Last week, we began a series of articles about Tokyo Disneyland Resort. Here’s a link to Part One. Judging from the comments week, there are quite a few of you who are looking forward to part two of ChrisNJ’s Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report. Here it is – and you won’t be disappointed! ~~Rick
Monday morning I awoke to a beautiful view of Tokyo Disneyland. The parking lot closest to my hotel was empty but I noticed in the distance some buses coming in to a lot near the entrance. I looked at the clock and it was only 6:30am. Disneyland wasn’t opening until 9 am so I assumed those buses were bringing employees to the park. Casually I got ready and planned to get to the Disneyland entrance at 8:20 am. The Hilton has a bus that goes to the Bayside station but walking is much faster and only about three city blocks along a very safe sidewalk. The monorail station was mostly empty so I sat down and felt happy that I picked a slow day to start my adventure. The monorail turned to the front of DisneySea and I saw the largest crowd I have ever seen waiting outside a Disney park. My stomach sank and I started to panic – why so many people? I looked closer and it was mostly school age kids – thousands of them waiting for DisneySea to open at 8:30 am. The monorail made its way to the Disneyland station and again I saw an incredibly large group of people waiting at the entrance. There were more people waiting to get in than I had ever seen at the gates of a Disney park. I started to panic and then resigned myself to seeing the parks without worrying about what attractions I would experience. This is how I kept my sanity.
As a bit of background, I live in the NY Metro area. I am very used to crowds. Used to crowded trains, waiting for popular restaurants, and street events that attract thousands. I have visited Disneyland (the original) several times and encountered some holiday events there that prevent moving within the park. I also experienced the long original lines for Radiator Springs Racers at DCA. I have visited and stayed at WDW over 25 times over the years. And I fortunately got to visit Disneyland Paris and stay at their Disneyland Hotel. I am not new to waiting or the Disney experience. I am a Disney fan.
I am at the entrance to Disneyland with thousands of people. By the look of it, I am the only North American in the crowd. In fact, for that day I only saw one other family that looked like they might be from North America. The lines to get in at first look seemed to be a mass of confusion, but they are actually organized by the people waiting. There was no pushing, no complaining, just waiting. When DL opened promptly at 9 am, there was no fanfare like at the other parks – but a slow acceptance of the waiting crowd. Within 10 minutes I was inside this somewhat familiar but ultimately unusual Disneyland.
After the entrance gates there is a plaza and then the start of the glass covered World Bazaar – a less detailed Main Street like section of the park. There is no train station to pass through and to be honest the World Bazaar doesn’t have the same quaint feeling the US and Paris Main Streets have. World Bazaar feels more like a stylized shopping plaza that is cross shaped so that there are streets that head from the entrance to the central hub and streets that go to Adventureland and Tomorrowland. There is a penny arcade that has old arcade machines. The Magic Shop actually sells magic tricks. The Confectionary sells only packaged sweets – none of the parks sell the confections sold at the US Disney parks. The bakery does sell bakery items but not the items you would be used to at the US parks. No large cookies to be found anywhere. Customers of the bakery help themselves with tongs and go to checkout cashiers. World Bazaar also houses a few restaurants including a mickey waffle house – but the waffles aren’t always fresh tasting despite being made on location.
Tokyo Disney restaurants do accept Priority Seating reservations. Guests staying at one of the three Disney owned resorts can book in advance. Day visitors can book on the morning of. Priority Seating spots fill fast. During my four days I was not able to get any. Standby seating is available and the lines for restaurants can be extreme.
It was 9:15 am and people were running up main street, oops I mean World Bazaar. I took up the challenge and ran towards Monsters, Inc. Go Ride & Seek in Tomorrowland. The crowds were heavy but no worse than Disneyland on a busy day. Got a FastPass for Monsters and headed towards Fantasyland. Pooh’s Honey Hut had a standby line of 40 minutes so I jumped on the line. This is one of the most popular rides in Tokyo Disneyland, so I knew it was now or never. The front of the attraction, the large open book, was covered with a construction wall, but I hoped the inside was fully functioning. It was. This ride puts all of the other Winnie the Pooh attractions to shame. The line goes through a bit of a garden and then into an area where the books pages are on display in a very large format. You can read about the ride in other places, but I will say that it reminded me of a mix of the animatronics of Pooh with some humor of Mr. Toad tossed in and the amazing trackless ride system. It was an experience unlike anything elsewhere and I cannot imagine why Disney wouldn’t use this ride technology in the state-side parks.
After Pooh I decided to head to the Haunted Mansion. The line was hours long. Hours. I had to skip it. Walking back, I checked out the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall restaurant. It looked cute but it was too early for lunch and it didn’t open until 10:30 am. Walking towards the castle I noticed a line for what was called Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Hall which is inside the castle. Since I didn’t have a map, I couldn’t tell what the attraction was – my fingers were crossed that it wasn’t just a character meet. I remembered that there was an old castle mystery attraction that had closed previously and figured this was like that. After a 10 minute wait, I was in an elevator to the upper floors of the castle. The door opened and the space was located in about the same place that the restaurant is located at MK. The hall was filled with dioramas of Cinderella created all in different styles. Each told an aspect of the story. While interesting, I was more fascinated with being inside the castle. The exit walkway is outside and down stairs in the back of the castle with nice views of Fantasyland.
With the incredible crowds, I decided it was best to focus on shows. Time to get myself an English show schedule. Unfortunately the only place to get an English map/show guide is at Guest Relations at the entrance of the park. This is true of both parks so plan accordingly. At Guest Relations there were helpful people who spoke perfect English. I asked about Priority Seating and was informed they were all taken for the day. I asked how difficult it would be to get into Queen of Hearts and the woman said that it was a very popular restaurant so I should go there immediately. It was 10:30 am. Yes, I was being told that lunch at 10:30 am would mean a short wait. Based on the crowds, I decided to heed the warning and went to Fantasyland again.
Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall is themed to Alice in Wonderland. The theming is great. The restaurant serves a limited menu in cafeteria style. Upon arriving at 10:40 am, I waited 15 minutes to get close to the food display and menu and only a few minutes after that to select food. Since the food is right there the “point” method worked for ordering, however the servers do know the English names of items. Don’t expect be able to modify an order unless you can speak fluent Japanese. After selecting food and drinks a person will escort you to a table. I’m not sure if you can choose your own table even if you want to. I was fine being off to the side. One of the unique features of this restaurant is that they serve an Unbirthday Cake dessert that serves four or so people. It was delicious. And yes, I got a few laughs from people nearby for ordering it. Other desserts come with ceramic plate or cup souvenirs with Alice artwork. The room is nicely themed with large Card Guards near the entrance and vibrant colors. Worth seeing.
Time to use my first FP back in Tomorrowland. On the walk over I was able to see the lines for other attractions. The lines were LONG. Not wanting to think about it too much I stayed the course. As my FP allowed me to get another FP, I picked one up for Space Mountain for the evening. Back to my schedule, I entered the FP return for Monsters Inc., Ride & Go Seek. The entrance queue reminded me a bit of the line for Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but more stark. Within 5 minutes I was on the ride and must admit I liked it a lot. Your goal is to ride through and use the car flashlight to find monsters, etc. When your light hits a target something happens. It’s a very basic idea. There is fortunately no scoring so you can focus on the fun. Consider it a modified Men in Black with much better animated characters in a more playful scenario. Definitely fun for the entire family.
It was near noon and the crowds were getting me down. I had expected crowds, I had planned only to experience a few must see attractions, but with the crowd level I didn’t think that plan was even realistic. The line for the Haunted Mansion was three hours. FP were gone for most rides. I sat down and tried to get over it. I have a knee problem that actually prevents me from standing in one spot for long periods of time. If I keep walking, I’m fine. Standing in line for hours for multiple rides was not going to be possible. I had to get smarter about my trip to make this all work. That is when I left the Tokyo Disney Resort for a few hours of touring in downtown Tokyo. I highly recommend seeing Tokyo as it is easy to get to from the TDR via the Maihama station. If your inner Disney won’t allow you to leave – just imagine that you are doing research for your next trip to EPCOT’s Japan pavilion.
Back at the TDL at 6 pm and I walked to the only restaurant on property that serves a vegetarian meal – pasta. Arrived at Eastside Cafe where there was a long line. Without any other real food options I waited 40 minutes to be seated. The food was ok. The service, like everywhere at TDR, was excellent. I learned long ago that my vacations must include at least one sit down meal a day so that I am forced to slow down and relax. After a hearty meal, I was back in my right mind to deal with crowds. And crowds I would indeed find.
People don’t leave the Tokyo parks early like at some of the other Disney parks you may have visited. The only time you will notice any change in crowd levels at the attractions is during a big parade/performance or during the last 30 minutes of the day. Rain can lessen the crowd but not by much. FastPasses for most attractions are gone well before noon. Standby lines are usually hours long unless you get to the attraction right when the park opens – and then it is luck or a unpopular attraction. If you have a must-see attraction, make it your first stop for standby or FP. Do not delay and do not be afraid to run as others will be doing the same thing. Always be holding as many Fast Passes as possible.
Japanese visitors to Tokyo Disneyland Resort are willing to wait for everything. They are very patient and don’t push or carry on. I did not once see anyone even looking annoyed with waiting. Most guests were under 25 and in large groups. All were dressed nicely and well-behaved. I have been to WDW when a bunch of young people from outside the US were visiting in large amounts and it was a horrible experience. The youth of Japan were fun to be waiting with in the long lines. TDR offers student discounts during certain parts of the year and you can see if they are available on your dates and that may indicate the crowd levels to some degree.
Where to next? Wandering the park looking for something to do that didn’t require standing. The Main Street Electrical Parade Dreamlights was about to begin. People lined the hub in a very orderly manner – using plastic mats to mark their spots. The parade was very nice. Before the parade was over I headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad only to find the line near 3 hours. I had to pass it up and headed further along to Adventureland. The Jungle Cruise line was 20 minutes – I signed up on the spot.
The Jungle Cruise is a lot like the US versions except that it is all in Japanese. The boat captain was a young woman with a lot of energy who rambled off the script with a high pitched yell that was funny. We passed the headhunters and the captain used a word that sounded like “Gringo” and the entire boat looked at me. I decided that I didn’t care and went along with the joke. Perhaps I did not hear it correctly as it really seemed odd for a guest to be made fun of. The boat landed and we all moved on.
It was an hour and a half before park closing and jet lag hit me hard. The little boy me wanted to stay – the adult said get your sleep for tomorrow. I crawled back to the hotel (with the help of the monorail) and passed out. I had missed out on using my Space Mountain FP, but at least I would be alert for day two.
We hope you enjoyed Day One of ChrisNJ’s trip report. Tune in next week for Day Two!