By Steve & Tamami Laser reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Note: We updated this story with some new videos from our most recent trip to Tokyo Disneyland in 2017.
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. We continue to update this story with our visits to the park in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
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.
While the storefronts look familiar, the most striking difference is the huge glass canopy structure overhead. It’s been there since the park opened and helps keep the street dry when it’s raining.
Shops are beautifully decorated and filled with souvenirs themed to the season. The most popular items include boxed sets of candy and cookie treats. We enjoy visiting the many shops in World Bazaar with some of them located away from the hustle and bustle of the busy street.
Tribute to the Tokyo Disneyland Gallery
The Disney Gallery on the second floor of World Bazaar has permanently closed. We made this walk-through video (above) during an earlier visit.
In addition to exhibiting original artwork (and reproductions), the Disney Gallery offered a variety of collectibles for sale.
The second-floor location was one of our favorite “secret spots” to relax. It was usually as quiet as a library inside.
Among the items that were sold in the Disney Gallery were these cute figures inspired by traditional Japanese “kokeshi” dolls.
The Magic Shop is Truly Magic
Another favorite is the Magic Shop, located on a side street that connects World Bazaar with Adventureland. it’s easy to overlook when making a beeline to attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean.
In addition to magic tricks, we found some items in the shop that we didn’t see elsewhere in the park.
For example, this neat display of “Star Wars” related items caught our eye. We searched the store and found the packaged souvenirs nearby.
Then we noticed that “assembly is required.” Since we’re all thumbs, we bought several sets to take back home and give to our friend, a huge Star Wars fan.
Halloween is Our Favorite Season
Back on the street, we headed toward the incredibly cool Halloween decorations and festivities.
Here’s our video highlighting the “Halloween Music Festival” activities during October 2017, and some of the themed merchandise inside the shops. We really liked the huge “Mickey-‘o-Lantern” photo opportunity in the center of the street.
Tokyo Disneyland updates 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.)
Decorations at the plaza included this spooky setup of characters carving jack-o’-lanterns. It’s also a nice picture spot for folks wearing costumes.
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.
Our busy editor and photographer (above) stands on the other side of the camera for a rare photo next to the Omnibus that was parked while the Halloween parade was underway in October 2017.
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”).
The line is filled with clever distractions, like this “pet cemetery.” The inscription below the statue states: “Our Duck ‘Skimmer’ – shouldn’t have visited the neighbors before dinner.”
This “Holiday Nightmare” overlay added a nice touch to the Haunted Mansion sign at the entrance to the ride.
We made this video of the Haunted Mansion during our visit in October 2017 (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.)
Fantasyland is filled with other favorites, including It’s a Small World, and classic dark rides like Snow White’s Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is a more modern spin on the dark ride theme with a hidden track system. Changes are in store for Fantasyland in the near future. We’ll cover them in the Tomorrowland section below.
Plenty of plush Poohs are available for adoption in the Pooh Corner shop at the exit to the ride.
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.
We decided to have lunch in one of our favorite restaurants, the Blue Bayou. Once again, the exterior is inspired by the restaurant of the same name in Anaheim.
And it looks similar inside too. We watched the boats pass by and listened to the familiar bayou wildlife soundtrack while dining.
We splurged for lunch and ordered a combo including a choice of soup or salad, entrée, desert, and beverage. We selected the sautéed tilapia with braised vegetables and rice entrée (instead of beef). It was delicious and well prepared.
Desert featured a slice of tasty caramel chocolate mousse cake. Tokyo Disneyland offers many dining choices, from hotdogs and popcorn to nice meals like this.
It’s nice to sit down and relax after a meal. We spotted this group of guests dressed in Halloween costumes taking a break on a nearby bench. (Tokyo Disneyland attracts kids of all ages.)
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!”
Adventureland wouldn’t be complete without the Jungle Cruise. This attraction is quite a bit different from the original in Anaheim.
Let’s go for a ride on the Jungle Cruise at Tokyo Disneyland as we check out some of the unique aspects of this classic attraction in our above video from January 2017.
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.
Another favorite is the Swiss Family Treehouse. 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.
These guys reminded us of a trip long ago to Walt Disney World in Florida. (Tiki culture never goes out of style.) They played a tune with a tropical beat.
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?
The boat docks at this station where passengers wait in a covered area to board. It rains frequently in Tokyo so the shelter is welcome in this part of the park.
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.
We took the time on our visit this year to explore Tom Sawyer Island. It’s been a few years since we made the journey by raft.
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.
Returning to civilization, we walked around the populated areas of Westernland. It was fun to see the Country Bear Theater, an attraction that’s long gone from Disneyland in California.
Check out highlights from the cool Halloween Pop’n Live Parade in our above video from October 2017. We stood across the street from the Country Bear Theater as the parade passed by.
Clever holiday decorations like these grinning pumpkins are hidden in nooks and crannies throughout the land.
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 (and Construction Zone)
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.)
In this photo, these folks in their Halloween costumes look a bit out-of-place in Tomorrowland, but they’re still smiling. (Peter Pan, Wendy and Mr. Smee belong in Fantasyland.)
As we walked closer to Space Mountain, the costumes got wilder. (We’re not sure if it’s even possible to ride the attraction wearing a long and flowing gown.)
Tomorrowland has been updated over the years and includes new favorites like Star Tours. Yet some older classic attractions have recently disappeared to make way for new ones.
Tribute to the StarJets and Grand Circuit Raceway
Watch the “StarJets” spin in our video before this vintage ride disappeared to make way for new attractions.
Oriental Land Company announced that “StarJets” closed permanently in late 2017 and is being demolished. (We knew that was going to happen, so we made the above video on a previous trip.)
The closure of the Grand Circuit Raceway in Tomorrowland means that this video is the last time we’ll see the ride in action.
What makes us even sadder was the end of the road for the Grand Circuit Raceway that closed permanently in early 2017. While the “Autopia” style cars are noisy and the gas engines probably impact air quality, they were a rite of passage for kids yearning to drive.
Here’s a look at some of the construction underway in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland during our trip in October 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 said to be 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.”
Toontown “meet-and-greet” attractions include Goofy’s Paint ‘n’ Play House, Donald’s Boat, and Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse.
As we highlighted in our video, Toontown also offers places to eat, including Huey, Dewey and Louie’s Good Time Cafe, and food carts that sell ice cream treats.
Goodnight from Tokyo Disneyland (We’ll Be Back)
Another trip to Tokyo Disneyland comes to a close as we stop to thank Walt and Mickey before boarding the Resort Line monorail and returning to our hotel.
We’ll be back soon. With 25 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 © 2015-2017 CarNichiWa.com