Our final weekend in Japan was spent the only way it could be…frolicking around Disneyland and then spending all night partying with Drag Queens.
Now I know what you’re thinking, surely there are better things to see in Tokyo than Disneyland. The short answer is yes there are. We decided rather than trying to squeeze in the rest of Tokyo in 2 days we would feed our inner child at Disney. Plus this would give us yet another reason to come back to Japan.
We were up bright and early our first morning back in Tokyo in order to catch the bus to Disneyland. Now Tokyo Disney has two parks; first is Disneyland which is the classic Princess-fuelled, child-filled fantasy that we all know and love. The second park is Disney Sea, which was originally designed to cater to a more mature audience but has since been transformed into a water-fuelled Disney extravaganza. Sadly we only had a day and so were forced to choose one.
We went for Disney Sea.
Before even getting into Disney we could tell that it was going to be a incredible day. The queue for the park was amazing, and made us feel wholly unprepared for the day ahead. The Japanese have a knack for synchronizing their outfits when they travel as groups or even as couples. Everywhere we looked there were groups of Japanese people whose fashion ensembles were so on point that I felt the need to re-assess everything I knew about clothing and personal style.
There were groups of girls who individually had maybe one or two accessories that were Minnie Mouse themed but when they stood as a group you suddenly realised they became whole. Couples wore adorable and somehow chic ‘Disney-fied’ outfits that matched in every way. Yianna and I looked like the oddballs because the only thing matching about us was copious amounts of denim.
When we finally got into the park itself we were greeted with the enormous ‘Mediterranean Harbour’ with a view out across the rest of the park. The whole of Disney Sea is focussed on the water with each area reflecting a different part of the world both real and fictional. This includes 1940s New York, Cape Cod, Arabia and even a volcanic caldera. Everywhere we looked there were restaurants and shops made to look like some of our favourite Mediterranean monuments, including ‘Little Venice’ complete with black Gondolas and beautiful canals.
We spent the whole day eating, with the odd break to go on a ride or queue. As fantastic as the food and the rides were some of the best moments were actually during our queueing time. This included a two hour game of charades that descended into madness when Yianna had never heard the song ‘Grandma got runover by a Reindeer’. To make the whole day even better it was Christmas (at least as far as Disney are concerned) and so every show had a Christmas theme and I was able to buy a rather dashing Christmas hat that actually fit my massive head.
Rollercoasters inspired by India Jones and Journey to the Centre of the Earth as well as restaurants offering every kind of food imaginable fill the park; they even have life size cruise liner that looks worryingly similar to the Titanic.
However, much like Manza Beach I think pictures do Disney Sea more justice than I ever could:
After Disney Sea we headed back into Tokyo to get ready for our favourite activity…drinking, but not just any kind of drinking. Drinking LGBT style. It always brings a smile to my face when I find the LGBT area of any city, especially when I’m a million miles from home. It’s like bumping into your best friend without planning it, it usually ends with a bottle of Viognier, ‘It’s Raining Men’ and someone putting on a sequin frock.
Tokyo’s ‘Gay Village’ was no different, within minutes of arriving we had made friends with total strangers and spotted our first stop for the night, the aptly named ‘Campy’. This bar is a must for anyone visiting Tokyo regardless of background, the drinks are great and the place itself is about as kitsch as it gets but the real highlight are the people. The bar is owned by a glorious drag queen who must have been on the Tokyo scene for years, as a result the bar itself is staffed by Drag Queens who run around in sky high heels chatting to everyone that comes in and passing around drinks like its someone’s birthday.
Side note: it actual was someone’s birthday that night.
We zigzagged down the street from bar to bar meeting some of the loveliest people on the whole trip. ‘Gay Villages’ have an incredible ability of being extremely OTT and flamboyant whilst still feeling welcoming and simple. We met people from around the world that night; travellers from Argentina and Chile, ex-pats from France and South Africa as well as the Japanese LGBT community.
It will come as no surprise when I say I am never happier than when I am sat in a gay bar or café surrounded by my community and my friends being obnoxiously loud and usually wearing some garish item(s) of clothing. I think visiting the LGBT area of any city is an incredible way to experience a culture and country in a way that many people never do. So, one of my recommendations for Japan (as well as anywhere else you might visit) is to have at least one evening in the ‘Gay Village’ of Tokyo just down the road from central Shinjuku.
The Tokyo subway doesn’t run between about midnight and 5am so we had no choice but to stay out until 6:30am because who are we to say no to a party, especially one run by Queens. By the time we finally got back to the hostel we could barely speak, I had almost been sick on a train driver and we looked like extras from ‘Dawn of the Dead’.
Our final day in Tokyo was spent shopping around Harajuku whilst nursing one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had. In fact, Yianna was so hungover that she quite literally forgot where we were about 6 times. We had a final look around ‘Condomania’ gasping and giggling at the plethora of taboo and sex-related gifts on offer. We had found a home in Harajuku, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we left a part of ourselves behind in Tokyo’s weirdest and most wonderful district.
I don’t know how to even begin to describe what this trip meant to me. So be prepared, it’s about to get sentimental. If you can’t handle that then please look away now.
Before I went to Japan I was in the darkest place I’ve ever been, depression had taken over my life and it was a struggle just to convince myself not to give up. Spending 2 months travelling around one of the most amazing countries in the world with my oldest friend has been an experience that I struggle to put into words.
Since being back I have had days that were as dark as any before, the difference now is that as if by magic Yianna will always drop me a message just when I need it. December has been a tough month for me, and I didn’t expect it to be so hard. I love Christmas and so I thought, perhaps stupidly, that it would be fine. The reality is that pretending to be happy in front of my family for 2 weeks was much more taxing than I thought.
There has been a change however, and now I think my family and friends know just what to say and when to say it. I never had to explain myself if I needed to just be alone. Rather than breaking down or getting angry because my parents didn’t understand something I hadn’t even tried to explain to them I simply went to my room to be alone with my thoughts. Then, without fail, one of my parents would come up an hour or two later and give me a hug or distract with chit chat. I’m painfully aware that many people do not have family or friends that understand what they’re going through. My only advice would be to try and explain it to them, even if only a little, it’s amazing how little information people need in order to be able to help you.
Once again, I find myself rambling. What I am trying to say is that I know not everyone can just fly off to the other side of the world to address their problems. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself or let others in. Japan meant the world to me and though I don’t know how, I am going to find a way to go back whenever I can.
I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for me and hopefully I can find a way to make it entertaining for anyone reading this blog…that includes you Mum!
See you soon,