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Highlights of My Visit to Tokyo Disneyland

Jen from mydreamcametrue.com in front of Cinderella Castle
Tokyo Disney Resort is home to two world-class theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Because I am a big Disney theme park fan, in 2013 I traveled all the way from the U.S. to Japan primarily to visit these parks. As I researched my trip, I was pleased to read numerous reviews that talked about how unique Tokyo DisneySea is for American Disney park fans. But I was concerned to read reports that Tokyo Disneyland's rides and experiences were "exactly the same" as those at Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida. I've visited the Disney theme parks in the United States multiple times (and they don’t require a transcontinental flight to experience again). I was worried that my visit to Tokyo Disneyland would be a big disappointment.

Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek!

My first order of business at Tokyo Disneyland was to obtain a FASTPASS for Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek, which I hoped wouldn't just be an exact copy of the Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue ride at Disney California Adventure (even though I really enjoy that ride). I wanted to experience something new and different. I checked the standby queue wait time but, even though it was a rainy, mid-June day, there was a 60-minute wait for this popular new ride. When I slid my park ticket into the FASTPASS distribution machine, I was surprised to hear a fun giggly sound effect! My FASTPASS gave me a return time about five hours later.

When I returned to use my FASTPASS, I bypassed most of the queue and quickly jumped into my monster-mobile, which sported a roof that had teeth. Then I entered a ride that was very different from Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue at Disney California Adventure. In the Ride & Go Seek storyline, guests are participating in a game of flashlight tag. Riders use flashlights (attached to the ride vehicles) to find monsters and people hiding in the Monsters, Inc. factory and in Monstropolis. When the flashlight is shone on a hider, the person or monster reveals him or herself. The game felt somewhat similar to Astro Blasters at Disneyland in California and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, but instead of earning points for each hit, the reveal is the reward. During my first ride, playing the game distracted me so much that I didn’t really get to enjoy the ride itself.

Boarding area of Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek
Because FASTPASSES for the Monsters, Inc. ride were already gone for the day, I joined the standby queue for a 45-minute wait to ride a second time. I actually enjoyed my wait because the queue area, which I hadn’t really noticed on my FASTPASS visit, winds through the main lobby of Monsters, Inc. The lobby includes Celia‘s desk, although the desk is unoccupied.
The queue area of Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek
During my second ride, when I boarded my monster-mobile, I left my flashlight in its holster, so I could concentrate on taking in the sights. I did get to see some reveals of hiding monsters, thanks to the players riding before and after me. All of the dialogue was in Japanese, but I was still able to appreciate the experience. Near the end of ride, little Boo said something that I finally understood: “Mike Wazowski!” Adorable!

Watching the “Happiness is Here” Parade

It rained on and off during my entire visit to Tokyo Disneyland. Just as the daytime parade was about to start, the rain started up again. My fellow parkgoers were undeterred by the rain. They lined up along the parade route, and I lined up along with them.

I always enjoy Disney theme park parades. The kid in me loves seeing the characters while listening to the happy parade song. I was eager to see the Japanese version of a Disneyland parade. This parade featured the Tokyo Disney Resort 30th Anniversary Theme Song, “Happiness is Here.” Although the song is sung entirely in English and the characters looked just like the ones back home, the experience really touched me. There I was, thousands of miles from home, standing shoulder to shoulder with people who seemed appreciate the magic of Disneyland just as much as I did! 
  Tokyo Disneyland "Happiness is Here" Parade 
Touring Cinderella Castle

Like many Disney fans, the thought of staying at Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World makes me giddy. I would settle for a tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite but, unfortunately, those aren’t offered to the general public. At Tokyo Disneyland though, self-guided tours of the inside of the Cinderella Castle are encouraged, and they are included with park admission!

I joined a short line outside the castle where we waited for the royal elevator. The elevator whisked us to an upper level of the castle where beautiful rooms held dioramas and other art depicting Cinderella’s story. Some of the dioramas featured moving or changing scenes, similar to those in the Sleeping Beauty walk-through at Disneyland in California. Unlike the Sleeping Beauty walk-through, the rooms in Cinderella Castle weren’t dark hallways lined with stone. Here, they were well-appointed rooms suitable for entertaining important guests, with beautiful windows with stained glass accents that looked out on Disneyland. As I walked though the rooms and looked at the park though the castle windows I couldn’t help feeling like a princess in disguise (dressed in a raincoat, t-shirt, and shorts).
Looking out at Disneyland through a window in Cinderella Castle 
The final room featured a royal throne. I joined other guests who were lined up for the photo op. A Cast Member saw me alone in line and offered to take a photo for me using my camera. I sat on the throne to pose for photos, and the throne responded by sparkling. Then the Cast Member led me over to a painting of the Cinderella’s fairy godmother and suggested that he take a photo of her sprinkling me with fairy dust! He even demonstrated how I might pose! It turned out to be a cute photo.  
Inside Cinderella Castle  
Having Tom Sawyer Island almost to myself

Normally, I wouldn't bother visiting Tom Sawyer Island in the rain but, because my rainy day at Tokyo Disneyland was the only day that I had there, I climbed aboard a raft and set sail for the island. After I arrived and left the immediate raft debarking area, I found myself all alone. At the boarding area, I had picked up an attractive, free map of the island, but dealing with my umbrella and the rain prevented me from actually using it. Unguided, I poked through the quiet tunnels of Injun Joe’s Cave, found a big rock skull that spit water from its orifices, climbed up to Tom Sawyer’s Treehouse, carefully crossed a wet Barrel Bridge and a Suspension Bridge, and found an empty Indian Camp. I saw no people at all during most of my visit to the island, aside from a lone Cast Member who I saw in passing.  

The highlight of my visit to the island was visiting Fort Sam Clemens. In the lower level of the fort was what appeared to be a resting area for the soldiers. Peering inside, I could see the feet of a snoring, sleeping watchman. I climbed up to the fort’s lookout areas and looked through each peephole. One peephole offered one of my favorite views of Tokyo Disneyland. Through the slit-like opening I could see Cinderella Castle in the distance and the Rivers of America. I watched with a broad smile as the Mark Twain Riverboat came around the bend in the river.
 Visiting Fort Sam Clemens on Tom Sawyer Island
The Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise ride itself was very similar to the Magic Kingdom version. But what made my experience of the ride at Tokyo Disneyland special was the tour guide. Our guide was hands-down the most animated tour guide I have ever seen at a Disney theme park. Even though I didn't understand what he was saying, he was absolutely hilarious and completely committed to his character! I almost wondered whether he actually believed that the animatronic hippos would attack us. I only rode the ride once, so I’m not sure whether that guide is the exception or the rule. I can only hope that other Tokyo Disneyland Jungle Cruise tour guides are as animated as he was, and that your experience will be just as memorable.

Astro Blasters

Because the Tokyo-version of Buzz Lightyear’s ride has the same name as the one at Disneyland in California, I was expecting a very similar ride. But Tokyo Disneyland’s Astro Blasters felt completely different from its sister version. The only part that felt familiar was the final confrontation scene with Zurg. Unfortunately, the Tokyo ride did not offer a ride photo that you can email to your friends. If it did, you would see it posted here along with the number of points that I scored during the ride: 0. (After my experience during my first ride on Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek, I decided to leave my space gun in its holster and just absorb the experience.)

Peter Pan’s Flight

This ride was similar to the U.S. versions but, because Peter Pan’s Flight is one of my favorite rides, it was a highlight for me. The one big difference was that the dialogue was in Japanese.

Haunted Mansion

Tokyo's Haunted Mansion ride was very similar to the California version, except that the hallway that is walked through before the ride and the final goodbye moment at the ride exit in the California version are part of the Doom Buggy portion of the Tokyo ride. There was also a cool effect toward the beginning of the ride where a creature of some kind could be seen trying to push its way through a door. The door deformed to the shape of the creature!

Big Thunder Mountain

While the gist of this excellent ride was the same as the California and Florida versions, the execution was a bit different.

Splash Mountain

This ride was similar to the wonderful California and Florida Splash Mountains, however this version of the ride seemed engineered to lightly splash (rather than douse) riders with water.

Splash Mountain ride photo
Although I didn’t eat there, I enjoyed walking through Grandma Sara’s restaurant (located next door to Splash Mountain), which had excellent Splash Mountain theming.

Inside Grandma Sara's restaurant
Pooh’s Honey Hunt

I was really looking forward to this ride because I enjoy the Winnie the Pooh rides at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. This ride is different from those versions and features some fascinating technology: no tracks. The ride vehicles (honey pots) enter various large rooms and perform a sort of dance with one another, presenting different parts of the room to each honey pot. While the trackless ride system is impressive, I get motion sick fairly easily and the occasional backward and spinning movements of the ride vehicles left me feeling very slightly nauseated.

Seeing a Stitch-themed Tiki Room show

The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents “Aloha E Komo Mai!” is the very long name for Tokyo Disneyland's Tiki Room show. The dialogue of this Stitch-themed Tiki Room show was in Japanese, but I was given a small device that provided English subtitles. The subtitle device was somewhat distracting to use, because I had to look away from the action from time to time. The trade-off was that I was able to understand the plot.

I enjoyed the humorous results of Stitch’s mischievous antics in the preshow area and throughout the show, including his blue paint footprints all over the ceiling of the audience waiting area and “Stitch-ears” on the birds. Adorable Stitch made a too-brief appearance toward the end of the show.

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Tokyo version of Pirates of the Caribbean was only ever so slightly different from the California version. It has even been redesigned to feature Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. It has not, however, been altered by concerns about political correctness. In the Tokyo version, pirate men still chase after women, rather than food. The famous song is sung in English, although the ominous warning given after our float through the bayou was in Japanese.

Eating at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall

This elaborately-themed counter-service restaurant feels like the interior of an Alice in Wonderland ride. The meal that I had, a half-chicken with small sides, was very similar to the meal that I had at the upscale table-service restaurant S.S. Columbia at Tokyo DisneySea. They offered attractive unbirthday cakes for dessert.

Inside the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall
Meeting Mickey thousands of miles from home

The final thing that I did at Tokyo Disneyland was to meet The Mouse. Tokyo Disneyland was about 10 minutes from closing when I ran up to the entrance to Mickey’s House. A Cast Member welcomed me inside Mickey’s cute home (similar to the one in California), which I imagine is usually packed with guests. I followed “Meet Mickey” signs, in English and Japanese, all the way to a queue of only about 12 other people.

Minutes away from meeting The Mouse!
After a few minutes, six of us were led into a room where Mickey Mouse waited for us, dressed in his sorcerer’s robe. When it was my turn for a photo, I said to Mickey, “I came a long way to see you here.” He gave me a big hug as the other guests in the group said, “Aww.” I will always treasure that memory.

Me and Mickey!
A "goodnight kiss" from Cinderella Castle

Tokyo Disneyland was technically closed as I made my way into the central hub of Tokyo Disneyland, still high off my meeting with Mickey. The castle was lit so beautifully that I couldn’t resist stopping for a photo. Then, suddenly, music began to play. The castle lighting changed from one color to another. The 30th anniversary decorations on the castle sparkled and glowed.

I stood with about a dozen other people, watching what felt like our own private show. I’m not sure whether this happens every night or only on nights when the fireworks show is cancelled due to rain (as it was on the day of my visit) or whether they were just running some sort of test of the system. Given the low turnout, it felt like something that no one was expecting.
Cinderella Castle during and after the "goodnight kiss"
My Conclusions

Is it worth the price of an international plane ticket to travel all the way from the U.S.A. to Japan in order to go to Tokyo Disneyland? I think, for someone who has been to Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in the U.S. just a few times, the experience at Disneyland in Tokyo would feel fairly similar. However, for a Disneyland fan who has visited the U.S. theme parks enough that they more or less anticipate every moment of their favorite rides, Tokyo Disneyland offers something both welcomingly familiar and refreshingly different. Also, Tokyo Disney Resort is also home to Tokyo DisneySea, a unique Disney theme park that many people consider to be the best theme park in the world.

Note that I spent only one day at Tokyo Disneyland, visiting only the attractions and shows that appealed to me after researching them on Tokyo Disney Resort’s official website. Space Mountain was closed during my visit and Dreamlights Electrical Parade and the fireworks show were cancelled due to rain.

I didn’t limit my trip to Japan to just visiting the Disney theme parks. During my two-week stay in Japan, I saw temples and shrines, hiked, met and fed wild Japanese monkeys and deer, ate traditional Japanese dishes at small local restaurants, and met some of the wonderful people of Japan. These experiences, along with the three days that I spent at Tokyo Disney Resort, made for a wonderfully satisfying trip to Japan, well worth the cost of my flight.  
I did this in 2013 near Tokyo, Japan.

~ Jen (California, USA)

P.S. Read the novel inspired by my trip to Japan. Get your copy of Lost in Tokyo at Amazon.com!


Jen is also known as J.W. Lynne, a best selling author of twelve novels.
Check out her books on Amazon:

THE UNKNOWN: Eight kids learn the shocking reason why they were kidnapped.

ABOVE THE SKY: A girl and boy fall in love in a dangerous world filled with secrets.

WHAT HE DIDN'T TELL ME: A traumatized girl meets a boy with a horrible secret.

IF I TELL: A teen wonders if her father is a serial killer.

: Ten families are locked in a bunker to take a simulated trip to the moon.

WILD ANIMAL SCHOOL: A girl falls in love at an exotic animal ranch.

KID DOCS: An experimental program transforms kids into doctors.

**Not sure which book to choose? Visit our book recommendation page!**

**Jen's books are available on Kindle Unlimited.**

Besides reading books and dreaming up stories to write, Jen's favorite activities are singing along to musical theater soundtracks and hiking in California's beautiful parks.

Find more reviews of Jen's adventures in Japan here.