By Steve & Tamami Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
We’ll never forget our first visit to Tokyo Disneyland®. It was 1993 when the theme park celebrated its 10th birthday. Since then we’ve made more than a dozen trips over the years to this magical place. We’ve watched it grow and become today’s Tokyo Disney Resort® with the addition of the second theme park, Tokyo DisneySea®, opening in 2001, along with the Resort Line monorail, more hotels, and Ikspiari® shopping mall.
Let’s start our tour where we made our entrance 23 years ago. This elevated gateway to the park welcomes guests arriving by rail from the adjacent Japan Railway (JR East) Maihama Station. The landscape was different in the 1990s when there was no monorail track or Disneyland Hotel (shown in the background of this photo that we made in 2016).
What’s the best time of the year to visit Tokyo Disneyland? While any time is great, Halloween is our favorite. This story highlights our visit last October plus another trip earlier this year, when things slowed down after the New Year’s holiday.
Halloween decorations at the entrance to the park put us in the spirit of the season. Yet the creativity of guests is a sight to behold. Adults are allowed to wear their own “Disney Related” Halloween costumes for two weeks during the season. (There are regulations regarding appropriate attire, so if you’re planning to go and dress up, be sure to read the rules in advance on the Tokyo Disney Resort website.)
World Bazaar (TDL’s Main Street)
We were surprised when this trio of guests wished us a “Happy Halloween” in our video (above) as we walked through World Bazaar to Cinderella Castle.
Tokyo Disneyland’s version of Main Street is called World Bazaar. It’s filled with shops and restaurants, while two side streets offer shortcuts to Adventureland and Tomorrowland.
Notice the Halloween hats in this merchandise display. Two places that we enjoy visiting in World Bazaar are located away from the hustle and bustle of the busy street. The first is the Disney Gallery.
A trip to Tokyo Disneyland isn’t complete without visiting the Disney Gallery. We made this walk-through video (above) during a recent visit. Look for this sign in the second block of World Bazaar on the left; enter the building and walk up the stairs to the second floor entrance.
In addition to exhibiting original artwork (and reproductions), the Disney Gallery offers a variety of collectibles for sale.
Back on the street, we headed toward the central plaza to watch a season-themed parade.
Here’s a brief video highlighting the “Happy Halloween Harvest” parade with the Disney friends in Halloween costumes joining pumpkin characters.
Tokyo Disneyland tends to update live shows, including seasonal parades, every year. We recommend picking up an entertainment schedule and pocket guide at the entrance to the park for the latest information. (They’re available in English.)
Fantasyland (The Haunted Mansion is Here)
The plaza at Cinderella’s Castle is one of the best places to see guests dressed in their own Halloween costumes. The variety and remarkable details of the costumes is amazing.
We had to remind ourselves that these are guests – not cast members. Guests are encouraged to wear their costumes into the park. (It’s fun to ride the Resort Line monorail and see “Snow White” or “Princess Jasmine” from “Aladdin” commuting to the park entrance.)
While it looks like a movie set, this impressive view from the Castle is simply breathtaking. It also highlights the size of Tokyo Disneyland, which is considerably larger than the original Disneyland in California.
In addition to offering another look at Halloween costumes, this video goes through the Castle entrance, for a view of some attractions and shops in Fantasyland.
The Haunted Mansion, located in Fantasyland, is decked out with “Holiday Nightmare” trimmings. It’s a treat to visit on the days that adults can wear Halloween costumes, adding another dimension of fun.
The reason the line looks short in our photo (above) is that these folks were watching the passing parade. As soon as it was over the waiting time returned to normal (about 45 minutes without a “Fast Pass”).
We made this video of the Haunted Mansion (above) to highlight portions of the ride and the “Holiday Nightmare” theme, including narration by the “Ghost Host” in Japanese.
The Haunted Mansion is one of the original attractions at Tokyo Disneyland. If memory serves, the exterior and ride layout is similar to the Mansion at Walt Disney World in Florida. (Tokyo Disneyland was built a decade after the Magic Kingdom opened in Orlando.)
Adventureland (Home of the Pirates)
Join us for an Adventureland walkthrough, including the exterior of Pirates of the Caribbean, in our video (above).
Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t have a New Orleans Square “land” like Disneyland in California. However, this section of Adventureland looks remarkably similar to vintage New Orleans Square – before the Pirates’ ride entrance was modified in Anaheim with a pedestrian bridge.
It’s very dark inside the Pirates ride. So instead of trying to make a video of the whole ride, we include highlights above.
The Pirates ride layout appears to be similar to the Orlando park (there’s one waterfall instead of two). Unlike Anaheim, we disembark before the boats climb up the ramp, returning to the ride entrance.
Desert featured a slice of tasty caramel chocolate mousse cake. The price for one meal was ¥3,800 (about $38.00) with the total for two at ¥7,600 (about $76.00). Of course, there are lower-priced items on the menu.
Tokyo Disneyland offers many dining choices, from hotdogs and popcorn to nice meals like this. Portions are small by American standards, yet that’s something we’re used to after more than a dozen trips to Japan (our managing and contributing editors are Japanese natives).
Join us for a stroll through other areas of Adventureland in this video. The photo (above) shows the entrance to The Enchanted Tiki Room where Stitch presents “Aloha E Komo Mai!”
Join us as we huff and puff up the stairs of the Swiss Family Treehouse in this video and enjoy the view at the top.
The treehouse storyline is similar to the original in California’s Disneyland. The treehouse in Anaheim was modified several years ago when it adopted a “Tarzan” theme.
One of our favorite rides at the California park is the Disneyland Railroad. While the trains at Tokyo Disneyland look similar, the track layout is unique. The Western River Railroad has one station – Adventureland – and travels through parts of Adventureland and Westernland.
Let’s go for a ride on the Tokyo Disneyland Western River Railroad in our video (above). The route is quite different from the American theme parks’ trains.
With the train in Anaheim closed for the construction of “Star Wars Land,” we rode the Tokyo Disneyland Railroad several times. While Tokyo will get several new attractions (see below) it looks like Star Wars land is not coming here anytime soon.
Westernland (A Different Spin on Frontierland)
As the first Disney theme park built outside the U.S., Tokyo Disneyland includes elements foreign to traditional Japanese culture, like the old American West. What better way to enjoy Americana than going for a ride on the Mark Twain riverboat or taking a raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island?
When our editor gets homesick while he’s in Japan, he hops aboard the Mark Twain riverboat. Join us for a full-circle tour around the Rivers of America in this video.
How popular is Tokyo Disneyland? The Oriental Land Company, owners of the Tokyo Disney Resort, post attendance figures on their website. There were 9,933,000 visitors in 1983. By 2014 attendance swelled to 31,377,000, including Disneyland and DisneySea.
Join us for a quick tour of Tom Sawyer Island in this video as we explore the attractions on the island.
Tom Sawyer Island hasn’t changed much over the years. We remember making the journey on our first trip in 1993. The trees have grown yet everything else seems the same. Life runs at a slower pace on the river.
This walking video of Westernland highlights the look of the land including the exterior of Big Thunder Mountain.
It’s interesting that the Country Bears are in Westernland, even though there’s a separate Critter Country section. The only attractions in that smaller area of the park are Splash Mountain and Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes.
Tomorrowland (Changes Coming Soon)
Let’s go for a walk in Tomorrowland at Tokyo Disneyland and see how it reminds our editor of a trip to Florida long ago.
We get a funny feeling whenever we visit the entrance to Tomorrowland. The buildings look similar to the original Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World in Florida in the 1970s. (We know they’re not exactly the same, and things have been updated over the years.)
Watch the “StarJets” spin in our video before this vintage ride disappears in the near future.
Earlier this year, Oriental Land Company announced that “StarJets” will close permanently in autumn-winter 2017 and be demolished. Of course, this makes us sad, yet life goes on.
The pending closure of the Grand Circuit Raceway in Tomorrowland means that this video is the last time we’ll witness the ride in action.
What makes us even sadder is the end of the road for the Grand Circuit Raceway. While the “Autopia” style cars are noisy and the gas engines probably impact air quality, they’re a rite of passage for kids yearning to drive. OLC says the raceway will close permanently in January 2017.
Both of these attractions will be replaced by an extension of Fantasyland and a new “Beauty and the Beast” ride, restaurant and shop, planned to open in 2020. Also on tap is a new Fantasyland indoor theater with seating for up to 1,500. Meanwhile, a completely new attraction based on the “Big Hero 6” film is planned for Tomorrowland.
Toontown (Kids Love It)
Our last video in this story is a brief look at the Toontown area of Tokyo Disneyland.
Toontown, located next to Tomorrowland, is a popular spot for families with small children. With the exception of Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (a bit fast-paced for tiny tots) youngsters can enjoy this area and meet Disney characters in their “houses.”
Goodnight from Tokyo Disneyland (We’ll Be Back)
We’ll be back soon. With 23 years of happy memories visiting Tokyo Disneyland, we’re looking forward to our next trip.
Click 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 © 2015-2016 CarNichiWa.com