We (me, my wife and three teenage daughters) have just returned from a wonderful two week holiday in Japan. After visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Kamakura, Hiroshima and Miyajima we finished our visit with two and a half days at Tokyo Disneyland. I thought I would write a brief trip report to help anyone who is thinking about visiting in the near future (spoiler - if you have the chance then you should go!)
Tokyo Disneyland has two parks - Disneyland and DisneySea. We spent a day at each park, one evening at DisneySea and two evenings at Disneyland.
Tokyo DisneySea is an absolutely gorgeous park that completely enchanted me from the moment I saw it. It combined fantastic theming, a great atmosphere, wonderful rides, a drumming Mickey and an absolutely breathtaking version of Fantasmic that finishes with Sorcerer Mickey firing fireworks at a fire breathing dragon while a volcano erupts in the background.
The park is unlike any other Disney Park - It is based around a harbour surrounded by brilliantly themed lands representing the Mediterranean, an American Harbour and a mysterious island. The Lost River Delta and Arabian Coast areas are equally well themed, but not set around the harbour.
Our favourite ride was Journey to the Centre of the Earth - a dark ride involving a wild trip through the strange interior of the planet and an encounter with a monster (both scary and cute according to my family). The conclusion of the ride involves you being catapulted out of the volcano at speed into a short roller coaster section. This was especially thrilling at night as you emerge from a dark tunnel to a “blind” drop (The ride appears to use test track technology, so you can get an idea of the speed we are talking about). This is my second favourite Disney ride (after EE) of all time.
We also really enjoyed 20,000 leagues under the sea ( a gentle dark ride that appears to be under the ocean), Indian Jones:temple of the crystal skull (a ride system similar to Dinosaur in AK, but so much more exciting and better executed) and Sinbad’s story book voyage (a small world type journey telling the story of Sinbad, with great animatronics and a catchy tune). Tower of Terror is a dominating feature of the park. Although the drops are the same as those at WDW the theming is completely different - it is based around a collector who found a cursed idol. While the commentary was in Japanese there are enough artefacts and visual displays that make it easy to follow the story.
The most popular ride in the park is Toy Story Mania - 90% of the crowds head this way at RD and within 5 minutes of opening there is a 30 minute line just for fast pass distribution! We tried to ride, but even with a fast pass the wait was 40 minutes (160 mins standby) so we skipped it for another ride on Journey to the centre of the earth
The park has a number of shows, but the most popular is the Big Band Beat - in fact it is so popular that there is a lottery system to get tickets. We were lucky enough to get tickets and thought the show was absolutely fantastic ( it is easily good enough to be a show on a Disney Cruise). The show is all in English and is built around a swing band, singing, dancing and Disney characters. This is where we saw our drumming Mickey, as well as him and Minnie performing a dance routine, Daisy Duck singing a song and Goofy conducting the orchestra. None of this is played for laughs, it is all done to an extremely high quality and left me singing the opening song (it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got the swing) for the rest of our trip.
The Fantasmic show was staged on the Harbour. While it follows the same story line as the WDW version it is staged differently and is, for me, a more thrilling experience. At the centre is a large scale electronic sorcerers hat which serves as a stage and screen, the ships have inflatable globes to help illustrate this story and the dragon that appears is stunning and breathes real fire. The final fight between Mickey and the Dragon is brilliant and sent shivers down my spine. I was just left with a sense of “wow”.
Tokyo Disneyland is much closer to
Magic Kingdom with a lot of rides that are the same or only slightly different (Peter Pan, thunder mountain, space mountain, splash mountain, IASW, haunted mansion to mention a few). It also has star tours. The park still has snow whites scary adventure and it was nice to ride it again after all these years - my DDs - who can’t remember it from WDW ) were shocked at how dark it was.
The two innovative rides in the park are Pooh’s Honey Hunt and Monsters Inc Go Seek. Pooh’s Honey Hunt is basically the same ride as in WDW, but the use of trackless technology takes it to a completely different level. The honey pots you ride seem to dance with each other as you travel though the ride, grouping together for key story elements and taking you to interactive elements at other times. They also let you bounce with Tigger and spin with Pooh and the heffalumps. We all absolutely loved this ride and chose it as our last ride on our last night. The Monsters Inc ride involves you shining a torch at Monster Inc helmets to trigger a monster appearing. I had heard that this ride elicited mixed reactions and that was certainly the case in my family - some of my DDs loved it, others liked it but wanted a scoring element while I was just “meh”.
The lines for the rides were what I would have expected, for example longer for the three mountains, shorter for IASW and teacups. However, the Japanese seem to have no love for Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Tours - the wait time for these never exceeded 10 minutes the whole time we were there.
The parades and night time shows were all excellent in the park - the daytime parade was colourful and had a huge amount of energy. This was despite it being held in the rain - indeed, I am sure it would have been cancelled in similar conditions in Florida. The night time electrical parade was at another level when compared to the WDW version. The floats seemed to be brighter, they contained more characters and the whole parade had much more energy. The final nighttime show was similar to “Celebrate the magic”, in that it involved the projection of a story onto the castle. Although the commentary was in Japanese the story was easily followed and told mainly though Disney songs which were in English.
In general the night time shows in Tokyo were excellent, the only negative being that the use of fireworks was very limited. I am not sure of the reason, but neither park has any large burst fireworks or extended displays.
Overall we really enjoyed the Disneyland park, especially the parades, but it fell just short of the Magic Kingdom. I think part of this was that the transition between the lands was not as well managed.
Both parks have the traditional paper fast passes and I was looking forward to trying these again. While they worked well for us I have to say that I much prefer FPP+, in particular the ability to have headliners locked in before you arrive at the park. I also realised that I do not miss the backtracking required to get a paper fast pass and then to use it.
We sampled a lots of snacks and a few restaurants across both parks. Our major takeaway was the difficulty in finding vegetarian meals for one of our daughters. There is literally one TS restaurant in each park that has a vegetarian option (even the pizza places do not do a plain cheese and tomato version and any tofu dish usually has pork with it). This, coupled with no willingness to make substitutions/alterations to a dish, really restricted our options. I would note that this was in line with our experiences elsewhere in Japan - vegetarianism is not really considered by the restaurant trade. In terms of snacks the options are unique and, in some cases, fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the green alien dumplings (based on Toy Story), a shrimp filled steam bun (designed to look like a Donald Duck lifesaver) and the maple cream puff balls. They also do many flavours of popcorn including curry, butter and soy sauce and white chocolate. We did not manage to try the legendary Chandau’s tail as it was not available on our visit. All in all, we really enjoyed the snacks and would highly recommend you “snacking round the park”.
We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel on our visit. We had a beautiful family room that had a view of both parks and easily accommodated all five of us. The hotel is on the monorail (which is fantastically designed and absolutely spotless) and 2 minutes walk from the entrance to Disneyland. In terms of crowd levels all the advice we read said to avoid the weekends. We were glad we followed this as we had very manageable crowds for all of our days - I would estimate equivalent as ranging from a 3 to a 6 on the touring plan scale. I had worried about language difficulties before I went but this was not an issue for us at all. Sure, some rides had Japanese commentary but there are enough visuals for us to easily follow along. All food menus are also in English and all the CMs we met spoke basic English and had cards continuing common phrases to help the conversation. We did not feel that we missed out on anything because we couldn’t speak the language ( the same can be said if our whole trip - don’t let this worry stop you going to Japan)
There is lots of information out there to help you plan a visit. In particular TDRexplorer and the Disney Tourist Blog are very useful. When you are there TDRnow.com is an incredibly useful site that shows you live wait and FPP times.
This was the 4th resort we have visited (WDW, DLR, Tokyo and Paris) and it is, for me, the only one that comes close to WDW. In particular, DisneySea is probably my favourite park of them all. We now need to plan trips Hong King and Shanghai to complete the set.
Overall we absolutely loved our trip to Tokyo Disneyland. The parks, rides,shows, parades and CMs are all excellent. I would highly recommend that you visit if you have the chance.