It’s no secret that Tokyo is home to the cleanest (and probably the best) Disney theme park in the world.
This is my personal guide on Tokyo DisneySea & Disneyland – all opinions are my own and do not reflect the company, even as a former Cast Member. Anything below is what I suggest; it’s up to you to have fun and make it a magical visit!
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Tokyo DisneySea Vs. Tokyo Disneyland
Now, whether or not you choose to do both parks or just one of these – it’s completely up to you and based on your Japan itinerary. It was my third time at Tokyo DisneySea and I still absolutely love it, but my first at Tokyo Disneyland. I’ve written about my trips to Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris as well, but they really don’t hold a candle to the Tokyo Disney parks.
Since we have over a month in Tokyo, it was a no-brainer to get the 2-day pass. To all Disney fans out there who haven’t been to either Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea, this is your most ideal option.
For ¥13,400 (roughly $121.63 USD) for this pass, we basically saw TWO Disney parks for just $60 USD per day. That’s an incredible deal, especially given the giant price hikes of tickets in the states.
Keep in mind that these are also the only parks not technically owned by Disney – they’re owned by the Oriental Land Company. So yes, while you still see Disney characters running around in both parks, these are the only parks that Disney Cast Members (from any other resort other than Tokyo Disney Resort) cannot get free admission.
I’m particularly biased when I write this and say that I always enjoy international theme parks the most just because I love to travel (duh). You shouldn’t necessarily ever trust anything that’s written online to be your takeaway (even my opinions here), since everyone has different tastes.
I’ve read countless articles that outright bash Tokyo Disneyland, whereas I really enjoyed it. In fact, I loved the amount of space and how different the layout was than most other parks. Eden ended up preferring Tokyo Disneyland far more than DisneySea, primarily due to the diminished crowds.
There isn’t a 1-day park-hopper option (yet), so if you’re like most travelers, you’re only dedicating a full day to one of these parks. I highly recommend that you get your tickets early with any of these options:
- Online through other trusted vendors like Klook or Voyagin
- At any Disney Store in Tokyo (note that you need to have a set date in mind for when you’re visiting the parks if you get them here)
- Read TDR Explorer’s comprehensive guide on all other suggestions
A Guide to Tokyo DisneySea
I’ll cut straight to the chase: Tokyo DisneySea is my favourite theme park in the entire world. It’s phenomenal beyond anything that words and photos can measure.
However, if you hate crowds and extremely long queues, you might want to stick to Tokyo Disneyland.
We went on a Thursday in late February (off-peak season), and the crowds here were unbelievable and just as crazy as when I foolishly went on Christmas Day in 2012.
Okay, hear me out. Tokyo DisneySea is the ONE theme park that everyone raves about – especially since it’s so different. It’s creative, immersive, enthralling, and so much more than just attractions. I’m a giant foodie, so I love it for the cute snacks you find sprinkled throughout every land.
If you LOVE FOOD, you should go to DisneySea FOR SURE. I’ll get to the food in a bit.
DisneySea is themed around – well, the sea, as its name denotes – and each “land” is instead referred to as a port. You can explore the Arabian coast, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon (my favourite), the bustling U.S. ports (notably NYC), and even the Mediterranean. It was far cooler to come back and visit after a few years at sea as well.
But because it’s hailed as “the best Disney park” or the one that is so unique in its own way, the crowds come with it.
Don’t believe me?
Within two hours of the park opening (TWO HOURS, PEOPLE), ALL the FastPasses were OUT. Gone. We managed to get one at park opening for Journey to the Center of the Earth (in my opinion, the best attraction, since no other theme park has it), but an hour later, we noticed that all the FastPasses for the best attractions were out.
Just remember that Tokyo DisneySea is WELL worth all the crowds and long queues, especially since there are so many other entertainment options in the park (not just attractions). As long as you’re hydrated and fed, remember that this is probably the most popular theme park out of all Disney theme parks (aside from perhaps Shanghai Disney).
Both parks don’t have fancy Magic Bands or Ultimate Fastpasses (yet). You use your ticket to get a FastPass (FP) reminder, and it’ll tell you a time in an hour slot you have to experience that attraction. It also shows the time you’re allowed to get another FP (usually within an hour or 1.5 hours).
When your time comes around to use it, you scan your ticket at the FP entrance and it’ll light up green to access that much faster queue. At Tokyo DisneySea, we basically only waited 10 min. in the FP line for Journey to the Center of the Earth in an otherwise 170-min. standby queue.
For Tokyo DisneySea, allow AT LEAST an hour for public transport from wherever you’re staying. Urayasu (location of the parks) isn’t particularly close to anywhere. You’ll have to walk about 15 min. along the main street to get to Tokyo DisneySea from the Maihama train station (for Tokyo Disneyland, the entrance is literally right near the station exit).
If you get to Tokyo DisneySea at 10am for a 10am opening, you’re already late. We arrived at the main gates around 10, but the lines were insane.
It was orderly insanity compared to Anaheim, at least. Anyone who stays on property at a Disney hotel will also get to enter the park early, which explains why the Journey to the Center of the Earth attraction already had a 2-hour wait time when we entered the park.
I suggest fast walking to The Journey to the Center of the Earth attraction, get a Fastpass reminder for it, then go on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the attraction underneath). It’s nothing special, very similar to the old submarine ride at Disneyland (Anaheim), but we only waited 20 min. in the standby queue.
We monitored wait times throughout the day, and they only got worse as the day progressed. Disney parks nowadays require strategization and planning depending on what your main interests are. If you’re keen on riding the attractions, you definitely need a few FPs, whereas if you want to just eat around the parks, try to go to the snack stands and restaurants in off-peak meal times.
Tokyo DisneySea Attractions
Take a look at the info board below with the approximate queue wait times when we left the park around 6:30pm… it was even 40 min. for freakin Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster, a kiddie ride.
Every single top attraction averaged 170 min. of waiting throughout the day.
These are the main attractions (I’d recommend) that have FastPass offerings:
- Journey to the Center of the Earth*
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull*
- Tower of Terror*
- Toy Story Mania!
- Soaring: Fantastic Flight
- Raging Spirits (under construction as of early 2020)
*Versions exclusive to Tokyo DisneySea
We only rode 2 of those attractions listed in our 8 hours at the park. Yes, we endured the 3-hour queue for Indiana Jones. I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re visiting in a short time frame, but my partner (Eden) didn’t seem keen on walking around doing much else in the crowds by that point.
Indiana Jones has a few similar scenes to other ones you’ve seen at other parks, but this one is just such a good ride – it has a storyline with the Crystal Skull in Japanese. We didn’t get to do Tower of Terror, but I rode it in 2015 – it’s not nearly as scary as the one in Walt Disney World, especially since it’s a different story. There are a few different tracks in this attraction as well (I love that about the rides here), so you might not get the same story if you ride twice.
Toy Story Mania! (my old stomping grounds in Disney California Adventure Park) is essentially the same attraction, just scripted in Japanese. The queue is really colorful compared to ours in California, though.
‘Soaring’ is the exact same version you’d get in Paris or Walt Disney World, so don’t really fuss about that 200-min. wait – definitely not worth it over Journey to the Center of the Earth.
There are a ton of other attractions that are exclusive to Tokyo DisneySea, but I won’t list them out since the ones above are the main ones you should aim to experience. If you have kids with you, Arabian Coast and Mermaid Lagoon will be a safer bet.
We rode Jasmine’s Flying Carpets (essentially the same as Dumbo), which seats two rows of two people in each. The most entertaining part of this was seeing the Japanese girls light up in front of us when we said they could have full control of the carpet to make it go up and down as they pleased. They pressed it up and down so much that it looked like our carpet was going through a seizure. Gotta love the Japanese.
Definitely stay for Fantasmic! (normally at 8pm), since it’s entirely different from the one in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It may seem a bit confusing with Stitch and Simba dancing around on floats to their theme songs in the middle of the original Fantasmic! soundtrack, but then again, this is Japan – even the most odd, weird things can pass here.
The Light the Night fireworks show is only 5 minutes compared to our approximate 20 min. show back home, so you don’t need to fret it you miss that.
The daytime shows and parades are also a main reason why people love Tokyo DisneySea so much. You should definitely check out the elaborate shows they offer, since Disney produces the highest-quality entertainment productions in the world – and I can say that after working for three different cruise lines, all of which weren’t Disney.
Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, hailed as a cross between Pirates and “it’s a small world,” is also supposed to be quite intriguing – but not enough for me personally to ride it.
If things are just far too crowded to want to do anything, why not people watch? You’re bound to see the most odd hats and cosplays at these parks…
One of the prime reasons that I love Tokyo DisneySea is because it truly immerses you into the environment. Whereas all other Disney parks have the same format (Main Street USA, a princess castle, pixie dust, blah blah), Tokyo DisneySea isn’t oozing Disney from the get-go. The giant globe that stares at you when you walk through the entrance gates is a big indicator of what to expect.
It’s not just a theme park, but a place that transports you to different parts of the world through careful Imagineering.
Every railing, ceiling, food item, attraction queue, Cast Member – they’re all worked down to the finest details here to make you feel happy (even despite massive crowds). Some have compared it to Epcot, but I also grimace at that comparison (Tokyo is a million times better).
Nothing in Walt Disney World even comes close to Tokyo DisneySea. For anyone who truly loves traveling as much as I do, Tokyo DisneySea is definitely going to feel like a place that your heart will feel bound to.
A Guide to Tokyo Disneyland
If you’re a nostalgic Disney fan who just wants to see another cookie-cutter-type Disney park, then you should see Tokyo Disneyland. Just like Tokyo DisneySea, the pavement is immaculate, the Cast Members are extraordinarily helpful and sweet (that’s just the Japanese way), and the food is still to die for.
Tokyo Disneyland Attractions
The main attractions you want to get FP for:
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek!*
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Haunted Mansion
- Winnie the Pooh*
- Splash Mountain
*Versions exclusive to Tokyo Disneyland
Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean are also good ones – we went on Pirates, but it wasn’t any different from the one back home.
Space Mountain seemed like the most popular attraction in the entire park, but it’s strange that there is no audio in this version. It definitely feels like something is missing when you’re flying through “space” and all you hear are screams and the janky clatter of the roller coaster. The beginning of the entrance into space is also different from the usual Space Mountain, so anyone interested in another version might enjoy that.
Star Tours is my favourite attraction since I’m a massive Star Wars fangirl. They added scenes from The Rise of Skywalker to the attraction a few months ago (Kef Bir and Exegol space battle), so I quite liked being surprised by those. Apparently the attraction wasn’t very popular here, since it was a consistent 5-min. queue whenever we passed by – that would normally be an hour queue in Anaheim.
After being a bit grumpy from the insane crowds at Tokyo DisneySea the day before, we arrived at the Tokyo Disneyland main gates an hour before they opened. There were still a ton of people there, but it at least alleviated the worry of running out of any FPs.
Interestingly enough, Tokyo Disneyland was not nearly as crowded as Tokyo DisneySea. Maybe it’s like the red-headed stepchild of the two, but I really liked this park. It’s actually smaller than DisneySea (115 acres vs. 176 acres), but there definitely seemed like there was more space everywhere in this park.
The most popular attractions appeared to be Space Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and Monsters Inc., all of which had a steady 45 min. wait time throughout our day. How bizzare that Tokyo DisneySea on a Thursday had wait times of 2-3 hours the entire day, yeah?!
For now, the main evening entertainment in this park is the 7:30pm Electrical Parade (which we didn’t stay for), and they also do a 5-min. Light the Night fireworks show, much like Tokyo DisneySea. You might need to do your research, since some shows require lottery tickets once you’re inside the park – check out this article to help you out.
I loved the World Bazaar area (takes the place of normal Main Street USA). It was so different from other parks, especially since it was covered. Stellar shopping awaits throughout this land.
Food: Tokyo DisneySea & Tokyo Disneyland
Feast your eyes upon the delights of the food exclusive to the Tokyo Disney parks. Tokyo DisneySea has a few cuter options, but regardless, even if you choose to just do Tokyo Disneyland, you’ll still find kawaii, delicious food everywhere.
Both parks are known for the different flavours of popcorn – curry, garlic shrimp, black pepper, strawberry, salt, corn, milk chocolate, white chocolate matcha, milk tea, caramel – and for anyone who hasn’t been to Tokyo before, they might just blow all their money on this.
Try to save ¥400 for some of the better stuff listed below, though. We only had the milk chocolate flavour, and it just tasted like caramel popcorn to me – I prefer regular-flavoured popcorn in general.
Avid parkgoers go bonkers for the popcorn souvenir buckets that you can also purchase at every kiosk – every port/land has different ones. They range in price, but generally cost about ¥1800 and ¥500 for a refill. There doesn’t seem to be a limitation as to how many times you can reuse the bucket for future visits to the parks, but then again, I highly doubt anyone would want to bring a large popcorn bucket in their luggage just for that.
Tokyo Disneyland Food
Tokyo DisneySea Food
Tokyo Disney do things a bit differently than other parks when it comes to meeting face or fuzzy characters. Queues don’t exist- instead, you’ll see huddles of people circled around a particular character or two.
It’s your job to try and do everything you can to get that character’s attention so you can get a photo and/or autograph. Simply standing there won’t do, though – be proactive!
Tokyo Disney Merchandise
For anyone who has been to Tokyo before, it’s so easy to see why tourists spend thousands of dollars on merchandise at these parks. Most of their items are exclusive to Japan (much like Shanghai Disneyland).
Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea-branded merch is sadly lacking (Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland even had better selections), but it’s made up for in the amount of cuteness everywhere else. They even sell cutesy folders THAT FIT YOUR TOKYO DISNEY PARK MAPS PERFECTLY, for crying out loud. Who the hell does the marketing for Tokyo Disney?! They just want everyone to go home broke, I guess.
And because the USD is basically par with Japanese ¥, everything is very reasonably priced – actually, it’s cheaper than back home. My ¥3400 soft-as-a-cloud-Oswald plushie converted to $30 USD, which would be way more with tax back home.
If you’re torn about what items to buy, just use my boyfriend’s mantra: “I couldn’t decide, so money made the problem go away. I bought them all.” When in Japan…
- Buy your park tickets early at any Disney store in Tokyo
- Allow at least an hour to get to the parks via train (the last stop will be Maihama station if you use the JR line)
- If you’re really keen: Get to the main gates as early as an hour beforehand (especially Tokyo DisneySea) to guarantee more chances of riding a few of the top attractions with a FastPass
- If you’re doing both the parks, remember that the snack/food queues will be significantly longer in Tokyo DisneySea. Try to eat during off-peak meal times.
- Check out the Disney Ambassador Hotel & Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, both of which have beautiful lobbies AND some unique treats not found in the parks. Article coming soon!
- Check out TDR Explorer, possibly the best source aside from Disney itself, with all his helpful tips on a successful visit to Tokyo DisneySea & Tokyo Disneyland
- Have the most magical memories – you’re in beautiful Tokyo, after all!
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