Sadly, we have come to the last installment of ChrisNJ’s report on his trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort. I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to write and photo-illustrate his report and then generously responding to all of the comments that have been elicited over the last few weeks. If you missed the previous installments of the report, I highly recommend you view them here: Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report – Part One, Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report, Day Two and Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report Part Three: DisneySea. ~~Rick
On my third day I visited Tokyo Disneyland in the morning, ready to get onto Big Thunder, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain. Well, that didn’t happen. I was able to get a FP for the Haunted Mansion. I then headed to Pirates of the Caribbean which had the shortest standby line of the day – 10 minutes (that line didn’t stay that short). Pirates is like Disneyland in California, complete with Blue Bayou Restaurant (different menu). The best part was seeing the pirates chasing the women – I remember this from my childhood and it just made me smile.
The rest of Adventureland is a bit confusing. The start looks like New Orleans Square and then it looks like Disneyland’s Adventureland and then it just looks a bit like its own space. I must admit Adventureland here was my favorite section. It had enough foliage to feel remote. Unfortunately due to the crowds, the walkways are very wide so it never feels like a land of mystery as in CA and FL. My favorite Adventureland is in Paris. The train is located in Adventureland and is odd. It is not transportation to other lands, but a simple loop around the Rivers of America and Critter Country. Is it worth seeing? Of course it is. If you are a fan of Walt Disney then you just have to give all of the trains a try. It’s your Disney Duty (yeah, I’m serious).
Westernland (we call it Frontierland) is also a bit odd here. It’s wide open with lots of breathing space that makes it hard to imagine a small western town on the plains. Big Thunder Railroad anchors the left side and you can actually walk underneath it, where you will find restrooms. The rockwork for Big Thunder is probably the worst of all the parks. You get up close to it and it looks fake (sorry). I wasn’t able to ride Big Thunder as the line was always over 2 hours and the queue was mostly outside of the attraction. The Rivers of America with Tom Sawyer Island is in Westernland. There has been some discussion on MiceAge about Carsland coming to replace the river. When I read about this a while back I was shocked that this could happen as it would look odd transitioning to it from Westernland. Well, I was dead wrong. In one of the worst design decisions at Tokyo Disneyland, the Rivers of America is a bit hidden from Westernland by trees and the elevated train track. To see Tom Sawyer Island, you have to walk under the train track. I can certainly see how Carsland will fit into this area and not ruin anything near it. And it looks like Big Thunder could use an overhaul so it could be incorporated in the redo so the rocks transition nicely.
Tom Sawyer Island is one of my favorite attractions at both US parks. I love all versions of it, but my heart belongs to WDW’s original design as I experienced it as a child. In Tokyo Disneyland Tom Sawyer Island is a bit of each of them – there is a great series of caves, a tree house, rope and barrel bridges, Fort Sam Clemens (but no escape tunnel!), and an Indian Village. The Fort sells small treats – they no longer sell milkshakes unfortunately. The fort also has the cleanest most modern toilets. I had to check them out as the ones at WDW are just scary. The great feature of this island is that they have printed maps to help in the exploring. Love maps. As in the US, you get to the island by raft. There was never much of a wait for the super fast trip to the island.
Critter Country is the next land as we travel around the park clockwise. It is on the right side of Rivers of America and has only two attractions: Splash Mountain (which was closed for refurbishment) and canoes. It was freezing cold and windy so I couldn’t force myself out on the water even though I thought about it a lot. Critter Country is well done. I do not know for certain that it is newer than other parts of the park, but it sure looks like it was done with a higher budget than the other lands. The stone detail was much better than Big Thunder. But with both the major attraction and a restaurant closed, the land was a bit sad and empty.
Fantasyland begins with The Haunted Mansion. Why is it in Fantasyland? I’ve been told that in Japanese culture ghosts fall into the realm of fantasy. Makes sense. The style of the building in Fantasyland doesn’t exactly make sense and feels out of place across from Dumbo the Flying Elephant. It reminded me of a slightly smaller version of the mansion found in Orlando – and without the newest additions like the stairs to nowhere or the floating Leota. It was Nice. Some of the graveyard animatronics seem better here – especially the hitchhiking ghosts right before the mirror. The mirror ghosts were the old version from Florida. The voice-over was in Japanese, but seemed to be mostly the same based on how the words were said. Also think the Mansion was a little darker inside than the US parks. The one surprise was the entire graveyard scene seems condensed in that it didn’t feel as wide as the US mansions.
Dumbo the Flying Elephants is here and it looks OLD. In fact most of Tokyo Disneyland has an old-school Magic Kingdom look to it. The Fantasyland ride buildings appear to be stuck in a time long ago and not in a good way. Even It’s a Small World’s clock facade seemed scaled down compared to Disneyland. I have to admit that Tokyo Disneyland did not give me that magical feeling that I get from Disneyland and from most of Magic Kingdom. It felt more like a copy that has lost the original quality. Good but just not magical. I can sit in Disneyland all day and do nothing and still feel happy. That was not the case at Tokyo Disneyland.
Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, It’s A Small World, Alice’s Tea Pary, and Peter Pan’s Flight are all here. I was not able to experience any of them due to lines. Truthfully, they were all a very low priority for me. None of them looked particularly great from the outside so hopefully a refreshing is in store in the near future.
Toontown is about the same as at Disneyland, but reversed. You’ll find the area to be very familiar but somehow not as special. The one great feature for collectors is located inside the Gag Factory where there is a game of sorts where for about $3 you get a prize of a wind up ride vehicle. I won a wind up monorail car. My favorite souvenir of the trip. The Jolly Trolley does not seem to run anymore but it is there for looks. The wait to see Mickey was hours long. I found this interesting as Mickey was at the entrance to the park in the morning and there wasn’t much of a wait. The one problem with Toontown is that it is not separated from Fantasyland as much as it is in Disneyland. Guests enter via a very wide walkway with a nice sign, but doesn’t feel as magical as at Disneyland.
Tomorrowland is a blast from the past. This land was a flashback to Magic Kingdom’s original Tomorrowland. I found myself remembering my childhood. And remembered the good old days when a 60 minute wait for Space Mountain was a long wait. At Tokyo Disneyland the wait was three times as long.
Star Tours and Monsters are the only two buildings that look modern. Star Tours is getting the 2.0 update and was not open. Even the signage was down so it should be great when it arrives. As a Star Wars fan (and proud owner of a Starspeeder 1000 toy), I was a bit disappointed that even the toys for the ride were not on display in the stores.
The other attractions in Tomorrowland include Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Captain EO, Star Jets (the old style), Grand Circuit Raceway. Of interest is the Pan Galactic Pizza Port that features an animatronic alien who makes the pizza using a large machine – worth checking out.
I know I sound a bit down on Tokyo Disneyland. And I must admit that on my first visit I wasn’t noticing too much of the negative aspects. Unfortunately, after experiencing DisneySea, one can see how incredible a park can be and then the critical eye takes over. Is it fair? Yes. There are aspects of Tokyo Disneyland where the attention to detail stands out – Critter Country, Pooh’s Honey Hut and the wide open central hub. The park was clearly built by a Committee who picked their favorite attractions from Disneyland and Disney World and tried to get the different sizes and scales to all mesh together in this one park. Hopefully some redesign love will be given to the entire park in the future, since it is such a huge success.
My visit was in the beginning of March – Monday through Thursday. It was cold, but not unbearable during the day – a jacket/coat was necessary. In the evening it was very cold and gloves were necessary – and a hat. I am from the New York Metro area and am used to snow and cold weather. What Tokyo Disney Resort has is a moist cold. To make it feel chillier, the wind can blow from Tokyo Bay making a somewhat chilly day feel very cold. There were also periods of warmth each day when the jacket would have to be carried. I suggest dressing in layers. If you are not staying in a nearby hotel, then use lockers to store your extra clothes during the warmer weather. The parks do not sell as much clothing as in the US or Paris. Also know that the restrooms in the parks only have cold water to wash your hands. This may sound trivial, but believe me you may want to bring gloves.
Food is always a concern for people going to a Disney park. I know I obsess over it and look for menus. Since you can only make advanced priority seating requests if you are staying at a Disney hotel, it’s best to not worry about it if you are staying at an Official hotel or off property. All restaurants have menus in English. Most also have displays of their food near the entrances. Every employee I encountered was able to understand the English names of items. If you are set on dining at a particular restaurant then get a same day reservation as soon as the park opens. I would recommend researching the full-service restaurants at both parks as they are spectacular to look at. The best themed fast food buffeteria restaurant is Queen of Hearts in Fantasyland, but it does not accept priority seating requests. Snacking at the parks is easy. There are churro and ice cream carts all over. Each park also had fruits available at one cart in each park. The favorite snack of guests is the flavored popcorn. The popcorn carts are so popular Disney marks them on the maps with the flavors they sell. During my visit, the following flavored popcorn was available: caramel, chocolate, soy sauce & butter, salt, curry, honey, corn potage, black pepper, apple cinnamon, sea salt, strawberry.
One of my favorite aspects of a Disney trip is souvenir shopping. I go into every shop, some multiple times, looking for interesting items. For this trip I had set out to try to find new music CDs, a shirt or hat and anything that was simply unusual. I failed. TDR sells almost no clothing for men besides underwear (yeah, I’m serious), some vividly colored Mickey jackets and socks. I couldn’t find a TDR t-shirt or hat despite hours of searching. Most souvenirs are designed for young people to buy as gifts for others. You will find tins of chocolates and candies everywhere. Most of the tins are rather uninteresting to an adult male. I was able to track a small chest-like tin featuring the tiger from the Sinbad ride and that was only available at one store in DisneySea. There are some ride themed items near Tower of Terror and Pooh, but not a lot. Most items are duplicated over and over again in each location.
The best shop in all of Tokyo Disneyland Resort is located in World Bazaar. It is The Disney Gallery. This shop and mini museum of animation is located on the 2nd floor of World Bazaar. Just being on the second floor of Main Street was fun. The store features many items only found at the Disney Family Museum. The prices are steep. My favorite item sold at this store is the original design plush Mickey Mouse. So cute. If I could fit the box in my luggage, he would have been mine.
If you have made it this far in my trip report then you may be asking if I had a good time? Oh YES. I seriously loved the experience. If someone gave me the chance to go back tomorrow, I’d go. But I would know what to expect and maybe spend less time in Disneyland and more in DisneySea. The crowds are just going to happen. It was my choice to wait or not wait in long lines. I do not regret not waiting so all is good. I got to see my top priority attractions and more. And with the crowd levels, I was able to explore more than just attractions.
If you are thinking of making the journey to Tokyo Disneyland Resort, do your homework. There will be frustrations. The jet lag may hit you hard. The costs may make a huge dent in your budget. Be smart and make smart choices for you. Strongly consider staying at an Official Hotel rather than a super pricey Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Definitely make sure to get out and see other aspects of Japan. The highlight of my trip, besides DisneySea, was getting a better understanding of the Japanese people. I hope I can be as polite to tourists I encounter as the Japanese people were to me.
Thank you Micechat for posting great information about the Disney parks and allowing me to share my experience with others. This site is a great service to us fans.