July 13 – Tokyo Disney Land

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Three things that are difficult to find: ATMs, rubbish bins and public seating. The first of these we were made particularly aware of this morning, having run out of cash and been told on leaving Disney Sea, that although there is an ATM it closed at 8 pm. Asking at the Sunroute Plaza, there is no ATM but at Disneyland there will be, open from 8 am. We made it our mission therefore to rise early both to make the most of our time at Disneyland – our flight is at 6pm but we have been warned by Airport Limousine bus service the bus can take up to 2 hours in heavy traffic, added to a 90 minute minimum check-in time: we have until 2pm – and to reach the ATM as soon as possible to withdraw the cash to catch the Airport Limousine bus.

We found the ATM off the main market bazaar under the hangar-sized glass arcade and quickly ascertained it would not accept any overseas card except one issued in China. An anxious walk to the help centre followed.

Our wide-eyed help-centre helper disappeared into the depths of the heavily wooded interior in her puritan-styled dress to consult with her manager. We suspected she might return with a map, carefully printed out in the back room, directing us off Disney rubberised tarmac and back to Maihama JR railway station. We were close. She came back with this simple information with a small twist: past Maihama into the shopping plaza we’d got lost in last night. Here we would find a Seven Eleven.

I went on this mission, J. and Z. went off in pursuit of Fast Passes. This in itself proved another hurdle, since to re-enter the happiest place on earth one requires not only a departure stamp but also a ticket, while the tickets are necessary, all three, to secure the Fast Passes. Solved by the exit staff lady – in a rare display of insight into our quandry: arrange to meet at the gate and hand the ticket over the barrier to facilitate the re-entry.

I jogged away, the five minutes it would take me an underestimation. Arriving at Maihama I tried the ATM. Then the one beside it. Card not accepted. Again, card no go.

Anxiety increasing, I entered the plaza to find everything shut, every rollerdoor down. I took the escalator down. The same: shut and closed, except a hotel ticketing office. I asked there for ATM. Under the escalator, I was told, and to the left. No Seven Eleven only a toilet… then lights, a screen, a Seven Eleven branded ATM.

I jogged back in the hazy heat – hitting 26 celsius – and there developed a palaver over the simple transaction of the ticket passing the barrier. Reinforcements were in the process of being called when finally my stamp was checked. Something resolved itself in the protocol-mind of the exit and re-entry staffer and the darkness cleared. I was let back in.

Now, not only could we catch the bus to the airport, we could eat. A red bun with edamame and chicken in a mustard-wasabi sauce and an iced coffee. These are real coffee, even the ones on sale from vending machines, which tend to be unsweetened as well. Disney, naturally, had sweet sugar gum on hand.

Only one Fast Pass had been arranged – the crowds this Sunday predictably enormous and unending, despite the show in the main square attracting hundreds. Still and already, every other attraction had queues running to 100 minute waits.

The puppets are cleaner than LA. The whole thing just makes more sense here and is better executed. The Haunted House hasn’t gone the fluoro horror it had in the US when we revisited in 2010 but remains what I recall from my first ever Disneyland experience … a long time ago.

We only managed a handful of rides, some very trivial merch buying – in Japanese terms: storeloads seem to be being bought up and the equivalent was being worn – and a hotdog snack. Naturally Tokyo beats LA Disneyland on food – the Japanese restaurant we’d wanted to get into had a 40 minute wait, however, and the banquet hall a queue running down the road. At least the dogs were tasty, the bread not marshmallow, but the ingredients unidentifiable, as with the earlier breakfast meal: two-tone cheese? Human-pink sausage meat?

Soon it was time to leave. Our bus ordeal of the previous night thankfully did not repeat. The Airport Limousine was running late but we swept along the freeway and through the tollgates to arrive at Narita Terminal 1 with hours to spare, even with an odd security check, when the bus was boarded and all passports and identities were checked.

The pocket WiFi which had been in use during our stay was easily dropped off – we had been worried the drop-off point was going to prove elusive. And I am tapping this out as we fly towards dinner and the south.