Travel Tools from The Unofficial Guide™ Team  -  See Our Books Here!
  • Background Image

    Tokyo Disneyland Overview

Tokyo Disneyland Overview

A Brief History of Tokyo Disneyland

The official Disneyfied history of Tokyo Disneyland is simple and rosy. But, as usual, the truth is much more interesting. In 1962, just 7 years after the original Disneyland opened in California, representatives from Oriental Land Company (also known as OLC) approached Walt Disney Productions (now known as The Walt Disney Company) about opening a Disney theme park in Japan. At the time, OLC was in the process of reclaiming land in Tokyo Bay, which is in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture. OLC, which was formed by two Japanese mega-companies (Mitsui Real Estate Development and Keisei Electric Railway), was created for the purpose of building and managing recreational and leisure enterprises. Japan was in a period of high economic growth. Citizens suddenly had disposable income and were looking for ways to spend it. After being denied by Disney in the early 60s, OLC again approached Disney in 1974. At the same time, Mitsubishi also was in talks with Disney about a park near Mount Fuji. Ron Cayo, a representative from Disney, took a trip to Japan that same year to look at both proposed projects. During negotiations, Mitsubishi suddenly and mysteriously dropped out. In his book, Success Stories, author Leonard Koren speculates that Mitsubishi dropping out was due to pressure from the Japanese government. Even with no other offers, talks between Disney and OLC languished for years, and got especially rocky in 1977 when OLC's president suddenly resigned. A deal was finally made in 1979. The deal was that OLC would pay for research, development, and construction of the park, as well as manage it day-to-day. Disney, who did not have the money to fund the park on its own, would get 10% of park admissions and 5% of food and merchandise sales. Japanese media predicted failure as soon as the deal for Tokyo Disneyland was announced. Even some members of OLC had their doubts. "We were very nervous in the beginning, of course, there were no 100% guarantees that this would succeed," said Katsuhiko Nakamura (Oriental Land Company publicity director) to the Los Angeles Times in 1994. Construction on Tokyo Disneyland began in late 1980; and then on April 15, 1983, the first Disney theme park outside of the United States opened its doors. The park was an instant and massive success. Tokyo Disney Resort continues to be incredibly popular, thanks to some of the most lavishly themed and well maintained attractions in the world, innovative merchandise and food, continuously refreshed seasonal entertainment, and unparalleled guest service. In July, 2017, Tokyo Disneyland welcomed its 700 millionth visitor.

To All Who Come To This Happy Place

WELCOME

Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of Joy, Laughter, Inspiration, and Imagination to the peoples of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America.

April 15, 1983
E. Cardon Walker
Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions

Getting Oriented at Tokyo Disneyland

Like other parks using the Disneyland name, Tokyo Disneyland is laid out in a "hub-and-spoke model," meaning there is a central hub (like the center of a wheel) with walkways (the spokes coming out of the wheel) branching out into other sections of the park. Also like other Disney theme parks, Tokyo Disneyland is divided into different themed sections known as "lands."

Seven different lands make up Tokyo Disneyland: World Bazaar, which is the park's main entrance corridor with shopping and restaurants. It is the equivalent to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A. To the right of World Bazaar is Tomorrowland, which has a science fiction/futuristic space port theme. Two must-see headlining rides are located here, the outer space thrill ride, Space Mountain, and the Tokyo Disneyland-exclusive Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek! Toontown is located to the left of Tomorrowland. This fanciful representation of a wacky cartoon community is where some of the iconic Disney characters live (such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and more). Fantasyland is at the heart of Tokyo Disneyland. It is home to the park's icon, Cinderella Castle, but also classic Disney rides, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, "it's a small world", Dumbo The Flying Elephant, and more. Fantasyland is also where you'll find Pooh's Hunny Hunt, which we consider to be one of the best Disney rides ever. To the left of Fantasyland is the park's smallest land, Critter Country. Critter Country is the home of Splash Mountain, which is a mega-sized ride where you travel in a hollowed out log. The ride ends with a 50-foot drop that reaches a maximum speed of 40 mph. Moving left from Critter Country is Westernland, which is themed after the American West. Big Thunder Mountain (a roller coaster disguised as a runaway mine train) is the focal point of the land. Finally, Adventureland is to the left of Westernland, and to the right of World Bazaar. The star attraction of Adventureland is the classic ride called Pirates of the Caribbean. Which is a masterfully crafted indoor boat ride where you experience swashbuckling pirates. We're only scratching the surface with the rides mentioned in this paragraph. There are many other attractions, shows, and smaller experiences to discover as you explore Tokyo Disneyland.

Is Tokyo Disneyland "English Friendly?"

One of the questions we get the most from our readers is: "How English friendly is Tokyo Disneyland?" or "Is there an issue with the language barrier?" or "Will I enjoy the parks if I don't speak Japanese?" along with many other variations of the same question. In our many years of visits to Tokyo Disneyland for both pleasure and to research for this website, we have never experienced any issues with communicating the resort staff. As to be expected in a country that is not your own, most Tokyo Disney cast members will not fluently speak your native language. But, most will know enough to help you with whatever you need. If a cast member can't understand what you are asking, they will do their best to find a colleague who can. If you find that you are having difficulty communicating with a cast member, be patient, don't raise your voice, show respect, and anything you are asking will be handled in a short amount of time. Also keep in mind most cast members at ticket booths, guest services, and the hotels will usually speak fluent English. Will you enjoy the rides and shows if you don't speak Japanese? Yes. Themed entertainment uses a lot of visual storytelling. While some rides and shows are in English, most are not, but they're still just as enjoyable visually. Is Pooh speaking a little Japanese on Pooh's Hunny Hunt going to ruin your enjoyment of the ride? No, it shouldn't.

How Much Time to Allocate

There's a lot to do at Tokyo Disneyland. How much time it takes to tour depends on how busy the park is. For example, if you visit on a weekend, the park will be packed with tens of thousands of other visitors. Every walkway will be jammed. Smaller attractions may have over an hours' wait. We've seen marquee rides, such as Pooh's Hunny Hunt, reach over a 200 minute wait. Yes, FastPass can save you some time waiting in line, but on busy days FastPass tickets will usually run out by noon. The crowd sizes at Tokyo Disney Resort are unlike any other Disney resort so you'll need to set your expectations at a certain level. The parks will be busy almost every day of the year. Sure they will be less busy during the week, but you'll rarely see headliner attractions under an hour wait even when the parks are slow. Even with the large crowds in the parks, guest traffic flows fast, and crowd control was excellent. This is also helped by the fact that walkways in the parks are large enough to handle the crowds that parks receive. Plenty of cast members are on hand to make sure that ride lines and crowds move at a steady pace, without feeling rushed. Merchandise sales are a big part of the Tokyo Disney parks, so don't be surprised to see the same amount of crowd control and large number of cast members in the shops, as well as walkways and attractions.

Where to Find Strollers, Wheelchairs, Lockers, Etc.

Almost all guest services are found at the front of the park, just inside the main entrance. Services and amenities include stroller and wheelchair rentals to the right as you enter; and lockers (¥300 to ¥700 depending on the size), lost and found, and first aid to the left. All of these services are clearly labeled in the park's guide maps; just be sure to grab an English map (they're also available in many other languages). Foreign currency exchange is also available at the Guest Relations Window at the left of Tokyo Disneyland's main entrance. This window is accessible if you are inside or outside the park. Cast members working at the Guest Services Window are fluent in English, and will do whatever they can to answer your questions.

What Type of Currency and Credit Cards Does Tokyo Disneyland Accept?

For cash, only Japanese yen is accepted at any dining or retail location in Tokyo Disneyland. You can exchange foreign currency at the Guest Services Window to the left of the park's main entrance, but we recommend doing that before you arrive in Japan. Most banks offer a service where you can order Japanese yen and have it delivered directly to your house.

If you don’t want to carry around cash, all of the shops and restaurants in Tokyo Disney Resort take standard US credit cards. Some shops and restaurants outside of the resort require credit cards with the “Smart Chip” inside. You will not be able to purchase anything from these retailers if you do not have a credit card with a smart chip. No matter what kind of credit card you have, be sure to call your bank before you leave home and let them know you will be traveling. If not, your credit card will probably immediately be blocked for suspicious activity. Another thing you want to watch out for is your credit card’s foreign transaction fee.

If you run out of cash, there is an ATM in Ikspiari (which is basically Tokyo Disney Resort’s Downtown Disney), which accepts American debit cards. It is located on the first floor, near the Tokyo Disney Resort Ticketing Center and a shop called Nana’s.

Where to Start?

Everyone will soon find their own favorite and not-so-favorite attractions in Tokyo Disneyland. Be open-minded and adventuresome. Don't dismiss a particular ride or show as not being for you until after you have tried it. We do recommend that you take advantage of what Disney does best: the fantasy adventures such as The Haunted Mansion, and the animatronic attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Unless you have almost unlimited time, don't burn a lot of daylight browsing through the shops. Try to minimize the time you spend on midway-type rides, as you probably have an amusement park, carnival, or state fair close to your hometown. Don't, however, mistake rides such as Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain for amusement-park rides. They may be of the flume-ride or the roller-coaster genre, but they represent pure Disney genius. Also, do not miss Tokyo Disneyland's spectacular exclusives, Pooh's Hunny Hunt and Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek!

Last updated by Guy Selga on May 11, 2018

Top