Bay Area – Tokatsu Area

Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage (Tokyo DisneySea)

Ahhh…a familiar sight when the monorail got to Tokyo DisneySea station. お久しぶり!

As we approached the entrance to Mediterranean Harbor, we could see the area was decorated to reflect the latest special event at the park – Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage (2nd April to 23rd June 2014).

Picture taken at the same spot after dark:

Let me take you on a photo tour of what’s different at the park during this season…

Synopsis of the event:

“Mickey and Duffy together with Minnie Mouse and ShellieMay embark on a cruise from Cape Cod to see how spring is celebrated around Tokyo DisneySea.

Dressed in costumes that reflect the colourful season, they visit Mediterranean Harbor with its romantic Italian festival of spring, travel to American Waterfront for the lively Easter party, and then in Arabian Coast they find a magical celebration of the season.”

For those who are unfamiliar with who Duffy is, he is a teddy bear that Minnie made for Mickey on the night of his departure, to keep him from feeling lonely on the long voyage.

What looked like tapestries from afar – upon closer inspection, we discovered they were actually pieced together using flowers!

 

More flowers and banners of the current event – these are just some of the decorations which can be found around the park.

OMG… there were even topiary plants shaped to resemble two of Disney’s most popular mice! How cute!!

  


SPECIAL EVENTS

Lido Isle Welcome to Spring

This show takes place at Lido Isle in Mediterranean Harbor and is a festival themed to springtime in Italy.

There is limited seating available and I only arrived 10min before the start of the show, thus had a partially obstructed view.


Easter in New York

This was a parade held at Waterfront Park. There was already a long queue at the entrance to the parade area about an hour before it started. Unfortunately, I was rushing off to use my Fastpass (for the Indiana Jones ride) before it expired and thus didn’t have time to go queue for the parade!

Synopsis:
“Mickey Mouse and Duffy take Minnie Mouse and ShellieMay to American Waterfront to enjoy the Easter festivities and take part in an Easter bonnet parade. The Disney friends enjoy a wonderful time in this delightful celebration of springtime in New York.”


Springtime Surprise

Location: Courtyard in Arabian Coast

The area welcomes a uniquely wonderful spring filled with flowers, thanks to Genie’s magic!

People started sitting around and waiting for the show as early as 2 hours before!

For the finale, everyone sings and dances with Minnie in the centre surrounded by flowers.


DECORATIONS

Meditarranean Harbor will be adorned with colourful flowers and plants, and Guests will also find benches decorated with motifs of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. The decorations in American Waterfront will feature colourful eggs, while Waterfront Park will have statues of Mickey and Minnie, created from flowers and plants, enjoying Easter in New York City. Arabian Coast will be blooming with unique flowers shaped like Genie for a special photo location that enhances this magical and enchanting world.

In addition, there are 4 spots in the park with floral Duffy bears!


ARABIAN COAST


Genie flowers!


Floral Genie and Duffy bear.


More floral decorations at Arabian Coast…

Add a pair of Duffy bears to the picture – do you think it looks nicer??


More Genie flowers…


…and yet another photo spot!


AMERICAN WATERFRONT

At Cape Cod…

Couldn’t help taking this pic of a sparrow balancing on the fence post! ^_^

More flowers and Duffy bear decorations…


Located across from the SS Columbia:


At Waterfront Park – the venue for the Easter in New York show.

Back view.


This particular Spring decoration comprised of many Easter eggs…

…and there was a duck who kept hanging around the display and refused to leave! Perhaps it was “guarding” the eggs??  LOL…


MEDITERRANEAN HARBOR

I couldn’t find anyone with Duffy bears which I could “loan” for this next picture, hence the empty seat.

More flowers…

…and a nicely decorated bench which makes for a nice photo spot.


SPECIAL MERCHANDISE

About 170 different types of merchandise themed to “Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage” are available but unfortunately, I had spent too much time queuing for rides/shows and hunting for the special decorations, thus didn’t have time to hit the shops!


SPECIAL MENUS

There were some special food items recommended for this season and these were the ones that I went to check out…

Cape Cod Cook-Off had a special set of Pork & Braised Vegetables on Rye Bread, French Fries, Maple Pudding, with a choice of Soft Drink.

However, I was more interested in what was being sold at Cape Cod Confections!

Happy Duffy  ハッピーダッフィー(ミックスベリー) and Iced Mixed Berry Milk Tea (アイスミックスベリーミルクテイー).
ダッフィーの顔の形をしたもちもちとした食感の生地に、ラズベリーとストロベリーのクリームが入っています。

The Duffy dessert was too cute to be eaten!! Once you bite into it, you will find that the dough has a chewy mochi-like texture and contains a yummy and smooth mixed berry cream which wasn’t too sweet and had bits of fruit in it.

I loved the milk tea as it was very fragrant and tasted like royal milk tea, except that it also contained mixed berry jam, plus an additional topping of roasted almond bits. It looked like a strange concoction when I first saw it but once you have mixed it well, it’s really oishii and I will definitely order it again if it’s still available when I visit the park again in the future.

Overall, it was nice seeing all the floral decorations of the season but unfortunately I only spent one day at the park and there was insufficient time to cover everything due to the long queues.

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Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Egg Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland「エッグハント・イン・東京ディズニーランド」

This was my first time visiting Tokyo Disneyland at this time of the year and the current theme is “Disney’s Easter” 「ディズニー・イースター」, so I decided to go on an easter egg hunt!

“Disney’s Easter” runs from 2nd April to 23rd June 2014.

You’ll first need to purchase the egg hunt map from either of the following locations:

  • event booth in the Plaza
  • Royal Street Veranda
  • Cleo’s
  • Space Place FoodPort

I purchased mine from one of the event booths located at the Plaza (i.e. the roundabout located in front of the Cinderella Castle). The egg hunt seems to be a very popular activity and there’s perpetually long lines at the booths! It takes about 15 min before you get to the front of the line.

There are 2 egg hunt courses with different levels of difficulty (different pricing too due to the prize/present you’ll receive at the end).

The “Standard” course「スタンダードコース」 costs ¥510 and takes about 2 hours to complete.

Open the map and a bunny will pop-up!  Cute!!

There are a total of 18 locations on the map where eggs have been hidden and you’ll need to locate the 5 eggs which are shown at the bottom of the map (Mickey, Donald, Dumbo, Sulley and Woody).  If you are a Disneyland fan, you’ll probably be able to guess where you can find those 5 eggs.

These are what you can get at the end of the hunt (1 present/prize per egg hunt map) – an egg ornament with a neck strap. These come in 5 designs – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.


Photo Credit: Tokyo Disneyland


The “Expert” course「エキスパートコース」 on the other hand costs ¥1030 and will take 3 hours to complete. However, you’ll need to be proficient in Japanese as this particular hunt comprises of a bunch of clues (in Japanese only), which you’ll need to decipher.


Photo Credit: Tokyo Disneyland


There are a total of 3 sets of clues and 3 different bag charm designs which you can collect, depending on the date of your visit.

  • 2nd April-30th April 「第I期」:  Chip and Dale
  • 1st May-28th May 「第II期」:  Minnie Mouse
  • 29th May-23rd June 「第III期」:  Mickey Mouse

The “Expert” map also has a bunny pop-up and here are the clues for Phase I「第I期」(2nd April-30th April):

A ferris wheel which looks delicious??  Hmm…where exactly do we need to look????!!!


These are the clues for Phase II「第II期」(1st May-28th May):

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in the Japanese language and can only understand half of the clues. If you interpret them wrongly then I guess you will be looking in all the wrong places!

Thus, I opted for the “Standard” course as all that you’re required to do is to search in the 18 marked locations to find 5 eggs which correspond to the stickers given in the sheet and stick them onto locations on the map to mark where you’ve found the eggs. Sounds easy enough right?

Okay, let’s begin… 頑張ります!


This was the first egg which I spotted immediately after I bought the map! I just turned round the corner and there it was!!


ADVENTURELAND

Lady and the Tramp – Cute! However, looking at it started to make me feel hungry….


Now why am I not surprised that Stitch will be hanging out with a bunch of tikis…LOL…


Hey, I was looking for a bite to eat and found the egg for the “Expert” course「第I期」 without having to decipher any clues!  Hmm…


WESTERNLAND

Country Bear eggs!


Woody and Jessie


CRITTER COUNTRY

Brer Rabbit, with Brer Bear and Brer Fox


FANTASYLAND

Hmm…Snow White and the 7 eggs? :p


Ohh…Alice in Wonderland theme!


小さな世界…


Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse


TOONTOWN

Pluto watching the Easter Bunny…


Chip and Dale eggs – Love these!!


Mickey and Minnie – How adorable!

The Easter Bunny also makes an appearance in front of Minnie’s house!


No prizes for guessing where the Goofy egg is hidden! ^_^


TOMORROWLAND

Ohh…I found another egg from the “Expert” course「第I期」!… Hey, should I have tried that hunt instead?…


How apt to find Lightning McQueen and Mater here!


Buzz and Emperor Zurg


Mike and Sulley – Oh wow…this Sulley egg is the largest of all the eggs that I’ve seen on the egg hunt!!

There is one more egg that can be found in this zone which I am kicking myself for and wondering how in the world did I miss it!! The R2D2 egg!!!…Arrgghhh….my favourite Star Wars character and I didn’t spot the egg!! Guess I was too busy trying to complete the egg hunt, plus trying to maximise my time at the park as I wanted to do as many rides as possible and catch the various shows and parades (only spent 1 day here – which isn’t enough to complete everything).

When you’ve found all the 5 eggs, head to the “Goal” to claim your prize/present.


EGG HUNT GOAL 「ゴール」

This is located just outside the park entrance. As you’ll need to exit the park to redeem your prizes, if you are returning to the park, do ensure that you have your admission tickets with you and obtain a handstamp from the park attendants at the exit, for re-admission later.

There is also a long queue here!!

The crew will verify whether you’ve gotten all the answers correct – if you haven’t, they will ask you where you think the correct location of the egg is, remove the sticker and paste it onto the correct location (We had 2 incorrect answers! Although we did find the eggs, we pasted the stickers onto the wrong location on the map – I guess we should have counterchecked the egg hunt map against the park map!). No matter whether you’ve gotten it right the first time or not, you’ll still be able to collect your prize/present.

This is the lucky dip for the “Standard” course – one dip per egg hunt map. You won’t know which egg ornament you’ll get!

What did I get?  I was hoping to get one Mickey egg and one Minnie egg….

….but I got 2 Minnie eggs instead!

The egg hunt is suitable for all ages and is really enjoyable!! Even my hubby, who frowned at me when I first told him I wanted to do the hunt, concluded that it was fun!! LOL…

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Disney’s Easter (Tokyo Disneyland)

Disney’s Easter「ディズニー・イースター」 is a special event held at Tokyo Disneyland from 2nd April to 23rd June 2014. The event this year, which returns in a new version to the Park after a 2-year hiatus, is themed to a secret Easter garden. Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends invite Guests to enjoy the fanciful, secret Easter garden they have discovered.

Easter egg hunts are available (for those who may be interested), special themed merchandise and food, as well as the various Easter decorations which can be found around the park. Let’s go check them out!…

DECORATIONS AROUND THE PARK

You’ll be greeted by Easter decorations the moment you step into the park.

A closer look…

I took both day and night shots of the entrance leading to World Bazaar and I think I prefer how it looks during the day as the area was rather dimly lit at night (i.e. I was hoping there would be more lights around the archway).

 

I forgot to check out the Floral Mickey during daylight hours as when I arrived at the park, this area was cordoned off for character meet and greet and there were long lines of people snaking around it! When I came by a second time during the day, it just so happened that my timing again clashed with another round of character meet and greet. Thus, I only managed to take pictures of this place just before I left the park.

Ohh…almost missed seeing these eggs in the corner! Cute!!


Moving farther into the park, the roundabout in front of Cinderella’s Castle has been transformed into an Easter Garden…

I think the worm in this next scene is cute! LOL…


EASTER EGG HUNT

There are 2 egg hunt courses which you can choose from – Standard or Expert. You’ll need to purchase the egg hunt maps before you start and upon completion, head to the “Goal” to redeem your prize/present. Check out my “Easter Egg Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland” post for more details.

   


HIPPITY-HOPPITY SPRINGTIME PARADE

This new parade is set in the secret Easter garden that Mickey Mouse has discovered, and it features not only familiar Disney characters, but lots of Easter bunnies too! There are a total of seven floats in the parade and they will stop in three locations for a lively and whimsical Easter party.

This was the first float in the parade…

…and the last float during “Party time!”

I didn’t take any pictures in-between as I was recording the entire parade on video instead! Hope you’ll enjoy watching it! ^_^


FOOD

The food being served at the park has not been spared from the Easter theme (I meant that in a good way). I managed to try some of the Easter-related snacks/desserts and they were delicious!!

Location: The Gazebo

The Easter special at this place is the Chicken Minestrone Bread Cone  ブレッドコーン(チキン&ミネストローネ).

There are 2 types of bread cones available here – Chicken Minestrone (the bread cone looks like a carrot cos it’s the Easter special!) and Seafood Chowder.

It was our first time trying this so we decided to order one of each. The Seafood Chowder had prawns in it and was served with a cracker. On the other hand, the Chicken Minestrone came with a green avocado flavoured tortilla chip which was supposed to resemble the leaves of a carrot, and the soup had a mozzarella ball in it, with mashed potato at the base of the cone. Both soups were tasty and it was a satisfying lunch for us!

Here’s the back view of the Chicken Minestrone Bread Cone.


Location: Rackety’s Raccoon Saloon

Ohhh…choices, choices, choices!…. The Easter specials here are Soft Serve Cone (Orange, Milk or Orange & Milk Swirl), Carrot Churro (Orange Sugar) and Critter Sundae (Orange & Milk Swirl with Carrot Churro).

I wanted to try everything so I decided to go with the Critter Sundae, which had both the orange & milk ice cream and the carrot churro.

Critter Sundae  クリッターサンデー(キャロットチュロス&ミックスソフトクリーム) – The smooth milky ice cream was delightfully refreshing with a lovely orange flavour and crunchy cornflakes at the bottom of the sundae. The carrot churro is different from the usual churro as it is covered with orange flavoured sugar, which drops all over your clothing when you bite into it! I think I prefer this version of churro over the usual plain cinnamon flavoured one (it’s also probably because I like citrus flavours).


Location: Grandma Sara’s Kitchen

Special Set – Meatballs with Tomato Demi-Glace Sauce and Buttered Rice/Mini Salad/Carrot Pound Cake/Choice of Beverage

The set sounded nice but we’d just eaten lunch and some desserts, plus it was too early for dinner, so we didn’t try it.


Location: Sweetheart Cafe

Special Sandwich Set consisting of a Roasted Chicken and Honey-Mustard Sandwich, Mixed Berry Dessert and a choice of beverage. There’s also an add-on option for a souvenir lunch case.

I wasn’t too keen on the sandwich, thus we decided to give this a miss too.


Location: Tomorrowland Terrace

Ohh…we found the Mixed Berry Dessert with Souvenir Cup「ミックスベリーのカップデザート、スーベニアカップ付き」 and Easter Treat with Souvenir Egg Stand「イースタートリート、スーベニアエッグスタンド付き」 here even though it wasn’t listed as one of the locations in the park guide where these desserts could be found (but I’ve later found that it’s mentioned on their website!).

The Easter Treat is some mochi thingy filled with custard cream – it didn’t really appeal to me and I wasn’t interested in the egg stand, so I went with the Mixed Berry Dessert instead. Mmm…it was a creamy mousse dessert with crunchy bits and each spoonful filled your mouth with a lovely berry flavour!


SPECIAL MERCHANDISE

Time to hit the shops!… Many items with an Easter theme can be bought – in my opinion, you will be spoilt for choice!!

There are cute rabbit plushies and t-shirts with Easter logos.

   

Various cushions – some shaped like eggs.

Hairbands and hats…

 

I thought this hat looked really cool and was tempted to buy one but I couldn’t really see myself wearing it again when I got back home. You can even pull out a carrot from the hat!

Hair ornaments and there’s even a towel with a bunny hood!

  

Shoulder bags with bunny ears.

These eggs contain assorted chocolates and I thought they looked nice!

More chocolates!

   

Cookies (or do they look like senbei?)…

…and lastly, there’s even an egg containing furikake!! That’s just sooo Japanese!!

(All the above merchandise can be found at the Grand Emporium in World Bazaar.)

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My encounter with a Geisha from Kisarazu 「木更津芸者」

Kisarazu 「木更津」 was once home to numerous ryotei, establishments where accomplished geisha performed stylized dances, played traditional instruments, sang, served sake and provided entertaining conversation. We were supposed to meet a geisha there in the late morning but due to some mix-up in the arrangements, the geisha wasn’t available. I’ve never met a real geisha in person as you’ll either need to be rich or have a fat business expense account to do so, thus was a little disappointed when I heard the news.

After some negotiations by the tourism official who accompanied us, we learnt that the geisha would be meeting us at our hotel later that night…..

…..and later that evening, we were introduced to Momiji, whose name literally translates to “autumn leaves”, and she entertained us with several songs on her shamisen 「三味線」.

We had a Q&A session after the performance and Momiji explained that karyūkai 「花柳界」, “the flower and willow world” of the geisha, is divided between the western and eastern parts of Japan. In Kyoto, the geishas are more elegant, refined and poised. On the other hand, the ones in Kisarazu are fashionable and more sophisticated.

It is extremely difficult to preserve this Japanese tradition as the younger generation today are followers of western culture so not many are willing to learn this trade. Thus, the geisha profession is in danger of becoming a thing of the past by the next century or perhaps even the next decade!

When asked how long it would take to train to be a geisha, we were told that it takes about 2 years to learn how to dance but learning how to play an instrument like the shamisen is difficult as it doesn’t have any frets. The koto 「箏」 can be mastered within 3 days but learning the shamisen takes about 3 years! Momiji took 2 years to master it, however it was an arduous process and she divulged that she kept biting her hand during her period of training.

She also let on that the reason why she plays the shamisen is because she doesn’t think she is as pretty as the other geishas.

Apart from entertaining guests with song, dance and music, geishas sometimes drink sake with their guests over light conversation and games may be played as well. These games are creatively thought up by the geishas using whatever items are available in the room and depending on the size of the room (which is usually quite small).

I was hoping that she would demonstrate the traditional game of jan-ken-pon, a Japanese version of “rock, paper, scissors”, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she demonstrated a different game using a zabuton 「座布団」 and the rule of the game is that both you and the geisha will stand on opposite edges of the same cushion with your backs towards each other, then some catchy phrase is recited, at the end of which you lean forward and that results in your behind jutting out backwards at the other person. The objective is to try to butt the other person off the cushion and the game ends once one party steps off the cushion. You can choose to thrust your pelvis forward to avoid getting butted or you can try to butt the other person out (careful strategy may be required! LOL…). It was really funny watching a demonstration of it.

Although geishas exist in Chiba Prefecture, their numbers are few and we learnt that there are 3 in Chiba city and 10 in Kisarazu.

One can get to meet geishas over dinner at a ryotei but prior reservations are required. Check with your hotel reception or the ryotei on how the booking can be made.

Due to the limited number of geishas and their varied talents, there aren’t many shamisen players so you’ll need to be specific when make your request, otherwise you may end up watching only dance performances by the geisha.

It was definitely an interesting experience meeting Momiji but I have yet to unravel the mysteries of the “flower and willow world”. Now that I’ve met a geisha from Chiba Prefecture, I wonder when I will have the opportunity to meet real geishas from Kyoto?… (i.e. there are many costume rental shops and photography studios in Kyoto and tourists patronise these shops/studios to transform themselves into maikos/geishas for the day and walk the streets of Kyoto so if you meet any maikos/geishas along the streets during the day, chances are they would most probably be tourists in disguise! This activity seems to be quite popular with Japanese tourists who hail from other parts of Japan. Foreign tourists who happen to bump into these wannabes wouldn’t be able to tell and assume they are the real thing, especially if there is a language barrier and you can’t understand each other! LOL…)

木更津の芸者さんに会った後で、京都の芸者さんに会いたいですね。でもちょっと難しいと思います。


For more information (in Japanese only):

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu 「三井アウトレットパーク 木更津」

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu is an outlet mall located in Kisarazu, just across from Yokohama by the Aqua-Line.

This mall currently houses 171 shops and is expected to expand to between 200 and 250 to become the largest outlet mall in Japan.

Shops here include foreign luxury brands, popular select shops, high-grade foreign and Japanese fashion, sports & outdoor items, accessories, gifts and miscellaneous fashion goods. Prices are supposedly always 30-50% off the normal retail prices!

Some shops provide Duty Free service for foreign tourists so do check with the information centre at the Outlet Park for the latest details.

English language floor guides (maps) are available and a call centre is also available to assist you if needed.

A Food Court is available if you start feeling peckish midway through your shopping expedition.

The food court seats around 850 people (of which about 200 are open-air terrace seats) and some of the famous eateries from all around Chiba Prefecture have set up shop here.

“Ocean View Terrace” which is located above the food court, commands breathtaking views looking out over Tokyo Bay and the Aqua-Line and on clear sunny days you can even see Tokyo Sky Tree and Mt. Fuji.

Other entertainment facilities are available as well. Those who may not want to shop can enjoy the 16-hole Crazy Golf (miniature golf) with its challenging obstacles. In addition, two spacious squares have been designed for children to play to their hearts’ content. There’s Pop Jet Square with a popular fountain show, and Kids Park, with fun playground equipment.

Unfortunately I was on a tight schedule and only spent 15min at this place, thus I wasn’t able to shop or check out all the available facilities and the view from the Ocean Terrace. Will probably drop by again the next time if I’m in the area.


Address:
MITSUI OUTLET PARK KISARAZU 「三井アウトレットパーク 木更津」
398 Nakajima, Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture.
TEL: 0438-38-6100


Hours of Operation:

  • Shopping: 10am – 8pm
  • Food Court: 10:30am – 9pm
  • Restaurants: 11:00am – 9pm
  • Café: 9:30am – 9pm

※Schedule is subjected to seasonal changes and Individual Restaurant store hours may vary


Parking Facilities: 4,300


Getting There:

By Car

  • Approximately 25 mins from Haneda Airport, approximately 78 mins from Narita Airport, approximately 44 mins from Yokohama, approximately 22 mins from Kawasaki (Ukishima IC), approximately 47 mins from Shinagawa, approximately 50 mins from Maihama, approximately 62 mins from Ikebukuro

Coming from Tokyo

  • Approximately 1km from Tokyo Bay Aqua Line (Kisarazu Kaneda IC)

Coming from Chiba

  • Approximately 4.5km from Tokyo Bay Aqua Line Renketsu Expressway (Sodegaura IC)


By train or bus

  • About 20 – 25 mins by bus from JR Uchibo Line “Kisarazu Station” 「木更津駅」 West Entrance
  • About 10 mins by bus from JR Uchibo Line “Sodegaura Station” 「袖ヶ浦駅」

Direct shuttle buses make 4-6 round trips from Tokyo Station, 2-3 round trips from Shinjuku and 2 round trips from Shinagawa daily and this makes it easy to travel from central Tokyo to shop (the number of operating buses differs according to weekday and weekends/holidays so do check in advance for the shuttle schedules).

It takes approximately 45 mins from Yokohama station, approximately 45 mins from Kawasaki station, approximately 50 mins from Shinagawa station and approximately 62 mins from Shinjuku station.

Do note that there are no complimentary bus services so you’ll need to pay accordingly depending on which buses you decide to take.

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Umihotaru 「海ほたる」 Parking Area

The Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line 「東京湾アクアライン」 is a bridge-tunnel combination which is built across Tokyo Bay in Japan. It connects the city of Kisarazu 「木更津」 in Chiba Prefecture with the city of Kawasaki 「川崎」 in Kanagawa Prefecture and provides a shorter drive between the Bōsō area in Chiba Prefecture and the Tokyo-Kawasaki-Yokohama area on the other side of the bay. With an overall length of 15.1 km, it includes a 4.4 km bridge and 9.6 km undersea tunnel which is ranked fourth-longest in the world!

At the point where both the bridge and tunnel meet, there is a man-made island called Umihotaru 「海ほたる」 (literally meaning “sea firefly”) which is a parking area with restaurants, shops and amusement facilities. It is designed in the shape of a cruise ship and has parking lots on the 1st to 3rd floors and shops, restaurants, cafes and amusement facilities on the 4th and 5th floors.


For several years I had been thinking of checking out this parking lot located in the middle of the sea, but never got around to do so until now.

At the 5th floor:


You can see part of the parking area at Umihotaru in the next two pictures…

View of the bridge in the direction towards Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture:


There is an observation deck which commands a 360-degree panoramic view of Tokyo Bay and on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji and the Tokyo Sky Tree.


The weather was perfect when I was there and I managed to see the outline of Mt Fuji in the distance.


After viewing Mt. Fuji, if you turn your head towards the right, you can also spot the Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance.


Various sculptures and decorations can also be found at the observation deck on the 5th floor.

   


Another landmark which can be seen from Umihotaru is a distinctive cylindrical-shaped man-made island, which is named Kaze no Tō 「風の塔」 (meaning “tower of wind”) and houses a ventilation station for the tunnel.

Here’s a closer look at Kaze no Tō 「風の塔」…


Standing at this spot at Umihotaru, you can try to imagine the undersea tunnel linking Umihotaru and Kaze no Tō 「風の塔」.


If you were wondering what those little white specks were at the bottom of the previous photo, here’s a closer look:

Not only is this place a parking area (rest area) for humans, it’s a rest stop for the birds too! (^o^)


On the 1st floor of Umihotaru, you can see a huge wheel-like monument – this is the cutter face of one of the shield machines used to drill the undersea tunnel. WOW!! Imagine drills being this BIG!

 

There is an explanation found on the sign located next to the cutter face:

(In case the words are too small for you to read in the above photo) The description being displayed on the sign is as follows:
“This is the cutter face of one of the slurry shield machines used to drill the undersea tunnel for the Tokyo-Wan Aqua-Line Highway.
The eight slurry shield machines started drilling tunnels from Ukishima, Kaze-no-To and Umi-Hotaru man-made islands, and the tunnels were joined in the respective centres under the sea to form two tubes of 9.5km length.

The 14.14-metres diameter of the shield machines is the world’s largest. The drilling operation was carried out by rotating the cutter face during 24 months between August 1994 and August 1996, when the tunnel excavation was completed.

By feeling the worn out surface of the cutter bits, you can tell the difficulties of the drilling operation.”


Here’s one last look at Umihotaru from the area on the 1st floor where the cutter face is located at:


If you are into ink stamp collecting, head to the information counter located on the 4th floor and get your free souvenir! I did this just before I boarded the bus for my next destination. ;D


Address:
Umihotaru 「海ほたる」
Nakajimachisaki Umihotaru PA, Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture, 292-0071 Japan.
Tel: 0438-41-7401

Access:
By Car:
From Tokyo, Yokohama & Kawasaki → Kawasaki-Ukishima JCT・Ukishima IC (川崎浮島JCT・浮島IC)
From Chiba & Kisarazu → Kisarazu Kanada IC (木更津金田 IC)

By Bus:
From Kisarazu → Kisarazu Station East exit, Bus stop No. 8
From Kawasaki → Kawasaki Station East exit, Bus stop No. 22
Check for the departure times on the timetables found at the bus stops.

Sometimes there could be complimentary shuttle buses from Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu to Umihotaru (return). For year 2012, this complimentary service was available during May 2012 to Sept 2012 but only on Saturday, Sunday and holidays.

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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