Space Mountain Closes in July, Aika Kanda Reflects on Her Childhood | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Space Mountain Closes in July, Aika Kanda Reflects on Her Childhood

No.54] Me, Pink, and Sometimes New York

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
The illustration drawn by Ms. Kanda.

In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland opened. I made my Disney debut there at age 3 and ever since, Disneyland has been the go-to amusement park for me.

My first roller coaster was Space Mountain. It was in complete darkness, simulating space. Suddenly, gravity hit from all directions, creating a shocking experience. For 40 years, Space Mountain has been my number one roller coaster.

However, this July, it’s ending its run. To thank them for all the fun times, my four close friends from junior high and high school decided, “Let’s ride it together after several years!”

We arrived an hour before opening, but it was already packed and buzzing with excitement. Originally planning to ride Space Mountain at least twice, we got caught up in the atmosphere and decided to challenge ourselves with a “how many rides can we do” mentality from our school days.


As soon as we entered, we power-walked straight to Space Mountain. While waiting in line, we used a dedicated app to secure our second ride reservation, ensuring our goal was within reach. “Alright! What’s the next attraction?”


Nowadays, popular rides require either waiting in long lines or paying 1500 to 2000 yen for a priority pass to skip the lines. This paid system was new to us and we were shocked that even the Magic Kingdom had become capitalist.


However, we’re deep into middle age now, working and taking care of ourselves. Plus, our legs aren’t what they used to be. If paying 2000 yen means less hassle… “Let’s just buy them all!” We went on a spree buying priority passes.


Skipping the lines made us realize how much less tiring it was. At that moment, watching students wait 120 minutes in line, I suddenly worried, “Won’t they end up arguing?”

Paying 2000 yen is a finely balanced decision influenced by economic circumstances. If your friend is the “buying type” and you prefer to “wait in line,” it could lead to differences in judgment. Nowadays, I could easily say, “I don’t have the money!” But during adolescence, it’s more challenging. However, saying, “I’ll wait in line, so why don’t you buy and go ahead ?” probably wouldn’t happen either.

Disneyland, supposed to be a fun time, can sometimes lead to divided opinions because of paid priority lanes. Some find them convenient, while others feel they strain friendships. It made me wonder if the old days, when you had to rely on perseverance in line, were actually happier.

While moving around, someone exclaimed, “Hey! Isn’t that a princess?” upon spotting the Disney princesses during a parade crossing. Their cuteness made everyone briefly light up with excitement, but upon seeing the actresses playing the princesses, we all remarked in unison, “They’re still foreigners, huh?

As children, we didn’t notice certain things

Until now, I hadn’t felt uneasy about seeing foreigners playing princesses. But we’ve grown older in society. Despite talk of gender equality, I’ve also experienced the difficulty of completely breaking down barriers imposed by biological differences. I’ve come to understand that no matter how hard we struggle, there are walls we cannot overcome ourselves. Perhaps there are similar barriers based on racial facial features here. 

I haven’t seen all the princesses, so maybe my thoughts could be different. But thinking about people who accept barriers and do their best, I felt like I should try harder too.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant where we could drink alcohol. We felt like if you can drink alcohol, it’s just like an izakaya (Japanese pub) in the dreamland. We talked a lot about the various discomforts we felt that day. Then we laughed and concluded, “We’ve become so strong-willed that we’re not enchanted by the magic of the dreamland anymore!”

We managed to go to 10 attractions that day. I’m satisfied. It was a different kind of fun and fulfillment for us as we’ve gotten older. Feeling happy, I bought a Daisy Duck plush toy. Among Disney characters, Daisy is my favorite. It’s because I feel like she’s always getting angry, but it’s because she cares and wants to do good! She can’t stop being angry. Daisy is like me in that sense. Now she’s sitting on the couch, looking at me as if saying, “What complaints do you have today? I’m listening!”.

©Kazuki Shimomura

She was born in 1980 in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the Mathematics Department of Gakushuin University, she joined NHK as an announcer in 2003. She retired from NHK in 2012 and became a freelance announcer. She has been active mainly in variety shows and currently serves as the main MC on the daytime program “Pokapoka” on Fuji Television.

From the June 21, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Illustrations and text by Aika Kanda

Photo Gallery53 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles