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Old 04-19-2012, 05:49 PM   #1
Aussie Wendy
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Ohaiyogozaimasu Japan

We (me, hubby and for part of the time our 20 year old daughter) have recently returned from 2 weeks in Japan. Had a lot of fun but it was challenging at times-mostly because of the language differences when things went wrong. For those of you who plan to travel to Japan and don’t want to troll through a whole trip report, here are some up front thoughts and tips for future travellers. I am attempting to minimise duplication of info already provided by Lurkyloo and others. For those of you who want to cut straight to the report skip the following and follow the links at the end.

1. As others say you don’t need to read or speak Japanese to enjoy Japan (especially if only going to the Disney resort and Tokyo). Elsewhere while you don’t need it, it would make life easier for shopping in supermarkets, reading train and bus info etc. We managed OK without it but see below, it would have made life a bit easier sometimes if we could have read some basic Katakana. Speaking-wise using simple words and sign language you can generally get your point across. We found everyone, even in the tourist info offices, have very limited English. The major buses and trains do put up the destination and the next stop in English which is wonderful but at the station it can still be confusing with the myriad types of trains, making sure you get on the right one that you bought your ticket for. Many restaurants have picture menus but we sometimes ended up in places where they didn’t and then had little idea what we were ordering! It was all part of the experience and no big deal. Some minor examples-our first foray into a supermarket (we had self contained accommodation in Kyoto) we came home with butter and margarine instead of margarine and cheese (we have discovered cheese is VERY expensive in Japan and limited range for sale). In Tokyo we bought what looked like the milk we bought in Kyoto and ended up with liquid yoghurt. We caught the wrong train to reach Hikone-despite my noting all the warnings on-line, and paid an expensive “top-up” fare.

Our main problem was the day we were to catch a train to Kanazawa on the west coast. Bad weather closed down train lines but there were significant delays with this info being posted on the boards so it looked like trains were still running. No information was posted anywhere in English-info in Japanese was being scrolled under the boards but not sure how much they were being told either-there were lots of confused faces. You had to queue in incredibly long JR desk lines to find out what was going on/re-schedule your tickets. Finally around 4pm (3rd time for the day in queues) we were told all lines were down til the next day and we had to find emergency accommodation for the night. The tourist office staff seemed to struggle to understand our request for lists of possible hotels and when asked-after a lot of sign language-referred us to a Japanese speaking, Japanese keyboard internet centre which was not much help-there seemed to be none in the station (we were using free wifi or cables in hotels so didn’t have access everywhere). Anyway we found a hotel in the end & cancelled our accom. in Kanazawa. All the people we encountered I must add, were incredibly nice and tried always very hard to help. TIP: If travelling around a lot learn some basic Japanese and/or take a translation book with you.

2. Beware of transport delays and cancellations cf above. From around 11am that day various lines were progressively shut down including the Kansai airport line from about 2pm til the next day. Unlike here in Brisbane when there’s a problem, I did not see that JR were putting on extra buses to the airport as an alternative but not needing them I could be wrong. The shinkansen to Tokyo started running again, I think it was later that afternoon. Tip: build in some fat in your travel plans. I would now never schedule a trip from Osaka back to Tokyo the same day as a flight home and would know alternatives if one form of transport was down- what to do, where to go to find alternatives. Dealing with problems in a foreign language is a major drama! Many lines were significantly delayed 3 days earlier due to the weather too, so I suspect this is not an uncommon event and we were there in the relatively “stable” weather pattern of April.
Postscript-I have since looked it up and this was the worst storm in the area since 1959 with all flights cancelled til the next day as well and four casualties with building collapses in smaller towns. I have been told by locals posting elsewhere that this was an unusual event to be so widespread. Still worth appreciating things like this can happen.

3. On the topic of travel, on buses and trains the next station always appeared in English as well as Japanese on the boards inside the carriage/bus and was announced in English though sometimes on the buses delays made it unclear if it was the stop it had stopped at or the next one coming up so we got off at the wrong stop sometimes. The major trains were very clear though we found on a brief trip on the trains in Osaka they were less foreign-tourist friendly compared to Kyoto. Directions to sights from bus stops in Kyoto were not sign posted unlike train exits. Machines dispensing tickets are at all stations and have an English button which steps you through and labels everything in English making them very easy to use.

Due to the delay issue we paid extra for a reserved seat to Kanazawa (we did not have a JR pass as for what we did it was dearer). Because our train-the second scheduled for the day- happened to actually be the first one running they allowed it to jam full of people-I guess understandable but the reserved carriages were so full of “non-reserved” people crowding the aisles and entry you couldn’t get on. It was the classic Delhi scramble as we literally forced our way on board elbowing people and being so thankful we had minimal luggage. Sometime later we and others-forcibly pushed our way to our seats and were able to sit down. Our train to Tokyo-which we also reserved as it seemed easier to know which carriage to go to, time of arrival printed on ticket etc, rather than taking pot luck, was half empty and a totally different experience! We however, didn’t find Tokyo trains/subway too crazy (well no different to peak hours in any city). TIP: I would consider it worth the extra $ (if no JR Pass) or effort (if hold JR pass) to reserve a seat-even if for later the same day as it does make it easier unless you are a single person travelling light. Also if you don’t hold a JR Rail Pass and intend travelling around the Kansai region consider getting a JR West Rail pass (Kansai Pass) for 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. The 1 day pass is worth it even just for the express train from the airport to Kyoto.

4. As people say-many places do not accept credit cards. We used cash a lot but whilst our bank advised they would all be chip and pin, we found where we did use a credit card it was swipe and signature and only once using a pin and never a chip. We never ended up using an ATM but others on assorted websites give advice in this regard eg only some accept foreign cards (such as Citibank).

5. Our “Travel sim” for mobile phone calls worked but only on one of our newer phones (Nokia E71).

6. We found western toilet options everywhere we went, always with paper, running water and often soap and sometimes antiseptic wash as well. Disney has antiseptic wash as well as soap in all toilets. All were very clean. Many in department stores, major tourist venues etc had hand dryers (Dyson style now popular here in Aus). The Japanese still do carry their little hand towels with them but only once or twice at temples did we find we needed something with which to dry our hands. Many toilet seats were heated (luxury!) and where not, like in our machiya, they have fuzzy toilet seat covers instead.



My hubby wouldn’t let me buy one eg from Tokyu Hands or Passport to bring home. I thought it a great idea for winter nights! We were also impressed many fast food outlets, even MacDonalds (yes we succumbed), had a hand basin and soap in the corner of the store for hand washing.

7. The food was excellent, always served tongue burning hot and most often cooked while you wait, even in tiny hole-in-the-wall type places. We did find when eating in restaurants that as a meal was ready it was served, so if my hubby (most often) ordered a simpler meal than my daughter and I he got his and had eaten it by the time my and my daughter’s were served-not the concept of serve all persons at once as we have in the west but it meant food was wonderfully hot. We also almost always were given iced water automatically as they do in the US (or serve yourself in café style places) and often wet towels or wipes. Food was also very cheap. We were eating main meals at converted Aus$6-$7-mostly bowls of ramen or udon or Japanese curry (I have become an addict-its mild compared to Indian or Thai but I love the flavours) or pasta. Tempura and rice and other seafood/meaty mains were often still only $10-12. Packets of ready made sandwiches in 7-11 type stores (Lawsons were the nicest) and department store food hall basements were normally ¥300-350 (Aus$3.50-4). Add drinks and crisps and/or a cake or tart (should have taken a pic but didn’t-Lawsons chocolate tarts were very, very yummy) and lunches/light dinners were $8-$10/person. Italian cafes and restaurants were everywhere-I think of Japan I think Italian now. Perhaps because pasta resembles noodles. It was always very good.

8. On the topic of water (well we were some sentences ago), we are on rain water tanks at home and find Brisbane and surrounding areas water intolerable. The water in Kyoto and across the south and west was like drinking our rain water-tasted good and didn’t upset our stomachs as changing water often does for us. Tokyo wasn’t as good but still wasn’t bad. Meant we saved money on not buying bottled water.

That’s all I can think of for now. Onto the trip report. Advance apologies food porn is limited-as always we simply forget or the pics came out too bad. I am doing this out of order since it is the Disboards after all-and starting with our last 2 days at Disney Sea and Disneyland then I will double back to Kyoto, Kanazawa and Tokyo.

Day 1 Travel Day
Day 2 Kyoto Southern Higashiyama Part 1
Day 2 Cont.
Day 3 Arashiyama and Kinkakuji
Day 4 Hikone and Kiyomizu light-up
Day 5 Nara
Day 5 Nara continued
Day 6 Kyoto-Fushimi-Inari, Ginkakuji, Shoren-in light-up in 3 parts
Day 7 We leave Kyoto-NOT
Day 8 Kanazawa at last
Day 9 In and around Kanazawa
Day 10 Off to Tokyo
Day 11 In Tokyo-cherry blossom!
Day 12 Sunday in Tokyo and off to Disney
Day 13 Disney Sea part 1
Day 13 Part 2 DisneySea cont.
Part 3 Disneysea
Day 14 Disneyland Part 1
Day 14 Disneyland Part 2
Day 14 Disneyland part 3 to home
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Last edited by Aussie Wendy; 06-10-2012 at 06:19 AM. Reason: Add some info
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Old 04-19-2012, 07:30 PM   #2
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Monday 9 April Disneysea: morning

Despite checking calendars just before we left, found out last night Disneysea was opening at 9am not 10 so set alarm for 6.30 (since not wrote yesterdays yet-we are staying at the Sheraton Tokyo Grande, a Disney Resort Official Hotel). Nice having breakfast supplies in our fridge bought from a bakery at Ikspiari last night – delicious even if cold, quiche and chocolate pastries later, we caught the monorail (love the Mickey windows and handholds!)



and got to the queue around 8.15. Quite short and not too long behind us when we were let in at 9am. Park predictions were low (17,000) and over the day it seemed to be so. They had a band playing and lots of characters out (some more unusual) but we had to pack a lot in-no time to stop! Well maybe just for one or two..









and off to Mysterious Island. The crowds either first go here or to Tower of Terror in American Waterfront but we are not fans of the latter so this made the decision easy. Some pics along the way:



Mysterious Island


It was a walk on to popular Journey to the Centre of the Earth (JTCE). This was a great ride-not too swirly for those squeamish of us. Unfortunately you don’t get all the extra story overlays with announcements in Japanese. Lovely theming of going down a mine-with mine smells-then a slow ride past crystal caverns and a mushroom forest with exotic insect life before there’s an earthquake and the car is forced off route, nearly struck by lightning, enters the heart of a volcano, is attacked by a great monster and then you make your escape on the wave of an eruption -some swerves in the dark, upwards and shoot out into daylight with a freefall-style steep drop to conclude and yes I screamed (the whole ride reminded me a lot of Splash actually-if you can ride that, ride this).





Walked on to nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which makes you think its a submarine style ride.

External loading area.



Walk on was so fast we had little time to check out Capt’n Nemo’s offices but as always with Disney, the detail was staggering. Aboard the submarine craft the ride goes through areas such as a ships’ graveyard and a giant squid which you escape by electrifying the craft but it drains your power. You can operate searchlights to pick out detail. We had side seats but as others recommend, the front seat was definitely the best view. There are a lot of funny details but you would need to re-ride several times to pick things out. After the squid encounter you sink deeper and find the remains of Atlantis (hence the ruins outside flanking the mountain and paintings in Fortress Explorations) and alien life-forms (rather cute! and link well to Indy Crystal Skull ride across in the Lost Delta). The aliens use the undersea crystals you have seen for power and they provide power to allow your craft to rise up and out of the ocean. This ride was a lot better than the Nemo submarine ride in Disneyland. As the pics show the Mysterious Island itself has wonderful sci fi theming straight out of Jules Verne, on the side of the volcano with vents steaming away and occasional eruptions above.

It was now around 10am and we hotfooted it across to the Lost Delta (sampling some caramel popcorn from Mermaid Lagoon en route-for those who don’t know each land in DisneySea has different flavoured popcorn-sweet or savoury at ¥300/box unless you buy a big souvy tub to hang around your neck and for which you can get refills).



Note the number of the plane.



Indiana Jones Temple



Indiana Jones had a wait time of 40mins so we fastpassed and spent the intervening time exploring some of the Arabian Coast and riding Sinbad.









He grunts!



Genie Flowers



Entry to Sinbad



As others have commented this ride captured my heart-I loved the music (Compass of Your Heart), I loved the story, I loved Chandhu the little tiger. It is classic animatronic characters viewed from a moving boat like It’s a Small World (with a much less annoying score). Whilst in Japanese it’s easy to follow what is going on and the settings are luscious and as always with Disney, amusing. The Arabian Coast itself reminds me of Morocco at Epcot with passageways and courtyards and sound effects.

Some shots from inside the ride.











Back we went to the Lost Delta and straight into Indiana bypassing all the queued people (is it just me that feels like royalty when riding with a FP in big queued rides?) but with only a quick glance available for the laboratories and other theming. FP mixes in close to loading the ride vehicles. This is a similar ride to Anaheim but we thought the crystal additions worked well. Good ride as always.

Continued next post
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Last edited by Aussie Wendy; 05-13-2012 at 07:18 AM. Reason: Fix photo
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Old 04-19-2012, 08:22 PM   #3
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Continued.

Hunger was calling and nearby Yukutan Grill was quiet but the meal was only so so (¥2470 for 3 with 2 drinks). The meat was not that nice – the chicken very fatty and my pork very chewy though the Mexican rice was nice. This ended up being our worst meal our whole trip.



The theming for the area being in an archeological dig was good though. Nearby Raging Spirits roller coaster was down til after lunch for some reason.
This whole area reminded us of parts of Animal Kingdom at WDW.

My husband wanted a boat ride so we caught the boat from the shantytown here around to Mediterranean Harbour. You can’t ride it all the way back-you have to get off. I walked us over to American Waterfront thinking we might be in time to queue up for the renown Big Band Beat show but there was no 12.30 show today. (Read your program correctly Wendy! You could get English programs from guest services but I made do with the Japanese version I picked up at the gates and my daughter with her high school Japanese was able to translate the show titles for us while we queued that morning.) So we took the opportunity to look around this New York City themed area and explored SS Columbia (should have had lunch here in the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge-the table service Dining Room being out of our price bracket). There are two streets-a posher shopping street and a seedier area under the bridge and near the docks-both with the usual level of amusing detail and great atmosphere that leaves Streets of America at DHS for dead. The electric trolleys that run to Port Discovery were having a temporary glitch though. I understand that if you are a fan of Tower of Terror the storyline here is very different and clever though the ride is similar. There are links to the story all over the park.

The SS Columbia



Promenading



A Titanic moment



Inside heading up to the SS Columbia dining room



View form the deck



Side view of the Tower of Terror



We however strolled back to Mediterranean Harbour and queued 15 mins for a gondola ride since due to an upset stomach my daughter missed an authentic one in Venice on a holiday several years ago. Fun-they even sang (excellent voice!) under the concrete bridges as they do in Venice. Whilst small this area feels just like parts of Venice did.







My daughter then demanded strawberry popcorn which required a trip over to Port Discovery and my hubby and I had a Mickey bar each before walking back over the Florentine Ponte Vecchio to find a seat to watch the Mythica show in Mediterranean Harbour.

Hubby found the concrete steps too hard with a dodgy back and stood at the back but my daughter and I settled down for about 20 mins. Some people had queued for the last hour but there really was no need. Mythica was fantastic-loved the floats, the energy, the music. Can’t believe how high the extension pillars could go on the boats and incorporated lots of mythical creatures (unicorn, phoenix, dragon, hydra) as well as Disney favourites like Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and the chipmunks (the Japanese appear to love them). On a side note we did find that the Japanese don’t do the princesses nearly as much as in the US-as not lovers of the princesses we found this a good thing-but interesting to note. A selection of pics





















We now should have explored the fortress in daylight however instead we made our way back to Port Discovery via Cape Cod-the home of Duffy and Shellie May. A small area, this was very pretty and more pics were required of course. I caved and bought a mini Duffy.

Cape Cod village



Shellie May's House ( think)



Celebrating Spring



A rabbit-(I have no idea of her name?)



A mini Duffy saying goodbye to his home for the long trip back to Aus



Continued next post.
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Last edited by Aussie Wendy; 05-13-2012 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 04-19-2012, 08:49 PM   #4
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continued part 3

Port Discovery had more steam punk style theming. We rode Aquatopia-more fun than I expected as boats are controlled by a computer and go every which way.





Stormrider was next-a rather old-style simulation ride where you are launching a rocket to break up a typhoon and it all goes horribly wrong. Star Tours in 3D has ruined us! However if here for the first time I would still ride once.



Still had to fit in Mermaid Lagoon so off we went. Lovely theming again here. But first some pics I missed earlier:

In American Waterfront where they are doing the special Mickey and Duffy Spring Voyage show we missed.



A view of Med. Harbour since don't think have included one so far


On the Arabian Coast the genie gets a bear too





Only had about a 15min wait for Mermaid Theatre and the story of Ariel-Japanese style (where she stays in the sea). Told with an actor and puppets, including many aerial stunts, this was an excellent show. Interestingly the songs were in English but the dialogue in Japanese. We didn’t feel the need for an English translation device though I have read you can get them. Afterwards we explored this wonderful “undersea” world. The rides are mostly for children though there are swirling teacups (the whirlpool), Jumping Jellyfish that looked fun as you rise and fall in a carriage gently and Blowfish Balloon Race-a suspended carriage roundabout ride. Ariel’s playground is also not to be missed for adults too including her room of treasures with lots of fun surprises-watch out for the one way mirror and sharks.









Sebatians Calypso Kitchen (pizza emphasis)


There are also two rides outside-a small roller coaster (like the one in Toontown) and Skuttles Scooters that was closed for refurbishment.

It was getting dark. We had earlier picked up another FP for JTCE so we set off to use it before eating but no need, standby was less than 20 mins. Enjoyed the ride again and then back to Cape Cod as we fancied the menu. No show was on while we were there but we enjoyed the quiet and our burgers and fries were excellent (tried chicken, beef and fish respectively, total ¥1820 for 2 “sets” with fries and a drink and my stand alone fish burger). I bought a chocolate mousse in a souvenir china Easter cup for desert (¥600).



Then we headed out to explore the Fortress. My daughter and I especially had a ball here-lots of passageways and battlements and towers with interesting things to find though I was disappointed the chamber of planets was closed. Lots more brilliant photo ops but a bit dark unfortunately.







We were still here when Fantasmic was almost ready (8.00pm) so stayed to watch. Though “behind” the set could still see a lot of the show and there were so many differences to make it almost a different show to the US. My husband and daughter are not big fans of the US ones though thought the Anaheim version better than WDW. This was better again especially as many images were beamed onto inflated balloons on board boats rather than onto water that we found in the US moved too much with the wind to see properly. If we return I would make the effort to watch from the front. We stayed for the fireworks-very short and low key as I had read -and then explored the last of this area including the boat that creaked as you walked below decks and I am sure had a lot more to discover if only we had the time!!!











Now we had to hustle and did a walk through of the entire park to see it in its evening finery.
Med Harbour


SS Columbus


Indy's Temple at night


Raging Spirits roller coaster


The rest of the family was starting to lag but fitted in another ride on Sinbad and a ride on the carousel (double decker-up top of course!). It was very quiet and a walk-on to any ride if you had the energy to race around the park. We exited around 9.50, 10 mins before closure-totally exhausted but exhilarated and whilst it might sound like it, it did not feel like a rushed day at all.



Lurkeyloo’s report as well as Jack’s over at Allears (from 2008) has some excellent descriptions and photos of the park if anyone is interested. Those in the know will note we missed the special Mickey and Duffy Spring Voyage Show that was held in 3 variations in 3 different ports twice a day when we were there- had every good intention of catching at least part of one performance but failed. People were queuing for ages to see these and with so much to see with just one day in a new park it just didn’t happen. There’s always future trips and new shows! I have been trying to find a Youtube of them though to see what we missed. Judging by the other shows the standard would be superb.

Tomorrow Disneyland for 2/3 day.
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Last edited by Aussie Wendy; 05-11-2012 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 04-20-2012, 01:04 AM   #5
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Thanks so much AussieWendy -

Fantastic Photos - looks like one day is not enough!!

Looking forward to the rest of your TR.
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Old 04-20-2012, 01:22 AM   #6
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I have so many questions, I am considering Japan next April.

Weather??

Crowds?

I dont know if you have been following my thread on the Aussie board - due to school holidays, we cannot travel until Wed 10th of April, prime Cherry Blossom time is the first week in April, I am hoping to spend the first few days in Tokyo central - do you think there will be Cherry Blossom festivities still going after the 10th - we will then move to the Disney area on the 15th to avoid weekend crowds. Did you spend time in the parks in Tokyo?
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Old 04-20-2012, 02:15 AM   #7
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Dang! Just noticed this now.

Subbing in and will come back and read later.
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:45 AM   #8
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I'm just too impatient for the rest of the TR.

Did you stay at the Sheraton for the whole time in Tokyo? I have been looking for accommodation for our family of five, looks like anywhere in central Tokyo would require two rooms - but we can all fit in one at the Sheraton, (might be a bit ) but that is looking like the most economical option.

Will it be easy enough to travel to the main sites in the rest of the city from there? ,
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Old 04-20-2012, 06:11 PM   #9
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Battiemum hi
I had seen your post quicky on the Aus board and planned to add a few things that I had researched before we went but didn't have time.

Onto your questions-the Sheraton was good-consistent with others and you will not find anywhere I doubt, as spacious in Tokyo itself-maybe if you found a self contained apartment but our machiya in Kyoto was also tiny. Though we would fit 3 in the double bedded Sheraton room, I booked online through a wotif.com special and when we arrived they had placed a third single bed in the room which we didn't need but you would. We still had plenty of space compared to what we had been getting! though a bit squishy to sit around the small table and 2 chairs so yes it will be a bit squishy for 5 of you but prob your best bet. I have just checked our pics and can't believe we never took a pic looking from the door down the room which would have shown it so well-bugger bugger! I thought we had.

Weather-we had the gamut-warm and sunny (T shirt and jeans weather) and we got unexpectedly quite sunburnt, sunny but cold (light jacket), freezing (thicker jacket-I was pleased I took it with us-you will see us in it in the pics I put up as I double back to the start-but we are from Qld), torrential rain/blizzardy. Kyoto weather think Melbourne-it can be sunny and warm when you head out sightseeing and pouring rain and freezing a few hours later. I knew Kanazawa on the west coast could be cold and they have had a heavy long winter with snow only a few days earlier (hence in part train cancellations). Tokyo was more moderate-warm but mild in the sun, coming in cool late afternoon. So depending on where you plan to go definately layers and maybe one light and one medium jacket (a pain but we just carried it over our arms on planes etc). Try and pack light-you will no doubt be lugging cases on public transport and there are lots of long corridors and escalators and in hotels relatively small lifts. More importantly there isn't the space in the rooms to put lots of luggage. We always had some hanging space and hangers and every hotel seemed to have coin operated laundries so washing and drying was easy (being at the end of the trip we didn't need one then not sure if the Sheraton did.)

Cherry blossom season was a bit late this year due to weather. Only a few were just opening in Kyoto when were there but by the time we got to Tokyo (7th 8th) Ueno Park and Asakusa were out in full. Its a double barreled sword really though-you have never seen so many people as cherry blossom time. I mean wall to wall. We never got to Sensoji temple-the approach was too packed cheek to jowl. We visited Ueno first-got there around 9am and it was getting busy but walkable-thankful we did-later it would have been impossible-so catching the start or the end of the season might not be a bad thing. Japan Guide (an invaluable website) gives special cherry blossom updates so you will be able to check before you go what's happening where and pick the best place to go to see them even if its the later blooming varieties. You may be too late if its early next year or in time if more like this year.

Provided you avoid Spring Break and Golden Week (google the dates for next year-Spring Break finished 8 April this year and Golden Week was right at the end of the month into early May) April is a quiet time for the parks. Weekends are always busier of course so weekdays are best. Def. need 2 days for Disney Sea. Disneyland whatever you usually spend-one to two days. Disneyland apparently is always busier than Disneysea. As always make judicious use of FP, get the kids up early and get to the parks early because like the US the first 2-3 hours are very quiet so good to hit the popular rides and spend the busy time having a rest at the hotel or watching the shows which are especially good at the Tokyo parks. Buy a monorail multiday pass to save $ for the days you stay-I didn't realise til we arrived you can buy 3 or 4 day passes. At Y250/ride a 3 day pass for Y1100 is worth it (a 2 day is Y800). You need to catch the monorail to get to Ikspiari and the parks but can walk from the monorail station to the Sheraton-its literally across the road 5 mins (the driveway is up a bit of a hill and they also have a bus from the monorail if you did need it). The hotel had an outdoor pool that was not open early April and also an indoor one we never explored (no time). The foyer have wifi and free computers for internet and a table with PSP games and a big screen TV area. Several places to eat-the buffet breaky looked good but dear (I think we worked out aorund Aus$33) -if you scored a booking with breaky included that I know some people have in the past it would be good value. Ikspiari has LOTS of places to eat. We ate at Beckers burgers in Tokyo and there is a branch at Ikspiari and they are very good (and not just burgers). Ikspiari Kitchen we ate at is like a food hall but you find a seat first then go order-lots of choices and it was an excellent meal. There is a small supermarket just opposite that where you can buy breakfast/snack supplies-prices were dearer than in Tokyo itself but alright. Also some very good bakery/pastry shops where we bought some supplies from-they were excellent.

We thought if we came again would be tempting to stay at the Sheraton near the parks and just catch the train/subway into Tokyo for sightseeing (catch JR train 1 stop to Shin-Kiba then change to subway Yurakucho line total 390Y one way depending on where in Tokyo city going or catch the JR train (one change of lines) into Tokyo station Y380.) It is only about a 40 min trip from the Sheraton and took 30-40 mins to get around within Tokyo anyway depending on where we were going. The limousine bus to the airport was excellent-lose your luggage, not have to worry about getting on and off trains and subway with it, no worry about train line cancellations due to winds (Lurkyloo reported happens) and Y2400 per adult.

Have to go..will return with other thoughts etc anon!
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Old 04-20-2012, 09:02 PM   #10
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Great reviews and pictures. Next time we go to Japan I plan on spending a day at DisneySea. It was closed last year when we were there due to the earthquake so we went to Tokyo DL instead for the day.
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Old 04-21-2012, 05:57 AM   #11
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Tuesday 10 April Day 14 Disneyland.

We had to pack first and not having handy food to eat figured we would pick something up in the park (bad mistake!) We checked out and left our bags with the bellhop and got over to Disneyland on the monorail just before 9am opening. Queues were much longer here. Entry to Main Street is through ‘World Bazaar’ which is undercover (makes sense with the weather here).










We took the long way as “have” to walk through the castle the first time and then doubled back to the right hand side of Fantasyland for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. Got there 9.15 and 40 min standby that got longer by the minute. We queued for FP with a return time of 11.15-12.15. This was my choice over rushing to Monsters Inc as the film and ride has never appealed and riding it in the dark with flashlights and some additional montages instead just didn’t sound that much better though I know everyone raves. We next rode Peter Pan, 5 min wait, but it seemed much jerkier unlike the US rides that I found detracted from it a bit, though it is still one of my fave’s. Next Haunted Mansion. This had several different things happening compared to the US rides like protruding heads from portraits-it was very good. Wished we could have understood the lengthy Japanese spiel at the end after the ghost hitches a lift though.









I would then have liked to do some more short rides whilst the park was relatively quiet (around 10.15ish now) but I had family dying of hunger so we tried to find some easy snack type food nearby to keep us going-all we could find was not yet open restaurants and popcorn. Had a hungering for a hot dog really and saw people eating them. Should have headed back to World Bazaar but for some strange reason on the way swerved right into Critter Country and the closer parts of Adventureland. Amazed that people were already lining up along the parade route though it didn’t start til 11.30am. In the end my daughter got a smoked chicken leg that she said was quite good and me and hubby had a Mickey shaped steamed pork and chicken teriyaki bun each (each item ¥400) -



I liked the fact the pork filled his ears and the chicken his face! We had a quick look around and decided the Tiki room in Japanese would be too hard unless we got a translation device and the jokes on the Jungle Cruise would be lost on us-queues for the latter were growing too. Pirates was closed for refurb for a month. I should have picked up a FP for Splash Mountain but just wasn’t organised today –and really it was meant to be a walk around and look at the differences day.

Here's the Tiki Room and an Easter Stitch.




Heading back towards Fantasyland for our Pooh ride we saw no queues for Cinderella’s fairytale hall inside the castle so nipped in. Lovely walk-through viewing the story of Cinderella in miniature dioramas all made in different materials-metal, clay, paper etc. Also her throne room with photo opps on her chair!











View from the Fantasyland side of the castle-the door to the right and steps is the exit from the Cinderella walk through



Snow White and 7 Easter eggs?



Came out and indulged in some honey popcorn (yum)-queues for Pooh were now around 60 mins standby. We walked in with our FP, though a longer FP queue than normal, they join you early so you also get to appreciate Christopher Robin’s garden and shed and the internal storybook pages. The ride was fantastic. They really ought to replace Anaheim’s with it. It just has a ton of extra elements that makes it very good-bouncing on the spot, whirling about, a cannon that goes off in your face with the smell of burnt honey... If we had longer I would have loved to have ridden it at least twice.












to be continued next post
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Old 04-21-2012, 06:16 AM   #12
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We got out and because the parade starts the other side of Fantasyland and curves around to Toontown we were in time. Hubby even nabbed a proper seat behind those seated on the ground. I found a place on the ground a few rows back. We were very entertained by the cast members-they had this song and cute actions - that EVERYONE in the crowd did and this wonderful deep-almost sinister- Japanese voice calling out instructions and Happy Easter (you had to be there). The Parade when it reached us around 12 noon was great-good bouncy music, big colourful floats, lots of different characters like Winnie the Pooh, Toy Story, A Bugs Life, 3 Little Pigs, Alice in Wonderland, Huey, Dewey and Luey, Monsters Inc, Stitch, and Mickey of course (he changed costumes and floats). Every character in Japan seems to have a girlfriend or boyfriend-Stitch, Duffy, rabbits, Donald and Daisy, Mickey and Minnie.

Here is a selection of pics.


































And Its A Small World Clock en route to lunch telling us it was 12.15.



After the parade we headed into the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall for lunch. Very efficient process given its size and lovely décor. I was just starting to feel a little “off” and as much as I would have liked a souvenir heart dish with cake for desert felt like I couldn’t face another sweet thing so passed it by. The unbirthday cakes were popular. My hubby and I got the crumbed fish and vegies and my daughter soup and salad. It was very good. I also love the ginger ale they sell throughout Japan as a soft drink option-not like our ginger ale-bit gingery, bit lemonadish.











Some more Easter egg characters around Fantasyland



View from the balcony before descending the steps of the castle (sorry missed this earlier).



continued next post
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Old 04-21-2012, 06:31 AM   #13
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Feeling full we sat and watched Mickey’s Philharmagic after dinner (with only a 10 min wait). Forgotten how good this is as missed it last US park trip. When we came out we thought we would have a wander through Toontown and walk clockwise around the park. Throughout the day we kept spotting the Easter egg characters-there was a competition with a map you could do-easy or expert level and receive a prize. We found so many I think we should have entered but being all in Japanese and only having 2/3 of a day figured it would be too hard.

I have posted some-here's a couple more





Toontown contained much the same items as the US (Roger Rabbits Cartoon Spin was closed for maintenance) but I liked the layout-more spacious with room to move and Mickey and Minnie’s houses and Donald’s Boat tucked down a side lane.





This blew smoke whenever anyone purchased from the vending machine-but pic snapped too late.


On our way towards Tomorrowland they were filling the theatre for One Man’s Dream II so we nipped in. In busier times entrance is only by ballot. This is one of Disney’s singing and dancing spectaculars and started with B & W Mickey, then various excerpts including a Jungle Book song and dance with Louie, Its A Bugs Life flea circus, Maleficent and Claude Follo from Hunchback villain’s piece with red cloaked monks and wonderfully creepy spiders, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and a grand Hollywood spectacular with Mickey in top hat and tails.



















After this finished we continued through Tomorrowland where Star Tours is closed for the big 3D additions. Space Mountain was only a 30min queue. Not as popular here at all so be a good opportunity for those who like to ride it. I was feeling seedy so definitely no (and also reluctantly knew no go for Splash Mountain.) Buzz had long queues. We did some shopping in World Bazaar and sat a bit for me before checking out the lake in Westernland. They had operating canoes-never seen them in action in the US-not even sure if they still have them now but they were always closed in our 1980’s visits. Would have been fun to have a go but no time left. Also looked longingly at Tom Sawyer Island from afar (and picked up a map-neat souvenir). You could see how the Splash queues wind around outside through obviously themed areas-darn it! I have read that it is very good with extras compared to the US parks.











A character you don't often see coming off meet and greets.


But it was time for us to leave and catch the limousine bus out to the airport for our evening flight home.

On the way out:







It was good having a look at this version of Disney and definitely had much the same park “feel” to it despite the Japanese language differences. One to remember!
The rest of the day was typical. The bus trip went smoothly and an easier way to get to the airport without messing about with multiple trains and worrying about them being cancelled due to winds! (¥2400 per adult). It only took an hour and that included circling around the Disney Resort Hotels. At the airport we could check our bag through and explore. There were tons of great places to eat and shop -I love Narita airport! (LAX could learn something). I was feeling better but wanted something plain to eat – lots of places had sandwiches and I had a delicious crispy ham and cheese baguette and a cup of hot (black) tea. Perfect. My daughter indulged in a huge bowl of soba noodles and there were lots of other options-traditional Japanese ramen and udon, curries, sushi and shashami, salads, pastas, meats and rice, pizza and burgers. Bought some chocolates and biscuits for work gifts (and found even cheaper ones once we passed through immigration into the boarding area).

The flight was not full so we had a row of 4 sets between 3 of us-nice as gave us a little room to stretch out. We were in the first half of economy. Further back I noticed a few lucky people had 1 to 4 to lie down and sleep. We didn’t order any food knowing being an overnighter we wouldn’t want anything (and only a 7 hr trip) but we did prebook an ipad so could watch movies (ticked off The Kings Speech and Hugo). As the general drop down TV viewing was not working for half the trip this was good as none of us sleep on planes. However there was a glitch to start with as there was some medical emergency on board just after we were loaded and a long wait on the tarmac whilst a doc and the captain ran to and fro. Eventually a family with a young child were escorted off the plane but of course had to wait for their baggage to be unloaded. Not sure what the problem was, I presume the child was ill. So an hour late we set off. For us it meant we had less time to hang about Cairns airport waiting for our connecting flight to the Gold Coast (which was not til 11am) but there were passengers stressing out with immediate connecting fights south. Immigration was super fast but customs took forever with long queues backing up (I kept thinking of our Russian dude from Kansai complaining). Cairns airport doesn’t offer a lot of options but we found a café for toasties and coffee and an hour later were able to lose our baggage and go through to the domestic departures where there were a lot more options for eating and sitting. The rest of the flight went smoothly and in no time we were picking up our car from long term parking where our daughter had parked it, collected our pup (well old dog really) from a friend’s where he had been as usual spoilt to bits and manicured, clipped and washed, and home safe and sound.

This was our loot from our entire trip (including gifts) (not the black dog-he is my daughters mascot and goes on every hols with her).

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Old 04-21-2012, 05:56 PM   #14
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Wed 28 March Day 1 Travel Day

I had scored cheap business class airfares to Kansai airport (near Osaka) with Jetstar from the Gold Coast. As we live on the outskirts of Brisbane with no public transport getting to this airport is not much more difficult than getting to Brisbane’s. Our daughter was unable to join us for the first few days due to Uni commitments so we ended up hiring a car for 24 hours that my husband collected on Tuesday after work and we drove it one way down to the airport Wednesday morning ($60) which meant she was able to drive our car down and park in long-stay when she left on the Sunday. (The train and bus combo didn’t get in early enough Sundays-OT note there are limited transport options to get from Brissie to the GC though several private mini buses if you want to get from Brisbane airport to GC hotels!)

Everything went smoothly-we didn’t have to get up at a disgusting hour, were driving against the peak hour traffic and got to the airport in a bit over an hour. Checked our one bag in and headed through bag checks. Lots of places to eat in this part of the airport but much more limited (and dear) once you go through immigration to the final international departure area so texted this info thorugh to our daughter who will no doubt want breaky Sunday having come straight from a party Sat night!

We found business class on Jetstar to be in many ways similar to economy on the “good” airlines like Singapore and Maylasian though the seats were wider with a bit more tilt. We were offered complimentary champagne or orange juice and hot towels immediately and given bottles of water after take-off (which we didn’t get-had to buy bottled water in economy on the way home unlike my “good” airlines -note). Lunch was served early, only about an hour after take-off and sorry I didn’t take pics of this or the seats (realised I should have!) The meal was excellent-prob best plane meal I have had (but I have never travelled business class before. I had pork braised in dashi broth, mirrin and sake with rice and veg which was so good and hubby had a Japanese curry and rice. I loved the fact the tray had a linen tablecloth and silver cutlery. We got handed our iPads for entertainment next with a reasonable selection of new and classic movies and some TV but nowhere near the range you get on the “major” international airlines. Desert was offered at the same time-choice of cheese and fruit platter or a very yummy passionfruit cheesecake. The disadvantage of iPads rather than in seat entertainment is when you eat you have to try and put them somewhere (eg on your lap under the tray) and ditto when getting up to go to the loo. Its about a 9 hour flight to Osaka from Coolangatta but we did in in just over 8hrs. We didn’t have a window seat unfortunately-we had 2 of the three middle seats. I had an elderly Japanese lady next to me who needed a lot of help working her iPad. It was a bit of a bumpy flight but not too bad. We were served a light meal before landing-stirfry noodles that were very good (or I think a chicken and rice dish) and icecream.

We landed about 45 mins ahead of schedule and at the same time as several other planeloads so immigration was long-not quite as bad as our 2005 wait at Heathrow with elderly parents or Attaturk at Istanbul last year that takes the prize so far. ( They move parents with young children to the front of the queues-why don’t they ever offer this assistance to the obviously very elderly. I think they need it even more-my mum nearly collapsed in 2005). We were however highly entertained by this big Russian dude. He was with his family and he went off his rocker-he started yelling out first, then he jumped out of the queue and went to find an official and started abusing them in broken English about how incompetent they all were, how there was all these guys doing nothing in baggage claims and only 5 booths open at immigration, how they were fools, on and on. They ended up taking him away and I thought they’ve arrested him, but no, he came back and for an hour continued to roam around the area remonstrating with all and sundry, waving hands and arms about and snapping photos on his phone right, left and centre despite the large NO PHOTO signs everywhere. If it had been Australia I am sure he would have been arrested and he and his family sent back. When his family finally reached the booths he walked across the front and joined them. I give the Japanese 10/10 for forbearance on this one!

Finally we were out and met with a guy with a sign with our name to take us down to the MK Shuttle which we had arranged to get us to our little machiya in Kyoto. We had about another 40 min wait til our minibus was ready to leave. It was jammed full but we had a good conversation with a nice local boy studying his PhD in anthropology at Kyoto University who spent 6 months per year on field trips in Syria and Egypt and could also speak and write fluent French and Arabic.

Our bus was met in a little street by Acco, the owner of the Machiya we had rented. Machiya are traditional wooden townhouses, tiny with shop fronts that faced the road and living quarters behind and above and in Kyoto many have been restored and renovated. Ours was down a tiny lane off one of the main streets leading up to Kiyomizu-dera (temple) in the Southern Higashiyama district. It was very cold after Brissie and though it was by now around 11pm Acco took her time to show us all around the machiya, how to work all the zillions of heaters in all the rooms and give us sightseeing info.

We fell instantly in love with the place despite the steep stairs up to our bedroom (meaning a steep trip to the loo downstairs during the night) and the tatami room. We chose the western bedroom-our daughter would have a futon on the tatami when she arrived and we crashed snug under a pile of quilts.
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Old 04-21-2012, 06:05 PM   #15
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Finally catching up on all your wonderful details in the TR. It sounds like you had a great time in TDL.

I'm really interested to read this....after our trip to HK, my DS now has the aim to see all 5 castles. I think my job as a parent is now complete.
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