The Happiest Place on Earth
I have been to Disneyland in California, Disney World in Florida, and the Hong Kong Disneyland, but my favorite by far is Tokyo DisneySea. Each of these parks has its own unique attractions, but none rival Duffy and Friends, which have their home in Tokyo DisneySea but can be found in other Disney parks, except for those in the continental United States.
Duffy, the Disney bear, first made its debut at Disney World’s Downtown Disney and was later adopted by Tokyo Disney Resort and popularized at Tokyo DisneySea. Other characters, including Shellie May, Gelatoni, and Stella Lou, were later introduced one by one.
I first came across Duffy and Friends when I was planning my trip to Tokyo this summer. I did some research to see if it’s worth visiting. When I laid eyes on Stella Lou, I knew I had to go.
Going to Disney is a kawaii girl’s favorite pastime in Japan. Many people dress up with special outfits and Disney character headbands to visit the Tokyo Disney parks year-round. It’s not surprising given how accessible these parks are: I had to hop between three different metro lines from Shiodome to Chiba, but the one-hour trip was actually painless.
The only snag I encountered in this experience was in getting tickets. After several unsuccessful attempts to buy tickets online, I googled the issue and found that many people had the same problem. The Tokyo Disney website does not accept foreign credit cards. Our only options were to buy our tickets when we land in Tokyo or to get stand-by tickets at Tokyo DisneySea.
Since we were visiting at the peak of tourist season, I was worried that tickets would be sold out. Without a Japanese credit card, however, I didn’t have much of a choice. By the time we got to a convenience store that sold Tokyo DisneySea tickets, the tickets for the day we wanted to visit were all sold out. We went to several other convenience stores, and still no dice. Thankfully, my husband talked some sense and calm into me, and we got tickets for a different day. So if you want to go to Tokyo DisneySea and don’t have a Japanese credit card, be prepared to be flexible with the date of your visit.
Despite the misgivings at the beginning, I was smiling ear to ear as I stepped off the metro at the Maihama station and saw all the Duffy and Friends posters. From the Mickey Mouse hoops and windows on the train transporting visitors to different parks to the coin lockers conveniently located on our way to the entrance to the proximity of the Disney accessories stores to the main gate, everything was extremely well planned out.
My first order of business: Get decked out in Stella Lou goods! When I put on my Stella Lou headband and pouch at Tokyo DisneySea, I felt like I belonged there and was part of the Disney magic. While Disney parks in the States sell Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears, mostly only children wear them.
To match Stella Lou’s colors, I wore the LIZ LISA blue ribbon check dress with the corresponding ribbon collar blouse from this year’s summer collection. I was worried layering these two items in the summer heat would be too much. The blouse and skirt are actually made of very light fabrics, so I was at the perfect temperature while I was out and about. (Do bring an umbrella for the sun though.) The blue color of the jumpskirt is actually very pale, making it a perfect backdrop for the vibrant hues of my new Stella Lou accessories.
Knowing that we will be doing a lot of walking and having learned my lesson from the day before, I went with the pink high-cut frill sneakers from the spring season for this outfit, also from LIZ LISA. It was a win-win not only because they topped off my outfit nicely but also because seating was hard to come by at Tokyo DisneySea, except in the Journey to the Center of the Earth area. The eating establishments within the park, even the cafes, were jam-packed with people. Sneakers all the way.
Armed with all the essentials, AKA Stella Lou goods, it’s go time! Luck would have it that we arrived at around the time when the Pirates Summer show at the lake by the Mediterranean Harbor was just about to begin. Little did I know the show involved pirate ships circling around the lake and shooting water cannons into the sky and pirates throwing buckets of water onto the crowds by the lake. Once we found a sheltered spot with a view of the lake, I was able to start enjoying the show!
Surprisingly, there was no bad spot to watch the show. Many experienced Disney goers were already camped out right in front of the lake when we got there, but we still managed to get a clear view of the show even as we were walking around. The performance was filled with tremendous energy, with staffers dressed up as pirates and the crowds chanting together throughout the show. It’s hard to walk away from that feeling anything but happiness; it was the perfect start of our day at Disney.
Since we only had half a day at Tokyo DisneySea, we decided to simply do a lap around the entire park and maybe a ride or two if time allowed. We trekked through Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront. As we walked through these areas, we realized that each of them sold an exclusive popcorn bucket and flavor! For example, Mermaid Lagoon had a shell-shaped bucket with sea salt popcorn and the American Waterfront had a Duffy bucket with milk chocolate popcorn. You can buy a bucket from one area and fill it up with popcorn from another area for about $5 as well.
The gift shop in each area also carried exclusive items not found in other parts of the park. The one in Mermaid Lagoon, for example, sold a keychain of Max the sheepdog from Little Mermaid. Even if not for the shopping, the unique scenery of each area is an attraction in and of itself. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say Arabian Cost stood out to me because visiting that area felt like stepping inside the world of Aladdin.
And of course, we were impressed by how closely the American Waterfront resembled what we saw back at home. Also, in a classic American fashion, they worked some humor into the décor there.
The American Waterfront is also home to one of the main reasons I came to Tokyo DisneySea—Duffy and Friends. Each season the park rolls out a different theme for these characters, and the summer theme this year was Happy Marching Fun. Their seasonal items can only be purchased at Tokyo DisneySea, and they, along with the decorations, disappear from the gift shops once the season is over. Another reason to go back to Tokyo DisneySea next time I am in Tokyo.
Besides my Stella Lou souvenirs, what I also brought home was happiness and hope. I remember watching the end-of-day fireworks show at Disney World with my friends back in college and feeling its message of hope touch me to my core, making me feel like everything is going to be OK. That’s the same feeling I left Tokyo DisneySea with. We all need the hope and happiness from something pure and childlike like Duffy and Friends to continue on our journeys, to believe, and to pursue our dreams. That is why I love Disney and Duffy and Friends.