The distance between my hometown and Paris is approximately 310 kilometers. It takes three and a half hours of driving to get there. The distance between my hometown and Tokyo is approximately 9.400 kilometers. If you’re lucky enough to be on a direct flight, it takes about 11 hours to get there. Despite this remarkable difference in travel time, I’ve spent more days at Tokyo Disney Resort than at Disneyland Paris during the last couple of years. That may seem bizarre, but the European resort just doesn’t feel that magical nowadays. As the parks are preparing for the 25th anniversary, lots of attractions are getting refurbished. That’s why I prefer to spend my vacations at the Japanese Disneyland instead. Another good reason to travel that far: Tokyo is simply amazing. Unlike Paris, this city is impeccably clean, locals are friendly and you’ll find an affordable meal on every street corner. In short, the Japanese capital is one of my favourite holiday destinations and it’s great to be back in November 2016. The best thing is that I’m accompanied by my boyfriend some very close friends this time. Together we visit the well known Asakusa temple site, we get a glimpse of Harajuku’s famous cosplay girls and we climb to an astonishing height of 450 meters in the Tokyo SkyTree. From the tower’s viewing platform, we get to see a city which has more inhabitants than my own home country. The view extends as far as Tokyo Bay and I can even see the contours of Japan’s most beloved theme park resort. But do you know what’s even better than staring at theme parks from a distance? Right: going there.
After experiencing the glitz and glamour of Tokyo DisneySea yesterday, we now head to the neighbouring Tokyo Disneyland. Our morning looks exactly the same as 24 hours ago: we get up early, we board a monorail and we then queue up in front of the entrance gates. The madness inside the park at 8 AM is also similar to the one at DisneySea. There, people immediately rush to the ‘Toy Story Mania’ Fastpass machines in the early morning. Here at Tokyo Disneyland, a majority of the visitors tries to get Fastpasses for ‘Winnie The Pooh’ and ‘Monsters Inc’.
We follow the crowds to secure our Fastpass tickets for the extremely popular ‘Monsters Inc’ darkride. This ride and its Fastpass distribution are located in Tomorrowland. With some common sense, you might expect this area to be futuristic and modern. But that’s not the case. In fact, this is one of the most dated themed lands at any Disney park on Earth. It mainly consists of concrete floors, ugly looking planters and buildings which probably haven’t been changed since the 80’s. Luckily, most Tomorrowland rides are significantly less old-fashioned than their facades.
We got up at 6.30 AM and I’m still a little sleepy. Luckily, there’s a fun way to wake up at Tomorrowland: just take a ride on Space Mountain. This coaster is comparable to its California and Hong Kong counterparts. That means that it’s a pretty fast coaster with surprising transitions and smoothly running trains. Just like those other versions, the Japanese ‘Space Mountain’ is a very enjoyable experience. However, it’s a bit sad that this ride doesn’t offer onboard audio. That may seem like a minor detail to some, but in my opinion it’s a huge difference. In Anaheim and California, lots of this coaster’s suspense is created by Michael Giacchino’s amazing soundtrack. That’s why I really miss it here in Tokyo. Let’s hope that this Japanese ‘Space Mountain’ will get a major refurbishment including new trains and onboard music soon. That would be a big improvement for this ride.
Star Wars is very popular nowadays. Some Disney theme parks offer seasonal events about it and two parks are even building an incredibly expensive Stars Wars themed land. At Tokyo Disneyland however, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue remains the one and only ride for fans of ‘The Force’. This ride seems to be the least popular E-ticket at both Japanese parks and honestly: that’s no surprise. The 3D upgrade made the ride more interesting than before, but those motion simulators are a bit old-fashioned anyway. It’s kind of funny that the pizza restaurant opposite ‘Star Tours’ is actually more popular than this ride.
‘Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters’ is being refurbished early November and we don’t necessarily need to visit the Japanese version of ‘Stitch Encounter’. The only reasons to come back to Tomorrowland are a re-ride on ‘Space Mountain’ and our Fastpass ride on Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek. This darkride is clearly the most wanted ride at Tomorrowland and it may even be the most popular one at the whole of Tokyo Disneyland. That’s because the Japanese seem fond of this ride’s interactive part. Every rider has a flashlight which should be pointed at ‘hidden’ monsters. That’s fun and the scenes have been elaborately themed, but believe me: decorations aren’t that exceptional. So please promise me that you’ll never enter a three-hour queue for ‘Monsters Inc’. That’s the average waiting time today and that’s just way too much for this medium sized darkride.
Outdated. Old-fashioned. Obsolete. Prehistoric. I just don’t know what’s the best word to describe ‘Star Jets’ and the ‘Grand Circuit Raceway’. These rides are both hideous and uninteresting. Fortunately, Tokyo Disneyland seems to have the same opinion: this spaceship carousel and the Autopia-like car ride will be removed from the park soon. In exchange, we’ll get a ‘Big Hero 6’ flatride and a new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ village with a restaurant, a shop and a darkride. It’s awesome that Tokyo Disneyland is finally investing in this area of the park. Just like Tomorrowland, a large part of Fantasyland seems to be stuck in the eighties. Imagineers did a fine job updating Fantasyland in Florida, so I hope that this Japanese fairytale land awaits a similar treatment. For now, we just need to accept that darkrides like ‘Peter Pan’s Flight’ and ‘Pinocchio’s Daring Journey’ are hidden behind a cardboard-like facade. The same goes for that other darkride called It’s a Small World. I usually enjoy this cheerful journey around the world a lot, but the Japanese version just looks too cheap and outdated. This Disney classic really deserves an upgrade.
Although I don’t like the visual appearance of Tokyo’s Fantasyland, there are two good reasons to be here. The first one is Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, a darkride which can be found behind a giant open book. There are ‘Winnie The Pooh’ darkrides at almost every Disney resort on Earth, but the Japanese version goes a lot further. The most amazing element is a trackless ride system, which enables vehicles to pass each other and to move in literally any direction. This effect is especially fun in the final scene, where 9 vehicles seem to be moving randomly in one big room. That particular scene is so happy and powerful that it makes ‘Pooh’s Hunny Hunt’ one of the most cheerful darkrides ever. There’s only one major problem: everybody seems to adore ‘Pooh’s Hunny Hunt’ and queues are often excessively long. Even though we visit this ride early in the day, it takes us 80 minutes to get to the loading platform. And at the time we ride, the wait time is already at 150 minutes. Bring some patience or try to get Fastpasses for ‘Pooh’s Hunny Hunt’.
Another Fantasyland star is ‘The Haunted Mansion’, which is also known as The Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare during Halloween and Christmas. Unlike some European parks, Tokyo Disneyland really makes an effort of this temporary overlay. The ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ decoration is even so eleborate that it’s hard to recognize some original scenes of this well-known darkride. And although I’m not fond of that Tim Burton movie, it’s nice to experience this Disney classic in a totally new way. I still think that this Japanese ‘Haunted Mansion’ feels out of place in Fantasyland (it’s actually opposite Peter Pan and Dumbo!) but hey… the ride is awesome anyway.
Right next to Fantasyland, you’ll find Toontown. You might recognize it if you’re used to Disneyland Anaheim: despite the fact that it’s a mirrored version, Tokyo’s Toontown has an identical line-up as its American namesake. That means that you can meet some Disney characters in real life (be prepared for loooooong queues), that you can ride a child-friendly coaster credit and that there’s a hysterical darkride. Yes, that’s right: Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is very hysterical and bizarre. We board a spinning car and we get to see some crazy scenes in a cartoonish world. It’s strange, it’s loud and it’s just very difficult to understand. But… it works. Although I’m not familiar with Roger Rabbit, I really like this ride and I even think that it’s a little underrated. While queues for most rides are exceeding 60 minutes today, we get to ride ‘Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin’ within half an hour.
Although some pictures in this report show clear blue skies, we have to cope with drizzle during a large part of our first day at Tokyo Disneyland. You might expect lighter crowds during autumn days like these, but that’s not the case. Even at Splash Mountain (definitely not the most ideal ride in these weather conditions) there’s a solid two-hour wait. Queueing 120 minutes in the rain…?! Didn’t think so. That’s why we postpone our visit to the Laughing Place until late in the evening, when crowds are more manageable. There’s still a line at 9 PM, but one thing is certain: ‘Splash Mountain’ is worth a considerable wait. It’s a world class water ride and a very good darkride in one. This log flume lasts for 10 minutes, it features four drops and we meet lots of cute audio-animatronics during our boat trip. ‘Splash Mountain’ always puts a smile on my face, even during a cold and rainy night like this one.
Whether it’s in Anaheim, in Orlando, in Paris or here in Tokyo… Big Thunder Mountain is always a popular attraction, so a long wait is guaranteed. Fortunately, we obtained a Fastpass earlier today. That’s why we board the wildest ride in the wilderness almost immediately, just to discover that it’s actually not that wild in Japan. This mine train rollercoaster turns out to be tame and it lacks the grand finale of its European counterpart. Don’t get me wrong: ‘Big Thunder Mountain’ is a fine family coaster and the theming is absolutely superb. Just keep in mind that it’s considerably less intense than the other versions. The Japanese, however, don’t seem to care: they scream as if ‘Big Thunder Mountain’ were the craziest coaster on Earth.
Disney parades are cool. Waving Disney characters, smiling princesses, cheerful dance moves and songs which get stuck in your head for a few hours… I love it. I don’t know how that strange fascination grew, but I do know that Tokyo Disneyland always delivers pure parade awesomeness. Parades at this resort seem to be more impressive and significantly longer than elsewhere. Happiness Is Here is a perfect example of such a great parade. It was introduced at the 30th birthday of Tokyo Disneyland (on 15 April 2013 and believe it or not… I was there that day!) and it has amazed me ever since. I’m apparantly not the only one who loves ‘Happiness Is Here’ and its cheerful theme song: the Japanese don’t mind waiting along the parade route for more than two hours.
We exchange Westernland for the exotic atmosphere of Adventureland. Let’s start with some very good news: Adventureland contains a few attractions which don’t require waiting in line. The Swiss Family Treehouse for example, or an outdated Disney classic called The Enchanted Tiki Room. Both rides are anything but breathtaking, but they offer a nice way to escape the crowds for a while.
Another Adventureland favourite is Jungle Cruise. You probably know that Cast Members make or break this ride. If they are funny, then you’ll enjoy a nice boat ride. If their jokes are bad, then you will probably wish that you never entered the queue. It becomes even more complicated in Japan, where I can’t understand a word of the Cast Member’s spiel. It’s a bizarre feeling: we just sit between 30 giggling Japanese people while our Skipper screams hysterically through her microphone. She’s possibly talking about bloodthirsty piranhas, dangerous hippos and the backside of water, but she could also be laughing at those western tourists. Anyway: there’s one very good reason to visit ‘Jungle Cruise’ at Tokyo Disneyland and that’s the final scene. This part was recently upgraded with video mapping and the result is quite cool.
Unlike most Magic Kingdom parks, Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t offer a version of ‘Disneyland Railroad’. The alternative is ‘Western River Railroad’, a train ride which travels through Adventureland, Westernland and Critter Country. We usually enjoy this calm attraction while visiting the park, but the line is just too long today. Then I actually prefer queueing for a more immersive ride like Pirates of the Caribbean. Just like at Disneyland Anaheim, this classic darkride can be found in a New Orleans setting. The actual ride reminds me of the Californian version as well and that’s a good thing. This 33 years old darkride looks nothing less than stunning: it features a lot of beautiful audio-animatronics, scenes are simply spectacular and those later added movie characters blend in perfectly. I really admire Disney for keeping ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ in such a perfect shape. Next week, we’ll visit the recently opened namesake at Shangai Disneyland and I hope it well be at least as awesome as this one (read the answer here).
We’ve just concluded our tour through Tokyo Disneyland and we’re back at World Bazaar. This is Tokyo Disneyland’s semi-indoor version of Main Street USA. It’s not that aesthetically pleasing, but due to the rain, I actually started to appreciate this covered walking area. From World Bazaar, you can also enjoy a perfect view of the enormous Cinderella Castle. It’s the visual highlight of Tokyo Disneyland and this is where the park’s nighttime spectacular takes place. Once Upon a Time uses video mapping, fireworks and two huge flame throwers. Just consider it as the Japanese version of ‘Disney Dreams’, but it’s a lot less impressive in my opinion. My non-existing knowledge of Japanese may play a role in this opinion.
Although ‘Once Upon A Time’ isn’t that exceptional, Tokyo Disneyland still deserves an A+ for its evening entertainment. That’s mainly due to the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade Dreamlights. Just like ‘Happiness Is Here’, ‘Dreamlights’ is a seemingly endless parade full of Disney magic. Thousands and thousands of lights sparkle in the night and that’s truly a beautiful sight. This modernized version of the classic ‘Main Street Electrical Parade’ offers a few magnificent floats. Especially the float about Aladdin’s Genie will simply blow your mind. I know that attraction waits are considerably shorter during parade times, but I just wouldn’t want to miss ‘Dreamlights’ because it’s so incredibly good.
Singing ‘Jingle Bells’ in early November might seem a little odd, but it’s exactly what we do at Tokyo Disneyland. The park has already set up a giant Christmas tree in the middle of World Bazaar and that’s why we can make some early Christmas selfies this year. While putting them on Facebook, I add a comment about how wonderful our time at Tokyo Disneyland has been. Absolutely no doubt about it: this is still a great theme park. It’s certainly not the most beautiful Magic Kingdom and rollercoasters are less spectacular than at other resorts, but Tokyo Disneyland makes up for that with extremely polite Cast Members, world class entertainment and a few awesome darkrides. This park is definitely worth the trip and it offers value for money. Even though crowds and weather conditions were less favorable than hoped, we still managed to have a good time here.
Spending about 14 hours at theme parks for three consecutive days… that’s exhausting. I could definitely use some peace and quiet after our stay at Tokyo Disney Resort, but it’s nearly impossible. That’s because our next destination will be at least as exciting. In fact, Tokyo Disney Resort wasn’t even our main reason to travel to Asia this time. We came here in the first place to visit the newest member of Disney Parks & Resorts. I lost my world wide Disney Bingo on 16 June 2016, but 7 November will be the date to re-obtain that status. So hold on tight… we’re going to Shanghai Disneyland!