Day 4 | Tokyo, Japan | Summer Travel | Tokyo Disneyland

Going back through these photos and editing them gave me some serious nostalgia and brought back all the lovely memories. Day 4: Tokyo Disneyland. A proper whirlwind in its own right, filled with magic, walking (in sneakers), and loads of fun. We did have a loose plan this day to make sure we experienced our “must do” items while we were in the parks, but the rest of the day was spent zig-zagging around and taking in all the sights, sounds, and ridiculously cute food Tokyo Disneyland had to offer. (There was a lot of cute food, y’all.)

Our alarms chimed into our dreams around 5:30am and we got ready for the day. After donning outfits with jean jackets and packing our bags with snacks, portable chargers, and the wi-fi hot spot, we stepped into the cool morning and began the 20 minute walk from our hotel to the gates of Tokyo Disneyland. The park opened at 8:00am that day, and guests at Tokyo Disneyland take rope dropping rather seriously, which is why we were up so early. Sunrise was at 4:48am, so it was fully light outside. There were already small lines formed in front of the turnstiles to the park- thankfully, we had already purchased our park tickets at the Shibuya Disney Store two days prior- and we sat down, obviously foreigners without our leisure sheets, which are small, plastic mats made solely for the purpose of not sitting directly on the ground. With about 30 or so people ahead of us, I used the hour and a half until opening to make a list on my phone of to-do items and eat a potato-onion pastry I picked up the day prior.

Finally, it was time. After running over to the outside-the-gates guest relations window to pick up park maps in English, I rejoined Hope in the line and we scanned our tickets, went through the turnstiles, and entered the park. This Magic Kingdom park is different than the rest, with a covered Main Street area, so when we entered the turnstiles it was into an open courtyard, with the entrance to the World Bazaar just ahead. In full disclosure, I got a little teary eyed as we entered the World Bazaar and caught a glimpse of the castle. I never really thought I would have the opportunity to travel to Tokyo Disneyland, and realizing I was actually there after years of dreaming was a happy moment indeed. Both overwhelmed by the sights, we turned down a side street into Tomorrowland to wait in line to get a FastPass for the Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek ride, watching people pass by in fashionable wear, complete with cute and over-the-top Disney accessories.

FastPasses in hand, we agreed we needed to complete our looks with pass pouches- worn around the neck and in the appearance of various Disney characters, these Tokyo Disneyland accessories were both cute and surprisingly practical- so we made our way into their Emporium and I decided on Oswald, Hope on a Dalmatian from 101 Dalmatians. We snapped pictures down Main Street and into the wide open Hub area, went down to the castle to marvel at it, and then back to a pastry shop on the corner of Main Street to get breakfast. The Sweetheart Cafe is legendary in its own right, with Mickey shaped pastries and Mike Wazowski melon bread. Offering both savory and sweet treats, we purchased our breakfast and ate outside under a covered area, with Tomorrowland to our right, the castle ahead, and Adventureland/Westernland to the distant left. We wandered around Tomorrowland for a bit around this time and purchased what we thought were water bottles, but instead were a minty/powerade concoction. Different, but good.

Taking each moment as it came, we embarked on an omnibus and rode around the hub area, waving to the enthusiastic guests and Cast Members, reveling in a bright and sunny day- a far cry from the weather two days prior- enjoying the views, still in shock we were actually there. Come to think of it, we might have eaten at the Cafe after the omnibus, but it’s all become a happy blur of events and the order doesn’t matter all that much. After all of that, it was time for our Ride and Go Seek FastPass. It was a cute ride, with an awkwardly placed photo op at the end (if you go, be prepared! It’s a bit after the ride ends) which resulted in an equally awkward photo. After that, we decided to wait for the new daytime parade- Dreaming Up!- which is now my favorite daytime parade and boasts a ridiculously catchy soundtrack. Parade viewing in Tokyo Disneyland was 10000x more civil and enjoyable than the stateside parks- everyone sat down, took off their ears/tall headgear, and didn’t raise their phones/cameras over head level. It was beautiful. From there, we attempted to catch a showing of One Man’s Dream II (stage show), but it was full, so we found an ice cream stand and purchased Mickey and Minnie tropical and raspberry/peach flavored ice pops and ate them on a bridge to Tomorrowland with a beautiful view of the castle.

Some things after this point might be mashed up and out of order. If my photo-documentation serves me correctly, we ventured into Westernland (like our Frontierland, but the term “western” translated better than “frontier,” thus the switch), checked out the line to the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which was way too long, and instead rode the Jungle Cruise (obviously all in Japanese, but still enjoyable) and then experienced the Country Bear Jamboree. Back to Hungry Bear we went, and we were happily greeted by a shorter line. We waited, purchased our non-spicy curry (it was REALLY good, 10/10), rested for a bit, and ventured onward. We went back to their railroad, found in Adventureland, which went around Adventureland, Frontierland, caught a glimpse of Fantasyland, and then returned again. We took photos in front of the World Bazaar during golden hour, rode Peter Pan, and then sat down a few rows back in front of the hub parade route to wait for Tokyo DreamLights.

My absolute favorite thing at Disney, ever, is the Main Street Electrical Parade. I also enjoy other night parades, and seeing Tokyo DreamLights- with the same tune as MSEP but updated and technologically advanced- has been high on my bucket list for a while. Needless to say, it was mesmerizing and even better than I expected, as I had avoided watching videos of it as to be surprised when I finally did see it in person. The fireworks were cancelled because of wind, so from there we hopped over and rode Big Thunder Mountain, to which we had FastPasses, and skipped over to ride Pooh’s Hunny Hunt: a trackless ride and one of my favorites. I believe we rode Snow White’s Scary Adventures that night (truly scary) and maybe the Haunted Mansion. If I realize we rode those on another day, I’ll come back and correct the facts. Four days can blur together easily!

We opened the park, we closed the park. Main Street glittered with magical projections and countless string lights, and we exited fully exhausted but filled with happiness and memories. After the 20 minute walk back to the hotel, we collapsed, set our alarms again, and fell asleep on the rock-hard beds, ready for Tokyo DisneySea the next day.

Enjoy the images.

One of their monorails was 35th anniversary themed!
The World Bazaar, decked out for the 35th anniversary.
Photos with our newly purchased pouches.
Yellow backpack squad.
The not-water.
Their Tomorrowland was SO COOL. It only needed a PeopleMover!
Sweetheart Cafe treats.
If you told the Cast Member who collected the FastPasses, “souvenir,” they would punch a hole in it and allow you to keep it! I’ll be putting mine in an album.
Dreaming Up!
The yummiest (and cutest) ice pops.
Their Country Bear Jamboree, half in English and half Japanese.
Do not brush the Hippos’ teeth.
HUNGRY BEAR.
So so so good.
Train ride!
Golden hour photos commenced.
Featuring an in-character super long line.
Sunset. ❤
DreamLights!!!
Waiting for the fireworks, which did not happen.
A bright exit.

Whew! A whirlwind, indeed. I’m so happy to finally bring these memories to the blog and hope you’ve enjoyed following along. I’ll be back with day 5 of our trip, Tokyo DisneySea, soon! Have a wonderful weekend.

Quote of the day: “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart.”
-Mencius, Book IV

Day 3 | Tokyo, Japan | Summer Travel

We slept in a little bit on day 3. After going at quite the pace the previous day, we got ready, packed up from our (first) hotel, left our bags at the front desk, and headed out the double glass sliding doors to arrive at our first destination around 9am: the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. The not-unpleasant seafood tinged air hit us at the train station and only became stronger as we walked a few blocks down the road- following the crowd- to emerge on a busy corner of shops and wafting smells. The market itself was a narrow and crowded maze of different food stalls, kitchen-ware shops, and raw fish counters. Trying to make my way through one of the streets was akin to trying to leave the Magic Kingdom after the fireworks: sardine-like with a bit of bumping into others. Not terrible, though. The day was early and warm, and we were eager to try some of the famous street food.

The food did not disappoint. From custard mochi topped with a fresh strawberry (and the best I’ve ever had- I bought another later with red bean paste filling), to steamed dumplings and corn + fish fillets on a stick, everything we had was tasty and inexpensive. A seafood + red/green pepper concoction on a stick was the only thing I didn’t care for, but that’s because I didn’t know exactly what it was and was a bit put off by its soft texture. We ate some tamagoyaki (sweet rolled omelette) as we watched the crowds cycle through the maze, under the bright sun. Hope bought a fresh green tea ice cream cone, I bought grilled scallops on a stick. While trying to eat said scallops for brunch, I facetimed my family, who were preparing to head to sleep. Still weird. We walked past some outer stalls where I was complimented on my “sushi cats” shirt (which I thought fitting for a seafood-centric morning) and passed a giant pot of deceivingly delicious-smelling pot of offal stew. We didn’t try that.

My dad is into bonsai (miniature crafted trees, a practice with roots in Japan) and I was wanting to buy something bonsai related from Japan, so I found a store 15 minutes away on foot, and off we went for the Ginza shopping district. The walking seemed like more than 15 minutes because of the increasing heat of the day, but we arrived to the shop, only slightly melted. Unfortunately, there was a sign on the front which announced it was closed. Disappointed, we stood by the front, figuring out our next plans when the shop door was opened by a lady who explained to us (in English! I was so relieved, I wasn’t even sure of how to figure out what to purchase- I’m no bonsai aficionado) that the store was closed for lunch but we were welcome to come in and shop. She was extremely kind and generous with her knowledge and time, explained the difference between various pots, pruning tools, and books, and helped me pick out a couple of things which were perfect. After we wrapped up at the store and told her where we were heading next, she was so kind and hailed a taxi for us to the Tokyo Tower.

I’m not a fan of heights. Hope convinced me to go to the first level of the tower and I’m so glad she did- the views were amazing, and it was enclosed, which made it completely tolerable and relaxing, with the sound of classical, almost Epcot-like music in the background. The only scary part was when the elevator- which had plenty of windows- was ascending and descending and we were treated to a open/terrifying view of the space around us. After taking in the views, buying souvenirs, and mailing postcards, we made our way down a few stairwells to the elevator and landed on solid ground a few minutes later. With our hotel location and directions pulled up on the GPS, we waited at a street corner for our turn to cross (also where we had seen people dressed as Mario Kart characters zipping around on go-karts) and went that way. After finding a vending machine and purchasing peach Coca-Cola and lemon tea, stumbling upon another temple, and passing a Subway shop, we arrived at the train station and made our way back to the hotel. During rush hour. In Tokyo. We were sardined into a train- luckily only for one stop, though.

At Vie La France- the lovely pastry shop by our train station- we picked up curry filled rolls (SO good) and another melon bread, if my memory serves correctly, which we ate in the hotel lobby before setting off on our hour+ train adventure to another part of the city, where we would spend the second half of our trip. Tokyo has these yellow, textured square pavers embedded in their sidewalks called tactile paving, which help the visually impaired navigate around the city (different patterns and orientations alert the individual to a change from street to sidewalk or stairs, etc.), but goodness they’re incredibly difficult to wheel suitcases over and around quickly. It’s also difficult to stand up on a crowded train with a large suitcase and smaller, carry-on suitcase without falling over. It can be done, though, and thankfully some seats opened up on the train so we were able to sit for a while.

After a train switch, when a very friendly station employee noted our confused, out of place faces walked us to the correct transfer and directed us to number 11 to Maihama station. We waited for the train, embarked, rode for a bit more, disembarked, and stumbled upon a gloriously large Tokyo Disneyland 35th anniversary wall-sized poster. After capturing the necessary pictures by the wall, we made our way down too many flights of stairs, down a long, long, sidewalk to our hotel, saw a Disney monorail, checked in to the hotel, and crashed on the less than soft beds. We somewhat lovingly dubbed them rocks. Dining options nearby were limited, so we headed to the Ikspiari shopping area (basically a third party, smaller Disney Springs), and ate at a Hawaiian themed fast food place, which had mediocre burgers and an excellent guava soft drink. We perused the Disney Store, walked back to the hotel, got cleaned up, set our alarms for 5-something in the morning, and fell asleep, incredibly excited for what was in store for us the next day: Tokyo Disneyland.

Enjoy the images.

The train system was only slightly confusing. 😉
Steamed pork bun. So good.
Corn/fish patty. Also amazing.
The holy grail of my Tokyo food experience. Fresh mochi + strawberry. Unbelievably good.
Not a fan of this thing.
Tamagoyaki, a sweet rolled omelette. Delicious.
I had to document the glorious-ness of this.
Picking out a bonsai pot.
Tokyo Tower views.
People were able to stand on the clear section. I didn’t.
A delicious tea drink.
A cute presumably water access cover.
A train station. I loved the light. Tokyo’s light was different: bright, clear, absolutely stunning. Also note the tactile pavings.
Giant poster!
Authentic American food. 😉

I am excited to dive into day 4 and relive all the happy Disney memories from that day. Stay tuned, friends! There’s a lot of magic coming to the blog, soon.

Quote of the day: “A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.”
-Henry Rollins

Day 2 | Tokyo, Japan | Summer Travel

Comfortable shoes are important. Really important. We walked over 9 miles on the second day of our trip and I wanted to look cute so I wore my leather boots which boast minimal padding and support. Not my brightest idea, and by the end of the day I still looked fashionable but my feet weren’t too happy. At any rate, this was our longest day in the city proper and we made a plan to hit multiple locations of interest in a counter-clockwise fashion, and we managed to do everything we wanted and more. Win. Strap in, friends, because I’m about to write a short book about this day. 😉

After falling asleep immediately the night prior, our alarms went off promptly at 5:45am on Thursday morning and we hit the ground running after eating some of the patisserie goods. We were ready for a full day: our backpacks filled to the brim with portable chargers, umbrellas, snacks, and cameras; we didn’t expect to be back for 12-14 hours and we were well prepared for a full, slightly chilly and rainy day. Our itinerary was as follows: Sensō-ji Temple + grounds, Nakamise Shopping Street (an unexpected find!), Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Harajuku shopping district + unexpected cat cafe, Shibuya Disney Store (where my wallet took a good hit), Shibuya Crossing, and then back to the hotel, where I accidentally fell asleep on the bed, shoes and jacket still on.

First on our itinerary was taking a bus (number 08) from Kinshicho station to a stop right outside the Sensō-ji Temple grounds. We explored the temple and its outlying buildings and gardens- which were absolutely beautiful- and as we wandered, we stumbled upon a shopping street opening for the day where we ate delicious and cheap street snacks and were interviewed by a group of schoolchildren who asked questions about American and Japanese hospitality. It was cool. After we reached the end of the street with backpacks a bit fuller from souvenirs, it began to rain and we walked down a back street-way, umbrellas in hand, and decided to skip McDonald’s and try fried sweet potato slices, which were hearty, starchy, and filling. Google Maps was consulted, and we hopped on a train to a stop in Shinjuku, our next area to explore.

Wi-Fi is somewhat of a necessity nowadays, and we had arranged to pick up a portable hot spot, which would provide unlimited data usage for the rest of the trip. After a bit of weaving and wandering we found the correct spot- on the same street as a giant Godzilla, peeking over a building- and with the connection device in hand, we hit it off for the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden- a place we weren’t sure would be open due to some nasty thunder and rain. Thankfully, it was open and we entered after paying the $2 entry price and headed straight to the cafe for noodles. Properly nourished, we toured the garden- practically a Tokyo equivalent to Central Park, NY- surrounded by gorgeous trees and shrubs, their pruning intentional and artful. A giant Japanese hornet graced our presence and scared the living daylights out of me (y’all, it looked like a small bird) and after a Google search of “scary huge Japanese wasp” I quickly found the correct information. Apparently around 40 people a year die from those hornet’s stings; luckily we weren’t those included in that statistic.

The sun came out, we exited the gardens, and took a stroll to the nearest train station for our next stop-Harajuku. A short while later, we arrived at the entrance of the busy shopping street and I immediately took notice of a cat cafe, so we went inside, stored our belongings and put on house slippers, ready to play with cats. Well, the cats wanted little to nothing to do with us (cats, right?) so we got a few free strawberry and chocolate drinks from a vending machine and after a while paid, left, and went back downstairs to the street. After weaving through people and looking at plenty of kawaii souvenirs and clothing, including things with strangely placed English words- I ended up with a sushi cat shirt or two and we began to make our way towards the Shibuya Disney store along a busy shopping street with familiar stores.

This store was magnificent. I wasn’t quite sure *what* it was supposed to be, but its three stories and steampunk-esque exterior made for an impressive sight as we rounded a street corner. The next hour was filled with purchasing our Tokyo Disney tickets (because the online system failed us multiple times), finding way too much cute merchandise, and buying a good bit of it as well. Whoops. From there, we hopped over to the busiest crossing in the world- the Shibuya crossing. We watched it cycle through a few times from the second floor of a Starbucks, and eventually made our way down and took part in the crossing, which was crazy organized chaos. Emphasis on the chaos. After visiting a Lush store, we hopped on a train back to our hotel, where we crashed and got some rest for the next day. With 9+ miles traversed and around 12+ hours of being out and about, we were whooped and ready for a slower paced day, and the next day fit the bill well.

Below are the images and accompanying information in captions. I’ve mixed iPhone photos with my “real” camera photos. 🙂 Enjoy!

Skytree views, again.
Entrance to the shopping street.
These vending machines were so cool!
We were especially enamored with the “sweat water” as we dubbed it. Turned out to be an electrolyte replenishing drink. I took photos of my Orange Bird tsum tsum plush throughout the city and our travels.
These were delicious. We both got the original flavors. I can’t remember what they were called, though.
A busy street in the rain.
Fried sweet potatoes! I spy Godzilla…
Went to a Uniqlo!
The vehicles were so different and cute.
Garden pictures begin here.
Majorly yummy noodles.
Walking to the train station.
Entrance to the Harajuku shopping street.
Cat cafe!
I tried to make friends.
The drink vending machine, offering hot or iced beverages. Super cool buildings. The Shibuya Disney store!
Busiest crossing in the world.

Phew! That was a lot. Day 3 includes a little less walking, the Tokyo Tower, and an iconic fish market. I’ll catch y’all, soon!

Quote of the day: “There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.”
-Orson Welles

Day 1 | Tokyo, Japan | Summer Travel

It’s been a hot second since I’ve updated the blog with personal details and anecdotes, and I figured now’s a good time to do so. I recently had the incredible opportunity to travel across the world (literally) and visit Tokyo, Japan. This has been a dream of mine for a few years and it is still surreal I actually was there.

I will be blogging each day of my trip with photos, stories from that day, and other tidbits. There are hundreds of photos sitting in Lightroom waiting to be sorted and edited, so it might take a little bit to blog the week+ of memories. 🙂 Let’s begin with the first day.

Hope (my DCP roommate and travel companion) and I had a flight in the evening. 7:53pm Eastern time, to be exact. Admittedly, I was frantically ordering prints, packing, and doing last minute shopping up until the very minute we had to leave, and I wasn’t convinced I didn’t forget anything. (I didn’t.) This was my first international trip, so my priorities were: 1.) not losing my passport and 2.) making sure I had enough snacks to live off for two weeks. Both were successful, we got to the airport on time, thanks to my college roommate Kailey, and we munched on Jersey Mike’s subs as we waited at our gate for our first flight out to Los Angeles where we would catch a plane to Japan.

Have you ever tried to sleep in an airport overnight? I now have. We landed in LAX around 10pm (time travel is crazy wild) and made our way to the Tom Bradley International area of the airport, which was a long haul from our concourse, let me tell you. Thus began our 11 hour layover. Overnight, in the airport, on benches that I am sure were designed for maximum-sleeping-un-comfortableness. (There’s a picture of them further down in the blog. You’ll see why they were awful.) We both tried to doze for a bit, but since the lights and sound were kept on for a while and I was concerned with luggage theft (I had my arm woven between my backpack strap and tucked into my carry-on suitcase. I wasn’t playing.), we only slept around 3-4 hours comprised of broken segments the entire night. The air conditioning dropped to a mild freezing around midnight and at 4:30am, the safety announcements turned back on which jolted us out of sleep every 15 minutes.

Needless to say, it wasn’t glamorous but I can now look back and say I’ve slept in an airport and have the stories and memories of back pain to prove it. Pro tip: if you ever have to do that, pack fresh clothes and toiletries in your carry-on, because living in the same clothes for 24 hours isn’t a good time. You’re welcome. We grabbed Starbucks sandwiches around 8am, boarded our next flight at 10am, and flew for 11 hours, across the ocean and several time zones, landing in Narita, Japan at 1:30pm. Still half dead, we managed to purchase Suica cards and grab the correct train to the station near our hotel. Shout-out to Google Maps for being an incredible asset during our trip.

An hour and a half later, we stepped off our train and entered Tokyo to the tune of “Amazing Grace” being played through an amplifier by a street performer. With a patisserie to the right and train station behind us, we walked the five minutes to our hotel, checked in, and collapsed on our beds, completely exhausted and ready for bed at 4pm. We got cleaned up a bit, went out for dinner, bought melon bread, onion-potato bread, and a red bean doughnut at the patisserie and hit the hay at 8pm.

That was all pretty much a single day for us and I’m still not sure how all the time traveling worked out, but we weren’t jet-lagged on the way there (mostly from the exhaustion) and the trip was off to a great start. Below are the images and accompanying captions. Enjoy!

MCO carpet is the best carpet.

Somewhere over the USA.

THESE were the couches. The worst. Diagonal “back rests” and the whole 9 yards. Still not sure how we napped on those.

Our first meal on our flight to Japan. Singapore Airlines was fantastic!

Second and favorite meal.

Google Maps is wonderful.

Foreshadowing. 😉 

The view outside of our station.

Our first hotel.

Tokyo Skytree views.
Dwarf azaleas were everywhere!

The wonderful patisserie! Melon bread! It was wonderful- tasted like cantaloupe.

Well, that’s all for now, folks. I hope to be blogging the second day, soon! That was our first full day in the city proper and there’s a lot to share. Stay tuned.

Quote of the day: “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
-Lin Yutang