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.
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.
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.
@SCJacka HMH is crazy out here. Sally is well represented in this version. She shows up a bunch pic.twitter.com/pRJDHDsO4dSorry 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.
— Guy Selga (@guyselga) October 11, 2014
But there are some neat little differences like rock work and this side house.
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.