Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, & Gojira!

Part 9: Nagashima Spa Land - is Hakugei Japan's best?
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby PKI Jizzman » Thu Dec 05, 2019 5:18 pm

Of course I had to re read the other parts of this report before getting to USJ! Great start to the Japan trip and I'm so happy that you got so many back seat rides on Dino. The farthest back I was assigned to was 4 or 6.. that tease of the airtime in the back is enough to make me want to return and stay until I get a back seat ride haha.

I had the same experience on Hollywood Dream. First ride was just fine, but towards the back you really feel how steep the ups and downs of the hills are. I left USJ really loving Dream. Like bert said... rat tat tat!!
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:31 am

bert425 wrote:wonderful trip update, and how cool to see the Osaka Castle.
(someone in our group went to do that, but I missed that - tho I did spend a morning at Himeji castle during our trip, is that the other one you went to?).


It is! Himeji Caste was the last thing I did before my flight home. One of the highlights of the trip for sure.

bert425 wrote:as a fellow Godzilla fan, am I correct in assuming you did visit the giant Gozilla statue at Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku? I hope you did, as the store in the hotel lobby is where most of my $$ went that was spent on Godzilla swag during my Japan trip ! - and you can even go out onto the patio on the higher floor, and pose right under the big G's head! - I think it's a perk mainly for hotel guests, but we were welcomed out on the patio when we checked it out - before buying tons of stuff at the front desk store. great report! keep it coming..


Thanks! I did visit the Godzilla head at Hotel Gracery and I actually went to another Godzilla store east of Shinjuku Station that had most of the same merchandise the one at Gracery did. Got a few shirts and souvenirs myself and there are more Godzilla location visits oncoming!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby PKI Jizzman » Fri Dec 06, 2019 5:30 pm

Osaka castle looks awesome! I really want to spend more time in Osaka next visit. Excited for the next update! I'll start getting my sh*t together soon for my own trip report.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:44 pm

Part 3: Arrival in Tokyo + Tokyo Disneyland

Despite my meticulous planning, the morning after our second day at Universal Studios almost got off to a rocky start. We made our first local train connection to Nishikujo Station for what was supposed to be a special “rapid service” train that would take us directly to Shin-Osaka Station to catch our Shinkansen bullet train bound for Tokyo.

But some kind of incident apparently caused a ripple effect down the lines and created a series of delays in what is a rarity for Japan’s rail networks. With platform signs scrolling red to warn of the delays and Google Maps (which does update for delays) and the station displays telling us two different things, we became pretty confused.

Once we inferred that the rapid train we wanted to take ended up bypassing our station to make up for the delay, we hopped on the next train we saw and I started frantically asking people in the car, “Shin-Osaka…? Shin-Osaka???”

See, unlike the local trains which can arrive as often as every 3 minutes in some cases, it’s imperative that you don’t miss a Shinkansen because the next one you’re allowed to take might not be for another 30-40 minutes. Not the end of the world, but important if you’re trying to keep a tight schedule. Most Shinkansen on the Tokaido route connecting Osaka and Tokyo are ‘Nozomi’ trains, which you can’t ride with a JR Pass. Instead you have to wait for the only slightly slower, but also less frequent ‘Hikari’ or ‘Kodama’ trains.

So… the train we hopped aboard was indeed not headed for Shin-Osaka, but as I fumbled with my railway apps trying to figure out what to do, an English-speaking businessman (or “salaryman” as the Japanese would say) overheard me, kindly asked what time our Shinkansen was, then told us to get off at the next station where he would help us get where we needed to go. He got off the train with us, walked us to the correct platform, and explained that the next train would get us to Shin-Osaka on the second stop. This wasn’t his station either. He went out of his way just to help. Try finding a local who will do that in New York or Boston!

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The duckbill nose is shaped to minimize the shockwave that occurs when they blast out of tunnels going 170-200mph.

Thanks to our salaryman friend, we made our Hikari Shinkansen in plenty of time. Man, if I lived in Japan and had to travel long distance between its major cities, I don’t think I’d ever fly again. Travel by Shinkansen is so much more convenient, comfortable, and fun than a commercial aircraft. Even the regular seats had more legroom than my EVA Air premium economy seat did and you don’t have to put up with security checks or lengthy boarding procedures. We rode several Shinkansen during the trip and every one was a pleasure.

And I love how shamelessly casual the salarymen are about morning-drinking on these things. The standard Shinkansen breakfast seemed to be boxed sushi and a tall can of Asahi even though it was only a little after 9:00am. I regret not partaking in this myself when I had the option later.

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Well, I got my Shinkansen N-700A credit. Question is who on here will have bragging rights and be the first to nab the N-700S credit when it debuts in 2020??? Only the trip reports will tell…

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Entering Kyoto, the first stop for Shinkansen traveling east out of Osaka. We’d be back here in nine days.

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This was only a taste, but Kyoto Station ended up becoming far and away my favorite train station in Japan. I’ll explore it in-depth later on.

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Nagoya is the next of the really big cities all Shinkansen on this line stop at. We’d end up here again later on too when we visited Nagashima Spa Land.

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Nagoya doesn’t have an impressive skyline like Tokyo or Osaka, but there are still some pretty cool buildings in the station vicinity.

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Lots of interesting sights aboard the Shinkansen.

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I knew not to count on seeing Mt. Fuji on the trip. It’s a “shy” mountain as the Japanese like to say, and I almost didn’t even notice it as we passed the halfway point to Tokyo.

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I had to act quickly because the clouds were moving fast too, but the Shinkansen ended up offering some pretty great views of it.

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Goodbye for now, Fuji-san. I didn’t know it yet, but we’d get to meet him much more officially in about a week.

Three hours later, we got off in Tokyo at Shinagawa Station and took the ubiquitous Yamanote Line to where our hotel was located in Shinjuku.

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The sign translates to, “This way for a high chance of good times.”

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Out on foot from Shinjuku Station to our hotel. Shinjuku is Tokyo’s financial center, so if you ever happen to hear, “What? Godzilla’s nearing the business district!?” This is usually what they’re talking about.

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The massive outdoor plaza of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, right next door to our next hotel, the Hyatt Regency Tokyo.

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And the Metropolitan Govt. Building itself, with one of Tokyo’s best observatories at the top almost 800 feet up, free of charge. It was Tokyo’s tallest building from 1990-2007.

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Looking south from the observatory you can see the massive, green sprawl of Yoyogi Park to the right, home of the shrine to Emperor Meiji––you know, the 16-year-old whose soldiers destroyed Osaka Castle the third time. Tokyo Tower is faintly visible on the skyline at center.

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And looking east, to the left of and a little closer than Skytree, is the white, oval-shaped structure of the Tokyo Dome. You can even make out the outline of Thunder Dolphin and Big O if you look closely.

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In 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, we see Big G approaching Shinjuku. My hotel, the Hyatt, is the reddish-colored building just left of the Metro Govt. Building.

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Godzilla spots Mecha King Ghidorah circling Shinjuku. Firing his atomic ray, he gets all-building instead, wiping out the observatory where I’m currently standing.

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Godzilla and Ghidorah collide, careening backward and demolishing the rest of the Metro Govt. Building.

The best way I can describe what seeing Tokyo after all these years was like for me is this. Say you’re a die-hard Harry Potter Fan. You’ve read all the books and seen all the movies countless times. It’s a huge part of who you are, maybe even a part you don’t often share with other people. Then one day, Universal Orlando opens Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever seen. The level of immersion is spectacular. You experience nostalgia for a place you’ve never actually been, but imagined and felt a part of for most of your life, even though it only truly exists as text on a page or pixels on a screen. Tokyo is my Wizarding World, but this is no themed recreation of a fictional place. It’s all real.

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Looking down from the observatory, the white hexagonal building on the left is the Sumitomo Building and the black and brown buildings to the right of it are the Mitsui Building and Shinjuku Center Building. The pair of white buildings perpendicular to them is Keio Plaza.

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Here in 1984’s The Return of Godzilla, we see the Sumitomo, Mitsui, Shinjuku Center, and Keio Plaza buildings as Godzilla faces off against the Super-X (kind of like a flying tank) on the dirt lot that would later become the Metropolitan Govt. Building. The Hyatt is at far left.


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Super-X fires its anti-radiation cadmium missiles down Godzilla’s throat and he collapses into the Sumitomo Building.

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Later when Godzilla revives, he chases Super-X and blows a hole through the middle of Keio Plaza.

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Super-X ducks behind the Hyatt and fires on Godzilla, who misses and blasts a chunk out of the side of my hotel.

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If you’re a lover of cinema, you might recognize this building. The Tokyo Park Tower is home to the Park Hyatt, the main setting of Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarl------If you’re a lover of cinema, you might recognize this building to the north of Tokyo Park Tower: the Tokyo City Opera Tower, which was destroyed during Godzilla’s fight with an alien spaceship in Godzilla 2000!

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As a Hyatt employee, one of the great perks is the ability to book free, comped nights at any Hyatt hotel worldwide. Your ability to do so depends on availability over the dates you want to stay, but by booking a year out from my trip I got several of them both here and later at the Hyatt Centric in Ginza, another part of Tokyo.

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This one caters heavily to foreigners on business travel, but there were also plenty of rugby hooligans in town for the world cup that was taking place.

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This meal at the lobby restaurant was so good I ordered it twice. Chicken and seafood fried rice topped with egg and fried chicken on the side. Did not like the breakfast though.

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The room was larger than at Port Vita but did not have the same Japan-style bathroom I liked.

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Dragon Boost was my favorite energy drink I tried in Japan, though I think it’s actually just Monster in a different can. Check out my use of forced perspective. I’m such an Imagineer I can’t believe it.

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Shinjuku skyscrapers at night.

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Godzilla fell down riiiiiiiiiight here!

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If I didn’t mention yet, it was Halloween and Shibuya Scramble Crossing was NUTS.

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Police on the Shibuya Station roof managing the chaos.

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Totally legitimate and licensed Mickey Mouse appeared to remind me that this is a theme park site and that I need to hurry up and get to Tokyo Disneyland sooner than later.

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Carlos’s uncle happened to be in Tokyo on business, so we agreed to meet him at the Hachiko statue, which was actually a really bad idea because there were so many people we almost couldn’t find it.

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Pooh Bear photo-bombing Japanese YouTube.

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Why does Tigger bounce up and down on his tail all the time…? So he doesn’t step on Poo(h)… Got it from an Anaheim Disneyland tram driver.

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Shibuya on Halloween was honestly just too difficult to get around, so we ended up taking the train back to Shinjuku.

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Poo Pride!

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My guess is it’s a reference to this, the giant “golden turd” on the roof of the Asahi Beer Company offices (not my photo).

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Brightly lit Kabukicho is quintessential Shinjuku. We’d spend a lot more time here later.

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For drinks, we ended up in a part of Shinjuku called Golden Gai. It’s a tiny pocket of Tokyo that has been preserved much the way the city looked in the 1930s prior to World War II. Golden Gai covers about one city block and is comprised of several narrow alleys lined with three stories of literal hole-in-the-wall bars.

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Most of these little bars only seat 6-8 people and the owners come up with some pretty unique themes and rules for their establishments.

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I was a little put off by this at first. That was until I saw a group of rugby hooligans being obnoxious and drunkenly clowning it up in the alley. Then I understood.

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Some of the bars have a 500-1000JPY (approx $5-10) cover charge, but the biggest challenge for us was finding one that even had room for us inside! These bars are a lot of fun and are very popular with both locals and tourists.

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Golden Gai is also very, um, adult.

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We found one of the larger places, Albatross, a three-story bar with room for 15-20.

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Lots of whiskeys, a little beer, and currency from all over the world covering the walls.

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As far as Japanese beer goes, I don’t really like Kirin, but you go to a place like this for the atmosphere and charm.

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Uncle Ricardo wonders, “Is there really a Caucasian baby in here behind me?”

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Yes, Ricardo, there is.

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After a very long day, passing the Metro Govt. Building again means we’re back to the Hyatt to rest up for Disneyland.

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A quick jaunt on the JR Chuo Line takes you from Shinjuku Station to Tokyo Station, where you can catch the Keiyo Line to Tokyo Disney Resort.

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We originally planned to do Disneyland and DisneySea together later in the trip, but when we found out Space Mountain would be closing for rehab in a few days, we bumped DL up to an earlier date.

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Threading the gap between the monorail station and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel on the way to the front gate.

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45 minutes before opening and the entrance plaza is not overly crowded, a good sign.

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I’m curious why they chose not to extend the Western River Railroad over the entrance here as they do in Anaheim and Orlando. It’s still a great looking entrance building regardless.

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Space Mountain was #398 for me. I was saving #400 for something special.

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We rode it twice that morning. Once in the main queue, once with Fastpass.

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This one was a lot like what I remember Anaheim’s being like prior to the 2005 rebuild. Same layout, no music.

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Space Whale: The Ride

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Like at Universal, I was a fan of the World Bazaar covered midway. I’d say it’s the best of the three Main Streets I’ve seen, even if its shops sell a total of zero souvenirs with a simple “Tokyo Disneyland” logo.

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The Bazaar almost has a World’s Fair atmosphere going on, which is actually kind of appropriate when you consider the origins of Disneyland and some of Walt’s earliest attractions. It’s interesting to examine the evolution of the first three Disneyland-style parks now that I’ve been to them. From Disneyland (1955) to Magic Kingdom (1971) to Tokyo Disneyland (1983) they get progressively bigger and easier to navigate, but as the size increases, so, I feel, does the impression of being in a more homogenous, open space.

Homogenous isn’t necessarily the right word here, because any Disney park is too well-themed to justify that label, but there’s something more blueprint-like about Tokyo Disneyland than the other two. Of course the original Disneyland feels the most organic because it’s had decades more time to come into its own, and the size and space constraints have led to some unique solutions come time for expansions. Unless you know the layout in detail, Disneyland is a park you feel like you could get lost in with plenty of nooks and winding paths to explore. It has a way of making the park feel larger than it really is.

Magic Kingdom actually is physically larger everywhere you look and other than (for me) the unfortunate loss of New Orleans Square, it preserves the atmosphere of its predecessor fairly well. The wider paths and courtyards handle crowds much better and there are still enough midways that branch off and wrap around attractions and artificial terrain to make the park seem expansive.

Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t come across that way to me. Everything feels much closer together here as if the park is a collection of vast, wide-open plazas that are never too far from each other. You can quite easily see this when comparing the Orlando and Tokyo parks’ layouts overhead. The walkable areas of Orlando’s Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland extend a greater distance from the castle than Tokyo’s do. The best example of this is Magic Kingdom’s extremely wide riverfront, which completes almost a 3/4 circle around Tom Sawyer Island, stretching from Liberty Square and Haunted Mansion on one extreme all the way around to Big Thunder Mountain on the other. At Tokyo Disneyland the river is repositioned along the perimeter of the park and the equivalent land—called Westernland here—is concentrated in a much more centralized footprint. While Westernland’s footpaths may have more square footage, you don’t actually have to walk very far to see everything, and this is how most of Tokyo Disneyland felt to me.

Some people may like this, but for me it diminished the atmosphere somewhat. Going back to that “blueprint” feeling I attempted to describe, the layout of Tokyo Disneyland seems over-designed to me, like they were conscientious of minimizing walking distance wherever possible. Going between themed lands at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom feels like a journey to me, while at Tokyo Disneyland it doesn’t. In fact, I thought for sure that Tokyo Disneyland was smaller than Magic Kingdom and I was surprised once I looked it up that it is actually 8-16 acres larger, depending on the source. Even if Magic Kingdom’s sense of sprawl is only an illusion, it’s an illusion I prefer.

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Like many tourist sites in Japan right now, the castle is covered in scaffolding for a major refurbishment to coincide with arrival of the expected crowds for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They added several pieces to it throughout the day.

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Construction on the Spring 2020 Fantasyland expansion was well underway. I look forward to seeing it in several years. The concept art looks great.

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I really liked this tree-lined path connecting Tomorrowland and Fantasyland for some reason. It will look pretty different though once the expansion is complete.

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I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’ve stepped foot in one of the other Toon Towns for a decade.

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So why this one?

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Coaster #399 of course!

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Gadget’s was very well-themed here.

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The big, open plaza of Westernland. Don’t get me wrong, the theming, landscaping, and attention to detail here is every bit as good as the other parks, I just didn’t like being able to so easily see everything from one vantage point all the time.

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Big Thunder Mountain was my 400th coaster. This has a special significance for me because Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain was my very first coaster sometime in the early 1990s.

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Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder was my first, Disneyland’s is my favorite, but Tokyo Disneyland’s might be the most photogenic. Think I can make Paris’s my 500th and Hong Kong’s Big Grizzly Mountain my 600th? Should I go for it?

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The railroad offers some picturesque views, as you’d expect. I just wish it were longer!

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Part of it is sentimental, but Big Thunder is always my favorite ride in the parks that have it.

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I made my dad take me on it over and over in Anaheim and Orlando when I was a kid. I was the kind of proto-enthusiast at that age who just had no damn time for parades or costumed characters. Not when there were mountains of space and thunder to conquer!

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The Mark Twain/Liberty Belle is another Disneyland must-ride for me.

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“Wait… this doesn’t look like the Yamanote Line, the Chuo Line, or the Chuo-Sobu Line. Is the Chuo Shinkansen even built yet??? And did I take the Keio or Keiyo Line to Maihama? I wonder, was taking the boat a mistake…?”

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One of my favorite Japan quirks is how everyone is obsessed with having English text on their clothing. I saw barely any with Japanese text at all. And the result is often words with humorous or ironic misspellings and phrases that don’t make any sense.

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This one here bears the mark of only the finest “craftsmsnship.”

Others I remember:
“Reminisce. Today is today too.”
“Milkfed” (girls wore sweatpants with this across their backsides, like how you used to see “juicy” in the US)
“I don’t care of the groundan sun”
“APE***********
***************
%$&*#@********
BATHING A.P.E.***”

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Adventureland also suffered from a bit of “giant plaza syndrome.” You don’t feel as though you’re out at some jungle outpost the way you do in others.

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I did like the double-deck station that serves Jungle Cruise below and the Western River Railroad above.

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She's having such a great time and so much fun she just can't even....

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I was pleased to see that Tokyo carried over New Orleans Square from Anaheim, though the atmosphere doesn’t work as well without the riverfront setting. In Tokyo it’s actually the entry point into Adventureland from the World Bazaar.

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I thought Pirates was great. Very reminiscent of the original with some minor differences.

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After years and years as an enthusiast, this was somehow my first time experiencing the holiday version of Haunted Mansion. The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay was very cool and something I should have done a long time ago back home.

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It would have been nice to see the castle uncovered, but things being in a state of renovation is just a given in Japan ahead of the Olympics.

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As I understand it, this flower garden is part of the main gate redesign the park was in the midst of. Carlos practices his Japanese photo pose.

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The courtyard entrance to the Disneyland Hotel from the park gate. It’s a very impressive building.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Condor » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:46 pm

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Disney’s deluxe hotels can always be counted on for their great ambiance. This one is less resort-like than those in Orlando, but no less nice.

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The Disneyland Hotel’s atrium lobby. I worked as a College Program Cast Member at the WDW Yacht & Beach Club doing front desk and concierge, so I always like to visit other Disney hotels to compare.

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The lobby lounge where we had our dinner. We weren’t honestly that thrilled with the dining options inside the park which felt limited in selection.

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Like Universal, the covered midway comes alive at night, though this photo doesn’t do it justice.

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Pooh’s Honey Hunt was our last ride of the night. Had we planned better, we should have gone here first thing, then gotten Fatspasses for later and ridden it twice. While I’m a little lukewarm on some aspects of this park, Pooh is not one of them. This ride is every bit as good as I’ve heard, and even a bit more thrilling than expected.

Overall, we had a very good day at Tokyo Disneyland. I don’t agree with the majority who say it’s the best of the “magic kingdoms,” but I think that’s just because this one isn’t as good a fit for my tastes as the other ones, not a knock on the park’s quality. Aside from Pooh, I didn’t find anything else to really set it above and apart for me. Maybe the newly expanded Fantasyland and more re-rides on Pooh will help next time!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby bert425 » Mon Dec 09, 2019 9:56 am

what a wonderful update, and brought back a flood of fantastic memories for me!

i honestly don't even recall seeing the Gadget coaster - tho I did go to Toontown twice! (once for Roger Rabbit spin, and once on the hunt for a Haunted Mansion candy carrier). So thanks so much for sharing those. . your pics are spectacular.

I too experienced this version of Haunted Mansion Nightmare as my first time ever seeing the overlay. I was stunned how it appeared 90% of the experience is "new". . it was less an overlay, and more a brand new ride to me. I loved it, as you did too.

the Mt. Fuji pics are incredible, because although we got a perfect day at Fuji-Q with views of it ? Even tho I was only there a couple of weeks before you, my views of Mt Fuji had *zero* snow on the cap! It was majestic, tho your pics with the snow, are just stunning. I guess there was some snowfall in the period between when we visited and you were there.

great report, and I'm loving reading along (and geeking out at your Godzilla set-stops).
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Canobie Coaster » Tue Dec 10, 2019 11:43 am

Great report! The kindness of the Japanese people is incredible. No one would have done something like that in Boston.

I'm in the camp that I love Tokyo Disneyland. It has the ride quantity of Disneyland, wider pathways like Magic Kingdom, and some unique rides like Pooh and Monsters.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby robbalvey » Tue Dec 10, 2019 12:57 pm

I’m curious why they chose not to extend the Western River Railroad over the entrance here as they do in Anaheim and Orlando. It’s still a great looking entrance building regardless.

Because then it would require multiple stations and it would be classified as a "transportation" system not an "attraction" and would need to be regulated by the Japanese Government requiring having to pay extra for the train and for it to fall under the guidelines of all the other Japanese rail services and systems. This is why the Disney Monorail is an additional charge and it also appears on the Japan Rail map.

There are very strict rules put in place for having a train in Japan. This is why the railroad at Tokyo Disneyland is basically a "ride" with only one starting and stopping point so that it doesn't get classified as "transportation" which would have opened up a whole other can of worms for the park.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Canobie Coaster » Tue Dec 10, 2019 2:34 pm

Whoa I never knew that. Thanks for the explanation!
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Hilltopper39 » Tue Dec 10, 2019 2:52 pm

I've always found that caveat about the monorail/train to be pretty interesting. I totally understand the reasoning behind it but have also been curious if they ever tried to get some kind of exception granted or special consideration given to the train since it operates inside of a park and isn't really open to the public since you have to have a park ticket to go on it.

Then again it's pretty cool that the train is a one way ride and a little bit unique from the other parks around the world.

Great report, been fun to follow so far.

Edit*, I never realized the train at TDL doesn't leave the Westernland/Adventure land so adding another stop doesn't make sense at all now, still curious if they considered it during development.

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