8 March ’16
Tokyo Disney Resort is 14 minutes from Tokyo Station by light rail. The Tokyo metropolitan area has a population of 39 million people, that’s roughly the population of Canada. So of course Tokyo Disney parks get very busy, even during quiet weekdays. It doesn’t help that they give out so many fastpasses and prioritise fastpass queues so heavily. This means that you don’t actually spend a lot of time on rides, instead you spend a lot of time just enjoying the atmosphere, entertainment and characters.
In the case of Disney Sea that atmosphere and theming is the main reason you go there. 200 minute queues on the one hand are unsurprising given the setup, and on the other completely missing the point of the park. The depth to the theming in this park is incredible, you can spend days there without riding rides and still spot new things.
Tokyo Disneyland is a fairly traditional hub and spoke Magic Kingdom type layout, with a lot of similar attractions to the other parks around the world plus some unique ones. The likes of Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise are similar enough that you’ll recognise them but different enough that you’ll want to experience them. Many of the attractions are better than the Disney World versions, but that difference can feel wrong.
The language barrier is a little weird, cast members don’t really know what to do with westerners. They’ll greet you in Japanese and go through their usual spiel, and either break into English or use mime before going back to Japanese. Clearly the safety announcements they make are important, but apparently not important enough to translate most of the time. And the guests have even less English, interaction here usually involves giggling and sign language.
The food isn’t great, from what I’ve experienced. It’s mostly snacks and an attempt at American food. There are a few hidden gems though, so it’s worth checking the local Disney blogs (who have so many other detailed recommendations and guides too).
I can highly recommend the Hilton Tokyo Bay as a base. You don’t get early entry like at the official hotels, but its the best theme park hotel I’ve ever stayed in and affordable.
I’d recommend the experience to any Disney fan, and my four days there was about long enough. But it’s an awful long way to go without also spending some time in Tokyo itself (see previous post).
SS Columbia, Tokyo DisneySea
Riding trains around Tokyo
I had about 8 hours to spend in Tokyo, a list of places I should visit, and a loaded Suica card. This was starting to sound like an episode of The Amazing Race that people keep telling me I should enter.
After waving Anna and Elsa goodbye I leave Tokyo Disney Resort for Tokyo Station. The station opened in 1914, and inside it’s a modern station so it comes as something of a surprise to see the original pre-ww2 red brick building from outside, surrounded by skyscrapers. In fact there’s quite a few older buildings in amongst the modern skyscrapers between here and the Imperial Palace, my next stop in this trip.
The palace and surrounding gardens and parks are an area of peace and tranquillity in a city metro area containing 39 million people. It’s a nice stop before heading into the bustling city.
Next comes the area around Asakusa. It’s traditional Japan with many good restaurants, temples and markets. Tokyoites are starting to recognise the tourist potential here. It’s also where I start getting lost, and find myself making a detour to Shibuya - home of the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing in the world (of course I had to cross it).
Next up is Shinjuku, a modern shopping district as well as a major hub on the local rail network. Western stores mixed in with more regional offerings. It’s also a short walk to Tokyo’s red light district, but by now I’m running low on time and energy.
After getting a bit more lost I end up in Daiba, and more specifically Tokyo Teleport. The notes I had were pretty vague about why I should be visiting this part of town, but a teleport station sounded like it should be cool. It wasn’t. It was an out of town shopping area with the same Madame Tussaud’s type of attractions you get anywhere. In fact it wasn’t until I got on the Yurikamome, a light rail high-line back to Simbashi that I realised why I’d been taken here. The breathtaking ride back takes me speeding through modern Tokyo with skyscrapers, recreation areas and working docks before crossing the river to see it all from afar.
Sadly it’s time to head to the airport, Haneda as I’m flying Air France to CDG. The monorail from Hamamatsucho another impressive ride, taking me back along the river on the opposite bank and I arrive wishing I’d spent more time in the city.
Before I catch that flight I spend a bit of time watching planes coming and going from the viewing terrace while eating ice cream and wondering where next.