Epic Trip to Tokyo Disneyland: Final Day, Final Thoughts

Written by Rick Wright. Posted in Disney Parks, Features, Tokyo Disney Resort, Weekend Update

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LastDay

Published on April 20, 2013 at 3:00 am with 25 Comments

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.

About Rick Wright

Rick has been a long term MiceChat author and co-founder of the Weekend Update. You will often find Rick in the position of "Greeter" at official events due to his warm and welcoming spirit. If you've got photos, news or trip reports to share, Rick would love to hear from you: [email protected]

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25 Comments

Comments for Epic Trip to Tokyo Disneyland: Final Day, Final Thoughts are now closed.

  1. Thanks for sharing. Me and my wife visited the resort for the first time in 2009 and the second time in 2011. It is definitely worth the long trek and expense. Japan is indeed a fantastic country with lots of interesting things to see and do. I totally agree with you on the feelings about Tokyo Disneyland feeling less magical than the other Magic Kingdoms in the world. A lot of areas can use serious updates. Disneysea is the absolute best thing that Disney ever designed. For me it is the best Disney park in the world and we have been to all eleven.

    • thank you ErikM. And glad I’m not alone in hoping TDL gets some updating. I’m actually wanting to go back to DisneySea already.

  2. Thanks for all three reports. I’ll never have the chance to visit Tokyo DL, but you’ve given me details that made me feel I was there. Good Job!

  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on TDR. I recently just worked there as a performer and I have to say you were that at the most crowded time of the year, March. Avoid March at all costs in the parks there. Mostly throughout the year it is busy but manageable and you will be able to get in all of the attractions. I have to say you missed out on the entertainment particularly at DisneySea. There are some spectacular shows there that really trump anything in the US. Big Band Beat is superb, Mystic Rhythms is unique and visually stunning, and A Table is Waiting is quirky Japanese, campy fun! Check them out!

    • Thanks, Rick!
      I hate crowds if I want to go on attractions, so you’ve reminded me to plan accordingly if I return.

      Excellent report! I hope you write trip reports of Hong Kong & Shanghai Disneylands, and visit when they are not at their busiest.

    • from MD1982: avoid Tokyo Disneyland in March. Check. Thanks for the tip!

    • Hi md1982 – agree that people should check out the shows if that is their thing. There are probably a few (a handful) of Disney fans like me that just aren’t into parades/shows and they should know that there is still a lot to see without seeing any of the shows.

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing all of that! Great reports!

  5. As for merchandise, the best time to find things like t shirts or hats is around the time of either of the parks anniversaries, special events, or the opening of new shows/attractions. Typically, but not always, shirts and/or hats with the Tokyo Disneyland/Sea logo are part of the merchandise line up.

    But I have been able to find shirts and hats at other times a year too, but they definitely are not always there like at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.

    • Hi Grizzly

      I’m a bit of a t-shirt/hat souvenir nut and found nothing. Well, I may have mentioned I did see one t-shirt but it was so funky that I’d never have worn it. And while I may have had to miss a few attractions, I did go into every store. Some multiple times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

      The one article of clothing that they did sell for men was underwear. Yeah, you read that right. Almost every large merchandise location sold underwear. But.. it was actually highly themed with designs based on Toy Story and other properties. If you have ever shopped at the store UNIQLO (they have locations in the US but are a Japanese clothing store)… the underwear sold at TDR is similar in style as to what UNIQLO sells. Different designs though. Currently UNIQLO is selling some Pixar based t-shirts – I picked up two featuring Wall-E while at the Narita airport. The shirts are also sold in the US.

      I have been going on auction sites looking for TDR clothes. So hopefully I’ll find something soon. Thanks for giving me hope. :)

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! This is one of the best guest features I’ve ever seen on MiceChat. Kudos to you and Rick!

    • Thank you Gwendolyn. That means so much to me. I will say that the positive comments and the great new info that people have shared has made this a wonderful experience.

  7. The Tom Sawyer Island at Tokyo Disneyland is a flip flop of Disneyland’s per 1982. I can’t remember if Disneyland had closed their Indian escape tunnels from the Fort at that time. Its great to see this Fort in such great shape, and the Island so original and intact. No Pirates adjustments as at Disneyland. Can’t remember if they have the burning cabin there? I do hope OLC and Disney keep Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island and don’t put a Cars Land there. I believe Disney Legend Sam McKim’s Disneyland TSI map was flip flopped as well for use here, with adjustments for some show changes. Westernland was used for the lands name, as Fronteirland had already been taken at time of the parks design by someone else in Japan. There was some controversy over that 32 years ago. At least in Paris, Fronteirland was used again for Thunder Mesa. At one time near early 2000 a new Westernland elevated Train Station was planned along with other related shops downstairs. This would have added greatly to the Fronteirland experience to have the steam trains stop there as in the other DL,WDW, and PDL parks. I’m not sure about HKDL as they are just adding a Fronteirland there. Big Thunder at Tokyo Disneeyland is basically like walt Disney World’s, plus a lot more show and landscaping. I love the unique elevated enterance walkway and the secret sponser cave and interior observation room. I guess you didn’t go there. I know the Small World Clock Tower and facade is the same size as Disneyland’s. I’m not sure about Florida’s, but Disneyland was the first Small World since it’s World Fair debut in 1964/65. Haunted Mansion is pretty much a copy of Walt Disneyworld’s. When Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983, it’s Mainstreet Penny Arcade had a great collection of very collectible, vintage, and original arcade machines cased in white oak primarily. I see a few of them in your photos. Hope they still are using the others. That’s what always made Disneyland’s so special as well, were the vintage machines. They are highly supported by Disney Fans as there are some who have tried to remove them over the years, only to put them back. Tokyo Disneyland has the “Best” merchandised collectibles I found on my visits there. I love their themed tins for all occasions. Please send me a 30th Anniversary cookie tin OLC or Imagineering. PD

    • PS When Tokyo Disneyland’s Fantasyland was being designed and built, the Disneyland New Fantasyland didn’t happen until later in 1983. Tokyo Disneyland got the old Anaheim Disneyland designed facades, which Florida’s were modeled after in 1971, but did get Disneyland’s New Pinocchio Attraction with improved facade. A 2nd edition was done and given to Disneyland for its later opening that year. TDL got the old Dumbo ride design, and not the later new and much improved Steve Kirk design found in the 1983 New Fantasyland. You may have heard of Steve Kirk as he and his team, brought you Tokyo Disney Seas.

      • Hi DisWedWay – thanks for detailed info. It really is interesting to see the older designs at TDL. Anyone studying the design history should check out the Japan park before it gets a makeover (if one is even coming).

  8. Thanks for the trip report, it was all extremely well done.

  9. Wonderful trip report, thoroughly enjoyed every installment. I’ll be heading over to Japan in June and all your tips and hints have been scribbled into my prep journal for future reference. Thanks so much for sharing :)

    • Hi Mushu mama – thanks. So glad it was helpful. That was my goal. I think the toughest part of planning to go to TDR is the uncertainty. I remember wondering and worrying a bit about everything. Since I only had about 10 days to plan there wasn’t even a lot of time to worry. ha!

      Love that you have a prep journal. SMART. Have a great trip!

      And if you are a fan of Kit Kat (the chocolate wafers) be sure to look for the special flavors only available in Japan. I was able to buy a few boxes and gave them out as presents to friends. The airports have them so they can be purchased right before the return flight.

      • I LOVE the crazy Kit Kat flavors! Milk tea is so yummy!

      • LOL,.. most people laugh at my trip journals… they even have divider tabs!
        LOVE the sound of different kit kats… will definitely look out for them. I’ve been to TDR in 1999 but so much can change in that time that its been great to get an idea of what to be aware of. And like you, I am locked into the dates by outside forces with WAY less lead in time than I would usually give myself, so your ideas were particularly suitable for my situation. Thanks again. :)

  10. Beautifully done, Chris! Thank you for these articles that are both entertaining and which are worth keeping as a resource, just in case we manage to make the trek to Japan one of these days!

    • hi MickeyMaxx – Thanks and pack your things and go! I actually thought the most expensive part was airfare. Hotel prices are fairly realistic and downright reasonable if you compare the official hotels (that’s not the Disney hotels) to WDW hotels of the same level of service.

  11. I went to Tokyo Disneyland so, so long ago, that I basically remember none of it. Sadly, I was in my “Cynical Teen Years” (it was a High School exchange thing for 2 weeks), so I didn’t get as much out of it as I should have. I actually remember none of the trip save going on the Haunted Mansion ride and my friend & I stiffing the restaurant we were at because the food wasn’t right or something (I feel bad about that one).

    • Hi Jabroniville – sounds like it’s time to go back and make some new memories. And of course share the info with the rest of us. Your Cynical Teen Years comment made me laugh. Been there done that. ha!

  12. Hi ChrisNJ, sorry it’s taken me so long to get in here and thankyou for the final trip installment, and for bringing to us your incredible TDR experience. It’s been a great read, and a lot of working your part that has been very much appreciated.

    Perhaps it is because it the first Disney Parks I ever visited, but I do feel magic there (which usually results in ‘something blowing into my eye to make water pour out upon arrival’ LOL). Also, I did notice that compared to my first visit to my later visits the Merch at TDR dropped in quality and range dramatically. All my best souvenirs were from my first visit, including a small (heavy) bronze Mickey statuette and a small porcelain Sorcerer Mickey. Although one of my favourite things was from my last visit to DisneySea, the husband bought me a lovely compass which may not be overly detailed, but is good quality, metal and glass and holds a lot of sentimental value for me. But on later visits I couldn’t find anything as unique as those little, and amazing quality, statues I got on my first visit.

    I was happy to see a decent selection of Park Music albums, but saddened by the lack of books. The most used of all my Tokyo Disney souvenirs seem to be an item unique to the Tokyo Parks. I’m sure you would have seen them throughout the stores there, small drawstring bags with pictures printed on them, and even small character face/shaped ones with ears! I use them for travel bags (to put in my carry on bag for trips, containing small items like phone, wallet, earphones, pens, candy so I can easily keep those things handy). I also use them as book bags for when I travel, to protect my books in my carry-on bag. I have also given them to my nephews as little toy bags, to put toys inside for outings and car trips. I LOVE those little bags so much!
    Thanks again for the great writing and pictures, and I hope it inspires a few readers to make the trek to Japan to visit not only the best of what the Disney Parks offer, but a truly wonderful country with the most beautiful and friendly people. Not knowing Japanese is no excuse, it’s easy to ask for assistance, signage is often in English as well, and most people are happy to try out their (often terrific) English skills. Just Go! It’s so, so, so worth it!