Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our Day at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center Tokyo

We recently took a little trip to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Tokyo and believe it or not, this is the first time we've taken the kids to a Discovery Center attraction. Was it worth a LONG trip from Nagoya to Tokyo just for a half day of fun for the kiddos? It is right now, because there is not a LEGOLAND park anywhere around and the kids had a blast!

Did you know I designed the Miniland in the very first Discovery Center in US? It was a mini Chicago and it was one of my all-time favorite projects to work on. Miniland was always my favorite part of any LEGOLAND so I looked forward to seeing another city styled in miniature and home to the little plastic people we all love. 

Before we even walked through the doorway they have this cute play area which I'm sure could have killed a few hours. This is also where their pick-a-brick is so if you want bricks, either get them before you go in or you will have to head back down at the end.

First, you walk into their Factory Tour room where you get a glimpse into the manufacturing process for LEGO bricks.

You are only eye to eye with a brick-built scaled up LEGO Minifig for a tiny small window in your life....

I'm not sure the kids really care about the factory part. They liked some of the interactive stuff with pushing, pulling, standing on but no LEGO to play with, yet, so peace out.

After this room, you get to do a really cool interactive shooting game ride. We went on twice. No pictures. They score you in this ride an I'm not getting beaten by a little kid! Hubs won, of course. We just tell the 4 year old he has a more accurate shot, which is the truth and it makes him feel good because he never beats us at these things. Someday though...

Then you get to go into their Miniland area. Woohooooooooo!

The little one enjoyed trying to climb in. Our 4 year old was on a scavenger hunt for special Minifigs that were hidden in the display. I think he thought it was kind of cool but city isn't really his thing. He's more a Ninjago, Chima, Star Wars guy.

Honestly, I think the grown-ups probably appreciate this area the most. I certainly love it. I see the great deal of detail and love that goes into designing these displays and it brings back good memories of working with the old team. 

Work hard, play hard. Or play with hard little bricks, or work with really nerdy people. Hardly work because you like to play? Or hardly working because you work with things that people play with. All of that happens and you see the fruits of their labor here!

I am impressed with the streets and surfacing they are now using in the display as well as the actual water. We had wished for real water in Chicago but did not get it. I think it adds such a wonderful layer to the fantasy.

It was nice that the room is spacious and gives the guests an opportunity to spend a lot more time instead of treating it like a fast walk-through hallway into another room. 

You want to spend time in here. This is the only room like it in the attraction and it took countless hours of design and building by a team of artists and technicians so enjoy it! 

More climbing. Expect this if you have little ones. There's a buffer zone before you are held responsible for damage.

The lights go out and you get to enjoy the cityscape at night! I think this is my favorite part!

One of the first things I noticed when I walked in was this giant saw and oversized trees. I thought the trees were part of the scale model of what appeared to be a sculpture park. I'm not a Tokyo local, so I don't really know what this is supposed to be...

Then I realized these horrible little LEGO trees were EVERYwhere! They were supposed to be scale models of trees. Nooooooo. Just no.

The only place the chunky little trees were not were locations where they used the off-the-shelf model train trees. You know, those dust-collecting things your great-grandpa probably glued to some sloppy ancient train display in the basement where he snuck moonshine and wore overalls and a conductors cap because nobody cared to bother him there...

*Disclaimer: I'm about to get a little snarky here.*

When we designed Miniland Chicago, I lovingly hand made all of the trees out of tiny plastic leaves and wooden sticks. They were removable, washable and added a lovely texture to the display. I've also seen beautiful trees made by actual Master Model Builders out of LEGO or at the very least kids who are good at building with LEGO. They can be really nice! These are not nice. They look ridiculous and I wanted to go Godzilla on them.

I found a Godzilla on top of one of the buildings and asked him why he didn't climb down and tromple these terrible retina-burning, twitch-inducing abominations glued all over this delightful display. While he was at it, he could eat all the stickers that were used instead handmade LEGO mosaics and chew through all the wires for the buttons that don't work for anything that we could see but why bother...

I don't mean to sound salty, but I was passionate about my job when I did it and would not have stood for anyone trying to pass off those "trees" as quality work/decoration. 

Also, you would think after all of these years, they would realize that kids like buttons and just want something to happen that they can see when they hit a button. It is very simple. There should be more buttons, a lot more, and things should pop up and down, lights should go on and off, sounds should beep, toot, drill, boom. Simple stuff and lots of buttons so Mommas and Dadas can stay in the room longer and take pictures of the cool models. 

I'm available for freelance consultation when you guys need me. I'll keep my phone on LOUD so I don't miss your call, LEGOLAND!

The models are really cool! It is so beautiful and inspiring to see things like this build out of tiny little LEGO pieces. Let us enjoy them. Give the littles something to do in here so we can have this special time to be kids again for just a few minutes!

We want to look at all the little people and see if they are doing funny things. We used customize our little people had have them doing very specific and funny things with a great deal of thought and consideration and everyone needs a little time to appreciate this. 

They had no clue what they were doing with these buttons, but the pushing repeated until they felt like moving on.

I loved the Japanese architecture and the lighting was so beautiful!

I was thoroughly impressed with the integration of this bridge into a spiral on-ramp.

When your kids are over it, you move on to do things that THEY like, and pull out your smartphone to start reading all the Facebook updates you missed while you were mesmerized and engaged in your Miniland experience. You are going to be here a while...

There's a baby play area which is fun.

There is a big kid play area, a Build & Test car racing area, a city building play area, and a 4D theater. The kids could seriously play in this area for HOURS. We stayed until near closing time! We had to bribe them out of there because we didn't want the store at the end to close while we were playing.

As usual, in Japan, the customer service is pretty awesome.

This is the kind of display I want in my HOUSE. Get me some Kragle!

I found my husband and I in this apartment with empty wine glasses, like usual. Who has to get up and get more?!

We didn't go on this ride because the wait time was SUPER long. It wasn't extremely crowded so I'm not sure why it would be so long, but with all the other things to do, our son didn't care (thank you!!!)

We did however see TWO different 4D movies. Different movies play at showtimes throughout the day so you can check out more than one and they are all really entertaining. Even the baby didn't mind sitting through them because they are short. I just keep putting the 4D glasses on her until she gives up trying to pull them off and starts to appreciate them and it seems to work.

This is it, folks. This is the last room in the Discovery Center and after this you will be asked, begged, and cried at to buy LEGO sets that will negate anything from a days worth to an entire month's salary, so I hope you brought the credit card!!!

This was a fun day for the little kids (and the grown-ups!) Just make sure you bring a fully charged phone with you so you can be patient and let them play as long as they want to. Also, there was not much by way of food offerings and you are asked not to bring outside food and drinks into the attraction. I suggest eating before you go in but we did not. 

As a mom of a family of folks with food issues and dietary concerns, I always bring snacks and I'm glad we did or we would not have survived without them. The parents starved a little bit and the kids snuck in a few handfuls of nuts, a couple fruit puree pouches, and granola bars which fueled them for hours of play. We went to a restaurant afterward and the kids actually sat and played with some of the LEGO we bought long enough for us to eat pizza and polish off a much needed bottle of wine. As Ice Cube would say, "Today was a good day."

Check out the Discovery Center Tokyo website to plan a trip if you are in the area! 

I highly recommend it!

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