Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sayonara Japan

Sunday 5th March

Don’t worry – while we have had our last night in Japan, we haven’t had our last day! Our flight was at 12.30am and so, with an entire day left and a great deal of Tokyo left to explore, we did what any grown up couple would do... We went to DISNEYLAND! Well, Disney Sea. I love all things Disney, from the bright colours to the impromptu musical numbers and all the villains in between. However, I have never been to Disney Land. It has been a lifelong dream and I remember wishing on dandelions that JR and Est would take me (after they bought me a puppy of course) but apparently adults don’t wait around for their parents to take them to the most magical place on earth, they just go themselves!

When I realised that Tokyo is home to not one but two Disney Parks, I just about lost my mind. I didn’t imagine that we’d have time to go so while I spend the entire holiday going on and on about how I couldn’t wait to go to Disneyland, I didn’t think it would actually happen. It was just another way to annoy Rory. When he suggested, late on Saturday night, that we go, I quickly began Googling and decided that a visit to Disney Sea, a park geared towards adults and which has a nautical theme would be best suited to us. I still want to go to Disney Land but I think that my first time needs to be at the original and the best. As there is only one Disney Sea, I felt no such guilt. With very limited research time we just had to go with the flow, so when 8am rolled around, against online advice that warns against going on a weekend, we began our journey.

By 9am we had our first glimpse of the Disney magic and when we passed through the gates I didn’t see the busiest theme park in the world (said to be two to three times busier than the American counterparts on their busiest days of the year), I saw all things Disney, including a marching band which was playing the Indiana Jones theme tune which excited even the least Disney-ish person ever; Rory.

The online websites say that once you get through the door you need to run to get a fast pass. Let's just say I'm not a natural runner, so instead we took our time exploring the park and eventually picked up a fast pass. What we didn’t realise was that you can’t have two passes at one time and by the time we made it to the Tower of Terror and the Toy Story Ride (said to be the best in the park) all the fast passes were gone and the ride wait time was three hours. Yes, that’s right. Three hours. People were actually queuing to get on a ride, knowing that it would take up most of their day!

I had anticipated the crowds so I wasn’t particularly bothered about missing out on the rides. For me, today was all about the experience of being in a Disney themed park.  When we walked past the Sinbad ride the wait time was only 20 minutes so we decided to give it a go. The puppets were great but the entire ride was in Japanese (obviously) and I didn’t really know what was going on. Our next ride, 20000 Leagues was more of the same – a timid kids ride with the entire story in  a language we couldn’t understand! We had waited 50 minutes so we were a bit miffed but at the next ride, Indiana Jones Adventure; Temple of the Crystal Skull, we made a very useful discovery; single rider lines. In total, to line up and go on the ride it took no more than 15 minutes, which given the queue was over two hours long, we were very pleased about. The ride itself was also pretty exciting, especially when the classic music kicks in! Dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum, etc etc etc.

It was now time to use our fast pass and while the Journey to the Centre of the Earth is good and did involve exploding out of the Mount Prometheus volcano, I still preferred the Indiana Jones ride. Once again we tried doing to use the single rider lane on the Raging Spirts line but this time the wait was an agonisingly long hour! According to Rory you can’t be angry in the most magical place on earth so we forgot about the long wait and went to the American Waterfront part of the park and had burgers and fries in a New England setting. If you're going to go to an American theme park you might as well go all in, right?  

While we weren’t patient enough to queue for any of the shows, we managed to catch the final show before leaving. The lake front was absolutely packed but we stood on our tippy toes and got a view of the show. Basically it involved a lot of singing and a lot of Japanese. Donald Duck speaking Japanese was one of the oddest things I’ve ever heard! As this is Disney there were obviously lotsof fireworks and surprisingly, bubbles. Millions of bubbles, everywhere! I don't even know where they were coming from but it was fairly impressive and quite magical. What wasn't particularly magical was the battle to get in to the gift shops. Shout out to Rory who patiently visited every single shopping establishment while I searched for the perfect keepsake. Spoiler alert – the only thing I managed to find was a “It’s my first visit to Disneyland” badge!

Having managed to kill most of the day we picked up our bags and began our journey towards the airport. We decided to get one last meal in Tokyo but when we got out of the train station, found the quietest street in the entire city! There wasn’t a single restaurant about so instead we visited a 7/11, stocked up on niceys and returned to the station. Devastatingly, the airport wasn’t much better – our late arrival at 11pm meant that most restaurants were closed so we had to settle for a Mos Burger and fries. Extortionate prices and not even slightly Japanese, we were a bit disappointed to leave without one last traditional meal but I suppose it just means we’ll have to come back!

The flights home were surprisingly longer than the flights out and so after an 11.5 hour flight to Dubai, an 8 hour flight to London, a 5 hour wait in the airport and a 1 hour flight to Belfast, I was shattered!

I have really enjoyed this trip. When people ask me what my favourite part was, I know I’ll have trouble giving them a simple answer. The food was great and the weather was perfect for the activities we had planned. We were able to combine prior planning and efficient transport systems to make sure that we saw the very best of the country. From ancient temples to complete tourist traps, we saw it all and while we enjoyed the busy cities, our favourite days were a little bit off the beaten track and a little bit unplanned. I know we have barely scratched the surface and there’s much more to explore and experience in Japan but I’m really happy with what we achieved – even if it meant a few early mornings! As always, the company was excellent and I definitely couldn’t have done this trip without Rory. I know this might amaze most people but he’s a man with a particular set of skills. Skills that he has acquired over a very long career of being my other half and by taking over all of the grown-up responsibilities (I didn’t even handle cash until the flight home) he made sure I was able to enjoy every day! It’s been a great holiday and as always, has just highlighted how much of the world there is to see. Roll on the next adventure!