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Moshi Moshi Nippon Festival, Tokyo 2015

20151201 02Last month I attended and participated in the Moshi Moshi Nippon Festival in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. A three-day event, it’s essentially a gig with the theme of cultural promotion. Thus, there are food stalls all around the venue, some fashion and entertainment brands with stalls near the entrance, and non-musical performers related to other elements of Japanese culture. I was there for all three days, and very happy to be a part of it! Friday’s theme was ‘Moshi Ani’ – the anime-themed day, and also the day I was onstage. I was part of the World Cosplay Summit’s performance slot, essentially one of several token foreigners there to highlight the ‘World’ part of WCS. I arrived early and already in cosplay, and there was no rehearsal, so I got my backstage wristband and went to watch what was happening onstage. Unfortunately only caught the very end of the Tempura Kidz’ opening show performance, but would see them several more times over the weekend, so that wasn’t a big issue for me. Also managed to wave at Pi-chan backstage, which was a nice moment! 01 After the opening show was Hachioji-P, a Vocaloid producer who’s been pretty successful. I watched about half his set before being called backstage again – I enjoyed what I saw, but I’d have been more interested to see OSTER Project, KID-P or Kikuo…though I guess Kikuo’s dark songs wouldn’t be all that appropriate for the bright, happy setting! Backstage we were given lots of free snacks and some tasty bento. It was fun seeing the other performers, though the bigger bands had their own dressing rooms. Eventually our time came and we took to the stage, striking poses and then lining up together. The stage was much bigger than I’d expected, and it was a thrill to have huge screens with our faces behind us – basically I feel I should have put in a bit more effort for this event than just borrowing a cosplay and using my real hair even though it wasn’t quite long enough to style like Ace and had visible roots! 20151106 05 Hey ho, it was great fun and I met some very lovely people who were also cosplaying. It’s a nice little community and I do hope to do more. For a while I was worried no photos would appear, but we got good ones in the end! 20151201 01 As with the similar event on Hallowe’en, Japan’s current WCS representatives, Mariko and Mahio did their impressive performance as Kouen and Hakuryuu from Magi, and I took the opportunity to tell them how jealous I was of their skills! 12274587_863764813722531_1768715188181182408_n Returned to the audience area to watch Livetune+. The DJ, KZ, is another popular Vocaloid producer, best known for ‘Packaged’, though my favourite is ‘Last Night, Good Night’. I didn’t recognise much, including the song with May’n, but it was a fun and energetic set. The day 1 headliners were SID. I didn’t know who they were when I saw them – a pretty standard-looking hard rock band who apparently used to be much more Visual Kei – but as they played more and more I realised why they were closing the anime-themed day. ‘Oh, that’s the ending for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Oh, and that’s the latest Kuroshitsuji opener. Ah! And I love that opening song for Magi!’ They were a polished and accomplished band, and while I wouldn’t go to see them elsewhere, I’m glad I got to see them perform and was impressed in particular by the singer’s voice. On day 2, ‘Moshi Pop’, there was a bit of confusion for me. A group of us went thinking we would be in some fashion event representing foreigners interested in various Japanese brands, but as it turned out, they just wanted us to go in a ‘Challenge Runway’, which was basically open to anyone to sign up and walk on the stage with. I would have been the only person with a Y chromosome in the whole show and there was next to zero coverage for it, plus I was wearing something pretty odd (Alice and the Pirates kodona-style cutesiness), so I bravely chickened out. Image24 I watched my friends take part, though – and some of the little nihon buyo performance afterwards. Then we did our own little mini photoshoot outside, which I was quite pleased with. After a diversion to Harajuku to eat pizza, I returned to the venue to watch some free music! 20151107 05 I got back in time to see a bit of Silent Siren, a cheerful Harajuku-kei girl band. That was followed by a slightly odd reveal of a competition for, as far as I could tell, providing the voice for a big bald miso soup mascot. Next came a performance from a DJ who seemed to like electroswing and broken beat, backed up by dancers from the Kawaii Monster Café – best of which was a big ole pink cat. Afterwards came the Tempura Kidz once again. Adorable as ever, with their precise dance moves and silly gurning. Compared with when I saw them in Harajuku, this event had the advantage of having a section of the audience reserved for us gaijin (slightly odd to be segregated, but I didn’t mind) so I could see everything from as close as it was possible to get! And with the day’s performers very much based on visual impact, that was a distinct advantage. DSC2611 Oddly enough, the next segment was an advert for a television, but it made a degree of sense when it was revealed that Kyari Pamyu Pamyu had just filmed the CM for the product and was being interviewed for it. Was fun to see her, especially in a much more eccentric outfit than she wore for her actual performance the next day, but still felt a bit odd to have her flogging a TV in the middle of what was essentially a gig. japanese-fashion-model-and-signer-kyary-pamyu-pamyu-promotes-sharp-f5rg71 Back to the music next, with girl group 9nine, who had some very enthusiastic fans in the audience. The hardcore fans’ genders switched for poppy visual kei boyband Kameleo, who I wanted to see earlier in the year. They only played three songs, the best of which was ‘Dame Otoko’, and they’ve reached a curious and unique situation where they’re half actual band and half boy-band, so that some songs have them on instruments and others don’t. I still really like the band and their silly, goofy way of having fun – including making everyone in the audience shout about nose hair. 20151119_kameleo_01 Next, after an impressive parade of fine kimono, was solo singer Natsume Mito, with a fun dance using traditional paper fans with a Fuujin and Raijin masked dancer on either side. She was cute with her Sarang-chan hairstyle and obviously had a lot of love from her fans, but maybe needs more catchy songs. Next, rather killing the momentum of the show, we had some live hairstyling, which I confess largely left me baffled. However, by then a huge crowd had gathered for the day’s headliner – who perhaps fit the Sunday theme better than Saturdays and could have swapped with Kyari. I had of course heard of them as they’re pretty ubiquitous in Japan, constantly appearing on variety shows, but this was my first actual exposure to the music of Golden Bomber. 18 I had no idea what to expect, so initially I was baffled. They came out miming very, very badly to the track playing. The guitarist kept stopping his miming and the drummer didn’t even bother to hit the cymbals with his weird thick sticks. My first thought was that this was terrible – and looking at all the girls headbanging as though they were listening to Pantera, I wondered if they could possibly think this was a real band and be so clueless about music. Then of course it became very obvious that, in fact, that was the joke. I didn’t realise that Golden Bomber were not only a joke band, but a band that exists to poke fun at the clichés of pop-rock and the lack of substance in visual kei. The concept is actually quite an ingenious one, and the fact that these guys get to have an absolute blast while they skewer the bands around them who take miming to other people’s music oh so seriously. The singer actually performs, and has an impressive voice, and two of the other members have the bodies of professional models, which of course helps with the appeal to the ladies. Essentially, the band’s concept is attractive men pissing about pretending very badly to play music while decent if generic rock music plays in the background – interspersed with some very funny comedy skits usually revolving around making the drummer show his bum or wear a dress. It’s refreshing, very silly indeed and extremely fun to watch. I was won over very quickly and think they’re brilliant. On Sunday I had to work and also get some writing done, so even though I wanted to watch the brilliant synchronized dancing of World Order, I had to skip them. Instead I arrived for Capsule, who were loud. I only know their song ‘Starry Sky’, because it was in the ‘Nanairo no Nico Nico Douga’ medley, but I certainly enjoyed that. c-nishida-moshi-moshi-f-20151111-870x489 Then of course came the headliner, who had drawn a far bigger gaijin crowd than anyone else over the weekend – Kyari Pamyu Pamyu. Her set wasn’t an obvious one – no ‘Pon Pon Pon’ or ‘Mondai Girl’ – but seeing her perform ‘Ninja Re Bang Bang’, I think that became my favourite song of hers. Kyari has a very interesting charm. She’s clearly not a consummate musician. Nor is she a dancer. She mimes her lyrics as she does simplified versions of her backing dancers’ moves. She’s almost lazy in her delivery and her songs are known for being childish and simple. But that’s part of the complete package, which works very well. Essentially, she’s an aspirational fantasy, not for those who want to work hard and meticulously perfect their craft (which isn’t to say behind the scenes Kyari has not done these things) but for the fantasy of lazily drifting into an incredibly cute world where everything revolves around you with very little effort on your part. Which is actually a common and compelling fantasy! The music is superbly-produced, her new Hallowe’en song was daft and adorable – par for the course – and though I would have quite liked a Tempura Kidz reunion dance, there was no faulting the enthusiasm and expressiveness of her current dancers. I enjoy that facial expressions are very much part and parcel of that Harajuku-kei backup dance scene. 012 Overall, Moshi Moshi Nippon’s weekend was a pretty remarkable event, an impressive mini-festival with a lot of variety, prominent musicians and an extremely high entertainment factor. I would absolutely go again – and was honoured to have taken part in my small way! Pic sources: https://www.facebook.com/ksuke.shibata ww.moshimoshi-nippon.jp www.alamy.com http://v-kei.jp/ www.japantimes.co.jp http://anz-media.com/

Travel blog: Puli, Taiwan

20151126 03Today, we had a trip around the mountainous region of Puli in central Taiwan. After getting the high-speed train to Taichung, we were met by a driver and taken through a whole lot of tunnels until we reached central Taiwan. My uncle was arranging everything, so we didn’t know what was coming – and the itinerary turned out to be typically eccentric. First, we visited the impressive, ostentatious Chung Tai Chan Monastery. It’s a huge and imposing edifice, built around 15 years ago with the polish, scale and brash inelegance of a Disneyland themed ride. But it’s not meant to be tasteful, it’s meant to be brash and spectacular, and I very much enjoyed it for that. 20151123 02 In the main hall were huge floor-to-ceiling statues of the Four Heavenly Kings of Chinese Buddhism, with fierce expressions on each of their four faces. Then upstairs were serene seated buddhas, inspiring devotion in many of the visitors. Heading outside was a room full of golden statues, though the ones in the corridor outside were more imposing, and nearby a smaller room displayed more tasteful small-scale religious sculptures. Outside could be found a deer park with only cartoony stone deer, plus a prayer bell it was fun to ring. The bell had a twin but that one had a long queue. 20151124 02 I think I was lucky to get in an elevator with a group I wasn’t really supposed to be with, which took me to a floor with an indoor pagoda and thousands of little buddhas on the walls – an odd but very impressive sight, again with nothing at all compromised for the sake of good taste. Unfortunately I went only to that floor and not the others apparently only accessible by lift. Afterwards, I rushed to the museum because all this was crammed into just 40 minutes (and I had to leave behind the rest of the party for being too slow!) but it turned it was under renovation. 20151124 01 Next, to the unimpressive pole marking the geographical centre of Taiwan, which surprised me because until then I didn’t realise we were in the centre of the country rather than by the coast (as I’d slept on the drive through all the tunnels). 20151126 04 From there we went for lunch, which as with much of the rest of the day, was strange – they roasted whole chickens in drums with lychee wood for a vague flavour, added huge amounts of garlic and plopped the thing in front of you on the table. I was tasked with ripping the thing apart for us to eat, wearing thick gloves. Though not a very pleasant task, it was only like having a Nando’s, really, only with the feet and head still attached. I feel it’s hypocritical to eat meat but pretend it wasn’t a creature, though, so wasn’t squeamish. Found the meat a tad bland and the sauce greasy, though. 20151123 03 The next point of call, after driving past very weird buildings from around the world, built as tourist attractions up a mountain (because why not?), was the highest road in Taiwan. Being a very mountainous country, Hahuen-Shan was a long way from the highest possible peak to climb – though the tour guide thought it was the 2nd, it was actually the 43rd – but driving to altitudes only about 300 metres lower than the summit of Fuji is still quite impressive. 20151123 04 On the way down the mountain, we had the kind of surreal experiences typical of our family outings in Taiwan. For some reason, there was a farm up there on the mountainside set up as a tourist attraction. With sheep and ponies and really, really stinky toilets. So we ran around trying to take photos with sheep. Silly creatures. 20151123 05 Stopped at the English country manor part of the buildings-of-the-world attraction, but while we could have had very cute-looking cakes in a fantasy tearoom in a strange neogothic-Tudor-neoclassical manor, instead we found a Swiss chalet tucked around the back of it and had very tasty cakes there, and coffees out of quaint little mugs. 20151123 06 It may sound like the opposite of what you’d expect from Taiwan, but this is exactly the sort of thing we always seem to find when we do the kind of tourism trails that attract the locals and the mainland Chinese! 20151123 07 Took some silly pictures with my brother and then got back in the car for the drive back to Taichung. If we carried on down the same road, we would get to Taroko Gorge, but we’d been there back in 2015 so didn’t go again. I wouldn’t mind actually seeing Taichung City itself, which has enough temples and other attractions for a day trip, but this odd little adventure was fun, too – and the strange kind of thing we always seem to find ourselves doing in Taiwan! 20151123 08

Hallowe’en and Modelling in Korea

Definitely not real

The last few days I definitely had more photographs taken of me than at any other point in my life!

Hallowe'en is time for dressing up!

First, I was part of a cosplay event for Hallowe’en in Ikebukuro. If you’re unfamiliar with the place, Ikebukuro is very pleasant entertainment district just two or three stops north of where I live in Shinjuku, where there is a strong bias towards the female fans. Thus, if you like cute female idols, big-busted sci-fi heroines and pervy books about little girls, you go to Akihabara. If you prefer butlers, boys who get very intense over sports rivalries and pervy books about young boys, ’Bukuro is the place to go. Plus there are plentiful arcades and an extremely nice mall where you can find Jump World, Namja Town and as of fairly recently, the new Tokyo Pokémon store.

The kind of thing you find in Namja Town

An event had been set up for Halloween in the park outside Sunshine City, usually famous for having lots of cats. The World Cosplay Summit representatives had a time slot, so they decided to use that time to showcase Japan’s representatives, Mariko and Mahio (https://www.facebook.com/marigon1013 and https://twitter.com/mahigaku) in their phenomenal costumes from Magi.

As well as them, the WCS, being focused on global cosplay, wanted some international representatives. Happily, I was asked to be one of them, and so for the first time in quite a while, I cosplayed. My last two cosplays (including one from Magi!) were at a point where my self-confidence was very low and I really didn’t look good, so it was quite a relief for me to actually return to cosplaying and feel good about it. So I decided to fulfil a longtime urge and cosplay Kagamine Len. As it was Hallowe’en, my first idea was to cosplay him in a ‘Trick and Treat’ costume, but I didn’t like them much. Alice in Wonderland is one of the most popular choices for Hallowe’en costumes over here in Japan, so I decided on Alice in Musicland Len.

I'm late!!

Bunny bunny bunny

I don’t have a sewing machine or hot-glue gun over here so I wasn’t about to make the outfit. I bought the ears, bowtie and waistcoat and then used my own shirt and shorts and socks. I’d bought a clock-bag with the rest of the costume but I didn’t like it so bought a working one and added one of my necklaces. I made a winder thing but it was terrible so last-minute I ended up replacing it with some cap from a squeezy bottle. Which worked! I met a great crowd of international cosplayers from America, Israel, France, Brazil, Russia, Spain and the Philippines, who were all super-friendly. Most of them had cards with their cosplay pages to hand out, but I don’t have anything like that! It seems it’s typical here for cosplayers to have a whole book full of their different costumes to pick from. 20151101 19 The first thing we did after rehearsing and preparations was take part in a mini-parade. We thought it would be down a road, but it was just along a red carpet to a tiny little box-stage where you could pose and then move on. There were a huge number of cameras waiting there. A little odd, but fun! After that we did our stage event, which was a straightforward appear-and-pose type affair, and once again there were huge numbers of cameras – including some truly enormous L-series bazooka lenses worth a hundred times what my costume cost.

Mahio takes a group selfie

That selfie

On the mini stage. So mini!

I’m happy I went to the event. I got the bug for cosplaying again and no longer consider it something to keep hidden away. I met some very cool people, all of whom I’d like to see again, and I’m looking forward to similar events next week.

The group

Up on stage

I really like this one

Vocaloids!

There was a karaoke event for the participants afterwards, but I was meeting friends in Shibuya for Hallowe’en. It was everything it was promised to be from last year’s pictures, and about twice as crowded as I expected. The whole area around Scramble Crossing was just a throng of people, and it took about 20 minutes just to shuffle to 109. We got a lot of people posing with us and wanting pictures and it was fun to meet a group of friends for a while. Couldn’t stay for long or drink much, though, because the next day, it was off to Korea!

Out in Shibuya

Unfortunately we missed the flights from Haneda to Gimpo at a decent price, so had to go via Narita, Kansai and Incheon, but it wasn’t really difficult. I came to take part in a fashion event in Seoul for a Japanese magazine, modeling some body art. I’m very glad I took part because it was a lot of fun and the tattoo-style art was impressive. It isn’t going to change my life or take me to the runways of New York, but it’s a fun sort of thing to do as and when I can. The next few times I do something similar, as there are a couple lined up, it will be clothing-related.

I had a sparkly design on the back, too!

Tomorrow, back to Japan – then back to work the next day. But weird adventures will continue very, very soon after!

Strutting my funky stuff

Pic sources: http://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/10775753/ https://twitter.com/dwangojpnews https://www.facebook.com/paula.k.gerhold https://www.facebook.com/yuichiro.morita http://nlab.itmedia.co.jp/nl/articles/1511/06/news136.html www.facebook.com/celestialshadowcosplay

Tokyo Disneyland #2: Disney Sea!

12076149_10201130863149470_3120534_oaI have to say, when I went to Tokyo Disneyland around a week ago, I didn’t expect to be back for Disney Sea so soon. But we had a free day, it was bright sunny weather and it just felt right to go back again. And I’m glad we did! 12076204_10201130860589406_1504668828_o Tokyo Disney Sea is my favourite of the two parks. It’s got the strongest theming of any theme park I’ve been in, and I love the Journey to the Centre of the Earth ride, which took me completely by surprise the first time I rode it and still really enjoy the feeling of ‘air time’ it gives. Then when I went two years ago, they’d added the Tower of Terror and I think that’s another brilliant thrill ride, fun to experience and with perhaps my favourite theming of any ride I’ve been on. A few unusual circumstances made our visit this time feel a little empty, with some dead time where there wasn’t anything we wanted to do – unusual in a theme park – but that was largely because ‘Raging Spirits’ was closed for maintenance (in 3 visits I’ve never actually gone on the ride) and the Toy Story ride inexplicably never went below a 2-hour wait, which it really doesn’t deserve. 12062671_10201130863429477_1347481950_o As we got fast-pass tickets for my two favourite rides and didn’t need to queue for those, we actually had time to spare. Well, most of that time would have been used on a Raging Spirits queue and once the Frozen area opens in 2017 that won’t be an issue again, so it’s not as though I think the park is dull. 12084717_10201130862869463_1819403313_o After buying clip-on Stitch ears, we started our visit with a walk-around, stopping to grab Tower of Terror fast passes and to watch a little performance led by Lumière the candle about food from different parts of the world. I expected lots of vaguely racist stereotypes, but mostly it was just fun dancing in vaguely ethnic costumes – and we were quite amused by the idea of singing about curry to the tune of the Spice Girls’ ‘Spice Up Your Life’. 20151002 02a After that, we queued up for the Indiana Jones ride, which is a fairly tame but bumpy ride through the character’s usual archaeological adventures. I’m not hugely keen on the ride but it’s nicely-presented and the designs of the queuing area are great. We still had time after that so went on the 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride – basically a ghost train with an underwater theme that has effects to make it seem like you’ve gone under water. 12085297_10201130861189421_1059430631_o That left us at a good time to watch the water-based show based on the Disney villains that’s set up for Halloween while munching sea-salt ice cream ‘Monoka’. 12059961_10201130861469428_492790978_o The show was entertaining – there were themed boats for Maleficent, Captain Hook, Hades, the Wicked Queen and Jafar. They were joined by the usual Disney gang decked out to match them, as pirates or evil queens etc. As a highlight, the prow of Maleficent’s boat converted to reveal another villain, but I won’t spoil the surprise in case anyone is going to see the show. Because the boats are a little far from the crowd, dancers came to entertain the crowds, and wonderfully campy music played for each baddie – and somehow both ‘utsukushii to ayashii’ and ‘eerie yet elegant’ sounds really amusing to me.
Oops, spoilered it

Oops, spoilered it

After that we got some Halloween-flavoured murasaki-imo snacks before our fastpass tickets came up for the Tower of Terror. It was almost a shame to quickly pass through the brilliant themed queue area, with all the murals of the nasty colonial proudly going home with the treasures of other countries while the natives angrily try to give chase, but there was time to see the best of it. The disappearing doll effect remains impressive and the repeated drops are still a whole lot of fun, especially when there are some real screamers in the lift with you! 12084912_10201130862909464_345985793_o Next was StormRider, the simple little simulator ride. Had front row seats, which is good for the immersion, but sadly you miss the ceiling effect if you don’t know it’s coming. This was probably the last time I’ll ride StormRider, though, as it’s soon to be converted to a Finding Nemo ride. Honestly, I think that can only be an improvement. Checked out the Aladdin world, which is as well-themed as the rest of the park, with little nods to the Alhambra, and then Triton’s Kingdom. Neither had attractions we cared for much, but the shopping was interesting, including inside the weird whale in Triton’s Kingdom that is meant to be ‘sleepy’ but mostly looks very perverted. 11265142_10201130861629432_653914571_o After that it was time for dinner, and while the Halloween buffet was tempting, going on rides after getting your money’s worth from an all-you-can-eat buffet seemed a bad idea, so we got burgers in the funny little restaurant where they show you the story of Duffy, followed by some panacotta in an Italian restaurant. 12085191_10201130861429427_169714968_o Then it was time for the big night-time water show, Fantasmic! Stitch is a relatively rare sight in Disney Sea, considering how ubiquitous he was in Tokyo Disneyland, but he and Angel got an appearance in the show. The best part remains when the dragon Maleficent appears, however. There was meant to be a fireworks show afterwards, but inexplicably they cancelled it, citing bad weather – even though the weather couldn’t have been more perfect the whole day and we could soon see the Tokyo Disneyland fireworks going off. Oh well! 12076560_10201130864149495_542266749_o We’d secured Fastpass tickets to Journey to the Centre of the earth, and ended the visit on a high note. The ride starts off deceptively lame, but then there’s a genuinely impressive final setpiece before the big thrill at the end, and I still love the feeling you get in that final part. Perhaps we should have queued up to go on the ride earlier as well – I certainly wouldn’t have minded going twice! 12082237_10201130863629482_211720434_o So ended our double Disney trip – and I have no shame whatsoever in saying I love visiting the parks and being entertained. 15-10-02-15-34-21-567_deco

A trip to Tokyo Disneyland

Today, I went with a good friend to Tokyo Disneyland. This is my third time visiting Tokyo Disneyland, and my fifth time in the Tokyo Disney Resort in general – which is to say, I’ve been to Disney Sea twice as well. If you’re not familiar with Tokyo Disney Resort, it’s divided into two parts – a Disneyland much like the others, and Disney Sea with slightly more adult theming and thrilling rides. My first time in Tokyo Disneyland, I was only small, around six years old. The next time I went was in 2005, when I also went to Disney Sea. I went to Disney Sea again almost exactly two years ago, but that time I didn’t go to the main Disneyland part. So this was actually my first time in the Disneyland park in 10 years. 20150926 (1) The day began with a slight disappointment, but was fantastic overall. The disappointment was in the big central hub of the park, the Cinderella Castle. As we had only a short time before a big parade, we decided to go into the attraction there, because I remembered it very well. It seemed a bit off when there were no mentions of dragons or mirrors on the map, and ‘Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall’ didn’t sound like what I remembered. In the end, it was a lame walk-through exhibit with some iffy artistic representations of the Cinderella Story and then a glass slipper and a throne to pose on for Instagram pictures. We watched some babies being dangled over the slipper and then left. It turns out that the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour closed in 2006. I’m a little sad about this. Firstly, it would have been perfect for Hallowe’en, being themed around Disney villains. Secondly, it was about the only place to see any Black Cauldron references in any Disneyland attraction. Thirdly, my family enjoys an anecdote about when we went when I was small and the Japanese guide was trying to urge us to run away from a dragon and we were just standing there oblivious, nobody in the family then having any Japanese. But fourthly and most importantly, I miss it because it was a cool attraction! It had the awesome Magic Mirror, a big dragon and then a huge Horned King. I’m sad it’s gone and replaced by a rather unappealing walk-through. Especially since this was my companion’s first time in any sort of Disneyland, and that will always be his very first experience of a Disneyland attraction! IMG_2175 After that, though, things got better. As the attraction had only taken a very short time we went to the new(ish) Star Wars attraction, the simulator ride Star Tours, in which a bungling C3PO had to fly a passenger shuttle through a series of misadventures. It was well done and pretty fun, but the reason it was fun was mostly the other guests behind us who got very, very excited and were screaming away all through it. The ride was only so-so, really, a decent simulator ride with a cute bumbling-robot plot, but forgettable. My favourite part was the hitchhiking droids as a tribute to the Haunted Mansion ghosts. IMAG0850 Outside, the Happiness is Here parade was fun and up-tempo, with several genuinely impressive floats. I particularly liked the enormous Queen of Hearts, though Aladdin’s elephant from the Prince Ali sequence was also impressive. It was surprising to see Mary Poppins and Aristocrats floats, but nice to see lesser-represented properties. It was a classic parade experience, and I can’t fault the enthusiasm of the face characters. IMG_2254   After that we went to the Stitch-themed store, Stitch being vastly more popular in the Far East than in the West and able to carry whole sections of the park alone. Bought a nice little folder and a T-shirt there. IMG_2377 The big box to tick was The Haunted Mansion, because after all it’s the run-up to Hallowe’en. There was a longer queue than I think is average for that attraction, because everyone wanted to do the spooky business while the park is themed for Hallowe’en. The ride is a favourite of mine, with the Pepper’s Ghost effect in the dining room particularly satisfying. They’d overlaid the ride with Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, which detracted from the nice more realistic ambiance the ride has a bit, but I’m glad to have seen it both ways, and the large Jack Skellington animatronics were impressive. IMG_2317 It was about lunchtime by then, so we went to eat at the Plaza Pavillion restaurant, which had tasty burgers in a relaxing setting and was only a little painful for the wallet. IMG_2318 Satisfied with that, we watched most of the next parade, Happy Halloween Harvest, which was similar to the previous parade, only with lots more pumpkins. Decided to capitalise on a lot of the park being distracted by the event and left early to go on Big Thunder Mountain. Some rain started to fall while we queued, but luckily it stopped in time for us to ride the trusty old coaster. Disney rides are tame, especially compared with the likes of Fuji Q, and Tokyo Disneyland’s are significantly less thrilling than Disney Sea’s, but the light rollercoasters are still enjoyable and we’d chosen a good day to go, just after the national holidays of Silver Week but on a work/school day with light rain forecast. IMG_2334 Once we came off Big Thunder Mountain, it was time for something a little more restful, so we went to the nearby Tiki Lounge, which here was Stitch-themed. Naughty Stitch interrupts the usual singing birds and flowers, a nicely-made animatronic appearing from the centre to sing the staple Hawaiian songs, which sound funny in Japanese. IMG_2319 Fired up by this Stitch experience, we went on a quest to find the Stitch popcorn holder we’d seen around the park, which turned out to be in a corner of Tomorrowland we hadn’t checked. Happy we’d managed to grab one, I even munched on some of the more thickly-coated pieces of caramel popcorn. Normally I can’t stand popcorn! 20150926 (2) As we were there and needed somewhere to snack, plus the rain had started again, we decided to go into Space Mountain, which was probably the longest queue of the day but another of the staples of a Disneyland visit. Okay, I could say the same for A Small World, but honestly I wasn’t too bothered about going on that so we skipped it. Apparently I was delighted by it when I came as a very young child and insisted we went several times, so I’ve filled my lifetime Small World quota. Space Mountain was another one made more amusing by fellow passengers who were far more excited than the ride really warranted and screamed as if they genuinely thought they were going to die. After Space Mountain, we decided to get another snack, getting some vaguely Mickey-shaped nuggets and yummy cheesecake in the Tomorrowland Plaza restaurant. IMG_2351 From there, we crossed the park to go to Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s been updated with figures from the movies that are noticeably of a better quality than the original animatronics, but their integration was still good and the bigger rooms of the ride are still impressive. IMG_2345 From Pirates we crossed the park again ahead of another parade, the Electrical Parade Dreamlights. While the illuminated floats we saw were impressive, we felt like we’d seen plenty of parades and joined the quick queue of the Pooh’s Hunny Hunt ride. I remembered enjoying it in 2005, and while it was rather too short and I think they would have been better off theming it to A Blustery Day rather than Heffalumps and Woozles, but I really like how each cart has its individual path and moves about nice and fast. Though it wasn’t our last attraction of the day, it was our last ride, and even if it was tame, it was well-executed and I like the English Country House theming you pass through in the queues. IMG_2348 We got out of the ride at an excellent time to see the fireworks. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to another fireworks display this summer, so this actually scratched a bit of an itch for me. The display was short, but certainly more in the Western style – spectacular and intense, with thumping music playing and a big finale. There were some nice gimmick fireworks in there too, most notably ones that exploded in the shape of apples. IMG_2365 Next was the only attraction we’d managed to get Fastpass tickets for, the Stitch Encounter. Yes, more Stitch! Other than Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Stitch was certainly the best-represented character in the park, with two dedicated attractions, a presence in every parade, a shop of goods dedicated almost entirely to him and a popcorn holder. I’m pretty sure that the event before the park got themed for Hallowe’en was Stitch-related. IMG_2370 Stitch Encounter is a curiosity, as it entirely excludes non-Japanese speakers. The Tiki Lounge might be a little confusing if you don’t understand Japanese, but Stitch Encounter would just be incomprehensible. Essentially, it’s a stand-up routine with Stitch. It’s quite impressively-executed, and I think the park’s newest attraction: a big screen shows a CG Stitch, and someone who can do his voice is on-site to interact with the audience. The CG Stitch’s mouth syncs to whatever he says, and he can trigger various animations – joyful, sad, suspicious. He can also whip out a guitar for a sing-along. There’s a camera on the audience, and Stitch interacts with the visitors. He asks kids the names of their family and sings a nice song about ‘Ohana’, and then follows up with typical stand-up routine staples. One guy is singled out as a criminal and embarrassed, and a pretty girl is selected for Stitch to flirt with. A girl almost certainly with her boyfriend was obviously chosen, because then he can be teased, and more songs are sung with references to these groups. It’s safe stuff that can be repeated for any audience, but the Japanese audience members getting lightly embarrassed was very funny and it was cleverly done. It’s just a little surprising that without some degree of Japanese very little of this could be enjoyed. But hey, it’s not as though theme parks in other parts of the world, especially the English-speaking world, need to cater on any but a very basic level to non-native speakers. IMG_2374 We came out of Stitch Encounter during the Once Upon a Time projection show, where various scenes appear on the Cinderella Castle. That was a good finale, so after looking in another shop or two, we decided that was enough for our Disney trip, and headed home. IMG_2376 Not much has changed in ten years, really. I think Disney Sea changes much more dramatically – and will change more in the next few years with the Frozen world on its way. I think it’s a real shame the Mystery Tour is gone, because I thought it was a highlight of the park and its replacement is really not worth going to. As someone who likes Stitch, I think it’s gratifying that the character is so well-represented, though a little odd that I didn’t see a single item representing The Lion King. There are still no rides I would call thrilling, but that’s no really the point of Disney parks. The atmosphere is great, and it’s very easy to pass the time there and simply have a lot of fun. And that’s exactly what happened – and I’m grateful it did. IMG_2144