IT MAY have been five years since the Disney empire decided to move its happy kingdom from terra firma to the water, but ask any Singaporean about DisneySea and they are still likely to go: 'Huh?'
Well, at least that was the reaction I got when I told friends and family that I was going to the theme park inspired by legends of the sea.
'You mean Disneyland?' they would invariably try to correct me.
While most Singaporeans know of the Disneyland in Tokyo, few have heard of, let alone visited, the adjacent park in the Japanese capital.
It is not surprising. Disneyland enjoys a brand name quite unparalleled. Besides the original theme park at Anaheim in the United States, it can also be found in Tokyo, Orlando in Florida, Paris and Hong Kong.
As for DisneySea, it is the only one in the world. The theme park had also hitherto not been aggressive in its publicity efforts internationally, preferring to focus on its domestic Japanese market and, more recently, its neighbours in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
But now, as Mickey Mouse looks to celebrate five years on water, the park is hoping to lure more Singaporeans to its scenic shores by Tokyo Bay. For its fifth anniversary, the park is adding new attractions and rides that will wow the young and thrill the young-at-heart.
I managed to catch a few of these fresh acts during my visit last month, and the most awe-inspiring of the lot was a daytime harbour show called The Legend Of Mythica.
Staged on the water by the Mediterranean Harbour, one of seven distinct 'ports of call' in the park, the 30-minute show was dazzling. Colourful floats shaped like turtles and frogs glided through the water while jet skis zipped round with riders flying spiralling kites to the rhythmic beat of drums.
With Mickey and his buddies like Donald Duck and Goofy dancing on the floats and Cirque-du-Soleil-style gymnasts performing acrobatics, it was hard to decide where to look.
The show's narration was in Japanese, so I had no clue what the story was about. But, honestly, that was not important. The mesmerising smorgasbord of colour and costumes more than compensated for it.
For those seeking more heart-pumping action, the park will not disappoint. Besides the new Tower Of Terror, there is also the Raging Spirits roller coaster which has a 360-degree loop to scare the Mickey out of you.
But really, DisneySea is more fun and fashion than frightening. I spent a good part of my day there gawking at well-dressed Japanese adults openly displaying their love for all things Disney.
Young women sauntered around munching popcorn in fancy collectible containers, wearing hairbands with Mickey Mouse ears. Some preferred the Minnie Mouse hairbands, which came complete with pink ribbons and a short bridal veil.
There were even a few dressed like anime characters - seemingly out to steal the limelight from Mr Mouse and gang.
To rest my tired legs, I slipped into the Broadway Music Theatre for the Big Band Beat, a new act where Mickey (who else?) tap-dances and plays the drums with a live band.
At the end of each day, popular Disney tunes are played to a fireworks display, ushering you out of the happy kingdom and back into the real world.
Admission: 5,500 yen (S$75) for a 1-day pass; 9,800 yen for a 2-day pass; 2,900 yen for entry after 6pm.
In conjunction with DisneySea's fifth anniversary celebrations, Japan Airlines has launched a new three-day-two-night package at a special rate of S$888. Call 6221-4812 for more details.
5 things to do
1. Do try the new Tower Of Terror, which was built at a cost of 21 billion yen (S$285 million). It will open on Sept 4 to coincide with the fifth anniversary celebrations.
The free-fall ride is set in a recreated Hotel Hightower, a haunted establishment in 1920s New York owned by eccentric billionaire Mr Hightower.
Adrenaline-seekers make their way in the gothic building from the hotel lobby to the penthouse, with 'paranormal' encounters testing your nerves before the 60m plunge.
2. Do patronise the New York hot dog stand at the American Waterfront. The sausage is crunchy and as good, if not better, than any of the frankfurters that can be found along the streets of Manhattan.
3. Do stay at the DisneySea Hotel Miracosta, which is the first hotel to be built inside a Disney Park in Japan. The luxurious hotel has an Italian theme.
Miracosta is Italian for 'view of the coast'. Accordingly, many rooms offer a view of either Tokyo Bay or DisneySea's Mediterranean Harbour, ensuring that your Mickey experience is a round-the-clock thrill.
The best part of the hotel is, of course, that the amusement park is literally right at your door. All rooms come with Mickey-themed toiletries, so be prepared to rein in your kids. Room rates start from 32,000 yen.
4. Do eat the themed popcorn and ice cream at the seven different 'ports of call' in the park. In Mermaid Lagoon, for example, there is sea salt popcorn and sea salt ice cream in a pink case shaped like a shell.
The best snack is the Arabian Coast's black pepper popcorn, edging ahead of the coconut-flavoured ones at the Lost River Delta and cappuccino popcorn at the Mediterranean Harbour.
5. Do bring enough yen. No matter how averse you are to Disney, few will be able to resist the many memorabilia shops littered liberally around the park.
Besides the usual T-shirts and caps, there are also pens, chocolates, playing cards, ties and hairbands with Mickey ears.
1. Don't be kiasu and try to cover both DisneySea and the adjacent Disneyland in one day.
While the parks may not be as huge as Florida's Disney World, there are still too many rides to take and too many shows to catch.
I recommend an entire day at DisneySea, giving yourself plenty of time in between rides and shows to try the food, shop or simply relax and have a Kirin beer.
2. Don't take the Aquatopia ride at Port Discovery early in your visit if you don't fancy shivering in the cold auditoriums.
The ride offers a wet or dry version and if you go for the former, be prepared to be a little drenched as you spin around fountains and whirlpools.