Follow along with Laughing Place writers FanBoy and Alex as we experience the final itinerary of Adventures by Disney’s inaugural trip to Japan, which returns in 2020. Our tour officially kicked off on October 13th, but we arrived two days before in order to beat the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis, which would have impacted our travel. This gave us time to settle in and adjust to the 14-hour time difference. Our first hotel of the trip is the beautiful Hyatt Regency Kyoto, where woodwork designs make a striking impact and all of the employees are adequately prepared to cater to international guests. And in case you’re wondering, the in-room toilet is the kind that Japan is famous for with all the bells and whistles.
The first day of this Adventure by Disney started with the breakfast buffet at Hyatt Regency Kyoto’s The Grill. This was a hybrid buffet where you ordered some items like waffles or eggs benedict, but there was also a buffet with other western and japanese breakfast fare.
Promptly at 9:00 am, we checked in with our Adventure Guides James and Tomomi. They spent a generous amount of time with us going over the big picture of the trip as well as getting to know us individually. While they went over some of the basic questions (Are you celebrating anything? Food Allergies?), they also asked some specific questions regarding our comfort level with a bike and if we had any tattoos. The first question relates to a bike riding activity while the second was due to the optional onsen experience requiring the participant to not have tattoos due to local customs.
They then went through some itinerary changes. These were due to guest feedback during earlier runs. First was that they turned the longest bus ride into two train rides. The second was that they removed a boat ride in Tokyo that had poor reviews and switched it for an optional visit to Tokyo Tower. (They said it was optional because it takes more time than the boat ride would have, but all were welcome to go.) Finally, the planned dinner for tonight was moved to another night, but since they had already prepared meal vouchers, we got those as well. In the end, we ended up with a bonus meal. It was great to see that the itinerary has already evolved based on guest feedback.
It was then gift time. We received an Adventures by Disney fold-up duffel bag which will probably be filled by the time this adventure is done. Our gift from the guides was a travelers notebook made from Japanese washi paper, where we could scrapbook our experiences. We also got name tags with our names in English on one-side and our names in Japanese on the other. Finally, we received our first pin of the day, which featured Mickey in front of the japanese flag with the day’s theme, “Konichiwa Kyoto.”
With that, we were on our own for the rest of the day. Our first stop was the Kyoto National Museum which is located directly across the street from the Hyatt Regency Osaka. The main exhibit was down for refurbishment, but they had a special exhibit on Japanese poetry. We sprung for the audio guides which really helped us understand what we were looking at. The museum seemed to be very popular, with some even using binoculars to get a closer view of the works of art.
After spending about 90-minutes in the museum, we walked to our next stop which was the Mame Shiba Cafe. We bought our timed entry tickets and grabbed lunch at a local establishment while we waited. When it was our turn to meet the dogs, we were asked to remove our shoes, sanitize our hands, and then climb over the doggy gates that blocked the entrance. Our reservation was for upstairs so once we got there, we were given some basic instructions which should be pretty obvious to any dog owner. Calling it a cafe is a bit of a misnomer, while one free drink from a vending machine was included, the highlight was getting to pet the gorgeous Shibu Inu dogs. While some lounged and slept, one dog was very loving and nearly kissed me to death. It was such a fun experience and I may have fallen in love.
From there, we went to the Kyoto Manga Museum. There are exhibits on manga, anime, and other graphic illustrations. You learned the process of creating manga as well as the business realities of the product. It was fascinating to learn about the popular format’s origins, which date back over one hundred years, and also to see the way it varies by intended age demographic, which varies from toddlers to senior citizens. The museum, which used to be an elementary school, served as a defacto library. While books can not be removed, many seemed to be using their time to read some of the best manga of all-time. There were even a few Disney-based pieces to be found within the exhibit, although photos were only allowed in a few locations.
Our next destination was Kyoto’s Disney Store. We had always heard that Japanese Disney Store’s were quite different, but the reality of the situation was jarring nonetheless. With the exception of a few Animator’s Dolls and Frozen II products, almost everything in the store was unique to Japan. Not only that, the intended audience seemed to largely be ages that had outgrown toys, primarily teenagers and adults. Popular categories of goods included personal and home fragrance, cosmetics, stationary and writing utensils, snacks and baked goods, home decor, and large plush keychains.
Rivaling Duffy and his friends at the international parks is UniBearsity, where you can buy a variety of adorable teddy bears (smaller pre-dressed and bigger undressed) and a variety of outfits to dress them. Another newer concept were smaller versions of Disney characters called nuiMOs and outfits in their size are sold separately. Through this collection, you could make Mickey look very hip and trendy, but they also had Halloween costumes for the characters. A Zootopia collection recently debuted on our visit.
Unique to this particular store in Kyoto was a bag of cookies featuring cinnamon and matcha (green tea) flavors. We couldn’t pass up the chance to get them. One thing we learned is that as an international visitor spending over 5,000 yen (about $50 US dollars), using our passport we could save 10% by not being charged sales tax. However, any edible or cosmetic goods get sealed in a bag and you’re not allowed to open the bag until after leaving the country. As a result, we won’t be able to try the cookies, hand lotion, or home fragrance we purchased until we get back home.
After walking 20,000 steps around Kyoto, we were ready to return to the hotel for an authentic Japanese dinner at Touzan, an upscale restaurant overlooking a quiet zen garden. I had some of the best sushi of my life through one of their three prefix menu selections. This selection would have been pricey, but having the meal voucher made it an incredible value. Hyatt Regency Kyoto also has a nightly performance by a Maiko, a geisha in training, who also visits each of the three restaurants for photos, reminiscent of a Disney character dinner.
It was a great start to the Adventures by Disney Japan experience and we’re now well rested and settled in for the guided tour portions to begin.
Other Adventures by Disney Japan Trip Reports
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.