Prepare to be amazed. Tokyo Disneyland is a place where Disney magic and amazing Japanese hospitality collide. In the words of Dash from The Incredibles — “That was totally wicked!”
Like its California sister, Disneyland, there are two parks — Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea. The Disney parks are located across from the Maihama station and the Tokyo Disneyland station. This means that getting to the parks is easy by rail coming from any direction, and access is not exclusive to Disney rail. If you are staying at the military hotel, The New Sanno, you can easily hop on a train and get to Disneyland in under an hour.
Tokyo Disneyland opened its gates in the early 1980s. It was developed by the Walt Disney Company, but it is owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company. This means that it has all the touches of Disney magic you would expect from Disney Imagineering, but with the impeccable cleanliness and features that are pillars of Japanese hospitality.
Upon entering the gates, you are greeted by the familiar sight of Cinderella’s castle. Quite a few of the rides may look familiar to those who have been to the U.S. parks, as well — from Jungle Cruise in Adventureland to Splash Mountain in Critter Country. In fact, Fantasyland is almost entirely a carbon copy of Walt Disney World with It’s a Small World, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan’s Flight. The highlight and must-do in Tokyo’s Fantasyland is Pooh’s Hunny Hut. This ride does not have a height restriction, so it can be enjoyed by all, and if you have a little one who loves Pooh, this bouncy ride will be a treat.
Disney Sea is very different than any Disney park. It combines imagination and history into various lands from the Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, and Mermaid Lagoon, to name a few. You can ride in gondolas in Mediterranean Harbor where a gondolier will sing to you in Italian — all while you’re in a theme park in Japan.
The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction is just as interesting to watch from the outside as to ride. Be sure not to skip Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage located in the Arabian Coast. This dark ride is similar to It’s a Small World in that it’s a boat ride set to music, but it tells the amazing tale of Sinbad and his sidekick, Chandu, and their adventures. When entering the ride, you will be handed a translation map of the song and words said throughout as well, but even without out it, you will leave humming.
What to Eat
The food here is not just theme park food. Buns in the color and shape of your favorite monster with fillings of fish and pork and popcorn of every flavor imaginable (garlic, curry and black pepper just to name a few) will be tempting. Try them!
If you have an allergy, ask a cast member, and they will be sure to accommodate. As with most of Japan, many people speak English with varying degrees of proficiency, and it is easy to navigate a menu with some assistance if there is not an ingredient list in English.
Do not miss out on a Mickey ice cream sandwich, and try a meal set at Café Portofino while watching the fireworks. The meals are very affordable, typically around ¥1800 for a set, which is shareable and often includes a souvenir item.
U.S. military discount tickets are not available like they are for the U.S. parks. However, the New Sanno Hotel often has discount coupon tickets for the parks — just ask at the front desk. From experience, visiting on a weekday got us a coupon that was essentially buy one, get one free. Any savings is better than no savings! Whether you are purchasing at the New Sanno or at the park, make sure you are carrying plenty of yen so you can avoid paying a travel fee on a credit card.
When planning your trip to Tokyo Disneyland, you can use the Japanese website with the help of Google Translate (Google Chrome has translate built into it). Enjoy your trip, and soak in that amazing Japanese culture…and maybe send us a souvenir plate!