A Unique Disney Resort in Tokyo: DisneySea

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I’ve been interested in visiting DisneySea ever since I saw pictures from the park a few years ago, and I was able to finally make that happen on my second trip to Tokyo. With this trip, I have officially been to all the Disney resorts. Granted, I haven’t visited every park in every resort, but I have been to Disneyland in California, Disneyworld in Florida, Disneyland Paris, Disneyland Hong Kong, and now Disneyland Tokyo Resort. I didn’t go to the Disneyland Tokyo park, but elected to go to DisneySea. This park is not just a mere miniature replica of Disneyland, like the other Disneyland parks. DisneySea is a park unique to Tokyo and it has several different theme areas inspired by ocean legends and other myths. The installations are actually very well done, and if you like theme parks, it is certainly worth your time.

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I had originally planned to go to DisneySea on Sunday of my visit, but I made a change to go to Nikko instead after my Saturday trip had to be canceled due to excessive snow. However, when I got to Nikko and realized the bus service was canceled, and it would be a pain in the ass to stumble in the piles of snow and ice to visit the shrines, I made the decision to return to Tokyo and go visit DisneySea. It was like the universe was telling me I should be there rather than fighting the elements, especially since that Sunday the weather in Tokyo was gorgeous, sunny, clear and cold.

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I got to DisneySea around 1300 which left me around nine hours to visit the park. In truth that is more than enough time to walk around and enjoy everything, but it made it a bit tight to ride all the rides I wanted to. I took advantage of the Fast Pass system to visit as many rides as I could, but since the times for Fast Passes were staggered, I ended up having to wait until the very end of the evening to visit some of the most popular rides like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and Journey to the Center of the Earth. I really do like the Fast Pass system, since it enables you to not have to wait in line if you don’t want to, and if I had been at DisneySea when it opened rather than midday, it would not have been an issue.

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The details of the installations were very beautiful and intricate and didn’t feel cheesy at all. The rides were actually pretty fun too, and give you as much thrill bang for your buck as you would expect from Disney rides. I wished the rides had a line for single riders like Disneyland Hong Kong, but you can’t have everything in life. The wait times for the most popular rides topped out at about 90 minutes, and even when it was an hour to closing time, one of the most popular rides (Journey to the Center of the Earth) was still 60 minutes.

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There was also a wide variety of food to eat, and unlike other Disneyland parks, some of the restaurants at DisneySea serve alcohol. The shopping was pretty decent, though strangely light on T shirts for adults. Once you have seen the absolute capitalist mecca that is Disneyworld shops, all the other Disneyland resorts have a very high bar to reach.

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There was a light show and fireworks scheduled, but had to be canceled due to gusty winds. While I do love me some fireworks, the cancellations enabled me to fit in all the rides towards the end. It also gave me more time to enjoy the park at night, because it looked especially beautiful with all the colored lights.

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My absolute favorite place, a place I could have just camped out forever in if it wasn’t for the hordes of young children, was Ariel’s Grotto, or as I preferred to call it, Ariel’s Acid Trip. Seriously, I can only imagine what this place would be like if you were high on hallucinogens, because the imagery itself in real life was fantastical enough. Whoever were the art designers for this place should be commended, because I adored the crazy colors and outlandish decorations. I kept going back, because I wanted to take it all in and sear it to my permanent memory. The grotto is definitely geared more toward young children in terms of rides and play areas, but it is a place anyone who loves crazy colors can enjoy for themselves.

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DisneySea is part of the larger Disneyland Tokyo resort, and both are linked by the Disneyland resort monorail. It is also extremely easy to get to Disneyland resorts from Tokyo proper. The JR station is Maihama Station located on the JR Keiyo Line, which can be accessed from a variety of popular stations that connect with the Tokyo metro, like Tokyo Station and Hatchobori. It’s a roughly 30 minute train ride to Maihama, and then you transfer to the Disneyland monorail line to get to the park you want. I do have to say that it’s kind of crappy that you actually have to pay for the Disneyland train ride, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

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DisneySea is open year round, though I deliberately chose to visit in the winter time, because I know the crowds are even MORE massive in the summertime. The winter hours were actually quite good, open from 0800 to 2200 on weekends. I seriously recommend this place if you like Disneyland, and if you want to visit a unique park you won’t find in any other Disneyland resort around the world. It’s definitely worth your time.

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This batch of photos were in the first batch that I edited with Adobe Lightroom 5. I couldn’t push the limits of what the editing software can do, because I shot these photos in JPEG rather than RAW. But even then, it was still pretty cool to see how I far I could enhance and sharpen the photos. I particularly had fun punching up the colors to almost border on hyper realism (though I didn’t actually change any of the colors- they really do look like that in reality), particularly the photos taken in Ariel’s Grotto. Low light photography can be hit for miss for me (though I am getting better), so I was very pleased with how all of these turned out.

Tokyo in Winter

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For President’s Day weekend I went back to Tokyo, because I wanted to see it in the winter time. I figured the weather would be good enough, plus there weren’t many things I wanted to do in the winter time. Or at least I thought at the time I made my initial vacation plans.

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It snowed the first day of my weekend. The snow was flurrying when I first landed that morning, and as the day progressed and turned into night, the snowfall thickened. I was glad I had an umbrella with me to shield me from the snow falling upon me, but it was beautiful to watch the snow fall. I spent the late afternoon and early evening in Ueno Park, which is a very large urban park in the middle of Tokyo.

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The snowfall was delicate and pure white, and it laid a gentle blanket over the trees and the paths. The streetlights and particularly the lanterns added some spot illumination to make you feel like you were in a winter wonderland, like Narnia.

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As it got darker, the otherworldly aspect of the city became even more pronounced. It was like the winter night scenes in The Shining (Stanley Kubrick version), only without a hedge maze or a madman with an ax chasing you.

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Of course there is often a downside to winter snowfall, and that was certainly the case the next day. I woke up early, because I intended to go up to Nikko for a day trip. What I found is that the snow had fallen all night, and it was now several inches on the streets. But by this point, the temperature rose enough to turn to rain. Just imagine what you get when combine several inches of snow with driving rain. You get large pools of standing, cold, slushy water. My feet were soaked entirely through, and my train was canceled to due to heavy snowfall.

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So even though the snow was melting fairly rapidly that day, there was still enough on the ground to enjoy the East Garden of the Imperial Palace. Parts of the garden were closed for the day due to the snowfall, but there were some winter blossoms on the trees.

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The next day, the trains were running to Nikko, but the local buses weren’t. While Tokyo appears to have gotten four inches of the snow the day prior, Nikko got around 12 inches of snow, since it is located higher in the mountains. While the trains could get through, the roads hadn’t been completely plowed, and there was a danger of avalanches. I ended up returning to Tokyo shortly thereafter, because my day’s plan were ruined.

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Later that night, I partook in one of Tokyo’s winter illuminations. It wasn’t as colorful or elaborate as the ones I visited in Korea, but it was nice nonetheless. A very long stretch of road behind the Marouni Building was lined with trees illuminated by clear lights. It was pretty, though I love me some garden illuminations. The crisp winter coldness and the cold, clear lights was a perfect accompaniment to the absolutely delicious sakura chocolate latte with sakura whipped cream topping as I walked up and down the street.

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What I learned from this trip is that I need to be judicious in selecting winter vacation destinations. It’s one thing to pick something you know will be filled with snow. But you also run the risk that things will be shut down due to the weather.

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But I did get my fix of beautiful winter landscapes. I got my fix even more when I was editing the photos. I recently took a digital photography class, and part of the class was a licensed copy of Adobe Lightroom 5. Even though I shot my Tokyo photos in JPEG, as opposed to RAW, it was quite interesting to see what I could do with the software to pretty up the pictures. I was going for photo enhancement that just bordered on appearing to be paintings.

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Tokyo Ueno Park Colorful Autumn Foliage painting

Ueno Park autumn foliage painting


This painting was the next in line for my autumn creations. I am deeply inspired by colorful nature, so for the most part, when I take pictures, I try and compose the pictures like I would a painting, because I know that I will probably want to paint it later. I selected this picture (see below), because it had the colorful foliage I like to paint, and it was a different setup than the previous painting from Bukhansan National Park. The composition for this painting reminded me of all the perspective drawings I did in art class as a kid. The majority of the medium for this painting was a watercolor underpainting  overlaid with hard pastels. The gazebo was drawn in watercolor pencil.

The most challenging part of this painting for me was to produce a sense of depth in the water to add to the perspective, and also to render the green foliage in the foreground with as much realism as possible. That required me to lay in multiple layers of pastel in different colors. Even then it still wasn’t completely realistic, but close enough.

Like most paintings, this one looks better from afar, and after I completed it, it took a bit to grow on me. Sometimes it takes a bit for me to finally say the painting is as complete as it is going to be. Frequently I am dissatisfied during the actual process of creating the painting, and I often feel that I am not producing the painting on the page that is in my head (and close to the reference photo). However, I eventually reach a point where I can’t think of any way to improve the painting and I call it done. Then, it takes a couple days for me to really develop an attachment to the the painting  and to like it.

Ueno Park colorful fall foliage


The reference photo was taken in Ueno Park in central Tokyo when I visited there Veteran’s Day weekend November 2012.  Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and right next to a major Metro stop  (Ueno). It’s a pleasant park to walk around and enjoy different museums, temples, shrines and gardens. This particular picture was taken late in the day and the sun was close to setting. I like the warm, late afternoon autumn light and how it makes most of the backdrop warm, though the cool blues of the water and green foliage in the foreground makes a nice contrast to the yellows and oranges in the background.