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海の日 — Ocean Day Weekend, Part One

July 18, 2012

Monday July 16th was a national holiday in Japan, called 海の日 (umi no hi), or Ocean Day. Also known as Marine Day or Sea Day, it’s a national holiday celebrated on the third Monday in July in order to give thanks to the ocean’s bounty and to consider its importance to Japan as an island nation. As such, students and teacher alike had a day off from school. This meant a three-day weekend that many of us ALTs were grateful for.

Friday evening Eric, Jess, Courteney and I met at the train station and took the train to Oyama to meet Rob and Yoshiko. Then we all went to Harvest Walk, which is an area filled with restaurants, shops, and a movie theater. We quickly ate dinner at a food court and then skedaddled on over to the movie theater to purchase our tickets to see The Amazing Spiderman, in 3D. Our tickets cost about ¥2000 apiece (about $25.20 with the current conversion rate), which is actually a fairly decent price for movie theaters in Japan. One interesting aspect about seeing a movie in Japan is that all of the seats are reserved, so you have to look at a chart at the ticket counter and select where you want to sit. It isn’t a free-for-all like it is in America. The movie was long, and had its ups and downs but overall it wasn’t terrible. We drove home in Yoshiko’s car, and stopped on the way to purchase our tickets for the next day’s adventures.

Saturday probably was the highlight of the weekend, because we all went to Tokyo Disneyland! I’ve only ever been to Disney World in Florida twice, and the last time I went was twelve years ago, when I went with my family for New Year’s. I could remember a general concept of most of the rides but not particular details, so I was looking forward to experiencing Disney on an entirely new level.

I met Eric, Courteney, and Yoshiko at the train station and we began our two-hour trip to Maihara Station, where Tokyo Disneyland is located. We met Eric’s friend Eric along the way (whose nickname is apparently Wombat, so I’ll use that name to differentiate the two), and we rendezvoused with Jess at Maihara. Our excitement was so thick that you could slice at it with a knife and spread it over a piece of bread. The inner child within each of us was jumping around just begging to be let out.

Making our way there.

We made it!

The plan of action was to get the bigger rides out of the way first, while it was still morning and therefore fairly cooler temperature-wise. Our first order of business was to get Fast Passes to Space Mountain, which we knew was going to have amazingly long lines. We couldn’t use the passes until 12:10, so we had a couple of hours to wait in line at other rides instead. We bypassed most of the line at Splash Mountain (our first ride) by deciding to ride as single riders, meaning we’d just fill the leftover spaces in the car that odd-numbered groups left behind. I sat in the back of the car with a father and his two daughters were in front of us, and there were four teenage girls in the front. It was strange to experience the story of Brier Rabbit in a mixture of English and Japanese, but mostly Japanese. Even the songs were song in Japanese, so I had a kick mentally translating “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from the Japanese lyrics into English.

We still had time until Space Mountain, so we got in line for Big Thunder Mountain, which had a 60 minute wait. To keep ourselves entertained, we played games and talked. Finally, it was our turn to ride! There was a girl sitting behind Yoshiko and I during the ride who I couldn’t tell whether or not she was enjoying the ride, because she spent the whole time screaming, 「死ぬ!」(shinu), which loosely translates as, “I’m gonna die!”

The six of us headed to Space Mountain and used our Fast Passes to jump most of the line. We still had a fifteen minute wait or so, but it wasn’t as big a problem as the 70 minute wait we would have had to do if we didn’t have our passes. I sat in the front of the car during the ride, which was something I preferred because I could see the track at certain times. It helped with the mental and physical preparation for when we had a sudden drop or a sharp turn.

With the bigger rides out of the way, we took a break for lunch. The weather was fairly hot, but luckily we had a breeze to make things a little better. We didn’t sit down for long, though, because we had more Disney to experience!

After lunch we couldn’t take it anymore, and decided to go shopping for some Mickey ears. I bought a pair of ears that’s actually a set of barrettes. You clip an ear onto each side of your head, and run around like that. Jess bought a Minnie-themed bow headband and Courteney bought a hooded towel. With our new headgear we ran to get Fast Passes for the Haunted Mansion, and then got in line for Philharmagic.

Showing off our new goods.

For those of you who don’t know, Philharmagic is a newer attraction (according to Jess, our resident Disney expert since she’s from that part of Florida). It’s a 3D show about Donald Duck playing around with Mickey’s sorcerer’s cap and losing it. He then has to travel in a variety of Disney movies chasing after the hat. It’s an amazing film, and it had to be a highlight of my day right there. I’d definitely go see it again!

We rode the Haunted Mansion ride (which was Disney-scary– meaning I could handle it), and then got in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I was especially excited for this ride, because when I first ever went to Disney World in Florida (I had to be six or seven), this particular ride scared me and I spent the entire time with my face buried in my dad’s shirt. It was interesting to actually see the ride this time, and match what I was seeing to the fragmented memories of what I had heard all those years ago. The ride was a bit different compared to the past, though. Ever since the films were released, all of the Pirates of the Caribbean rides added animatronic versions of Barbossa and Captain Jack Sparrow and changed the ride’s storyline a bit. It was interesting to see just how lifelike they were, and one of us made the comment that it must be weird for Johnny Depp to go on this ride and see so many duplicates of himself everywhere!

Some of us were getting a little hungry after the ride, so we got in line to buy one of Tokyo Disneyland’s signature desserts– pineapple soft serve over pineapple shaved ice. You could either get a regular cup or pay ¥300 yen more and get a souvenir plastic cup. I decided to splurge and get the souvenir cup.

We made a brief detour through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse before heading over to the Tiki Room. The Tiki Room here in Japan is Stitch-themed, because Stitch is such a popular character here. As a result, a lot of the music in the show came from the movie soundtrack. It’s strange, though, because the Stitch in Japan is a little different compared to Stitch in the United States. For one thing, Lilo isn’t as well-known or popular here. Stitch has his own television show here, but Lilo was completely removed and another girl put in her place. Not only that, but they also created a girlfriend for Stitch, named Angel. Both characters are extremely popular here, and many of my students have at least one thing with Stitch on them.

Jess with Stitch and Angel. She really wanted to take them home.

The Tiki Room show was really neat, though I was sad that they didn’t sing the famous Tiki Room song, and the six of us decided to grab an early dinner before everyone else in the park decided it was time to eat. We ended up eating at the Queen of Hearts’ Banquet Hall, which was right within our price range. Once we ate our fill, we split up so the boys could ride a few more rides and we ladies poked around the shops. We wanted to claim a good spot for the Electrical Parade that evening, so Yoshiko and Courteney went over to the parade route at 6:45 and Jess and I soon joined them. There was a performance happening at 7:00, so we stayed entertained by watching Cinderella’s castle change color according to the show.

Pretty colors!

It took a little while for the two Erics to find us again, but they did in due time. Then we sat down to enjoy Tokyo Disneyland’s Electrical Parade. Over a million lights are used in the show, which is pretty amazing. As I was watching the parade, I was reminded of the Holidazzle Parade that Minneapolis puts on every winter around Christmastime. This was on a much grander scale, though, and a lot warmer! It’s difficult to choose a favorite, but I think that the Genie float was pretty amazing! Here’s why:

The Genie could change from this…

… to this in the blink of an eye! Here he is as a character from the Incredibles.

Pretty neat, right? The Genie could turn into all sorts of different Disney characters, and at once point even had Nemo swimming around on his body. Just think of how much time that must have taken to design and create! It was really cool to see.

After the parade Yoshiko and Wombat headed homewards and the rest of us split up into pairs. Courteney and I wanted to check out the Peter Pan ride, and Jess and Eric wanted to try Space Mountain one more time before we left. Once we accomplished our separate goals we met up at the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey and went back to the train station. All in all, it was a fantastic day, and I look forward to going back again sometime soon!

Stay tuned for Part Two of Ocean Day Weekend, which features penguins and a Gundam!

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