May 30, 2015


Marina’s fingers were digging into the lateral muscles in my back as she clung to me like a langur monkey—bawling, chest heaving, tears spilling down her reddened cheeks. We had just emerged from the Space Mountain ride at Tokyo Disneyland. The ride’s shudders and jolts, sudden drops, abrupt curves and hyperspeed tunnel in the pitch dark had frightened her. She kept calm until the first traces of the sunshine outside became visible when the ride ended. Then she lost control and the shock took over: her cute little tears were hard to stem. Happy fifth birthday!

The idea was simple: celebrate our youngest daughter’s fifth year on the planet by taking her to one of Tokyo’s (and, when you think about it, one of the world’s) leading kiddie entertainment venues. Herewith are a few notes on how the day unfolded.

Up at 0500, packed the equipment and the family. Departed home by 0530. Hoo-yah!

Tokyo traffic better than expected; got a space in the first-rank parking lot. We rock! Waited in the park front gates from 0645 until 0830. The girls were excited for obvious reasons, but they were well behaved while we whittled away the time.
Then the gates flew open, people ran toward the attractions like lemmings, and it was game on. We first went to the major rides where we thought the lines would be long, starting with the Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, then just heading out around the park and making it up as we went along.
We also did Star Tours, had a lot of popcorn and crap all day long. Space Mountain speaks for itself: we jumped the shark on that one. Hence the birthday girl’s tears…
Weather was good: not too hot (23 degrees, still short-sleeve shirt OK), not too much sunshine. Luckily, Marina is over 102 cm so she could ride all the attractions. The lines were not onerous, as we had picked a strategic weekday to go; we pulled the girls out of a regular school day to game the system. And we figured out the FastPass system to our benefit: after you register with a ride you want to do but you do not want to wait hours to do it, FastPass will give you a specific time to return to said ride and board it without a wait.

Food? Psssshaw!@#$!! Kind-of ate lunch, then we pressed on. The Toonstown area was OK but both Elena and Marina are beyond it in maturity. We soon figured out the rides we liked and would repeat in Pavlovian fashion, then went over to the main street USA and New Orleans-styled areas. Alas, the Rising Daughters decisively vetoed having coffee there. I enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride, so did Naomi. Watched the afternoon Easter parade. I needed an ice coffee by then to keep going without requisite heart attack.
Then more rides and another parade at 1730, followed by the post-nightfall fireworks and the closing presentation near the castle. It was 2130 by that time, and Marina fell asleep despite the fireworks' dramatic booms and skyline filled with colors, resting her chin on my head because she was sitting on my shoulders.
We rolled home and arrived shortly after 2300. 17½ hours of fun. Seriously, it was fun.

What I learned:
- how to be surrounded by the Disney branding experience at every moment and hustled without regret
- their attention to detail, for example everything is clean
- no shaming works: we bought a ride photo (which we usually, never, ever do, and quite often mock) despite its ridiculous price because it was good quality and there was no upsell/hard sell

- Darth Vader speaks Japanese.
Say what you will about its superior branding or corporate tendencies, Disney sure can put on a show. I took the experience for the first time, drank the many-colored, multi-cultural Kool Aid, and took note of the daylong joy on my kids’ faces…except for the one time Marina was screaming out of fear after Space Mountain. We pushed the envelope on that one.

What a great day. Seriously. Video below speaks for itself.

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