Time of Year: Summer
Travel Method: Plane, Cab(s)
Accommodations: Standard Room
Ages Represented in Group: Adult
TDL Experience Represented in Group: Rookie (But WDW Veteran and DVC Member)
Comments: This is a wonderful, summary-style report that not only describes the differences between WDW and Tokyo Disneyland, but many of the culture aspects that make traveling to this Eastern-most Disney park so unique. An excellent primer on TDL!
Scott Frey -- September 1998 -- Tokyo Disneyland (Offsite)
I am a Chemical Engineer for a major manufacturing company who has a plant in Shanghai, China. I was asked to lead two projects at this plant and live there temporarily for 3 months. My wife stayed home in Lancaster, PA with our dogs, cat, and the house. It is extremely expensive to fly home, so my company allowed me a few local weekend getaways. As a certifiable Mouse-addict, it was an obvious choice to spend a long weekend in Tokyo with Saturday and Sunday in Tokyo Disneyland.
I travelled alone for this entire trip, so I didn't look for romantic dinners or quiet moments alone. This was an all out Disney Fest for 12 hours a day, 2 days in a row. I was physically exhausted at the end, but I loved every minute.
Accomodations in Tokyo:
Tokyo is VERY expensive. Be prepared to pay for your fun. Luckily I was on expense account and my accomodations, meals, and transportation were covered by my company. There are 5 "official" hotels right next to TDL. They look beautiful, but they are very expensive. They ranged from 28,000 to 40,000 Yen per night ($210 - $300). That was too expensive to put on my expense report, so I found a nice Holiday Inn in downtown Tokyo. It was 17000 ($126) Yen per night, but I got it for 13600 ($100) Yen per night because I am in the Holiday Inn Priority Club. I think that you can sign up for free, and in the US, it usually just means free breakfast and a paper. But I saved 20% on the room rate in Tokyo. This hotel was a great find because it is a 3 minute walk from the Japan Keiyo Rail Line, which is only 15 minutes by train to TDL. The Holiday Inn is fine, so there is really no reason to spend twice as much on a room just to get a little closer.
Tokyo in General:
When you fly into Tokyo, you will more than likely be arriving at the Narita New Tokyo International Airport. Only domestic Japanese flights will go to the more convenient Handea International Airport. Narita is about 1 hour from Tokyo. A cab ride will cost about $200, so most people take the limosine bus, which cost 2900 Yen ($22) One Way. This will take you to the Tokyo City Air Terminal, from which I took a cab for less than 1000 Yen ($8) to the Holiday Inn. Not bad, but it sucks up alot of time.
The exchange rate was 135 Yen =$1 while I was there, but this is fluctuating greatly. Check the exchange rate before you go.
Tokyo Disneyland is basically in the city. For a WDW person, it was a shock to be able to see Cinderella Castle (Yes, they call it Cinderella Castle, not Cinderella's Castle) from the train. But when you are in the park, you can't see the outside world unless you are about to do the big drop on Splash Mountain. It is obvious that the location was chosen for people from Tokyo to make a day trip, rather than a resort vacation like WDW.
Things About TDL that are better than the Magic Kingdom:
- Layout. It is much easier to get around. Basically, Main Street (Called World Bazaar) is in the form of a Cross. You can go straight to Cinderella Castle, or you can go right to Tomorrowland, or left toward Adventureland. This makes it alot easier to get out of the park after the fireworks. You just do an end around and sneak out the back way, rather than head straight down main Street.
- Big Thunder Mountain. It was faster, smoother, scarrier (more dark tunnels). I loved it. It was my favorite ride there. And it is not even in my top 5 in the Magic Kingdom (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Pirates Of The Carribean, Alien Encounter).
- Parade Behavior. Let me tell you, the Japanese LOVE a parade. They were lining up 3 hours before the nightime parade was about to start. Most everyone had a mat with them, which they would lay on the street to reserve their space. They would then nap there or eat dinner until the parade started (I know I don't have that much patience). By the time the parade started, the people were about 20 deep, and they were all sitting on the ground. This made the parade much easier to view for children.
Things About TDL that are not as good as the Magic Kingdom:
- Most of the "talking" in Attractions is in Japanese. Hearing the Pirates sing in Japanese is OK for Japanese, but it doesn't cut it for me. I might point out that 99.9% of all the people there were Japanese. Honey I Shrunk The Audience and Timekeeper had headphones with English and Chinese translation. They call these attractions Micro Adventure and Visionarium, respectively. Don't ask me why. I also passed on Small World and the Tiki Room. Those attractions get annoying in English, and I figured that it would be unbearable in Japanese! (I have not seen the new, updated Tiki room, so the annoying comment refers to the old Tiki room.)
- Entry. The park opens at 9am, and they don't even begin to take tickets until then. So there are about 5000 people at the gate trying to get in. WDW soes it much better by taking tickets and letting you wait for the rope drop. And I also love it when WDW actually drops the rope 30 minutes before its scheduled opening to lessen the crowds.
- Main Street being covered. Tokyo is very rainy, so they covered all of Main Street. I guess its good if it is raining, but it took alot of the cheeriness out of Main Street.
General Differences Between The Parks:
- There were a few rides that they have in TDL that aren't in the Magic Kingdom. There was a ride called Pinocchio's Daring Adventure, which was a kiddie ride like the late Mr. Toad. Nothing special here from an adults perspective. Star Tours is located in Tomorrowland. The Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland. They have Westernland instead of Frontierland. They have also added a land called Critter Country and that is where Splash Monuntain is located.
- TDL has its own, unique nighttime parade called FANTILLUSION. It was a really cool parade cut out of the Spectromagic mold. There were 3 segments to it. The first one was a flower garden theme. The second (my favorite) was a villain theme. And the third and final was the hero theme. Each segment would stop at a specific point and then they would perform to 2 songs in front of you. It was really good. I personally like Spectromagic better, but I hope that they send this parade to the USA sometime, because everyone would enjoy it.
- Starlight Magic is their version of Fantasy In The Sky Fireworks. It was AWESOME. It started out with flashing lights in the castle to classical music (ala IllumiNations) and then Fireworks shot OUT OF the castle to Classical music. That REALLY surprised me. It was so cool. Then at one point, during a dark, minor segment, HUGE FIREBALLS shot out of the stone ballasts sitting in front of the castle. The heat was intense! It was the single most memorable thing about the trip, and the main reason I stayed to see the show again the second night. I hope my pics turn out. Finally, they shot off some regular fireworks off to the side of the castle.
First off, let me make everyone aware that I am not an adventurous eater. I looked at TDL as a chance to get some American foods that I havent had in months, so I did not try much that was Japanese.
- Mickey Waffle: There is a Great American Waffle Company Restaurant there that serves Mickey Waffles ALL DAY, and there is a line ALL DAY (Usually about 10 minutes). But I love the Mickey Waffle, so it was well worth the wait. They also servedpita bread sandwiches there. And it was the only place in the park that had American style Iced Tea.
- Fast Food: There are various places to get Burgers, Dogs, Fries, and Pizza (Although with funky toppings: Bacon & Pineapple, Sausage & Green Pepper, Chicken & Mushroom, and Seafood - NONE of which appeal to me. I can't believe you cant get a plain pizza there!).
- Smoked Turkey Leg: Yes, they do have one of the best things about WDW: The Smoked Turkey Leg. It tastes just like home.
- Sit Down Restaurants: These were all Japanese Food. Sushi, Tempura, and other traditional Japanese food.
- Prices: Food was not any more expensive in TDL than in the MK, and I actually think it was cheaper. The Turkey Leg was about $3.50 and a mickey waffle with chocolate sauce was about $2.75. I think that those prices are cheaper than in the MK.
They are adding a second theme park right next to TDL called Tokyo DisneySea. They had a whole display about it. Basically it is themed on the ocean and will have 7 distinct ports of call (Lands). It is scheduled to open in 2001. There will be 21 main attractions and 20 are being designed from scratch for this park. I think they are going to build an updated version of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which would be the non-original one. There will also be a 2000 unit hotel room located INSIDE the park. Pretty cool, eh???
All in all, TDL is a great place. But there is currently no reason to go to Japan specifically for TDL. WDW has so much more to offer. 2 days at TDL was plenty. However, if you are in Tokyo with some time to spare, definitely head over to TDL. It is a worthwhile experience.
If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be more than happy to help you out.