While in Japan, we had a chance to spend a few days at Tokyo Disney. It was a welcome change from the big cities of Shanghai and Tokyo, and felt very familiar. The layout of Tokyo Disney is very similar to Disneyland in Anaheim, and had many of the same attractions. There are lots of references to be USA, and they pipe in old American folk tunes in the Critter Country. Home on the Range, Red River Valley, you get the picture. They were even selling Pendleton bags in one of the Westernland gift shops, and I was tempted to pick one up, dreaming of our home in Oregon.
The vast majority of the visitors seem to be Japanese or Chinese, and the majority of the food and language caters to those cultures. A lot of the menus and signage is translated into English, but most of the speaking in the shows and rides is exclusively in Japanese. For the most part it wasn’t an issue – riding Space Mountain and It’s a Small World are the same everywhere. Some of the attractions, like “Turtle Talk,” an interactive comedy routine were more challenging to appreciate without knowing Japanese.
One thing we were happy to we at Disney is the return of trash cans. Yes, we have found that garbage cans in Japan are extremely rare and small, so we were happy to find that Disney carried over US size trash cans to their Japanese parks. Some locations even had workers who stand by trash cans to take your garbage and put it in for you.
Another refreshing aspect of Tokyo Disney was being able to eat snacks in public. We have spent a lot of time in Japanese train stations on this trip and notice that they sell tons of bento boxes, snacks, and drinks, but here is never a place to sit and eat or throw away your waste. We don’t see people eating all these foods that they buy, so the best guess is that they take them home to eat. We were starving in the Tokyo station and felt guilty standing and eating it…as far as we could tell, the only people among thousands eating in public. Thankfully, at Disney, we are free to walk around munching on popcorn, popsicles, and fried turkey legs with everyone else.
Let’s face it, People watching is fun at any theme park, but especially fun at Tokyo Disney. It’s pretty common in the U.S. to see young girls in princess dresses or adults in Mickey ears, but people here have taken their dress-up to a new level. It is popular to dress like the others in your group. We see couples, families, and especially, groups of girls with coordinated outfits.
The gift shops have the normal Disney souvenirs, and a few new surprises.
Another surprise for us was the addition of a new (to us) Disney character, Duffy the teddy bear, who resides in Cape Cod at the DisneySea park. The story behind Duffy is that Micky Mouse was going to take a long voyage at sea, and Minnie gave him a Duffy bear to keep him company on the trip. Duffy has friends too, like ShellieMay and a little cat named Gelatoni. On the order of Build-a-Bear, you purchase the Duffy or ShellieMay bear, then can buy outfits, like sailor costumes. Genius idea to drive repeat sales. Duffy paraphernalia was definitely one of the most popular items around Tokyo Disney.
The whole family agrees that our favorite part of our Japanese Disney experience was DisneySea, an ocean themed park adjoining the normal Magic Kingdom park. There are sections dedicated to different ports of call around the world – New England, Italy, and even a whole Jules Vern inspired mystical world with a volcano that spews gigantic fireballs.
Tokyo Disney – worth a visit!