I was elated to have some time off. Most weekends I catch up on sleep and chores, but given the extra holidays I had time to do some exploring. First, I went to the Meiji Shrine. This is torii gate on the path leading to the shrine:
These are barrels of sake that have been donated to the shrine:
Then, I went to nearby Yoyogi koen. This is one of the largest parks in Tokyo. It's located right next to Meiji Shrine and is accessible by Harajuku station. It was really nice to be in a huge, green space with so many mature trees. I stood for a long time just listening to the sound of the wind in the leaves. The people watching was pretty epic--I saw a man walking a cat on a leash!
The next day I decided to check out Tokyo Disneyland on a whim. Since I grew up near California's Disneyland, all things Disney tend to remind me of home. I've been to Disneyland in California, Florida, Hong Kong and now Tokyo. I love comparing how the parks are run, the crowds they attract and the way food and merchandising is localized. See, for example, the corn potage, soy sauce and curry popcorn options:
The popcorn carts sell ~18USD plastic buckets with cross body straps that you can wear as you walk around the park and refill as needed. This means there is a lot of snacking as people walk around the park and wait in line. (That doesn't sound strange from an American point of view, but in Tokyo it is considered rude to eat or drink on the go.)
Check out these light saber chopsticks:
In general, the merchandising is character focused. Some park visitors come dressed as characters and many couples were wearing matching character gear. (There were also lots of little girls in princess gear that had gotten dolled up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.) Looking at the merchandising, you might not even know you were in Tokyo--I was hoping to find Minnie Mouse in a kimono, but no such luck. This snack pouch is the closest thing I found:
Thinking about the demographics of the park visitors, this makes sense. (The only other white women I saw in the park were Snow White and Princess Aurora.) While an outsider would be interested in something silly like Minnie Mouse in a kimono, the Japanese audience wants to feel like they are having an authentic Disney experience.
And they are getting an authentic experience. The park is very similar to Anaheim Disneyland. Sure, Tokyo doesn't have the Matterhorn of Main Street. Instead, they have Pooh's Honey Hunt and the World Bazaar. But on the whole it's a much closer match to the US parks than Hong Kong Disney.
I didn't visit Disney Sea, which I understand to be Tokyo's answer to California Adventure, but I hope to check it out before the end of my assignment. (While my day at Disneyland is fun, I wouldn't consider it a must-do when planning a short trip to Japan.)