As I began writing this, it was two days into my Tokyo Disney excursion. My feet were throbbing, not because of how much I walked, but because of all the standing in lines I’ve had to do. This is a feeling I’m all too familiar with in the land of dreams and magic, or whatever they say.
Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1983 and according to this article, the resort as a whole brought in 30.1 million people in 2017. Full disclosure: I am no stranger to Disney theme parks. The first time I went I was too young to even remember, and I’ve gone countless times since to both California and Florida locations with my family. Given that I’ve never been to Tokyo until now, the Tokyo Disney Resort was a whole new experience for me. The parks within the property include Disneyland and DisneySea. With my mom and sister joining me after the end of the study abroad program, we ventured to Tokyo Disneyland.
Disneyland is much like the Magic Kingdom parks you would find in California and Florida. They include slightly different renditions of classics I know and love like It’s a Small World and Space Mountain. I really enjoyed seeing the variations from their American counterparts. It’s a Small World looked more colorful, and the animatronic children were more kept up with than what I’ve seen at the American parks. Space Mountain felt more intense than its American counterpart, even though it’s still a rollercoaster in a pitch-black room. Strangely, the main thing I noticed from that ride was the fact that absolutely nobody was screaming. In fact, everyone’s reactions were absolutely silent, which I had never experienced before, especially on a speeding roller coaster.
I was also able to ride on completely new and unfamiliar attractions like Monsters Inc. Ride-and-go-Seek. My sister and I love the Monsters, Inc. movie and enjoyed the concept of an arcade game ride. The premise was to shine a flashlight on the monsters’ helmets and have them pop out from their hiding spots. The ride didn’t keep score, so we just found it to be cute, fun and noncompetitive. The night before we left, we rode Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, a trackless ride in honeypot through the Hundred-Acre Wood. I didn’t think it was possible, but so many details of the ride blew me away. An entire portion of the attraction mimicked Tigger’s point of view by hopping up and down, rooms transformed right before my eyes, and Pooh’s dream sequence honestly tripped me out. Not to mention, seeing these beloved characters speaking Japanese was also kind of amazing.
The next day we went to DisneySea. The intricate details in the architecture and decoration of the park impressed me. Even something as simple and mundane as a water fountain was extremely on brand. Opened in 2001, DisneySea boasts the largest body of water at a Disney-affiliated amusement park. As soon as we got there, we tried seeing a big band jazz show that was hyped up by numerous people (allegedly Mickey Mouse plays the drums). They had a strange lottery system where you had to scan your ticket and win admission into the venue. Sadly, it wasn’t our lucky day.
Many attractions at this park stuck out with me including Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. The boat ride lasted for a whopping 11 minutes and included a super catchy song. A line with a wait time of nearly 3 hours wrapped around a sign that read “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” I didn’t have that kind of time, so I woke up early and was able to snag a fast pass for the ride. It was more loosely based on the 2008 movie starring Brendan Fraser than the 1864 novel it originated from. The ride included a prehistoric lava behemoth and sped up into a thrilling roller coaster that gave me a small jolt of energy after my nap.
One more thing to mention is that the food was pretty good for an amusement park. We chowed down on pizza, teriyaki burgers with a Chinese-style bun shaped like Mickey mouse’s glove, and popcorn from one of the many flavored popcorn stands. The lines were pretty outrageous, but I tried honey, caramel, and my personal favorite, curry flavored popcorn.
All in all, these parks not only provided familiarity, but also new experiences I will forever cherish. Tokyo Disney had the cleanest and most organized parks I have ever seen. The U.S. unfortunately does not compare in the slightest. The language barrier challenged me the most out of any place I had been to in Japan thus far, but it was only a small obstacle in the grand scheme of things. I’ll always remember the intricacies I observed in the rides and atmosphere of the entire resort. I can say with all honesty that this was the happiest place in Japan, and quite possibly the whole world.