Disney Sea

gourds of tin

It’s my dirty little secret. I enjoy going to Disney Sea and Disneyland. I might even love it. And since living in Japan I’ve been there quite a few times. I blame T. She did it to me.

Even though I grew up in Southern California, I think I’d only been to Disneyland maybe 4 times before coming to Tokyo. Mostly, my family wasn’t very rich and both my parents worked their asses off so they didn’t have much time to take us to Anaheim, a good hour drive away. Later, as a cynical teenager, I felt that Disneyland was just a terrible commercialized abomination and a waste of resources, the circus that kept the masses in la-la-land. I’m still of this opinion actually. So why do I go there then?


First, I’ve got to tell you about Las Vegas. The first time I went to Las Vegas I was just driving through with my friend Tracy on our way to hike and camp in the Grand Canyon. It was just a one night stay, a necessary inconvenience on the way to the real destination.

The one night we stayed there we had a blast. Each casino hotel was so over-the-top that it was just mind-blowing. There were scale-model replicas of the Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower, an indoor Venetian canal with gondolas, an artificial lake with a dazzling water show, mesmerizing lights everywhere. In short, I developed a respect for the detail, artistry, and awe-inspiring magnificence of the Las Vegas experience. And I was fascinated by the post-modern pastiche of the architecture, the strange mix of global visitors, and the hard-working Oz-like machinations behind the glittery veneer.

mickey's smile

It’s like any world wonder. A lot of resources went into building something that wasn’t necessary. But damn, it’s pretty spectacular to behold. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s better than the Pyramids, or the Great Wall, or any of the temples of Angkor Wat. It’s better because those things were built for the ruling elite, for priests and kings, to protect their riches and intimidate the masses into submission.

Las Vegas, on the other hand, is for the people. Anyone can go there and enjoy it. You don’t need to be a sacrificial virgin or a power-hungry priest or conscripted soldier to enter. You can go there and spend all your money. Or you can go there and get free drinks while you play the slots. It’s your choice.

And Disneyland is a lot like that. Actually, the last time I went to the original Disneyland, I went with my friends Kevin and Shamron. We were all 18 and it was the first time that we didn’t go with our parents, as adults, more or less. We had a great time, riding the psychadelic kiddie rides and making cheesy poses with Goofy and Minnie.

Tokyo Disneyland is almost an exact replica of the original. Even the Pirates of the Caribbean has the same outdated robots doing the same repetitive mechanical movements. It’s so outdated it’s retro and cool.

Disney Sea, on the other hand, is an original. First of all, you can buy beer and wine. I always tell people Vegas is Disneyland for adults. But actually, Disney Sea is the real Disneyland for adults. There are fewer children running around, and many more couples. If you go after 6pm, the tickets are half off and there are virtually no kids. It’s terribly romantic. From where we live, it’s a half hour by subway and train.

T and I went last week to celebrate her birthday. We went on a Thursday and we didn’t have to wait for any of the rides. The newest scary ride, the Tower of Terror, was pretty gut-wrenching. I wanted to go again.

After going on all the big attractions we decided to go to the shows that we never had visited before. In the American Waterfront area we attended the Big Band Beat show which was a jazz concert with a tight big band, and fantastic singers and dancers. After the performance, T and I just looked at each other and said, “Wow!”.

Other things you can do there:

  • Get drinks at the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge in the cruise ship, and listen to a ragtime pianist.
  • Check out the AquaSphere that’s at the entrance. I can stare at this globe of the world for hours. It’s hilarious to see people line up to take a photo from the front.

the world at night

  • Watch the fire and water show that’s on the lake. This is really cool.
  • Visit the Planetarium that’s in the castle. I love turning the hand cranks to make the planets revolve around the sun. When I win the lottery, I’m building one of these in my mansion and throw parties for all my geek astronomy friends.


In short, things like Vegas and the Disney theme parks are indeed wasteful capitalist monstrosities.  And do be sure to take up arms when the revolution happens.  In the meantime, go ahead and visit and marvel at the detailed artifice of imagined aesthetics.

For more pictures, click here.

2 thoughts on “Disney Sea”

  1. The moral dilemma inherent in enjoying places like Vegas and Disney is pretty-much unavoidable. But at least you recognize that it has always been in our nature to embark on such garish displays of conspicuous consumption, as far back as history records. I suppose the biggest difference between now and then is the increasingly scarce availability of resources which makes our modern wasteful endeavors seem all the more suspect. It would be nice to see these seemingly vapid enterprises use some of their wealth to pioneer the field of reusable/renewable resources to ensure their own, and everyone else’s, future viability.
    Loved the photos! Disney Sea looks fascinating. I’ve always appreciated Disney’s eerie ability to emulate through detail in a way that produces something that feels “synthetically authentic.” A lot of what you captured in your photos reminds me of the art direction in BioShock, which is just superb. Wish I could go!

  2. wholeheartedly agree with you about trying to make it sustainable, or at least minimize the impact. a self-sustaining, life-affirming mega-project would be so much more awe-inspiring. or is that an oxymoron?

    i think that would be the next amazing world wonder, trumping everything else before it.

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