Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I didn't get much sleep...that's not surprising considering how excited I was... so I was up and around on the morning of my departure at 3:00am. My dad arrived at about 4:15 to take me to the airport, and I was in, through security and sitting at my gate by 4:45. I searched again for Snapple and was unsuccessful. I wonder if it has something to do with Snapple being in glass bottles. I sat looking out the windows until it was time for my 5:40am flight to Chicago. We had to walk out onto the tarmac to board the plane, and I had to leave my big backpack to be gate checked.

I arrived in Chicago uneventfully at about 6:30am, where I began my five hour layover! Ugh! But it was the cheapest way to get from Nashville to Tokyo, even if there was a later flight that would have still worked. Oh well. I grabbed a second breakfast at about 7:30, and had an egg and cheese bagel and hash browns from McDonalds. When I got my receipt, the girl had entered my order as "no bagel" instead of "no bacon"...that would defeat the purpose, now, wouldn't it? haha She got them to fix it correctly though.

I hadn't packed any sun block because my little liquids and gels bag was already full with shampoo and stuff, so I planned on buying some during my layover in O'Hare. So I started out to find some sun block, and quickly realized that there is no sun block for sale anywhere in the airport! I tried five different Hudson News stores as well as some of the convenience store places, and none of them had anything. I even went to the first aid area to ask, and the lady there said that the closest place was a drug store inside the airport Hilton. Um...no. So after walking up and down three different concourses, I gave up my search and decided to find some once I got to Japan. I went back to my gate area and laid down across a few seats in an attempt to take a nap, but it didn't work because it was just too loud.

Kevin arrived at about quarter till 11:00 I guess, and we had just enough time to grab a Quizno's sub before boarding the plane. I got the turkey and cheddar sandwich, and it was big enough to eat half then and save half for the flight. As soon as we were done quickly eating our sandwiches, our plane was almost ready to board. Kevin scurried off to the bathroom, and when he got back, I went to the bathroom. By the time I got back, my boarding group had already been called. It wasn't a big deal though since there was plenty of bin space to go around. It took me a minute to get settled with all my little electronics and stuff, but once I did, I was all set for the flight.

Generally, the flight wasn't all that bad. I tried to sleep some, but it didn't work very well because I couldn't get comfortable. We were served three meals...the first was a chicken curry and salad which came about two hours into the flight. Then we had some instant noodles about five hours after that. At about the 12 hour mark, we had "breakfast," which for most people was a ham sandwich. But when I mentioned to the flight attendants that I didn't eat pork, they insisted on finding something else for me. I wasn't hungry since I'd eaten the chicken curry, the noodles and the other half of the Quizno's sandwich, as well as a lot of water, but they insisted. After a few minutes, one of the ladies arrived with three small plates of fruit and a croissant, which were the side dishes from the first class breakfast. I thought that was very, very nice of them to make sure that I had something I would eat, even if I wasn't hungry enough to eat it all!

All told, the flight was right around 13 hours long. I was really surprised that it didn't seem worse than it was. I watched Kung Fu Panda and slept a little, so it wasn't that bad.


Check me out! I'm in Japan!

After arriving in Narita airport, we made our way through Customs easily, and followed the signs to the JR train office to get our vouchers exchanged for real passes. The process went smoothly, and soon we were walking out with our brand new, shiny (literally) two-week rail passes and a ticket for the next Narita Express. The entrance to the Narita Express is just outside the JR office, so we followed the signs and found our seats easily. We were both pretty tired, but were sort of bouncing off the walls at the same time since in it settling in that we were IN JAPAN! We were on a train headed for Tokyo IN JAPAN! We took in the scenery, laughed at the names of places we saw (like Hotel Slit! hahaha) and made plans for DisneySea that night.

We arrived at Shinjuku station, and were able to quickly figure out how to get to the Takadanobaba station because of the extraordinarily efficient signs and maps in the train stations. After a few more minutes, we arrived in Takadanobaba and began the search for our hotel, Tama Ryokan. I had found a map online, but somehow had neglected to print it off before the trip. But I knew it was near a Starbucks and an entrance to the Tozai subway line. Kevin found it with his GPS...lucky for us since it was a couple of blocks further than I thought it was (I saw a Tozai subway entrance just outside the Waseda exit of the station, so I would have stopped to look in that area).


Tama Ryokan, our hotel for our first four nights in Japan

The hotel was very quaint in a very Japanese way! We had to take our shoes off just inside the door, which made the doorway quite congested with the shoes of all the visitors. We spotted a girl who we thought worked there (she didn't, she was just using the public computer...we found this out later) so she found one of the owners for us. The lady led us up the narrow, steep staircase to the first room on the right, and started to give us the house rules. Before she even started, we had already broken one by walking onto the tatami mat floor with our slippers on! So we both quickly took them off and left them outside the door. She showed us how the air conditioner and TV worked and asked us to turn them off when we left. She showed us the sink area with the on-demand hot water, the shower room and how to work the controls, and where the other toilet is and when we can use it. She also methodically went to all the walls in the room that were made of paper, tapped them lightly with her fingernails, and said "This wall...paper." It seemed like a lot of stuff to remember, but since we were guests in their home, we wanted to make sure we followed all the rules!

After dropping off our bags and freshening up a bit, we were out the door. When we told the owner we were going to DisneySea, she laughed and thought we were crazy for going there when we'd just gotten off of such a long flight. Yes, our Disney fandom knows no bounds. Kevin laughed because when we left the hotel, I made a wrong turn and started walking away from the train station...but hey, I was tired and I forgot! hehe

Once at Takadanobaba, we flashed our JR passes and got on the Yamanote line to Tokyo station. Tokyo station is enormous...it seriously felt like it was about a mile in between the Yamanote Line and the Keiyo line. I grabbed a drink while we were there, then we hopped on the Keiyo line and disembarked at Maihama station. At that point, it didn't matter how tired I was, or how much I wanted to go to bed...

I WAS AT THE TOKYO DISNEY RESORT!!! In a flurry, we left Maihama station, went into the Disney Resort Welcome Center to buy our After 6pm pass and to get some English maps, then went upstairs to the Disney Resort Liner.


Kevin, excited to be on the Tokyo Disney Resort Liner

It cost right around $3 to ride the monorail to DisneySea, and we got a nice almost-round-trip view of the resort.

Once we arrived at DisneySea's gate, it was about 7:00pm, with the park closing time being 10:00pm, so we knew that we didn't have much time to dawdle.

We paused briefly in the entrance plaza to take a couple of "OMG I can't believe I'm actually in DisneySea!!" photos, then quickly headed over to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This ride was the main reason we had decided to visit DisneySea on our first night. By the time we got back to the park at the end of the trip, this ride, as well as Raging Spirits, was going to be closed for rehab. We had both really, really wanted to ride 20,000 Leagues, so about a week before the trip we decided, what the heck, letís go there on our first night. Who cares how tired we will be! We will miss it if we don't go then!

All paths seem to lead to the plaza that contains 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so finding it was a breeze. And there was almost no wait! We were seated on the side of the vehicle, which everyone seems to say are worse seats than the forward facing seats. I still think we had a nice view of what was going on. I thought the ride was spectacular...it truly looked and felt like we were underwater, and had a very creepy vibe to it in most spots. Eventhough the narration was in Japanese, I enjoyed every second of the ride! You really don't need to know what is being said to enjoy the scenery and theming.

After the ride, we headed directly over to Raging Spirits, which is the other ride that was going down for rehab before we got back. This line was considerably longer (most likely due to lower capacity), but we still managed to be on the ride in about 20 minutes or so. I thought it was a nice little coaster, and had incredibly comfortable over the shoulder restraints. They were made of very cushy memory foam type padding, so your head could bang into them full force and still be reasonably comfortable. After seeing the massive restraints, I was worried that it was going to be a bone rattler, but it wasn't that bad. It was fairly smooth and quite well themed as far as coasters go. I also thought the extensive amount of signs warning about the vertical loop (which is in plain sight in the middle of the coaster!) were very funny.

We decided to go to Mermaid Lagoon next, but as we passed Sinbad's Storybook Voyage, we decided to ride it since there was no line. What an adorable ride! Despite hearing people tell me not to expect Small World going into this one, I was still pretty much expecting Small World hehe. What I found, though, was an incredibly well done and technologically advanced dark ride! The animatronics in the ride were amazing...the most amazing of which were small animatronic belly dancers! Every human figure in the ride was fully articulated, which gave them an incredible range of motion. The ride had a fantastic song, had wind and smell effects, and was overall just a wonderfully executed ride. I had no idea that this ride would be as nice as it was, even with all the trip reports I'd read where people raved about it!

As we walked on towards Mermaid Lagoon, I spotted the Black pepper Popcorn cart, which was one that I had been wanting to try since I heard the description of it online. I got a regular sized box and it was SO YUMMY! It was very slightly sweet, and very spicy from all the pepper. The more I ate of it, the better it got! Yummy!

When we arrived in Mermaid Lagoon, we paused to take a few photos near the entrance, then proceeded to play in the playground area.


Kevin points out the last place where he woke up

They had plenty of hologram things that look like you can pick them up but you can't, they had shells that you could listen to and actually hear the ocean, and they had Ariels cave of gadgets and gizmos with the Prince Eric statue.


Kevin gives Prince Eric a run for his money!

We climbed up in a net maze and played with a wall where you pose, a light flashes, and it leaves your shadow on the wall. We had so much fun! But we knew that we couldn't linger forever because we didn't have much time left before the park closed, and we still wanted to hit Journey to the Center of the Earth and Tower of Terror.

We backtracked our way back to Journey to the Center of the Earth, where we found a reasonable line. We spent the time in the queue pondering how nice the park was, and how friendly the Cast Members seemed to be. We also marveled at the near absence of trash cans, yet there was no trash anywhere! When we got to the front of the line, we were loaded into the front of the vehicle...woohoo! The ride was really awesome...you start in the Crystal Caverns which are covered with glowing crystals of all colors, then you move into the Giant Mushroom Forest which has shiny mushrooms and little critters. Then it all goes black, and you encounter the lava monster in the center of the earth! Then it spits you out the top of the volcano before you rush around in the dark some more. It was so great!

After Journey, we went back over to 20,000 Leagues to catch one final ride. Again we had no wait, and this time we were put into a capsule by ourselves, so we took the front two seats. I didn't think the view was *that* much better from the front since both sets of seats afforded nice views. I also got the whole thing on my video camera the second time though. The video is crap since it was so dark, but the audio is great.

Next, we went over to Port Discovery for a ride on Aquatopia. Neither of us wanted to get wet, so we opted for the dry course. This ride was very pretty at night, and was a lot of fun! It wasn't the insane ride that we'd both been anticipating, but it was a fun, leisurely little ride around the lagoon. Leaving Aquatopia, we realized that we only had about 10 minutes left before the park closed! The DisneySea Electric Railway was nearby, so we took a ride on that over to American Waterfront. By the time we arrived, Kevin quickly handed me his bags and had to run to get into Tower of Terror before closing. I took a seat on some concrete benches across from the ride, and relaxed for a few minutes. There were a lot of slugs on the pillar I was sitting next to...not sure what's up with that! As I sat there waiting for him, it really started to sink in about where I was. Like.."Holy cow...I'm sitting outside the Tower of Terror in DISNEYSEA...in TOKYO...in JAPAN...right now!" As tired as I was, I was still in complete awe of the fact that the trip was actually happening right then.

When Kevin emerged from the Tower, we were both dead exhausted and just wanted to go to sleep. We meandered our way out of the park, both feeling like we couldn't wait until we were able to come back at the end of the trip! We took the Disney Resort Liner back to Resort Gateway station, then flashed our passes to get on the Keiyo line. We took Keiyo back to Tokyo station, then hiked the million miles back over to the Yamanote line.

We both struggled to stay awake on the trains since they seem to rock you to sleep, but we made it without falling out from exhaustion! haha

After arriving back at Takadanobaba, we made our way to our hotel and found that our stuff had been moved to a new, smaller room. I had reserved the room about three months in advance and was told that I would get the original room we had been given, so I'm not sure what's up with giving us a different room! But it was almost the same...just lacked the closet...so I didn't say anything. That did mean that, in the interest of having any space at all in the room, my big backpack had to sit out in the hallway the whole time. I was ok with that though since the owner assured me that everything would be safe (plus, I was carrying all my important stuff with me all the time anyway). As soon as we arrived, we cranked up the air and collapsed onto our mattresses.

Go to Day 2 - Asakusa, Ueno Park, LaQua
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