Accessing Tokyo Disney Resort: The Adventure Before the Theme Parks
Before you begin your theme park adventure at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, you’ll first need to embark on a different sort of adventure. It’s the adventure of accessing Tokyo Disney Resort. Unlike Florida, this process doesn’t involve boarding a tram in the parking lot.
Keep in mind: Tokyo Disney Resort is located on the outskirts of the world’s most populous metropolis. People do hop in the car to get there, but they’re just as likely to arrive by train—if not more so. Depending on where you’re staying and which park you’re visiting, you might also avail yourself of the bus or monorail …
It stands to reason that most overseas tourists are going to be combining their trip to the resort with other travel outside Disney. Sightseeing elsewhere in Tokyo means you might not always be staying on-site at one of the resort hotels. Even if you are, you’ll still want to consider the best way to access the resort when you go to check into your hotel.
Let’s take a quick look at the benefits each transportation option holds.
If you’re a regular visitor to Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll quickly come to know the name Maihama. This is the train station that serves as the Disney access point for passengers from all over Tokyo and elsewhere. In the morning and at night, when it’s busiest, it might feel like visitors fill every square inch of the platform. Even during the day, you’ll see a steady flow of them passing through the ticket gate.
Technically, Tokyo Disney Resort is located just outside Tokyo, in the neighboring prefecture of Chiba. If you’re coming from Tokyo proper, you’ll probably be passing through Tokyo Station. Maihama Station is one of the stops on the Keiyo/Musashino Line.
The platform for the Keiyo/Musashino Line is located somewhat far afield from the other platforms in Tokyo Station. There is a series of moving walkways and escalators that can help you reach it. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you start seeing lots of people wearing Disney T-shirts and carrying Disney souvenir bags.
In my experience, the train is cheaper but less comfortable than the highway bus (see below). With it, you won’t have to worry about traffic conditions slowing you down on the way to Disney.
However, there are times when the train is down because of weather or accidents. And if you’re already exhausted, it can be even more exhausting to make your way across Tokyo Station to or from the Disney-bound train platform. Not to mention how crowded the train gets, and the very real possibility that you will have to stand, rather than sit, aboard it.
With Japan being so well-connected by trains, subways, and monorails, there are certain railway laws, and one of those laws seems to dictate that you must pay to ride any and all railways. Because of this, the monorail at Tokyo Disney Resort does charge a small fare. Ticket machines are located inside each station.
Since I usually take the highway bus to DisneySea, I haven’t found myself riding the monorail as much. The only other reason to ride it would be, well, joy-riding (which I’ve done, of course), or if you’re staying at one of the hotels on the monorail loop. The official themed Disney hotels do provide guests with complimentary monorail passes.
The Disney Resort Line is the official name for the monorail line. It has one stop right in front of Tokyo Disneyland and the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. The next stop is Bayside Station. From there, you can access the official but non-themed Disney hotels like the Hilton Tokyo Bay.
At Tokyo DisneySea Station, there are some open-air lookouts where you can see inside the park. These are nice for snapping elevated photos of the Aquasphere, DisneySea Plaza, and the Hotel Miracosta.
Resort Gateway Station provides access to the Disney Ambassador Hotel and the Ikspiari shopping complex (the Tokyo equivalent of Disney Springs in Florida). From here, you can transfer back to Maihama Station.
Even if you don’t ride the monorail, it’s always fun to see them gliding by overhead. There’s usually (though not always) at least one monorail running with seasonal decorations on it.
Since I live in Western Tokyo, I personally enjoy taking the highway bus to Tokyo Disney Resort. This might be a good option if you want to do a day trip but you’re staying somewhere on the opposite side of town like Shinjuku.
For bus arrival schedules, I’d recommend using Google Translate on this page (it’s only available in Japanese on the resort website). English departure schedules can be found here.
Faster than the train in some cases — and altogether more comfortable — the highway bus is often more scenic, too. It can be fun winding your way through the city streets and spotting landmarks like Tokyo Tower and the 2,080-foot Tokyo Skytree from your bus seat.
This way, you don’t have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road like you would if you were driving. If you want to sleep, read, use a smartphone or tablet, and/or draw up a battle plan for your day at Disney, you can do that, as well.
Taking the highway bus might also enable you to get a better sense of Tokyo’s geography. When you’re just jaunting around to different train stations, it’s easy to lose sight of how the various districts and wards in this sprawling city are all interconnected.
What the bus offers is an unofficial tour of the metropolis––ending in the Kingdom of Dreams and Magic. Another perk of this mode of transportation is the fact that it lets you out right on Disney’s doorstep. With train or car access, you’ll still have to do some walking or monorail-riding to get to the parks. The bus stops, however, are right outside the ticket gates.
Even if you’re not staying on the monorail loop, guests at nearby hotels might have the option of taking a free shuttle bus to the parks. This is what I did over the summer when I stayed at the robot-run Henn na (“Weird”) Hotel in Maihama. It’s a good thing to keep in mind before you book your reservation somewhere.
Access on Foot
The Tokyo Disneyland ticket gate is about a five-minute walk from Maihama Station. Coming in this way, as opposed to the parking lot or bus stop, will take you right past the Bon Voyage souvenir shop. Travel stickers, a luggage tag sign, and a carry handle over the door make this huge shop look like a giant’s suitcase. Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the money of souvenir hounds …
DisneySea is more of a hike, but it also has a pedestrian route that makes it accessible on foot from Maihama Station. This option will save you money on the monorail and give you about 15 minutes of walking exercise. It’s especially nice on a sunny day.
You can follow the boulevard lined with palm trees down from Ikspiari. Along the way, you’ll pass the Disney Ambassador Hotel. You might see some of its Art Deco Mickey shuttle buses coming and going.
You’ll also pass the Urayasu City Sports Park. The gate to the park, dubbed “Lively Gate,” is a sculpture by Japanese artist Taro Okamoto.
Okamoto also created the massive “Myth of Tomorrow” mural in Shibuya Station. He created the Tower of the Sun, the symbol of the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, too. Knowing this might serve as a faint reminder of Disney history, since stateside Disney attractions like It’s a Small World, Carousel of Progress, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln started out at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
Access by Car
If you have a valid Japanese driver’s license or an International Driving Permit, you can certainly access Tokyo Disney Resort with a good old-fashioned car. (Just, um, remember to drive on the left side of the road, not the right, like in the U.S.) That said, driving to Disney arguably isn’t as much of a staple in Japan as it is in Florida.
Disney World is famous for having one of the largest parking lots on Earth. Tokyo Disney Resort, on the other hand, is much more compact. Its parking lot only has three character sections: Tinker Bell, Goofy, and Pinocchio. These are complemented by additional parking structures, such as the new multi-level garage under construction near Tokyo Disneyland.
A good way to save time outside the parks, once you do reach them, is to buy your tickets beforehand. Some Disney Store locations around Tokyo, like the one in Shibuya, have special counters where you can buy park tickets. It’s another part of the pre-park adventure.
Whichever way you choose to access Tokyo Disney Resort, it is certain to be an adventure in and of itself. If you’re jet-lagged or suffering from travel fatigue, reaching the resort might even feel like something of an ordeal.
Just remember: your destination is the Kingdom of Dreams and Magic. Hopefully, this guide will help you mount a smoother, more interesting journey to the parks. Good luck, and have fun at Tokyo Disney Resort!