Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Tokyo Disney Resort - A summary...

My blog on Japan stopped just as we reached Disney because I was too tired to blog at the end of our long Disney days and everyday life has got in the way since our return!

These are our thoughts on Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR). The information is in no particular order. Hopefully it will be helpful to future visitors. It wasn't as easy planning for and gathering information on TDR compared to the American parks. Our posts on our actual days at the parks will be backdated so those following our blog can follow on. They will hopefully be updated sooner rather than later!

So nine months later, here goes...

Tokyo Disney Resort has 2 parks - Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) and Tokyo Disneysea (TDS). Both are reasonably sized parks. Disneyland is a variant of the Disneyland at LA, Magic Kingdom at Orlando and HongKong and Paris. However, there are rides that are unique to Tokyo. Disneysea is unlike any other Disney park. Visually stunning and the theming is phenomenal. One of the few parks geared for young adults but the Japanese young act like children anyway...definitely worth a visit. In my opionion the best Disney park out of the lot world wide.


There are 4 Disney Hotels (a "value" hotel just opened in June 2016), and then official hotels and partner hotels. The 4 Disney hotels are closest to the parks, and the official hotels and the partner hotels are on the monorail line that serves/goes around the parks. With little ones, this will save you a lot of time from travelling to and from Tokyo itself. This map might be helpful for general orientation. The full list of hotels is available on the Disney website. As to where to stay depends on:

  1. Budget 
  2. How prepared you are to travel to save money
  3. How much value you put into service and convenience
  4. How big a Disney fan you are!

The Disney Hotels are HIGHLY popular. You have to make a reservation right on the day 6 months before your check in date! Online reservations open 12am Japanese time. You can also ring to make a reservation. The Disney hotels run on an occupancy rate of something ridiculous like 98%. What I'm trying to say is...that there is never any last minute discounts. You have to decide whether or not you want to stay there and book if you do. They are also expensive. The most expensive and the most popular is the Hotel Miracosta (also the most beautiful!). It is located within the DisneySea park with its own entrance into the park. We stayed there because we are Disney Freaks...and also paying a fortune (close to $600 per night!) Rooms for 5 at the official hotels was going to cost us around $550 per night...

The official hotels include Sheraton and Hilton, if you have points, then this may be a good option. Being a big chain, they are some of the few hotels that do have bigger rooms. The Sheraton has special rooms for 5 that you can only book via calling or via email but they are more expensive than rooms for 4. The other benefit to these hotels is occasionally on expedia or their own websites, prices can drop momentarily! If you can be bothered stalking, then you may be rewarded with a bargain. Also unlike many other Japanese hotels, their rooms are actually available for booking more than 3 months in advance. It may be a good idea to book a refundable room at one of these hotels as a back up regardless.

The benefits of staying at a Disney Hotel in Tokyo is not as extensive as those in the US or in Paris:

  1. You get to enter 15 minutes earlier than the general crowd. This might not seem like much but the Japanese RUN as soon as they enter! (The only park in the world that this is allowed. Its actually quite an amazing sight to see usually polite Japanese sprinting). In other words, as soon as the parks open, the rides get saturated quickly and so lines build up faster than the other parks around the world. You'll get 1 or 2 rides without wait with early entry, or be first to get the fastpasses for coveted rides and this sets you up for the rest of the day.
  2. You can get your merchandise delivered to your room. This might be handy when busy as usually the better time to shop is earlier in the day but then you have to carry it around...they usually open the shops for another 30 min after parks close and the Japanese LOVE their merchandise (as do I! They have a lot of unusual and cute things). So the shops are PACKED towards the end of the day. So if you can shop earlier and then have it delivered you don't have to lug it around the park.
  3. You can get "hopper" tickets that are different to the ones usually sold. The norm of a 3 or 4 day ticket is - Day 1 - nominate one park to visit Day 2 - nominate one park to visit Days 3-4 - you can move from one park to the other. If you stay at a Disney hotel, you can buy tickets which let you "hop" from Day 1 at only a little more than the normal multi day ticket. But I personally don't think this is worth it as you will need 1 full day at each park anyway.

Timing and Length of Stay

How many days? I would recommend 3 or 4 depending on how "commando" you want to attack the parks and the time of year. If you are travelling with little ones or if it is your first time, I would recommend 4, especially if you are staying onsite. You can go back to the hotel, have a short rest and then go back again in the late afternoon/evening. You will need a minumum of one full day per park. So if you knew what you were doing, it can be done in 2. When I went "solo" in May, I was at Disney from 9am until 11pm! And I didn't get to finish seeing everything...and I had a Japanese expat with me getting me fastpasses whilst I watched shows. This will also allow for some shopping time and to watch the shows and parades. The Japanese ones are of very high quality.

You can buy the tickets online before you go, or purchase them at your hotel if you stay onsite.

As for when to visit, TDR Explorer has an excellent run down on the best times to visit and the times of the year to avoid. This crowd calendar may also be handy to help you fine tune your visit and your touring plans for the parks.


Sit down dinners are a lot more expensive than sit down lunches in Japan and this holds true within the Tokyo Disney Resort as well. The Disney parks has some nice restaurants in them. Their set lunches are actually decent value. I paid around $30 for a 3 course meal at the "secret cellar" at Magellan's. other words, we would suggest having a nice meal at lunch and quick over the counter meals for dinner! It is probably helpful as you can take a "break" in the middle of the day while eating lunch so you're not wasting "down" time :)

We recommend going for the below and then winging it for other meals based on where you are and what you feel like:

Tokyo Disneyland
Meals - The popular ones are - Queen of hearts (theming),  Hungry Bear Cafe (good value. Need to like Jap curry!), Blue Bayou (inside Pirates of the Caribbean - much like other ones in other parks). Only Blue Bayou needs reservation. If you go for any sit down meals (same principle applies in TDS) make it lunch if you can.
Snacks - Look out for interesting and unusual snacks! eg pizza spring roll, Donald Burger (ebi burger), Mickey hand pao (roast chicken pao), little green men mochi, and of course various flavoured pop corns (remember some flavours are only available in one park and not in the other!)

Tokyo Disneysea
Meals - The popular ones are - Ristorante Di Canaletto (theming - you'll really feel like you're in Venice!),  Magellans (good food, reasonable value). These two will need reservations. Casbah's is counter service venue and need no reservation.
Snacks - Again look out for interesting and unusual snacks! An example is Chandhu tails which can be found in Arabian Coast. I won't spoil the others. Have fun finding and trying all the various offerings! The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge (in the big ship!) is a lovely way to wind down in the evening for an ice-cream/drink. Don't be put off by the lines. They usually move quickly enough.

There were a few sites which we found handy for reviews of the various restaurants:

We didn't bother with restaurants linked with shows because the shows were in Japanese. We can only go by the reviews which are mediocre for Western audiences. I should also mention that we didn't bother with any character dining as we had done many, many, many of them in the other parks and also on the cruises. However, if you are interested, here are some examples/reviews

Booking can be done online from 1 month ahead (although the site is only in Japanese!) Once again, TDR has written an excellent and extensive "how to" with regards to making TDR restaurant reservations.

There are also dining options at Ikspiari (TDR's down town disney equivalent). There are restaurants, a food court as well as a supermarket where you can buy goods that are suitable for breakfast.

Rides, Shows and Parades

Tokyo Disneyland
Must do attraction :

  • Winnie the Pooh - this is is completely different to the other Pooh rides at the Disney parks worldwide and is the best of the Pooh rides! The Japanese go nuts over Pooh...

Must see show:

  • Once upon a Time - a castle projection show. And once again, the best out of the ones we've seen at all the parks. There is a lottery system. We saw the winter edition and I'm pretty sure there is a "normal" version. 

Tokyo Disneysea
This park was built for young couples and so may not be as fun for the younger children. It is however, a very beautiful park, with the most money of any of the Disney Parks spent on it for theming. So do take the time to take in the sights and the small touches like the Venetian gondolas, the whole of Mysterious Island etc
Must do attraction:

  • Toy Story Mania - a lot of fun and VERY popular. You will find that the Disney resort guests (if you stay offsite) will already have a jump on you by the time you get there. Don't be disheartened to see a wait time of 60 min at park opening! If you ever go to the states, the same ride (exactly the same!) is there too with much more manageable queue times. 
  • Journey to Centre of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - these are unique to Tokyo Disney Sea, at no other Parks elsewhere. 
  • Fortress Exploration is a lot of fun for the children. Handy to kill time here if you need to wait for your table at Magellans. 
  • Others that are unique to Disney Sea include Aquatopia, Storm rider

Must see show:

  • Fantasmic - There are similarities to other Fantasmics at the other Parks but is different enough to be worth watching. 
  • Big Band Beat - Excellent broadway quality show. Again there is a lottery system. 

At this point, I will refer you  back to TDR Explore for details on how to use the lottery system. It is important to read up on it and be familiar with it before going in. Have a game plan because the Japanese are quite savvy and unlike in Europe, they know how to use Fastpasses and the lottery system. You have to be at least as good as the locals!

These do change with the seasons. There was a Frozen parade when we were there and we love watching elderly Japanese ladies really get into the songs. They knew all the actions and there was no holding them back!

Generally speaking, there's no stress for the parades and no need to line up too long beforehand. The Japanese are very polite and arrange themselves in a tiered fashion so that everyone can see. Guests in the front sit and guests at the back stand. The cast members are also very good at re-enforcing this. A good spot at TDL to see the parades is Tomorrow land Terrace - sit at the tables and chairs in the corner that have views of the castle and path that heads right of the castle - they are usually pretty empty. This way you can relax in the shade, have some food and watch the parade in peace (with nearby toilet too). They have a map of the parade routes at the entrance (and probably hotel too).

Touring Plans

Unlike the American parks, there is no "Tour Guide Mike" or "" to help with detailed itineraries or multi day itineraries. We found the following websites handy as a place to start - and went from there to form a more detailed itinerary.

Tokyo Disney Sea
Tokyo Disneyland

The following was written by Malcolm for "non-Disney" friends for their first day at Disneyland. Its a gem so I will leave it unedited...

"Get a copy of the park map from the hotel the night before. Study it. Here's the basic concept: The most popular rides in TDL are Toystory Mania and Winnie the Pooh. You will need to be in the line 1 hour before park opening. Maybe plan to have breakfast in the line to kill time or bring something to entertain the kids and yourselves (book etc). You may be tempted to think "Let's all stick together. It's too stressful to split up and try and meet etc..." This is amateurish thinking and will only lead to repeated frustration caused by waiting in lines that could largely be avoided. I assume that you will not be able to communicate with each other by phone. Even if you can, this may fail. You need a plan for failed meetings so that no one is stressed and you aren't walking around the park looking for each other. eg: we will meet at x at 10am. I will wait until 1030. If you are not there then we will both go to a predetermined spot (something REALLY obvious - ) on the hour wait exactly 10 minutes and repeat every hour. Hopefully you never fail to find each other, but all anaesthetists have a plan B. OK this is what you do:
-all go through the entrance and immediately give all your tickets to your fast pass person. Said person will walk fast/run to the first fast pass booth (You can try TSM but be aware it may be a 30 minute wait to get this even getting there early - I think on day 1 it's better to avoid this to keep the kids upbeat so fast pass person would go to Winnie the Pooh. The rest of you go to the entrance of your favourite ride  - 2 best options are a) a popular ride at the back of the park eg splash mountain or b) the kid rides that fill up really ridiculously later eg Peter Pan. Go on as many rides in the area that you chose until your fast pass kicks in. Pay close attention to the bit on the ticket that says "next fast pass available at x". Let's say your fastpass for Winne the Pooh kicks in at 10:00 and your next fast pass is available at 10:00.... Fast pass runner, at 0950 should run to new fast pass place and get the tickets and then run back to you - then you all enter Winnie the Pooh together.
Why all the running? Fast Pass attractions are deliberately spaced apart around the park. You will be inefficient and have a bad time making the kids run around. The fast pass times get stretched during the day. You need to stay ahead of the system. Also a 10 minute for fast pass runner while the rest of the family amble across to the next ride and have a snack is much better than you all waiting for an hour... and fast pass runner burns off the churros.

Remember - you must work out your first three fast passes before you go in. When you have a plan it takes the stress out of trying to study the map and make decisions on the run. Check the website (or call) to see if the rides are family friendly or just for some of your family - eg tower of terror

Other strategies - All Japanese act like little kids. They love parades and shows so if you have seen them already use this time to hit the rides (especially kid ones like small world). Eat off peak and early - eg lunch 1115 dinner 530
Also study the shows so you know when they are.

Avoid Duffy - the Japanese love him and anything close to or related to Duffy is always packed."

Here's my input. Always best to plan as much as possible before hand and on the day go with the flow. You still want to enjoy the parks! Rope drop can be a bit scary - all the Japanese will be ready to roll. It will be impossible to stay together. Once you get your first fast pass and meet up at your first ride it is then very relaxing and great fun.

I love Duffy. I succumbed and purchased myself a Shelly May bag (Duffy's girlfriend)!

TDR apps

Unfortunately many are in Japanese only. Not all have fast pass return times and some are free whereas others need to be purchased. It comes down to personal preference as to which you like.


Gotta say the shopping was a little disappointing. It is mostly plasticky trinkets unlie the american parks where they have good quality items that have been "Disneyfied - eg platters, artwork, glasses etc)

Merchandise at The Disney Store is different to those within the parks so be sure to visit the Disney Store either in Tokyo or at Ikspiari!


You are unable to get phone sims in Japan as a foreigner so we used data only sims to communicate with each other via whatsapp (or other equivalent data based messaging system), for navigation and most importantly...for looking up wait times/fast pass availability while at TDR!

There are a tonne of providers so be sure to shop around for the best deals. Here is just one example of a provider

Of course, there are other possibilities, such as using a TravelSIM or if our local mobile provider has options for overseas cover. Just work out what you will likely be using and which would work best for your intended usage.