Having grown up in Florida and California, Disney is the one thing that united our childhoods. For both of us, Disney is more than theme parks and movies. It represents the world as a place of fantasy and adventure. But even with our love of Disney, we were reluctant to “waste” too much time visiting Tokyo Disney. Looking back, we both agree that the Tokyo Disney Resort was one of the most memorable experiences during our trip to Japan.
It was amazing to see the blend of Japanese and American culture in such a familiar setting. Even more amazing was the ability to interact with people from across the world. Despite the language barrier, we were connected by our excitement and love of dreaming.
“There is just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide its a small world after all!”
Here is what you can expect while visiting the Tokyo Disneyland theme park.
Everyone Arrives Early
Tokyo Disney Resort is located right next to the JR Maihama line. We arrived almost an hour before the parks opened and found there was already a massive group of people waiting patiently at the gates. Far back from the MainGate an orderly line is formed. As you get closer to the turnstiles, the line dissipates into more of a large mob. There is no need to push your way through this crowd as everyone is very respectful and takes turns going through. The reason for falling out of line is simply to fill in all of the available space. This early lesson in Japanese queuing helped us for the rest of the trip as we waited on train platforms and other crowded places.
Once inside the park, you will find yourself in the center of the World Bazaar. This exotic version of Main Street is both enchanting and familiar if you have visited the other resorts. You will be tempted to stop and explore the shops and restaurants under the glass canopy but we recommend heading straight on toward the castle.
You Will Need a FastPass Plan
There might be a million Disney blogs on the internet and they all talk about using a FastPass. But even if you are a veteran of the US parks, you will need to coordinate a plan. If you’re not familiar, a FastPass enables you to return to a ride later in the day and skip the standby line. The system in Tokyo is similar to the older system that was previously used in Disneyland. Unlike the digital version used in Disney World, you will need to physically scan your ticket (or app barcode) at machines near the attraction and return during the designated time printed on the pass.
This “old school system” is the reason we recommend heading out of the World Bazaar and directly toward your attraction of choice. Because of crowding, FastPasses for popular attractions are known to run out shortly after the park opens. If you can, we recommend heading straight to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Fantasyland in order to secure a FastPass. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is a ride you won’t be able to see in any other parks around the world. It is a fun, high tech journey through the Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh. For this reason, it is also the longest line in the park. After getting your first FastPass you will have plenty of time to backtrack through the castle and World Bazaar.
It Will Feel Like Home
If you have been to the American Disney resorts, Disneyland Tokyo will feel a lot like what you have seen before. This classically designed park takes the best parts of Florida and California and mashes them up. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean is located in a New Orleans inspired area, just like in Disneyland, however, close observers will notice the ride uses the more efficient offloading system of Disney World.
You will also see a strong theme of Americana in general. Westernland is the largest area in the park. It houses favorites like Mark Twain’s Riverboats and Big Thunder Mountain. We really enjoyed the Country Bear Jamboree presented in Japanese. Even more than the show, we loved the novelty of having a hearty dinner afterwards at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. But don’t expect cheeseburgers and onion rings, this version specializes in Japanese curry!
You Will Wait in Line for Snacks
On the topic of food, the snacks of Tokyo Disneyland are out of this world! (No, really…you can get dumplings in the shape of Little Green Men from “Toy Story”). But with such interesting selections, there will be a line for almost everything. Sometimes these lines are longer than the ones for small attractions. This doesn’t mean you should skip snacking altogether though! If you are willing to wait in line and be adventurous, popcorn is the perfect snack.
Popcorn can be found all around the park. Flavors range from soy sauce to honey and are marked on your park map. (The honey is located by Pooh of course!). Our personal favorite was the curry flavor. The benefit of popcorn is that you can purchase it in a souvenir container. Although there is an extra price for these containers, it is a fun keepsake and the perfect way to carry your popcorn in line as you wait for the next ride.
You Will Feel Like a Kid Again
Tokyo Disneyland is larger than the Magic Kingdom but has fewer attractions. This gives the resort a more park-like feel. Its wide streets and grassy areas around the castle make the whole place feel larger than life. In turn, you will feel smaller than ever. For us, this meant feeling like a kid again. Unless you are fluent in Japanese, you will also have to use your imagination to fill in some of the storytelling throughout the attractions and shows. We found this part to be quite charming. Instead of using language to navigate, we got lost in the feeling of it. This is perhaps the best part of it all.