels like Mickey himself is picking your pocket with a smile. But an adult DisneySea ticket only comes in just under 6,500 yen (around $55) and there’s so much to see that you will probably turn out like we did, completely missing entire sections of the park and being so exhausted that we had to call it quits. Normally, I go to Disneyland and I try to get so much out of my overpriced ticket that I prefer to use the bathrooms there, just to save money on water at home.

disneyseamapDisneySea is so ridiculously vast that even when I look at this map, I’m not entirely sure that I even touched all of the far left side (Venezia).

But then again, DisneySea is so aesthetically captivating that you will likely be more enamored with the attention to detail instead of quietly fuming at the long line.

disneyseaentrancePainfully cute holiday detailing.

disneyseadecoThe stuccoed themes in Disney Sea are so incredible. I’d recommend DisneySea to anyone.

disneyseaseaThe Mysterious Island view, complete with a pirate ship that you can explore (sometimes you can see Jack Sparrow, too).

disneyseapiratesA better view at that pirate ship. I wish that I could stow away in its holds.


We hit up Mysterious Island’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth, which is supposedly one of the better rides at the park. We arrived at 10:30AM but we were still at the back of the line.


mysteriousislandcenterofthemiseryI feel like the details and props leading up the ride are better than the ride itself.

disneyseamickeysThe matching game is so strong.

disneyseadetailsMuch steampunk.

The ride itself was a little bit exciting but only had one drop – and it was over so quickly that my head was spinning. I don’t really think that the rides at Japanese theme parks are the highlights though… I personally favor the distinctly Japanese souvenirs, food, and decorations.

disneyseagyozadogThe delicious gyoza dog will only set you back maybe 500 yen, which is a steal compared to the shite Disneyland food. Let’s just say that unlike other theme park food, I would buy this outside of the park and not because I’m desperate.

disneyseamermaidlagoonEven on a particularly cloudy day, this place was flooded with tourists. This is an entrance to the Mermaid Lagoon.

disneyseamermaidlagoonshopDown the hatch we go, another group of impeccably matching girlfriends. The whale’s eyes would open and look around, too.

disneyseamermaidlagoonsThis is mainly for children and people like me. So, children.

disneyseadayofthedeadDisneySea had Halloween decorations but also showcased an entire Day of the Dead parade and show, which is actually pretty randomly cool.

disneyseadayofthedeadinstitchesIt’s not a Japanese Day of the Dead without a random Stitch!

disneyseakartingUnbearably cute.

disneyseapharaohOne of the coolest things I’ve seen at a park. Forget being in a costume — there was an autotuned voice box and the person wearing the costume could say whatever they wanted. Talk about lawsuit in America


disneyseawaterfrontThe American Waterfront is a beautifully constructed region of DisneySea that really reminded me of third-grade field trips in America. You know, the ones where we reenacted colonialism without all of the land conquest and killing.

disneyseacookoffThe Cook-Off. So wonderfully American with a hint of volcanic action in the background.

disneyseabostonianwitchesI find it mildly hilarious that the Waterfront is reminiscent of Massachusetts and they have witches everywhere.


disneyseanightcruiseThe nighttime glow really makes this park stand out for me. It flickers with lanterns, light emanating from lava, or futuristic blubs, depending on where you are in the park.

disneyseacastleruinsHidden away in the medieval castle is this little game, where for a few hundred yen you can race your boat beneath the constellations.

disneyseaconstellationsYou can also learn astronomy in this room, where the sounds of medieval monks chant and fake winds whisper through the room. Real Skyrim stuff, here.

disneyseadeliJust a spectacular view, equipped with Japanese people that unabashedly dress up in twee just to go to a theme park.

disneyseatoyvilleOh, yeah. Right. As we hit up the last ride, we stumbled upon Toyville. We had spent something like seven hours at the park and didn’t even see this section.

disneyseawoodyThe estimated wait time was something like, “Seriously, you should have been here eight hours ago”.

disneyseawebbingGoodbye, DisneySea Halloween!

disneyseashuttleI know a few Disney-philes that would love to be in this tram shuttle.


The following morning, we hit the ground running and swung by Tsukiji Market, which has been revamped since I last visited in 2010. They now have a brand new visitor’s center and indoor portion with permanent shops.


disneyseaumaiCoincidentally, I came to this same sushi shop five years ago with the North American Kenjinkai (Fukushima) homestay program.

disneyseaumaisushiMy brother is very vocal about his disdain for my need to document every delicious meal I eat.

tokyoumaimagurodonTuna-don. God looking at it makes my mouth water!

tokyotsukijifishThis isn’t unusual at Tsukiji.


tokyotsukijihajimeteFirst timer.

After Tsukiji, it was a quick hop on the train to hit up the PokeCenter.

tokyopokecenterAs of March 1st, I’ve been to three Pokemon Centers and two PokeCenter stalls. None of them have been a disappointment.

tokyopokecenterbirthdayboyBirthday Boy got a crown, 5% off, and he got to choose a Pokemon to get added into his 3DS game. Cha-ching.


It was a foggy and rainy day when we decided to end our last full day in Tokyo. We made our way through a canopy of trees that eventually led to the large Meiji Jingu shrine. The woods were wild and you could barely see the sliver of foggy sky above.


tokyomeijijingu Enter!



tokyomeijijingukidsTiny man.

tokyomeijijinguentranceThe entrance. To the left is the temizuya, where you cleanse yourself before entering the shrine.

tokyomeijijingushrineWhat a magnificent tree, growing above the prayers offered at the shrine.

tokyoprayersPrayers from people all over the world.

tokyoworldprayersGems like these are out on display for everyone, so we can reflect on what others wish for as well.

tokyopositivityPlease, please… help world and universal harmony.

I’ll be returning to Tokyo next month but until then…

tokyopurikuraShine on, my friends. My planet needs me.

Happy birthday, big brother.


Long Overdue: Settling In


It’s been quite a while since I wrote about my life abroad. When I found the opportunity to start this blog over a year ago, I was submerged into a new mentality, where I traveled constantly and was a little anxious when I wasn’t on my feet and exploring another country. In Italy, I was bounding for the trains most weekends and felt jittery on the weekdays. But living and working in Japan for a year contract has created this shift in personal temperature; I see my temporary status as less of a base to launch myself from and more of a base that I really want to burrow into before I am ripped away.

I feel a sense of strong community on Awaji. The pride amongst this always-forgotten island is eminent, to the point where I feel comradery with the characters in my life.  There are so many incredible experiences that I’ve felt and lived in my first six months of living on Awaji Island and while I enjoy every trip I take off-island, I think I’m at a different stage in my life where I don’t feel constantly restless when I’m at a state of rest. I feel like a part of this island will always feel safe to me because I’ve learned so much outside of my classrooms, namely, how much I value community.

That being said, I love traveling throughout Japan and beyond and doubt that I’ll ever stop feeling somewhat restless being in one place. I think I’m just fine with knowing that some weekends, I just want to drive down winding farm paths without caring where I’ll end up.


I’ve fallen victim to the island. I haven’t kept up because I do feel like I have been rewired to view this place as more of my temporary home rather than a hub. It’s hard to describe the daily sights and experiences but I’m getting back on the bandwagon. I have quite a few trips to describe and possibly more about daily life as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan.

It’s long overdue and will be slow coming, but until then, I’ll be musing and writing about my past travels with a cup of green tea, the fruit that’s in season, and the wind rattling my glass shoji like the doors owe it money.


O-Boy, O-bon: Tokushima Awaodori

Obon festival is something that I never fully experienced full-hand in California, although it was definitely not because of the lack of festivities going on. Obon festival was an annual treat at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple but I felt like a transplanted mixed Japanese girl that didn’t quite belong because I didn’t understand much about Japanese culture. I knew how to use chopsticks like a pro and I knew not to stick them in rice but my cultural awareness didn’t dig much deeper than that. I didn’t – and still don’t – know how to be Japanese (but I’ll likely tell you more about that later, in a post about being ha-fu in Japan).

So my first real Obon experience had to be big. Go big or go home. And I’m certainly not ready to go home yet. So to the infamous Tokushima Awaodori Festival I went, my mind open and gaijin showing.


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Tokyo Drifter


Flying in to Narita is a little painful. Narita Airport is fairly far removed from the heart of Tokyo so it took about 90 minutes by bus. We arrived in time to catch the sunset.


So it’s been a while – I’ve been a flurry of setting up my home office, entertaining the masses (my students and my coworkers), and struggling to find a reliable routine that agrees with the changing of the seasons. I had hoped to post this two months ago, about the time when these photos and experiences actually happened. As the Awaji islanders say in their curious dialect, “bettchanai”, or “don’t worry about it”. For the perpetual worrier, this laidback manner worries me further. Either way, bettchanai. Here’s a brief flirtation with Tokyo.

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