Things to NOT do in Tokyo [July 3 2012]

So you want to know what NOT to do in Tokyo?

There are a number of things that we can talk about her but for the sake of today’s post let’s talk about three things that I think are definite No-No’s when traveling to Tokyo. Without further delay let’s get right into it!

Do NOT try to imitate the fashions.

When traveling to Tokyo (or any part of Japan as far as I am concerned) it can be tempting to dress the way you see people dress in photos and on blogs. These elaborate and at times wacky outfits are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but when traveling to Tokyo I would say that they are something to avoid. The reason for this? Well it’s simple. The odds are you are coming to Tokyo from another country, you spent a lot of money on this trip. Enjoy it. Fashion is great. I am a huge advocate of getting out there, expressing yourself and being who you are or even creating a you that you’ve always wanted. I just personally believe that comfort will ensure that you have a better time on a trip like this.

Do NOT go to Tokyo without a plan. 

There is so much going on in Tokyo that you might think it is incredible unnecessary to make a plan but the fact is there is a good chance that if you don’t make a plan you will find yourself missing out. You don’t necessarily have to follow the plan as if it were law but it will give you a direction to move and therefore give you the opportunity to see more. Also be sure to plan to eat. Find a few places where you might want to try in the area you are visiting and list them so when you want some food you know where they are and what they offer.  It is not uncommon for you to get so excited that you pass by a place to eat and realize that it was your only place to eat and now it is packed solid.

Do NOT rush through Tokyo. 

When I say this I am talking from the moment you get out of the plane to the moment you try and get on a train. Tokyo is much easier to get around for the English speaker than people might think BUT you have to be patient and take time to see what is around you. It is not uncommon to find English on signs at stations and airports but you may have to step back a moment and wait for them to change to your language. Also consider that there are sometimes English maps where you can check information but you will again need to take a second look for them (they are not hard to find) and then at times you may have to do a matching game with the kanji and English words so you can get on the right train. It’s not hard but it does require patience. Yes people around you will be rushing and traveling quickly, they live in Tokyo they know what they are doing, but just take a slow pace and enjoy yourself.

Do NOT just travel to say you have been places. 

I will be talking more specifically about travel in another post but it is important to make sure you are traveling to do things that actually interest you. If you are not interested on going up to the tallest tower in Tokyo don’t do it. If you don’t have any interest in seeing the buildings in Shibuya because you live in a city, don’t do it. See the things you want to see and do the things you want to do. Stay away from the travel guide books and just enjoy doing things you enjoy.

I hope that this post helps those of you who are interested in traveling to Tokyo. Please stay tuned for more information about Tokyo in the near future.

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Katventures Tokyo Issue 1: Chef Mickey’s Character Breakfast [July 20 2012]

There is no better way to start off your trip with a nice filling breakfast and we did just that at the Tokyo Disney Resort Ambassador Hotel’s restaurant “Chef Micky’s”. Like the Chef Mickey’s located at different Disney Resorts around the world this restaurant offers a nice dining location for families as well as adult groups/couples to enjoy a hearty breakfast no matter what you enjoy eating. From steamed Japanese veggies and dumplings to jelly beans trust me when I say there is something for everybody.

The breakfast was very affordable at 3300 yen per adult for an all you can eat buffet. There was no posted time limits on the buffet although I assume it would be the standard 90 minutes the they have at other all you can eat places in Japan. The selection was HUGE and in fact I didn’t even scrape the surface with what I ate. I also made the mistake of having two Micky pancakes which were very heavy and filling although they were amazingly delicious. There was fresh fruit, veggies, pastries, meats, pancakes, cereals, rice, curry, and so much more! The down side is that for two people it felt a little bit cramped. The table we were at was small and in a corner which made it hard to get in and out to see the characters without disturbing the two girls that were along side of us. Of course it’s Disney and everyone was very understanding of what was going on because that is the nature of the restaurant but still I think it is worth mentioning if you are planning on going with just yourself and one other person.

The cast members were very helpful and most spoke either English or would alter the way they spoke Japanese to a more understandable vocabulary. If there was a misunderstanding then they would quickly either get someone to assist or they would find out how to ask the question in English before returning to the table. That made everything very helpful and less stressful especially for my mom who wasn’t sure how to communicate what she wanted. I should also mentioned that regardless the fact that I could have assisted my mom before I had the chance to even explain that Japanese was ok for me the cast member would have already rushed away to get a statement translated. . . it was that quick.

The main dish, as far as my mother was concerned that is, were jelly beans. There were 4 different containers of jelly beans of mixed flavors for you to enjoy. They were also Jelly Belly brand which was surprising to me because usually Chef Micky’s has candy for breakfast but not high quality beans like this. Everything was good and high quality though so I really can’t say anything bad. There were also only 4 characters which was fine with me but I understand how some people may not have been pleased with that. The characters came around much more quickly than they do at Chef Mickey’s in Walt Disney World but nonetheless it was still fine with me.

All of the characters were very “physical” in that they would shake your hand, give you a kiss or whatever else. For me I am tall so they pulled me down so I would be at their level. I had a great time taking photos with the characters and it was a good chance to get my photos in without having to wait in the lines that there at at the parks. If you want to really have a different variety of characters though, you can go to various character dining options that are around the resort. This is a great chance for you to see everyone but for those who you do not see you can check them out a the parks. They have a TON of characters (even the ones that you haven’t seen for years and years) for you to meet and greet. They also have them out for long periods of time so that almost everyone has the chance to see them if they want to.

The Bottom Line:

RATING: 7 out of 10

If you are staying at the Ambassador Hotel then this is a great way to start your Disney trip. The price is right at 3300 yen for an all you can eat buffet with character meet and greet. If you are not at the restaurant early you may find yourself having to use something called “priority seating” which means you can get a ticket to come back to the restaurant at a later designated time rather than having to wait. This is common at other Disney Resorts also and I find it extremely useful.

So why 7 out of 10? The table was just a bit too small in my opinion and just a bit too close to the one next to us especially for a restaurant where you are up and down taking photos with characters. I also would have liked to see maybe just 2 more characters and have them a bit more spread out because it felt just a bit rushed.

Other than those things everything else was GREAT! Definitely something I would recommend.

 

Ikspiari (Tokyo Disney Resort) Rainforest Cafe Review [July 20 2012}

One of the restaurants which is a must for my family and I every time that we visit a Disney Resort is always the Rainforest Cafe. Here in Tokyo it was no exception. I could not resist the chance to eat some familiar foods and enjoy some nachos and tacos the way that they were meant (as far as an american is concerned) to be eaten.

The service was great and the prices were typical so I really can’t say anything bad about that. They also had many of the favorites that you might find at any Rainforest Cafe with the addition of some Japanese style specialties to include a salad which included raw seafood. Before I continue any further it is important to note that if you are interested in going to the Rainforest Cafe and have not been here before you should know that it is loud and exciting. If you are looking for a quiet or romantic sit down restaurant this is most likely not for you. There are “animals” around the entire restaurant which “act up” from time to time as well as “thunder storms” which happen every so often. I would not imagine that this would be the place to bring children who may be fearful of these types of things. This wasn’t a problem for my mother or myself though.

Overall Review

The service was great and the food came quick. Once it arrived it was delicious too! The staff was friendly and although they did not speak English well they did do their best to take my mother’s order and there were no mistakes.

RATING: I give this restaurant a 10 our of 10. There was nothing that I could honestly say they needed to improve on that I was aware of.

If you are interested in going to the Rainforest Cafe in Ikspiari I would definitely recommend it.

Around the Area: Ikspiari Shopping Center [July 20 2012]

We started off the day with some coffee which I had packed for the trip. This turned out to be a very useful thing especially the “blendy sticks” that I had also taken along with me which gave the coffee that gourmet taste without the gourmet price. If you are into paying over $10.00 for your coffee there are a number of places in the local shopping center known as Ikspiari where you can find a variety of places that serve up almost anything you can think of but more about that later. The Ambassador Hotel did offer up a few different types of hot drinks such as instant stir and go coffee as well as tea but I am glad that I had brought along my drip coffee especially with the amount of coffee that we drank.

It was a long flight for my mom who was coming from Boston so we decided to start the day off at Chef Mickey’s and then spend some time in the area at Ikspiari seeing as it was very close to the hotel, in fact it was about a 5 minute walk from the elevator to Ikspiari itself. We had actually planned on going to various other places in Tokyo to explore, however, the sheer size of Ikspiari coupled with the amount of food, shopping and entertainment offered ended up keeping us entertained for most of the day.

To be completely honest although it would have been fun to go from place to place as I had originally planned I was actually blown away by the variety of what was offered at Ikspiari. If you are familiar with the Disney Resorts around the world, mainly Walt Disney World, I would compare Ikspiari to Down Town Disney. There is a movie theater, live shows, food and various shopping all with the high quality Disney customer service that you would expect from the company. There are, however, some main differences. Although there is a Disney Store there are very few Disney themed shops in Ikspiari which was nice. There were also a lot of places which were more practical rather than novelty. For example they don’t have places like the magnet store which only sells magnets but they do have various clothing stores, cosmetic stores as well as some familiar brands like Coach and Lush.

If you do not want to shop there are various other areas you can explore like the large court yard with a stage in the center where there are various acts for everyone to enjoy. Although we did not sit down to watch any of the shows in particular we did see a bit of one where a man was doing tricks on the stage with the help from the audience. It seemed silly to me but the crowd seemed to like it and were very involved. These shows seemed to happen every night although we did not see a schedule nor did we watch every night so we took it as more of something to see if you happened to be in the area. The rest of the area is just beautiful though, there are flowers which were just fantastic and the sights and sounds were very enjoyable.

I do, however, think that it is important to note that although it is a nice place to stroll this is still a high traffic area. Although it is not as high traffic as some areas in Tokyo might be it is still Tokyo and you will experience the hustle and bustle of the city so be aware of that. If you have children strollers will be just fine but I would think twice about having young ones walking freely because of the amount of people and the slightly confusing layout of the area.

So you want to save all of your money for Disney merchandise, I understand, but everyone’s got to eat! I was incredibly pleased with the food options which were available at Ikspiari. No matter what you are looking for or what type of food you enjoy you can find it here. . . somewhere. And you can even find those places that you otherwise would have searched all over Tokyo to find, right here, at your fingertips. Rainforest Cafe was no surprise but I was pleased to see that there was a Sweets Paradise which I had been searching all over for. Other restaurant options included Yakiniku, Italian, Sushi, Traditional Japanese, Tempaura and more. If you wanted to grab something for your room there are various places like a grocery store where you can pick up various international favorites. The prices were a little steep compared to what I am used to but according to Mom they weren’t that bad and were rather affordable in many cases. There were also other places where you could get fresh foods such as sushi, rice balls and various other favorites. This was in my opinion much more affordable and I wish I would have seen this sooner. There are also places where you can get hotdogs and sandwiches if you are not in the mood to try some different Japanese style foods although I should warn you that many of the American foods are a bit overpriced because they are a special treat.

Overall this is a fantastic area and certainly worth the trip if you are in the Tokyo Disney Resort Area. It’s also a little taste of Japan Shopping even if you are not out in the city and stay in the Tokyo Disney Resort.

Here are some more photos from Ikspiari including some of the foods that we got from the grocery store:

Katventures Issue 3: Tokyo Disneyland [July 20 2012]

For our first day at the parks we decided that we would go to Tokyo Disneyland because it was simply the most appropriate place to go on the first day of a Disney trip. The weather was not bad although I to be honest would have liked to see a bit more sun. We were completely cloud covered and it was incredibly windy up there but we managed to get by without much of a problem.

We had the advantage of special park passes which allowed us into a special area where we could get into the park 15 minutes early which was great. This was one of the advantages of staying on Disney property and we took advantage of this as often as we could. Fifteen minutes might not seem like a lot but it was enough to get yourself ahead of the rest of the people and get on some of the rides before others were allowed into the park.

Although I had done my research about the time when we were traveling I didn’t realize that this “off season” would be the way that it was. We did start enjoying the parks on Wednesday which was mid week but there seemed to be no one (at least compared to my last trip to the resort) here. We were able to get onto a number of rides that usually would have long waits all before lunch. To be truthful we really didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had enjoyed a few things as far as shopping and really strolled around the shops and saw what they had to offer. We also took some time to really see what the park had to offer as far as food went although we didn’t eat everything we saw. I will be making a post in the future completely dedicated to food so when that time comes around I will make sure I go over absolutely everything that you might find at the park so you don’t feel like you will be eating rice and sushi the entire time if you choose to visit.

Over all the day at Tokyo Disneyland was great! We had the chance to see a lot and also just relax. There were some set backs like a little bit of rain and some of the shows were canceled because of the high winds but this was nothing that we couldn’t deal with. To be honest I am trying to think of actual draw backs from the day and I can’t think of any. The park was clean the staff were friendly everything went really well.

Katventures Issue 4: Tokyo Disney Sea [July 20 2012]

Our second day in the Tokyo Disney Resort was spent at Tokyo Disney Sea. If you have never been to Tokyo Disney Sea this is a park which is themed to the waterfronts of the world. The centerpiece is a large volcano which is the background for the “sea” which is the center of the park. There is the American Waterfront, Mysterious Island, Port Discovery, Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast. If you have ever been to EPCOT this is a similar concept. Each area has specialty rides, foods and music which are appropriate for the areas that you visit. You can get curry from the Arabian Coast, Italian food at Mediterranean Harbor and hotdogs at American Waterfront. In the other areas the food is also themed although I will say that Mermaid Lagoon serving seafood just seems wrong but for us humans I suppose that it is acceptable.

Each of these locations makes you feel as though you are really at the different parts of the world which is why I compare it to EPCOT although that is the first and last comparison to be completely honest. Everything else about the park is completely unique in different ways. One of the very interesting things that they have is a hotel, Miracosta, which is actually located in the park. In fact when sitting around waiting for Fantasmic you can see the people in their hotel windows. In my personal opinion this is a great way to add a special something to the park because although the building is beautifully painted and is inside the park the fact that there are naturally people walking around moving in the building behind the curtains, some open some shut lights on and off in a completely candid way. It’s a great thing in my opinion.

There are some places which are in the park which are completely based on the imaginary places created by novels such as Journey To The Center Of The Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The theming of this area is absolutely amazing. This area is tucked behind the volcano and therefore you need to walk through a cave to get to this area. When you emerge you find yourself inside the novels themselves. When you are in this area you can find yourself unable to see anything else around the park which is fantastic. There are a few different things that are worth mentioning in this area. An important thing to note is that there are a lot of shady areas in this area to include Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

There are a lot of other fun things to do around the park and tons of great photo opportunities around the park although some of them may be . . . . . strange. Regardless it’s a fun place to be. You will hear me talk more about this park here in the near future. Overall this park is a great place especially for the adult guests. Stay tuned for more fun facts and information in the next week.

It Takes A Village [July 5 2012]

Today a post was made both here on the blog and over at the OkiNinjaKitty Channel. Here’s the video if you wanted to take a look:

Not long after the video posted a comment was made which asked me the following:

“Have you read Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes A Village”?? If so, do you think her theory that everyone is responsible for the village children would work in Okinawa? If not, would you agree that Okinawans “parent” their own children starting at home and do not expect the village to do the “parenting” out on the street or at the mall?”

This is a great question! I wanted to respond right away but because of the character limit on YouTube comments I took some time in order to organize my thoughts so I could summarize what I wanted to say all while fitting in the space provided. Then I realized. . . . I’ve got a blog I can use as much space as I need to answer and so here we are. Because there are a few different parts to this question I am going to take it piece by piece and hopefully it makes it easier to write about and communicate what I am trying to say.

“Have you read Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes A Village”??”

I unfortunately have not read the book “It Takes A Village” but I am very familiar with the concept that the book is said to discuss.

“If so, do you think her theory that everyone is responsible for the village children would work in Okinawa?”

The more that I examine this part of the question the more complicated my response becomes so hang in there with me for a moment here while I try to take what is in my head and communicate it with words that people other than myself will understand. In many ways I believe that this “it takes a village” theory is very much in place here in Okinawa but not necessarily in the way that we might envision it as Americans. What I mean by this is that here in Okinawa it seems as though the “village” is the family. Children are taken care of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great great grand parents (it is Okinawa after all), aunts, uncles and other family members who may be part of the large family structure which seems to be common among Okinawa’s families. It is common for families to also do things together so in short there is always someone to keep their eye on the child. For example if you go to a local shopping center mom may be doing the groceries but the child is upstairs in the children’s area with grandpa. I have also known people who feel that their children are not quite well enough behaved to bring into public situations and therefore they choose to have a grandparent babysit while they are out and about.

Now I realize that depending on your views you may feel that this is not necessarily an illustration of the “it takes a village” theory but let me explain for a moment what brings me to feel as though it is. Based on the experiences that I have had with some of Okinawa’s families there is a lot for the children to learn within the family structure.   Discipline, recreation activities (playing, gardening, cooking) and how to conduct yourself in social situations all seem to be learned through interaction with different members of the family structure. This is enforced when the family comes together and eventually when families spend time in more social situations with outside groups (being in public). Each and every family member has something to offer and therefore this brings me to my observation that this theory is very much practiced here in Okinawa.

“If not, would you agree that Okinawans “parent” their own children starting at home and do not expect the village to do the “parenting” out on the street or at the mall?”

Even in the case of the family being the “village” yes I would agree that most Okinawans “parent” their own children starting at home. There is a certain level of discipline that the child must have before going to a grandparent’s house so that the grandparents are not burdened. There will eventually be another level of discipline that a child must have before going into public/social situations so that others are not burdened. Remember people in Okinawa are relatively non-confrontational and have a certain respect for the people around them. If there is something that they as a parent do not feel is acceptable the prevent it from happening, even if it means removing a child from a situation completely, before a stranger has to mention it to them.

As always I do need to stress that there are people out there, as there are anywhere else, who do not have the same feelings towards respecting others and avoiding confrontation. for the most part, however, they seem to be far and few in-between. There is always an exception to every rule. With that being said I hope that I was able to offer an answer to this question. If there are any other ares that you feel I need to clarify on please let me know.