Over the weekend Tokyo Disney came up on Twitter and I realized I never summarized my thoughts on the happiest place in Japan. While I enjoyed and recommend Hong Kong Disneyland, I put Tokyo Disney on another level: must see. It would be a shame for even the casual Disney fan to miss spending a day or two at Tokyo Disney- specifically DisneySea.
What’s So Great about DisneySea?
Simply put, DisneySea is unique in the World. Not just the world of Disney, but the entire World. The other International Disney parks are versions of the Magic Kingdom. It’s immediately apparent the imagineers had some fun with their 2nd Japanese offering.
Once you learn that DisneySea is based on the Seven Seas you might expect DisneySea to be a carbon copy of EPCOT with various countries represented. Not. Even. Close.
OK, there’s a Cape Cod area that’s a bit like America and the Arabian Coast looks kind of like Morocco, but the similarities come to a screeching halt when you reach the castle- Triton’s Castle.
Triton’s under-the-sea extravaganza must be seen to be believed. Ariel’s treasures become the objects of a scavenger hunt in her Grotto, Jellyfish float in air-conditioned skies, and Triton’s Concert takes the Little Mermaid’s story to a uniquely Japanese place. In the Tokyo telling, Ariel is ashamed for being absent for the King’s concert and vows never to go away again! Not exactly the Ariel I remember from the movie…
Tokyo Disney Tips: Before you get to the parks
- Both parks are worth a day each (two at DisneySea if you’re a Disney lover), but if you have to pick one, choose DisneySea, as shown above.
- It’s worth staying close to the parks. The train takes a good hour from Shinjuku. If you’re planning a full day at the park you’ll be grateful to be right on the monorail at the end of it! I can recommend the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay but have also heard good things about the Hilton right next door.
- Timing is EVERYTHING. Like in the US a good crowd calendar will be your best friend. We visited on days that were in the 40-50 (out of 100) crowd range. We definitely felt the difference between even 40 and 50. I don’t even want to imagine a 100 day- and you don’t want to either as they close the park to visitors!
- That said, try to visit during a festival if it’s not too crowded. We were fortunate enough to visit during Tanabata, or Star, festival time throughout Japan. Characters wore special costumes and we found souvenirs that you could only get for those two weeks. Pretty cool!
- Tokyo gets hotter and muggier than you think. Heat exhaustion is no joke. Plan for frequent aircon breaks. The shows will make sense in any language- and some like the Tiki Room have hand held translators available.
Tokyo Disney Tips: Once you’re inside the parks
- Get stuck in lines? Single Rider is your friend! The Japanese seemed to avoid Single Rider like the plague. 45 minutes waits went magically down to 5 if we were willing to go 1 per row. Best part- single rider made for the best accidental photobomb ever for Deal Kid when he got placed with a field trip on the Indiana Jones ride. Picture fifteen screaming Japanese teens in matching green tees…and a stone faced Deal Kid.
- Plan on snacking your way through the parks. The food was consistently awesome, affordable, and in typical Japanese fashion…adorable! Try the soy sauce flavored popcorn and the mochi little green men ice cream treats. Thank me later.
- Speaking of snacking- snacks make a great souvenir. Metal tins of snacks in every possible sweet and savory combo you can imagine line shop shelves. Another fun- and unconventional- souvenir? Towels! Japanese are big into hand towels (washcloth and guest towel size). We picked up a bunch we use in the bathroom as guest towels.
- Unusual photo opps: Duffy the Bear (EPCOT’s mascot), Oswald (the pre-Mickey), Max (Goofy’s son), Apu from Alladin and the 3 Caballeros
Have you visited the Tokyo Parks? What are your insider tips? Lots of folks are looking for guidance!
DisneySea is, by far, the BEST Disney theme park of the bunch.
Immaculately clean, fantastic ride quality and just a great experience all around.
Apparently, a lot of the basic ideas were from the Port Disney that was potentially going to be the 2nd park in Long Beach. When EuroDisney was losing money for the first few years, they disney execs got scared and went for the more conservative California Adventure in LA ( well, Anaheim… but hey same thing ).
A lot of the ideas that were half-thought out for a huge (expensive) resort in Long Beach were ported over to Disney Sea. There’s information about it online you should be able to find.
As for the snacks… food is a typical souvenir in Japan. It’s usually beautifully packaged, tasty and practical… perfect for gifts. After all… who REALLY wants an Eiffel Tower keychain, a New Orleans set of coasters, and a London Phonebox piggy bank? Japanese give gifts all the time, so their houses would end up looking more like landfills if they bought kitsch when they went away on vacation.
Thanks for the interesting backstory! I especially love reusing the tins the food souvenirs came in. We have teabags in a tsum tsum tin, barrettes in a Winnie the Pooh and Disney pins in an Oswald.
Get there before the park opens. There is always a link to get in. When the park opens everyone races for the fast passes.
Last time we went, the fast pass line for Toy story was 45 mins.
Good tip! They’re the old fashioned fast passes but do run out by noon.
Where did you stay?
I have posts about both. Search “Tokyo Disney” to find them.
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