Enthusiasts commonly say that Tokyo Disneyland is the best Disney resort. Considering how much I love the US parks and the Disney characters, Tokyo Disneyland had stratospheric expectations. And it didn’t meet them…it exceeded them! Everything about the resort is exceptional.
I spent 5 days at the resort and the emphasis on customer service was otherworldly. Despite heavy crowds, I never waited more than 5 minutes in any food or merchandise line because of how well staffed the park was. Beyond that, it’s unbelievable the length that each employee goes to in order to ensure guests have one of the best days of their lives. They take service with a smile to a whole new level.
Everyone you see seems genuinely excited to see you and greets you with a smile, bow, wave, or usually a combination of the three. Heck there are employees standing outside shops waving the hand of a plushy as guests walk by. Tell me what other park would do something like that?
Delving into the individual parks, I’ll start with Tokyo Disneyland. I have a new favorite theme park. It takes everything great about Disneyland and improves upon it. It’s appropriately designed to handle large crowds and has all the classic attractions I’ve come to know and love from Disney plus some unique E-tickets like Monsters Inc. and Pooh.
It’s impossible to recount my visit play-by-play so I’ll just run through everything in no particular order.
I rode some fantastic roller coasters in Japan like Eejanaika, Flying Dinosaur, and Kawasemi, but Tokyo Disneyland had a ride topping them all- Splash Mountain. Disney’s take on a flume has been a favorite of mine from the day I first rode it. And Tokyo Disneyland has the best Splash Mountain in my opinion.
Since it was such a hot and muggy week, Splash Mountain’s queue regularly topped 90 minutes. Further it quickly ran out of Fastpasses. However, I was able to ride it over a dozen times thanks to the single rider line. I bypassed the entirety of the queue (which looked incredible I might add since it took place inside a cave inside the structure) and was usually paired up with another rider in 5-10 minutes.
It’s very similar to the Florida version except for a few minor differences. You have the comfy two-abreast logs and all the familiar animatronics. While the show scene starts similarly, the Laughing Place segment occurs before the second drop and is more prolonged. For me, that’s a welcome change.
From a thrill perspective, there are four drops. This Splash Mountain is unique in that the first plunge is enclosed. Then the second indoor drop is steeper than you’d expect (giving a good stomach drop feeling) and is followed by that odd uphill segment. There’s a pretty weak third drop, but the final plunge more than makes up for it. It’s every bit as excellent as the US counterparts- it’s tall, steep, and fast. The splash won’t get you wet, but the misters aimed right at your face are sure to nail you.
It’s impossible not to come off Splash Mountain smiling ear to ear and humming Zip-a-dee-do-dah. I’d go so far to say that Splash Mountain is better than 99% of coasters I’ve been on. Maybe I’m a bad enthusiast saying that, but Splash Mountain really is a tour de force combining everything I could ever want in an attraction- immersive theming, a well-executed story, and thrills. 10 out of 10
Big Thunder Mountain wasn’t quite as good as the US versions, but it was still a fun coaster. I was sure to ride in the back and was expecting the same combination of surprising airtime and strong laterals. However, on Tokyo’s version I only experienced the laterals. I’m not sure this one was slower or the drops were profiled slightly different, but I only got one little pop of air on the final drop.
The ride was glass smooth though as it carved its way through the picturesque mountain. It was odd having the bat scene at the end of the ride, but I thought it made for a nice finale. I only rode Big Thunder twice since I prioritized my Fastpasses for Pooh, Monsters, and Space, but it’s an enjoyable coaster nonetheless. 7 out of 10
Space Mountain was probably the attraction that I got the most Fastpasses for over my 5 days. For whatever reason, Space Mountain’s Fastpasses tended to last the longest. The queue was cool for two reasons. One, they had still had the space ramp leading to the interior queue. Second, there are little port holes along the queue where it’s possible to catch a glimpse of a rocket speeding by.
The layout was identical to Disneyland’s Space Mountain. There’s only one drop, but each right-hand turn gets progressively tighter until that impossibly tight left-hand turn catches you off-guard. For a coaster lacking drops, Space Mountain gains and holds its speed very well (or it feels that way at least).
However, Disneyland’s is superior for one major reason- the soundtrack. I never rode it with the Dick Dale soundtrack, but I absolutely love the Michael Giacchino one as you fly through the cosmos. I know the coaster originally existed without the music stateside, but I really did miss the on-board audio. Still it’s the best coaster at the resort as it gives a smooth and wild ride. 8 out of 10
Gadget’s Go Coaster was down for its annual rehab. I’ve ridden the one at Disneyland (and others), but I was slightly disappointed I didn’t get to ride my Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Ranger themed coaster. That was my favorite show as a kid, so it’s nostalgic in a way. But at least I was able to get my chipmunk fix by ascending their adjacent Treehouse and purchasing one of the best souvenirs of the trip.
But the bread and butter of a Disney park are all the dark rides and Tokyo Disneyland excelled here. My personal favorite was Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek. I hadn’t heard too much about this attraction other than the fact that it was the top Fastpass in the park. I came off very impressed.
Essentially it’s a twist on the shooting dark ride. Instead of using guns to kill monsters (this isn’t Universal), you use flashlights to illuminate monsters. That sounds pretty stupid, but it’s pure goofy fun. Every single target hit resulted in an animatronic responding. In an age where many dark rides rely on screens, it was refreshing seeing such expansive physical sets. It was very reminiscent of Men in Black Alien Attack.
While I do wish the score was kept for some friendly competition, the interactivity of the attraction really shone (pun intended). The monsters are cartoonish enough for kids and some targets are challenging enough to hit that there’s some difficulty for older riders. 10 out of 10
If you’ve been on Disneyland’s Buzz Lightyear, I’m pretty sure the one in Tokyo is a literal clone. I’m very thankful they didn’t copy the mounted guns of the Orlando version. The ride is pretty short in length, but there’s not a shortage of targets, many of which have different point values for an added challenge.
In a way, Monsters Inc. made Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blaster redundant. Buzz is a very fine attraction and one of the best shooters out there. It just so happens there’s a superior shooter literally next door. And that’s really more a testament to how good Monsters is since this is one of the better shooters out there thanks to its reliance on detailed practical sets. 9 out of 10
When people start talking about how great Tokyo Disneyland is, you can be sure that they’ll quickly mention Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. It’s technically the park’s most impressive dark ride because of the trackless ride system. Once you’ve ridden the Japanese version, the US versions are ruined (granted those nostalgic for Mr. Toad or the Country Bears may say that anyway).
The initial scene in the Hundred Acre Woods is extremely detailed. It’s so detailed that you’ll need multiple rides to see everything since your honey pot has a mind of its own and won’t always go the same way. The Tigger bouncing room is a delight, but it’s the finale that stands out.
The dreaming effect for Pooh is very well executed and the final room with the Heffalumps is absolute mayhem (in the best way possible). Disney really lets the trackless ride system shine in this room. You randomly spin and swirl about narrowly missing the other vehicles and periodically stopping at a brief scene.
I was somewhat let down after my first ride because of how immense the hype for this attraction was. However, after my second ride, I realized I was mistaken; Pooh really is one of the best rides Disney has ever created. The trackless ride system alone is a marvel. If you’ve been on Antarctica, you already know that. But unlike Antarctica, Pooh actually has a legit ride to go with it. 9.5 out of 10
Pirates of the Caribbean is a weird mashup of Orlando and California’s. In many ways, it feels like the Florida version with an abridged version of Disneyland’s cave section appended to the start. I have to be honest, the cave section is pretty slow and somewhat boring, but the voyage through the town is an absolute hoot.
I figure this will be the final time I see the bride auction scene in its original form, so it was nice to see one last time (although I heard the revision is well done). There are a few Jack Sparrow sightings, but I think he was tastefully added to the attraction. This really is a Disney classic and Japan’s stands up well. 9 out of 10
Next door was Jungle Cruise. Regrettably I did miss out on Japanese Jaws; however, I was treated to quite the animated experience on the Jungle Cruise. Now I know almost no Japanese, but what I do know is that the presentation was entirely different. While the US drivers give an intentionally deadpan spiel teeming with dry humor, the Japanese drivers were extremely animated.
The outdoor scenes were almost identical to the US ones, but one difference was inside the cavern. Where Florida’s is pitch black, Tokyo’s had a cool projection mapping effect not unlike what you see in the Cobra’s Curse queue line. I always enjoy an expedition on the Jungle Cruise. 9 out of 10
Another timeless classic is the Haunted Mansion. The park was rehabbing the building’s exterior. But did that keep the ride closed? Nope! They simply placed a massive tarp over the facade and operated it as normally.
The animatronics and effects seemed newer than the US versions, but otherwise the layout and scenes were similar. The one odd thing was how the language constantly transitioned from English to Japanese between scenes. I have great respect for the Japanese learning both languages since I could barely get an elementary understanding of Spanish after 5 years of classes. 9 out of 10
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is based on one of my all-time favorite movies and the ride represents the film well. This is one queue I don’t mind being stuck in because it’s well themed and has all sorts of references to the film. When I first rode the one in California, I was slightly disappointed the vehicles didn’t spin like the Mad Tea Party. But then I realized that would have neutralized all the detailed sets.
Instead the spinning adds to the general feeling of chaos throughout the attraction. It’s especially effective at the end of the attraction as you romp through the gag warehouse, dodging those dastardly weasels. But the highlight is without a doubt the extending tunnel effect. I’ve since looked up how that effect is executed, but it’s still incredible to see. 9 out of 10
Fantasyland also has the gambit of old-fashioned Disney dark rides. To avoid a painful hour queue, I had to rope drop Peter Pan’s Flight one day. Now I do enjoy Peter Pan. I just don’t enjoy waiting a long time for it. The ride is short, but I’m always impressed flying over the miniaturized London. I did find this one to be a bit darker (in terms of light) than the US versions, but it was still good. 7 out of 10
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey was a journey back in time. While you have the newer marvels like Pooh and Monsters Inc, you have this retro dark ride with blacklit effects and cutouts. The scenes were identical to California’s, but the vehicles seemed to travel quite a bit faster, more like they do on Mr. Toad. It was just missing the journey to hell. 7 out of 10
Snow White’s Adventures is another oldie but goodie. Considering their age, the animatronics look pretty good. The ride isn’t the longest in the world, but the scenes are well done and tell the story of Snow White quite well. 7 out of 10
It’s a Small World is such an easy ride to hate on. That’s what everyone does, me included. Yet I always end up riding the voyage around the world. Because if you can forgive the ride for getting that infectious tune stuck in your head, you know you secretly do enjoy the attraction. The Japanese in particular love It’s a Small World since I saw the queue hit 60 minutes at points.
I snuck on in the evening when the queue subsided and only waited 10 minutes. The only downside was that I got a nosebleed immediately after the ride began. Thankfully I had some tissues available or else the boat would have looked like a murder scene, although I wouldn’t put it past those dolls turning on the humans someday like the machines in Terminator.
The ride incorporates many familiar Disney characters into each scene. It’s not exactly subtle, especially the Frozen bit, but the characters are designed to match the artistic style of the attraction. It’s a Small World purists will probably complain, but I enjoy the scavenger hunt of locating the characters among the singing dolls. 8 out of 10
Mickey’s PhilharMagic was down for rehab at the start of the trip, but it reopened towards the end. Even though the entire film was in Japanese, appreciating classic Disney tunes such as Part of Your World and I Just Can’t Wait to be King is universal. The animation and 3D are beautiful and the ride ends with a literal bang. 9 out of 10
Star Tours offered Fastpasses, but they were never necessary since the queue rarely exceeded 15 minutes. I am a major fan of the randomized ride program since it definitely added to the reridability. For my first ride I had an episode 1 centric ride (groans) with JarJar and pod racing, but later I got a more favorable ride with Boba or Jango Fett pursing us with a bomb.
While I prefer several of the dark rides to Star Tours, I still have to admit this is one of the best executed simulators out there. You have a great story, some wild movements, and a nice picture. 8 out of 10
One of the neat things about the Enchanted Tiki Room is that the staff offered us English translators. Apparently two English tourists stood out like a sore thumb
Originally we just wanted to see the animatronics and relax in the AC, but this allowed us to understand the story. The attraction had a Stitch overlay. It seemed weird throwing an alien into an attraction about birds, but it actually worked. 6 out of 10
Unfortunately Stich Encounter didn’t offer the same translators. If you don’t know Japanese, you shouldn’t hesitate to skip this attraction. The animation was well done and based on the reactions of the locals, it seemed funny, but it was completely lost on me.
The Mad Tea Party is universal though. What could be simpler than boarding a tea cup and spinning it like mad? It was incredibly easy to get the cups spinning fast, but every few seconds they were automatically slowed down. It felt like the autobrake you’ll experience on a mountain coaster. I’ve never seen this on a tea cup before, but it was still a nice diversion from the park’s other attractions. 6 out of 10
The Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes were an odd attraction to find at such a corporate park. It’s odd being given an actual paddle and actually propelling the boat down the stream, but that’s exactly what happens on the canoes. The pitch between seats was pretty tight, so it was easy to smack paddles with others, but it was a nice, scenic change of pace. 6 out of 10
One of my least favorite Disney attractions is the Swiss Family/Tarzan Treehouse. The last thing I want to do after trekking around a park in the oppressive heat is to climb several flights of stairs for minimal theming. However, the Japanese version offered one thing the US version doesn’t- photo opportunities. From atop the treehouse, you can get some great shots of the mountains and Monsters Inc.
From a show perspective, the park offered two impressive parades- Dreaming Up and the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade. Since the Japanese have zero qualms respectfully and calmly waiting for hours to view shows or parades, the park operates a lottery system to help save people some time. Once per day, you have a chance to scan your ticket at a kiosk and if luck is on your side, you get a return time. Otherwise you join the masses.
It’s a neat system and I was lucky enough to have won a pass to the special viewing area for Dreaming Up. Unfortunately I couldn’t use it. Tokyo Disneyland is right next to the ocean. On one hand, it can produce a refreshing sea breeze. On the other hand, it cancelled the parade a few days.
Fortunately I was able to see Dreaming Up on my last day and it was an enjoyable show. There were floats for all the core characters plus everyone’s favorite princesses. The floats were well designed and the parade was accompanied by high energy music. It’s enjoyable, but the real star is the electrical parade. 7 out of 10
The Electrical Parade is absolute eye candy. Each float’s lighting package absolutely pops and it’s accompanied by an incredibly catchy tune (Disney seems to be quite good at this). I still think Universal has bested Disney for night parades, but this is far better than the one I used to watch at Disney World. 9 out of 10
From a food perspective, Tokyo Disneyland also excelled. I was disappointed the hotel didn’t have Mickey waffles (one of the highlights of an on-site Disney World vacation), but Tokyo Disneyland had me covered with the Great American Waffle Company. I had my waffle au natural, but those with a sweet tooth can have their waffle decorated with whipped cream, chocolate, and all sorts of diabetic delights.
If you want something heavier, my favorite place was the Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall. I’d be hard pressed to name a better looking and better themed restaurant. I was worried it’d be all about the experience and less about the food, but I had some delicious roast beef and rotisserie chicken from them.
If you really want to stuff your face, there’s the Crystal Palace. This is a buffet. None of the food is exceptional, but the breadth is impressive. I was particularly impressed by the amount of seafood available.
Last but not least there was popcorn. Again I’m not a fan of sweet things so I skipped a lot of flavors. I will say that I enjoyed the plain salted popcorn and it was an incredibly cheap snack in between meals. However, if you’re more adventurous than me, there were probably a dozen or so different flavors scattered about the park.
Tokyo Disneyland excels in every area. I could keep going on and on, but I’ve already rambled on enough and there are countless other glowing reviews out there. Tokyo Disneyland takes everything that’s great about Disneyland and takes it to the next level and makes a truly world-class experience. This is without a doubt my favorite Disney park.