It was our last full day in Tokyo. My son was happy to spend it watching YouTubers on the ipad but my daughter insisted we had to do something.
It was blowing a gale and raining. I was filling up on coffee from the French press I’d lugged with me around Japan – I’d rightly figured it would be hard to find a decent cup of coffee easily – and the coco pops and remaining food we had in the fridge. I worked out how much money we had left and what options we had left in Tokyo, having visited most of the places we’d wanted to see.
Then, at 10, after discovering I had a small amount left on one of the credit cards, I announced, ‘we’re going to Disneyland!’
‘Hooray!’ said the kids, as everyone knows Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth. Actually, Mia said ‘hooray’ (or whatever the teenage equivalent is these days) Oskar said, ‘it’s windy and raining and it could be dangerous there’, or something to that effect as his faced glowed as he sat in his zebra onesie on the futon on the tatami mat watching Vamos or Minilab (actually I know the YouTuber’s names are Vanos & Minilad I just like calling them that – I prefer jacksepticeye cause his Irish like my Granny Bee from Sligo).
Recognising our budgetary constraints we headed down to the local Matsudo supermarket to stock up on sandwiches, snacks and drink to take with us, then we headed to Kita-Matsudo station, which was not far from the nice little Airbnb we’d found.
We’d been in Tokyo around eight days all up so we felt were pros at the train travel by now. So, instead of asking the station attendants for direction as we usually did, we just studied the train maps, bought our tickets, giving my 14 year old daughter a child discount to save a few yen, and headed straight to the platforms towards Tokyo Station to change to Maihama.
After a train change at Matsudo we were on our way to happy Tokyo Disneyland. But then, one station out from Maihama, the train stopped. After an announcement in Japanese I must have looked bewildered enough for a friendly passenger to explain to me in English that there was delay because some lines had blown over due to the typhoon and that we’d have to head down to the taxi rank if we wanted to go anywhere soon.
The wind had really picked up now and Oskar was like, ‘I told you so, this is dangerous, maybe we should go home’. And I was like, ‘relax. It’ll be fine’ my words barely audible in the wind. As we waited in the taxi line a metal sign, barely attached to the railing, waved up and down violently threatening to rip off and decapitate someone. As a precaution I said: ‘But we better stand behind these people in case that sign flies off’. Oskar just rolled his eyes.
Thirty-eight minutes later, we were in the taxi, safely away from the flapping sign and heading to Disneyland, still optimistic but now with wetter walk wear. It was about 12.16. After a couple of thousand Yen for the taxi driver, we sprang out and ran to the gates, getting wetter and more windswept on the way. I was kind of expecting at this point we’d be like the Griswalds in the movie Vacation and there’d just be a goofy animated with a recorded message saying ‘uh-huh uh-huh, sorry folks, due to the typhoon-like conditions, the park’s closed for the day, uh-huh, uh-huh’. Come to think of it, they didn’t need to have a goofy character, they could actually get Goofey to do it. I wouldn’t have gone to to the extreme of getting a BB gun to force someone on the rides, though we did walk into a shop in Akihabara a few days earlier where they seemed to be selling the real deal, including what looked like a grenade launcher… I still think OMFG.
But with a Japanese Disney smile, and uniforms that looked like they may have been designed for the crew of the Death Star, they sold us our tickets and we were through the gates and inside the grand shopping arcade thingy with all the Mickey Mouse crap they have at the entrance, surveying our surroundings. Because we’d come so late there was none of the business of waiting in lines – at least at this point.
‘Were should we go first?’ I asked. Then we all saw the sign, an in unison we yelled ‘Star Wars!!!’ As we ran I added, ‘snap’. And only an hour and ten minutes later we took an amazing few minutes ride through the universe with Japanese speaking C3PO. We couldn’t tell what he was saying but we guessed he was blaming R2D2 for all sorts of issues with the trip – seriously C3PO, what’s going to happen when R2’s gone, we’re going to figure out that maybe you have a major role in all these shenanigans.
Mia was messaging her friend in Australia who had been to the USA Disneyland for recommendations on other rides to go.
‘Alyssa says Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain’.
‘That’s a lot of mountains’, I say as we went of to one of the Disney people to ask for directions to all these places.
‘Which way to Big Thunder Mountain, please?’
‘Oh, sorry’, she says with a smile, ‘Big Thunder Mountain is closed due to weather’.
‘How about Splash mountain?’
‘Oh sorry, this is closed due to weather’.
‘And, how about Space Mountain?’
Before she could even smile I knew this was also closed. I looked around for alternatives, ‘Monster’s Inc’ I said, ‘let’s go’.
The line for Monster’s Inc looked fairly promising, not too long, from what we could see, but we soon – well not so much soon, as say 45 minutes later – found what we thought was the end of the line was only what Winston Churchill famously described as, ‘…not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’ As we entered the building and saw the queue spiralling around like a swirly mollusc shell at the Tokyo fish market.
And then we saw them bastards. Well not bastards, probably very nice people. But they had the ‘fast passes’. These are the passes that allow you to skip ahead of those of us who had been standing there for 45 minutes, basically to the front of the line. They’d let 30 of those guys in, then 15 of us, and so on, as we inched our way forward and the kids pleaded to give up and move on.
Almost an hour later – or so it seemed – we were on our second ride. Again in Japanese – of course we were in Japan – and probably more the fun for it. And again, as with Star Wars, we weren’t at all disappointed as we whirled through monster land.
For the next few rides the queues seemed to have gotten a bit shorter. There were also groups of young Japanese ladies singing songs and playing games to keep us amused. I took the opportunity to capture more everyday queuing moments. I wonder how they queued before the days of mobile devices. Those ours were of limited value as they were quickly running out of batteries with the regular posts to Tumblr and Facebook.
After a trip through Neverland, and some haunted place, plus a nostalgic merry-go-round ride, I was like, ‘let’s go on the paddleboat’.
‘I suppose’, was the kids’ responses, but then Mia noticed frantic activitiy, people were running, the weather had improved and word had got around that the more thrilling rides were now open! So we ran, with dozens of others to the closet one – Big Thunder Mountain.
We had worked out the fast pass thing by now and ha d a couple to the cool rides. The only problem was, our time slots were all between 8.15 and 9.15 pm. So we after some more initial optimism that this line might be shorter than others we watched as hundreds of fast passers passed us by.
This was a bit of our emo phase where we again waited for hours in the darkness not sure of when we might be the chosen ones who get to actually go on the ride, watching as the fast passers came 45 minutes later and just waltzed up towards the head of the queue. They even had to wait half an hour or so, but boo-hoo for them, we were the ones suffering through existence, at the happiest place on Earth doing one of the most boring things imaginable, with barely enough battery left to do anything interesting, singing WAKE ME UP INSIDE, silently in our head.
But then we too got to experience a train going around a mountain at highish speeds. I say highish because it seemed liked they’d nerfed up the ride due to the weather. Can’t complain too much though, it was open, and it wasn’t like we were waiting to get out of Syria or anything. Let’s get it into perspective, we were at an amusement park, based on a mouse who wasn’t even that popular anymore.
The sun had gone down now, so we splurged on some dinner, some okay curry noodle things with coke, before racing off to Space Mountain.
The crowds had thinned now and it only took 45 minutes to get onto that. I wasn’t expecting scary, and while it was cool screaming around in the darkness, my eyesight in low level is so bad I couldn’t really see too much.
Not feeling sufficiently frightened at this point, we headed to Splash Mountain, where coming down the last slide I got what I was looking for. Unfortunately it was also captured on camera, my kids and everyone else in our boat making love heart signs above their heads – which I also had started doing – but me clinging to the rail for dear life, in utter terror. Possibly the most embarrassing picture I have ever had of myself.
And then the day was done, tired, we headed back to the entrance around 9.30 pm, when we noticed the line for Star Wars was pretty much non-existent, so we ran straight through for another, slightly different adventure through the universe – this time with Darth Vader picking my own daughter, my very own flesh and blood, as the villain he was trying to capture, before C3PO deftly evaded the imperial menace!
There were no fireworks that night, except for my daughter begging for some merchandise which resulted in us missing most of the light show on the castle as we argued about why she didn’t need yet another keychain.
And as we waited, exhausted at the train station, I reflected on the day. Look, I think of myself as a bit Bohemian, though I’m definitely more bourgeois these days, and I thought the plasticity of the place might be too much – plus I really hate Mickey Mouse – but all up, even with the massive queuing where you question your very existence, or at least why you are there at that particular point in time, but, the place was pretty cool. And much cooler hearing the Japanese versions of familiar characters.
And even when we realised that if we’d asked for directions in the morning we could have saved going through around 15-20 stations, and probably not been stuck a single station short of our destination, as there was another line which was only 10 stations away from Kita-Matsudo, which had been open all day, we were happy we’d got out of the house on a wet and windy day.
And then we lived happily ever after.