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  • JULIE WHITE

The Visitor Centre today is ... Tokyo DisneySea

A seven seas masterpiece. We take a magical trip to one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world.

We reached the end of an amazing 3 week tour of Japan and wanted to round off the trip with one last magical day out. Japan had delivered so many cultural delights, but now it was time for pure fantasy.


We have been lucky enough to visit many Disney parks around the world. We even had our honeymoon in Disney World Orlando, and you could say one of us is a bit of a superfan and one of us is happy to go along for the ride. My engineer husband spends most of his time in the parks trying to work out how the rides work, or looking at bits of machinery and taking great delight in telling me what needs fixing, usually when I am halfway up the first climb on a coaster. I am like a kid at Christmas. I usually cry on arrival, wear my Mickey ears (much to my other half's horror), buy bags of merchandise, and like to be at the front for all the rides, shows, parades, and fireworks and I even like the odd cuddle with a character or two. For me, every Disney Park is pure magic. I am a grown woman who will fully admit to being extremely happy in a land of fabulous set design and storytelling.


There are two Disney Parks in Tokyo's Disney Resort and they are an anomaly. Neither is owned by The Walt Disney Company, but rather by The Oriental Land Company (OLC), a Japanese leisure and tourism company. OLC holds a license agreement with The Walt Disney Company, which allows them to use Disney's intellectual properties and characters in their parks. Disney acts as a consultant and contracts out Disney Imagineers to design, develop, and install attractions.


Tokyo Disney Resort welcomed its 800 millionth visitor in February 2022 and has been an undeniable success.

When we visited in December 2019, Tokyo Disneyland was undergoing some major renovations, due to open in September 2021. These renovations were inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Minnie Mouse and Big Hero 6 and resulted in the famous castle being hidden behind scaffolding. Wanting to have the best experience, without being surrounded by building works, we headed to Tokyo DisneySea, which we were led to believe was utterly unique in the Disney park portfolio. Would it compare to my previous Disney experiences? Read on and find out.


The brand history

The Oriental Land Company was established on July 11, 1960, with its headquarters in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan. Initially, the company's main focus was on the development and management of hotels and real estate properties. In the 1970s, OLC began searching for opportunities to expand its business and diversify its offerings.


Mr. Masatomo Takahashi (then President of Oriental Land Company (OLC) approached Disney with the idea of a theme park in 1979. After much negotiation, Disney and the OLC reached an agreement to build the first Disney theme park outside of the United States, on land the OLC held next to its headquarters in Urayasu.

Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15, 1983. It was designed to blend Disney theming and characters with Japanese culture and sensibilities. The park consistently attracts a large number of visitors every year, including both local guests and international tourists. Its popularity has made it one of the most visited theme parks globally.


OLC announced plans for a second theme park at a press conference held for the 5th anniversary of Tokyo Disneyland on April 15, 1988. The first plan was to make a version of Walt Disney World’s Disney-MGM Studios, but the project stalled. In 1992, the proposal was altered, to create a theme park based on the seven seas. In 1997 the Tokyo DisneySea concept was circulated to the media.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Tokyo DisneySea was held on October 22, 1998. After a reported investment of $4 billion, the park opened in September 2001.


The man originally behind the idea for the park, Mr. Masatomo Takahashi, sadly passed away in January 2000, so never saw the opening of the park he had imagined.

Tokyo DisneySea was designed to appeal to a more adult audience and is divided into several themed areas, known as "ports of call." These areas include Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront. Each 'port' has its unique attractions, dining options, and entertainment, contributing to the park's overall immersive and diverse experience.


Over the years, OLC made significant investments in expanding the park's offerings and maintaining its reputation as a world-class destination. In 2023 a Toy Story-themed hotel and the much anticipated new land Fantasy Springs is set to open.

A shopping and entertainment district called Ikspiari opened in 2000, located between Maihama Station and the Disney Ambassador Hotel. It became the Japanese equivalent of Disney Springs and Downtown Disney at the U.S. parks.

In 2022 Tokyo Disney Resort welcomed 12 million visitors, making it the fourth-most visited theme park in the world and the second-most visited theme park in Asia. Not bad considering most of the world at that time was impacted by Covid restrictions on travel. In years before the pandemic, the parks attracted more than 35 million guests each year.


From initial discussions to the opening day, the development of Tokyo DisneySea took approximately 12 to 15 years. This timeline includes the conceptualization, planning, design, construction, and fine-tuning phases. The park's success is a testament to the careful planning and attention to detail that went into its creation, resulting in a one-of-a-kind theme park experience, that offers a maritime adventure unlike any other Disney park.


The Visitor Centre design

There is a benefit to being operated by OLC and not Disney. Tokyo Disney Resort has complete financial independence and they plan new rides and attractions with minute attention to detail and with a no holds barred budget approach it seems. The result is theming and attractions that other Disney parks can only dream of.


At the forefront of the design was to make something that wasn't just visually stunning and provided great fun activities, more akin to a clone of an American park, but a park that also resonated with the local consumer. So, the designers and Imagineers created experiences and 3D environments that tapped into the Japanese culture and psyche, a respect for craftsmanship and detail, a love of fairy tale and folklore, mie gakure (the seen and unseen), gift giving and kawaii (cuteness), plus many more.


The original concept drawings are pretty close to what was actually built at DisneySea and are works of art themselves.

A volcano was planned as the central and biggest feature and it was to be surrounded by several lands. Most of Japan's mountains are of volcanic origin. While volcanoes cause major destruction, many of them are also tourist attractions for their scenic landscapes, hot springs and hiking trails.

The enormous ship was another stunning feature as was the Jules Verne-style theming of Mysterious Island.

Processions and lantern shows are a big part of Japanese festival culture, so great attention has been placed on the Disney parades, and guests will sit (not stand) and respectfully watch them pass for hours. Japanese Disney theme park food is some of the best-rated in the world and discerning visitors can tuck into some unique dishes and snacks, all themed of course. Even their resort hotels incorporate several Japanese elements such as tatami mats, shoji screens, and Japanese-style bedding.


But it was merchandise where the Japanese parks could really go to town. With Japan having a strong "kawaii" or cute culture, many Disney characters certainly would have succeeded in bringing this element of their culture to the fore. But there was a gap to add something uniquely Japanese, to fit into this aesthetic.


Duffy was introduced in 2004 at DisneySea. Originally conceived as a teddy bear that Minnie Mouse made for Mickey Mouse to accompany him on his travels, Duffy's design was inspired by the soft, comforting look of classic teddy bears.

As Duffy's popularity increased, Disney expanded his backstory. They introduced other characters, like Duffy's friends ShellieMay (introduced in 2010) and Gelatoni the cat (introduced in 2014). Each character had their own unique personality and story, and they often tied into the idea of creativity and adventure.

Duffy's popularity led to the creation of a wide range of merchandise, from plush toys to clothing and accessories. These items were often exclusive to DisneySea and became sought-after collectibles. Special events, seasonal costumes, and themed merchandise releases further contributed to the character's appeal.

You can't miss Duffy and his friends. They're literally everywhere, ears, hats, backpacks, pop-corn buckets, and the stores are stuffed with all manner of merchandise.


DisneySea Plaza and Park Entrance

The minute you step onto the monorail you feel the magic.

The park needed a representative symbol, similar to Epcot's geodesic Spaceship Earth sphere or California's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Disney suggested a lighthouse, as in the US it represented safety and homecoming. The idea was pushed back and forth. However, not all the Japanese were on board as they considered a lighthouse as solitary and lonely. Disney and OLC compromised with the AquaSphere, which symbolises Earth, the “water planet,” situated at the entrance, which sets the stage for the ocean-themed adventures awaiting beyond.

The park’s entrance is also home to the park’s on-resort hotel, Hotel Miracosta. It has been subtly blended into its surroundings in a Mediterranean style.

The Christmas decorations were fabulous too.


Mediterranean Harbour

The first view you get is the Mediterranean Harbour lagoon, home to dining, shopping, and shows on the lagoon. Themed as an Italian-style city, it has Venice and Portofino vibes and is beautiful.

For those of us lucky enough to have visited Italy, then the set design is a clever interpretation and intricately detailed. There are Venetian gondolas, balconies, columns and pasta restaurants.

The enormity of the lagoon allows for plenty of viewing space for one of the water-based shows and this is where the Hotel MiraCosta is situated.

But there's more. "Explorers Landing" serves as the headquarters for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, a fictional organisation founded by historical figures of the Renaissance and Golden Age of Exploration. Housed within a Fortress complex, exhibits include a Focault Pendulum, the Illusion Room, Explorers' Hall, the Navigation Center, an Alchemy Lab, the Chamber of Planets and the sailing ship Renaissance.

Fortress Exploration is a walkthrough attraction that opened on September 4, 2001. Here guests can interact with the Disney SEA Society and find out how it originated, see the logo, shield, crest, maps, mottos and more, and are challenged to solve a series of puzzles in order to join S.E.A.


Mysterious Island

Disney's Imagineers had always wanted a Jules Verne themed land as the park’s centerpiece. The author is regarded as one of France's greatest visionaries and in the 1990s Discoveryland was opened in Disneyland Paris, heavily themed around Verne's novels. Furthermore, several attractions such as Timekeeper (Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland), Horizons (EPCOT Center), and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Magic Kingdom) also draw on Verne's stories.

Mysterious Island only offers two rides, so why is it special? It surrounds the 51 metre tall Mount Prometheus, the giant 'active' volcano and park centerpiece. It is the level of detail and immersion that impresses most here. Creations include geologically correct rock and lava deposits.

The area relies heavily on the storytelling and mythology of the volcano fortress mentioned several times in Verne's books, "Vulcania".

This is where you find two of the busiest attractions and a restaurant. We are transported to the 1870s and an uncharted island somewhere in the South Pacific. The architecture in this port is a mix of Victoriana and Steampunk.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a dark ride, has been a part of several Disney parks before. A ride based on the 1954 film of the same name, was opened in Disneyland California in 1955. When a few years later Disney embarked on an expansion of Tomorrowland, a submarine voyage ride launched, simulating a deep sea environment, but this was not Verne themed. In 1971, the submarine ride was opened in DisneyWorld Orlando and this time received the Jules Verne makeover. It took riders a mere foot underwater, yet transported them from the North Pole to the lost city of Atlantis. Expensive to run and maintain, it closed in 1994.

OLC were convinced that the upkeep was too high for an actual underwater ride, so Disney came up with a suspended dark ride, that tricks riders into thinking they are deep in the ocean. You ride inside mini-subs, looking out onto scenes from the movie, including the ship graveyard and the lost city of Atlantis, finishing off with an encounter with a giant squid. It's an illusion created with water tanks and bubbles in the viewing windows and it is surprisingly effective.

The attention to detail in the queue area is very impressive.

There are plenty of maps, charts, notes to read, dive suits and helmets, and more. The six-person ride vehicles are swiftly loaded and you're off, into the underwater realm, full of animatronics and theatrics, none of which my camera would do justice to.

Journey to the Center of the Earth, is one of the original rides at the park. Visitors pass through Captain Nemo's underground laboratories, before boarding a unique subterranean vehicle, the "Terravator" to dive deeper under the earth's crust to Nemo's base. Loosely based on Verne's 1864 novel of the same name, it was designed by a team including Imagineer Tom “Thor” Thordarson. It is a mix of subterranean and sci fi styling and storytelling.

Riders board steam-powered mine vehicles that delve into tunnels full of crystals, wierd creatures and caverns, before an earthquake causes a cave-in of the tunnel ahead, forcing the car off its planned route and you hurtle past lightening, fire, lava and giant monsters. If you want to learn all about Thor's design process from concept to reality, then check out this DisneyandMore blog article which even includes Thor's original artworks. Inspiring stuff.


Sadly, when we visited, this ride was closed for maintenance. It is one of the most popular rides at the park and you can see what it is like in videos online.


Mermaid Lagoon

Mermaid Lagoon is aimed at very young children and around the characters in The Little Mermaid film. The façade is themed as King Triton's palace and features seashell-inspired architecture. Several children's rides, a playground, and a theatre, are all used to tell the tale of the 1989 animation, which has had a reboot with a live version in 2023. We gave it a miss, being about 40 years older than most of the guests heading inside.


Arabian Coast

The Arabian Coast recreates the world of Aladdin and the Arabian Nights. Tokyo’s penchant for visual aesthetics is quite clear here, especially in terms of landscaping and smaller thematic touches.

This is where you'll find Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage, a ride that takes you on a journey with Sinbad and his tiger Chandu through different parts of the world and back. It's just like the It's a Small World ride at other parks, with over 160 animatronic characters. As it is mostly visual, there's not as much of a language barrier here. It took 6 years to design and install, but sadly when originally launched in 2001, it became apparent that the Japanese audience was not familiar with the Arabian Nights tales and did not appreciate the ride's darker message. It quickly got redesigned and reopened in 2007 with a more lighthearted theme and with a protagonist with a new sidekick, Chandu, who became an instant hit, and a huge marketing and merchandising opportunity.

Everything surrounding it is rather beautiful. I know it's a pastiche, but it's still pretty.

Even the side streets are styled to within an inch of their lives.


Lost River Delta

While not a direct copy, the Lost River Delta draws inspiration from Disney's Adventureland concept, found in other Disney parks. The Lost River Delta focuses on the theme of discovery and lost civilizations, with attractions located in jungles, tropical forests, and archaeological sites. This is the home to the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull ride. The Raging Spirits coaster rumbles along next door. Your senses are assaulted with fog, fire, special effects, and fabulous set design.

Weave your way through thick foliage and abandoned camp props, you head inside an ancient Aztec pyramid, and onto an archeological dig site.

The scale of the hall that houses the queue is truly impressive.

There are a few physical references to Raiders of the Lost Ark, like light pinpointing a dig site on a map. A quick safety briefing, with subtitles as ever in several languages, and we head deeper into the temple.

A jeep pulls up and once on board, you're whisked inside, past the crystal skull, through the Gates of Doom, past skeletons, spiders, vortexes, and more. The jeep rattles across a perilous bridge and that's when you stop taking pictures and enjoy the ride. You can watch a video online for more.


Raging Spirits is a looping roller coaster, and was familiar as I have ridden it before. It is a clone of Disneyland Paris' Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril roller coaster, but better.


Port Discovery

Another sci-fi themed area with a more art deco-inspired design. Attractions based on Finding Nemo/Finding Dory can be found here plus the Aquatopia ride. We had a shot at that but little time for much more.


American Waterfront

This is one of my absolute favourite lands in any theme park in the world. It is a massive area, with delight around every corner. It mixes romantic notions of American ports with realistic and gritty detail. The scale blows your mind.

It's New York, Cape Cod and New England all rolled into one. The ghost signs, the lighting, the signage, the shop windows, the power cables, the elevated railway, even the manhole covers, all detailed with accuracy.

The S.S. Columbia steam liner houses a restaurant and lounge. It is like walking aboard the Titanic, it is that large. It was time for some evening relaxation. The ship has a lounge, inspired by President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, serving meals, cocktails and other drinks in luxury and comfort.

I might have had a cocktail or two. I'm a sucker for a comfy, leather, button back chair.

American Waterfront is also home to the Tower of Terror ride, inside the Hightower Hotel. This ride does not operate a FastPass, so often requires many hours of queuing. We, sadly, did not have the luxury of all that time, so had to skip this. I have ridden it in Paris though. The ride exterior reminds us of Fairmont hotels we saw in the Canadian cities of Ottowa and Quebec.

I love a bit of New England and Cape Cod style and you cross a bridge and you could be right there.

If you ever get a chance, visit Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, USA. So much of this area feels authentic to the buildings we saw there.

The Christmas decorations were stunning too.

I'm a sucker for a lighthouse too.

The American Waterfront is also where Duffy is based. The meet ‘n greets have longer lines than some of the rides and the merchandise is plentiful but pricey, and for anyone living outside of Japan, the whole concept can be a bit of a mystery. Seeing Duffy pushed in a stroller, carried in a baby carrier, given his own chair at meals, or sat at the front for a parade, is something you get used to. The throngs of Japanese visitors just adore him and his friends. The Duffy popcorn buckets are legendary, like suitcases and utterly adorable.

He was all set for Christmas in his snowsuit when we visited.



Toy Story Mania is also based on the Waterfront. An interactive 4-D ride where guests wear 3-D glasses while riding spinning vehicles that travel through virtual environments and shoot at targets. I have been lucky enough to have ridden this several times in Paris, so had decided to skip this, which was a bonus, as the queue was 3 hours long.


Fantasy Springs

Expansion plans were announced way back in 2015 for a land based on the Disney films Frozen, Rapunzel, and Peter Pan. Construction on Fantasy Springs began in 2019 but due to the pandemic, the build suffered many delays and opening has been pushed back until Spring 2024. At a cost of ¥320 billion, it is the park's most expensive expansion so far, and covering 140,000 square meters, it is also the park's largest expansion. This is also the site of a new hotel, the most luxurious on-site, with 475 rooms.

This port is being built on what is a massive car park and access will be via a new walkway from Lost River Delta and the Arabian Coast.

Check out the video online of what is in store. I'll be there in Spring 2024 to see it for myself, as long as the building schedule stays on track.


Food and Drink

There's so much to eat and drink around the park you won't go hungry. Why not try a Chandu Tail, a tiger tail-shaped steamed chicken cream bun, or a Donald Duck Life Preserver, a steamed shrimp bun called Ukiwa Buns? Even their popcorn has weird flavours, like garlic clams or soy sauce and butter, along with more regular flavours, and everything comes in collectable containers. We missed out on picking up one of the popcorn buckets as all the popcorn stands we found were closed. Everything was reasonably priced too.


Transportation

There are many transportation attractions at Tokyo DisneySea. These include the Big City Vehicles, Venetian Gondolas, and DisneySea Transit Steamer Line and the essential DisneySea Electric Railway. Ride them all, and save your feet for queuing.


Shopping

There are numerous gift shops within the park, and many outside it in the mall near the transport hub. You will be spoilt for choice and I certainly found a greater selection of products here than in the US or Paris. The sheer amount of character-based merchandise is immense and you will pick up toys, games, clothing and more based on a huge array of characters here. I did not have too much room in my suitcase sadly, but managed to pick up some Stitch merchandise for my daughter.


Priority Pass (FREE - for now)

Since our trip at the end of 2019, a free skip-the-line pass has sadly become a thing of the past at all the Disney resorts worldwide. Costs for fast pass tickets can really ramp up, especially for families. It has been the main reason we have not visited any of the parks since 2020. Entrance fees are high enough and time is precious. We can't always justify the additional cost and hassle of the new fast pass systems and the stress of getting one certainly impacts on the magic.

On our visit, we used the Tokyo Disney Resort App, or quite often found a friendly Cast Member holding a tablet, who booked us a slot for our next ride. All we had to do is get there on time. We could literally stand in a queue for one ride and book a fast pass with the cast member for another, without the need to run across a park to bag those precious Fast Pass time slot tickets. It saved us a lot of stress and reduced the step count. Not every ride was included. On the day we visited The Tower of Terror had a 9 hour queue and no fast pass tickets. Yes, you heard me right, a 9 hour queue, and the Japanese were dutifully in line prepared for the long haul. I accept that many would have been locals, perhaps with an annual pass, so a long wait would not have ruined their day. If we had spent nine hours in a queue, then we wouldn't have seen a thing.


Every Disney Resort around the world has some option to skip the lines. At Disney World and Disneyland it’s the unpopular Genie+/Lightning Lane. Disneyland Paris, Shanghai Disney Tokyo Disney have Premier Access. Each version is slightly different, but there is a common thread, they all cost extra.


However, Tokyo Disney is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023 and they’ve given guests a treat, free Priority Passes. It won't last long, so be quick if you can make it there.


In conclusion

This is a truly breathtaking park, a shining example of what Imagineering can create when they are given free rein. DisneySea is efficient, clean, welcoming, intricately detailed and most of all, great fun, and millions of visitors agree. The various ports within the park offer a distinct atmosphere and narrative that contributes to the overall immersive experience.

The lands are designed with admirable attention to detail and even if you don't ride anything, you will have a fabulous day out in beautiful surroundings. The brand has nailed the balance between ambiance, excitement, and entertainment. The gardens were well-tended and nothing was out of place, as we came to expect in Japan. Even the food is better than anything we've had in America or Paris, and reasonably priced too.


The park has received many updates over the years, so the brand continues to be adaptable to changing demands. This is especially important, as it provides visitors, both new and returning, with multiple opportunities for brand marketing at scale, with endless possibilities for huge social media coverage.


The storytelling on some of the rides might not completely land on occasion, just because not every visitor can speak Japanese. However, we found ourselves developing a fun game we called 'Guess what's going on' and making up our own story. Walt would have been proud. There is English text on so many of the static installations and subtitles on all the video elements, so you will get the gist of the story and most of the rides and attractions have familiar characters or themes.

The cast members are the most polite and helpful of any theme park I have ever visited. They couldn't do enough to help.


Now for the elephant in the room and the biggest downside to any DisneySea trip. You must be prepared for the sheer volume of guests, depending on when you visit. Tokyo Disney crowds can vary your experience from having a pleasantly busy day to driving you to insanity. Forget visiting on a weekend, it's mobbed. We went on a Friday in early December, during the Christmas event, and went with the expectation that we would not get around everything, which turned out was the right mindset.


90% of visitors are local, and, at the time, they had access to a Fast Pass mobile app. Tickets for those rides sold out in 15 minutes each day and you needed a Japanese address and phone to access them. Now before I say that this is a ridiculous system, the queues and new Fast Pass style systems in Orlando are so off-putting and costly, we haven't returned. The in-park Fast-Pass system we had in 2019 at DisneySea actually worked quite well for us, for the rides it covered. But the most popular rides were not part of any skip-the-line system and they attract lines that are simply enormous. Even the popcorn stands, toilets and restaurants can see massive queues. Today there is a Tokyo Disney Resort app, so hopefully when I return, my visit will be even easier and I will be able to ride more.


You can look at AOKSoft’s Tokyo Disney Crowd Calendar, which has attendance projections for both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. This can help you to plan your trip. But, to be honest, my advice to anyone from outside Japan thinking of visiting, is to just accept that you will encounter incredible queues, perhaps miss the three most popular attractions Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, and Soaring: Fantastic Flight, eat lunch by 11:30 a.m., ignore the parades and leave wanting more. If the posted wait is above 30 minutes for a ride, consider using the Single Rider line, as the Japanese are not as fond of this.


However, if you time it just right, do your research before you go, plan your route, or just wander around and enjoy the scenery and forget about riding everything, then you will have a great time here. The guests are like the staff, polite and respectful. You will not witness the queue jumping we have experienced elsewhere, or shoving to get to ride the front of a coaster. The Japanese visitors come dressed up as their favourite characters, don a Duffy hat, take endless selfies and are prepared to queue for hours, but they usually do it with enthusiasm and with a smile on their faces. It is similar to how I felt at Warner Brothers Studios - The Making of Harry Potter, which I wrote about in April 2023. Watching guests with such sheer devotion, who go to so much effort, is part of the joy. They will run past you to get the next ride, hoards of them, so unless you are Usain Bolt, forget about outrunning them, grab a branded coffee, ice cream, pizza, popcorn, pretzel or similar, find a bench and enjoy the view. It is quite spectacular.


Gift giving is a common part of Japanese culture and huge attention is given to the wrapping of presents. It’s also lucky to give gifts in pairs, as well as in sets of eight and three. This sees a vast amount of revenue coming through the tills at DisneySea on merchandise in their stores. I've seen guests buying dozens of character key chains for example and they love a tote bag or backpack covered with mini plush characters. All the merchandise at the park is geared to the kawaii and gift giving culture, and it works a treat. It keeps tills ringing, puts smiles on lots of faces, and creates collecting opportunities for new products based on seasonal or celebratory occasions or new and obscure characters.


As for brand advocacy, well I recommend DisneySea to everyone and I remain a huge Disney fan. I would go back tomorrow if I could. I have booked to return to Japan in 2024 and am trying to fit in a return trip, though Studio Ghibli, Harry Potter Studios Tokyo and 3 weeks of other brand's visitor centres might scupper my plans. It truly was one of the best theme park experiences I have ever had, even without riding many of the attractions. A truly wonderful example of experiential design, that resonates not just with the Japanese, but with millions of foreign tourists too. You can't beat a bit of magic in your life.


How long was the visit?

Give Tokyo DisneySea at least a whole day and there is plenty to support visiting for a second day too, if you're that lucky. We visited in the winter season when opening times are shorter, so to optimise your visit you might decide to visit in the summer months. However, the park will then be at its busiest, and hottest, and I would still try to visit on a weekday off-season if you can.


How much are tickets?

We paid for our own tickets and this was not part of any advertising.

You must buy tickets online before your visit and choose a specific date. Tickets go on sale two months in advance and they can sell out.

The easiest way to buy tickets is from authorised partner Klook. You can book on their website or app and then scan into the park directly with the QR code you are given.

You can also buy tickets from the Tokyo Disney website, but international credit cards often don’t work.

The ticket price depends on what day and at what time of year you are visiting. Expect to pay around £50 for a one day ticket, which is much lower than US Disney tickets.


Opening times

It's always worth checking with the venue for their current opening times.

Varying hours, typically from 8:00 to 22:00



Website: Tokyo DisneySea

 

Where we stayed:

We were based in Tokyo for a few nights at the start and end of our trip so used 2 different hotels. Both were good and had larger rooms, that were western in style, with space for our luggage. Both were booked via Booking.com.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza was great as it was so close to the Ginza luxury shopping district.

Nohgo Hotel Ueno was also good and had an art gallery in the lobby.


Getting here:

We always buy multi-day city travel passes for ease.

You can reach Tokyo Disney Resort via the Keiyo line from Tokyo Station. Get off at Maihama Station and it’s only a five-minute walk from there; otherwise, hop onto the Disney Resort Line at the station. There are also direct buses departing from all major train stations in Tokyo (Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Tokyo).

We flew in and out of Tokyo Narita airport with KLM.


What else is there to see close by:

There is so much to do in Tokyo, but here are just a few things we did that you could consider.

Get yourself a Goshuincho book at one of the shrines. Take it with you a see how many goshuin stamps you can collect on your travels. The book is handed over to an attendant and is stamped with the shrine or temple’s name and they add some calligraphy which usually includes the day’s date. It can be a joy to watch and each shrine has its own spiritual symbolism and aesthetic. The stamps serve as proof of

pilgrimage to that location and create a wonderful, meaningful memento. I adore mine.

As for shrines, there are too many to list and I managed at least 10 when in Tokyo alone.

We had a great time up the Tokyo Skytree. We timed it so that we spent some time up there in daylight and then saw sunset and the city drift into darkness, illuminated by millions of neon lights. At 634 meters (2,080 ft) it is the tallest tower in the world. Try and

go on a dry day.

The evening views are breathtaking and you can get great food and cocktails up there too.

The Tokyo National Museum saw us while away a few hours, especially as it was raining. Japan’s first, oldest and largest museum, it displays over 100,000 primarily Japanese artworks and was absolutely stunning.

Next time I am in the city I am planning a trip to the Ghibli Museum, the museum for the Japanese cult animation film studio, that has produced films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.



Visited: December 2019

Photographs: ©Julie White unless noted otherwise


Disclaimer - The views and opinions expressed are solely my own. I paid for the tours in full and any comments reflect my personal experiences on that day. Please drink responsibly. Please visit and garner your own thoughts and feel free to research the brand and the visitor centre in question.



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