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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, MERMAID LAGOON, AND WAITING
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.
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.
The 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.
One 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
RETURNING HOME: THE WATERFRONT
The 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.
IT GETS EVEN BETTER: DISNEYSEA AT NIGHT
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.
After Tsukiji, it was a quick hop on the train to hit up the PokeCenter.
MEIJI JINGU: A RAINY DAY THROUGH THE TREES
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.
I’ll be returning to Tokyo next month but until then…