In November 2016 my husband and I took our boys to Tokyo to visit my mum. Tokyo Disneyland was one of the must-dos on our list. I have been there about 4 times since I was little (it opened in 1983), but taking my own kids was an absolutely whole new experience. I got to share in the wonder, the joy and the sheer excitement. In fact, my mum came along too and had a ball!
As you probably know, Japan is a very busy and populated country of 127.3 million and Tokyo alone has a population of over 13.6 million! So it goes without saying that a major tourist (and local) attraction like Disneyland is going to be crowded all the time! We decided to go on a Wednesday, making sure it was out of any holidays, but still it was very, very busy!
How to get there
There are several ways to get to Tokyo Disneyland. Of course you can drive if you are local and have a car but the parking lots are so enormous that I think I would never be able to find my car again among the sea of vehicles. Another option is to take the train, which is what we did. We also purposely didn’t go first thing in the morning (we left home around 9) because we wanted to avoid the mad rush-hour in the trains and stations when people are heading out to work and school.
To get to the Disney Resort, which includes Disneyland and Disney Sea, you need to get to Maihama Station. From there you take the special Disney Resort Monorail . The monorail has cool Mickey-Mouse shaped windows, Mickey-patterned seats and even Mickey-ears hand rails.
Getting through the gates
We didn’t have to line up for too long to get in. The entry fees were 7400 Yen per adult and 4800 Yen per child (children under 4 are free). The first thing we saw when we entered the gates were Disney characters! We said hello to Scrooge McDuck and were keen to meet more. On the way out, my older son was thrilled to meet his favourites Goofy and Donald Duck. Be warned that the characters are really popular with children and adults, so you will have to be quick to take a photo and you may need to fight your way to the front of the groups. This was actually one of the strangest sights – the sheer number of young and older people wearing Disney costumes and pushing children out of the way to get a character’s autograph!
Disneyland was also getting ready for Christmas so there were lots of festive displays and decorations.
We rented a stroller for the day for 2000 Yen. Being able to hire one meant that we didn’t have to lug one through the subway, but we also had something for our younger son to sit in when he got tired. In fact, I think our older son also managed to hitch a ride!
The theme park is huge but there are lots of places to sit and rest your legs. We went in winter so the weather was cold but dry. If you go in the warmer months, there are shady areas and the indoor rides are air conditioned.
Before we left for Japan, I prepared the boys for the rides by watching the videos on the Tokyo Disneyland website. I didn’t want to line up for any rides and then get to the front and the boys announcing that they were too scared to get on. It was also a great way to familiarise the boys with what was going to happen through the day.
The park is divided up into Lands, and each land has themed rides. Our first ride and my boys’ favourite was Monster’s Inc Ride and Go Seek in Tomorrowland.My boys love the Monster’s Inc movies, so this ride was one they had their hearts set on from the get-go.
The three-person cars take you through the Monsters, Inc. offices and the streets of Monstropolis. You have a torch (flashlight) each to spot the hidden monsters.
Because it is such a popular ride, we had to wait around 45 minutes. We took the opportunity to eat an early lunch while standing in the queue. (By the way, you are allowed to take your own food and drink into Tokyo Disneyland. This makes things so much easier with younger kids and fussy eaters. Plus it’s a lot cheaper!)
We then continued on to the It’s a Small World (this one is temporarily closed from March 1, 2017 for renovations) , Western River Railroad, Jungle Cruise , Alice’s Tea Party, and Grand Circuit Raceway, which has now closed for good. All these rides were pretty tame (you can choose to add extra spin to the teacups if you are a thrill seeker!).
We caught part of the daytime parade (the locals will grab a position along the parade route HOURS before it starts). The boys were excited to see the Toy Story float with giant Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang.
According to this article, there are a number of new attractions planned in the near future, such as Soarin’, a Big Hero 6 spinner ride and a ride through the Beast’s castle from Beauty and the Beast, so it will be great to go back once the boys are a little older.
My top tips for visiting Tokyo Disneyland
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
- Go on a weekday and make sure that it does not fall during school holidays or a public holiday.
- Bring your own food and drinks. This will save you a lot of money.
- Make a list of the rides you and the kids really want to go on and target them first. If you still have time and energy, you can line up for more.
- You can FASTPASS rides, which means preordering your place at a particular time so you don’t have to line up. Just be aware that your FASTPASS time may be 5 or more hours later!
- It’s going to be a big day and there’s lots to see, both day and night. We were there for about 5 hours which was a long day for a almost-5 and 2.5 year-old. For older kids, it would be worth staying until dark to see the lights and the night parade. There are also resort hotels that you can stay in and have a couple of days seeing the parks.
- Be prepared to spend a lot of money, particularly at the gift shop on the way out! Take cash as a backup in case your foreign credit card doesn’t work (like it did at the entrance when we went).
Have you visited Tokyo Disneyland? What was your favourite attraction and would you add anything to my list?