There are far too many Disney details to share to have written just one, all-encompassing post about traveling in Tokyo. With that said, let's dive right into our Tokyo Disney Parks adventure--the last two parks we had to cross off our Disney Parks checklist!
Ticketing and Hotels
Tokyo is home to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea and these two parks are tremendously different from one another. On the one hand, Tokyo Disneyland is a very familiar place if you've been to the Disneyland parks in California and Hong Kong. Tokyo DisneySea, on the other hand, is a whole different story. Built in 2001, this park is unrecognizable from its Disney cousins with a completely unique set of lands and attractions. As far as ticketing goes for this park, you can always purchase tickets at the parks or at the surrounding hotels. However, we found that the most convenient and thrifty way to go was through Klook. They offer single and multi-day packages that will shave a couple dollars off your ticket prices and keep you from waiting in an extra line at the parks. For your hotels, there are a number of great options around the Tokyo Disney Resort. There's even a hotel inside of DisneySea, The Hotel Miracosta.
There are four Disney Hotels, six Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotels, and four Tokyo Disney Resort Partner Hotels. We stayed at the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel, which is a Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotel with shuttle service to the parks. The hotel was beautiful and a walkable distance to the monorail line. A one-way pass on the monorail line will cost you about ¥220, approximately $2.00, and the line also accepts the JR Rail Pass. If you're traveling to your Tokyo Disney hotel from the airport, we recommend the Airport Limousine Bus. They are clean, quick, and it is very easy to find the desk and bus stop at the airport. Once you have your hotel, transportation, and tickets sorted, it's time to play!
Many people we've talked about Tokyo have asked if it was hard for us to get around and communicate without knowing any Japanese. We'd be lying if we said traveling to Japan isn't a trip outside of your comfort zone. It can be intimidating to venture to a country where English is the second language. That being said, the people in Japan are hands down some of the friendliest and most helpful people in the world. They will do their best to help you despite any language barrier. A bit of pantomime definitely helps with communication. Be prepared for excited, cheerful waves from attractions Cast Members as your ride vehicle takes off. Getting around the park is simple. In Tokyo Disney parks, English maps are available, all signs are in English, and even if an attraction's dialogue is in Japanese you'll still get the point. You'll likely run into a Cast Member or two who are very fluent in English and will excitedly converse with you! We met a gentleman In Tokyo DisneySea who chatted with us and sweetly offered to take our picture. To help you feel a prepared, here are some helpful Japanese words and phrases for visiting a Tokyo Disney park:
1.) Hello - Konnichiwa!
2.) Thank you - Arigatōgozaimashita! (phonetically it sounds like: "adigato gozaimaaas!" said very quickly)
3.) Excuse me - Sumimasen!
4.) Please - Onegaishimasu (phonetically it sounds like: "oh-negai-shimas"
5.) English map please - Eigo no chizu onegaishimasu (think of Eigo like the waffle, "Eggo", and chizu more like "chee-zoh")
6.) One, two, three, four (for when you have to tell attractions Cast Members how many are in your party) - Ichi, ni, san, and shi. Of course, you can much easier hold up your fingers to show the number of people you have.
Sleeping Beauty's pink castle serves as the iconic hub of this park, with many recognizable Disney lands and attractions throughout. While it does have a lot of similarities to other Disney parks, Tokyo Disneyland still incorporates many fun elements of Japanese culture.
Notable differences in attractions include "Pooh's Hunny Hunt", with a ride layout and vehicles similar to Mystic Manor in Hong Kong. We highly recommend this attraction if you are only planning to spend a half day exploring the park. We also highly recommend "Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek!", a unique attraction with a cute interactive element. In just one evening we were able to ride those two attractions as well as Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and Splash Mountain which were very similar to their counterparts in U.S parks. The park is also home to "Dreamlights", an electric night parade. The parade and its floats are visually stunning. If you are a big parade buff, be sure to nab a spot on the parade route before they are gone. Since we only had a couple hours in the park, we opted to watch the parade as we walked along its route to our next attraction instead.
Another unique location in the park to visit is the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. This quick-service, buffet-style restaurant features life-sized characters from the Alice in Wonderland animated film, tons of theming, and a tasty assortment of desserts!
Now we REALLY dive in. Although Tokyo Disneyland may be very familiar to other Disney parks, Tokyo DisneySea is its own entity entirely. With lands like Mermaid Lagoon and the Mysterious Island, Tokyo DisneySea will make any Disney expert feel transported to an unknown realm of Disney. All the different lands are a spectacle in and of themselves! With meticulous detail and creative storytelling, sufficient time should be spent enjoying each land of DisneySea. While exploring the park, keep an eye out for Tokyo Disney's "Crazy Janitors" who mime along to impeccably timed sound effects. We caught one in Arabian Coast and he was an absolute riot! Cheeky and adorable, with perfectly timed audio gags that have no language barrier.
One major topic we NEED to mention about this park is its attractions. There are so many unique things to discover in this park, that you'll want to give yourself a whole day to explore and create a plan of attack before you arrive.
1.) Get to the park at its opening and quickly make your way to Journey to the Center of the Earth for a FastPass. Most guests will be headed to Toy Story Mania first, but if you've done this attraction in Walt Disney World you can skip it. Once you get your FastPass, get in the standby line for the attraction while it's still short. This will give you two chances to ride the attraction.
2.) From there, head to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to get in line while that attraction has a shorter wait. Stop by the small Nautilus Galley for tasty Gyoza Dog and Kirin beer. Since we were visiting in September's Halloween season, our Gyoza Dogs were villain themed!
3.) You'll want to get a Fast Pass for Tower of Terror after your Journey to the Center of the Earth FastPass, as they run out quickly. The story behind this Tower of Terror is different than the other Disney versions and, although all the narrations are in Japanese, you'll get a good idea of the story through visuals.
4.) Another must-see attraction is Sinbad's Storybook Voyage. A dark boat attraction, Sinbad's Voyage takes you through different scenes depicting Sinbad's adventures. The music, while in Japanese, is still very catchy written by Disney legend Alan Menken. You'll love it for the music as well as the adorable Chandu. Get in the standby line for this attraction at any time of the day.
Other attractions we enjoyed are the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull, Nemo and Friends SeaRider, and the Raging Spirits roller-coaster (you'll want to use the single rider line--just go up to the FastPass line, hold up your first finger, and say "single rider"). Additionally, check out the Fortress Explorations in Mediterranean Harbor. If you're not afraid of stumbling through a puzzle in Japanese, take the Leonardo Challenge. Everything from the map to the audio instructions are in Japanese, so you'll get a good laugh trying to figure out the different challenges to get to the end. Get through all the puzzles like we did (somehow) and enjoy the great sense of pride! The map makes a nice free souvenir as well. Even if you aren't up for the Leonardo Challenge, you can still walk the different "exhibits" which showcase profound inventions and their creators from centuries ago.
Now to my favorite part: dining in Tokyo Disney! The food and drink selections at Tokyo DisneySea were some of my favorite at any Disney Park. We essentially ate our weight in snacks at DisneySea. To be fair, we traveled with friends so when one person got a snack everyone would get to sample it. We tried the Gyoza Dogs (pictured above), Little Green Men Mochi, Chandu Buns, Ursula Shrimp Buns, Potato Churros, and various ice cream treats. We highly recommend everything, especially the Gyoza Dogs, Mochi, and Chandu Buns. Tokyo Disney also has a wide array of popcorn, with a number of different flavors ranging from Shrimp to Milk Chocolate.
On top of the snacking, we also ate lunch at Vulcania in the Mysterious Island section of the park. We loved the food, location, and Jules-Verne theme of this restaurant. The story behind Vulcania is that it once was a geothermal station carved into Mount Prometheus, but has since been converted into a mess hall for Captain Nemo's crew. The industrial restaurant looks like it truly has been carved into the rock of Mount Prometheus. All restaurants in Tokyo Disney have plastic mock-ups of their dishes on display so Guests can see what the food looks like before ordering. This definitely makes deciding what to eat a breeze for any non-Japanese speaker. Inside Vulcania is a "buffeteria" style set-up where you make your food selections, are served, pay, then take your food to a table. The restaurant offers a selection of Chinese dishes such as fried rice, dim sum, chicken, and more.
Another fun way to discover DisneySea is by visiting two of its lounges, The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge and Magellan's Lounge. We had heard about the unique lounges in DisneySea, so we made it a point experience them both. First, we visited The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge. Located at the top of the S.S Columbia ship in the American Waterfront section of the park, you'll be transported to the early 1900s in this rustic salute to America's 26th President. Rich wood surrounds you, extravagant upholstery lines the booths, portraits of Roosevelt pay tribute, and bears perch atop the bar. The overall ambiance and period detail of this lounge is so impressive that it's one of the grander of all the Disney lounges we've seen. We were jealous that it lives in Japan and not in one of the stateside parks! Not fair! Drink menus here are expansive with many pages that offer no English names, but no descriptions. We enjoyed being risky and playing "cocktail roulette" by picking drinks for their funny names and seeing what we got.
Once we eventually said our goodbyes to Roosevelt's, we made our way through the park until we came across Magellan's Lounge in the Fortress Explorations area of Mediterranean Harbor. The first level of Magellan's is a table service restaurant while the second level houses the lounge. Themed after astronomy, this is another bar that is absolutely breathtaking. Its centerpiece is a two-story globe with constellations hovering over it on the ceiling above. With the same large drink menu, cocktail roulette can also be played here! We also recommend you research S.E.A, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. While Disney has incorporated this society's members into a number of worldwide Disney attractions, Tokyo DisneySea is where it all originated. You'll find nods to S.E.A nestled throughout the Fortress Explorations area of the park.
We hope you enjoyed this brief, turned thorough, description of Tokyo's two Disney parks (admittedly mainly DisneySea). DisneySea is, in our opinion, one of the best Disney Parks in the world that we highly recommend any Disney buff visits. Have any questions about Tokyo's Disney parks? Have you been to them? Share your questions, thoughts, favorite attractions, or favorite snacks with us in the comments section below!