Tangents in Transit: Visited DisneySea and tried not to enjoy myself, unsuccessfully


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Hi Blog.  I’m currently writing you from LAX from the United Airlines lounge, and am pretty zoned out at the moment what with the jetlag.  Today I’ll write something a little more off-topic and talk about something more cultural:  DisneySea.

I’m not generally one for theme parks.  I’ve been to the occasional traveling show (cue Cher song), visited a neighborhood place a couple of times called Roseland in Canandaigua, NY (with Roaring Twenties/WWII equivalents of video games — “The Feather Dance” and “Shoot Down the Zero!”, anyone?), enjoyed the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (highlights — seeing Eighties bands doing nostalgia tours, and enjoying the video arcade with the crowded corner offering video games like Pac-Man, Gorf, Tron, and Asteroids to the post-Pong generation), gone to Six Flags in a couple of places, and been to Disneys in Anaheim and Orlando.  I find the nickle-and-diming of concessions and the dodginess of the Carny booths kinda get to me.

And when I said to some drinking buddies on Saturday that I would be going to DisneySea with a friend (this would be my first time to go to Tokyo Disneyland), all the guys groaned and said, “Jeez, that’s a place for couples, all sappy’n’shit!”, while their girlfriends all gave a collective sigh of “ii naaa…”  It’s the Happiest Place on the Planet(TM), they kept saying.

But I checked my machismo at the door and went anyway…

… and I have to admit that I enjoyed myself, despite my initial trepidation.

The first thing that began to tickle was Scrooge McDuck’s store (I’m a big fan of Uncle Scrooge, and own the complete set of his comics).  I just had to get some paraphernalia, and a helpful clerk tracked me down a nicknack — the only one on the Disney lot remaining, she said, for me to buy.  For half-price too.  That was indeed within character.  Will treasure it like Scrooge’s Lucky Dime.

Then after a few standard rides (the Tower of Terror is vastly overrated, but the other roller coaster/flight simulators are quite satisfactory), I began to giggle uncontrollably at the groupies crowding around the Disney characters (the actors representing Princess Jasmine and Aladdin were gorgeous human beings) for photo ops.  One twentysomething girl, who dangled more Minnie Mouse dolls from her MM outfit than I have shirts, was in tears of joy meeting a live-costumed Minnie.  As if she was finally meeting her hero at long, long last.  She wouldn’t let go of her.  I wondered if she’d feel quite as starstruck if she was ushered into the costume room to see a whole row of empty Minnie suits, but hell, why burst her bubble?  All the person inside the Minnie costume has to do is go behind a door and shuck the garb, then she won’t be followed home by any stalkers.  I’m sure the staff deals with obsessive people all the time.

But what I really enjoyed about DisneySea — and I find this is true of many places with Japanese on vacation — is that people were really trying hard to have fun.  I noticed this when I was on Peace Boat too, but when Japanese feel they have a license to party (hell, they’ve paid for the privilege), they really party and try not to spoil it for everyone else.  They maintain a pleasant atmosphere as best they can, for after all, when might they have this much fun again?

And that’s how we went from a sticky day to a lovely evening around the Italian-themed lagoon, with all the lights and gondola music winking and couples comingling.  Plus two fireworks shows (impeccably timed with music and sound).  And lots of time to shop, meander, and just enjoy oneself before a nice late closing.  Glad to have experienced it.

Now, as I said, I’m writing to you from LAX, two hours through Customs and Immigration later.  I think it’s the polar opposite of Disneyland.  I’ll write more on that no doubt from Calgary tomorrow morning with my jetlag.

Arudou Debito in Los Angeles

17 comments on “Tangents in Transit: Visited DisneySea and tried not to enjoy myself, unsuccessfully

  • Hate to say it, I actually _like_ Disney Sea 🙂
    Tokyo Disneyland’s “it’s a small world” ride
    I find stranglely psychedelic… just me perhaps.

    I would hate Disneyland if the patrons were
    not so respectful of their fellow visitors.

    — Yes, and I forgot to mention: I didn’t hear “It’s a small world” even once! Hoorah!

  • Went to Disney Sea once on a date. We saw a Japanese woman at the Little Mermaid show who was quietly singing along with every word of the entire show. She had clearly seen the show countless times to the point where she had memorized it completely, and was now following along in what looked like a state of religious ecstasy. It was very, very creepy.

  • I went to Roseland.
    I took a bus from Ithaca, where I used to live.
    I think I almost threw up after riding on the roller coaster.
    I remember people loosing change from their pockets.

    I was just a kid, but I couldn`t get into being there.

    — My my, it’s a small world. (Oops!) The roller coaster was great. Wooden, with cars threatening to come off the rails at any time. That’s the way they’re supposed to be. 🙂

  • I hated disneyland. Everything was so fake, even peoples happiness seemed fake to me…just came away depressed. And disney should be for kids, grannies wearing minnie mouse ears is just creepy(sorry). I did enjoy Cirque du Soleil at their purpose built theatre. That made the whole trip worth while and my faith was restored in humanity.
    I think disneyland taps into that tendency of some japanese adult women to behave and speak like 5 year olds. As if to be acceptable to society (read men) you must be forever young dumb and cute and speak with a false high pitched voice.

  • What language did the store clerk speak at Disney Sea?

    — Actually, all clerks and outdoor assistants spoke to us from the very start in clear, natural-rate Japanese without the Tweaks and Simplifications for White People. I was very impressed.

    Better than JAL. Flight attendants always see me and click into English, as if all Caucasians speak English. I don’t mind that so much on international flights, but it really wrankles on domestic flights. I’ve even cautioned domestic flights training center central on that issue many times some years ago, but they didn’t even give me a “kentou shimasu”. It was, “Speaking to foreigners in English is our training, so sorry.” And lo, it hasn’t changed. DisneySea does far better.

  • I must say, Debito, I like these personal updates. People, (who shall remain “linkless”), forget it’s a civil rights site and start sniping about Johnny One Note-ism. Having a couple of off-topics in month puts another dimension to your writing.

  • Echo that about JAL— Ah, Naruhodo!

    About 10 years ago when I was still corporate and my employers was awash in cash (subsequently asset stripped in a “merger” and now a broken shell), was flying out here on JAL biz class with the wife. There we were happily talking in Japanese and the flight attendant simply ignored my Japanese and carried on in English. So there I was talking to my (Japanese) wife in Japanese, and there she was talking to my wife in Japanese, and there I was talking to her in Japanese, and there she was talking to me in English. Something wrong with this picture?

    I don’t now think it was the flight attendant’s fault- I suppose she was alright as a person, although with the uniform and the synthetic attitude it’s difficult to know or care really- but, yes, I see now it’s the training and assumptions in the training. How naive of me: I assumed the attendant was just stupid or lacked any form of social intelligence, or just wanted to show off her ryugaku acquired or whatever English no matter what. You know she would say would you like a drink and I would say aka wain onegaishimasu, and then she would give me a patronizing “oh so you want red wine, right?” type of thing. At least she didn’t tell me how good my Japanese was, haha.

    But now I see- the training. It makes sense now- this explains her stubborn refusal to switch to Japanese!

    I haven’t flown JAL since- switched to ANA, now that I pay on my own dime.

    I got the feeling that JAL was bloated, arrogant, complacent. Reminds me of the paternalistic we know best attitude of NHK, which still seems to be awash in taxpayers money.

    Ranting away, but I do learn something every week on this blog, when you aren’t cavorting around living a life. How dare you abandon us for Disney!

    — Heh. 🙂

  • Never been to any of the Disneylands. I must be southern, because the only theme parks I’ve been to were Frontier City and Silver Dollar City. Western mildly historic themed parks.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself! And here I was expecting to hear something like “Mickey Mouse called me a gaijin”(which would irritate me if that happened) or something like that. But, it is nice to see they assumed Japanese first.

    — Actually, Daisy Duck ran her finger (the center of three) most provocatively across my back as she walked past. Pity those face masks can’t wink.

  • mark in kanto says:

    Aside on an aside. If you want to be real mean to the attendants who do this kind of thing answer in unintelligible English.

    They: watto uddo yu laiku with yua miiru?
    Me: (mumbled) Um, mebbe, like, I’da kinda like um some obda wain jewgot up on yar cart up there.
    They: Ekkyusuusu me?
    Me: (mumbled again), Ya know, da same thing dja gave da guy over there …
    They: Ano, ekkyususu me?
    Me: First turning to wife: dame da ne–tsuujinai mitai… then to attendant–AKA WAIN onegai shimasu!

    Doesn’t do much good in the long run, but let’s me blow off some steam. And anyhow, that is how “I am trained.”

  • re:JAL

    I complained too about being singled out on JAL flights (they used to have a policy where they would come up to ‘foreign’, ie non-Asian passengers and ask them in English to look at the safety information). Never got an official response (despite asking for one), but after doing it twice it hasn’t happened again…

    I suspect they put a note on my frequent flyer profile: “customer becomes aggressive when addressed in English. Beware!” 😉

    — Maybe the same for me too…

  • I always use ANA, never JAL unless absolutely necessary.

    Never had any language issues on ANA, if anything domestically they are pretty happy that you do.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I’m a fan of Disney Sea, particularly if you’re there as part of a couple. Great atmosphere; go in cooler weather so you’re not sweating all the time, and you’ll have a lot of fun. Best oddly-comforting thing: walking down streets made up to look like various places and times, without any automobiles in sight!

  • Most airlines use stickers on the top corners of the seats to mark the “special” people (dietary restrictions, minors traveling unaccompanied, etc). For example, at the beginning of a flight, the flight attendant always marks my seat with a “vegetarian meal” sticker (I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I think the vegetarian meals are superior to the regular economy meals except on Asian carriers. And you get your meal served early).

    Anyway, if you put a small sticker (doesn’t have to be greater than 2.5cm² on your seat that says “日本語” where the attendant can see it, the attendants WILL speak to you in Japanese from the beginning. It keeps you from doing the language negotiation tango.

    And they’ll also give you the Japanese customs forms, etc, by default, and offer you the Japanese newspapers rather than pass by you or offer you the inferior English Japanese papers (Daily Yomiuri, Japan Times).

    // I was inspired to do this by the flags on the flight attendant uniforms indicating what languages they can speak. I don’t have one of those fancy Japanese flag pins (and I don’t think they’d understand it meant “language” unless I pinned it on a flight attendant uniform that I was wearing), so I used a plain white sticker set (pack of 500 for cheap) and a marker.

  • Continuing on the airline tangent:

    I’ve recently given up on favoring Japanese airlines. I used to go out of my way to get flights on ANA, but they have downgraded their coach service a lot over the last year (fewer meals, no more sparkling wine, not even free papers), and their crews have also become noticeably less friendly and helpful. Now I just take whatever is cheap, direct and reasonably comfortable.

    Eido’s idea strikes me as weird and counter-productive. So if I don’t put a sticker on my seat, I should get everything in English? That’s not how it should work. The crew should speak whatever language the customer wants to use (assuming the crew can speak it), rather than making the choice unilaterally. Japanese flight attendants should get training from their European counterparts, who are generally very good at dealing with multi-lingual environments, and will happily switch into any language they know at any time, no questions asked.

  • “…or offer you the inferior English Japanese papers (Daily Yomiuri, Japan Times)”.

    Ah! The Japan Times is my main source of information right now, as I can’t quite read ALL the kanji yet.It seems good to me(not to mention Debito writes for it), but you are fluent in Japanese, so you are the better judge at a newspaper than I.

    Anyway, I never thought of that sticker method. Sounds like a good idea, not to mention a quick way to get rid of any potential headaches that might arise from not having that. Thanks for the tip.

  • Hehe, I’m a bit chuffed to see other people besides me do the flag thing. Actually (and not to get too far off topic here) I do how the Japanese flight attendants do at my workplace. I have a little Japanese flag lapel pin that I wear in case any Japanese customers should need assistance. Which is more for my benefit, really, as I could use the practise.

    Granted, it’s never worked yet. Maybe 0.1% of my customers are ever Japanese, and most of them just stick to English (whether they can speak it well or not). But hey, never hurts to cast a line and see what bites, I suppose.


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