The Friendliest Place on Earth

If Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth,” of course, Tokyo Disneyland (and/or nearby Disney Sea) surely must be Friendliest. Hands down. Or, perhaps more appropriately, hands up.

It’s a sunny, comfortable morning and we are in a new place in a foreign country. They speak a language I cannot understand. For the most part, they cannot understand me, either. To be honest, there is a small sense of hesitancy, small flutters of anxiety. How is this going to work? Where am I? 

But, as the familiar Disney song goes, “a smile means friendship to everyone.” And from the moment we step off the shuttle bus and show our tickets to the Tokyo Disneyland cast host at the turnstile, all anxieties evaporate in this happy, authentic outpouring of Disney friendliness. 

High-pitched, bubblingly happy greetings of “Ohayo gozaimasu! Ohayo gosaimasu! (That is, “Good Morning!!” — pronounced “Oh-HI-oh Goh-zy-mahs” — the last letter “u” is silent) from every delightful cast member eager to welcome us to World Bazaar, Tokyo Disneyland’s equivalent of Main Street USA. Here cliche seems to be commonplace. There are no strangers, only wonderful new friends we are just now meeting for the first time. 

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Does this kind of world really exist? I’m not sure I knew it did. Until now.

Do you remember that first time you went to Disneyland or Walt Disney World (or wherever you first experienced a Disney theme park)? Remember that unforgettable sense of wonder? The innocent joy in the moment? That childlike happiness and love discovering this magical place for the first time? Stop for a moment — right now — and re-embrace that original experience… 

You have just joined us in Tokyo Disneyland. 

The thing is, this exceptional friendliness isn’t forced. The sets and architecture may be artificial but the friendliness here isn’t. The spirit of friendship and kindness is as authentic as it is contagious. You sense it in every outstretched, waving hand. In every “Ohayo gosaimasu!” In every place and every person— not only cast members but even park guests. 

For example, this is a true story. We have just passed through World Bazaar on our way to the enchanting new “Beauty and the Beast” attraction. Our daughter is carrying her eleven-month baby. Walking briskly along to get there early before the long lines form, running from behind an “unmet friend” (i.e. a stranger) catches up to get our attention, excitedly animating words we cannot begin to understand but clasping our granddaughter’s pacifier she had dropped a good 30 feet earlier. He has sprinted all that way — we can see his wife and children waiting back in the distance — just to return a retrieved pacifier for a family he doesn’t know. Then, after a respectful and cheerful bow and wave, he returns to his family.

I recall reading something many years ago about Walt Disney. He was hosting a head of state who remarked something to the effect, “Too bad this isn’t the real world.” To this Disney responded, “No, this IS the real world as it should be.” 

I may have this story wrong but the sentiment is consistent to my experience here in Tokyo both at Tokyo Disneyland and at Disney Sea. 

The Friendliest Place on Earth.