Full Details of Our Day Exploring Tokyo DisneySea – Japan
As a giant fan of Disney theme parks, it was a requirement for us to visit the Disney theme parks in Japan. The reputation of these parks is quite high – even stating that they are the best Disney theme park in the whole. With five full days in Tokyo, we were spending two of them at these parks as recommended by those in the Disney community. Planning a trip to the Japanese theme parks is very different than planning the US parks. I did a ton of research and put together a guide.
Read our full guide that includes planning, what to expect, the must do’s, food, and more here!
Tokyo DisneySea is the second of two theme parks that make up the Disney Resort in Japan. Opened in 2001, this park is known for its beautiful details and advanced technology for attractions. In the Disney community, it is known to be the best of the Disney theme parks in the world and is in fact the fourth most visited Disney theme park in the world. DisneySea is the most unique Disney park as it is the only theme park of its kind in the world. This theme park is based on ports of call around the world – Mediterranean Harbor, Mysterious Island, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront.
As advised, we set to arrive to the park at least an hour early and luckily it is very straight forward from Tokyo. We arrived just after 730AM and made our way to one of the queues for our waiting game. We loved observing all the people in their Disney attire with particular emphasis on head wearable items – and we are not just talking hats or traditional Mickey ears – they are decked out in merch that you have to see to believe. From giant plushes that engulfed the entire head to characters sitting on top of their head, the range was incredible. There was also a lot of representation from the Duffy world all around us. As we waited in line, it was clear this is a locals game – people came prepared with little stools to sit on, or mats – these guys were professional line waiters.
I read the parks open early and around 815AM, the hotel guests started entering the park – they get a 15 minute head start which honestly felt like nothing until we entered the part ourselves, and then at 830AM we started to funnel into the park.
A few things to note – the Disney Japan park app is very important for the day. Once you enter the park, you have to scan the passes of you and your group into one of the apps to sync the day (as of this post, this step can be done prior to entering the park). This then allows you to do several things in the app such as obtain priority passes for rides and entry times for shows. So those 15 minutes the hotel guests get are actually quite valuable in having complete access to all of this as well as get in the ride line of choice.
When we entered the park, we made a hard right to try and get the big ticket rides done before the crowds. It was hard to zoom by so many things in exchange for getting to ride queues – this park was 100% new for us and we could not wait to explore.
The two big rides here – Toy Story Mania and Soaring – are carbon copies of the US resorts so we were able to skip those massive lines where the wait was already over an hour. Our first stop at Journey to the Center of the Earth was disappointing as it was temporarily closed so we lost some valuable early park time marching over to this gorgeous section of the park. So we switched gears and headed to Tower of Terror instead. While it is the same mechanics as the US parks, the story line is different and the queue showcases some impressive artifacts on display. The wait was not too long and we were definitely happy to have made it onto this ride.
While waiting in the Tower of Terror line, we kept an eye on ride time waits that populated at 9AM – including tracking if Journey to the Center of the Earth opened, and I tried to get us an Entry Time into the Big Band Beat show but those lotteries went very fast.
Once we were out of the Tower of Terror attraction, Journey to the Center of the Earth did open and had a 60 minute wait posted. We ended up waiting less that 40 minutes. This ride was completely new to us and we did not have any idea what to expect. The story follows the book loosely and starts off more as a Dinosaur/Indiana Jones with the ride mechanics but it was clear towards the end of the attraction this used Test Track/Cars technology. The high speed portion at the end was thrilling and so fun – wish it lasted longer! Awesome attraction all together.
Ok, now let’s talk about two things. First – the cast members here. They are truly in a different league than any other cast member experience. They are genuinely happy to be there and happy that you are there! We were greeted by so many waves – we became so good at waving – and the excitement they had when you waved back was contagious. We all obtained quite a number of stickers from cast members as well – since it was obvious we were tourists, they definitely took advantage of making us feel extra special. Most cast members spoke enough english to understand anything we had for questions or conversation. The cast members here are truly a key component to this park and the ambiance in such a positive way.
And this park is gorgeous! Even just this area of Mysterious Island – the use of multiple levels to achieve scale and immersion, and creatively use all the space possible. For example, Mysterious Island of the park had three levels to it and it brought such depth to the land. The top level was the journey into the center of the earth ride, the middle level had a dining area, and the bottom level was used for 20,000 leagues under the sea and a quick service food area. The park is immaculate and is really well maintained – there is so little evidence of wear and tear. Perhaps the guests take better care of the parks and perhaps there is more dedication here to maintaining it. I also think the theme and grand scale lends to the immersion – we quickly forgot we were in Tokyo, let along Japan. The park design does such a good job of transporting you into another land.
Since we were in Mysterious Island, we rode 20,000 leagues under the sea which used some very cool technology to update this original Disneyland California attraction. It was definitely cramped in the pods so if you are not great with enclosed spaces, you may want to skip this one. The use of technology and the ability for riders to use a flash light make it a really neat attraction.
The snack game at these parks is unreal so we were eager to jump in and try as much as possible. Our first was a Sea Salt Monaka ice cream with salt ice cream and raspberry filling. While I was unsure of the salt ice cream, it was amazing and the raspberry filling was delicious. We ate this snack so fast and I am so glad we tried it.
Our next snack was around the corner on our way to American Harbour for the Mickey chicken bao bun as well a specialty alcoholic drink. This boa bun had no reason to be as good as it was! Stuffed with teriyaki chicken – and yes, even in the ears it was stuffed – it was so flavorful and delicious. The drink was refreshing and fun – we were surprised to see alcohol being sold in the park!
With the big ticket rides complete, we decided to take a giant and in depth stroll around the entire park. We were finally able to take in a bit of the scenery and wow, was it pretty.
We went back to the front and started at American Waterfront. We always find it interesting how foreign countries perceive and interpret America when it comes to displaying it as a theme park – this was very turn of the century streets of NYC which we loved.
We passed Big Band Beat which I had failed in securing a ticket for earlier in the day and they had a show starting in ten minutes with an active walk up line so we took the opportunity to hop in line and we made it into the show! I read that this was a good show to attend but I did not know details of exactly what we would be watching. The show explores music from the 20s to 40s with impressive numbers from Mickey and the fab four, as well as all the performers. The costumes, the choreography, the music – it was so fun to see a live performance again and they did such a great job. We all really enjoyed this performance!
More snacks were in this area and we did not shy away. We got the Liberty Sundae – milk swirl with sweet soy sugar churro and sweet bean mochi which was so delicious. The popcorn here is like no where else – the flavors just defy everything you know about popcorn! The shrimp garlic popcorn was our first to try and wow, it works so well. They also take churro flavors very seriously and the creme brulee churro was gone in a few bites.
We tried getting into the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge but we were told it was a 45 minute wait – I was unable to figure out how to make a reservation online both before the trip and the day of the trip. Unfortunately this was one area where the language barrier was an issue since we could not make reservations but that was the instruction. We also had to wait there for the 45 minutes – we could not leave and come back. We abandoned this area and kept going through the park.
The next area of American Waterfront was Cape Cod. And it was so adorable! It captured the wholesome spirit of the New England harbor town quite well. This was where Duffy reigned supreme and it was so interesting seeing everyone parading their Duffy and friends around the park.
Port Discovery was the next are to explore and has a retro marina of the future vibe, similar to turn of the century Tomorrowland technology.The first ride we saw was Aquatopia and it looked like the best time. We just had to ride the Aquatopia and we happily waited in line as we watched others enjoy the attraction. This was one that was way more fun that it had to be and we were here for it. The trackless ride system keeps you guessing on where you will go next and if varies from vehicle to vehicle. From zippy sprints to spinning in circles, it was so much fun.
Continuing around the park towards Lost River Delta, we made it to Indiana Jones ride. This is one of the few rides in the park that has a single rider option and we gladly took advantage. We all got on the ride within minutes! This ride is a similar ride to Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom and almost identical to the attraction in Disneyland California. It was hilarious hearing Japanese coming out of a Harrison Ford animatronic.
One our way to the next land, there was a beautiful bridge overlooking Arabian Coast. While enjoying the view, I noticed a long line and I finally spotted the snack I was looking forward to trying the most – little green men mochi! Each order comes with three mochi and you get one strawberry, custard, and chocolate filled mochi. These were so good, I immediately wanted another round. Definitely a winner for snack items and they photograph oh so well.
Arabian Coast was next on our walking tour of Disney Sea. Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is the nestled in the middle with no wait so we walked on to this slow moving boat ride. Similar to It’s A Small World but with animatronics that are much more sophisticated. We learned that this attraction was originally much scarier – so much so that it caused the ride to be completely reimagined, including the addition of an adorable tiger side kick.
Finishing the loop, we only had one more land to explore – Mermaid Lagoon. In the app, it appeared to be a kids center so it is definitely easy to admire from the outside and keep walking – do not miss going inside this area. We were completely blown away by the scale, detail, and color in Mermaid Lagoon. Our favorite was the walk through area that featured scenes from the movie – we were so jealous that Disney World Orlando does not have anything like this.
We were in disbelief looking at our watch seeing 3PM. I knew we would not have time to do another lap around the park and had to start to make decisions on how to spend the rest of our time. One day here is technically enough but certainly not if you want to be a completionist.
Finding dinner was a bit challenging – there are plenty of sit down spots but it was more narrowing the scope of the cuisine. It actually worked out that we were passing through Mysterious Island again and we grabbed a potato churro (which tasted just like a pierogi) and stopped at Vulcania Restaurant. These buffets are really cool cause they are like cafeteria styled where you can take what you want off the counter and onto your tray. Then you take your tray to the register and seat yourself inside the cave themed space. We ordered the chicken dish and a salad and were impressed by the quality and flavor.
On our way to the front of the park to Mediterranean Harbor, the water show Let’s Celebrate with Color started so while Kevin grabbed a coffee from Mama’s Biscotti Bakery, I sat and watched an abbreviated version of the show.
Mediterranean Harbor, was our last area to explore. Themed as an Italian Rivera, this is the primary spot for merchandise. We spent quite a bit of time wandering through each shop. The merchandise here really lives up to the hype – it is so much for expansive, unique, and creative.
We still had time before the park close so we picked a few priorities. We swung back by American Waterfront to see the Toy Story area which was limited to the ride and a familiar oversized Woody head that is also found in Disneyland California. We had not yet taking a ride on any of the modes of transit so we hoped abroad the train for a lovely view of the park. We wanted to ride the boat around the waterways but unfortunately the attraction paused operation.
As we made our way back to the front of the park, we look final glances around the lands before our exit. Evidence of the 40th anniversary celebrating was everywhere and so delicately decorated the front.
We were amazed just how quickly the day went and how much we were able to accomplish. It was a rushed day to fit everything in and would love to return to go through each area with a fine tooth comb. It helped that we were able to skip two very popular attractions – Toy Story Mania and Soaring – as it allowed us time to do other things in the park. I was disappointed that we were unable to sit at Teddy Roosevelt Lounge or Magellan’s Lounge but time spent in the restaurant would have been less time in the park, and now we have things to look forward to on another trip. I think there is no question that we will return to Japan and this theme park in the future. We definitely could have used more time here so we will continue to explore – see ya real soon!