Being in Tokyo Disneyland is a totally unique experience, and expecting a regular Disney park experience could leave you a little out of your comfort zone, so here are some of my top tips for doing Disney Tokyo-style!
Language and Culture
– Do not expect English – I’m serious! While there may be the occasional announcement in English or clip of English singing, all of the shows, parades and attractions are in Japanese, and most of the cast members speak very limited English, if any, so be prepared to mime, signal and act out your conversations, and embrace it – everyone has a laugh over it! Also don’t stress over not knowing the language, all you really need is hello and thank you, and you’re pretty much set.
– Everyone is really friendly – cast members are literally everywhere, and their job is basically to wave and say hi. Smile and wave back, and you make their day!
– Generally, the Japanese are pretty small – if you’re short (like me!) its ideal, say goodbye to watching parades on tip-toes! If you’re fairly tall, however, you may be asked to move at times, purely to be considerate to other guests. Similarly, the seats on rides tend to be a little smaller than on their American counterparts.
– Personal space isn’t a big deal – you know when you’re waiting for a lift and its a little crowded so you decide to wait for the next one? Yeah that doesn’t happen so much in Japan, so be prepared to be a little out of your comfort zone if you like your space.
– Tokyo Disneyland utilises the classic Fastpass system – going to the machine, getting your pass, and only holding one at a time. Be sure to make good use of these, Fastpasses are taken pretty seriously and you get to skip a lot of the line, and it could save you some major waits.
– Characters randomly appear around the parks throughout the day, rather than at specific places and times, and they tend to have a slightly more eclectic range: The Rescuers, Wolfgang Puck, Jiminy Cricket etc, and you’ll be hard pushed to find a princess! They’re also not big on autographs, so although they’ll sign them, you won’t find anywhere to buy an autograph book.
– There’s no running, but expect a stampede – at park opening, cast members are everywhere to remind guests not to run, but that doesn’t stop it! Expect stampedes heading to the most popular rides: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror etc
– Do not be afraid to dress up – people in Tokyo Disney go all out, from matching outfits to Disneybounds, and everyone has at least one thing Disney in their outfit
– Don’t expect wifi – unlike Disney World where you get free wifi everywhere, there’s no wifi connections available in the parks.
– There’s no Photopass option – with the exception of a few meet and greets, there are no dedicated photographers in the parks, and no Photopass option. You can buy your ride photos, or order prints from your character meets, but that’s pretty much it.
Shows and Parades
– You can reserve your spot for a show or parade up to an hour before, and bringing a plastic mat to put down will save you burning on the hot concrete
– Some shows have priority seating – you can take part in a lottery to win these priority spots once per show each day, so be sure to pick up a show guide to find out where these lotteries are held
– Be prepared to be asked to remove hats and Mickey ears – if you’re standing to watch a parade or show, or even in attractions like Country Bear Jamboree and Philharmagic, you’ll be asked to remove any hats or ears so as not to block the view of those behind you.
– Take the ‘get wet’ signs seriously – if you’re in one of these zones, its not a maybe, its a promise. We watched crowds get seriously soaked in these areas!
Hotel, Tickets and Travel
– If you’re staying in a Disneyland resort, you get access to the parks 15 minutes early – don’t turn your nose up, it can mean the difference between a 20 minute wait and a 90 minute wait!
– The easiest way to get to your hotel or the parks is by train – the Japanese train system is flawless, and the JR line has a train station at Ikspiari, from which its less than 5 minutes walk to the Disneyland or Tokyo Disneyland hotel, or you can transfer onto the monorail.
– Like in the parks, don’t expect wifi, but ask just in case – we asked about the wifi, and were told there wasn’t any, but they provided us a little router for our room
– Parkhopper tickets are only available to guests staying at Disneyland resorts – otherwise its one park per day
– The monorail isn’t complimentary – you’ll need to buy a pass!
– All of the partner hotels are right near a monorail stop, and there are also resort buses to take you to the parks
– The swimming pool at Tokyo Disneyland hotel is pretty small – don’t expect Floridian flamboyance!
– There’s a Bibbity-Bobbity Boutique in Tokyo Disneyland hotel for your little princesses
– Don’t forget your handstamp – if you’re leaving the park for a while, to parkhop or popping back to your hotel, don’t forget to get your hand stamped as you leave so you can get back in! Its a UV stamp, so don’t worry if you don’t see anything on your skin, and its pretty tough so washing hands/swimming won’t rub it off
Food and Drink
– Don’t expect Western food everywhere – while there are some Western options, most of the food is very much oriental based, and the Western options are a little odd: pizza with seafood etc. Portion sizes are also smaller than in American parks, but still very filling!
– There’s no dining reservations, but there is priority seating – similar to Fastpass, head to the restaurant first thing, and you’ll be given a ticket with an allocated time to return
– There are water fountains everywhere, and its the norm for people to bring in their own bottles to fill up
– Beware of the coffee – I’m not a drinker, but my mum and sister both hated the Japanese coffee, apparently its crazy bitter. Also, some bottled drinks in the vending machines look like fruit teas, but are actually iced coffees.
– On the subject, you won’t find a lot of milk or milk-based products – around 90% of Asians are lactose intolerant, so milk for tea and coffee, ice-cream etc is fairly limited.
– Also beware of the popcorn – there are popcorn stands everywhere, but you’ll only find salted in a few locations. Flavours include honey, curry and soy sauce!
– People save tables, and its taken pretty seriously – if you see a bottle or a jumper left on a table, don’t move it and sit there. Everyone does it, and everyone respects it, so find somewhere else.
– The same merchandise is everywhere – don’t stress that you might have missed an opportunity to buy something, chances are it’ll be in the next shop you go into!
– There’s a Disney Store at Ikspiari, which is the shopping centre on the monorail loop – it has different products to what’s available in the parks
– There are biscuits everywhere – souvenir biscuits are a big deal in Japan. They come in millions of shapes, sizes, fancy tins etc, and there are entire shops dedicated to them, so don’t resist!
– Be prepared for all conditions, and possibly all at the same time – it can be burning hot and bucketing down with rain and blowing a gale simultaneously!
– Because of how extreme the weather can be, shows and parades can be cancelled with little notice, or modified for the safety of the cast members and guests
– Carry an umbrella – not only will it keep you dry during those mega downpours, but it will also provide great sun protection, and don’t worry about looking silly, loads of people do it
– Don’t expect air-con – while most buildings are cooled during the summer months, its not always that instant super-cool feeling you might expect; more like a comfortable temperature once you’ve adapted to it
Tokyo Disney is a totally unique experience, and the most important piece of advice I can give is this:
Just do it. Go, experience it all for yourself, and you’ll have an incredible time, I promise!