At the “Happiest Place on Earth” … Tokyo’s DisneySea

Although I wouldn’t call myself a huge “Disneyphile”, I must admit that Disney has been a large part of my life growing up. I watched all the Disney movies growing up, imagining myself as Belle or Mulan, a girl with spunk who eventually lives happily ever after. Every year, we took a road trip from San Francisco down to Anaheim where I could ride Space Mountain and get my hugs with Mickey. And although I now prefer traveling where I can see natural beauty and real castles, not replicated, squeaky clean ones for show, Disney will always have a special place in my heart. I’d also heard some great things about Tokyo DisneySea, one blogger even calling it “Disney’s Best Park.” So when in Tokyo, my curiosity won out and we made a trip to Tokyo’s DisneySea.

As it is in Paris, Tokyo’s DisneySea (and Tokyo Disneyland for that matter) is very easy to get to by public transportation. We took the JR Keiyo Line to Maihama station, and then followed the signs (and the mass of people) to the Disney Resort Line. This line takes the Pasmo and Suica IC cards which makes it easy to deduct the 260 yen fee from the card’s balance. The minute that you step on the Disney Resort Line platform, you feel that you’re now on Disney property.

Now for the park itself, with all the hype that I’d heard, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It possibly has to do with my own expectations of what a Disney theme park should be like – with a Disney castle and a Main Street greeting you as you enter the park and Disney-themed characters all over. DisneySea didn’t have a castle and the Disney characters were there, but few and far between. Maybe with my expectations, Tokyo Disneyland would have been a better visit for me. But despite my disappointment, I must say that DisneySea overall was a very nice theme park, one that truly did transport us to different lands.

The first “land” that we visited was the Mediterranean Harbor. Of all the lands, this one truly impressed me the most. I felt completely transported back to Venice, with its colorful buildings and long canals.

The next land that we came across was the American Waterfront. They have an excellent music show here called the Big Band Beat. There’s live singing and dancing by an excellent team of Disney characters and real people. I’d heard that this was one of the most popular shows in the park so we lined up here about 30 minutes before the first show of the day and we were able to get in without a problem.

Entrance to the theatre housing “Big Band Beat”
I found this Tower of Terror attraction to be much more elaborate then its American or French counterparts. There’s a different storyline here that has nothing to do with the Twilight Zone. I hate these type of rides that drop you in a terrifying way. But sometimes I get dragged onto it. Every. Single. Time.
It’s almost like being back in the US, if you were in the US in the 1930’s.

There’s a large lake in the middle of the park (hence the name “DisneySea”, I guess), with the Mediterranean Harbor on one side and Mysterious Island on the other.

Mysterious Island, which houses one of the most popular attractions in the park, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Sadly, this ride was under construction when we were there.

DisneySea: The Food

There’s no way that I could go through a Japan post without talking about food, right? As to be expected with any Disney theme park, the food was very expensive, but surprisingly also very good. The thing I liked about DisneySea is that there truly is a variety of cuisines to choose from, which makes eating here fun. (This is in contrast to the Disney theme parks in Paris where it’s mostly mediocre American food.) We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant located in what looked like the inside of a volcano fortress.

Waiting in line for Chinese food at Vulcania Restaurant
I had a cold pork noodle dish that was surprisingly very good! And you can’t beat a piece of seaweed with Mickey on it!
And for dessert, a Mickey-shaped almond pudding with mango

We skipped dinner in lieu of riding as many rides as we could before closing. But we definitely weren’t left hungry as there were excellent snack carts throughout things that I would definitely never see at a Disney park in the US (or in France).

Although this looks like a donut, it’s actually a variation on the popular Ukiwa bun, with chicken teriyaki inside. It was steaming hot and delicious!

The park really lights up at night, showcasing itself in a different light, quite literally!

A Few Observations…

The Japanese love cute things. So being in a Disney park, where everything is designed to be cute, the Japanese kind of go a little overboard. Previously, I’d been used seeing children dressed up at Disney theme parks. At DisneySea, the adults (girls AND guys) were all dressed up! If they weren’t dressed up, they were either carrying a Disney stuffed animal with them or had one strapped to their elbow (yes, that’s a thing). Duffy (the stuffed animal of Mickey), a character that hasn’t really taken off too much at other theme parks, was a HUGE deal here, with whole shops devoted to this bear and his friends.

Another thing that I noticed was that the employees (or I think they call them “cast members”?) were really friendly. Like over-the-top friendly. I mean, cast members at all Disney theme parks are nice, but these people took it to the next level. Every time we walked by a cast member, they smiled and waved at us and said, “Welcome” and at the end of the day, “Thank you for coming!” The first time they did that, I thought that they were waving at someone behind me. It took a few times to realize that they were waving at me! It was almost like being at a park full of your friends. Except…

Don’t try to get into a popular ride right before closing. We really wanted to go on Soaring: Fantastic Flight, a new ride that had just opened in DisneySea. I’d been one time before in California Adventures aeons ago, but I’d heard that they’d made significant improvements. The only thing was that there was a 2 hour (!!) wait for most of the day. So we decided to do it at the end of the day, when the lines would be shorter. My friend Pat, the Disney expert, said, “As long as we get there by 9:45pm, they’ll let us in the ride.” (The park closes at 10pm.)

Well, I guess that doesn’t work at the Japanese theme parks. We got to Soaring at 9:15pm, a whole 45-minutes before closing. We get to the line and the “cast member” let the people in front of me in, and then pulled the rope closed right in front of me! She said (with a smile of course, because this is still Disney after all), “I’m sorry, this ride is closed.” We were a bit indignant, and we took it up with another “cast member” who was standing nearby (the previous one had run away). Although he said a few “I’m sorry”s politely with a smile, he finally gave in and let us in. Soaring is in a room with about 100 people at a time, and the room was half full, so it wasn’t like they had to keep the ride open longer for us. So I’m not sure why they had too make such a (polite) stink about not letting us in, 45 minutes before closing. Oh well. Just keep that it mind, if you’re ever visiting one of the Tokyo Disney parks. I know I will!

Overall, although it wasn’t the Disney experience that I was used to, we still had a nice time here. I don’t know if I’d come back to DisneySea, but I’m happy that we went!

Coming up next… I’m visiting other parts of Japan. First stop, Himeiji Castle!

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