Whoa, it has been close to a year since my Japan trip! The persistent thought of my incomplete Tokyo travelogue has been lingering in my mind so here I am continuing where I left off in the first part. In this post, I will be documenting my activities during my final days in sushi-land. Since this trip happened last December, I may inadvertently leave out some details but I will try my best to recall to the best of my ability 😆
* * Day 2 * *
Taking cue from our trip to Hong Kong Disneyland the previous year, we allotted one full day for the magical kingdom. The morning sun had already peeked its bright rays through our curtains when we were woken up by our annoying alarm clock which we had previously set at 7.00 a.m. JST (1 hour ahead of SGT). The chilly and crisp winter air outside seeped into our tiny room (or so I felt), causing my reluctance to get out of my warm and cozy bed to snowball (no pun intended) exponentially. I admit that we kinda took our time because we had already purchased a two-day passport (eTicket, at ¥12,400 each) to Tokyo Disney Resort (which includes DisneySea), so we needn’t have to spend time queuing up to enter.
It took us about an hour to reach Maihama station from our hotel (10 minutes away from Higashi-Shinjuku station) and we had to transfer trains twice – once at Shinjuku-Sanchome station and another at Tokyo station. We had the impression that eating or drinking was allowed onboard due to the huge cluster of vending machines on the train platforms so before we hopped on to any train, we made sure we had a bottle of drink and a small packet of tidbit to keep us awake throughout the journey. Well, it turns out not to be the case… Oops. Eating or drinking on trains, although not prohibited by law, is likewise frowned upon in Japan. But I guess having a little nibble won’t kill, yes?! After all, we had left our hotel without having our breakfast 😦
The trains are equipped with seats covered in comfy velvet which implies high level of self-discipline among the Japanese. Should such sofa seats be used in place of the hard plastic ones in our trains, they will probably lose their lustre and softness in no time because of recalcitrant passengers who eat and drink on board
The priority seats in red are separated from the rest and put in a corner next to the empty compartment between carriages where you can make urgent calls (be sure to shut the doors, though!). Talking on mobile phones in the seated areas of the train is a strict no-no. The Japanese values their peace and privacy a lot, so it’s not unusual to be commuting in stark silence.
I was looking forward to visiting Tokyo Disneyland because friends had been raving to me about how much more breathtaking and enchanting it is from other Disneylands in the world. Upon further research, I discovered that Tokyo Disneyland is wholly owned by a local leisure and tourism corporation Oriental Land Company and not by Walt Disney Company, hence allowing for more flexibility in the imagineering and construction of the theme park. The innovation of the Japanese is apparent in the rides and even in the range of merchandise in the gift shops, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending more than budgeted.
Once we exited Maihama train station, we followed the (not-very-visible, in my opinion) directions to Disneyland. For the uninitiated, the way to Disneyland is on the right whereas the train to the Disneyland Hotel and DisneySea is on the left. It took us between 10 and 15 minutes to walk to our destination in the sunny but chilly weather.
There is a Disney gift shop right before this huge red arc for those who wish to buy some Disney merchandise without having to pay the entrance fee to the theme park. If I remember correctly, there was no difference in pricing and almost everything was stocked up there. I felt this was a nice gesture on the part of Tokyo Disneyland because not everyone can afford the expensive admission tickets.
Opened in 1983, Tokyo Disneyland is the first Disney Park built outside the United States and remains one of the world’s top theme park destinations. It spans over 114 acres on a reclaimed land which is about a 90-minute journey from Tokyo. Unless you forgo all the rides and go around the theme park on an e-scooter, it is almost impossible to explore every attraction within a day (or even two). It is humongous.
It was impossible to miss those conspicuous yellow Pooh heads on the shelves because they were sold in virtually every gift shop! It’s certainly a must-have for all Pooh collectors. Each box contained a few individually packed honey sponge cakes moulded in the shape of Pooh’s head which were too cute to be eaten. I failed to notice that they had relatively short shelf life (like most Japanese snacks) so I had kept mine past their expiry date as I couldn’t bear to open the box. I took my first bite into the sponge cakes six months after their purported expiry date but voila! They were still saccharine and fresh – probably not as fresh as when I first bought them but still pretty much edible and salable. What do you know, the Japanese are such an overly cautious bunch… 😛
So don’t toss your expired (but still looking good) Japanese snacks away without first tasting them!
Disclaimer: The above is just an advice only ah.. please don’t blame me if you get diarrhoea after that Thank you.
Popcorn pushcarts like the one above can be found at every corner of Disneyland! The design of the popcorn bucket (made with good quality and sturdy plastic) as well as the flavour of the popcorn vary, though. Boyfriend and I happened to find the one that sold Pooh buckets and, of course, honey-flavoured popcorn! 🐻 You can refill your bucket with popcorn of different flavours at any pushcart for a lower price 🙂
Due to our ill-preparedness for this trip, we didn’t go around to collect all the FASTPASS tickets like what most travel bloggers had done before we embarked on our exploration of the theme park. It was our biggest mistake because all the tickets ran out by the time we wanted to take the rides. We had to give the more popular rides a miss because the regular queues were insanely long and could take up to two hours. Not wanting to waste most of our day lining up, we went to attractions that could accommodate more visitors at once with shorter waiting time, like Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a 4-D film attraction featuring 3-D effects, scents and water, as well as a number of Disney characters in a 12-minute-long show. Initially, I had my qualms going there because I had the uninformed impression that it would be another 3-D show designed to please young children. But boy, was I so wrong. I was immersed throughout the screening!
The theatre is equipped with motion seats that will move in tandem with the movie action but there are also stationary seats for those do not want to watch the show with the vibration. During the show, small amounts of water would be squirted from the seat in front (I think) of every person to simulate the effect of rain or water splashing. Then, there would also be wind effect to mimic fog. I can’t recall what other 4-D effects there were but the whole experience was absolutely delightful. You won’t regret going there at all!
We then caught the second daytime parade in the afternoon at a confined space next to the parade gate where the performance concluded. Although we arrived at the venue late, we were lucky enough to find a spot that was still fairly close to the performers, and so were able to snap some good shots! The characters that made an appearance during this parade were pretty much the same as those who did in the earlier one.. with the exception of Frozen’s Anna and Elsa.
Like its Hong Kong counterpart (Autopia), the cars at the Grand Circuit Gateway operate along a guide rail and do not actually require any steering whenever they reach a turning point. The cars move when the gas pedal is being stepped on but will stall when another vehicle is detected in close proximity ahead of them to prevent collision.
Unfortunately, that would be our final time behind the wheels of the electric cars at Tokyo Disneyland because the Grand Circuit Gateway will be closed permanently in January next year to make way for newer attractions 😦
The nighttime parade was, nevertheless, stunning with all the bright neon lights adorning the shimmering floats but I personally feel that it was not in any way more magnificent than the one I witnessed in Hong Kong. In fact, I thought the nighttime parade at Hong Kong Disneyland was more memorable. Sounds absurd, I know. Either my expectations were pegged too high or the novelty of it had worn off from me. I just didn’t feel the magic as much as others had claimed to experience.
Or perhaps, the weather was just too cold for me to bear (because, well, my outfit wasn’t thick enough to keep a barrier between the cold and my frail body) that I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the trip. All I wanted to do was to head back to the hotel and tuck myself beneath the comforter 😥
To spare you the agony of loading more pictures on your phone (trust me, it’s more or less the same as those I took in Hong Kong), I’m excluding the photographs (or rather, videos) I took at the nighttime parade from this travelogue.
Following the parade was a short light show and fireworks display at the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. We weren’t lucky enough to get the front spot as the viewing area was immensely crowded. There was a 15 minute (or more) interval between both shows which was strangely not mentioned on the park map, so we left after waiting meaninglessly for 10 minutes. We should have guessed when the crowd refused to budged. I spied the person behind us literally exclaiming in delight and promptly moving forward the moment we vacated our spot ¬_¬ Not long after we got out of the crowd, the fireworks finale began 🙄
Although bummed out that we missed the fireworks show, boyfriend was quick to realise that most of the rides would be less packed at that time. Hence, we took the golden opportunity to visit the nearest ride before we called it a day. True enough, the queue at Ride & Go Seek was relatively shorter.
By the time we left Tokyo Disneyland, our belly had already digested the miserable dinner we had earlier on and we were deliberating if we should hunt for places to eat or have supper at Sushizanmai instead. In the end, we decided against both ideas as we didn’t want to dip further into our depleting funds and simply shared a bowl of instant noodles we bought from the convenience store near our hotel. The meal was complete with several kinds of warm soup we bought from vending machines along our journey to our hotel. #goodenough
* * Day 3 * *
There seemed to be no amount of alarm clocks that could unearth either one of us from our cocoon of blankets. Having gone through the same routine in Hong Kong, we knew it would be near-impossible to wake us up with a single annoying alarm tone, so we had set two the night before – one on my phone and the other on boyfriend’s. Still, the plan failed and it was not until noon that we finally crawled out of bed. The fatigue from the previous day’s event had certainly gotten the better of us. So much time had been wasted on grabbing that few more winks of sleep that we probably wouldn’t even have time to explore half of DisneySea.
But we couldn’t abort our plans because we had already paid for the tickets So off we went with a mild feeling of dread because our legs were not ready for the long travel ahead of us to Maihama station. Mind you, it’s Japan we’re talking about.. which involves a lot of walking. Even transferring from one train line to another at a particular train station could take us up to 20 minutes of brisk walking. I’m always up for long-distance walks. Just.. not that day ∪_∪
Upon arrival at Maihama station which, by then had been all too familiar, we headed directly to the light rail station and waited for the train bound for Tokyo DisneySea.
..which reminds me, I didn’t get the chance to take any pictures with the mascots at Tokyo Disneyland (and DisneySea). How devastating 😦
We stationed ourselves behind the existing crowd but were subsequently ushered to a corner by the wardens to allow for a wider walking area ¬_¬
But the view from our new spot was so poor, we could only see the side profile of the performers. We gave up and proceeded to have our lunch at Cafe Portofino, just in front of the park. It is a counter service buffeteria that offers Italian food options set in a spacious and warmly-decorated hall that instantly places you in the renaissance era.
We added a Paradiso set (a bowl of soup and one soft drink) to one of our main dishes (“Piatti”) for an additional ¥570. The portion size was reasonable and was able to keep our hunger cues in check for quite a long time.
The half-sized Rotisserie Chicken was roasted through but still retained adequate moisture to keep the meat succulent. The seasoning was fine but nothing to write home about. I felt that the plating of this dish could be done better. Don’t you think it’s too.. bare? I’m not demanding expensive sides. Perhaps, y’know, some fries or mashed potatoes would be able to fill those empty spaces around the chicken.
This was boyfriend’s main course which he gobbled down in a heartbeat. The decently cooked pasta was bathed in creamy marinara sauce and topped with limited number of meatballs. Boyfriend had no complaints about the taste but it was clearly too small a portion to satisfy his hunger.
It had started to drizzle when we exited the restaurant but it was light enough to continue exploring without any rain gear. Armed with a copy of the DisneySea map, we went from attraction to attraction only to find that many of them were either closed or had too long a queue. In addition, the next shows at theatres were hours away so we were left with no choice but to join whichever queue was available to us.
Just a few distance away lies Toy Story Mania! and a snaking queue meandering around barricades positioned outside the entrance. There was a signage indicating the estimated waiting time of two hours placed at the end of the queue. Still, we went ahead and join the line knowing that the wait would be equally long at other attractions. Now let me stress how important portable WiFi routers and a reliable mobile charger are especially in times like this because time crawls at a sloth’s pace without them
Soon, it was time for the nighttime water show at the Mediterranean Harbour. In order to get a good view, we arrived at the venue about half an hour before but was surprised to find almost all spots taken up by then. Sadly, it wasn’t the best day to be outdoors as well because the rain had been in drizzles on and off throughout the day, wetting the ground. But the Japanese seemed to be well-prepared for that (or perhaps because cleanliness is imbibed in their culture) as we noticed literally everyone around us seated on mats.
The rain persisted throughout the show and finally transitioned into heavy downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning when it ended. Everyone instantly sought shelter in the Emporio store nearby. Not long after, an announcement came on that the fireworks display would be cancelled due to the bad weather 😐 Ah, bummer…
We remained in Emporio until the rain lightened. Since there was still more than an hour to closing time (Tokyo Disneyland closes a lot later than Hong Kong’s), we went deeper into the theme park to find Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon. Perhaps due to the late hour (coupled with the wet weather), we did not have to queue for any of the attractions we set foot in.
The attraction is based on a spin-off from a novel of the same name by Jules Verne and does not actually move underwater. Suspended from an overhead track (the yellow structure depicted above), the submarine is equipped with “double pane glass dome windows that contain water and bubbles to create the illusion of … diving deep into the ocean”. It’s a very simple dark ride where you have to occasionally flash the torch light to see things. I don’t remember having to complete any mission so it wasn’t as fun and interactive as I thought it would be.
Each side of the submarine, if my memory doesn’t fail me, can accommodate up to 6 people so boyfriend and I had to share a cabin with other visitors. Some may find the inside of the cabin sweltering with no air-conditioning but it felt like a warm haven, a quick refuge from the cold to me 😆 I tried taking some shots in the cabin but the shutter speed of my camera was too slow to capture the fast-moving objects.
With under an hour remaining before the shutters came down, we headed towards the wholly-sheltered Mermaid Lagoon to ride whatever was available. We were able to take most, if not all, of the rides because they were largely vacant. Lucky us!
Thereafter, the closing announcement came on and throngs of visitors including boyfriend and me proceeded to take the light rail back to Maihama station. The platform was so crowded that we barely made it to the first train that arrived. Thankfully, the journey home was comfortably seamless and we managed to take the weight off our feet and catch forty winks! Looking back, we were really daring to have slept on a train in a foreign land..
* * Day 4 * *
(Tsukiji Fish Market, 海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant, Pokémon Center)
Sadly, our shallow pockets meant that we could only afford to tour a city with a high standard of living for a maximum of four full days. As this trip drew to a close, reality started to bite again. On the one hand I dreaded getting back to the grind of my Final Year Project but on the other hand I was psyched about the final full day because the highlights of the trip were left to this day. For the first time during the trip, I was already up and about at 8.30 a.m. JST (that’s 7.30 a.m. SGT), all set for the first destination of the day – Tsukiji Fish Market!
Any travel guides would recommend viewing of the tuna auctions as it is a must-do in Tsukiji Fish Market. Auctions begin at 5.25 a.m. JST and only a maximum of 120 visitors are allowed to view per day. We had initially planned to see the auctions but were not disciplined enough to wake up at an unearthly hour for it. Moreover, since public transport only starts at 5 a.m., we would need to hire a cab to get there. Mind you, Tokyo holds the title of having the most expensive cab fares in the world and we’re obviously too broke for that by the second last day of our vacation. Our journey would probably rack up hundreds of dollars in cab fare because Tsukiji Fish Market is quite a distance from our hotel. We didn’t want to risk being denied entry into the market due to reaching capacity after having gone through so much trouble either!
Our train ride to to Tsukiji Shijo station lasted about an hour. We read from some travel blogs that the station is just directly below the market but somehow or other we got lost and had to walk a bit.
It was reported in that Tsukiji Fish Market would be relocated to a much bigger and newer site at Toyosu, Koto but the move has since been delayed over cost and health concerns.
The sashimi restaurants inside and outside Tsukiji Fish Market are undoubtedly your best bet when it comes to quality and fresh seafood since all the sashimi are delivered fresh from a stone’s throw away. Every alley is lined with such small and cramped restaurants which draw throngs of hungry people from all over the world and the queues may even stretch for hours. Boyfriend and I were seriously spoilt for choice so we chose the one that had one of the longest queues (typical Singaporean behaviour) as well as enticing menu display. Orders are taken in advance so that they can be served promptly the moment customers take their seats in the restaurant.
Never underestimate the tiny restaurants at Tsukiji Fish Market (or any eatery in Japan, as a matter of fact). They may seem small but their prices are comparable to that of notable Japanese restaurants in Singapore. The total damage from our sashimi feast (just those few dishes pictured above) reached close to a whopping S$100 which had well exceeded our budget for this meal. But it was money well-spent. The food was truly remarkable – those firm, thick slices of sashimi were laced with fatty marble and had a slight briny tang. And I had never felt so satisfied eating that huge slab of uni!
I can’t remember if the restaurant accepts credit cards so do bring enough cash along before heading to Tsukiji Fish Market for your breakfast or lunch.
海鮮丼 大江户 Kaisen-don Ōedo Restaurant
8-Go, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
Operating hours: 4.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.
With the help of our life-saving Google Maps app, we managed to locate the nearest JR station from where we were wandering along and take the next train down to Ikebukuro station! 😀 *prances around*
Alright, I’m going to be honest here. The main crux of this trip wasn’t the amusement parks nor the shopping malls but the Pokémon Center (although the abundance supply of fresh sashimi we could eat was also another major deciding factor for boyfriend). As a diehard Pokémon fanatic since my childhood days (yes, for the uninformed, Pokémon has been around since the late 90’s and not only recently with the launch of PokémonGO), it has been my absolute dream to visit the specialist store because I’ve been wanting to start my own collection of (preferably official) Pokémon merchandise.
Knowing that I would wipe out the Yen we had and possibly max out my credit card there (which did happen eventually), boyfriend wittingly pushed the Pokémon Centre back to the last day on our impromptu itinerary so that we didn’t have to starve on our final days in Japan 😆
To prep our wallet for this day, we watched videos taken at the Pokémon Centre on YouTube to know what items were stocked up in that season. Using the videos as a guide, we came up with a shopping list but was dismayed to learn that what we wanted were already sold out and replaced with some other designs 😥 So, lesson learnt: don’t rely too much on YouTube videos for the latest products at the Pokémon Centre because almost everything sold is seasonal. When we were there, we witnessed how crazily fast the stocks come and go. It’s not unusual to see shelves once filled with stuff become empty and replenished again. The staff are that efficient!
Unless you aren’t a Pokémon fan, you must be prepared to spend a least S$100 at the Pokémon Centre (credit cards are accepted) because the product selection there is massive. We deliberately emptied our backpack prior to heading out of our hotel that morning because we knew we were going to buy a lot of things at the Pokémon Centre. Still, we had to lug a few bags of our purchases back to our hotel because there wasn’t enough space in our backpack! 😳
Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo
2F Sunshine City Special Shops Alba, Toshima 170-6002, Tokyo Prefecture
Operating hours: 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
Nearest JR station: Ikebukuro
Trying to explore other parts of Tokyo with so many shopping bags in tow can be a real pain in the arse (besides, we were already penniless and the value in our PASMO card wouldn’t be able to take us anywhere farther..) so we returned to our hotel to pack our baggage and have an early rest.
* * Day 5 * *
With a heavy heart, it was time to bid Tokyo goodbye. Our evening flight meant that we could sleep in and have plenty of time to do a final round of shopping at the airport (and not forgetting our final visit to Sushizanmai for lunch. God, we miss that place) after returning our Wi-Fi router. We used our two-way NEX ticket to bring us back to Narita Airport. It was a smooth ride and we slept throughout the journey.
I miraculously managed to refrain myself from spending a single cent at this Pokémon store mainly because I didn’t have any to spare LOL. A life-sized Pikachu mascot would also make an appearance on certain days. Sadly, we missed it 😥
Pokémon Store Narita Airport
Narita International Airport
Narita, Chiba 282-0004. Terminal 2 Main Bldg. 4th Floor
Operating hours: 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.
When at Narita Airport, one must never forgo the souvenirs and leave the shops empty-handed. As broke as we were, we could still squeeze out a few thousands of Yen on credit. I’m not kidding when I say that it was our poorest time of our lives together..
We landed at Don Muang Airport at Bangkok past midnight on a Sunday with about five hours to go before our next boarding time. It was our longest and most miserable five hours yet because most shops in that dimly-lit dilapidated airport were closed at that time (no offence, Thai readers, but I would stick to landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport next time) and getting free Wi-Fi access (without having to register myself with the service provider over and over again after 30 minutes or so – no thanks) is more impossible than getting connected in the busiest Capitaland mall on a freakin’ public holiday. It truly felt like a budget terminal but yeah, I know I can’t complain because I chose to fly budget, yadda yadda.
That’s it, another lesson learnt. No more transfers at Don Muang Airport ever again!
And now, I shall unveil the colossal amount of purchases I made over my 5-day stay in Tokyo. Brace yourself, especially if you’re a Pokémon fanatic.
And that’s about it! I sincerely apologise for the long interval between the previous and this part of the travelogue (if anybody was waiting for it at all) because I’ve since entered the workforce and I’m usually too tired to blog when I get home. You won’t believe how many MONTHS I took to complete this final instalment because I kept dozing off at my desk 😄 But blogging helps me to remember key events which I would otherwise forget so I know I had to do it. My terribly poor memory is why I tend to be really detailed in my writing. Sometimes my brows would furrow in anxiety and my jaws drop in disbelief when I reread my archives because I don’t remember what I wrote 😄
But despite the sky-high cost of living in Japan, we appreciate how much importance is placed in the freshness of their food.. and we miss their delicacies (*cough*fresh sashimi*cough*). The Japanese are very friendly and helpful – no doubt about that! We had met security officers who wouldn’t hesitate to temporarily leave their post just to bring us to the nearest washroom because we couldn’t understand a word of Japanese they were saying. Tokyo is definitely worth another visit but I’ll be sure to go back in my thickest winter coat next time with more than sufficient cash 😆 !
Thanks for reading, everyone! 🙂