The “M” Series: Culture shock Phase 3 has set in for Offspring #1. Any one who lives with or ever was a hormone infused teenager knows that drastic hormonal swings crossed with culture shock leads to a chemical and potentially combustible reaction with seismic proportions requiring an immediate and Herculean intervention. During this phase of culture shock, Offspring #1 is craving all things American. Food, words, friends, sports and anything else that resembles home are mandatory. At this point in culture shock, all things related to Japan are sending Offspring #1 in to meltdown mode. These are all classic characteristics of this phase. The question to be answered is how best to manage this middle school mess. Of course there are American food chains here- TGI Fridays, Dennys, Starbucks but a feeble attempt at a real solution utilizing a one pronged approach such as food is best left for earlier stages of culture shock. I need a grand gesture that completely ensnares Offspring #1’s unwilling attention, imitates complete immersion thus having longer lasting impact and will be acceptable in which to participate with one’s mother and younger sibling, and is without question American. There is only one solution that I can find. You’ll see I didn’t get kicked out of marketing without picking up some tips on branding.
Disneyland. Disneyland Tokyo to be specific. Mickey, Minnie, a few princesses, the same lay out as all the other Disney properties, candy, hot dogs, classic Americana and it’s an all day – ride em hard put em away wet- event. Perfect. Or so I thought…
I always like to get there at park open. In Disneyland California, no one really gets there until the hotel buffets close at 11:00 so we have the park to ourselves. We arrived at the train station to Disney with the rest of Tokyo- at 7:30 AM. Not a kid in site.
“Don’t worry kids. It’s always crowded at the beginning because everyone is waiting for the park to open- if it’s crowded at Disney – we’ll just go over to Disney Sea- no body likes to spring for both sides it’s too expensive.”
At the ticket counter I ask for the park hopper pass. She gives me the cross arms. That’s when one crosses both arms over the chest in an “x” formation and it means NO in Japan. No explanation. Just “NO.” She speaks perfect English. Humm. Crowd control in place. Bad sign.
“Ok kids- we’ll just have to make do with Disneyland.”
The gates are opened and everyone starts running. Ok- everyone does that everywhere. Except that the Japanese do that all day. They run from one ride to the next all day. We should have run because after the first ride, the following ride lines were 2-3 hours.
“Not to worry- fast passes. We’ll get fast passes and then eat.” We were all craving the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles. Maybe Disney had imported the nice fatty bacon from the US. We were all so tired of the healthy hammy version served here. The waffles smelled so good. Offspring #1 and I talked about the crunchy outside and the thick syrup. We all agreed to eat Dumbo’s weight in waffles.
“Tomorrowland by the cars- in that space center food stop.”
Here was breakfast:
The waffles we smelled were the Mickey shaped pastries filled with cheese or banana. Other choices included beef Korean Wrap, Star Shaped Shrimp and Pork Bun, along with a Milk fruit jellied drink.We decided to try the Vietnamese wraps. Good. Not waffles but good. On to Splash Mountain.
Fast Pass entrance was at 12:00-1:00. At 9:30 we entered the line. We got out of Splash Mountain at 1:00, in time for our fast pass. I told the kids we really hadn’t waited in line for 3.5 hours. Since we had fast passes, we only waited one hour and a half (or so) for each ride. We went again.
Now Offspring #1 needed to satisfy his craving for ice cream in a cone. Like circling vultures, we followed the path of ice cream cone licking park dwellers. Two flavors- Pumpkin and Milk. The Japanese don’t like their sweets as sweet as Americans so the ice cream tasted just like their names – pumpkin and milk. No sugar. Yummy. Snack food choices were extremely limited. It was either the ice cream or smoked turkey legs which apparently are a crowd favorite. Lunchtime looked like a Viking festival.
Let’s see- by now our debate centered on food vs rides. A long line could starve us so best to eat now. Choices? Hot dog- no. Hamburger-no. Chicken burger- no. Chicken nuggets-no. None of the old Disney stand bys. Korean Bbq-yes. Sushi-yes. Beef and rice-yes. Vietnamese food-yes. Chinese food-yes. One slice of ham and pineapple pizza or sea food pizza-yes. When was the last time you had seafood pizza?
How about a drink? Green tea- yes, oolong tea- yes, coke-yes, water-yes. That’s it.
Space Mountain. Line time- 90 minutes. We looked at each other.
Offspring #1- “I really just want candy” Music to my ears. I see an opportunity to negotiate my way out of Disney.
Offspring #2-” Me too”
Me- “I’ll buy you all the candy you want if we can leave after.”
Offspring #2- “How about we shop some after then leave.”
Me- “Deal,” She knew I was weak.
What’s that annoyance in the background? ” Halloween, party on, Halloween, party on…” PARADE!!!!
We’ve got to move or we’re going to be blocked in by the parade.
Offspring #1- the Nasal navigator of this generation- starts to lead us around the parade route. Green things on skates are twirling in our direction. A purple float continues to appear over tree tops threatening to trap us at every turn. We get stuck at the Magic Castle.
“Should we just run through the parade?” I’m crazed with desire to get out of Disneyland. I can outrun all these Disney people. What are they going to do to us if we cross the parade in motion? Maybe one of the green things could hunt us down on skates.
“I think we can go around the back and cut through after the purple float” a clear-headed Offspring #1 responds looking at me baffled. Not only have I lost my mind in his view I’m premeditating embarrassing situations in which to put he and Offspring #2.
We make a break and end up on Disney Main Street. The Confectioner’s Store. Home to all things sweet. Except here. It was a mirage for candy. Nothing worse than wanting candy and getting rice crackers.
Offspring #2 dives in like Jacques Cousteau on the hunt for a rare species of sea urchin but she’s scouring the store for candy of any kind. She surfaces jubilant with a small sack of lozenges possibly the only sugar filled snack in Disney Tokyo. The Disney Confectioners Store might have been #5 on the “Top 10 Most Disappointing Things of My Middle School Years” for both Offspring. Offspring #1 suggested that Grandma FedEX him Orange Tic Tacs as consolation.
Shopping. Let’s just say, that the offspring are still adjusting to a new styles here:
We decided to re-evaluate our position. Hang out in line for the next 3 hours, eat smoked turkey legs, or stop by the “$50 Grocery Store” for American candy- my nickname for the International grocery store where a small brown lunch bag of items costs $50- and buy two bags full of American candy.
What’s $100 more for a crisis aversion? Maybe x2?
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This is VERY funny! Having lived in Vietnam for a year, I know the Southeast Asian sense of not-quite-sweet. So sad for the kids, I’m sure!
And the prices ex-pats have to pay for food from home–a bag of M & M ‘s a small life savings. And I’m afraid it’s even worse in Haiti and often harder to come by!
Bless your poor-parent-heart!
Bless YOU for living in Haiti- I view living in Japan as Ex-Pat lite. It’s very easy vs places like Haiti where there are real issues like poverty, not to mention earthquakes and suffering… But- the good news is we all get a new view of the world!
Kathryn’s right, this is very funny! Must be devastating for kids to go to a very American place like Disneyland, and for it not to be what they expect.
What brought you to Japan? Maybe I should just work my way through your archives.
Well you see how I handled the disappointment- CANDY! Not sure exactly doctor recommended but soothed the aching soul that day. Spouse’s job brought us out and in spite of what the post would lead one to believe, we all love it here. Thanks for enjoying the ride with us.
Whoa! I found things much easier in Tokyo Disney Sea for some reason. :S Maybe because they have an American Waterfront section? The lines were not very long at all – we were only there three hours, and we rode about 6 rides, plus had dinner and snacks, and didn’t run at all. There was a different flavour of popcorn in every section of the park (black pepper, cheese, salt, coconut, strawberry, milk tea, cappuccino…) And we ate dinner at this cafeteria style Italian place. It wasn’t the best ever but it was fine, tasted like Italian food back home, and was reasonably priced.
I have heard people say they like the sea side better- that might be one of the reasons. The other being alcohol is served, We were unable to get in thy side that day. Nieces and nephews coming in March and we’ll try both sides again. Thanks for the tip!
This is HIGH LARRY US! Missing you , sorry I missed your call SKYPE ME and lets catch up soon! Love to all!!!
“I’m crazed with desire to get out of Disneyland. I can outrun all these Disney people.” Funny. This sounded like classic parenting: sometimes, you just have to punt.
Truer words were never said…
I’m so glad you linked back to this post!!! You wrote this before I really started blogging. Love it! 🙂