We were looking forward to our year end holiday to Tokyo + Guam last December. Tokyo has always been a popular travel destination for Singaporeans largely because of its developed infrastructure, friendly people and high standards on food, safety and hygiene. We have planned to visit Sanrio Puroland and Tokyo Disneyland during our three day transit to Guam. No shopping for us – just hours of family fun.
We took Air Nippon Airways (ANA) to fly to Tokyo – approximately 6.5 hours from Singapore, and another 3 hours to fly United Airlines from Tokyo to Guam. The inflatable toy aeroplane (above) was a free gift from ANA.
We stayed at Park Hotel which has a stunning view of the Tokyo tower. In the morning when the skies were clear, we could see Mount Fuji right behind the Tokyo tower.
Many would agree that the Japanese train network is not at all easy to navigate around – especially so when we could not read Japanese. But the train staff were approachable when we asked for directions to Sanrio Puroland and Disneyland. We had to change at least 4 – 5 lines to get to our destination – that is how complex the whole network is! It is easier to straddle your toddler in a baby carrier on the train – this was a Tula in toddler size which we brought along. It was our magic charm to keep him from running all over the place.
Sanrio Puroland is a much smaller amusement park compared to Tokyo Disneyland. It houses popular Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, Happy Melody, Keroppi and many more. However, unlike its Disney counterpart, this establishment is not open 7 days a week. If you do intend to visit it, do an online check to confirm the operational hours on your planned day of visit.
To be honest, we felt there was nothing much to do at Sanrio Puroland except to catch their various Hello Kitty shows (in Japanese). I think it would delight more little girls than little boys – especially the Hello Kitty fans. There was only one boat ride – and that’s it. You either have to queue up in a long line to take photos with the Sanrio characters or pay some money (close to SGD 20 – I forgot the exact amount) to take a photo with Hello Kitty at her house. There were also many gift shops selling Sanrio merchandise in the park.
These two bowls cost 1900 JPY, equivalent to approximately 23 SGD.
Sanrio Puroland also closes really early at 5 pm! So to make your tickets worthwhile, you should reach early in the morning at 10 am. Depends on where you stay, it can take up to 1 – 1.5 hours to reach there by train. And give yourself extra time in case you lose your way in between the train stations.
This was an interesting capture of us on the Japanese train. Can you see the reflection of the man sleeping at the corner – in the most unglamorous style; mouth wide open? That gave us a scare when we saw the photo!
The following day, we made our journey to Tokyo Disneyland. Again, it was a long train ride. For those who are not aware, there are two Disney theme parks in Tokyo – DisneyLand and DisneySea. I went to DisneySea when I was much younger – there were more water-themed rides in DisneySea; if you are travelling with slightly older children you might want to visit DisneySea or do both.
The December weather in Tokyo is cold. It averages 13-14 degree celsius in the day and dips to 3-5 degree celsius at night. And the sky becomes gloomingly dark at 5 pm-ish. Since most of the attractions at Disneyland are outdoors, we piled on lots of thermal wear.
Majority of the Japanese visitors were wearing Mickey mouse headgear and Disney related merchandise from head to toe. So I bought a ribbon and a purse as well to “complete my look”.
Like all most themed parks, Disneyland sells expensive popcorn containers. One is priced at 2300 JPY each – approximately 28 SGD. There are more than 10 designs of such popcorn containers – and I couldn’t resist buying both the Minnie mouse and Dumbo elephant. I saw the Minnie mouse first – and then my husband told me the Dumbo one is more unique. These containers are sturdy and make good storage for small toys and ribbons!
You can refill the popcorn at 520 JPY with the container – approximately 6.24 SGD. The curry flavoured popcorn was the most popular and had the longest queue in the park.
Compared to our recent visit to Universal Studios Singapore, Tokyo Disneyland is more toddler friendly. We managed to take the boat ride at Pirates of the Carribean which has a slight drop – nothing terrifying. There was also a designated area for all the kiddy rides such as the Carousel horses, Spinning teacups, Flying Elephants, the rides at “It’s a small small world”, Pinocchio House and many more. We didn’t have to queue up very long for these rides. Our little prince enjoyed his carousel horse ride so much that he didn’t want to leave when it was time to go. And he queued 3 rounds for it.
The Cinderella Castle was another popular attraction for the children. We took a lift up to view the story exhibits and the glass slipper and had a chance to sit on the throne for some photo taking. I was halfway changing diapers during the fireworks, so I missed most of it.
He was so comfortable sitting on the throne – he refused to give up his seat for others subsequently.
Everything dimmed to darkness after 5 pm. And you can’t capture the low light photography on a tripod! The staff was quick to stop you from using any semblance of tripods or selfie sticks – don’t bother to bring these two. It was stated in their brochure – no selfie sticks allowed!
There were many more rides for the adventurous adults at Disneyland – rides which we couldn’t take time to explore with a active and screaming toddler.
Some unique notes about Tokyo, and also Japan
- They have the best toilets in the world. Every single cubicle is fitted with a seat warmer and bidet. Some have temperature control (for water) and you can even regulate the intensity of the water jet. The cleanliness freak will have nothing much to complain about the Japanese toilet culture.
- Quite a number of the Japanese restaurants are not toddler friendly and do not have high chairs. The only place where you can be certain there are high chairs is MacDonalds.
- The male toilets do not have baby changing facilities. All diaper changing tables are located within the female toilets! My husband couldn’t come in to help me change the baby. Maybe it is the Japanese culture that mothers are expected to do everything – which is very different from Singapore.
- They have no (or few) trashbins in the cities. And there is hardly any litter on the floor. I heard they bring their own trash home.
- The Japanese are generally very punctual. If the train is scheduled to arrive at 12.12 hours, you can be assured it will appear exactly at 12.12 hours and leave right after that. We took the airport bus to our hotel and were amazed at how efficiently they worked – not a second was wasted packing the bags onto the bus.
We had a fun stay in Tokyo despite the cool weather and the language barrier. There are many places around Tokyo worth exploring if your trip is intended to be longer than 3 days. And many shopping districts where you can go to spend your Japanese yen.
Would we go again? Yes – when my boy is much older! It would have been much fun watching father and son screaming their heads off doing the “adventure stuff”.
Read my next blog entry on Guam.