Japan: Day 1 – Tokyo Disneyland

Visiting Tokyo Disneyland was completely a last minute decision. I had actually decided that I wasn’t going to take the kids for several reasons – we were getting into Tokyo in the late evening so the kids would be tired the next day; the weather was going to be drizzly and cold; and I would be solo parenting as Marc was in work mode at the University of Tokyo. In the end I decided to brave Tokyo Disneyland in icky weather by myself with cranky tired kids in tow as it would be the only day we could go. Yes, I am a crazy woman. We had a great back up plan too. If you ever find yourself in Tokyo on a rainy day with children you might consider the Tokyo Toy Museum along with the Tokyo Fire Museum right next door. Apparently they are both great but I cannot personally comment on them. If you want to hear about what I thought of Tokyo Disneyland, read on.

Our day did not start off on the right foot. Or I should say Dominic’s right foot. The foot that caught on the threshold of the subway train as he was getting on, pulling his shoe off in the process which of course resulted in the shoe falling down through the gap onto the tracks. At the moment we realize all this, the door to the train closes and we speed off, minus one shoe. It took a minute for my brain to catch up to the ridiculousness of the situation and then we were off the train and getting on the train going back to the station where the shoe was. One hour later with the help of 3 subway employees and an English translator on the phone, Dominic’s shoe was retrieved from the tracks in surprisingly excellent shape. We were once again on our way to Disneyland.

Between the last minute decision to go and the shoe incident, we arrived two hours after Disneyland opened. Unheard of for us; we are typically there for rope drop! Nonetheless, we managed to squeeze in all the rides we had on our list with the exception of the Monsters Inc. ride which had a ridiculous waiting time of one hour throughout the whole day. The waiting times were strange at Tokyo Disneyland as the rides that we expected long waits for were short – Pirates of the Caribbean, 5 minutes; It’s a Small World, direct walk on, and Star Tours, 15 minutes (and the third time we rode it was almost a direct walk on!) but the ones you expected short wait times were not.

We found Tokyo Disneyland to be unsettling in general. It didn’t have any of the familiarity we were use to. No Main Street, U.S.A. No music piped throughout the park. No English on any of the rides or in any of the shows/parades. Having just recently visited Hong Kong Disneyland we realized how much all of these things matter in creating for us the magic that we associate with Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland gave us that magical feeling as we entered and maintained it throughout our visit. Their staff exuded Disneyness (yep, making up this word). Their shows were multilingual and grand as only Disney can put on. At Hong Kong Disneyland we felt the same magic as we do when we go to California Disneyland. Even though Tokyo Disneyland features almost the same attractions as California Disneyland it just didn’t have the magic. Could it be all these missing factors? Or was it that we were there on a crappy weather day and without Marc?

It turns out the reason might be that Tokyo Disneyland is the only Disneyland not owned by Disney. The Disney theme is leased by a Japanese company and their goal is to move away from the restrictions of the Disney Parks and add more of the Japanese identity. I think they have successfully done that. And it seems to be working for them as they are the second most visited them park behind Magic Kingdom at Disney World and it’s also the most profitable Disney Resort. It’s just not the right Disney park for me.


Before the main gates


Just doesn’t quite have the same feel as Main Street, U.S.A


But there is Cinderella Castle


Japan as seen in It’s a Small World


Listening to C3PO speak in Japanese to R2D2 while waiting for the Star Tours ride X3)


This kid’s got mad driving skills


And this one’s always trying to take off on me


Once Upon a Time light and fireworks show. The only show that comes close to the quality expected of Disney.




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