For an American, the overseas Disney parks seem fairly inaccessible. Rarely does one have an opportunity to venture to another country across the ocean, let alone one that has a Disney theme park. In 2012 I had a chance to go to Japan and to the Disney resort there. I’m grateful to have gone, and grateful to bring you summaries of the adventures there.
First up is Tokyo Disneyland
Park Feel and Layout
Tokyo Disneyland has a unique, yet familiar, feel to it. The best I can describe it is that it’s a mash up of Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida. Having opened in 1983, it was made before the Eisner era, where parks were starting to have unique designs again (although feel free to argue all of that).
The lands are World Bazaar, Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Toontown, and Tomorrowland. It seems like there are two very different lands in World Bazaar and Westernland, but World Bazaar is just another name for Main Street, USA (although a little of a different concept) and Westernland is Japan’s name for Frontierland. The layout of lands is most like Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, but, again, has some similarities to Disneyland in Anaheim.
World Bazaar has a Main Street feel. Turn of the century buildings line the streets. But, the whole area is covered by a glass ceiling. It’s essentially a giant show building! The reason is because of the frequent rain that hits Japan. World Bazaar is a place of cover for the wet guest.
Though there is an odd ceiling over the land, the area struck me to be very much a Main Street theme park entrance. Many of the same shops occupy the space, and there are vehicles that travel through.
The central hub was very spacious, and it has become even more so since I visited the park. I’ve heard that the reason is because of how compact cities in Japan can feel. This open area provides relief and a large park-like atmosphere for the Japanese guest. It was one of the most beautiful and spacious areas of any Disney park I’ve been to.
At the end and left of World Bazaar as you face the castle is Adventureland. Most of it is akin to Magic Kingdom’s version. Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Jungle Cruise can all be found here. What was disorienting about it was the transition area from World Bazaar to Adventureland. It was a replica of New Orleans Square! This location is where Pirates of the Caribbean is found. It makes sense to have this architecture, but was odd to one that has frequented New Orleans Square in Disneyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean was similar to the Disneyland equivalent. It even had a Blue Bayou restaurant inside the attraction building. Besides the Japanese language for some of the dialogue, the other differences resided in the “non-politically correct” scenes. It was a bit of a flashback to the original in Anaheim.
Enchanted Tiki Room was a very different version than any in the United States. The subtitle is “Stitch Presents ‘Aloha E Komo Mai.’” As you can tell, the birds were joined by Stitch in an updated Tiki Room. Before you think this is like Under New Management which was in Disney World for a while, this is much more like Tiki Room 2.0 than that version. The birds and Stitch fit together in one story without the script making reference to the rather outdated audio animatronics. Stitch is the Big Kahuna that the birds don’t want to upset. In the end he wants to join into the celebration. Throughout the show are both songs from the original and from Lilo and Stitch fame. It was a whimsical and very enjoyable attraction.
At the time of visiting the park, the new version of Jungle Cruise was not open. The attraction was quite enjoyable in its older form, despite the language barrier.
Heading off the hub past Adventureland, or going through that first land, one finds oneself in Westernland. This is definitely a Magic Kingdom Frontierland look and feel to it. The parade route is through here like the Florida version, and many of the buildings look like that version too.
There is not much uniqueness to the attractions here. Big Thunder Mountain is much like the Magic Kingdom equivalent. The queue is maybe the most variation. Surprisingly, the most unique attraction is Country Bear Theater. Over the entrance is a banner that says Vacation Jamboree. It may sound like a familiar version to Disneyland past, but this was different from any Country Bear show I’ve seen before. Tunes like Achy Breaky Heart were featured in this version. So, it seems like it was a fairly recent updated show, more than the old Vacation Hoedown that would play during the summer at Disneyland.
Past Westernland is Critter Country. This is home to Splash Mountain and Canoes. The layout for Splash Mountain seemed the same, though meandering around and over it provided a unique trail. One of the eateries had a view of the attraction. One walkway let people walk over a not so wet part of the ride. It was one of the most fun layouts of a land I’ve been to.
Connected to Critter Country is Fantasyland. Wait…Critter Country and Fantasyland? Yes, these two are neighbors. But the oddness doesn’t stop there. Among the popular attractions here is the Haunted Mansion. Yes. You read right. The Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland at this park. The reason? Supposedly the idea of ghosts and hauntings is more fantasy than historical. So, they put it in a land that harkens to the mystical.
The land has a medieval faire look to it. Again, think Magic Kingdom rather than Disneyland. Though, the facade for “it’s a small world” is a pastel version of the Disneyland facade. Small World remains fairly the same as the States equivalents, though the queue looks like it’s stuck in the 70’s.
Another attraction that seems to keep to an older version is Snow White’s Adventures. I had heard that the original and Disney World version was a very scary ride where the witch was ever present and even the diamond mine was not to be taken lightly. I wish I had recorded riding the Tokyo version as this had all these elements. The witch seemed to be at every turn cackling and being nightmarish. The diamond mine had explosion noises and carts careening towards your vehicle. It was scary indeed.
One of the best attractions of the park is located in this land. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt uses state of the art animatronics and vehicles to take guests on an entertaining ride through the Hundred Acre Wood. The audio animatronics have fur on them instead of a plastic look, and they are fully animated as opposed to limited animation. The vehicles are what are known as “trackless dark ride” vehicles. Through special technology, these vehicles seem to travel freely through the building. This also means spinning and near misses with other vehicles. The Heffalumps and Woozles scene is one of the best dark ride rooms of any ride. Because of the trackless nature, going through the ride will be a little different each time it’s visited. This attraction had one of the longest waits in the park, but was always worth it. Thankfully it had FastPass as well.
An exact replica of the cartoon land found in Disneyland is at the Tokyo version. One of the main differences are much more reference to Roger Rabbit. On the back of the Small World show building are posters of Roger Rabbit cartoons, and a small area that has a little more city landscape that fits the often missed character. An attraction that is unique to the area is Goofy’s Paint n’ Play House, which was under construction when I visited.
Rounding out the whole park and the end if going clockwise around is the land of the future. At first glance the land looks to be identical to Magic Kingdom’s, but there are some varied pathways. A 70’s blue paint job greets guests at the entrance off the hub. The rest of the land looks like a futuristic space port with walkways overhead and stale grey buildings housing the most exciting attractions.
The one building that is different from all the others contains Monster’s Inc Ride and Go Seek. A replica of the Monster’s Inc. company building has this very great and unique attraction. Guests take flashlights through the world of Monster’s Inc. as Boo has come back to have some fun with Mike and Sully. This attraction is interactive, but not entirely a game. Think setting off things in a shooting gallery instead of trying to score points. The light beams from everyone’s flashlight will interact with an icon on different parts, and will set an animation off. It made the re-ridability factor go up quite a bit as a result of this interaction.
At the time of my visit, both Space Mountain and Star Tours were closed for refreshing. The areas surrounding both were eye candy enough because they looked different from any equivalent in the America parks. Stitch Encounter was not even announced at the time of my visit. Other than these attractions, much was the same as the American versions.
What is this category? What is so interesting about popcorn? Well, at the Tokyo resort are original popcorn flavors that are different in both parks. In Tokyo Disneyland there are Caramel (ok, not as unique), Curry, Soy Sauce and Butter, Chocolate, Honey, and Strawberry. Chocolate was not open when I visited, and there is regular old salt flavor which I did not try. Other than that, I did try the others. My favorite was surprisingly Curry and Honey. Each was good, but these stood out to be great. I would have thought some of these would be gross, but they were worth eating.
Tokyo Disneyland is not the most original out of the two parks at the resort, but it doesn’t diminish its magic and fun. I think it takes the best of both Disneyland and Magic Kingdom and makes it into a great park to venture through. It did feel foreign, not because of the language, but because it took very familiar elements and juxtaposed them against each other. It was like walking through a dream where everything seems to be from real life, but not real at the same time. There was no bad feeling about it, just a surreal experience for an American. Two of the best Disney rides ever made are at this park: Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Monster’s Inc Ride and Go Seek. These were Imagineering achievements in my book. Besides the original attractions, having similar attractions to California and Florida, but putting a new spin on them made this park worth checking out when I went. If there’s one day to spend at the resort, Tokyo Disney Sea is much more worth it, but I will get to why next time.