This year has been a disappointing year in terms of taking family trips. It seems every time we plan a trip somewhere, someone gets sick, and we either wind out canceling the trip, or having to fumble through it which is never fun.
This trip was no different unfortunately. A few days prior to the two day Disneyland / Disney Sea excursion that we had been planning for over a month, Haru starting developing a cough. So, for the next few days, aside from her usual kindergarten classes, we kept Haru indoors in the hopes that her cough would get better.
A couple of days before our trip, we took Haru to the doctor’s office as precautionary measure, and also in the hopes that maybe she can be given something to relieve her from her coughing. But the result was quite the opposite. After being in an office full of other sick people for over an hour, she came away from it feeling worse than she went in. This is precisely the reason why I NEVER go to the hospital in Japan. Often times, you come out of it in worse condition than you were when you went in.
A few hours after the visit to the clinic, Haru’s cough got so much worse. And to add insult to injury, none of the medication that the doctor prescribed to her actually worked. It was a major waste of time and money, and frankly I was pretty damn upset. Not only did Haru feel worse afterwards, this endangered our whole trip to Disney, which all of us were really looking forward to.
The next day was xmas. Haru’s condition was worse, and canceling the trip was looking to be inevitable. Of course, Haru was adamant about going despite her cough, but I didn’t want a repeat of last year. It was a pretty huge dilemma. If we go, we risk making her cold (or whatever she had), worse. If we canceled, then not only we lose a lot of money in cancellation fee, but we lose another opportunity take a trip as a family. The weather wasn’t really on our side either; the forecast predicted rain for the next two days.
Throughout the course of the evening, Haru’s cold seemed to have stabilized a bit. She had an appetite which was a good sign, and her cough would come and go. After careful consideration, we decided to chance it. Usually, we would get up really early in the morning, but we decided to just take it easy this time. Our Disney package included a quite a few fast passes, so we could afford not to get there ultra early in an effort to secure a spot in the line like we normally do.
The next morning, Haru seemed to be much better. She was still coughing a bit, but not as much as she did a couple of days earlier. There was still another issue we needed to overcome that was the dogs. With Jenna not able to walk and Princess’s hypoglycemic fits, there is no pet sitter in Japan that would take care of our dogs. But fortunately, my mother agreed to take care of the dogs while we were away. I was a bit concerned initially, because seeing Princess going through one of her hypoglycemic fits can be a bit unnerving. But since we changed her diet to include rice, she has been very stable. As for Jenna, she has made some progress in the months since lost her ability to walk. Although she still can’t walk, she is very mobile and prop herself up, so Jenna was less of a concern to me.
After I picked up my mother and returned to Yokohama, we set of on our trip to Disneyland. Haru was in very good spirits. She wasn’t coughing at all and if anything, she was very excited and alert during the drive over. On the way to Disneyland, we were caught in a 30-40 minute traffic jam, which irritated everyone (especially Haru, who hates traffic jams -especially on the way to Disneyland). I advised her that she should take a nap and that we would wake her up when we got there, but of course she didn’t. She was much too excited, after all it was a longingly anticipated trip that was nearly canceled. And given the fact that our previously planned trips had been canceled due to illness etc, her excitement was understandable. I was looking forward to as well, and I was glad hat we could finally make it happen.
After the hour and a half drive, we finally arrived at our vacation destination. Despite the intermittent sprinkles throughout the morning, the weather seemed to be holding up. We checked into the nearby Sheraton Hotel, which was a pretty decent hotel -Haru didn’t like it because they didn’t have the Disney decorations or more importantly, the Disney Channel like the Ambassador Hotel does. But it was a nice and clean hotel that did it’s job. The one perk that I liked about the Sheraton was instead of taking the usual shuttle bus to/from the parks, you take the Disney Resort Monorail. I haven’t been on the Disney monorail since I was a kid, and that was in Anaheim. So this was something also to look forward to as well.
We spent the first day at Disney Sea. Disney Sea to me has always been a mixed bag. The park is very well made, but it’s also somewhat half-baked in that many of the rides are target for very small children (under the age of 3), while the others are targeted for older kids or young adults (probably over the age of 12), and most of Disney Sea’s waterfront scenery is targeted for young adults and couples since there is very little Disney-isitic character branding to be seen. . That leaves very little for kids around Haru’s age to enjoy, but since Disney Sea is not as popular as Disneyland, the lines are shorter making it easy to enjoy plenty of rides.
The overall plan for this trip was to take it easy, and not to try to rush to the different attractions and try to get on as many rides as we can fit in within the next 10-11 hours we planned to spend at the park. We were in complete cruise mode; we wanted take in the sights and “stop to smell the roses.” It turned out to be a very god plan because we got to enjoy a lot of things we had been missing during our previous five trips to Disney. We took pictures with the characters, enjoyed the scenery which we rarely did before, and even enjoyed some of the shows.
The weather held for most of the day, with an occasional show here and there. We would just duck into shops and restaurants when it did rain, or just wear a raincoat which was more than sufficient.
That evening, we went to the Rainforest Cafe near the Ambassador Hotel. We went there last year on Haru’s 5th birthday which turned into somewhat of a disaster, because she wasn’t feeling well and she fell asleep during dinner. This year turned out to be much better. Haru’s excitement and energy lasted all day, long enough to stay awake during dinner and then some. After we finished dinner, we toured the downtown Disney area -something we never did before and visited some of the many shops there.
Afterwards, we took the Disney monorail back to our hotel to get some rest. By this time, Haru was in full hyperactive mode which was a vast change from last year. She wanted to go back to the park, so after about 30 minutes of rest we headed back out to catch the final fireworks show at Disneyland.
Haru used her new digital camera that she got for xmas to try to photograph the fireworks. I explained to her that it was very difficult to photograph fireworks and not to be disappointed if it didn’t turn out right. But amazingly, she managed to get better shots that I could get with my DSLR.
We planned to get a few rides in, to get a head start on the next day before the park closed, but unfortunately almost right after the fireworks show ended, it started to rain pretty heavily, so we decided to call it the night. We took the monorail again back to the hotel, where we grabbed some snacks and soft drinks at the small shop in the hotel and headed back to our room. It took a while for Haru to calm down from her excitement. And just when I thought she finally settled down, my wife broke the news that one of Haru’s friends from kindergarten would be at Disneyland the next day. It was if someone set off a nuclear bomb, because Haru went absolutely nuts with excitement. There was no way to calm her down at this point other than to shut off all of the lights to get her to sleep. But for the next hour so, she was still bouncing off of the walls with excitement in anticipation of the next day.
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We woke up bright and early the next morning. Haru had woken up in the middle of he night with a coughing episode, possibly due to the air being a bit dry in the hotel room. But after drinking some water she was okay. We packed up our belongings, had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, headed off to Disneyland. Normally, we would get to the park really early and stand in an already very long line to get a jump on the crowd of people who rush to be the first in line at the best rides in the park. At Tokyo Disneyland, if you don’t do this, you wind up literally standing in a 3+ hour line to ride a 2 minute ride. Even if you managed to get a fast pass to these rides, the fast passes will be for 8 or 9pm, which is why I really dislike going to Tokyo Disneyland. However, we barely used any of the free fast passes we got with our vacation passes, so there was no real hurry to jump in the crowded lines. We continued our cruise control strategy, take it slow, and take in the sites. In my opinion, this made things much more enjoyable. We were able see and do things we never did before. I really wanted to spend some time in Western Land and Adventure Land, the two Lands that we spent the least amount of time in, in the past.
It was Tokyo Disneyland’s 30th year in operation. I remember when I first visit this very park in 1983, shortly after opening day. I can’t believe its been 30 yeas since then, and I am glad we were able to go on its 30th anniversary so Haru can also enjoy Tokyo Disneyland on its birthday.
I particularly wanted to ride on Mark Twain’s Riverboat, which in the many times I have been to Tokyo, Anaheim and Orlando Disney’s, have never been on. I must admit, its one of the most under rated rides in the park. There are no cables pulling this thing, but it is riding on top of a rail underneath the water like the Jungle Cruise boats or the canoe rides. However, it is a real riverboat with a real riverboat captain driving it. For that reason alone, I really wanted to ride this thing, and I finally did.
Later that morning, we met up with Haru’s kindergarten friend, Ayaka and her little brother. The rendezvous was no less than explosive. They greeted each other as if they hadn’t seen each other for months. We all spent the next couple of hours so waking around the park and visiting the different attractions together. After a while, Ayaka’s brother, tired out and it was time for his nap, so went our separate ways with a promise to meet up later before we left.
We spent the rest of the day riding on different rides, seeing different show, and just enjoying things we never did before. I think this was the best time I have ever had at Disneyland in many years, and I think Haru really enjoyed herself too. She kept asking if we could stay another night; I wished we could too.
As promised, we met up with Ayaka and her family one last time. We were planning to ride the Haunted Mansion ride together, but unfortunately the parade route closed off our direct path to the Haunted Mansion and prevented us from meeting with Ayaka in time. We eventually made it to the front of the Mansion a few minutes before they got off. Since we were pretty close to the Spinning Tea Cup Ride and the wait time was less than 10 minutes, the girls decided that they wanted to ride this together before Ayaka and her family called it the evening.
I don’t like the Spinning Tea Cup ride, or any ride that spins for that matter because they make me sick, so I opted out and just the took pictures from the sideline. The girls seemed to really be having a good time, and I knew this was going to be a nice conversation topic for them for a long time to come.
After the teacup ride, it was time for Ayaka and her family to go home. As we said our goodbyes, Ayaka looked as if she were about to cry. I never did find out if she did or not. But I am sure this trip would be the most joyous and memorable for both Haru and Ayaka.
Finally, we had dinner at Japanese restaurant on Disney Main Street. For a Disneyland restaurant, it was pretty good. All of the other restaurants were either very overpriced and/or mediocre at best. This one was pretty decently price (for a restaurant inside Disneyland) and the food was pretty good too. Most of all, it doesn’t feel like you’re inside Disneyland, but at a Japanese restaurant. Not sure if that’s good or bad though. I still think The Blue Bayou (the restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, is my favorite, but its very overpriced for the quantity of food you get. Still, its the best themed restaurant by far.
As we left the park and headed out to the parking lot, Haru was so excited she was bouncing off the walls again. She changed into her pajamas but insisted that she wasn’t sleepy and she would not go to sleep until she got home this time. Usually, she would fall asleep before we even got out of the parking lot. This year, she managed to stay awake until we got out to the main road but was fast to sleep by the time we got to the expressway. This was by far, the best Disney trip of them all; I think Haru would agree.
Fast Tube by Casper