Thinking about checking out Tokyo Disney while in Japan? Well you never need an excuse to visit the happiest place on earth. However, if you are after an optimal experience, you should have a solid game plan. Disneyland is notorious for being crowded no matter the country. Before I went to Tokyo Disney for the first time, I did a stupid amount of research, printed out a list of all the rides I want to do, and planned things down to the clothing. Call me coocoo, but the preparation sure helped a lot. In this guide, you will find practical Tokyo Disneyland tips and Disneysea tricks you must know beforehand. As well, get to know the top attractions and things to do at each site. Psst don’t forget to grab your free cheat sheet at the end of the post!
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Introduction to Disneyland and DisneySea
First thing first, let clear up the terms. Disneyland and DisneySea are two theme parks that are a part of the bigger Tokyo Disney Resort, which also includes hotels and shopping complex. For this post, we will only be covering the theme parks and not the rest of the resort.
It’s important to note that the “Tokyo” Disney Resort is not actually in Tokyo. The parks are located in Urayasu of Chiba Prefecture. What?! Before you get discouraged, don’t worry. Maihama station, located right outside of the Disney Resort, is only a 16 minutes ride away from Tokyo Station. So no need to worry about accessibility.
A one day passport for adult, at either Disneyland or DisneySea cost 7,400 yen and a 2 day passport cost 13,200 yen. There are more options like Starlight Passport (5,400 yen) which is for if you plan to enter the park after 3 PM on weekends and National Holidays, the worst possible time to go TBH. There are also passports for more than 2 days up to an annual passport. For a comprehensive list of pricings, including prices for kids, visit the official pricing page here.
Which should you choose if you only have one day?
If you only have one day to spare, I recommend going to Tokyo DisneySea. It is unlike any of the other Disney parks around the world. There are many unique attractions here that you can’t find elsewhere. With its thrilling roller coasters and alcohol beverage options *cough cough, DisneySea is more exciting for adults. On the other hand, Disneyland offers classic rides like It’s a Small World and many fun activities that younger kids love. So if you are traveling with smaller children, Disneyland may be the better option.
Best Tokyo Disneyland Tips and DisneySea Tricks
Choose the right time to go
Disneyland is busy year round. It’s the “happiest place on earth” so duh you will never get the place to yourself. But there are definitely better and worst times to go. Check the Tokyo Disneyland Crowdedness Calendar that tells you whether the dates you want are not crowded at all (white to pastel color labels), or crowded to death (dark red to black labels). Although it’s in Japanese, you can get the idea. This is a very handy tool, so definitely check it first. As a general rule, go on weekdays, try to avoid Japanese National Holidays and steer clear of school vacation times.
Buy tickets online
Whether you are going for the one day passport or 2 day passport, buy the tickets online ahead of time and save yourself from the ticket queue on the day. You can head straight to the entry gate and get a head start on all the rides. You may cackle like an evil villain when you zip pass all the poor people waiting in the ticket line. Mwuhahah sorry not sorry guys. Klook is my go to vendor for purchasing tickets online for activities while traveling. They are hassle free and often offer sweet discounts! Purchase Tokyo Disney Passports via Klook here.
I mean REAL EARLY. Saving time is everything when at Disney parks. When you can be in the first batch to make it in to the park, you can get a lot more out of the day. Disneyland opens at 8 am and DisneySea at 8:30 am, I would say try to get there about 15 minutes before opening time. I know you are groaning in complain that it’s way too early. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Know your must do rides
It’s good to decide the rides you want to accomplish beforehand. That way, you can get straight to business instead of wasting time fumbling with the park map at the entrance. So how would you know which rides to do? I gotchu! Keep reading for my recommendations at Disneyland and Disneysea.
Get a FastPass first
When you arrive at the park early, it may be very tempting to get on a ride right away as the line ups look empty. Don’t do it! Go get your FastPass first! If you don’t know what a FastPass is, it’s basically a reservation system for rides. When you get a FastPass for an attraction, you will get a certain time frame to return, at which point you are welcomed to the front of the queue like a VIP. So why don’t I just get 10 of these passes?! You are only allowed one FastPass every two hours (the next time you can get one is written on your current FastPass) Popular rides will run out of FastPasses quickly, so you want to get in there ASAP.
Divide and conquer
Strategies strategies! Whether it’s lining up for FastPasses or getting food, be smart and split up the queuing work amongst friends. I know I sound super intense with these tips, but trust me, every little time saved counts when you are in Disney Parks.
Take advantage of Single Rider queues
Many people don’t know about the Single Rider queue. I certainly did not realize on my first visit. The SR queue are for solo riders and is usually a lot shorter of a wait than the regular queue (sometimes even than the FastPass queue). Japanese people like to stick together so they don’t usually use this feature. So if you and your party don’t mind sitting with random people, take advantage! There are two Single Rider available attractions at Tokyo DisneySea: Indiana Jones and Raging Spirits. And one available attraction at Tokyo Disneyland: Splash Mountain.
Raging Spirits//Tokyo DisneySea
If you haven’t caught my drift by now, Disney is going to be a tiring day. FUN but tiring. So make sure you are dressed fittingly. The number one thing is comfortable footwear, preferably sneakers. Bring a light sweater for night time when the weather gets chilly, and the most important, don’t forget your sunscreen!! On the fun side, it’s a must to bedazzle your ootd with some adorable Disney gears, like Mickey ears. This is pretty much mandatory. It’s really fun to spot all the Disney inspired outfits on the park grounds.
Have a budget for food
The foods inside Tokyo Disney Parks are delicious! To me, eating all the special treats is a part of the theme park experience. I am a sucker for the Mickey glove inspired pork bun and the Little Green Men shaped custard dumplings. Tokyo Disney is totally killing it with the aesthetics as well as taste. However, the foods are quite expensive. So for budget travelers who don’t really care about kawaii food, you may want to bring your own lunch. You can pick up some rice balls and snacks from a convenience store on the way in the morning.
Note the language difference
Remember that you are in Japan, so most rides are in Japanese. Some story heavy attractions are noted “Japanese Only” on the park map. So if you don’t speak the language, you can decide whether or not you want to check out these attractions. You may not get the story, but Disney always make sure to entertain with their visuals.
Save your spot for the parades/shows early
There are numerous parades throughout the day. The night time parades are the most popular and spectacular. The Electrical Dreamlights Parade at Disneyland and Fantasmic at Disneysea get packed. So make sure to check the park program/ask a staff member for showtimes. Save your spot half an hour early to get the best viewing point. Pro tips: grab some food while you wait. It’s also handy to have a hat to shield you from the burning sun during day time parades.
Now for some specific attraction recommendations at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea! Note: Personal preferences may be different.
Tokyo Disneyland -Must do Rides
Space Mountain (Tomorrowland)
Warning: Space Mountain is speed of light level fast!!! It will blow your socks off as it zooms through lazer beams in the dark. Truth be told, I am not actually a big roller coaster fan, and was initially persuaded to go on this ride by my thrill junkie friend. She said it’s her favourite attraction so I had to see what the fuss is about. I screamed my head off the whole time but I had to admit: it’s fricken awesome! Because of this ride, I became excited for all roller coasters at Disneyland. Make sure to get a FastPass for Space Mountain. It run out quickly!
Big Thunder Mountain (Westernland)
Similar to Space Mountain (but outdoors), Thunder Mountain is another fun roller coaster meant for an older audience. You will feel like you are in the wild wild west as you get on this ride that dives through underground tunnels, geysers, and epic rock formations!
Tokyo Disneyland – Other fun activities
Besides the big two above, Tokyo Disneyland owns many classical rides mirroring those found in Disneyland in the United States as well as Japan original attractions. Here are some other fun activities to check out:
Splash Mountain (Critter Country) A thrilling ride with a big wet drop into the water pool for a finale. Psst single rider queue available.
It’s a Small World (Fantasyland) The OG of Disney Parks. Enjoy the iconic It’s a Small World song being sang in Japanese.
Haunted Mansion (Fantasyland) Enter this spooky mansion full of ghosts and surprises. The effects are super well done. Can you notice the little creepy details?
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt (Fantasyland) Exclusive to Tokyo Disneyland, this adorable attraction is loved by many people. Spin around in little Honeypots that will surely make you giggle.
Pirates of the Carribean (Adventureland) Any Captain Jack Sparrow fans? Although the ride is entirely in Japanese so the storyline is hard to follow, the Audio Animatronic effects are fascinating to watch.
Jungle Cruise (Adventureland) Ever dream of cruising down the Amazon? This ride will satisfy that fantasy. As you are led by an over the top actor/guide, you will see waterfalls, hippos, jungle cats, tropical faunas, and more, on this fun adventure.
Monster’s Inc. Ride & Go Seek (Tomorrowland) This is another original attraction at Tokyo Disney. Find monsters in the dark with your sharp eyes and a flashlight.
Star Tours: The Adventure Continues (Tomorrowland) A 3D ride that will take you to the galaxy and beyond. A can’t miss attraction for Star Wars fanatics!
Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: Dreamlights (Throughout the Park) No doubt the most lit parade in Disneyland. Excuse the pun. 😛 Catch Mickey and his friends greeting park guest in incredibly ornate floats. The sound tracks are beautiful and the entire energy of the parade will leave you on a high at the end of the day.
It’s a Small World…So colorful!
Tokyo Disneyland – Must Try Food
As mentioned before, although expensive, food inside Disneyland is worth the $$. Here are some yummy snacks you must munch on:
Popcorn: You will notice several popcorn stands throughout the park, selling different flavours! Bbq, Caramel, Chocolate milk, Soy sauce & Butter. My favorite is chocolate milk! 😛
Churros: Disneyland Churros are delicious! They are even better though in a PARFAIT. Drools~
Chinese Pork Bun: Pork belly stuffed inside a Chinese style bun. The best part? The sandwich is shaped like Mickey’s glove. So cute!
Alice Café: There are several options for sit down meals. Fall down the rabbit hole at the Alice Café in Fantasyland. The decors are wonderland-tastic, and the food is as tasty as it is pretty.
Tokyo DisneySea -Must do Rides
Indiana Jones Adventures: Temple of the Crystal Skull (Lost River Delta)
This is simply the Best.Attraction.Ever! The special effects are so amazing and realistic, you will feel like you are transported into the movie yourself! Enter the dimly lit stone corridor, and get a creepy feeling as you see the ancient stone carvings and frescos on the wall. As you go on a search for the Fountain of Youth, you will hop on a ride with gripping twist and turns through the mysterious pyramid, and come face to face with the dangerous Crystal Skull! If you do just one attraction at DisneySea, make it this one!
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Mysterious Island)
A close second place ride to Indiana Jones is arguably Journey to the Center of the Earth. The setting takes place inside Mount Promethus, a huge artificial volcano. This is a high speed roller coaster with sudden drops, so get ready to scream! The Journey takes you to the earth core where you will meet creatures of your wildest imagination. I swear you can even feel the heat emanating from the hot lava. Disney does not hold back when it comes to their 3D and 4D effects!
Toy Story Mania (American Waterfront)
I’ve seen this insanely popular ride at DisneySea have a wait time of 225 minutes! It is the ride that runs out of FastPasses the quickest! Comparing to the above two attractions, Toy Story Mania is very kids friendly. Put on your 3D glasses and show off your aiming skills as you shoot at targets at the toys carnival. This is all while you are sitting in a moving vehicle by the way. The visuals are beautifully detailed and bring a feeling of nostalgia of childhood days watching Toy Story. Personally though, whilst I enjoyed the ride, I don’t think it’s as epic as Indiana Jones or Journey to the Center of the Earth to deserve a 3 hours wait time. Better get the FastPass for it if you really want to check it out!
Tokyo DisneySea – Other fun activities
Other than the top three listed above, here are some more top rated attractions/shows at DisneySea:
Big Band Beat (American Waterfront) A spectacular Broadway show featuring live band playing jazz and swing music. The dancers and singers are all incredible! You will also see Mickey, Minnie and Goofy busting some very impressive moves.
Raging Spirits (Lost River Delta) One of the few rollercoasters with a 360 loop. Relatively short ride but has some cool features.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Mysterious Island) Board Captain Nemo’s Submarine and go on a search for Atlantis. Beautiful effects that will make you feel like you are under the sea.
Tower of Terror (American Waterfront) People either love it or hate it, Tower Of Terror is INTENSE AF. Everything from the storyline set up to the elevatory drop are so scary!
Mermaid Lagoon Although the attractions in this zone are mostly for kids, it’s worth visiting King Triton’s Palace for the beautiful design and theming. Not to mention, it’s a great place to escape the summer heat!
Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage (Arabian Coast) A gentle ride on the water in the dark as you are entertained by the story of Sinbad the sailor.
DisneySea Transit Steamer Line (Mediterranean Harbour) A scenic boat ride from Mediterranean Harbor to Lost River Delta. A great way to see the park!
Fantasmic Outdoor Show (Mediterranean Harbour) An amazing end of the day show over the water featuring your favorite Disney characters, music, lights, lasers, fire and more!
Tower of Terror…Not for the faint hearted
Tokyo DisneySea -Must eat food
Popcorn: Just like at Tokyo Disneyland, popcorn is a big deal at DisneySea. So you will have multiple chances to give it a try. Check out the pretty popcorn box design!