By Steve & Tamami Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Update: We posted some new videos in this story from our most recent trip to Tokyo Disney Resort.
There are so many wonderful places to visit and things to do in Japan, why do we spend our precious vacation days visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort®? Because the twin parks, Tokyo Disneyland® and Tokyo DisneySea®, are remarkably beautiful, conveniently located, and always make us smile.
We took this photo at the entrance to Tokyo DisneySea theme park from the Resort Line monorail station. The main entrance to the park, just to the right of the Aquasphere globe, goes underneath the Hotel MiraCosta. The group of buildings that looks like a slice of Italy is the artfully camouflaged hotel.
In this first story of a three-part series, we highlight our favorite airlines, hotels, and transportation to and around TDR. We’ll also take a look at the Tokyo Disney Resort Line monorail and Resort Cruiser bus. With more than 15 trips to Japan over the years, we’ve spent nearly 100 days visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort – so we know our way around.
We (Frequently) Fly to Japan – And Ride the Bullet Train (Shinkansen)
As frequent travelers to Japan, we always have our passports ready and keep a stash of Japanese Yen (paper notes and coins) in our travel bag.
We’ve flown more than 200,000 miles to and from Japan over the years on most major airlines. Our favorite is Japan Airlines (JAL). We like the outstanding customer service (“omotenashi”), tasty meals, and opportunity to watch Japanese movies. A nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) takes about 11 hours. (The return trip is usually quicker thanks to the jet stream.)
Join us onboard Japan Airlines as we fly from Los Angeles International Airport to Narita in Japan. We’ve flown most major airlines to Japan and rate JAL as our top choice for customer service.
When headed to Tokyo for business or pleasure, we often fly to Narita International Airport (NRT). More international flights are also landing at Haneda Airport (HND), which is closer to the heart of Tokyo.
The Tokyo Disney Resort is located on scenic Tokyo Bay in Urayasu. We make the 90-minute trip from Narita on an airport bus, like the one above, that takes us to our hotel.
Let’s go for a ride on the Bullet Train in our video above as we travel from Tokyo Station to Nagoya Station at speeds up to 162 miles per hour (260 kph).
If we’re starting our visit in other cities, like Kyoto or Nagoya, we fly to Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, or Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO) in Nagoya. Then, when we’re ready to go to Tokyo, we take the Hikari Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo Station, transfer to the local Keiyo Line, and arrive at Maihama Station, next to the Tokyo Disney Resort.
Tokyo Disney Resort Line Monorail – And Resort Line Cruiser
Once we’ve checked into our hotel (see our favorites below) the Tokyo Disney Resort Line monorail offers the easiest and most scenic way to get around the resort. Three of the “Disney” hotels have monorail stations nearby. Resort line tickets, including multi-day passes, are available at the stations.
In this video, we take a closer look at the Resort Line Monorail and the four stations that it stops at while circling the Tokyo Disney Resort: Gateway, Disneyland, Bayside and DisneySea.
The monorail opened with the major expansion of the resort in 2001 along with DisneySea. It’s a welcome addition since Disneyland and DisneySea main gates are separated by quite a long distance.
Each station in the Resort Line has a different theme. The Tokyo Disneyland Station is inspired by the Victorian era look of the World Bazaar (Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Main Street USA). The other stations are named Tokyo DisneySea, Resort Gateway, and Bayside.
The Resort Gateway is located inside “Ikspiari®” (pronounced like the first three syllables in “experience,”) a huge indoor mall filled with restaurants, shops, and movie theaters. It’s also the closest stop to JR Keiyo Line’s Maihama Station, part of Japan’s excellent light rail system.
The Resort Line Monorail cars are remarkably spacious and offer lounge-style seating. There’s enough headroom to ride standing up, if all the seats are taken.
The Disney Resort Cruiser offers a pleasant ride from the Resort Line stations to the three “Disney” and six “Official” hotels (the photo shows it arriving at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay). These modern buses are styled with a nifty retro theme.
We check out the Resort Cruiser in this video while it’s parked at Bayside Station and then climb aboard for a short ride. The Cruisers are beautifully detailed inside and out with eye candy including a chrome “Mickey” ornament on the front.
Each bus is loaded with “Hidden Mickeys.” We spotted them on the taillights, side marker lights, exhaust pipe, front ornament and windows.
This is a good spot to mention that the Oriental Land Co. Ltd. (OLC), owns the Tokyo Disney Resort and operates the Disney brand facilities, including Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, under license from Disney Enterprises, Inc. OLC also owns the three “Disney” hotels we highlight below, the Resort Line, Ikspiari indoor mall, Bon Voyage store, and Maihama Amphitheater.
Three “Disney” Hotels – MiraCosta, Disneyland, and Ambassador
There are plenty of places to stay in the sprawling Tokyo metropolis. We often choose a Tokyo Disney Resort hotel because it’s easy to visit both theme parks. It also serves as our home base in Tokyo while we’re in town to cover the Tokyo Motor Show or Tokyo Auto Salon for CarNichiWa.com.
In our opinion, the top hotel at the resort is the Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta®. It’s like staying in the theme park because it serves as the entrance to DisneySea (above). This beautiful old-world Italian-themed hotel opened with the theme park in the major 2001 resort expansion.
We take a walk around this amazing fountain in our video above. It’s located at the entrance to the Hotel MiraCosta, which many visitors to the DisneySea theme park overlook. It’s the bus, taxi, and automobile drop-off entrance to the hotel.
MiraCosta offers fine dining available to anyone, yet reservations may be needed. We ate at the Bellavista Lounge (above) which offers tasty meals plus this spectacular view of DisneySea Mediterranean Harbor and the towering Mount Prometheus.
The MiraCosta lobby is filled with ornate details like this bronze galleon with “Mickey” onboard. The hotel has about 500 guest rooms, plus five banquet halls. This is an extremely popular hotel, so reservations should be made months in advance of a trip. (Since this hotel is pricey, we’ve stayed for a day or two and then moved to another hotel for the remainder of our week-long trip.)
MickeyAngelo Gifts offers unique MiraCosta merchandise that’s generally not available in the theme park.
Another top-choice is the appropriately named Tokyo Disneyland® Hotel. The newest hotel at the resort opened in 2008 as the third “Disney” hotel. This nine-story structure offers 705 guest rooms, three restaurants, and four banquet rooms.
It too is beautifully detailed throughout, and is conveniently located within walking distance to the Tokyo Disneyland entrance. It’s a nice place to relax and have lunch or dinner away from the hustle and bustle of the theme park.
Our video offers a quick look at the beautifully decorated lobby of the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel.
The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel shares its Victorian style architecture with the World Bazaar, Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Main Street U.S.A. It’s also visible from some areas of the park so it’s important that it “blends in” to the environment nicely.
We spotted this statue of Mickey dressed in his finest to welcome guests to the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Like the MiraCosta, the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is incredibly popular so room reservations need to be made well in advance of a trip.
The Disney Ambassador® Hotel was the first Disney brand hotel to open at the Resort in 2000. It’s a long walk to the Resort Line monorail station through the adjacent Ikspiari mall, so we frequently used the Cruiser bus to get to the theme parks.
Although he’s a little tough to photograph, Mickey is in the lobby of this hotel too, posing with an old-fashioned movie camera.
There’s a nice memorabilia display at the Ambassador that traces the history of the Disney company from Mickey in the 1920s to the first theme park, Disneyland, that opened in 1955 in Anaheim, Calif.
Tokyo Disney “Official Hotels” – Affordable Alternatives are Conveniently Located
As much as we like the three “Disney” hotels, they’re a bit pricey and usually sell out quickly in peak periods. That’s why we’ve shifted our stays lately to the “Official Hotels” of the Tokyo Disney Resort. What does that mean? Most of these hotels were built in the early days of the resort in the 1980s when Tokyo Disneyland was the only attraction here.
The major advantages in booking them now include the convenient location on the bay between Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, close proximity to the Bayside Resort Line Monorail station, and the fact that they offer attractive rates and can often be reserved through popular independent travel websites.
Here’s our video review of the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay (above) including a look at our room in the new Park Wing that included spectacular views of Tokyo DisneySea and the Resort Line monorail.
The hotels include the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay (below view shows the dining area and outdoor pool), Hilton Tokyo Bay, Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay, Sunroute Plaza Hotel, Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel, and Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel Club Resort.
While we’ve stayed at most of these, our recent favorite is the Sheraton. We spent a week there last year, and two more weeks this year.
The Sheraton is a large hotel that gained a new addition in anticipation of increased traffic for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. During our most recent trip, we stayed in a room in the new Park Wing with an excellent view of DisneySea and the nightly fireworks display.
Another benefit of staying at either “Disney” or “Official” hotels, including the Sheraton and Hilton (above) is the ability to purchase theme park tickets at the front desk. There’s no need to stand in long lines at the parks. Multi-day passports are available for added convenience.
Ikspiari and Bon Voyage – Shopping and Dining Paradise
We often spend time visiting Ikspiari, the incredible shopping mall and entertainment complex. It can be reached on foot from Tokyo Disneyland, yet an easier way to get there is to ride the Resort Line Monorail to the Resort Gateway station that’s attached to Ikspiari.
The Bon Voyage store is located between Ikspiari and Maihama Station. It’s especially popular with locals and day visitors since it offers many of the merchandise items sold inside the theme parks.
While we were window shopping in Bon Voyage, we looked up at the ceiling and noticed it was decorated with “Hidden Mickeys.”
Speaking of Mickey, we’re often amazed at the variety and attention to detail of the plush toys available at the Tokyo Disney Resort keyed to holidays in Japan.
The gift items on sale in this display are created especially for the annual Hinamatsuri festival in Japan, also known as “Girl’s Day.” We couldn’t resist and bought the candy set on the upper shelf.
Disney characters can be found on virtually every garment (and undergarment) worn in Japan. These socks made us laugh (as we filled our basket with them and proceeded to the cash register).
Ikspiari also features a Disney Store along with many other shops and boutiques. While we know our way around this giant complex, maps in multiple languages are available to help visitors locate shops, restaurants and theaters.
Speaking of tasty, Ikspiari is one of our favorite places to dine outside the parks and hotels. There’s a wide variety of restaurants and fast-food shops inside the multi-story mall. This dinner set from a third-floor restaurant included fish, rice, vegetables and miso soup. It was absolutely delicious (oishi katta desu).
While the phrase is certainly overused, “jumbo shrimp” applies to this dish. They were huge, tender, expertly fried, not greasy, and gone in a flash. We washed them down with miso soup and ocha (green tea).
We were in a hurry the next day, so we went to the bottom floor where there’s a market, food court and several fast-food outlets. This packaged sushi was expertly prepared the Japanese way. The fish was thick with large slices and the rice was small underneath.
Click or tap on the links below for our additional Tokyo Disney Resort stories.
Notes: Photographs and videos in this story are original and made by the editorial staff of CarNichiWa.com for editorial use (news reporting). Characters, music, artwork, and associated material in these photographs and videos may be copyrighted by other parties, including the Walt Disney Company, Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Oriental Land Co. Ltd. Information in this story is deemed to be accurate at the time of publication yet is subject to change without notice.
Story, photos and videos © 2016-2017 CarNichiWa.com