Whether you’re looking to escape the haze, mama, or are a theme park nut, Sassy Mama Crystal has got all the deets on how to make the most of a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort with kids!
If you’re traveling to Japan with your children, it’s hard to ignore that Tokyo boasts not one, but two Disney theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Families with children of all ages will find something to love here, so put on your mouse ears and check out our tips for enjoying all the Disney magic Tokyo has to offer.
Disneyland or DisneySea?
Travelers Series Guide to Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo Disneysea (2nd edition) by Travis Medley was an invaluable tool to plan our days at Disney. Medley deconstructs each ride, store, and food stall to help the reader decide his/her priorities. It’s available as both an electronic or physical book.
Tokyo Disneyland is almost twice as large as its Hong Kong counterpart. You’ll find all the familiar rides from Space Mountain to The Haunted Mansion and Alice’s Tea Party. Of the 40 rides on offer, only seven have height restrictions of 90 or 102 centimeters. The other 33 are infant- and toddler-friendly. Disneyland boasts daily parades, fireworks, and an evening program called “Once Upon a Time,” where images projected onto the castle showcase beloved Disney stories.
DisneySea was conceptualized to appeal to a more mature audience. While there is much to see, there are only 28 rides, of which seven have a minimum height requirement as high as 117 centimeters. Rather than street parades, DisneySea’s parades happen in the massive lake called “Mediterranean Harbor.” There’s only one child-centric port of call—Mermaid Lagoon. Should your child dislike The Little Mermaid, you may want to give DisneySea a pass until they are tweens/teens.
If you have only one day, go to Disneyland. If you have several days, DisneySea can be covered in one day. Be prepared for massive crowds; according to this report, Tokyo Disneyland’s park attendance was 17 million in 2014, and DisneySea boasted 14 million visitors on its own. Go on a weekday for the smallest crowds and shortest wait times.
Where To Stay/How To Get There
There are two hotels on the parks’ properties and another six official hotels along a monorail route. If you’re staying in downtown Tokyo, the parks are easily accessed by riding the Keiyo Line to Maihama Station and then switching to the monorail. Suica cards (the Tokyo equivalent of EZ-link cards) work on both.
I highly recommend the “Happy Magic Rooms” at the Hilton Tokyo Bay. These huge rooms are found on dedicated non-smoking floors. There are three beds that can be pushed together to form one giant bed, or moved apart to suit the needs of your family. The hotel is a five-minute walk from the Bayside monorail station and offers regular shuttle service to both the monorail and the Maihama subway station.
Children three and under are free at the Disney parks (woohoo!).
There are some notable differences in Tokyo’s ticket policies as compared to the original parks in the United States. In Tokyo, multi-day tickets must be used on consecutive days and there are no park hopper passes that allow entry to both parks on the same day. Click here for all ticket prices and explanations.
Fastpass is available for seven of the forty rides at Disneyland and nine of the twenty-eight rides at DisneySea. You must go to the kiosk by the ride and insert your admission tickets. Fastpass tickets run out quickly, so don’t count on being able to get one.
There are a number of food options in both parks. Bottled water is not widely available in the park, although there are fountains in some restaurants. Should you find a vendor selling bottled water, stock up! Otherwise, bring or purchase a water bottle to refill at fountains throughout the day. We highly recommend The Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall in Fantasyland (Disneyland) where you will find healthy (and delicious!) alternatives to typical park fare.
Do not miss out on the popcorn. The parks feature a different flavour of popcorn at every stall, so you can try curry popcorn, soy sauce and butter popcorn, and other exciting flavors beyond the usual salted. Should you buy a souvenir container, you can get cheap refills at the different stalls throughout the day.
Do not avoid the park when it rains. Park attendance drops, which means the lines become shorter. Even uncovered rides like Dumbo The Flying Elephant still operate in a downpour. Ponchos and raincoats sell out quickly, so bring your own. Parades continue in the rain, although fireworks may be canceled.
To get a free map and daily schedule in English, go to any of the stores and ask at the counter. Many Cast Members speak a little English or Mandarin. Smiling and pantomime will get you further than you might imagine. And we all know Mickey is universally beloved in any language.
All the shows at both parks are in Japanese (although English lyrics to songs are sometimes used). All the speaking roles are also in Japanese. We saw the show at Mermaid Lagoon Theater and within five minutes both children were bored as they struggled to follow the story. After that, we elected to skip all attractions where not understanding Japanese would be a detriment (Turtle Talk, Magic Lamp Theater, Tiki Room, Stitch Encounter, etc.).
Favourite Rides (Disneyland)
Disneyland offers all the perennial favorites. Our children (age 7 and 4) particularly enjoyed Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Gadget’s Go Coaster. In Toontown they adored the opportunity to walk through Minnie’s house, Donald Duck’s boat, and more. Mickey’s house is where we met the Mouse himself (long wait warning). This is one of only two parks in the world where you can catch The Electric Light Parade, so don’t miss out!
Favorite Rides (DisneySea)
Our children adored Jumping Jellyfish, Flounder’s Fish Coaster, and Scuttles Scooters in Mermaid Lagoon. Meeting Ariel was a highlight of their day (long wait warning). Jasmine’s Flying Carpets in the Arabian Coast was also a hit. Fantasmic! was a wonderful end to our time at Disney, with pyrotechnics, boats, and a giant dragon Malificent who rose out of the water to do battle with Mickey.
Overall I’d say to keep your child’s personality in mind when evaluating which rides are right for you. Are they scared of the dark? Do they like thrill rides or more sedate ones? Can they handle a long wait time? It’s a good idea to review the rides on the website in advance and know which you’ll prioritise. There are plenty of choices for everyone.
Would we go back?
I can see us revisiting Disneyland in the next few years. However, we would probably wait to do DisneySea again until our children are much older–when they’ve reached minimum height for all rides, can handle long wait times, etc. All in all, though, Tokyo Disneyland was a definite highlight of our trip to Japan!