Thanks to everyone's reviews and TDLFAN's suggestions, we had a wonderful day trip to TDL!!! Our party included our 3 1/2 yr old, 75 yr old grandfather, and 2 parents. Everyone except grandpa (who lives in Tokyo) had some jetlag, and as this was the first major park we have visited with our 3 1/2 yr old, our expectations in terms of how much we could accomplish were certainly lower than if we were different ages and more coherent. As I mentioned in my earlier post w/questions, we're not experienced Disney park goers (this is the first one both parents since we were ~4), so I can't make comparisons to other parks. I'm sure now, however, that we'll include TDL and/or TDS in our future trips to Japan!! Sorry if the following is TMI, but I want to get this out before we go home and I'm caught up in recovery/real life.
We visited on a Thursday, when the park opened at 10AM. We chose Thursday for our day trip because both Wed and Thurs generally seem to have lower visitor stats and because, booking a week early, the good weather outlook for Thursday seemed more sure. [Yes, we could have a done a 9AM opening to maximize time with our jetlag issues, but with the possible weather tradeoff at the time we pre-purchased tix, Thursday seemed better - naturally in the end the weather the whole week turned out to be flawless!] We got there 1 hour early as recommended and could see that this was indeed excellent advice. We eventually inched up to stand under a covered/shaded part of the line, but even my FIL (who lives in Japan) and husband (who grew up there) were amazed at just how many people showed up on a day with potentially “lighter” attendance.
The stampede at opening did not take place. As TDLFAN mentioned, a few people do run (saw a few students actually booking it, but the others had more of a non-athletic run) and even saw a few (but not many) parents with strollers running. We walked briskly!
FP for Pooh was excellent. Because we did the kiddie-type rides that for the most part have shorter lines, the longest line we stood in was for Dumbo, at 40 minutes. We really aimed for short lines, as lines are tough w/very little kids. From 10AM opening through almost 4PM we went to/saw/rode Toon Town, Small World, the carousel, FP for Pooh at 11, Alice's Tea Cups, Pinnochio, lunch (Sallie's, due very short line, proximity to where we were and need to eat, 1 hour), then Dumbo (1 hour with line), Jubilation parade, grandpa and dad did Pirates, and we watched the Pirate Band (which was pretty good and especially lively for a 3 yr old!), and stood in line for a photo with Pooh prior to leaving. I'm not sure if this is "efficient" but we certainly did more and held out better than I actually expected given our jetlag patterns (which involved marathon afternoon toddler naps - I'm fairly certain that at least some of us were running on pure adrenaline by the end of the afternoon). The only part we tried for but did not do was visit Mickey's house, because even at opening it had a 70 minute wait. (I think this is why a few parents w/strollers ran at opening!)
The practice of sitting for parades is really wonderful. The plastic sheeting folks use to stake out their spots was interesting - I saw something for sale like this in the city prior to our visit (complete with cute cartoons, etc.) and wondered what on earth it was....
Park was remarkably clean, including rest facilities. While rest facilites are often (IMO) fairly clean in Japan, it was really wonderful given the number of visitors.
Bag check at the entrance was nominal for us. They just looked in my purse - didn't go through the whole bag/every cranny. I didn't expect an airport screening experience but you never know these days.
We took a different train route to get there than recommended on the Disney site (I found their directions online with train signage to be pretty good, though). My husband didn't want to do the long walk in between stations and also have so many stops, so from Shibuya as a starting point we took the “Saikyo Line Kawagoe Line- Rinkai Line through service” (I think, per this map, although I admit I’m a little train challenged – you can keyword search on the PDF http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/info/map_a4ol.pdf ) and switched once when we were close to the Maihama/TDR station. Apparently this is a more expensive ride but the train was very fast, and even though I think the route may appear longer on a map, it was pretty efficient. One downside to getting there for 9AM line-up and 10AM opening was that we were crammed into the super-full morning commute trains (which I think would have been the case whichever train route we took – maybe it would have been better to do a 8AM line-up and 9AM opening, but someone else would have to speak to this.)
- Getting into the park, strollers are admitted into the park through a gate in the center of each line - the gate is opened only for those with a stroller, and everyone else goes to a turnstile on the right or left. Someone behind us in line mentioned this, and given the number of people in each line, it was helpful to position the stroller in the middle of our line as we approached to be admitted. You don't get in any faster - you are admitted at about the same time as those you were in line with, but you just go through the gate in the center instead of turnstile.
- They didn't check to see how old our child was. She didn't need a ticket <age 4, but it dawned on me as we stood in line that we had no proof of her age. Maybe this wouldn't be an issue at other parks, either, but it was a relief that no one asked as we would have had a hard time proving it w/o her passport.
- Bring hats and sunscreen if it seems to be that season (saw 1 oz container of sunscreen for Y900!).
- Strollers with really good canopy coverage are useful, even to shade your stroller seat when you park to go on rides (or bring a lightcolored blanket/sheet). Also try to park your stroller in the shade if available when going on rides. If you flew to Japan and brought a super small umbrella stroller for airport purposes, you might consider renting a stroller there. I would never do this in the US but the ones here looked good, had canopy coverage and nice storage, and I think the rental strollers would be cleaner than at home.
- As in some other Japanese restrooms, small sinks and child-level hand dryers are available in some women's restrooms. Hand sanitizer was also available in restrooms. Some stalls also include permanently installed child-size toilet seats that fold down over the adult seat if needed. (I've seen these for sale for your home in the US but never in a public restroom.)
I am posting some other sites my husband used as references. I don’t read Japanese but maybe some folks here can comment as to their usefulness.
Attendance prediction calendar:
Reviews for each attraction with respect to children and pregnant women: