July 12 – Tokyo Disney Sea

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Another ridiculous and hugely enjoyable experience: Tokyo Disney Sea – and there’s more to look forward to tomorrow at Disneyland. The route here to Sunroute Plaza Hotel was circuitous, by Oedo to Shinjuku, where we cashed out our Suica cards for lunch money; JR Rail to Maihama Station. There we were received at the official Disney reception, despite our hotel not belonging to the franchise, with the over-eagerness that make Disney and Japan such a good fit and bought our day passes to Disney land and sea and checked in and managed to get luggage forwarded, allowing us to proceed straight to the magic. It is magic. Much more stylish here than LA, charm added to by the spirit with which the locals have embraced the magic, dressing in Disney-merch gear, or just dressing up, usually matching clobber for twos and threes, mainly twos: lots of matching girlfriends – heart theme, Minnie Mouse theme, cute hair in two buns, heart dresses, matching kimonos – one male-female couple were in full trad dress; many merch choices determined by the sweltering weather – hooded toweling capes, hats, sweat scarves.

The art direction and dressing is impeccable. Cool headlight style lighting at Indiana Jones. Brilliant overall design at Mysterious Island – Nemo-land. As always marked out by care for detail. None of the oversights that are everywhere in LA. But we ought to have thought twice about weekending Disney-side. The crowds were huge and bearable; but the wait-times were huge and unbearable: even the Fast Pass tickets meant us booking a time when we arrived, at 1:30pm, for Tower of Terror, of 7:10. Journey to the Centre of the Earth issued us with a Fast Pass that said, Not a Fast Pass. This was explained as meaning that we should return at 3:10pm to get our Fast Pass, so it was really a slow pass for fast. We did return and were informed that Fast Passes had been canceled for this ride for the day.

The highlight was probably Journey, despite the 90 minute wait – we could have sped things up by opting to ride as ‘single’, but committed to the wait. The cool was appealing. The Americans behind us… we are developing a new gadget for the international traveller, an American volume control knob. You simply place one on your target and – at this stage only manually – can bring their volume down by turning the knob. At this stage ‘volume’ only applies to audio amplitude not loudness of personality. Bluetooth control will be added in later versions via a smartphone app as well as toning down loud persons, from clothing to space taken up. …

A walk-in ride, Sinbad, is a feat of animatronic puppetry and beautifully designed. Terror Tower is a great thrill drop ride. I found it oddly relaxing – to be weightless for a few milliseconds, and the obligatory reaction shot recorded me in complete deadpan.

Checked out the show outside the Columbia, a full-scale steamer in a zone called American Waterfront (asking ourselves whether the twist might come in the form of this zone being bombed by the Japanese?). The show palled as soon as it started into a chart of USA USA … we wandered off and clocked preparations for some event in the Mediterranean Harbour (the what? A Venice re-creation, largely).

And then, Ladies and Gentlemen, … Mickey Mouse’s vivid imagination … Imagination is the key … from it can come terrors as well … When I wrote we’d seen our final Japanese show I hadn’t counted on this: a firework and light and water show to rival Speer’s dreams of Cathedral of Light, called Fantasmic! One of the best large-scale spectacle shows I’ve seen, with projections onto watermist, incredible long-reach searchlight beams, lasers, floating movable platforms covered in lights, a concertina cone-like structure rising with Mickey as Sorcerer’s Apprentice on top and totally covered with LEDs for video display.

Inimitably Japanese in its insistence on conflict as cyclic, going from good to bad and back again without at any point making sense or settling on either.

A piece of tech that is really great in this show is the inflatable projection screen: a white weather-balloon-like thing inflates from the rafts out on the harbour and a 3D image – readable from any angle – is projected into it? Onto it? Lensed? A multi-lens projector?

Staggered away from the Disney-Sea-side and couldn’t find our way out of the mall after the monorail. Perhaps, I suggested, the trouble we have with maps over here is to do with the right-to-left down-to-up reading direction of Japanese characters, as opposed to the left-to-right side-to-side orientation of English. Finally out, a long wait for our courtesy coach to Sunroute Plaza. And now here in our three-berth room. A theme room, of course, maritime, boat-theme, complete with life-jackets and bulkhead lamps.

ATMs we found closed at 8pm tonight, so we had no money for late supper elsewhere than at hotel. Charged two floppy pizzas and a curry set – curry, rice, salad, drink, battered chicken (?) – to the room.