For avid skiers and snowboarders, a trip to Tokyo is often nothing more than a convenient, yet interesting stop-over point while en-route to the Japanese snow fields.
But for the young at heart, a visit to Tokyo presents a great opportunity to visit many of its other attractions, including the most famous theme park of all, DISNEYLAND. At just over 10 hours from Sydney and 15 hours from Perth, Tokyo Disneyland is a lot closer than its sister resort in Anaheim California (the birthplace of Disneyland).
At 51 hectares and with 43 attractions, Disneyland Tokyo is enormous. Don’t try and do it in anything less than a day, as you’ll just leave disappointed. For me, the most striking feature (and therefore my strongest memory) was the attention to detail. Everything is immaculate – from the gardens, to the paint on the walls, to the architecture (wow, the architecture just amazing). On top of all that, the rides, parades, the attractions and the sheer fun of it all were just a bonus.
In the centre of the park stands a statue of Disney’s creator, Walt Disney. In the words of Walt, Disneyland is a ‘happy place – a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure and feel better because of it’. While staring at his statue, I couldn’t help but think he’d be enormously proud of his creation, which is now lovingly maintained by his disciplined (and very well trained) staff.
If you’re thinking of taking your family to Tokyo Disney this year, either prior to or on the back of your ski trip, do it – you won’t be disappointed. Below is a review compiled by my better half, Rachael, who as a second time visitor (first time Anaheim) and mother, can offer a unique perspective.
When I was a child I was fortunate enough to visit the birthplace of Disneyland, in Anaheim California. I’d always dreamt of taking my children, aged 6 and 8 to Disneyland, but at 20 hours from Perth a trip to California seemed…well, seemed a ‘long way’. So, imagine my joy when I found out we were going to Tokyo and realised it presented an opportunity to visit Disneyland.
Before visiting Tokyo’s version, I was a little concerned it might be an inferior, or a ‘B’ grade cousin to its counterpart in California. However, upon visiting I discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. Tokyo Disneyland is a near duplicate of Anaheim: the rides are the same, the parades are the same, the buildings are the same, as is nearly everything else. It is, however, just that little bit ‘quirkier’ given it is staffed by Japanese, whom bring a friendly, colourful and excitable personality to the attractions (check out this video for instance!).
Tokyo Disney consists of two resorts, Disneyland and DisneySea. You really need two days to explore them both and because we only had a day before we flew out, we chose to visit Disneyland, the original of the franchise. Tokyo Disneyland is just a short 25-30 minute train ride from Tokyo station to Maihama, an area just to the west of Tokyo on the shores of Tokyo bay.
We set out early in the morning from our hotel in Shinagawa and caught a connecting train to Tokyo central. Tokyo station is enormous. We actually underestimated our total travel time because we didn’t take into account the 20 minute walk across Tokyo train station to the platform for the connecting train to Tokyo Disneyland. Otherwise the journey from Tokyo to Maihama is literally 25min from platform to platform. Navigating the stations was straightforward as the signs have English translations (a big bonus).
Exiting the Maihama Station at Tokyo Disneyland there was a huge sign that showed us that DisneySea was to the left and Disneyland to the right. Crossing the walk bridge we could see the official Disney themed hotels, the Disneyland Bus (with Mickey Mouse windows) and the Disneyland Monorail (which takes guests from the hotels to the parks).
On entering Disneyland I was delighted to see all the familiar Disney icons – characters, architecture, rides, gift-shops and landscaping. A Disney theme park is really an enormous stage where a “show” is presented everyday in each of the themed lands. Because of this, the staff are called ‘cast members’ Cast members are incredibly well trained and disciplined, right down to the way they wave at guests (fingers apart, just like Mickey – only with five fingers per hand), the way they wear their hair, and even to the length of their finger nails.
I found myself marveling at the design of Cinderella’s castle with multiple turrets and the lopsided engineering of the buildings in ‘Toontown’. Disney has gone to a huge amount of trouble (and no doubt expense) to create a proper fantasy world. The rail is also impressive, and the fact they have gone for real steam trains (when they could have used electric) is further proof of their commitment to the dream.
A visit to Disneyland of course is not complete without visit to the iconic rides, from Space Mountain (of the 70’s), to the spinning cups, to the roller coasters. The rides are very popular and even with the fast pass (see below), the queues are long and upon first glance can be daunting. However, one thing Disney does really well is queue management. The lines move fast…really fast. From a shuffle to (I swear) a brisk walk. Be warned, though, once you enter the queue there is also no easy way out, so if like us you’ve got kids in tow, and especially if they just finished a large lemonade, make sure you take them to the toilet before entering the queue. We found out the hard way what happens when you don’t 🙂
Some of the rides are more appropriate for kids than others. While both children loved Big Thunder Mountain, the Inspector Gadget Go-Coaster, the Spinning Cups and the Jungle Cruise, our 6 year old found Space Mountain a bit scary. We particularly loved Big Thunder Mountain and it was such a pleasure whooping and laughing with along with the kids as we bolted around the tracks, ducking and weaving as we entered caves and flew over bumps and rollers.
As a family we agreed that our favourite rides were the Western River Railway; Jungle Cruise; Big Thunder Mountain; Space Mountain (a high-speed rollercoaster in the dark); Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; Chip and Dales Treehouse; Inspector Gadgets Go Coaster; Alice’s Tea Party (Spinning Teacups) and Cinderella’s castle (the attention to detail in the castle is amazing).
A great tip for avoiding the queues is to grab yourself a “Fast Pass”. The pass gets you access to the express line of the more popular rides. But you can only access one quick pass at a time. Printed on the quick pass is the time you are eligible to book the next quick pass. This obviously helps with crowd flow, and in my experience is something Disney does very well.
We ate lunch and dinner at two of the large themed eateries, where the kids and dad indulged in the American hotdog plate and later than night, Space Port Pizza. I found the food was quite processed at most of the eating places but of course the kids loved it. This was a bit of a theme across the resort actually: heavily processed American inspired foods, hotdogs, fries, pizzas, popcorn. I understand its all part of the experience, but if you are not into that kind of stuff, then I suggest you take something relatively healthy along with you. Also take plenty of water as the size of the park means lots of walking and thirsty children.
One of the eating highlights was the popcorn. Each of the different ‘lands’ across the Park had a different popcorn cart. Each cart had a different theme and the most unusual one (that was baffling for me to get my head around) was curry flavour. Hard to imagine it as enjoyable. My favourite was the caramel popcorn found in “Toontown”
By the time we walked out of the Park at the end of the day we were all very tired and it was getting cold so we decided to catch a taxi back to hotel instead of the train. Considering our overtired kids, this was a great decision. In all, we had a great time. And as a once in a lifetime experience, the entry price (Y7,400 per adult, Y6,400 for children 12-17 and Y4,800 for children 4-11) was truly worth it. I know the kids had a great time as did my husband, even when he had to carry the children the last kilometer to the taxi after they were too exhausted to walk.
One other tip is take lots of warm clothing. If like us you visited toward the end of winter, the weather during the day was nice (maybe +15 degrees), but when the sun went down it became very cold, very quickly.
If you have any comments of questions please feel free to post below.