TOPTokyo LifeTokyo Daddy Issues: First Family Visit to Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Daddy Issues: First Family Visit to Tokyo Disneyland

Our main goal was to shake hands with Mickey

By Andreas Neuenkirchen

I don’t know if there really is an app for everything, but there is certainly one that will tell you how long you’ll have to wait in line before you get the chance to shake the hand of Mickey Mouse. My wife made me install it just before we took our 5-year-old daughter Hana to Tokyo Disneyland for the first time. She already had the app on her phone, but for Disneyland, you can never be prepared enough.

This app is not limited to telling you the waiting time at Mickey’s house. It also provides similar information about other attractions and lets you acquire FastPasses that are not available to those app-less people who think they can just walk into Disneyland like it is some kind of amusement park.

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Photo by Postmodern Studio / Shutterstock.com

The application is only available in Japanese, which, naturally, inspired a few online commentators to deem it “racist.” I didn’t feel especially discriminated by mine, just challenged. I can read Japanese if you give me time. Preferably lots of it. And a quiet place, with nobody breathing down my neck. These are conditions you will not find when visiting Disneyland with your family.

So, my wife reduced my app-related tasks to only one: Monitoring the waiting time at Mickey’s house. We were not going to leave without shaking that oversized, four-fingered hand.

Spoiler: We never got to touch Mickey and still had ourselves some fun.

Wild Wild West Land

To our surprise, one of the attractions Hana liked best was the Country Bear Theater, which seems mostly famous for being outdated and unpopular, except with people eager to take a rest for 15 minutes without much waiting time. Whether appropriate for children or not, the animatronic bears sing songs about good old country staples like falling in love while drunk and “blood on the saddle, blood all around.”

From there, we went right to the Diamond Horseshoe restaurant for our pre-booked Horseshoe Roundup lunch show, coming with another helping of yee-haw. We hadn’t planned on our trip having such a strong Wild West focus, but all the lunch shows featuring princesses or rodent characters were already sold out, presumably to people watching their apps even more closely than we did.

Like many European men of my generation, I lived through a phase in my early adulthood when my attitude towards country music shifted from a sarcastic scoff to a warm embrace of what I considered authentic country music (as opposed to the kind that I still scoffed at). The phase passed and at some point, it all started to sound the same again.

Until we came to Tokyo Disneyland. To call the place a haven for authentic country music lovers might be overselling the Country Bears. But it seems Hana caught the bug there and I enjoyed this kind of music more than I had in a while.

She’ll be Coming Round Splash Mountain

We also enjoyed Splash Mountain, which came as an even bigger surprise. I was sure just watching the log boat full of screaming passengers crash and splash down the waterfall would scare Hana away. Shockingly, she announced: “That looks fun! Let’s do it!”

These days, I am not particularly fond of the wilder amusement park rides. Even the kid-friendly Dumbo carousel didn’t go great with my fear of heights. It somehow managed to be scary and dull at the same time. When my daughter later told me that I could have used the buttons to go even higher, I was glad I hadn’t known.

I really didn’t want to do Splash Mountain. My traitorous wife, however, wrangled three FastPasses from that damn app. Maybe it was revenge for the giant, otherwise anatomically correct rolly polly toy I had gotten Hana against her mother’s strong objections.

There was a glimmer of hope when I wasn’t able to fit my legs under the log’s safety harness. I had studied the security regulations carefully, desperate for a way out. They are very clear: If you can’t fit, you can’t ride. I was ready to comply. I would let them escort me out of Splash Mountain without resistance.

Alas, after some nervous laughter from everyone involved, I was able to rearrange my knees. The mechanism snapped shut and we were on our way. I can’t report much about it since my eyes were firmly shut the entire time, while I contemplated what I had achieved in life so far and if it had all been worth it. Then we went down that final, showy waterfall.

It wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was fun. It released all that fist-clenching, eyelid-squeezing tension. It got me very wet. Wetter than others, wetter than advertised. It was probably a matter of body height. I didn’t mind. It was like a christening. At the foot of Splash Mountain, I felt I had obtained a new lease on life. I was reborn.

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Photo credit: pio3 / Shutterstock.com

Disneyland After Dark

Before we were ready to retire to our hotel for dinner, perchance to return later, my wife said: “Wait, I will ask one of the cast where will be the best spot to watch the fireworks.”

“One of what?”

“The staff. Except they are not called staff here. They are called cast.”

I wondered if that made them feel special, or if they would rather have appreciated a raise, when my wife came back with the answer: “Apparently, we can see it well from anywhere.”

Thoughtlessly I replied: “I bet we can see it from the hotel room.”

She looked at me like she had suggested going to a fancy fish restaurant and I had brought her sushi from the konbini. I retroactively tried to disguise my insensitive remark as a joke, but I wasn’t more convincing than anybody ever is in this most desperate of all conversational maneuvers.

One of the main differences between Japanese and Germans is that the Japanese really, really enjoy fireworks, while for Germans, it’s just something we endure on New Year’s Eve.

We were already sitting on our hotel beds in our pajamas, gladly accepting defeat by fatigue, when my wife remarked, casually glancing at her smartphone: “It’s still over an hour waiting time to meet Mickey.” I said: “We are not going to meet Mickey. Not this time. It’s over, delete the app. I just did. We are free. We will return to the regular world tomorrow after breakfast.” She said she would uninstall, but I don’t think she ever did.

Just then, the night sky lit up outside our window. It was the Disneyland fireworks. We had chosen the perfect spot to watch. Or maybe the spot had chosen us. Who can say in such a magical place?


Read more of the Tokyo Daddy Issues column:

Tokyo Daddy Issues: Learning to Let Go (to Elementary School)

Tokyo Daddy Issues: Shall We Slay Demons or Sith Lords?