Tokyo Disneyland. Those words are like ecstasy for Disney fans. Tokyo Disneyland has entranced and intrigued fanatics for years due to it’s originality and detail. It is the Mecca for Disney fans, if you will. Although I had experienced it twice when I was twelve or so while living in Japan, that was before I had been a Cast Member and launched into full blown Disney obsession that I experience today. once I had decided to make my way up to Shanghai Disney, I knew a short pop over to Tokyo would need to be in order.
I was going in the hight of summer, the first week of July, which is hot and crowded, but I didn’t care. I love doing Disney solo and I knew I would survive the crowds and heat is no problem having lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and southern Alabama. Bring it.
I bought the three day passport where I would spend day one in Disneyland, day two in DisneySEA, and day 3 hopping between the two. Unfortunately, due to injury obtained at DisneySEA, I had to forgo day three and stay in bed all day. That was one of the biggest travel disappointments ever.
You can buy tickets at the booths, through your hotel, or online. It’s a bummer but, the English online website only offers a select ticket types, and you cannot buy a single day park hopper. The only way to the the park hopper is with a three day passport like what I had purchased. If you read Japanese and you book a ticket through the Japanese website, it offers way more ticket options including a birthday ticket and a park hopper. I would not suggest trying to do both parks in one day, though, there’s just to much to do!
You can get to the parks via taxi, shuttle bus from your hotel, or by train. I took the train and found out that the Tokyo metro system is way, way more complicated than I had anticipated. I had been on it before as a kid but obviously my parents took the lead and I just enjoyed the view. Only some of it is in English and transferring lines is more complicated than places like Hong Kong or Shanghai. I also ran into some of the trains only being opened at certain times of day or days of the week. Going home at the end of the day was very stressful as the train I had been planning to use doesn’t run during the week. I would do lots of research on where you need to go and even have a look at the Japanese symbols for your stops beforehand to familiarize yourself. If your hotel offers a shuttle, use that. I stayed at Best Western Tokyo Nishikasai and was pretty happy.
Stay on property if you can. Not only do they beautiful hotels but you are so close to the park you can just walk or take a shuttle. There are three official hotels where you can walk to the park and are guaranteed tickets just by staying at the hotel. They also have about eight partner hotels that are a short shuttle ride or longer stroll from the parks. These offer some exclusive perks and slightly lower prices than the official hotels. From my experience, I never regret staying on property and I almost always regret staying off, just for convenience sake. Check out the partner post I did on taking your family to Disney abroad where I go deeper into the “on property” hotel argument.
Tokyo Disneyland is not incredibly different than other Magic Kingdoms, DisneySEA is really the mindblower. When you enter the park make sure you grab a map, which is also in English. Tokyo Disney isn’t big on single rider queues and it is only available at Splash Mountain. I know, that sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Fast Passes are as prevalent as in other parks, and can be found on the biggest rides like Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pooh’s Hunny Hut, Haunted Mansion, Monster’s Inc, Star Tours, and Buzz Lightyears. Be sure to take full advantage of the few fast passes that you can procure. Also if traveling with children, be sure to ask attraction cast member’s if Alternate Ride System is in place; a service that allows one parent to ride while the other watches the child, then switch with a minimal wait.
When you enter the park you are greeted by The Grand Bazaar, Tokyo’s answer to Main Street. Here is where you’ll do much of your shopping in the covered shopping district. I recommend finding the Disney Gallery and making your way upstairs to the art gallery paying homage to classic Disney films with concept art and the best souvenirs. Say it with me: “Star Wars Kokeshi dolls.”
The park is comprised of all the lands that you know and love: Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland etc. You will also find many of the rides that you are accustomed to as well including Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion etc.
Pooh’s Hunny Hut is by far the most popular attraction in the park and always has a ridiculously long line. Grab a fast pass for it, because you don’t want to miss out on this trackless ride. It’s quite adorable. Venture inside Cinderella’s Castle for a look into the classic Disney princess’ story and a great viewpoint of Fantasyland. Enchanted Tiki Room also features Stitch which is a unique take on the Disneyland original.
One thing that Tokyo Disney is especially known for is their cuisine. It ranges from hearty meals to delicate desserts and everything in between. The #1 thing I can recommend to you is to have a meal at the Queen of Hearts restaurant in Fantasyland. Literally everyone who’s ever been there would agree with me on this. It’s a quick service restaurant which means it’s totally affordable, has delicious food all in the shape of hearts, and has some of the best theming in all of Disney restaurants. Try and go at an “off” time, as this place gets understandably crowded, but it is more than worth it. This was one of my most vivid memories of Tokyo Disney as a kid and it lived up to my romanticized memories.
Throughout the two Tokyo parks you can also try a variety of popcorn flavors. I saw flavors such as curry, white chocolate, chocolate, strawberry, soy sauce, and caramel, but I know there are even more. I’m not a huge popcorn person honestly, but I had to try curry and white chocolate, two of my favorite things. They. Were. Amazeballs. Do yourself a favor and at least try a few, or get a cute souvenir bucket and fill up for a fraction of the cost and try them all!
I also recommend the tiramisu ice cream sandwich available at any ice cream stand. I had about three in two days and loved it each time. It’s a great snack to cool down with but is still unique to the park.
For dinner I had pizza at Galactic Pizza in Tomorrowland which was also yummy. Seriously I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t amazing. They had really unique pizza combinations and it was big meal for a smallish price.
Disney parks are all about special events and they seems to almost always have something special happening whether it is holiday related or and anniversary of some kind. Do some research before you go and see if they have any special events happening that you should know about. Sometimes that means one of a kind souvenirs, parades, or shows that are only happening during that time.
Be sure to make time in your day for the daily parades and shows. There is an afternoon parade called “Happiness is Here” which features all your favorite characters and catchy music. Disney parades spare no expense and are more than worth taking forty-five minutes out of your day to grab a spot and watch. It’s a great time to rest your feet as well.
The night parade, “The Electric Lights Parade: Dream Lights” is the #1 MUST DO in the park, however. Honestly, if you miss it, why did you even bother coming? It will blow your mind and ignite the Disney fire inside your little adult-sized child heart. I can’t explain how magical it is. It just is.
After you watch the night parade, stick around and watch “Once Upon a Time” & “Sky High Wishes,” a fireworks/laser/projection show at the castle. If you’ve never seen a nighttime Disney projection show, you really are missing out. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft they use but it is truly incredible.
The park offers a plethora of shows worth watching if you need a little break from all the walking. My personal favorite was “One Man’s Dream” in the Tomorrowland theatre, a musical Disney review that featured some rarely used music from “A Bug’s Life” and a villains songs among others. “Minnie Oh! Minnie” is another adorable show to keep and eye out for.
Overall, Tokyo Disneyland isn’t so incredibly different from other parks you’ve been to before but contains some unique elements that make it more than worth a visit. It can be done in a single day if you strategies properly and make use of Fast Passes. Stay tuned for DisneySEA next week!