Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report - October 2014 - Part 1


Introduction: 

After years of salivating over the thought of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, I finally made the long trip to Tokyo in October of 2014. My wife and I had been talking about a Tokyo trip for years now and earlier in 2013 we began to finally make an effort to save money so we could actually take the trip. I have to admit that I am to blame for us taking so long to visit the Tokyo parks. Even though we've wanted to do it for a long time, I kept going to Walt Disney World because it was an easy vacation to plan and take. From 2008 to 2013 we went to Walt Disney World twice a year, basically whenever I could find airfare for under $250. Airfare combined with renting DVC points and/or splitting the cost with friends made a WDW vacation doable, not cheap by any means, but it wasn't breaking the bank. It got to a point where my wife told me "Guy, seriously, I'm done with Florida for now." By the time 2013 rolled around I completely agreed with her. It was time to get serious about Tokyo.

In Janurary 2014 my boss called and informed me of a plan he was thinking about doing where he sent a TouringPlans team member to every Disney destination on the planet. By coincidence the property he chose for my was Tokyo Disneyland. It couldn't have been more perfect. I could visit my dream destination and produce content for work while doing it. Full disclosure before I continue, my full time job TouringPlans.com paid for 4 days of the trip and I paid for the other 5.

In July 2014 I wrote a TouringPlans blog post about some initial thoughts on the trip:
Tokyo Disneyland has always been a bit of a mythological and mysterious place to me. In the late 80s and early 90s (before I had the internet in my home) I would always see glimpses of it in the old Disney News Magazines. The pictures I saw of the park made it look similar, but different enough that it always held my curiosity. Tokyo Disneyland continued to stay on my mind in 2001 when Tokyo Disney Resort’s second gate opened, DisneySea. Every picture I’ve seen of DisneySea make the park look absolutely spectacular.

I've decided not to go in to any non-Disney details of my trip in this series of blog posts. We visited various parts of Tokyo and spent a couple of days in Osaka (including a ride on the Shinkansen bullet train!), but I'll stick to my bread and butter. I will say this, Japan is a beautiful and fascinating country.



Day 1 - Tokyo Disneyland:
Our first day in the park began bright and early at Tokyo Disney Resort's Bayside Station. The monorail system at Tokyo Disney is extremely efficient. For most of the day, and even late at night, the trains arrived every 4 minutes. Inside they are clean and have plenty of room for the tens of thousands of people that make use of them every day.

My wife and I had landed in Tokyo 2 days prior. The previous day was spent sight seeing around Tokyo, but we were careful not to wear ourselves out. At this point I was beyond excited to experience the parks and couldn't wait another minute. We were up and ready to walk to Bayside Station at 6:30 AM.

We stayed in Hilton Tokyo Bay which ended up being surprisingly affordable considering it was a nice hotel with huge rooms AND located less than a 5 minute walk away from a monorail station.



We arrived at the front gates around 80 minutes before opening and found large lines had already formed. I always heard about Tokyo Disneyland's legendary crowds so I had somewhat prepared myself mentally, but seeing them in person was a whole other ballgame. By the time the park opened the lines were huge. I couldn't even fit the beginning and end of the line in my panoramic picture above.

Even with the crowds being so large I was impressed with how quickly they got everyone through the turnstiles. All that is needed for entry is a simple scan of a bar code, which the guests does themselves. Unlike Disneyland and formally WDW where guests hand their tickets to a cast member, in Tokyo everyone just waves their ticket over a bar code reader.

After about 10 minutes we were in the parks running to our first destination. Yes, running. Opening time at Tokyo Disneyland is insane. People run, like full on spring to their first ride of the day. I soon realized why. Wait times can quickly rise for headliner attractions. If you don't ride in the first 30 minutes of park opening you're looking at waits of over 90 minutes or more. Fastpasses are available but run out by early afternoon. On this particular day all Fastpass tickets were sold out by noon.


A photo posted by Guy Selga (@guyselga) on
 Our first task was to obtain Fastpasses for Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek. This is one of the parks most popular rides and is usually one of the first to run out of Fastpasses. This is one of 3 rides that people run to first thing in the morning, along with Pooh's Hunnt Hunt and Jungle Cruise. With Fastpasses obtained we ran to Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This strategy paid off as our wait for Pooh was only 15 minutes. By the time we were off the ride it had gone up to 70.

My thoughts on Pooh's Hunny Hunt is that it lives up to every bit of hype that it has received over the years. It's fun, charming and endearing, but also a technological wonder. The ride uses a trackless ride system that gives it a feeling of organized chaos. In one room you're bring blown around by the wind, in another you're bouncing with Tigger, and in the final act your car or "Hunny Pot" is dancing with other pots in a giant Heffalumps and Woozles fever dream that Pooh is having. It's no doubt one of the best rides Disney has ever done.





Even the queue has some nice details. It looks like Christopher Robin's room!




 On-ride is even better, check out all the details in the first two photos. The last picture is of Pooh's fever dream I was describing earlier.
Next up we went back to Monsters Inc: Ride & Go Seek to redeem our Fastpasses. This was a ride that I haven't heard many great things about on the internet. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It's mostly a standard dark ride but the twist is that each rider has their own flashlight. Riders use the flashlight light to shine on monsters that are hiding throughout the ride. Some monsters trigger gags when the they are hit by the light. For example at one point you may shine the light on a monster hiding in a locker, when he knows he's been seen he'll reveal himself make a wacky face.

What stood out was how great all the monsters inside the ride look. As you can see in this picture it looks like Mike, Boo and Sully jumped right out of the movie.


Next up was Haunted Mansion, which like Disneyland, currently has its seasonal holiday overlay installed. Again, I wasn't expecting much from this because I had seen it so many times in California. But there were enough differences to make it worth riding a couple of times. Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures from on the ride due to it being so dark. The most notable difference is how much Sally appears in this version of the ride. In Disneyland's version she is notably absent (with the exception of appearing next to the exit ramp), in Tokyo she appears three times, two of which are full sized characters.


Sorry for the picture quality in that one, But I had to show my favorite appearance by Sally. Shes sitting there watching the little cat thing frantically playing the piano. It's a funny little scene. The outside of Tokyo's Haunted Mansion resembles Florida's version.



But there are some neat little differences like rock work and this side house.


After Haunted Mansion we really started to notice how busy the park had become. Luckily even with the large crowds, guest flow was fast and crowd control was excellent. This is also helped by the fact that walkways in the parks are large enough to handle the crowds that parks receive. Plenty of cast members were on hand to make sure that queues and crowds moved at a steady pace, without feeling rushed. 

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At this point in the day we were getting hungry and so was everyone else in Tokyo Disneyland. All of the quick service restaurants in the area has decent sized lines so I picked Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall. I am a big Alice in Wonderland fan but the only reason why I wanted to eat here was to get a picture of the heart shaped meat patty. Yes, it may be strange to wait a half hour just to get a picture of heart-shaped meat, but I'm a Disney blogger and these are the kind of poor life decisions we make.


At least Queen of Hearts Royal Banquet Hall looks really nice inside! Everything colorful and looked like it was straight out of the movie.


The visual menu which was in almost every restaurant inside and out of Disney. I'm a big fan of these.


The kitchen area has oversized pots and pans and a giant cartoonish oven. Everything looks great. The order process is buffet-style, kind of like French Market or Plaza Inn at Disneyland. You pick the food you want and then bring it to the register.

And there we are, the heart meat patty! It looked better than is tastes. The potatoes and brown sauce were good, but the patty itself reminded me of microwave dinners my grandma would give me as a kid. Luckily we had much better food during the rest of the trip.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Tokyo Disneyland trip report! I'll be posting it on Monday, October 27.

8 comments:

  1. Really enjoying the TR so far. The wife and I are planning our own trip to TDR in the future, so this is a big help!

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    1. Thanks Joe! I hope you and your wife have a great trip. If you're interested I wrote a post on the cost of every major piece of the trip: http://blog.touringplans.com/2014/08/12/touringplans-everywhere-budgeting-tokyo-disneyland-trip/

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  2. I have the very same problem with multiple trips to WDW vs. one to Tokyo. We have been trying to get back to Tokyo since pretty much the day we returned home in 2010, but I keep frittering away our vacation funds on trips to Walt Disney World—d'oh! It's going to be easier, though, now that MyMagic+ and assorted other unwelcome changes are causing us to lose interest in WDW.

    Also, bravo on the article you linked to about the costs of the trip. I spent a lot of my own Tokyo Disney trip report trying to break down the equivalent costs and demystify the process of planning, because I think far too many Americans just assume a trip to Japan is too complicated and too expensive and miss out on a fantastic experience.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I completely agree that most people find it too complicated, because I felt the same way. It took me sitting down and actually adding everything up. For me (living on the west coast in LA) traveling to WDW is about half the cost of traveling Tokyo Disney. To me that is very worth it.

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  3. Did they not have the complimentary Alice in Wonderland cups/Plates souvenirs at the Queen's court? You get them when you purchase particular deserts, I was ecstatic after they informed me I could keep those beautiful souvenirs.

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    1. They had a tiny plate when purchased one of the desserts. I didn't get it because I think it was something like $10 and it was very small.

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  4. I also like that little side house set into the rocks in the queue for the Haunted Mansion. After looking up at that window during several visits, and thinking that it looked as though there was a full-sized room on the other side of it, I finally asked a cast member about it. I was told that there is a cast members-only restaurant up there!

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