9 Days in Japan: Part 7 – Tokyo Continued

My husband and I got married and went on an incredible six-week honeymoon around the world. All of the posts on England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, a cruise through Asia, and Japan can be found on our Amarvelous Honeymoon page. The final country we visited on our trip was Japan, and we’re in the midst of an eight-part series highlighting this amazing country.

This was our penultimate day in Japan, and we had a jam-packed itinerary as we attempted to squeeze in our final Tokyo activities. Today, we planned to spend most of the day in the Shibuya neighborhood. We experienced ramen, conveyor-belt sushi, Starbucks with a view, multiple street performers, the incredible Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, the Meiji Jingu shrine, shopping at Takeshita Street, and the world’s busiest intersection. Read on to learn what makes Shibuya a necessary addition to your next Tokyo itinerary.

Day 7 in Japan

We were staying at the APA Hotel Iidabashi-Ekiminami in the Tokyo suburb of Chiyoda. The two previous days had been spent at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. I didn’t think we had such a late start, but we must have been exhausted and slept in a bit. Our first meal of the day was actually two bowls of ramen from a nearby restaurant that was already serving early lunch. The restaurant, which as of this writing has permanently closed, was called Tsujita Okunoin. It was a three-minute walk from our hotel and on the way to the train station. It was a long and narrow restaurant with an open kitchen against the long wall and a bar top with chairs along the kitchen. We found two chairs together and sat to dine. Our favorite ramen from Japan was actually in Osaka (at a restaurant called Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi, if you’re ever in Osaka). Although not as good as Makotoya’s, we found these bowls to be tasty and very filling to start our day off.

We decided to quickly begin our day in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is a popular city district famed for its narrow, winding alleys and numerous snug taverns. We took the train six stops from Iidabashi Station to Shinjuku Station. It only costs ¥160 (JPY), or $1.52 (USD). After the train, we walked over to the Shinjuku Golden Gai. I would actually suggest you flip flop our itinerary and visit this area in the evening, as it was totally closed up and desolate when we were there. I bet it would be a cool nightlife area with bar hopping in the evenings. Wish we could have gone into a pub and enjoyed a beverage, but although it wasn’t too early for ramen, it was too early for drinks.

Along the walk from this neighborhood, we passed several different street activations and performers. There was a small children’s parade, a solo singer busking, a small trio of female singers on a mobile stage, and this random lottery activation where you are supposed to stick your hand inside a giant horse’s mouth and see if you won a prize (we didn’t win haha!). As a New Yorker, I found all these performances and activations to have the same lively vibe as when we walk through Times Square.

Next stop was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which was only a 19-minute walk from the previous neighborhood and led us into Shibuya neighborhood for the remainder of the day. The entrance fee was ¥500 (JPY), or $4.74 (USD). So far on the honeymoon, we’d seen some immaculate and very impressive gardens in Beijing China, but the roses and trees at this garden were really special. My favorite parts were the beautiful greenhouse with tropical plants and an indoor waterfall, a foot bridge over a koi pond shaded by a weeping willow tree (my favorite), a lush lawn for lounging surrounded by humongous shade trees including a blooming magnolia with flowers the size of my head, and a French-inspired formal rose garden. I think we spent the most time today in the rose garden. They probably had hundreds of varieties. I really enjoyed reading the name plaques for each one and took photos of the ones I found most beautiful. Hopefully one day I can find their seeds or saplings and plant them at my home. My absolute favorite flower was the hot pink Lavender Lassie Rose.

After the garden, we continued our walk to the Yoyogi Pony Park. This was totally spontaneous, but we saw it on the map and were intrigued, so we decided to walk over and check it out. It was only a 22-minute walk and not out of our way. Upon arrival, we learned that the rink and ponies were mostly for children to ride, not adults. They were attractive horses, and I did enjoy seeing them though. So if you too are a horse fan, then check it out. Otherwise, you can probably skip this unless you’re traveling with children.

We followed the ponies with a minute-long walk over to the Meiji Jingu shrine. We passed by the main sanctuary, torri-gate, and Ema (tablets conveying visitors’ gratitude and wished). As it’s a sacred place for prayer, we didn’t take too many pictures in this area.

Just a 10-minute walk up the road, we were at Takeshita Street, which is a road closed to vehicular traffic. It’s designed so the heavy flow of pedestrians can meander down the street and shop or dine in the colorful and trendy shops and restaurants. I thought the bright colors and kitschy characters on this street were adorable. Not to mention the great and unique shopping. I found a pair of fancy earrings for a pretty reasonable price. That was a score for Japan, as I found the pricing mostly similar to my hometown, New York City.

After shopping, we needed a pick me up, so we walked down the block to the Tokyo Plaza Omotesando Harajuku shopping mall to a rooftop Starbucks with a garden and great view of the city. Once again, we ordered our favorite drink in Japan, the affogato Frappuccino. Yum!! Then we took a break and sat to enjoy our drinks on the rooftop terrace.

We were walking down the Fire-dori Street and stumbled upon Shibuya Nitori, basically a home goods store. Think HomeGoods or Ikea of Japan. I can hardly resist a home store in America, and I wasn’t about to pass up my opportunity in Japan. First off, it was HUGE, and that had me all the more excited. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I am so glad we went in! It really was set up more as a shop for locals, as opposed to tourists. We found some really excellent and useful souvenirs for ourselves and family back home. The best part is that it was affordable, being that it wasn’t really stuff you would think to buy and fly home with. We got this incredibly delicate clear glass tea pot. It was packaged in a nice box, so it held up well on the flight (as a carry-on), and we use it all the time. Had we found something similar in a more touristy shop, we easily would have spent double.

Just up the road was our main attraction of the evening, the Shibuya Crossing. I know what you’re thinking… a crosswalk, this was the highlight of my day?! Well… this is the world’s busiest crosswalk and totally puts other busy crosswalks around the world to shame. They call Times Square of New York City “the crossroads of the world,” but after experiencing Shibuya crossing, I beg to differ. It’s basically five crosswalks at one intersection where vehicular traffic halts in all directions and then (depending on the time of year) hundreds (or thousands) of people cross at the same time. A literal sea of people. There is a great high-up vantage point from a Starbucks in the intersection if you wanted to experience it in person and then from a bird’s-eye view. It was really cool. While waiting at our crosswalk, we even saw this awesome experiential Super Mario street go-cart group race past us. I mean… seriously, how cool is that?! Had I known this existed, I totally would have booked the experience.

Video Credit: Domanation Travels

Dog lovers: There is a dog statue in the Shibuya Crossing intersection called Hachiko Memorial Statue. This bronze statue honors a loyal Akita dog. The story goes that the dog would meet his owner at the train station every day after work to escort him home. When the owner passed away, the dog continued to walk to the train station every day and wait for the owner to arrive. This continued for almost 10 years until Hachiko’s passing. To honor the dog’s loyalty and fidelity to his owner, a statue was placed at his waiting place. Hachiko the dog was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the cemetery with his beloved master, and his furs were stuffed and are on display in the National Museum of Nature and Sciences in Ueno Japan. Every year on his death day, there is a ceremony in the dog’s memory. Additionally, he is remembered with pop culture references in statues, movies, books, and other various media forms in Japanese culture. What a special pup.

We finished our evening with the best conveyor belt sushi at Katsumidori Seibu Shibuya. The restaurant was just next to the Shibuya Crossing in an upstairs floor. We actually got there right before they were stopping to take customers. We had to wait for a few minutes to sit down because they were so busy but it was 100% worth it. Conveyor belt sushi is drink and food items that go around on the belt in front of you. Depending on the color plate that you select, that determines price. It’s an adventurous kind of dining experience, because although you have a choice to select what you want from the belt, you are limited to what they are serving. You don’t really order special things as you would at a regular sit-down restaurant. My husband still raves over the rice-to-fish ratio in the nigiri. As you can see from the picture below of our finished plates, we obviously enjoyed the meal!


And that closes out another day on our six-week honeymoon around the world. This seventh day in Japan was jam-packed with an array of activities including dining, shopping, shrines, gardens, and monuments. We had such a great time exploring without a strict itinerary for the day. Some of the best finds were just stumbled upon as we strolled hand-in-hand through the city.

Join us in exactly two weeks when we post our final part of the nine days in Japan itinerary, which also marks the end of our honeymoon. Can’t wait to share it with you!

9 Days in Japan: Part 6 – Tokyo DisneySea

Hi everyone! Welcome back to my blog. As our world heals from this terrible pandemic, I hope you and your loved ones are in lifted spirits and staying healthy. Especially for those that have experienced loss, I am deeply sorry for the difficulties you are experiencing.

Before we jump into the post, I wanted to explain our recent absence. Due to the global outbreak of Covid-19 back in February, and the significant global travel bans, the Amarvelous Honeymoon Blog had decided to postpone any travel-related blog posts. We continued to share Amarvelous Wedding Blog posts and theme those around Covid-19 event guidance. Then we decided to take a full third quarter hiatus from all posts as the world was learning more about the virus and beginning the long road to recovering and reopening.

And here we are today! I am incredibly grateful for your readership, and I hope I can spread just a little cheer in your life by sharing my travels, stories, and pictures.

So let’s pick up where we left off and recap our most recent travel posts! My husband and I got married and went on an incredible six-week honeymoon around the world. All of the posts on England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and a cruise through Asia can be found on our Amarvelous Honeymoon page.

The final country we visited was Japan, and we’re in the midst of an eight-part series. If you’re a Disney fan (assuming you are because you’re here with us today), the last post was on Tokyo Disneyland, and today we’re going to discuss my favorite theme park in the world: Tokyo DisneySea!!

I don’t even know how to put into words how much I loved Tokyo DisneySea. It is a must-visit destination for literally anyone visiting Japan and anyone who loves Disney. It was pure magic and so well done. I share my love of this park with anyone who will hear it, and I can’t wait to make you a believer as well.

Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp

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Day 7 in Japan

We began our day arriving at the park an hour before gates opened. I had read online in other blogs that arriving at least an hour in advance was the normal protocol for serious ride-goers as lines only got longer as the day progresses. Since we didn’t want to miss a single ride, it was an early (and long) day for us. I’ll note that we didn’t stay at the DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta due to the cost, but if you can splurge, you are allowed an early park entrance, which does help get ahead of the lines.

We arrived an hour early and were still rows of people back from the main gate. We sat on the floor like everyone else, laid out the map of the park, and began to mark out our game plan. I like to pack a marker and cross out rides and shows we know to be closed (for example, Journey to the Center of the Earth was under construction while we visited), and then smaller kid rides that we definitely wouldn’t be partaking in. We’ll marvel at their beauty as we pass, but if it’s not on our ride list, it’ll get crossed off. This helps us to keep organized and ensure we hit every attraction we wanted to see before the end of the night. I also number the rides in the order we want to try and experience them, and I recommend that you do the same, whether your list consists of the thrill rides, the kid rides, the shows, or everything.

Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp

The park is nestled into the most perfect piece of land in all of Tokyo. As its name suggests, DisneySea is located on the sea! Similar to other theme parks around the world, there is a central water system that the attractions surround. However, this park has more than one central lake. The center of the park is actually an island floating in the middle of a moat, and then there are more rides on the outer perimeter of the moat. Everywhere you look, there is water. The most special part is that from multiple vantage points in the park, you can see the retaining wall and the open sea beyond it. Truly beautiful. It reminded me of The Little Mermaid 2, when Ariel’s daughter Melody was in the castle looking out beyond the wall to the sea (except this wall isn’t quite as towering).

DisneySea is split up into seven ports-of-call (themed lands). Below I have provided a brief description of each port, our favorite attractions, and some photos. (NOTE: FP=FastPass and SR=Single Rider)

  • Mediterranean Harbor: This romantic Italian-themed port town includes mostly shops and restaurants, but also a couple of cool rides.
    • Venetian Gondolas: This attraction can take out as many as 16 guests while two gondoliers ride you around and serenade you as you go.
    • Soaring: Fantastic Flight: This ride actually opened in 2019 after our trip but it’s pretty great so I wanted to add it in. It’s similar to the Orlando Florida Epcot and Shanghai China counterparts, except the aircraft is a Renaissance-era Dream Flyer and some of the landscapes you fly over are replaced by Japanese landmarks such as Mt. Fuji and Tokyo DisneySea.
  • American Waterfront: As a New Yorker myself, I felt all the New England charm while walking through the New York Harbor area and old Cape Cod fishing village. There were a bunch of fun small details that made us feel like we were back at home.
    • Tower of Terror (FP): Japan takes a really unique look at this familiar ride. Since The Twilight Zone is not well known in Japan, the ride is just called Tower of Terror and creators developed a full storyline for the drop ride that is very different from all other versions of this ride around the world.
    • Toy Story Mania! (FP): This was such a fun 3D ride which includes individual cannons that fire simulated projectiles as you compete in five mini-games while you ride through the full experience. They keep score as you go, so you can gloat to your friends if you’re the winner. Lines can get extremely long as it’s probably the second-most popular ride in the park. It’s modeled after the California Disneyland Toy Story ride.
Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp
  • Port Discovery: Going from old world ports to this futuristic marina was a trip! It had the most modern vibe in the park.
    • Aquatopia: This was one of the most unique rides in the park. The ride includes 36 personal (two person) hovercrafts which moves around on wheels on a trackless system in shallow water for the illusion of floating on water. The trackless system provides a surprise route, as you don’t know where the hovercraft will take you next.
    • Nemo & Friends SeaRider: A simulated experience where you shrink down and go on a Dory-guided tour through the ocean. Check out this awesome 360° video from Adventures in VR, and don’t forget to swipe the screen around to see the full perspective.
Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp
  • Lost River Delta: This port is farthest in the back of the park and is depicted as a remote Central American jungle inclusive of ruins of an ancient civilization.
    • Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull (FP) (SR): This enhanced motion vehicle is nearly identical to the California Disneyland Temple of the Forbidden Eye. What a fun ride, and we hardly waited at all to get on due to single rider.
    • Raging Spirits (FP) (SR): A thrilling roller coaster attraction taking you through ruins of an ancient Peruvian Incan civilization. This ride was inspired by Disneyland Paris’s Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril. This is the only ride in Tokyo Disney Resort (both Disneyland and DisneySea) to have an inversion.
Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp
  • Mermaid Lagoon: This one is for the Ariel fans. Mermaid Lagoon features the Palace of King Triton and seashell-inspired architecture. You will experience under the sea adventures with Ariel and all her friends in this mostly indoor port giving you a true under the sea vibe. This is also the perfect area to visit if it starts to rain, since it’s almost entirely indoors.
    • Mermaid Lagoon Theatre: King Triton’s Concert (FP): This show was really fantastic!! I could have watched it again and again. It included a beautiful display of live actors suspended by cables and floating through the air, puppetry, robotics, and display screens. This is definitely a must-see in my book.
    • Surprisingly, Hubby and I spent two to three hours here. There were lots of smaller rides in this area geared toward children, but Hubby and I rode all of them and enjoyed every single one. There was also a fun area with rope bridges and other obstacles.
  • Arabian Coast: A step into this port feels a bit like you’re in a waterfront Agrabah with architectural influences inspired by the Middle-East and India.
    • The Magic Lamp Theatre (FP): An indoor 3D pre-show and show featuring the Genie and friends was entertaining and a retreat from the heat.
    • Caravan Carousel: This isn’t just any carousel. This is a two-story carousel including famous Disney characters such as the Genie. A beautiful and unique take on a traditional ride. We rode at night, and it was magical. The pictures don’t do it justice.
    • Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage: This was my hubby’s favorite non-thrill ride in the park. It has a similar feel to It’s a Small World. You sit in a boat and ride around while the characters (which are even similar size and look to It’s a Small World) tell you the story of Sinbad. It had a nice song called “Compass of Your Heart” composed by Alan Menken playing in the background.
Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp
  • Mysterious Island: Based off of Jules Verne’s novel The Mysterious Island, this island is Captain Nemo’s lair. The center of the island is a volcano (Mount Prometheus), and it’s in this port where you will experience the depths of the Earth and sea.
    • Journey to the Center of the Earth (FP): This ride was regrettably closed while we visited, so although I don’t have a firsthand perspective, I had done my homework in anticipation of going to the park that day. It has similar technology to Epcot’s Test Track and is the most popular ride in the whole park. That is partly because this ride is exclusive to Tokyo DisneySea and you won’t find it anywhere else in the world.
    • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (FP): After you board a small submarine, you go on a sea journey with some unexpected turns. Although you are not actually underwater, the special effects in and around the submarine are really convincing. This ride is similar to other rides at Disney parks around the world such as California Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage and the Orlando Florida Magic Kingdom 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride (which retired in 1994).
Photo Credit: Tokyodisneyresort.jp

Pro Tips:

  • FastPass: Maximizing FastPass while at the park will help you to see everything in one day. Disney app now allows you to do FastPass directly from your smart phone. It’s so convenient, because you used to have to go back to the ride to scan your ticket. Now you can sign up for FastPass from anywhere in the park. Don’t forget to keep an eye on time and ensure you don’t miss the ride window. Once you are allowed to reserve another FastPass, do it! All rides that offer FastPass are listed above as “FP”. As you can see, there are plenty of options.
  • Single Rider: There are two rides in the park that offer single rider options: Indiana Jones Adventure and Raging Spirits. Single rider allows you to go through an entrance separate from the main line which will save you a bunch of time (similar to FastPass). Although my husband and I were in a new country, we didn’t mind splitting up for a few minutes of the ride to save the hour wait time. We made a game plan of where to meet when the ride ended, and basically walked onto both of these rides without lines. If you are trying to accomplish every ride in a single day, plus some shows and dining, then this is an awesome option for you to take advantage of.

Snacks

Disney is well known for creating inventive treats that are new concoctions, as well as serving familiar treats in the shapes of our beloved Disney characters. While in this park, we enjoyed several treats that were sometimes really yummy, and sometimes not.

  • First things first, a MAJOR shout out to the staff in the show lottery kiosk (more info on that process below) that truly made our entire day of snacks possible. Hubby and I had been wearing Disney celebratory pins for our wedding and did not win lottery tickets for the show. The staff recognized our pins, and the fact that we were not granted tickets, and asked us to hold a minute. They came back and presented us with two lanyards and a small piece of paper. This gift allowed us to consume UNLIMITED popcorn all day long from popcorn kiosks. It was incredible. Popcorn is nothing new. We have it in America and all over the world, but Japan Disney does it right. They offer the most variety of, and in some cases inventive, flavors that we’d never seen. On that particular day, they were offering seven flavors (an example of this can be seen on the bottom left hand corner of the park map above). As we went through the park, we tried every flavor, some more than once. It was wonderful. I think I liked all the flavors except the seaweed flavor which was too fishy for me. What a generous gift. We have never received any type of kindness like this from theme park staff. It truly made our day. We actually filled up on so much popcorn that we hardly ate anything else, but it was worth it.
  • I ordered a really tasty seashell-shaped sea salt (wow say that three times fast) ice cream in Mermaid Lagoon.
  • From the not-so-great side, we had a pasta dish from a restaurant inside the Mediterranean Harbor that was actually really awful. As an Italian myself, I’m a very tough critic and shouldn’t have ordered a pasta dish in a Disney Park in Japan. Mistake number one and I really blame myself for that. But word to the wise, just because it looks like you’re strolling down a Venice street, does not mean the food will taste authentic.

Pro Tip:

  • As I noted above in our popcorn gift section, we had been granted that gift because the staff recognized we were celebrating. If you aren’t aware, at most Disney Parks around the world, you can ask at Guest Services if they offer free celebratory pins. These are FREE SOUVENIRS, people! Disney usually offers a few kinds. Sometimes a generic “celebrating” or “birthday” or sometimes “just married.” It’s a long story, but we actually traveled on our honeymoon WITH “just married” pins from Orlando Florida Disney because we wanted to wear pins in the park and weren’t sure if they offered them. We had visited Hong Kong Disney ^^^^LINK: http://amarvelousevent.com/blog/two-days-in-hong-kong/ ^^^^^ a few weeks before Japan, and wore our Orlando pins to that park. At guest services we were provided new Hong Kong “just married” pins! Score!! Now in Japan, we asked at guest services if they gave pins, and unfortunately they didn’t (don’t let that stop you from still asking for the pins, as perhaps they changed the offering since 2018). So we wore our Hong Kong pins around the park, and I’m sure that had we not been wearing the pins, we never would have received the popcorn gift because those two ladies wouldn’t have known it was our honeymoon. To make a very long story short: get your free souvenir and wear them to the parks.

Land Shows

There are several land-based stage shows that are ticketed or walk-up. For the ticketed shows, tickets can be reserved in two ways: a computer-generated lottery system to win assigned seats, or a standby line. The lottery machines are located at Biglietteria in the Mediterranean Harbor just before the gondola bridge (or from the park app on your smart phone once you have entered the park), and I recommend you try lottery first before standby. Simply hold up your ticket barcode for everyone in your group, choose your show time, and then the screen tells you if you win or miss out on tickets. We tried our hand at the lottery and did not get tickets. And the standby lines were always a madhouse, so we missed the show I really wanted to see. Such a bummer as I am a theatre enthusiast and would have loved to have seen the production (even though it was probably in Japanese).

  • Big Band Beat (Lottery): A large production swing jazz show and known as one of the best shows in the park. This is the most coveted lottery ticket.
  • Hello, New York!: Presented in the New York area of American Waterfront and shows Mickey and friends enjoying the Big Apple.
  • A Table is Waiting: An outdoor show that follows a catchy tune and takes you through different cuisines from around the world. Seating is available on a first-come first-served basis.
  • My Friend Duffy: Presented at the Cape Cop Cook-Off, order a meal and sit back to watch the show while you dine.
  • Song of Mirage (Lottery): Brand new. In the Lost River Delta, Mickey and friends go on an adventure in search of the Rio Dorado.

Sea Shows

There are several sea shows in the Mediterranean Harbor ranging from a single barge to full-on productions. Many people claim a viewing spot as early as two hours in advance of the show. So if you are serious about having an unobstructed view, pick your spot, grab a snack to munch on, and park yourself there for a good deal of time. A few coveted spots to watch from are in Mickey Square (right in front of the harbor), Lido Isle (a small island to the left of Mickey Square), the bridge between American Waterfront and Mysterious Island, and the stage area in front of Zambini Brothers to the right in the harbor.

  • Mickey & Friends Harbor Greetings: Single decorated barge with Mickey and all his friends parading through the harbor to say hello. We saw this during our visit.
  • Transit Steamer Greeting: Brand new. Similar to above with Mickey and friends saying hello, except this time on an antique steamer boat.
  • To end the night, we grabbed a spot around the lagoon to watch the nighttime parade on the water that was called Fantasmic! It was absolutely magical. Such a creative display of moving boats, characters, water, lights, and pyrotechnics. Really impressive. Disney retired this show in March of 2020 and released a new show called Disney Light the Night, which is a fireworks and music display that can be seen and heard from all over the park and not just along on the water. You’re in for a real treat to end your night, because Disney knows how to say goodbye and thanks for visiting! The video below will give you a glimpse of the Fantasmic! show we experienced in 2018.

Video credit: TokyoDisneyResortOfficial

Pro Tips:

  • Sometimes if the park isn’t too crowded, shows will be on a first-come first-served basis, and you won’t need the lottery system.
  • Sometimes the first show of the day is first-come first-served and it’s just a 30-minute wait in line to gain entry. So if you’re at the entry gate early, you are almost guaranteed to see the show if you head straight to the theatre.

Decor

Easter in 2018 was April 1st, and we visited the park at the end of May while they were still decorated . Look at all these cool eggs!

We had the most incredible day at DisneySea. It was both of our first times there, we experienced a new park and new rides, were spoiled by the park staff, and just had the most magical time. Of our six-week honeymoon around the world, DisneySea is definitely the thing I rave about most. Whenever I know someone going to Japan I recommend it, whenever I learn about someone who loves Disney Parks or has visiting all the Disney Parks on their bucket list (like me), I share our experience with them. It was really an unforgettable day, and I can’t wait to visit Japan again and go back to DisneySea!

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Although my post covers our 2018 experience, I wanted to provide you with a park update as Disney had planned some additions that were slated to open in spring of 2020. I don’t believe the park was open for that launch due to Covid, but it will be an exciting time once the park reopens.

Video credit: TokyoDisneyResortOfficial

9 Days in Japan: Part 5 – Tokyo Disneyland

Disney holds a very special place in my heart. I was raised on Disney movies, and most of my all-time favorite movies are from either Disney or Pixar. I grew up in South Florida, and we lived in driving distance from four major Disney theme parks. We spent many family vacations and school trips at the parks. It’s also on my bucket list to visit all the Disney parks and castles. On our wedding day, the Hubbs gifted me tickets to three Asia Disney parks that we would be close to (Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo Disney Sea). Smart man knows his wife.

As you can see, Disney is really important to me. There was no way I was going to visit Tokyo and miss out on two Disney theme parks. When in Tokyo… am I right? Since there is so much to say about both parks, I decided to do them justice and split them into two blog posts. This particular post is going to only cover Tokyo Disneyland.

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Day 6 in Japan

We woke up very early because I am super serious when it comes to theme parks. I am one of those people who is first in the park, has a full game plan for the day, and would be devastated if we arrived late and missed out on something. Plus, since you pay for the full day experience, I like to actually be there the full day from open gates to closing fireworks.

Photo Credit: Disney

Getting There

We left our hotel and took the subway on our corner headed toward Tokyo Station, which took about 12 minutes. Next, we transferred to a second subway line that took another 16 minutes but took us right to the Disney area. Once you depart the cutely branded train, you walk down the train station and along a long sidewalk path leading to the park entrance. If you’re like us, then the park won’t be open upon arrival. So we took a seat in the sea of people who had also arrived early for the entrance.

Photo Credit: Disney

Tickets

I highly encourage you to buy your tickets in advance of arriving at Disney. We were visiting from America and purchased ours online and used e-tickets from our iPhones to scan and enter the park. We had no issues, and it saved us from waiting in lines that morning to purchase tickets. Not to mention that sometimes when you buy online in advance you can get a discounted rate, and you guarantee they won’t sell out for the day.

We had purchased the 2-Day Passport ticket that came out to ¥13,200 JPY ($118 USD) per person. That is actually really affordable for not only theme park tickets, but especially for Disney tickets. So that comes out to about $59 per day. In comparison, if you commit to four days at Orlando Disney parks, they will give you a discounted rate of $89 per day (totaling a whopping $356 + tax)!

We bought the 2-Day Passport since Tokyo has two Disney parks, Disneyland and Disney Sea. We planned to spend day one in Disneyland and then switch over to Disney Sea on the second day. I highly encourage you to see both parks, because when’s the next time you will be in Tokyo? However, if you only had time or funds to see one park, then it MUST BE DISNEY SEA. I’ll cover Disney Sea in the next blog post, so stay tuned to see what makes that park so special.

Pro Tips:

  • 1-day and 2-day tickets are sold in senior, adult, junior, and child pricing brackets. Special rate tickets are not always sold like this, but sometimes as a flat fee for any age.
  • There is a discount ticket called the After 6 Passport. This ticket allows you entrance into the park after six in the evening on weekdays only so you can enjoy the later shows and potentially shorter ride lines as families begin to head home early for the day. The price is an incredible flat rate of ¥4,300 JPY ($38 USD) per person. That’s a great savings!! You 100% won’t see the whole park from 6pm to closing, but with that savings it may be worth it to some.
  • There is also a discounted ticket called the Starlight Passport for use from 3pm on weekends and holidays, and the price to enter is ¥5,500 JPY ($49 USD) for adults, ¥4,800 JPY ($43 USD) for juniors, and ¥3,600 JPY ($32 USD) for children.
  • There are also 3-day and 4-day tickets available. I’ll say that we spent two full days, gate opening to closing fireworks in the park, and I felt there were things we could have still seen. We didn’t get to see every show in each land, and there were lotteries that we lost so we missed those shows. We just weren’t in Tokyo long enough for a 3-day or 4-day ticket to Disney. This was also our first time in Tokyo, and we were there for some culture and exploration too, not just the parks. I felt we experienced most if not all the rides. But should you be interested, the pricing is broken down by adult, junior, and child pricing on the Disney Tokyo website.

Attractions

Tokyo Disneyland has a very similar layout to Orlando’s Disney World. The heart of the park is Cinderella’s Castle, surrounded by several themed lands: Tomorrowland, Toontown, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Westernland, and Adventureland. The main difference is that there is no Main Street USA to enter the park. Instead, at Tokyo Disneyland you enter the park in the World Bazaar, which has restaurants, shops, arcade games, and a double-decker bus tour attraction.

Photo Credit: Disney

Pro Tip:

  • In the World Bazaar and 10 other places around the park, there are mailboxes. Letters and postcards placed in these mailboxes will be imprinted with a special Tokyo Disneyland design and delivered to the post office. It would be neat to send a postcard to someone back home, or even to yourself if you scrapbook or like keepsakes. Wish I had known about this one on our trip!
Photo Credit: Disney
Image Credit: Disney

On the exterior, the castle looked similar to other parks’ Cinderella castles. From the outside, there was a set of steps you could use to walk up and enter the castle, and this is where the similarities stop due to a different interior. From there, a room themed with the scene where Cinderella tries on the glass slipper was inside. It was very beautifully done with stained glass windows and tile mosaic floor and wall murals. There were several photo ops Hubby and I took advantage of. There was also one shop in the castle that sold high end statues, tiaras, and other more expensive china cabinet knickknacks.

Instead of me outlining every single ride in each land, below I have provided a taste of my favorite ride from each land (excluding FastPass rides, which we’ll discuss below).

  • Tomorrowland’s Stitch Encounter allowed us to talk live time to Stitch in a humorous theatre style show. We visited in May, and it was a really nice escape from the heat. All other large attractions in Tomorrowland are FastPass.
  • Toontown’s Gadget’s Go Coaster is a small but quick coaster that takes you through all of Gadget’s latest inventions.
  • Fantasyland’s “It’s a Small World” was so fresh and different from all other Disney Parks’ versions. Seriously best in the world thus far that I’ve seen. I absolutely LOVED that they sprinkled Disney movie characters into the regular international children. For example, Belle was in the France area, Peter Pan was in the UK area, Jasmine and Aladdin were in the Arabian area, Simba and Timon/Pumba were in the African jungle area… And they had new characters like Elsa, Ana, Moana, Merida, and more… It was all really well done.
  • Critter Country has a Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes ride where a bunch of people get into a large canoe and then you paddle yourself throughout the ride. We regrettably didn’t get to go on this ride, but it’s something I’ve never seen in a theme park, so I figured it should make the list.
  • Westernland featured the Tom Sawyer Island Rafts ride that carried passengers from the mainland, down the rivers of America, and over to Tom Sawyer’s Island. We also didn’t have the opportunity to ride this one, not enough hours in the day. But it did look neat. I think by the time we had gotten to this area of the park, it was already closed because they close before sunset.
  • Adventureland had one of my favorites: the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where we get ready to set sail with Captain Jack Sparrow. I think this version seemed more recently updated than the Orlando ride.

FastPass

FastPass is a free way to skip the lines of the most popular rides in the park. If you were familiar with the old FastPass system at Disney Orlando Florida parks, then you already understand the system in Tokyo. But for those that are unfamiliar, Disney Tokyo allows you to get FastPass tickets once you have entered the park. All you have to do is bring your park ticket up to the participating attraction you’d like to ride and insert it into the machine, collect your newly printed FastPass ticket, and come back later at the designated hour window of time to skip the line.

There are eight rides that have FastPass:

  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek! (Exclusive to Disneyland Tokyo)
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
  • Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
  • Splash Mountain
Don’t judge us for taking this pic! OK, maybe just a little…
  • Space Mountain
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (Exclusive to Disneyland Tokyo)

Pro Tips:

  • The most important thing to understand is that the park will run out of FastPass tickets EARLY! Every ride only allots a certain number of FastPass tickets per ride per hour, and they are all distributed first thing in the morning. The day we were there, they ran out of FastPass tickets in under two hours of the park opening.
  • There are some rules the machines will make you follow. Since you have to scan your park ticket to receive a FastPass ticket, the smart system tracks which FastPass tickets you already have, and then only lets you have one ticket for that particular time slot. There is usually a two hour wait period between FastPass ticket times. For example, if your first FastPass ticket window is from 10am, then the next allowable time you can have a FastPass ticket is beginning at 12pm.
  • I suggest you arrive at the park early (before they open) and get in the queue to enter. Once the gates open, you should make a beeline to your number-one FastPass attraction and immediately get the ticket. Your goal should be to get a ticket for what you believe will be the most popular ride in the park; that way, you can guarantee you’ll ride it. Then your goal should switch to obtaining as many additional FastPasses as possible. So head directly to your next FastPass attraction to pull that ticket… and so on. You are able to hold several FastPass tickets at a time, as long as the two-hour rule is followed, so maximize and optimize on this timing.
  • If you’re visiting with a group of people, then you can designate one responsible and fast person to hold all the park tickets. They can quickly go to the FastPass machines to retrieve all the tickets for your party while everyone else waits in another ride’s stand-by line, uses the restrooms, or grabs a bite to eat.
  • The most popular rides for FastPass are Monsters Inc. and Pooh, since they are exclusive to Tokyo Disneyland. You can find the rest of these FastPass rides at other Disney parks around the world, and although they are great attractions, there is a little less of a draw in my opinion. The internet will tell you to get a ticket to these rides first thing in the morning because lines are heavy all day long. However, most of the morning rush will run to these rides for FastPass. We did the complete opposite to avoid crowds and ended up getting more FastPasses throughout the day. We gamed on the fact that later in the day those lines would die down. We still rode Monsters Inc. and Pooh, it was just later in the day in the stand-by lines. So you can take two different routes as one of the first people in the park, you can firstly go straight to the exclusive rides (more popular option), or you can go straight to the next best rides and avoid the crowds (what we did).

Single Rider

There is another way to skip the line at two of the best attractions in the park: Single Rider lines. Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain both have an option where you walk up to the FastPass line attendant and say you’d like to ride “single rider.” They will magically step aside and let you into that lane without a FastPass ticket.

My hubby and I did single rider as much as we could. There is a chance that your party gets split up when you go to ride, but these rides are only a few minutes each, so you can experience the ride and meet up after in the exit gift shop. At bare minimum, the ride wait times are half an hour, so for us to save a whole hour (minimum) of our day riding single rider, that left more time to do other attractions and shows.

Dining

One of the most interesting things we learned about dining in a Tokyo Japan theme park is that the Japanese love popcorn. This park had FIFTEEN popcorn stands featuring SEVEN different flavors: soy sauce and butter, caramel, curry, corn potage, honey, salt, and milk chocolate. They do every once in a while change flavors without notice on the map, so you may have different flavors when you visit. It is so popular they they even denote an entire section of their map to showcase the numbers of popcorn stands throughout the park.

Some other special snacks you could look into are character-themed mochi dumplings, Mike Wazowski melonpan, pizza spring rolls, Mickey-shaped churros, and mango soft serve ice cream (that has been compared to the dole whip).