If you are stationed here with children, and perhaps even if you are here without, you are probably thinking about at least one trip to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. If you have looked at the Tokyo Disneyland webpage, you’ve likely seen the detailed maps of each land, read descriptions of the rides, and seen the price (Yikes!). When going on such an expensive outing and when heading to such a huge place, learning a few tips from those who have gone to Disneyland before can help you have a magical experience. We’ve been asking folks at Yokota for their Disneyland tips and here they are. Have an additional tip for enjoying the park? PLEASE use the comments section below to add your advice. It will be greatly appreciated!
Tips from our readers November 2012
* Obviously Disneyland/DisneySea is more fun when they aren’t packed! Before you go, check the crowd predictor. You will need to run this through a translator in order to read it: http://www15.plala.or.jp/gcap/disney/. Do some research to make sure you aren’t going on a Japanese holiday. Even Sports Day (a school holiday) can be crowded.
* Go just before your child turns four – kids age three and under are free.
* Stay the night at a Disneyland hotel and buy a two day pass. The shuttle/train will take you to the entrance and you can enjoy the whole day without spending time in the car. Or consider staying at The New Sanno. Driving from base? Try leaving a bit later in the morning to miss rush hour traffic – or really early. It’ll take at least 2.5 hours to drive there on a week day during rush hour traffic.
* Bring a stroller for small kids. There are places to park strollers while you are on each ride and you won’t be stuck carrying all your belongings AND your tired children at the end of the day. Also, for young kids, have a few toys handy for times when you are standing in long lines. If you forget, you can rent a stroller at the park. The park strollers are compact but look comfortable and have a place on the back to store belongings. The park strollers are only for smaller children.
* The restaurants can be crowded between 11am – 2pm. Instead of waiting for lunch, eat earlier and later and use lunch time to enjoy the rides. Better yet, bring your own food (something the kids are guaranteed to like) and buy a popcorn bucket at the beginning and refill along the way. The bucket is costly at ¥2000 but refills are just ¥500, it comes with a lid for the rides, and there are lots of popcorn flavors to try… soy sauce, curry, honey, chocolate, carmel…
* Use your Fast Pass. Fast passes are free and can be obtained one at a time. Use it to get on your favorite ride at the beginning of the day.
* Strategy for getting on specific rides when it is crowded can be found here: http://www15.plala.or.jp/gcap/disney/kouryaku.htm. Run through google translator.
* Many of the best rides are two-seaters and require an adult ride with a child under age seven. To be able to ride everything you want be sure to have an adult with you for each child under age seven.
* There can be long lines for taking photos with your favorite Disney character. Be sure to get to a photo session early and plan to wait in line.
* Bring a tarp and set up for the light parade one hour early. Or if you are at DisneySea, set out your tarp for the fabulous water show after dark. Leave one adult on the tarp while everyone else enjoys the park. Standing room only for the Disney parade and DisneySea water show becomes very crowded and it will be hard for little kids to see unless they are on your shoulders.
* Is it raining or cold the day you go? Try heading over to Ariel’s Grotto at DisneySea because much of it is indoors.
DIRECTIONS: GPS coordinates for Disneyland Parking entrance: 35.637558,139.876102. See the Yujo Community Center for directions on how to get there by train or car, or better yet, take one of the ITT tours and get transportation and a group discount for entry. – photos by Sarah Straus
Disneyland Trip Reports
Megan Miller, November 2012: My family visited Tokyo Disneyland in May. Since we had two young children under the age of four we knew staying overnight was key to a successful trip, so my husband booked rooms at one of the hotels right by Disneyland (the Hilton Tokyo Bay). We saved money by reserving our rooms in advance, then changing our reservation to the lower, nonrefundable price two weeks prior. A shuttle is provided to and from the monorail, which will then take you directly to the park. Overall it takes less than fifteen minutes total to reach the park from your hotel room. We also purchased the two day pass at our hotel the first morning. We chose Disney Sea for the first day, and Disneyland for the second day. Some helpful tips for the park include taking your own food, especially if you have picky eaters. The food at the parks range in price from reasonable to quite expensive, and the variety while wide, catered to a palate different from my children were accustomed to. The hotel also had a convenience store where we could pick up anything else we needed. We used a sit and stand stroller and had no trouble maneuvering around the parks, or using the monorail and shuttles. I would also recommend taking some time in advance to figure out which rides are best for your family, taking advantage of the fast pass rides, and deciding which shows you plan to see (some are only in Japanese and require advance reservations). It is also worth noting patrons are allowed to save seats along parade routes and for shows, however, you cannot leave your space unattended. The good spots are taken quickly so you will need to plan ahead. For more information on that, you can visit the Tokyo Disneyland website. Lastly, we noticed that after the final performance of the evening (at both parks) many people left, which meant virtually no waiting for the rides. Overall we had a great time and are planning to visit the parks once a year while we are stationed at Yokota.
Janine Moghaddam, September 2012: We went to Tokyo Disney Sea at the end of August 2012 for my daughter’s birthday. We rented a room at The New Sanno for the night since that was a cheaper option than the Disney hotels (although I understand that in the off season there are some good deals). We drove and it took us around 2 hours, and we parked at the lot closest to Disney Sea – cost was Y2000 if I remember correctly, and plenty of space when we arrived between 10am-11am. Driving there and back to The New Sanno was easy with maps and directions from the Yujo, and at the end of a long day, much easier than taking the train with 2 tired kids (ages 8 and 10). We bought our tickets at the gate and paid with Amex. We waited in line for less than 10 minutes.
Had it not been my daughter’s birthday, we would NEVER have gone to Disney in August, and will not do so again. Even in the middle of the week, it was a bit crowded, and the lines for the popular rides were way too long. We did FastPass where we could, but a couple rides we never got on (Toy Story Mania had a 190 minute wait) and the Fastpasses ran out. And it was HOT. On the positive side, we enjoyed the Fantasmic spectacle at the end of the night (claim your sidewalk space by 7pm for an 8pm show). Decent meals in Cape Cod and at the Italian restaurant called Zambini Brothers. Both meals we were able to pay with Amex, but some of the snack kiosks may only take cash.
If I were to do Disney Sea again, I would make sure to be there when the gates opened, and head straight for Toy Story Mania for a Fastpass, then to the back of the park for the Indiana Jones rides first.
Sarah Straus, October 2013: Now I’ve been to both parks with my 5 and under kids. See my 2012 review of Disneyland in the comments section below. I have to say, having just gone to DisneySea I think it is my favorite. I loved Disneyland in part because I have a nostalgic memory of going to the Disneyland in LA as a kid and it was amazing to experience a replica of the park with my own little kids in Tokyo! DisneySea however is amazing because it is a more modern looking park with a modern layout. It is like Las Vegas meets Disney times 10. The various theme areas are each massive. Coming through the picturesque Mediterranean harbor we entered the Mysterious Island with its huge volcano. This area sits at the center of the park. It was really spectacular – intense – huge. I think you just have to go there, I won’t really be able to explain it. We spent most of our time in the Mermaid and Aladdin areas, which all had great rides for my kid. The day we went the crowd predictor for DisneySea said 22,000 people. It was the fewest people predicted for the month and so low because the park closed at 6:30pm that day. It was wonderful! With this number of people lines for all the rides we wanted to go on were 10 minutes or less. Even lines for big Fast Pass rides were no more than 30 minutes as far as I could tell… including the Indiana Jones ride. With so few people we saw the whole park and rode all the rides suitable for my kids by 4pm. At that point we just went back through the park to hit our favorites. I was glad we brought food so we didn’t waste any time in restaurants… we just snacked and bought popcorn along the way. It was really perfect and we were home by 9:30pm.