Monday, November 7, 2016

Tokyo Disneyland Review

Before I head off on Asian Excursion Part II, I figured I'd give my thoughts on two of Disney's offshore theme parks. Before I get to quite possibly the best (I think it is, a bunch other people feel same way, but it's all subjective) Disney Park in Tokyo DisneySea, I will bring you Tokyo Disneyland!

Me and my traveling group (consisting of my sister and brother-in-law, as well as one of my closest friends) visited Tokyo Disneyland a couple days before Christmas in 2015. Over in Japan, this nearly coincides with the Emperor's Birthday which is December 23rd, and is quite possibly the biggest holiday over there. Being so close to Christmas, naturally nearly everything was decked out in festive holiday garb.

This park is unique to any of the Disney parks that I know of in that Main Street USA has a roof over it. In this park, Main Street is called the World Bazaar, since obviously we aren't in the good ole' US of A anymore. I will say that I've only been to Disney World and now the Tokyo resort, but I have researched all of the current Disney parks to death. The Main Street is also a little bit expanded here, but like the rest of this park, it certainly caters to massive hoards of people, so the added room is a welcome addition.

The first area of the park we ventured into was Tomorrowland since it is located in its traditional place to the right of the entrance like almost every other Disney park in existing (except you Shanghai...). This park also has the FastPass system installed and if you are familiar with Disney's current system in Orlando, and what they are currently trying to roll out in California is the Magic Bands. This park utilizes the old way of going to a kiosk, inserting park ticket, and getting a time on a little pass piece of paper. I really liked this old way as I collected the ride logos on the top of them (I know, I'm a nerd), but the Magic Band thing works pretty slick. I call it a toss up between the two.

So our plan was to snag some Fast Passes for Space Mountain and then hit up some of the other rides while we waited for our time. After getting passes, which ended up being the wrong ones because I messed up (Yes, the Disney expert still screwed up), we went straight for one of all of our favorites, Star Tours.

Yes, now before you say anything, the signs are in English. That makes it very easy to get around, but this ride is a perfect example of what lies ahead for anyone traveling to any of the Tokyo parks, or what I would imagine at any other Disney park in the world, the rides are not in English. But to me, that doesn't matter at all. At least not here in Tokyo Disneyland that if you have ridden them here in the States, you get the gist of what is being said here.

Now with Star Tours, I love the fact that C-3PO speaks in Japanese. He IS fluent in over 6 million forms of communication, so the fact that he speaks Japanese to me just makes sense. It is fun hearing all of the other characters speak the language as well, especially Darth Vader. He really does want to be terrifying to everyone! (Note: I am not terrified of Darth Vader.)

Instead of going around the park in the way we did it, I will stay in Tomorrowland and cover the other attractions we did. Of course we rode Space Mountain, and naturally a couple times as we went on it again after we did indeed get the correct Fast Pass later.

This Space Mountain I would guess is pretty similar to the California version as it is a single track, which is unlike the Orlando version with the Alpha and Omega tracks (PSA: If you visit Orlando, always request Omega, it's much better). The loading platform is pretty awesome, and I know the following picture is a little blurry, but hey it was dark.

One attraction we did that we didn't intend of doing, but I grabbed wrong Fast Passes, was the Stitch Encounter. This is not the same as the one in Orlando (that thankfully I haven't been on, ALIEN ENCOUNTER TIL I DIE!) This one is like some of the attractions in Orlando where a video screen of a character interacts with the audience by answering questions and talking to people. This is where we ran into a problem. None of us are fluent in Japanese, and yes, Stitch speaks perfect Japanese (Stitch is extremely popular in Japan). So this was about 10 minutes of kind of just playing along with the crowd reaction and hoping Stitch didn't pick any of us to talk.

The thing we did in Tomorrowland was later in the night as the line was long all day. This is a common theme in Tokyo Disneyland, don't be afraid of long waits. Fast Pass makes all the difference here compared to the parks in Orlando as you definitely would prefer to use them in Japan. Orlando there are times you might not need such a pass. This ride was the Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek and can only be found in Tokyo.

Yes, it is housed in a seemingly replica version of the Monsters, Inc. headquarters, and that alone is worth the wait. I took the photo during the day but we didn't ride it until near 9 pm, and it was really dark outside. And I mean really dark, the sun goes down at almost 3:30 pm in Japan in December. It's really odd for those of us with Daylight Savings Time. The paths are so wide in Tokyo Disneyland that at night they seem like they aren't lit because the street lamps are so far apart.

But alas, back to Monsters, Inc. The waiting queue takes you through the entryway and you get to see stuff that makes you feel like you are actually in the movie (which is of course a Disney trademark feeling). Some of these items include the logo in the center of the atrium and the secretary's desk.

The ride itself, like I stated earlier, is very unique. You sit in a little vehicle and you go through dioramas and instead of using a laser gun to shoot things, you have a flash light that you shine at characters and things to make them move. Mike and Sully are looking for Boo before Randall gets her and of course they get into crazy hijinks and you activate all of them by shining them with your flash light. My friend was only concerned with shining her light at Boo all the time and she almost cried for joy every single time. Being only found in Japan, this ride is definitely worth the wait.

Heading across the park, of course you have to stop and admire the castle in each Disney Park. This one also featured Cinderella's Castle, which is also found at Orlando. A lot of people comment that Tokyo Disneyland is the best castle viewing park, and I guess I can't argue with that. There is way more room in and around this castle than there is in Orlando.

Venturing over into always one of my favorite parts of the park, Adventureland, was the second thing we did after Star Tours. This area of the park had all of the classics there including Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, and the Enchanted Tiki Room. My favorite thing about this area is how you definitely feel like you are in the jungle or on a Polynesian island. They also had a section depicting New Orleans here next to Pirates, as in California.

Starting with Pirates, which was by far our shortest wait the entire day. The line took only about 5 minutes (as I've read this is usually the case). That seems odd given the immense popularity of the ride in the States, but one thing to consider is that this boat ride has an extremely high rider per hour threshold. The capacity of each boat is large and the boats are continuous which cuts down line lengths dramatically.

This version of Pirates is drastically different from Orlando (which Disney enthusiasts say is the worst version, but honestly there is no BAD version of this ride). This one seems to be closer to the 'Pure' version of the California one. I will say I highly enjoyed this version of the ride and that started right at the beginning as it started in a bayou and into a drop into the caves featuring loads of treasure and skeletons. I know I stated earlier that the rides are in Japanese, but lo and behold, this is the only ride that is entirely in English! So don't worry, you get to hear Yo Ho Yo Ho in all its glory!

Next we did always one of my favorites, the Jungle Cruise. The only thing greater than hearing all those awesome puns throughout the ride is hearing them in Japanese. I think I've ridden this ride so many times in Orlando that I could almost recite the jokes told, which maybe is my Rosetta Stone to learning Japanese. Despite not really listening to the Skipper, its just neat to see all the animatronics on this ride, especially when they occur in a different order than what I've always known. Even the temple was a little different as this one had a bunch of effects embedded into the walls differently than Orlando.

Next up, all aboard to Westernland and the wildest ride in the west, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! Yes, it is called Westernland here, which makes sense to me. Compared to Japan, the things represented here are by far the most West thing from them! This version of Big Thunder is identical to the California version (which is a mirror image of the Orlando version). So this one includes the cave explosion and everything. We rode it in the twilight and it was awesome. Having rode the one in Florida many times, I say it is best at night with the way the lighting is all set up. But nonetheless, Big Thunder is always a great time.

They also have Tom Sawyer's Island here as well and is the same in that you have to take a ferry to get out to it. This Island was a lot of fun as it had a number of different things to do than the Orlando version. This one had many rope bridges and a bunch of rock formations that doubled as a splash pad for kids. The trails here were a lot of fun to hike, but the downside here was that there weren't as many caves to explore.

Fort Sam Clemens here has an actual little treat shop in it that sold various drinks and dessert items. My sister and brother-in-law got some little twinkie looking Mickey Mouse treats here that were on a stick and were delicious. They were like pancake batter formed to the stick, simple but elegant.

After we got back to the mainland of the park, we ventured through Critter Country before heading through Fantasyland and ToonTown. Orlando doesn't have a Critter Country, but California does, and like there, Splash Mountain can be found here. We rode Splash Mountain the absolute last because we didn't want to walk around the park wet in mid 50 degree weather. Yes, in late December, Tokyo is about mid-50s. I was walking around in jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt and was comfortable most of the day (until the night, which as I said starts at 3:30 and it started to get cold). I get however get a bunch of odd glances as the locals were all bundled up in heavy winter coats yet here I am in just a shirt. Ah being from a place that gets extremely cold in the winter!

Splash Mountain is always really fun, and is way more than just 'The Drop'. I argue that the drop that is technically a double-drop that puts you into the Laughing Place deep in the caves is just as fun as it is in complete darkness. The queue line for this version of Splash Mountain is awesome as it is almost entirely in a cave system. Just walking through these caves gives you a sense of wonder that these are man-made, but they seem so much more than that.

The Fantasyland here has a bunch of the usual suspects here that we didn't spend the time to wait in line or get Fast Passes to since we've ridden the counterparts in the US. Here you can find Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Adventures, Mickey's Philharmagic, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Dumbo, Castle Carousel, and Alice's Tea Party.

There are a couple of things here that don't exist stateside, like the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, shown below, that technically adds a second castle here (hey if Magic Kingdom claims three, this one has two!). We didn't eat here, but alas, had to take a picture since it's different.

The other attraction that we didn't get to do was Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This is another Tokyo exclusive and is from what I've read one of the more advanced rides they've created. The wait time for this was over 2+ hours all day long, and Fast Passes were all gone by the time we could have even attempted to get some based off our other passes. The premise is that you are in a honey pot and it doesn't follow a track like most rides, and seemingly gives you a different experience each time. You join Winnie the Pooh as he searches for honey, but other than the ride system, I couldn't tell you much about the story besides my basic premise.

Despite glossing over most parts of Fantasyland, we actually did go on two rides in this area! Of course, what is a visit to any Disney park and not going on It's a Small World?! As much as I dislike the song for always getting stuck in your head (it's in yours now, your welcome), I feel like going on this ride is always a must. The thing about it as well as is that no matter what language you speak, this ride will always speak to you as there are so many represented in here. Plus this ride is my friend's favorite ride, so she made us go on it.

The other is one of Disney's masterpieces, the Haunted Mansion. If you don't like this ride, then I can't talk to you. It is so good, I can point you to dozens of articles by fans like me that detail almost every thing in the mansion and the thoughts that went into it. Despite going on this ride dozens upon dozens of times, I experienced something entirely new here. Despite the ride being in Japanese, it was in its Nightmare Before Christmas theme.

What Disney does during this time is re-theme Gracey Manor into almost everything about Tim Burton's classic. The outside is decked out in ghastly looking pumpkins and scarecrows and is just absolutely awesome.

Inside the ride, they incorporate the Nightmare Before Christmas songs into the ride and put a ton of the characters in there as well. Don't worry, a ton of the classic elements of the Haunted Mansion are intact, including all of the amazing special effects of the ghost ball. But the cemetery is redecorated like the spiral hills of Halloweentown and even all the stretch portraits near the beginning are of characters from the movie. The attic was neat as it had that snake sandworm looking thing that eats the Christmas tree in it. The Grim Grinning Ghosts song does appear in this version as well, albeit briefly, as most of it is filled with songs from Nightmare. I'll leave you with one last awesome image taken from the entrance foyer (before I couldn't take anymore pictures!).

The last section of the park is ToonTown, and we briefly journeyed into here to see the sights and get a quick bite to eat which featured Mickey Mouse shaped burgers. This section of the park is similar to other ToonTowns with all of the classic Disney characters having their homes here but also Gadget's Go Coaster, which is a steel mini coaster.

We did go on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, which was a lot of fun. I liken it to the old Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Magic Kingdom before it was closed down because of giving people whiplash. This ride flung you around (part of it is your own doing) and was filled with bright colors and Roger Rabbit characters. Disclaimer: I'm a huge Roger Rabbit movie fan. The queue line for this was filled with Easter eggs from the film, as a bunch of shadows of the characters filled windows throughout the line, but also, as seen in the picture below, a chamber filled with the notorious DIP.

The last couple of images I will post show how the park changes at night. This is not a Tokyo exclusive thing by any means, all Disney parks do this and is why I love taking photos of attractions both during the day and the night. I highly recommend anyone who visits any Disney park stay for both parts of the day. Things are different, and by that I mean you will notice things you didn't during the day, and vice versa. The two pictures below are of ones I included above so you can see the difference. First is Cinderella's Castle.

And second, Space Mountain.

In the end, my advice to anyone thinking about visiting Tokyo Disneyland is this, if you have to the time at the resort or want to visit a Disney Park outside of the US, go here. If you are running short on time and have to choose between DisneySea and this park, I without a doubt say DisneySea. I will post that review as well and let you be the judge (I know you will pick DisneySea...).

The only reason I say to not go here if you have to pick between them, is that if you have been to Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, then you could do probably 85% of what you could do here. If you've never been to either, well you would get to experience the classics in a foreign language than the originals and provide you with a unique outlook on them.

But another great thing about visiting here is that despite experiencing some of these things thousands of miles away on the other side of the world in the US, it is awesome to see that those same things exhilarate and bring upon absolute joy to people just as much as they do back home.

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.

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