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Tokyo Spring 2010 Day 7 (SHO ver)

23 March, 2010 by

I woke up this morning feeling under the weather, my throat was killing me and I was rather disappointed at the past days of fruitless shopping. All our troubles would soon disappear though when we stepped into DisneySea, which turned out to be the single greatest place on earth.

Switching trains.

As normal we woke up for breakfast in the morning. The forecast predicted cloudy skies today and sure enough the morning sky wasn’t as blue as past days. Getting to Disney Resort from our hotel was a little troublesome since there wasn’t any direct means. Tokyo Disney Resort is located outside Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture.

We took the JR Sobu one stop over to Ochanomizu and switched to the JR Chuo for Tokyo station. From there it was a straight train on the JR Keiyo to Maihama where the resort was located. Thanks to the efficient transport system, our total journey took us only half an hour. Also since all the trains were technically JR trains, we never had to leave the station so it only cost us 290 yen to get there.

Maihama station.

You had to take a separate service to the Disney Resorts.

It had always been a childhood dream of mine to visit Disneyland. Tokyo Disney Resort consists of the Disneyland, DisneySea, Ikspiari, 3 of the park’s own hotels and another 6 licensed hotels. While I was concerned that DisneySea didn’t sound nearly as magical as Disneyland. We decided upon visiting DisneySea today for multiple reasons. DisneySea was unique to the Tokyo resort and Wilson had already visited Disneyland in Hong Kong. MJ was more interested in DisneySea because Morning Musume’s Niigaki Risa frequented the park.

Small traces of Disneyland could be felt even inside the JR station. Just outside the station was Ikspiari, the shopping and entertainment district of Tokyo Disney Resort. We didn’t have time to check out the Disney stores here so we made haste onward. Wilson beckoned to check out the Cirque Du Soleil theater here later if we had the time.

While we were already inside Tokyo Disney Resort, due to its distance, getting to the DisneySea entrance by foot wasn’t a good idea so we opted to take the resort’s own train service.

An illustration of the resorts.

Closeup.

At the station for the Disney Resort line, lots of tourists were stuck queuing for train tickets.

Truth is Tokyo Disney Resort is the only Disney resort not actually owned by Disney. It is licensed locally instead with one of the owners being Keisei Railways. They operate most of the train lines in Chiba as well as the cute Disney train that would bring us to our destination. There was absolutely no need to purchase a ticket, we boarded instantly with our Suica.

Apart from Ikspiari, the monorail stops at Disneyland, DisneySea and the hotel resort.

The queue at DisneySea.

We could have easily purchased tickets for DisneySea from Lawson but we didn’t. Instead, we were left queuing at the ticketing booth. So any time saved at the train station was now lost.

The queue moved fast. While I was busy taking photos of the queue, MJ and Wilson got into the line earlier. I got my tickets and joined them up in front of the entrance.

5800 yen.

The way in.

The view from the entrance.

MJ keeps getting into all my shots.

Through the real entrance.

I had watched a video on the making of DisneySea weeks earlier. I was expecting it to be big but it was only upon entering, did I fully realize how huge the park actually was. It was like entering a whole new world. It was impossible to gauge the park’s actual proportion since all the maps available for the resort are stylized.

Excluding the hotels, the Disney Resort operates on over 200 hectares or 2 million square meters of land. The equivalent size of Singapore’s Boon Lay and Orchard areas combined. DisneySea takes up about half of this area. Hong Kong’s recent attempt measures at only a tenth of this size, paling in comparison.

Pictured, the smallest of 7 areas in the park.

Where we entered from.

We didn’t pay much attention to the Mediterranean Harbor section of the park which we thought was just the entrance. From here we could see Mount Prometheus. Having seen the making of video didn’t take away any of the splendor and I instead grew to appreciate many of the park’s details more. The volcano erupted loudly from time to time, spitting fire in the air. The rumble could be heard throughout the park. According to the documentary, the volcano was made by putting 10 rocket engines inside solid rock piled 160 feet high. No expense was spared.

I mentioned had this been Singapore, Mount Prometheus would had been made from sand and styrofoam. MJ said Singapore was too far out of Disney’s league to even considering our integrated resort. Disney doesn’t bid for land, you had to pay them to build a park.

Mingling.

Balloons.

Some Disney mascots in their padded costumes ran out to greet a guests. It was the school holidays and the park was certainly crowded. It was estimated that 40,000 people would be in DisneySea today and another 70,000 would visit Disneyland. The crowds chatted excitedly but not more loudly then they had to. People didn’t shout at each other like in Singapore so we didn’t have to raise our voice at all today to hear each other speak.

We made our way hastily to find the rides. Turning right from the entrance we headed in the direction of the volcano.

Climbed up this way.

Popcorn. Each area had its own themed popcorn.

Long way more.

To help ease waiting, the Tokyo Disney Resort parks employs a system called the Fast Pass. It’s a free benefit that comes together with the entrance ticket. Basically, the Fast Pass allows you to queue for rides without actually being there. What you do is you insert your entrance ticket into a machine and it gives you another ride ticket with the time for you to return to the ride. The ride ticket also states the time which you can fast pass your next ride (about half the waiting time of the ride) so you can effectively hold multiple fast passes.

Having little prior knowledge of DisneySea, we didn’t plan what rides we wanted to sit. We ended up choosing rides based on whether or not they allowed Fast Passing. Since only the rides with insane queues adopted the system, they had to be the best ones. The first ride we encountered under the volcano of Mysterious Island was called Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Our first Fast Pass.

It was already an hour after opening so locals had already rushed to join queues for the most popular rides. Like all the other rides, signboards near the queue stated the queue length and the Fast Pass timings. Journey to the Center of the Earth had a 2 hour long queue, so it had to be good. We tagged the ride as our first Fast Pass and continued on.

The outdoor part of the area.

The volcano.

We left the caverns to reach an outdoor area of Mysterious Island. Here the caverns surrounded a large pool, the only walking path were railings along the side of the mountain. A submarine was docked in the pool. Up above, steam leaked out of the volcano. Moving excavation machines were embedded into the rock.

On the platform was gift shop, themed to the Nautilus and a snack bar selling hot dogs and cinnamon sticks. The queue, which stretched to the start of Mermaid Lagoon was the longest among all the food stalls in the park.

We spotted a long queue spiraling underground. It was a 90 minute long queue for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. The reservation for our first ride was at 4 pm and we could only Fast Pass our next ride at 12.30 so we decided to join in the queue.

The busiest food stall.

we joined this queue.

The employees in each section had custom uniforms.

The queue looped twice and lead under the caverns we were in earlier. While in queue, a bunch of kids hopped over from the Fast Pass line to join their parents in the queue in front of us. With too many rides to cover in one day, it turned out that the locals here really planned carefully as to what rides they wanted to visit. Back in the queue, the family took out their map which was highlighted and marked with personal notes. They carefully went over their plans for today.

While they occasionally shared the same rides, different family members also wanted to sit different rides. To maximize the number of rides they could cover what they did was perform a combination of queuing and Fast Passing each others tickets. All of this was possible with the accurate queue timings and Fast Pass windows. While their parents queued in line for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride the kids had Fast Passed it earlier in the morning, they then proceeded to queue and sit a separate ride. They returned to join their parents in line with their Fass Past, but not before booking another ride for the entire family. You didn’t need your tickets with you to join the regular queue.

MJ, Wilson and myself were left feeling like newbies as we waited in line behind the family.

Details.

Still in the queue.

Beneath, the queue lead past the pool where steam rose up from underwater vents. Another vent shot water in the air each time a steamer passed by. Patrons of the park had throw yen coins at the rocks next to the queue, we could had reached out to take some if we wanted. The queue continued into another underground cavern which contained various salvaged treasures.

Japanese people really like making wishes.

Displays while queuing underground.

More displays.

The queue was long.

More details.

The subs.

Awaiting our sub.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was a 5 minute long underwater submarine ride. Each submarine had 3 viewing windows to look out of and sat a total of 6 passengers. Wilson and I sat up front of our sub while MJ sat at a side behind.

The sub dived underwater where schools of fish and divers passed by. A storm brewed up in the surface so the subs were forced to dive deeper. Plunging deeper into darkness we emerged in luminous caverns filled with treasure. Undiscovered sea creatures and mechatronic merfolk went about their own business. The trail of subs would meet with a giant squid though, its giant tentacles took two subs hostage. Lightning from above suddenly struck though and electricity arced around the caves. The electrocuted squid lost hold of our damaged sub and we were left suspended. Suddenly though our sub started moving again. Light from above casted shadows on the cave walls showing the merfolk pushing our sub up to the surface, a most impressive touch.

While we weren’t really submerged, it certainly felt like it. The subs were suspended so we couldn’t see the tracks. Water flooded the dashboard and bubbles were pumped in to simulate the underwater experience. The electricity and giant mechanical squid, definitely impressive. MJ was just very amazed by the lightning. So much that it was only after the ride that he told us that we could had controlled the sub’s searchlights with the joysticks on board.

It turned out that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of Disney’s most expensive rides. The ride in America had to be shut down because it was simply too expensive to run.

Bubbly.

Passed here.

We ended the ride just nice at about 12.30 pm so we could book our next rides so I checked the DisneySea map for another Fast Pass ride. The Indiana Jones Adventure ride at the Lost River Delta seemed like a good choice, so we headed through in that direction. Arriving there, Wilson and I got our Fast Pass tickets. MJ inserted his Disney ticket but got a negative stump instead. He couldn’t find his ticket when we booked our first ride so his first Fast Pass didn’t expire until 15 minutes layer. In his impatience, he managed to get around 4 of these failure tickets.

Failed.

Eh?

Only after getting our Fast Passes did we realize we had booked the wrong ride. There were two thrill rides at the Lost River Delta and the Fast Pass booth we used were between both rides. We had gotten tickets for the Raging Spirits roller coaster instead.

The queue for the Indiana Jones ride was too long so we decided to return to Fast Pass it again later if possible. Our next Fast Pass would be available at 2.30 pm. We now held two Fast Passes, one for the Journey to the Center of the Earth at 4 pm and another for the Raging Spirts at 4.30 pm. We decided to head for lunch first.

More than 2 hour waiting time.

Part of the Indiana Jones ride.

The roller coaster.

Lunch time.

We spotted a food spot by the rides. Lots of happy people coming out of the area so we decided to have our lunch here at the Yucatan Base Camp Grill. It was packed but there were ample seating so we didn’t have to wait. MJ sat down with all our precious cameras while Wilson and I ordered our meals at the cafeteria.

Ordering.

Surprisingly cheap and decent.

My lunch was three fat slices of pork served with tasty rice. The set came with salad and a drink. I also ordered a separate side consisting of sausages and fritters. The total amounted to only about SGD$15. We were expecting the food in Disneyland to cost way more. The spiced rice was more salty then spicy but was quite nice. The slabs of fatty pork were a little too strong for my tastes so it had to be masked by the rice. The sausages were nice though, they were smoked so it was kind of like eating jerky.

During lunch, I considered how shallow my own childhood had been. Compared to what these Japanese kids experience, it felt like our childhood memories were but a disappointing lie. Between their country’s beautiful natural scenery, properly functioning administration systems and this completely mind blowing theme park, Japanese kids can probably grow up with much wider minds. The park completely stretched my imagination. Anything I could possibly think for a theme park (and more) was recreated in perfect detail here in DisneySea.

The iPhone syndrome.

One of the themed souvenir shops.

Inside.

After lunch, we explored around the park. A terminal at the Lost River Delta marked the wait time for all rides on a blackboard. MJ wanted to sit the steam boat that ferried passengers to different parts of the park, but the ride was temporarily closed for lunch. We spent the rest of the time visiting souvenir shops instead. One of the Lost River Delta stores sold matching Mickey and Minnie mini-coats.

Inside the park the local children, men and most often women all transformed into their Disney themed outfits. Little girls dressed up as Disney princesses, the men adorned Mickey and sometimes Minnie ears from their daughters. Half of the many groups of teenage girls and young women there adorned Minnie outfits, ears, bows or some sort of other Disney outfit. Some hugged large Duffy Bears while their boyfriends hugged the Minnie counterpart. Disney Resort had a whole separate dress code.

Arabia.

The main square.

We entered the Arabian Coast by the Lost River Delta. It featured multiple souvenir shops and cafes themed after Aladdin. A crowd had gathered in the square where groups of street performers were. Unfortunately, their show ended by the time we got there.

Street performers.

Carousel. This group of four women came in a matching theme.

Cafe.

The water fountains were themed to each area.

More details.

There were three rides at the Arabian Coast, an advanced animatronic ride, a 3D Genie storytelling show and a two floor carousel. The carousel had no queue, so we boarded it. We filmed down the entire ride, so videos will be coming soon.

Ha.

The sky was darker than any other day since we’ve been in Japan. After the carousel we shopped around the bazaar before heading for the adjacent Mermaid Lagoon zone. Mermaid Lagoon has both indoor and outdoor sections. We visited the almost pitch dark basement where two theme stores stood side by side. One of them was built inside the mouth of the giant whale from Pinocchio. Each shop in Disneyland sold merchandise unique to the particular zone, MJ and Wilson ended up buying some souvenir keychains here.

Gift store.

Inside.

Another gift store.

Ariel's Playground.

Underwater.

Next to the stores was a cafe and the entrance to a large underground hall. It featured an underwater Little Mermaid Theme. All the toddler rides from DisneySea were fit here inside the large cave. At one corner of the hall, we found a sunken ship that featured the Mermaid Lagoon Theater. The signs showed no waiting time, so we followed Wilson in. The line lead to a separate cave where lots of people were gathered in front of theater doors. A short while later, we were lead into the hall. I presumed it to was just another musical performance.

Inside, the circular hall was setup like Ariel’s Grotto in the Little Mermaid movie. The whole cave was a little more than 2 floors high. Audience seats surrounded the small rock stage, a treasure chest sat on top of the stage. Based on the alignment of the stage, Where we sat, Wilson said we should had move up further in front. Since the the theater was circular though, every seat was equally as good. An announcement urged us not to take any photos.

The lights dimmed and a Caucasian Ariel rose out from a hole in the stage. She was suspended in the air by cables. As she floated around the hall, she moved her trail gracefully and made 360 degrees flips, giving the illusion of her swimming around the theater. She greeted the audience in Japanese.

She landed back at the stage where she lamented how she wish she had legs. It broke out into one of the movie’s songs, surprisingly in English. Sebastian, a giant red puppet attached to the waist of a performer convinced her how great the sea. The puppet was well articulated and speaking could be simulated by moving it’s mouth and arms. The performer expressed all the expressions on his face as well. Ariel thanked her undersea friends (the audience) for reminding her how great the ocean was.

Suddenly, the theater turned even darker. Two more puppets, this time the eels, appeared from behind the audience. They swayed rhythmically to simulate the currents. The real surprise came though when the wall of the second floor moved aside and a giant 5 meter tall mechanical head of Ursula the Sea Witch emerged from behind the wall. It was a truly intimidating sight as the fully lighted head spoke. The head was fragmented such that it allowed a full range of expressions. Ursula bellowed at the audience as a flood light shine from her mouth. Equally large metal claws appeared from her side. Each one controlled by the precise movements of a skilled acrobat. Her tentacles draped around the theater and she began to sing another song.

Ariel eventually resisted Ursula’s power and was left floating lifelessly. Sebastian and Flounder, which was basically a cycling ornithopter with a lighted shell, came to her rescue. All was well though as she recovered from her attack. This lead to an ending performance of “Under the Sea” and more suspended human puppets of all kinds came out to dance in the music.

The combination of man and the giant mechanic contraptions they controlled manually was a truly impressive sight. The illusion was made complete by the tiny details in the movement of the puppeteers, which I was really impressed by. Sitting there in the theater, our imagination lead us to believe then we were watching this performance beneath the waves. MJ was completely stunned by the giant Ursula head.

One of the more kid friendly areas.

More details.

Part of the Mermaid Lagoon.

King Triton.

Ariel.

Mini-roller coaster.

After emerging from our undersea adventure we found ourselves back at the Lost River Delta. Our Fast Passes had come up so we could reserve another ride. We returned to the Indiana Jones ride but where we found the queue was 3 hours long. Fast Passes for the ride would only take place at 10 pm. We were taken aback as the time now was only 3.45.

We passed on the ride and continued walking on. We passed by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, there were long queues to take photos with them. I was told that the queue was full when I tried joining the queue for Mickey.

We reached an area on the other end of the park that we had missed seeing earlier. The Incredibles were here taking photos with people. They were a little disturbing since the mascots didn’t speak but made exaggerated gestures instead.

Mr Incredible.

Kind of creepy.

A section we missed.

There was a monorail service just to get here from the adjacent area.

The Port of Discovery was theme was themed like classical science experiment. Here we found StormRider, another Fast Pass ride that I really wanted to try. Unfortunately, all the rides were completely booked out for the rest of the day. We missed our chance for one extra ride.

Wanted to ride this.

There was also a long queue for Aquatopia, one of the two trackless rides in the resort.

No tracks.

Cut across here.

And here.

It was nearing 4 pm so it was time for our reservation at the Journey to the Center of the Earth. We decided to begin the long trip back to the Mysterious Island.

Over to here.

Beside the queue.

Details everywhere.

The queue for the ride was more than 2 hours long. Our Fast Pass ticket allowed us to cut to the front of the queue. Here we we split up into elevators that would bring us to the center of the earth. Seeing that there were blue prints of the elevator left around, I first thought that this was the ride.

The elevator just brought us a few floors down into a cave under the volcano where the queue continued. Archeological findings were placed beside the queue, strange materials extracted from the earth’s core. MJ was very fascinated that the lights inside the cave flickered occasionally. More coins had been thrown in a crevice under the rails. If not for staff clearing it frequently, there would be a fortune down there.

Quite a queue.

Coins...

We weren’t quite sure what kind of ride the Journey to the Center of the Earth was. Like all of the rides in DisneySea, there were no labels as to exactly how it operated. The setting bore many similarities to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride we sat earlier, so I presumed it was another indoor adventure ride. Wilson and I set at the front of the first carriage. Hoping to take some pictures, I kept my camera on hand.

The vehicle crept slowly through dark caves filled with glowing minerals. The later caves featured giant mushrooms and strange glowing creatures. I considered taking out my camera to take some photos but having not set my ISO higher earlier, I rationalized that it would be in vain. The vehicle halted as a cave-in occurred. We turned for a separate route and slowly rode through more glowing caverns.

There was a loud growl and our carriage broke out into an underground cave filled with flowing lava. By our left was a crater filled with the red hot liquid. To our surprise, a 15 foot tall lava monster (that looked like Diablo) swam through the lava and emerged beside us. The mechanical wonder lunged at our vehicle.

The vehicle swerved to avoid the monster and without warning, accelerated upwards at a breakneck speed. My heart dropped. The carriage broke out into the open near the top of Mount Prometheus. After flying straight into the next mountain, the vehicle plunged back to the ground. I held on tightly to my camera and dear life.

I would learn only later that the ride employs the same technology used simulate accidents on crash test dummies. We took our wobbly feet back to the Lost River Delta to fulfill our next reservation, the Raging Spirits. It was a rickety Incan themed roller coaster with a full 360 degree loop. This time, we decided to keep our belongings in the adjacent lockers just in case.

Next ride.

Themed lockers.

Mostly.

MJ and Wilson sat in the middle of the coaster. I was assigned a seat all the way at the back. The roller coaster reached its peak early in the ride and plunged into the loop. The impact upon hitting the bottom forced my head forward so I had my head lowered during the tight loop. At the speed we traveled, it was over in an instant.

Prepared for the worst, the ride turned out to be rather mild as compared to our last ride. We returned to the lockers to get our stuff. On our way to our next destination, we passed by the Indiana Jones ride reminding us that we could had sat that instead. MJ kept insisting on taking his picture with one particular park attended in front of the ride.

Not as scary as expected.

MJ's happy moment.

Cleaner.

From the bridge we could see that the steamers were back in service so we decided to head towards one of the parks docks. I had only taken photos of the lake at Mysterious Island. There were a total of 4 connecting lakes of equal size in DisneySea. Different boats lead to different sections of the park. We passed by a young lady here sweeping the bridge. The cleaners in DisneySea are incredibly skilled, waste disappears with just a flick of the dustpan. I wouldn’t mind being a sweeper at DisneySea.

Boat ride.

Passed here.

And alighted here.

The boat ride led us back to a port at the Mediterranean Harbor. It turned out that the entrance area in DisneySea was really much larger than I had measured this morning. Near the port, was a fortress that contain a restaurant and two more attractions. More to our surprise though was a ocean liner far off in the distance. We had missed a whole section of the park. We headed in the direction of the cruise ship.

What?

Gift store.

Nicolo.

The shopping areas at the Mediterranean Harbor were a whole attraction in itself. There were two souvenir shops and two larger stores packed with little kids. Throughout the whole day, I had seen countless people carrying Duffy Bears. Some outfitted in detailed costumes. Wanting to get one for myself too, I had searched many of the souvenir stores but was unable to find the costumed bears. It was only at the one of the large stores that I eventually purchased not only Duffy but the companion Shellie May. The two bears were only available for sale within DisneySea and made the most meaningful commemorative purchases available in the park (at least to me). Each full sized bear cost SGD$55 and resells on auctions for twice the price.

Another gift store.

Wilson and MJ waited outside the store as I emerged much bulkier. We headed for the American Waterfront where the large ship was docked. The sun had completely set.

Toward the steamer.

Another shop.

I wouldn't mind living upstairs.

We passed two more large stores before reaching a fountain square. One full building sold nothing but the Duffy bears. Some patrons were ferried around in vintage cars. I left Wilson and MJ here at the fountain to take their photos. Fascinated by the colorful water jets, they ended up taking a lot of photos there.

Square.

If this were Singapore, there'd be at least 20 kids inside.

The ship.

Turned out to be a huge restaurant.

Didn't eat here either.

The ship turned out to be just the largest restaurant in the park. It looked awfully expensive so we didn’t consider it. There was a buffet at the piers but we didn’t have the time to spare either. It was about 7.15 by the time MJ and Wilson were done taking pictures of the fountain. DisneySea’s night show started at 8 pm so we had to have a quick dinner. We opted for a meal at the fish market instead.

Shoyu. Show me. Kikkoman. Kikkoman.

Opened by the Kikkoman company. The Restaurant Sakura was a fish market themed Japanese restaurant. We confirmed the waiting time before having our meal here. During our 15 minute wait, two Japanese woman in the in their late 30s or early 40s (it’s tough gauging Japanese ages) sat in queue alongside us. One of them was hugging a Duffy and Shellie May pair decked out in intricate outfits in the same style as DisneySea’s 20th century theme. I had seen a few rare bears in similar clothes around the park and searched in vain at the shops for the same outfits, unfortunately none of the shops sold clothing for the bears.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I asked the lady where she had bought the attire from. She replied that they were handmade.

Dinner.

For dinner, I ordered a scallop appetizer and my main was udon that came with a side of sushi. The service here was simply amazing. Instead of a waiter, the chef personally came to our table and introduced each dish he laid down. So despite the food being nothing out of the ordinary, as customers we felt special.

Udon.

Unfortunately, I can't eat eel.

We hurried through out dinner and finished in time for BraviSEAmo!, DisneySea’s evening performance. Outside, it began to rain heavily. Wilson and I were prepared for this with our umbrellas. It was a tough juggle between my camera, umbrella and loot from today.

After being tempted the whole day, MJ finally grabbed some Duffy popcorn from the nearby cart. The stall also sold the popcorn in nice Duffy baskets (which we saw people carrying around the park) but those cost $20. By the time we made it to the Mediterranean Harbor shoreline where the show was to be held. The railings were already packed so I camped on high ground in the middle of the freezing rain.

Never seen anyone so contented with popcorn.

Having experienced Singapore Sentosa’s pathetic evening show many times before, I wasn’t expecting much from DisneySea’s own water performance.

The show begins.

BraviSEAmo! started with Mickey Mouse circling the lake on a barge. In Japanese, he greeted the crowd with the same squeaky accent. No one replied. The barge left a trail of fog over the lake as orchestral music resounded in the park. For the cynical Singaporean, this was nothing worth paying attention to.

Pew lasers.

Things slowly changed for the better. Giant beams of light emerged from behind the mountains. Unlike Singapore, Japanese skies were genuinely black at night. The beams waved around in the darkness, turning the sky to a more acceptable gray. Mickey’s barge was joined by more barges that all sprayed waves of water 20 feet into the air. The mobile fountains danced on the river.

Shot of the lights.

Explosion.

One large blinding explosion later, things started to really get out of hand. The entire lake caught fire. Despite being in the middle of a cold downpour, the whole park became incredibly hot. A giant mechanical phoenix, emerged from below the sea of flames. As it spread its wings, it shot fire in all directions. We watched on in awe.

What the.

After letting the phoenix have its way for the longest time, Mickey’s boat returned. It urged slowly towards the phoenix, clearing a path on the burning lake.

Boat shooting water.

As the bird struggled, it sizzled small fireworks. The water barge emerged victorious though as the phoenix soon exploded into fireworks.

Explosion.

Just for the heck of it, yet another burst of fireworks marked the final defeat of the phoenix. It retracted slowly in the fiery depths that it came from, bidding the time when it would return.

Another explosion.

Really big explosion.

The smoke clearing.

Extinguished.

The entire performance lasted half an hour. I managed to take a video of the first 7 minutes until when the phoenix emerged so look forward to that soon. Just after the BraviSEAmo! was the famous Disney Magic In the Sky. Many of the crowds at the lake cleared so Wilson and I moved to the front of the lake. MJ disappeared off somewhere as the nostalgic tune of When You Wish upon a Star filled the park. From the Mediterranean Harbor, we could see the huge fireworks synchronized to the music.

The fireworks lasted for only 4 minutes. But considering how the resort had to set off the fireworks (and a lake on fire) everyday rain or shine, we were mighty impressed.

More fire, as the phoenix retracts back into the lake.

The park announced that it would stay open until 10 pm. But with most its rides fully booked, the park’s crowds started making their way out. Not wanting to partake in the struggle we decided to stay on. Filled with excitement, I longed for one more ride.

I remembered seeing a ride earlier at the American Waterfront. It had sort of a horror theme going on so I thought it would probably still be open at this time (actually all the rides were open until 10 pm). We found the Tower of Terror.

It was 8.30 pm and the queue estimated a 90 minute wait time. We could barely make it if we tried. The ride assistants didn’t bear any new people from joining the queue so it was probably fine to join the queue. At my request to make the full use of the remaining opening hour, the three of us joined the long queue.

As before, we were wholly unprepared for the ride. Apart from it being called the Tower of Terror, we had no clue as to what to expect from the ride. Waiting in the queue, we were rather disturbed that the speakers at the ride continuously sounded warnings for the ride. The announcement gave some hints to what the ride was about, the Tower of Terror was apparently a free fall ride but nothing more was said. It went on to repeat a list of possible health conditions that you shouldn’t sit the ride with. My portfolio secured half of these medical conditions.

Tower of Terror.

Still left guessing to what the ride really was, we continued in line inside a hotel lobby. Wilson mentioned that there was a similarly named ride at Universal Studios. He would go on to describe how the ride was a reverse falling ride. Feeling quite uneasy at this point, I reassured myself that this ride couldn’t be all that bad, the age limit for this ride was 3. I also counted the building to be at most 7 floors in height.

At the end of the queue, we were brought to a large door. The bellhop explained the history of the ride. She showed us a photograph of a certain cursed idol, the founder of the establishment had disappeared after acquiring the artifact.

In a group of about 20 people, we were lead into the room by a bellhop. Here inside a large study room stood the cursed artifact. The bellhop played a gramophone recording from Hightower, the tower’s owner. Midway, the stained glass window in the room came to life! It turned into a twisted form of its old self, the glass animated and showed the demise of Hightower. Inside the stained glass, a lift in the illustration came crashing down, shattering the window.

The room darkened and the idol started glowing. It began talking to us. Expressions were emoted with mechanical features. Between the Japanese dialogue and its awful accent, I couldn’t quite catch what it said.

Suddenly though, the idol vanished into thin air. Everyone in the room went “eeeeeeeeh”. We were left stumped, while the window was probably just some high resolution LCD, the talking idol was certainly no hologram. I kind of thought that this was the ride so I expected the floor to give way at any moment. The bellhop guided us out of the room and back into another queue.

You could purchase you photo downstairs.

Eventually though we got onto the actual ride. It was a large elevator in which we were strapped into.

The doors shut and we were left stationary in the dark. Large glowing eyes of the idol appeared menacingly on the door. For a brief moment the lift was suddenly filled with stars. In pitch darkness, we could feel the lift reverse backwards.

We ascended for a brief moment. The lift doors opened on one of the floors, probably around the 3rd floor of the tower. Here in a long holographic hallway, we met with a ghostly looking Hightower and the evil idol. The idol zapped our elevator and we were left again in darkness. We rose up another floor where a large mirror was placed. The Japanese on the ride started making funny faces at the mirror, prepared for the worst, we didn’t move an inch. Suddenly, our reflections turned into green sparkles that floated off into the distance.

Our elevator ascended quickly, other riders shouted in excitement so I joined in. It stopped for a moment at around the 7th floor at an open air window. Only for a moment though, our lift continued upwards. Despite traveling at high speed, the ascent stretched what seemed like an eternity in the darkness. As I screamed, this time in fear, I began to ponder what exactly we had gotten ourselves into. We would soon find out.

The elevator jerked to a stop on the top floor where another open air window looked out. I was silenced by something quite peculiar, the 160 foot tall Mount Prometheus seemed like a tiny speck from where were left hanging. Slowly, my brain processed the situation my heart froze. Petrified, my hands melded into the hand bars. The support gave way and our elevator plunged 200 feet into the ground. It would take a while before my heart met back with me downstairs.

Us, pretrified on the back row.

It turns out, the 7 floor building I saw earlier was just the waiting and gift store sections of the Tower of Terror. The real ride behind spanned 3 times that height. Any unsuspecting 3 year old who sat this ride was bound for a lifetime of trauma. Unknowingly we had sat the Tower of Terror and Journey to the Center of the Earth, acclaimed for being DisneySea’s two scariest rides. Back at the gift store, photographs of our folly were displayed on screen. The locals took photos of the screen instead of purchasing the expensive printouts, we did the same.

I was glad to have survived the fall. Still recovering from the shock, we discussed the encounter excitedly like little kids. It was already 10 pm so the park announced its closure. We made our way in the rain back to the entrance. The globe fountain at the entrance which we saw earlier today was lighted up brightly. Final photos here before we headed back. Seeing the three of us try an attempt at a self portrait in the heavy rain, a kind local offered her help out of pity.

Last shot.

I have little memory of how I got back to our hotel this night. With memories of DisneySea fresh in our minds, we chatted excitedly the whole way back and made hurried plans to return here for Disneyland on the next clear day. The elaborate fantasy managed to make a bitter person like myself believe that there were wonders to be found in this world. I don’t remember smiling as much ever. This day at DisneySea was surely the happiest day of my life yet. All prior injustices were forgiven and this just one day made the entire trip to this point worthwhile. My only regret, not purchasing cinnamon sticks!

When You Wish upon a Star continued to echo in my mind this night as I laid down to bed. Sweet dreams ahead.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.


Chad

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.
  • Shing

    Just want to enquire, do you guys put your bags in lockers while taking the rides?

    • Supermerlion

      Hi Shing. All of the rides have compartments to hold your bags. There is no need to put your stuff into lockers as long as you’re not carry a lot of shopping bags (leave it to the last thing you do). There are lockers available for some of the more severe rides though, like the coasters…we stored our cameras away for those.

  • Celine

    Happened to come across your blog while searching for Shellie May bear. I continued reading on other posts of your Japan experiences. The best blog recommending Japan I've ever read. Thanks for the effort writing up such a wonderful blog!!