Konichiwa from Japan!
By Masayo Kano, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the June 20, 2006, Issue #352 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
(EDITOR'S NOTE: A few years ago, Editor Deb Wills met Masayo Kano, a visitor to Walt Disney World who had come all the way from Japan. Masayo was an avid reader of Allears.net [back when it was still known as Deb's Unofficial Walt Disney World Information Guide (WDWIG)] and when she discovered that she and Deb were going to be in the World at the same time, she made sure that they met in person. Since then, Masayo has been a good friend to Allears.net, and to both Deb Wills and Deb Koma. Masayo served as a peer reviewer for PassPorter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs, providing input on visiting Walt Disney World as a foreign traveler. Masayo speaks English well -- better than she thinks she does, in fact -- and has visited Walt Disney World and Disneyland a number of times. We wondered, though, why she makes a trip halfway around the World when she has Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea right in her own back yard. We thought it might be interesting to hear Masayo's observations on the Most Magical Place in the World -- a look at Walt Disney World through a foreign-speaking guest's eyes.)
Walt Disney World is the best place in the world for me. Yes, it is. My first visit was in November 1993. I still savor it fondly -- almost everything was magical. Since then I've been to Walt Disney World more than 10 times and more will be planned for sure, I know. Besides Walt Disney World, I really enjoy Disneyland in California, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo DisneySea, too. However, these days I prefer not to go to Tokyo Disneyland as often as I used to. On the other hand, my desire to go to Walt Disney World is increasing. But why? Why do I want to go to Walt Disney World so much, I asked myself. And so I started to think about it.
As you might imagine, to get to Walt Disney World from Japan is not a short trip. There is still no direct flight from Japan to Orlando, so I have to transfer at least once, usually more. For example, it's about 12 hours to Detroit, Michigan, from Chubu International airport, then still I have 2.5 hours to Orlando. It's hard for me to sleep during this long flight -- I assume some of you have this in common with me. So usually I have been awake more than 20 hours when I pick up my big, heavy suitcase at the Orlando airport. Then on the first night at Walt Disney World, I just can't sleep well, so I wake up very early on my second day. Then, you know what happens I get sleepy so bad in the afternoon. It's so hard to get over jet lag, but I have to manage it somehow to have a lot of fun in the place I love the most, right?
While I'm staying at Walt Disney World, I try to meet up with my favorite characters, such as Goofy, Mary Poppins, and the one and only Mickey Mouse. Meeting characters is always at the top of my list of things to do while in Walt Disney World. On November 18, 1998, I had my breakfast at Garden Grill to say "Happy 70th birthday!" to Mickey, then I went to Toontown to meet him. After I enjoyed the day at Magic Kingdom, finally I went to Disney-MGM Studios to see him. The one thing I still feel bad about is that I could not go to Camp Minnie-Mickey in Animal Kingdom to meet him there! So now you have an idea of what I'm like, I suppose.
Until I made my first trip to Walt Disney World, I did not have any pictures with Goofy (my favorite character) without having someone I didn't know in the pictures, too. In Tokyo Disneyland there were no lines for greeting characters -- there was no first-come, first-served order. If someone knew how to swim with the tide, they got to the characters first, which was very disappointing for me. Since there were no Cast Members to let us go in order to meet the characters, it was always kind of a scramble thing. Also it was typical to take pictures with someone you didn't know at all -- complete strangers in your photographs! But when I visited Mickey's Starland (now known as Mickey's Toontown Fair) several years ago, I could not believe my eyes. There I saw Minnie, sitting in her chair alone. And Goofy was standing all alone! As I said, this was not typical in Tokyo Disneyland at that time. So I ran to them, and they gave me a big hug and even tried to have fun with me. It was absolutely amazing. So for me, Walt Disney World is a heaven with characters.
Since I'm a visitor from Japan, English is not my native language. Even though I studied how to speak English for about 10 years, there was, is, and always will be a "language barrier." I won't say I've never had any troubles -- in fact, sometimes I have had tears in my eyes because I did not understand something or had so much trouble making myself understood. For example, when we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge last year, we could not find our room when we checked in. The Cast Member had told us, "Across lobby, take elevator, down one floor." So we did. Our room was supposed be in Giraffe Trail, but we only found a sign for Zebra Trail. We were so confused. So we went back to the lobby, and tried the other side, but it was Kudu Trail... We got lost completely -- with our luggage. You know, hauling a big suitcase around on the carpeted floor is not an easy job! I was really tired from traveling, and felt helpless then.
But even those unhappy memories are not enough to stop me from going to Walt Disney World. I feel as if I was challenged or tested. It's hard to explain, but it's like something you want to overcome. Going through some unexpected things is helping me to be a bit smarter traveler. Yet there are so many things that I still should learn. But I think not understanding everything while I'm staying at Walt Disney World is one more stimulating factor. That makes it an exciting, exotic, very original atmosphere, but there's also something familiar at the same time. I really like this atmosphere in Walt Disney World. Visitors from other than the U.S. would understand what I'm saying, I hope.
As for backstage tours, I love these things very much, even though I do not understand many things the tour guide or attendees say. It's a great experience to learn, see how things are working or just some English lesson to me. I did Family Magic tour (with Peter Pan), Keys to the Kingdom, Backstage Magic (twice!), and in 1993 and 1996, when we joined Magic Kingdom Club Tour from Japan, both times we had backstage tours with a Japanese translator (maybe that was the highlight!).
While I'm in Walt Disney World, there is one more thing I like to do -- watch the guests, Cast Members and characters. I very much like to watch guests having fun. That puts a big smile on my face, though I just don't know why. While waiting for parades, shows or characters, just chatting for a little while with guests or Cast Members near me is another fun thing. Also through www.allears.net I have made some good friends. Seeing those new friends whenever I travel to Walt Disney World adds great excitement and happiness to my life.
Whenever I go to Walt Disney World, there is always something new to me. There are new dining experiences, hotels, tours, attractions, shows, and so much more. There are so many things I want to try at least once. You know, Walt Disney World is a place that will never be completed, so I don't ever need to worry that there won't be anything new for me.
That's why I just can't wait to go to Walt Disney World again.
Masayo Kano lives in Aichi, Japan, with her husband, Mamoru, and her Papillon pup, Alice. Masayo leaves for a trip to Disneyland soon, and is busily preparing for her next trips (yes, trips, plural) to Walt Disney World this fall.
Masayo's Wandering the World, through a Foreign Visitor's Eyes: http://allears.net/tp/wander/wander32.htm
Tips for Visitors from Outside the US: http://allears.net/pl/england.htm
Tips for Traveling from the United Kingdom: http://allears.net/pl/uktravelers.htm
PassPorter's Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs also has info for foreign travelers visiting Walt Disney World: http://allears.net/pl/snbook.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.