The one place on earth you'll never get tired of.22 October, 2011 by Chad
While it has been requested, I don’t think I’d ever be confident enough to write what I could consider a guide to DisneySea. Sure you could get the gist of the place with just a single visit, but it would take many days to explore every nook and cranny of Tokyo Disney Resort.
With the theme park popping up in more friends’ upcoming itineraries once again, I figured it was about time that we take a second, closer look at this magical land with some helpful tips to maximize your enjoyment at any Tokyo Disney Resort park. Warning, long read ahead.
The Tokyo Disney Resort is located close to Tokyo at the edge of the adjacent Chiba Prefecture. The most convenient means to get there is to change trains at Tokyo Station to the JR Keiyo Line for Maihama Station, which serves as the gateway to the extended resort area. The journey will take only 15 minutes.
Even the JR Maihama Station itself has been absorbed into the Disney atmosphere. Exiting the station will put you in Ikspiari, which is a large shopping and restaurant complex. Cirque du Soleil permanent Asian theater is located here too.
Tokyo Disney Resort is made up of Ikspiari, Disneyland, a collection of 9 hotels and DisneySea. A monorail circles around the entire resort area stopping at each of the areas in that order. The entrance to the parks aren’t that far from Maihama, so unless you’re heading to the hotels with baggage, walking is recommended. Both parks are about 300 meters in opposite directions from Ikspiari. Head left for DisneySea.
The most convenient way to get tickets is to purchase them ahead of time from the automated tellers available any Lawson convenience store. However, you will receive a generic ticket this way so most end up queuing for their tickets outside the Disney Parks.
Tickets for adults cost 5,800 yen for a single day pass. Teens, children and the elderly enter get a small discount. 5,000 yen (12-17 years old), 3,900 yen (4-11 years old) and 5,100 yen (over 60 years old). Hardly significant.
Instead, great discounts can be found when purchasing the passes for a number of consecutive days. When visiting for multiple days, the total cost per day can be reduced by anywhere from 5 (2 days) to 35 (4 days) percent.
There are tons to do here and a single day is never enough. Which is why you hear cases where people stay up to a week just in the Disney Resort. But anything more than 4 days would be obsessive.
The only difference when purchasing from the park itself is that you get a ticket with a random Disney character printed on it, but it’s enough of a draw and some people enjoy collecting the stubs.
If you intend to maximize your time in the park, be sure to head there early. Both parks attract a large ticketing crowd up to an hour before opening time but gradually declines.
When purchasing your tickets from the counter at the park remember to request for a map in your own language. This will be manual for the rest of your day. English or any other foreign language is scarcely used in the park and is often the biggest hurdle for first time visitors to overcome (more about this later).
The size of DisneySea dwarfs most other theme parks around the world, with the exception of Disney World. Navigating around can be daunting. It hardly helps that this happiest place on earth, is also the most crowded during any fine weather. Thankfully, the crowds at DisneySea aren’t nearly as bad as those at Toyko Disneyland and being twice the size, most of the traffic is spread out.
While obvious, avoid visiting on weekends and public holidays whenever possible. The park is generally least empty on Tuesday through Thursday. This website keeps detailed statistics and provides excellent predictions of the number of people visiting the park on any particular day, based on weather and historical data. I highly recommend that you check it out when choosing which day to visit. Red days spell danger.
Enjoying yourself at DisneySea (or when on vacation in general) will always ultimately bog down to a balance between expectations and practicality. It’s nice to hear about people enjoying their experiences but many others walk away disappointed.
I’ve heard too many cases of people leaving the Tokyo Disney Resort parks with a terrible impression and it almost always the result of unrealistic expectations. There are tons of things to do, see and find here that attempting to accomplish everything in a single run would be foolhardy.
I would really hope to see more people walk away with a positive impression. Which is why most the rest of this article will be about managing expectations and ensuring your enjoyment, rather than a detailed run through of the individual rides.
Note that the Tokyo Disney Resort is the only Disney resort in the world not owned by the Walt Disney Company. Instead it is run by a local Japanese conglomerate known as the Oriental Land Group. While, Disneyland still retains many similarities to its American counterpart, DisneySea has a completely different concept that will be enjoyable for all.
Part of the fun in visiting any theme park is getting lost in the atmosphere. DisneySea makes it particularly easy. For starters, the sheer size of the part should impress many.
DisneySea is made up of 7 large zones, each of which features a different theme that unifies the rides within. There’s the Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Port Discover, Lost River Delta, Arabian Coast, Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon. Most of the areas are loosely related to Disney franchises but not so much that it becomes gimmicky.
While some might find it a waste to spend time solely exploring the park, some families seem to come to the Disney parks for the purpose of just hanging out. But regardless of your purpose, if it’s your first time visiting, you’re going to have to spend some time exploring the different nuances to get used to the bearings. Hopefully, you’d enjoy it too.
Areas in the park aren’t so much decorated to their theme rather than built around it. You won’t find hollow plastic trees like you do in Universal Studios. Castles, pyramids and mountains have been built with actual materials, sculptured to accurate scale and contain such amazing detail that they have essentially become “real”. Great fun can be had by spotting hidden easter eggs all around the park’s decor.
Often, the magic is lost when you figure out how things are done. But even when you see past the surface at DisneySea, there is still plenty to marvel about the engineering.
And Of course, the most impressive structure at DisneySea is the volcano at the center of the park. The giant mountain, shoots real jets of flame meters into the park’s skyline at every chance. If you’d like to know how they do that, check out this video. Surely, the Oriental Land Group spares no expense in providing such an experience to the park’s visitors.
Of course what’s a theme park without its rides. And DisneySea offers its fair share of attractions. There are a greater number of thrill rides here compared to Disneyland, which is a draw point for older audiences. But there are also a couple of areas targeted for children. If you’re visiting exclusively for the thrill rides, there are approximately 2-3 per area that should interest you.
Rides are serious business at DisneySea, with groups formulating elaborate plans on how to maximize their time in the park. That’s cause the park attracts an average of 30,000 customers each day, resulting in queues for popular thrill rides dragging for between 2-3 hours during the late day. A pretty accurate approximation of how long each queue takes is displayed in front of every attraction. Of course, the best time to come would be early.
Thankfully though, like in Disney World, the Disney parks here make use of the FastPass system which is basically special booking service for rides that lets you queue up for rides, without actually being in queue.
I’m not sure how, but judging from feedback, it seems some visitors have failed to utilize the system only to complain about not being able to sit as many rides as they had hoped. FastPasses are included free with your ticket entry to the park.
Rides that can be FastPassed are marked on the brochure. These are usually the attractions that have the longest queues. How it works is that you insert you park’s ticket into a machine in front of the respective attraction and it pops out another ticket with the time for you to return printed on it.
You’re free to go about your business exploring or queuing for other rides while waiting for your FastPass ride timing to come up. The ticket will also show you when you can FastPass your next ride (usually an hour later) so if you go around FastPassing other rides religiously at every opportunity you’d end up with a whole bunch to keep you occupied for the rest of the day. Note though, you cannot FastPass the same ride until the previous one is over.
When the FastPass timing comes around, you’ll be able to skip most of the ride’s queue by flashing it at the queue entrance. There is separate queue exclusive for FastPass holders that puts you at the front of the queue.
Due to the nature of the FastPass system, rides get fully booked by around mid-day. So be sure to maximize your tickets before that. Ride queues grow gradually longer in the day too, from a 30 minute wait in the morning up to 2-3 hours long in the later day. This is the reason why you see people rushing into the park gates as soon as it opens.
When visiting the park, it might be useful to split up into smaller groups (who want to sit the same rides) and pass around your tickets to have friends help you FastPass other rides while in queue, if you’re really serious about it.
But for a rough idea, even without vigorously FastPassing the rides you should still be able to sit somewhere between 4-6 rides in a day while still exploring the part in a leisurely manner (depending on how busy it is and how early you arrive here).
If rides aren’t your thing, then you’d be glad to know that it is completely possible to spend a full day at DisneySea just watching the live performances. There is always at least one live performance going on somewhere in the park at any particular time.
You’d want to pay attention to the show timings. Some take place indoors and thus have limited seats, while others occur only once a day and are not to be missed.
Performances rotate and change with each season, so even repeat visitors have something to look forward to. The previous BraviSEAmo! show that we featured was problematic during strong winds was cancelled last November.
Instead, it is replaced by a new version of the classic Fantasmic! show from Disneyland. Unlike its American counterpart which is a stage show, DisneySea’s Fantasmic! once again takes place on moving boats on the lake in the center of the park.
Another show that comes highly recommended is the Under the Sea live performance under Mermaid’s Lagoon. It’s a musical made spectacular by a combination of mid-air acrobatics and large scale animatronics.
For those visiting with children, take note that Mermaid’s Lagoon and the Arabian Coast zones house most of the child-friendly rides and shows.
Shopping & Food
There is no denying that merchandise and refreshments are a big part of any theme park but the two Tokyo Disney Resort parks take it to another level.
Shops in DisneySea carry goods exclusive to the park. There are shops in each area, themed to the zones that they are located in as well as souvenir shops for each major ride, themed to the ride which they relate to. As such items you find in one shop in DisneySea might no necessarily be available elsewhere in the park.
To save time and prevent backtracking, we would recommend grabbing things that you wish to buy at the first chance, or at least pinpointing the quickest route to the shop so as to drop by again in the evening. This is especially true for the ride specific shops.
Each zone also has its own cuisine, in the form of popcorn stalls, snack stands and restaurants. Again, these are unique to each area.
There are a great number of restaurants spread all around the park to accommodate to the throngs of hungry visitors each day. They are also rather spacious, holding about 400-600 patrons. Elaborate themed decors make each dining experience at Tokyo Disney Resort an attraction in itself.
Food here is generally decent, the restaurants are owned by different F&B companies, some familiar names. Menu prices in the park aren’t cheap by Japanese standards but they aren’t quite the horror stories that some would expect. Expect to pay about as much as you were to eat out in Singapore.
The shops and food here are such a draw point that there are those who come to the park solely for them. There is even a special pass for this purpose. The After 6 Pass allows visitors to enter the park only after 6 PM on weekdays, at a discounted price of 3,300 yen. Perfect for dinner and a little bit of shopping.
Like at Disneyland, the front zone of the park is home to the largest concentration of shops. Positioned for maximum temptation on your way out.
There are stores for just about everything at Tokyo Disney Resort, from the usual t-shirts and plushies to more unexpected things like toiletries and furniture, all themed to popular Disney franchises of course. It is completely possible to have every single thing in your life Disney-fied here.
Many, if not most of the merchandise here are branded to Tokyo Disney Resort and as such are not sold outside of the parks. In fact, both parts have their own sets of merchandise for sale. For example, the popular Duffy The Disney Bear can only be found here at DisneySea. There is an entire 2 floor building dedicated to the cult following.
Like at other Disney parks overseas, merchandise sold at the park change with the season too, so don’t go expecting to be able to find something from a while back.
With the high running cost of the park, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tokyo Disney Resort’s primary means of profit was through merchandising. Yet or perhaps because, prices of items for sale here are not like other parks. Disney branded goods are not drastically marked up to souvenir prices.
In fact, they are manufactured in such bulk that I might go so far as to call them cheap. Prices for any particular item are the equivalent of what you’d pay for non-Disney counterparts outside. It is probably for this reason that you’d see pretty much everyone walking away with at least a couple of bags.
Compared with the overpriced souvenirs at other parks, it completes a pleasant experience here in Disney Resort. The parks recognize the value of this, especially when local repeat visitors make up your primary target audience.
Just a warning, the parks’ shops get rather crowded as it nears closing time. Thankfully, there are enough counters to cater to all customers so there’s hardly a wait. But it does make navigating the stores rather difficult.
For now, that’s about all the things that come to mind. I’ll update this post again whenever more things pop up. If you have any tips for enjoying DisneySea, do drop us some ideas below in the comments section.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.