Thursday, April 05, 2007

Final trip to Tokyo

Greetings and Salutations, been a busy week. After visiting Ashio with Aiichirou on Monday, Yoshiko and I headed in to Tokyo for lunch and cherry blossoms in the rain on Tuesday, spent the night in nearby Chiba and hit Tokyo Disney Sea on Wednesday before making our way back home. As our time here gets shorter and shorter, with only 12 days left, we've started to prepare in earnest for our upcoming moves. I say moves because the first move will be from Utsunomiya to Imaichi, where we will spend our final week with Yoshiko's parents before our flight on April 18th. Our last day here in the apartment is on the 10th, leaving us with only a few more days to get everything packed/sold/shipped. In fact, we've booked our shipping company and did some box hunting today with some success. Busy couple of days ahead for sure, and then we have to start closing down our bank accounts and stuff next week too... hard work. Luckily, most of my things are already in Canada. I am only left with one bag here, so I am officially now an assistant to Yoshiko as we get stuff ready to go.

Another thing keeping me thinking and busy perusing the 'net is job searching. I've applied to a few already, and am in contact with a gentleman with an IT services company in Ottawa about an interesting position they've got opening up. I've made the decision that a front-line tech support position is only a last resort. It was good work, but it's certainly not something I'd like to do forever. We shall see what turns up in the next few weeks\months.

So, on to the story of our final trip in Japan.

Our first stop was the Village Vanguard Diner in Kichijoji which Alex showed Matt and I last Fall. They have some fantastic burgers and onion rings, and we had a great lunch. Unfortunately for us, the weather was not cooperating and it was raining, but we didn't let that stop us from our cherry blossom viewing. After lunch, we went to nearby Inogashira park where some trees were in full bloom and others were a little beyond. With the rain and wind, everything was covered in fallen blossoms and the park was really not busy which was nice.

Here is my lovely Yoshiko under the blossoms.

Cherry trees aren't the only thing in bloom out here, there were some lovely Camellias in bloom as well.

Picture wise, the flowers are much nicer with a blue sky in the background, so my pictures didn't turn out as punchy as I like them. I did get a few nice quiet\deserted shots, such as this one of benches covered in petals.

Luckily, the rain tapered off as we were walking in the park. I took a very similar picture as this when I came here last year, lovely with the trees in bloom.

After our walk, we hopped back on the trains and headed to Tokyo station where we hiked the looooooooooooooooooong underground path to the Keiyo line. Tokyo Station really is massively huge. Once on the train, we were pleased to see the clouds parting a bit as we made our way into Chiba. Our hotel was in Makuhari, a new area built on reclaimed land in Tokyo bay. We stayed at the Francs Hotel, which was very nice and well maintained. That night, we headed down to the Disney area to check out the mall and grab dinner before turning in.

Wednesday morning, we were up bright and early, had a nice breakfast at the hotel and were on the train before 8:30. As we got to Maihamba station, we were surprised to see a huge lineup for the Disney Resort Line into Tokyo Disney and Disney Sea. The wait to buy a ticket was about 40 minutes according to the lady outside, so we decided to hoof it and got there in 15-20 minutes. It was at this point that I began to fear the dreaded Tokyo Disney crowds which invade the park and turn it into a sea of unhappy, waiting people. As we got to the gate, things didn't look much better. There were huge lines of people waiting to get in to the park... and these were the ones who already had tickets!

Yoshiko headed into the ticket line while I manned the park entrance line. Amusingly, my line kept moving really fast and I quickly ended up right next to Yoshiko multiple times before the crowds thinned out and there was no point in lining up. All in all, about 40 minutes to buy tickets and get in to the park, not soooooo bad. Of course, throughout the day, I kept comparing the waiting time to my experience at Walt Disney World in Orlando where I went once in August (not so busy) and May (dead). But it turned out not to be so bad. We started our day with a quick boat ride around the resort. Tokyo Disney Sea, as the name hints to, is a water themed park set on the seaside. We started our day with a cruise around the different areas while we mapped out a plan of action on how to best use our Fast Pass and avoid the lineups. From this spot, you could just see the top of the castle in nearby Tokyo Disney.

A new addition, The Tower of Terror certainly towers over the entire park. The lineup for this thing was ridiculously long, starting inside the building itself and winding its way outside, along the front of the large ship you see on the right, over the bridge and into the neighbouring area. CRAZY!

Luckily, Disney being the expert at theme parks that it is, things are extremely well organized and seem to work out well enough. At the entrance to the park, this board shows you the waiting times for the many attractions as well as show times. This picture was taken in the afternoon as we walked by, and the leading contender is Indiana Jones with a wait time of almost 2 hours. This, as I understand it, is the way it is most of the time.... and this was a weekday! I can't imagine weekends and vacations, you wouldn't catch me here then, that's for sure. We ended up doing very well with our Fast Pass and only waiting in a "normal" lineup a couple of times, the longest of which was 40 minutes.

Another thing which Disney does very well is decor and atmosphere. The Mediterranean area of Disney Sea is really quite pretty, with gondolas running around the canals. Very Italy. The staff are also really good, right down to the cleaners who have little stickers that kids can collect if they ask for them. It think that's a great way for them to get to interact a little more with guests as they do their rounds. No real complaints about the park, very well put together.

The English is very good as well, and the only thing that made me go hmmmm was this sign on the awning of a restaurant. Table for Ladies? Really? That's one ugly lookin lady...

The big rumour about Tokyo Disney is that if you come here with your boyfriend\girlfriend, you will break up. This is probably true, with the long lineups for everything from popcorn to toilets, I can see how people might get a little abrasive. I also think that those long wait lines lead to an interesting thing called "conversation" at which point some people no doubt realize that the person they've been with is a total idiot. This guy had a defense against "conversation" called a "Nintendo DS" which his girlfriend could watch him play on. Wonder if they made it through the day?

At around 4PM as we were waiting for the little train which makes a 4 minute run to the front of the park, we were treated to a nice view over Tokyo bay. I was wondering what that thing on the left was all day, no, it's not a ship. After a bit of online research, we found that it is part of the ventilation system for a 15 kilometer bridge and tunnel system which runs from Kawasaki to Chiba on\under Tokyo Bay. From what I've read, massive cost overruns during the construction of the tunnel have forced the operation to charge a ridiculously high toll to use the tunnel and so most people don't. One more offering from Japan to the Construction gods... a tunnel nobody can afford to use... how wonderful!

One of the day's highlights was Yoshiko's reaction to Aquatopia, a water ride which threatens to get you wet but really just spins you around a lot. Here's a quick video.

With all but one of our plans complete, we were right on track.... until a massive storm rolled in. You can see it here on the right over the bay. Ironically, the building in the foreground is an attraction called Storm Rider where you board a weather control plane of the future to go take out a massive hurricane before it makes landfall.

Within a few minutes of the last picture, it started raining. A few minutes after that, it was POURING rain, complete with thunder and lightning. We abandoned all hope of riding the gondolas, which were closed for the afternoon due to waterborne shows. Knowing Yoshiko really wanted to ride them, we made a promise to ride the authentic gondolas in Venice some day in the near future. ;-)

After running from shop to shop for heat and protection from the rain and finding every nook and cranny filled with storm refugees, we decided to make a run for it and made our way out of the park and into the nearby mall where we had a great meal at the Salon de Thé Pierre Herme which we'd spotted the night before. We were then quite lucky with our trains and managed to get a seat on the long haul local train back to Utsunomiya. Certainly beats standing all the way, which I have had to do on more than one occasion when leaving Tokyo around rush hour. And that was that!


Blogger Anskov said...

Michel - please tell me "CHEERY Blossoms" (used twice!) was only a mistake and not a new turn of phrase for you.
(Otherwise, I may vomit in my mouth a little).

End of an era, my friend. But I'm glad we are moving to the same general part of the world so I can see more of you and Yoshiko. Good luck with the job hunt - I'm right there with you.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Cheery Blossoms? Where? You must be losing your vision or something...

Though that would be a totally acceptable typo with the e and r keys so close together...

Though again, you must be seeing things... :-)

7:23 PM  
Blogger Anskov said...


Well, I didn't mention the other mistake, but I'll let you find that on your own.

(insert evil laughter here)

7:27 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Well in my defense, my dear wife has yet to proof read it... lol She's good at picking up my mistakes.

Then again, I may have just succoomed to the mis pronoun ciations which have been all aroond me for the least 2 yers.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous jay said...

Hi I am wondering which moving/shiping company you are using to more your things back to Canada?

If you are looking for boxes most if not all grocery stores have boxes at the grocery bagging area, with lots of sizes and shapes to choose from.

P.S I think Disney was that busy because its spring break? When I went in March it wasnt that bad so maybe timing.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

We are using Jluggage to send things home, pretty good rate by sea.

We did grab a couple from a grocery store, but most of them are smaller than what we were hoping for. We managed to get good sized ones from a 100Yen shop... thanks for the advice though!

And yes, it was in fact Spring break, so I guess many students make their way out there to Disney.

9:14 PM  

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