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Old 07-28-2013, 10:16 PM   #1
pacdomer
Earning My Ears
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Trip Report: Japan with my folks (July 2013)

I have gotten a lot of great info here and have enjoyed reading the many trip reports, so I would like to share one from my trip to Japan earlier this month.

Background
This was my third visit to Japan and TDR but my first time with traveling companions - in this case my traveling companions were my parents. Our trip was 11 days in total (including flying from/to the East Coast of the US) and covered Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Tokyo Disney Resort, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island.

Wednesday, July 3
We arrived at Narita around 5pm and were able to get out of customs quickly. Our first stop was the JR office to pickup our JR Pass (for later in the trip) and a NEX combo pack. We then made our way to our hotel, the Century Southern Tower Shinjuku. The hotel was quite nice and very near Shinjuku Station so it made getting around quite easily. Our only hitch was trying to find the hotel lobby. The hotel shares the building with an office tower so when we entered the lobby, we saw signs that the hotel lobby was on the 18th (?) floor. We just couldn't find the right elevator bank to get there! After a few minutes and nearly ending up in the parking garage, someone pointed to the correct elevator bank and we were back on track. By the time we got to our room, it was about 8pm. My mother was tired from the trip from the East Coast so she decided to call it a day. My dad on the other hand wanted to walk around so luckily, I had a plan already in place. We took about a 10-15 minute walk over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. There is an observation deck on the 45th floor and even better, it is FREE. The views of Tokyo at night were excellent and there are some gift shops up there so we were occupied for almost an hour. Then we made a stop at the Family Mart convenience store to pick up some provisions on our way back to the hotel.

Here is a view of Tokyo by night from the Metropolitan Government Building



Thursday, July 4
We woke up bright and early to make it to our first stop - the Tokyo Skytree. I had read that the size of the lines can be unpredictable and since our day was scheduled to the last minute, it was important for us to not be delayed for hours at the Skytree. Unfortunately I managed to get us lost on the Metro so instead of getting to the Skytree by 7:30 for an 8:30 opening, we got to the Skytree at 8:15. Luckily, we were able to walk right up to the ticket booth and then straight up to the observation level within 10 minutes! The view of Tokyo was impressive from the Skytree and would have been even more impressive if it had not been slightly overcast. There are two primary levels of observation decks at the Skytree with the second, or Tembo Galleria, requiring an additional admission. We went for both to see as much as possible. To be honest, the second level was not really necessary. You walk along a sloping walkway as you get higher and higher but the view looks pretty much the same as it did 100 meters below.



The Tembo Galleria (450 meters):


Back at 350 meters, there is a glass bottom floor:


The view from 350 meters:



After leaving the Skytree we made our way to the Ginza section of Tokyo. We got there by 9:45 so that we could purchase single act tickets at Kabuki-za. Kabuki shows normally take hours (5 or so) but on the day of a performance, you can line up for single act tickets. Since the first act that day was only 45 minutes, we opted to purchase tickets for the first three acts which would take about 2 hours. The show that day was about a Princess who was killed and came back as a ghost to exact her revenge. There was also other storylines about treachery and backstabbing in the royal court. I found the whole thing interesting and need to do some research to find out how it ends. Kabuki is not for everyone as my father took a nap during the performance (mom enjoyed it).



Once we left the theater, we needed to find some lunch so we headed to the foodhall at the Matsuya department store. We strolled the food hall for a while trying to decide what everything was and what we wanted to eat. After picking out some goodies, we hit the streets to try and find somewhere to eat our bounty. Unfortunately there were no benches or parks nearby so we headed to our next destination - Ueno Park. There we found plenty of spots to sit and eat our meals! Once our stomachs had been appeased, we headed to the Ueno Zoo. My main point in taking the folks to the zoo was so that they could see the Pandas. Unfortunately only one panda was on view when we got there, but we spent a while watching the panda move around and eat. We then spent some time exploring the rest of the zoo. I have to agree with some of the comments I have seen online in that some of the habitats at the zoo are a bit small and "concrete", but they do have a nice selection of animals and we did not have enough time to see everything as the zoo was closing at 5pm.








From the zoo, we hopped on the Metro again and headed to Shibuya. I wanted my parents to experience Shibuya crossing. Instead of heading straight to the crossing, we found a vantage point in the station where we could watch the a few "crossings" take place. We then headed down to ground level and visited with Hachiko before entering the crosswalk. We walked around Shibuya for a while and stopped at a couple of shops (shamefully we skipped the Disney Store) before making our way back to the station and Shinjuku. We had an early morning on Friday so we stopped at a convenience store and picked up dinner there to take back to our hotel room.

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Old 07-28-2013, 10:21 PM   #2
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Friday, July 5 - Saturday, July 6
The day that I was most looking forward to and dreading at the same time was here! We were going to attempt to climb to the top of Mount Fuji! I was a little intimidated as it was only the 5th day of the hiking season, so the weather was unpredictable and I wanted to make sure that my parents did not overdo it in the attempt. We stopped at a convenience store (we did that a lot on this trip) to pick up water and other provisions to use during the hike before making our way to the Shinjuku Bus Terminal. I had made reservations before heading to Japan and it was a good thing that I did as the bus was sold out. It was about a 2.5 hour trip to the 5th Station. When we got off the bus, the first thing we noticed was how windy and much cooler it was up there, so we put on the first of three layers of clothes that we brought with us. We then walked around the fifth station for a while, looking in the shops, buying walking sticks and lunch. We set out on our hike around 1:15pm. We took our time and hiked for about 6 hours which got us as far as the 8th station. The hike was a bit exhausting to be honest, there were parts that were easy and parts that were difficult, rocky and vertical (not pure vertical, but you were climbing). We stopped at a hut and decided to spend the night there. The huts are very much like a hostel - everyone was in a single room in gigantic bunk beds (about 7 people across). We slept in sleeping bags that were provided by the hut. Not exactly a comfortable night's sleep, especially since we were still in our clothes.

During the course of the night, the weather took a turn for the worse and it rained and the wind howled. We wanted to see the sunrise from the summit, but as the night went by, I decided that was not going to happen as we would have had to leave the hut by 2am and the weather was not cooperating. At just before 4:30 the staff woke everyone up and invited us to see the sunrise from the walkway in front of the hut. It was raining but the sun did peek out of the clouds for us to see. To be honest, it was quite beautiful as the entire sky turned orange for a while before the sun made an appearance. It was now decision time. Do we continue or do we make our way back down the mountain? My father wanted to make it to the summit, so the decision was to carry on. Cut forward three hours and we made it to the summit! It was windy, misty, cold and difficult, but we made it.

We rested for about 45 minutes and ate at a shop at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately in that time, the weather took a turn for the worse. The wind gusts got extremely strong and forced us to turn back every time we tried to get to the descending route. Compounding the wind problem was the fact that in the gusts were small chunks of volcanic rocks. We were getting pelted!!! We decided to try and wait out the weather at the hut where we had rested earlier. After an hour of no change, we decided to try going down via the ascending route. After a slow 40 minutes, the weather changed up and we made a connection to the descending route. It took us another 2.5 hours to get back to the fifth station and civilization! We were all tired, the folks were a little bruised from a tumble in the strong wind and I had a mild case of altitude sickness, but we reveled in the knowledge that we made it to the summit. Our next few days would be more relaxing as we were headed to TOKYO DISNEY RESORT!!!! We all slept on the bus ride back to Shinjuku. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at.... a convenience store. We couldn't bear the thought of going to a restaurant in our tired and stinky condition.













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Old 07-28-2013, 10:59 PM   #3
pacdomer
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Sunday, July 7
We woke up at 7am and proceeded to check out of our hotel. We then made our way via Metro to Maihama and Tokyo Disney Resort. We used the Resort Welcome Center to drop off our luggage and pick up our park tickets (we opted for the three day ticket that allows for hopping each day). Then it was off to Beckers for some nourishment. I had never eaten at Beckers before and was quite pleased with the selection and cost.

Since it was the last day of the Tanabata Festival, we made Disneyland our first destination. We watched for a while as people placed their wishes on the bamboo display in the World Bazaar. We then walked around the castle area before heading to Westernland to find a spot to watch the Tanabata Greeting "parade". We had about a 20 minute wait but since the sun was blazing, we stood under an awning until the "parade" started. I put the word parade in quotes because the Tanabata Greeting is not a true parade in that there were no major floats. But you did get to see Minnie and Mickey being carted around in rickshaws. The fab five were there and they were dressed in Japanese clothing and some of the Princesses were present with their Princes. Love was in the air!














After the Tanabata Greeting we left Disneyland and headed to Tokyo DisneySea via the monorail. Since we were staying at the Ambassador, the trip on the monorail was on our dime. :-( I wanted the majority of our first day to be at Tokyo DisneySea as that park would be completely new to my parents. An interesting note, as my parents are in their 70's, this trip would not be full of rides as they are not as interested in them as they used to be.




Upon entering TDS, we decided to go in a counterclockwise direction and made Mermaid Lagoon our first stop. After looking around we went to catch the Little Mermaid Show and remembered to ask for a translator before entering the theater. We all enjoyed the production ( a lot of aerial action) but found the change in the movie plot a little strange.






From Mermaid Lagoon, we headed for the Arabian Coast and the Magic Lamp Theater. Again, we got a handy dandy translator for the Aladdin show without Aladdin(I guess I should call it the Genie show). The show was a nice mix of live action and film but I felt like everything was not captured on the translators because the cast seemed to be making jokes that weren't on the translators. Either way, it was an okay show.






From there we continued in the Arabian Coast and took a ride on the Adventures of Sinbad. It was a nice escape from the heat and I like the music on the ride.









From there we headed to Port Discovery and had some strawberry popcorn while we waited on line for Stormrider - which my parents LOVED! We then hit up Aquatopia and then watched a band perform. They were great! They asked the crowd to name their favorite Disney movies and then played a song from those movies. In between they played parts of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)". It was totally entertaining.

A Minnie popcorn bucket for sale at Port Discovery:





Next on our hit list was the Lost River Delta and a performance of Mystic Rhythms. We thought this was a really well done production and were impressed by how the performers danced with vigor through water, on swinging vines, etc. It was a unique show that we could see over and over.

From the Lost River Delta we took a walk to the American Waterfront. On our way there, we stopped at Cape Cod and Aunt Peg's so I could explain to my parents the Duffy & Shellie May phenomenon (at least in Japan). They were thoroughly amused, especially later in the trip when we saw folks having meals with their Duffy and Shellie May bears. Continuing on to the American Waterfront, we arrived just in time to see a performance of A Table Is Waiting. Though we couldn't understand a word of what was being said, we enjoyed the dancing and moments of comedy. From there it was off to Mediterranean Harbor and dinner at Cafe Portofino where I had a seafood casserole that was wonderful! We ate slowly and used the time to reenergize ourselves.

Once ready to leave we headed to Mysterious Island and took a ride on 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Maybe it is because this ride is no longer available in the US or just the way it has been tweaked into a more intimate experience in Tokyo, I find this version to be quite enjoyable.

At this point as we were getting a little tired, we decided to find a spot to camp out for Fantasmic. We set up camp in the area between Mysterious Island and the Mediterranean Harbor. It was about a 40 minute wait for the start of Fantasmic which we used to talk abut everything we saw during the day. Like everything else we saw during the day, Fantasmic did not disappoint! Although, I think that we could have chosen a better vantage point as the action was visible, but it would have been nicer to see the show from the front versus the side-rear.







In my opinion, the different versions of Fantasmic each have their benefits - in Florida, I like being seated in a stadium setting so you can take in everything with great sight lines. The Anaheim version is better because of the Mark Twain (and the dragon when it works). Tokyo's version is a lot more high tech on account of the LED mountain.

Once Fantasmic was over, we were ready to head to the Ambassador Hotel to check-in and get some sleep. I love how during the check-in process everyone is escorted up to their rooms by the bellhops. It is a nice, personal touch that you don’t always get from hotels. The room was nice and spacious and it was great hitting the bed after a long day.

NEXT UP - The first day of Natsu Matsuri at Tokyo Disneyland!
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Old 07-29-2013, 09:44 AM   #4
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I like your close-ups. Seriously great and unique photos. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-29-2013, 09:10 PM   #5
pacdomer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shelemm View Post
I like your close-ups. Seriously great and unique photos. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Shelemm! I hope you enjoy the rest of the trip report!
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:28 PM   #6
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Monday, July 8
So this morning we decided to wake up when we wake up. Disneyland was opening at 9am and although it would have been great to take advantage of the 15 minute head-start for hotel guests, after our breakfast at Beckers we didn't get to the gates until 9am. Our planned first stop was Pooh's Hunny Hunt. As we walked towards the attraction, we noticed a long line near the castle so I asked a cast member what was going on and she mentioned that it was people lining up for the 11am showing of Natsu Matsuri. As an impatient New Yorker, I find it interesting how comfortable the Japanese are with waiting on line or for parades and shows! We were going to have to make due with whatever standing room area was available because we had to ride Hunny Hunt. The wait was not too long thankfully and the ride was as enjoyable as ever. After a little time for Mom in the Winnie the Pooh shop we made our way to the World Bazaar to check out the shops before camping out for the 11am Natsu Matsuri show. I must admit, between the Happiness Year and Natsu Matsuri merchandise, I went a little crazy. I thought the 30th Anniversary logo with Mickey integrated into the "0" and the Japanese influence in the Natsu Matsuri merchandise was very clever - so I had to have stuff!




At 10:30 we picked a spot pretty much dead center of the castle a bit behind the seating area. The sun was intense so my Donald Duck Natsu Matsuri towel got plenty of use. Dad borrowed the Happiness Year baseball cap that I had just purchased and Mom made due with her Disney umbrella that she purchased at DisneySea the previous day. Finally, the show began and I must say, it was SPECTACULAR. One man's opinion - Natsu Matsuri is one of the best castle shows that I have ever seen. The dancing was intense. The water effects were constant and impressive (reached as high as the top of the castle). And I loved Mickey's beating of the taiko drum at the start of the show. After seeing the show, I knew that we had to see the Soryu: The Final show in the evening as the show was supposed to also include flame effects.
















After the show we headed back to the Ambassador as Dad was feeling a little tired and his back was acting up as a result of his Mount Fuji adventure. We took a short rest and then Mom and I decided to head back to Disneyland while Dad stayed in bed. We got to Disneyland just before 2pm and decided to camp out for a great spot for the Happiness is Here parade. Would I be able to withstand a one hour wait? Luckily one of the things that I purchased earlier in the day was a 30th Anniversary nylon picnic mat (is that what they call it in Japan?). So we were able to camp out comfortably. But to answer my own question - I couldn't sit still for an hour, so I went on a popcorn run and purchased some soy sauce popcorn in a collectible Mickey popcorn bucket (it took a little while since I was looking for that specific popcorn bucket) and beverages for Mom and I.




The Happiness parade was great. I am not sure if I was drunk on soy sauce, but the floats seemed much larger than those we have in the US. The theme song of the parade also burned itself into my mind and I kept hearing it over and over even after the parade ended.
























We decided that we should head back to the hotel to check in on Dad so we walked back to the Ambassador making a stop at Bon Voyage to shop for some gifts for family members and Beckers for some dinner for dad. After checking in on dad and eating dinner with him, we we headed back to Disneyland to catch the Electrical Parade Dreamlights. Again, we got there early and scoped out a spot near the castle where we parked ourselves for about 45 minutes (there were others who had already been parked in the area for a while by the time we arrived). The Natsu Matsuri Final show was going on as we waited and we could hear the crowd gasping as fire effects went off, but we tried not to look so as not to ruin when we finally got to see the show for ourselves. Finally the electrical parade started and we were enthralled with the show. I like Tokyo's version of the electrical parade mostly because of the Genie float. I think the Genie float and its LED lights are excellent and the other floats just build upon the coolness of the parade.



Lanterns for sale:




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Old 07-29-2013, 10:30 PM   #7
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Once the parade ended we decided that it was time to head back to the Ambassador and call it a night.

NEXT UP: Day 3 at TDR and the Tokyo DisneySea Summer Festival.
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Old 07-29-2013, 11:08 PM   #8
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It's good that your dad was able to rest in the hotel that day, it was so dangerously hot! Also happy you could enjoy Natsu Matsuri! It's my favorite summer castle show too! Did you try for the lottery?

Actually, I think we must have past each other during the day. It looked like you were viewing the shows close to where my friend was. We came over to check she was doing ok a few times!

Edit: Love the Mt. fuji pics too!! Looking forward to the rest!
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Last edited by DreamSweetsLove; 07-30-2013 at 01:10 AM.
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Old 07-30-2013, 10:17 PM   #9
pacdomer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamSweetsLove View Post
It's good that your dad was able to rest in the hotel that day, it was so dangerously hot! Also happy you could enjoy Natsu Matsuri! It's my favorite summer castle show too! Did you try for the lottery?

Actually, I think we must have past each other during the day. It looked like you were viewing the shows close to where my friend was. We came over to check she was doing ok a few times!

Edit: Love the Mt. fuji pics too!! Looking forward to the rest!
Thanks for the comments DreamSweetsLove! How cool that we may have crossed paths in the park!

We did not try the lottery route but we did get to see two more shows (coming up in the next update)!
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Old 07-30-2013, 11:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pacdomer View Post

Thanks for the comments DreamSweetsLove! How cool that we may have crossed paths in the park!

We did not try the lottery route but we did get to see two more shows (coming up in the next update)!
Yeah the lottery line was insane that day and very hard to win. Even being lent extra tickets we lost! It looks like you had a good position for the show though and the photos came out great!
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Old 08-04-2013, 09:26 PM   #11
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UPDATE: TDR Day 3

Monday, July 8 Postscript
One item I forgot to mention about our day on Monday which may be useful to others is that on Monday afternoon we went to the package desk at the Ambassador hotel to have our luggage shipped to our next hotel in Kyoto. The package desk is located across from the Festival Disney shop. It seems that people primarily use this counter to ship boxes of merchandise to their homes in Japan, but you can use also ship full size luggage.
We decided to use the service because it is not fun riding the Tokyo metro during morning rush with full size luggage (I know this from experience - I had to wait for three trains before I could squeeze onto a train on a previous trip). Plus with dad’s back acting up, I wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.

The service was great, the castmember went above and beyond - she helped us fill out the documents and made sure all of our suitcases were properly tagged and sent on it’s way. It was about $60 for all three bags and the rate was based upon the size of the bag, not the weight (thank goodness). It was well worth the cost to me and would allow us to travel much more comfortably to Kyoto.


Tuesday, July 9
We woke up at a normal time on Tuesday and Mom and I decided to go on a hunt for a hot water bottle for dad's back. I also wanted to find some antacids as a friend mentioned this may help with the sharp pains I was feeling from the altitude sickness. I had checked many convenience stores since Saturday, but there seemed to be no aspirin or other basics that you find in U.S. convenience stores. So we headed to Ikspiari as I had seen a sign for a supermarket while passing through the previous day. When we got to Ikspiari and checked the directory, we saw a listing for Drug Land and decided that would be our best bet. Score! We got a disposable heating pad and some antacids.

When we got back to the Ambassador, dad said he was feeling like a stroll, so we headed back to Ikspiari in search of brunch. We eneded up at the Rainforest Cafe and found that there were slight communication problems with our waitress as she spoke no English and could not communicated everything with our little Japanese. So she got some help from a waiter who did slightly better. We wall had what I would call more Japanese offerings (rice bowls, soups, etc.) versus the standard Rainforest Cafe fare that you would find in the U.S. The meals were okay, but nothing special. After our meal, I ran an errand to the Disneyland Hotel for a friend while my parents went for a walk. We met up back at the hotel an hour later and then mom and I set out for DisneySea while dad continued his recuperation efforts.

By the time we got to DisneySea, we had about a half hour before Minnie's Tropical Splash which is the summer show in the Mediterranean Harbor. Like Natsu Matsuri, this show was full of water works which were sprayed upon the crowd liberally. There was actually a point in the show where I saw a cast member pick up a bucket, fill it with water and then douse the crowd! And they loved it! Considering how hot it was, I would have loved to jump in and get soaked, but with my camera equipment, I had to be a bit more careful about how much soaking I could allow! The show centered around Minnie, Daisy and Clarice but Mickey, Donald, and the rest of the gang made appearances. There were also cast members dancing in front of the crowd and the show overall was quite nice.





















The bucket!


Once the show ended, we stopped at the Villa Donaldo shop so that mom could take a look at the home wares. She fell in love with an Alice in Wonderland and Mrs. Potts tea pots but had to choose one. She went with the Mrs. Potts tea pot and also purchased a Chip tea cup to complete the set She later regretted not getting the Alice in Wonderland tea pot because of how unique it is - maybe she should have gotten both? LOL.




From Villa Donaldo we headed to the American Waterfront to try and get into Big Band Beat. Fortunately for us there wasn't a lottery this day and we just had to stand in line for 30 minutes, but we had Mickey and Minnie ice pops to keep us cool!



Big Band Beat was pretty entertaining. I didn't feel the singing was extraordinary, but the dancing was good and I especially got a kick from seeing Mickey play the drums. Unfortunately, photographs are prohibited during the show, so I have nothing to share.

We then headed to McDuck's to look for some gifts before we headed back to the Mediterranean Harbor to catch The Legend of Mythica. I was glad to see this daytime water show again before it ends its run in 2014. There is something very majestic about the show (probably because of the goddesses on the various floats) and the jet skis, kites and pyro add to the excellence of this show.


























Next up was the exploration of a few more shops in the Mediterranean Harbor and then back to the hotel to check in on the old man. We stopped at the Tick Tock Diner in the hotel to pick up some sandwiches for mom and dad before heading to the room. I stayed with them for 45 minutes before heading to Disneyland on my own. My goal was to see Natsu Matsuri: Soryo Kobu "The Final".
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Old 08-04-2013, 09:49 PM   #12
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UPDATE: TDR Day 3 Part 2

As soon as I got to the park, I wanted to scope out a spot to watch “The Final”. But before finding my spot, I loaded up with some soft drinks and Soy Sauce popcorn then the wait began. I had about an hour wait before the show started, but I had a pretty good spot two people back of the seating section in front of the castle. I made my mind up during the wait that I would not photograph this show because A) it was still a little light out and B) sometimes when I focus on photographing a show, I don't get to enjoy it. The show was AWESOME!!!! It seemed to be a bit of a recap of the day shows with some of the same dance numbers, but then there was a section about trying to decide on the winner of the competition before Maleficent shows up with her henchmen to cause of little havoc. I think the show was really well done and the water and fire effects were impressive.

After the first show was done, I decided to risk it and take a short walk to pick up some more soft drinks and I also tried the apple sorbet that came in an apple shaped container(I was too busy wolfing it down to take a photo). I still managed to get a great spot, but I was a little further to the right. While I was waiting for the next show, the Electrical Main Street Parade came through the castle area, so I got to enjoy it one more time... from a distance. Then it was time for one more viewing of Soryo Kobu "The Final"...




























Once the second show ended, I decided to call it a day. It would be an early morning on Wednesday to check out of our hotel and then make our way to Kyoto. So I bid Tokyo Disneyland a fond farewell.






It was definitely a different trip to the resort in that we focused primarily on seeing the different shows over the three days. It was still a fun, jam packed visit to TDR and we did not overexert ourselves in the heat. Not enough time and so much to do! I can't wait for my next trip to TDR in a few years. I will miss TDR!

UP NEXT: Playing dress up in Kyoto!
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Shanghai Disneyland: bucket list
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Old 08-06-2013, 02:40 AM   #13
DreamSweetsLove
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You must be quite tall!! Great photos of the final!! What camera and lens did you use? Looking forward to more of your trip report!
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Old 08-06-2013, 09:55 PM   #14
pacdomer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DreamSweetsLove View Post
You must be quite tall!! Great photos of the final!! What camera and lens did you use? Looking forward to more of your trip report!
LOL! Being 6' tall was tall enough to see past the few folks in front of me. But the real hero was my Canon Rebel T5i and my Vivitar 100-400mm lens.

I am glad that you are enjoying my trip report. I hope everyone gets a kick out of our first day in Kyoto!
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Shanghai Disneyland: bucket list
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Old 08-06-2013, 10:20 PM   #15
ChrisFL
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Great report so far!

I've heard of people going up Mt. Fuji but haven't seen pics before...that's awesome
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