PHOTOS, VIDEO: Celebrate the Park’s 37th Anniversary with 37 Unique Things About Tokyo Disneyland
It’s Tokyo Disneyland’s 37th birthday! As they say in Japanese, otanjoubi omedetou! For many of you, you may have never been to Tokyo Disneyland. So when Tom or I hype it up, you might ask “what’s all the fuss about?” Or you might have been before and wish you could be there right now. So how about we look at 37 unique things about Tokyo Disneyland to celebrate its 37th anniversary!
1. World Bazaar
Right off the bat, one of the first unique things you notice about Tokyo Disneyland is that Main Street has a roof! Due to the long rainy season in Japan, it was decided to give World Bazaar, our version of Main Street U.S.A., a Victorian-style covering. There’s a lot of back-and-forth over whether this was a good idea. Personally, I enjoy having a unique spin on our Main Street, even if it’s a little bit shorter than I’d prefer.
2. Paid Monorails
At Disneyland and Walt Disney World, you can ride the highway in the sky free of charge. Not so at Tokyo Disney Resort, due to Japanese railway laws. For ¥260 ($2.43), you can take a loop around the Disney Resort Line. Since it’s legally registered with the Japanese government as a rail company, they also sell monthly commuter passes and operate on a strict timetable. You’d never know by looking at the displays in the station, however. All they say is “Departures every X minutes”. At least we get cute day passes themed to special events or new attractions!
3. Mini-New Orleans Square
New Orleans Square is unique to Disneyland in California? Bah, I say! Well, kind of. You see, our mini version of New Orleans Square is part of the transition between World Bazaar and Adventureland. Our Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with Blue Bayou, makes its home in this section of the park. We also have our own Cafe Orleans, but no Club 33. That’s actually over in World Bazaar!
4. Retro Tomorrowland
Unlike Tomorrowland at the domestic parks, our Tomorrowland has never seen a large-scale renovation. It retains the same classic space age aesthetic as it had in 1983. The twin spires rise above the entrance as they once did at the Magic Kingdom. It really is like stepping into the past, but still feels fairly futuristic. I hope we never see this change.
5. Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek!
We can’t talk about what’s unique at Tokyo Disneyland without talking about its unique attractions. Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek! is one of the park’s most popular attractions, opening on its 26th anniversary on April 15th, 2009. The idea is that you’re riding through Monstropolis, playing hide-and-seek with Boo. Using flashlights in your ride vehicle, you can trigger special effects throughout your journey. Anything from activating lights to triggering moving props! It’s a lot of fun, and still draws a high wait a decade later. You can check out our ride-through below!
6. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
You can’t talk about Tokyo Disneyland without talking about Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. It was Disney’s first trackless ride way back in 2000, and takes you on a journey through the Hundred Acre Wood, bouncing with Tigger, and through Pooh’s nightmare of Heffalumps and Woozles. Think The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but with full sets instead of flats. It’s impossible really to describe how special this attraction is. You just have to see it for yourself!
7. Country Bear Jamboree
I know what you’re thinking – “But Spencer, the Country Bear Jamboree is still at the Magic Kingdom!”. Well hold your horses, I’ll explain why the Tokyo version is unique. Remember when there used to be a special version of the Country Bear Jamboreefor the holidays? How about when the Vacation Hoedown took over Disneyland’s permanently, and the Magic Kingdom’s back in the ’80s and ’90s? You may think they’re both long gone, but you’d be wrong! From June through early November every year, you can experience the Country Bear Vacation Jamboree, and from November through New Year’s, the Country Bear Jingle Bell Jamboree plays every day! From “The Great Outdoors” to “Tracks in the Snow”, these beloved hits live on at Tokyo Disneyland. But what about the original show? Well it plays every year from January through early June. And unlike the current version at Walt Disney World, the one in Tokyo is still the full, uncut Jamboree from 1971. I think it’s different enough to call our Jamboree unique.
8. The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai
It’s impossible to overstate how popular Lilo & Stitch was in Japan during the mid to late 2000s. Between the Japanese affinities for Hawai’i and the love of adorable characters like Stitch, it was a match made in heaven. So as part of the Tokyo Disney Resort 25th Anniversary celebration in 2008, The Enchanted Tiki Room: Get the Fever! (produced in the late ’90s, when Japan was in love with Latin-inspired music) made way for a more Polynesian show once more. However, there’s nary a note of the classic “In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room”, unfortunately. The show features a Hawaiian luau, interrupted by the still-impressive Stitch animatronic, begging to be included in the show. It’s a cute premise, but one that falls short in actual execution. You can watch below for yourself.
9. Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights
It’s sad to say, but with only two castle parks out of six regularly scheduling evening parades (Magic Happens doesn’t count), nighttime parades are a bit of a dying breed at the Disney parks. Hong Kong Disneyland has Paint the Night (which sporadically appears at one of the two Disneyland Resort parks), and we have Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights. And while I love Paint the Night, I think I can say that DreamLights is by far and away the best nighttime parade ever. Forget everything you know about that tired old Main Street Electrical Parade they haul out at Disneyland when crowds are low! DreamLights is a 21st century reimagining, featuring the beloved “Baroque Hoedown” with classic units like the Blue Fairy and Pete’s Dragon alongside modern classics like Frozen and Tangled. I really can’t overstate how gorgeous this parade is, and how it feeds your nostalgia while also building on it. Like many things at Tokyo Disneyland, you really have to see it to believe it!
10. The Weird Parade Route
One of the extra funky things about our park is the parade route. It follows a sort of horseshoe pattern from Fantasyland, through Westernland, around the plaza, and out through Tomorrowland and Toontown. Since World Bazaar is covered and the entrance is through some areas that probably can’t have parade floats driving through them, parades instead take this route. It certainly makes things easier for parade storage.
11. Sitting for Parades
Tons of people flock to see Tokyo Disneyland’s parades. But for the most part, you’ll largely see everyone sitting on the ground. That’s right, it’s mandatory to sit for parades and shows (except the summer water shows) unless you want to be in the very back. No pushing, shoving, and kids on shoulders here!
12. Camp Woodchuck
In 2016, a mini-land within Westernland opened with a new restaurant and greeting trail called Camp Woodchuck. Themed after the Junior Woodchucks from DuckTales, the incredible Camp Woodchuck Kitchen features an indoor dining area similar to a summer camp lodge. And it’s packed full of little details and references to DuckTales. Any fan would adore the tribute! Plus the food is pretty good for Tokyo Disneyland’s standards.
13. Pan Galactic Pizza Port
Sure, we all know Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. But what if Sonny Eclipse had a massive machine around him and a special film? Enter the incredible Tony Solaroni at Tokyo Disneyland’s Pan Galactic Pizza Port! He’s managing the new Pan Galactic franchise here on Earth, but he hasn’t quite worked out all the kinks yet. It’s a lovely show, and you really shouldn’t miss it if you’re hungry at Tokyo Disneyland.
14. Grandma Sara’s Kitchen
I may complain about Grandma Sara’s Kitchen a lot, but it has some of the best theming of any Disney restaurant worldwide. The interior is absolutely gorgeous, lending itself perfectly to Critter Country around it. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this one of the best counter service restaurants at any Disney park if the food wasn’t always so awful. But it’s worth stopping in just to admire the gorgeous theming of the briar patch.
If I had to choose one thing Tokyo Disneyland is probably most well-known for, it’s our crazy popcorn flavors. The popcorn culture is insane here, from cool and inventive buckets to the equally unique flavors. Flavors like curry, honey, matcha white chocolate, and garlic shrimp make their home at Tokyo Disney Resort, and almost all of them attract a fairly sizable line most of the time. It’s such a staple here that popcorn was part of the finale in the former Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland nighttime show, and we’re getting a popcorn store as part of the New Fantasyland expansion!
You’d think that being the third-most-attended theme park in the world would mean that the park is full of people leaving behind their garbage. Not so! Tokyo Disneyland is actually impeccably clean, thanks in tandem to the incredible custodial Cast Members and the general cleanliness of Japanese Guests in general. I can only think of one time I’ve seen a full garbage can, and if there is trash, it’s only on the ground for a few minutes at most before the ever-looping custodial staff or a Guest picks it up.
17. Incredible Cast Members
Between the high expectations of Japanese customer service and the general enthusiasm of our Cast Members, the level of service at Tokyo Disneyland is simply incredible. In the past year and a half, I can only recall three incidents where I felt like Cast Members were guilty of bad show. They’re always happy, enthusiastic, helpful, and a lot of them seem to genuinely enjoy and love what they do! Just be warned that few of them speak English, but almost always there’s someone nearby who can.
18. Incredible Maintenance
Yes, I know that Toy Story Mania is at Tokyo DisneySea, but it helps illustrate my point. Do you see a single burnt-out lightbulb? Nope. What about inside, is anything broken? Nope. And if it is, it’s almost always fixed by the next day. If we tried to do the WDWNT Maintenance List here, it would probably have three or four things on it, maximum. And most of them would be non-issues by the time we actually published it. Maintenance here is almost perfect, with issues and glitches taken care of with haste. It’s the epitome of good show.
19. Rare Character Greetings
How often is it that you see the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf out anymore? Or the creepy Fairy Godmother with that soul-haunting mask? Here at Tokyo Disneyland, rare characters are often found not only in character greetings but parades and shows as well! Max (of A Goofy Movie fame) and Clarice (Chip & Dale’s love interest) often appear in shows and merchandise alongside their more recognizable companions. And sometimes obscure characters get their own parade floats! Marie, Berlioz, and Toulouse from The Aristocats had their own float in the previous daytime parade, Happiness is Here, amazingly enough!
20. Cinderella Castle Design
With the new repainting projects at both Cinderella Castles, Tokyo’s castle now bears a closer resemblance to the Magic Kingdom’s former look. The new addition of the zig-zag design on the center tower combined with the deeper blues evoke the 2014-era Cinderella Castle. And with the (on-hold) repainting of Cinderella Castle over at the Magic Kingdom, it will once again make our castle subtly distinct from the original.
21. Western River Railroad
Unlike every other castle park except Shanghai, Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t have a steam train circling the park. At the time the park was built, even train amusement rides were subject to laws requiring fares, fully-enclosed rail cars, and other regulations also imposed on the likes of metro systems. This law was amended in 1987, allowing the DisneySea Electric Railway to exist, but it was too late here at Tokyo Disneyland. Nonetheless, the Western River Railroad is still a nice, relaxing journey! There’s even a Primeval World diorama like at Disneyland.
22. Constant Seasonal Events
Tokyo Disneyland lies in an area where 30 million potential visitors live, with another 90 million throughout the rest of the nation. And with a little more than 90% of Tokyo Disneyland’s visitors being Japanese (60% from the Tokyo metro area and the rest of Kanto), how do you encourage repeat visitors? With near-constant and ever-changing seasonal events, of course! Every seasonal event at Tokyo Disneyland features either a castle forecourt show or a special parade, themed food, decorations, and new merchandise. There’s roughly seven seasons at Tokyo Disneyland – New Year’s, Winter, Easter, Tanabata, Summer, Halloween, and Christmas, and each of them brings something you won’t see anywhere else! Every 1-3 years with limited exceptions (I’m looking at you, Disney Christmas Stories), the events are completely changed to keep things fresh. For foreign and domestic Guests alike, these events keep people coming back multiple times a year!
23. Crazy Seasonal Snacks
If you thought the variety of cupcakes at Walt Disney World gets crazy, wait until you come to Tokyo Disneyland. They like to try some pretty inventive stuff here for seasonal events, from a potato salad and raspberry sandwich for Christmas a few years back to the popcorn soda with donut, seen above. And yes, it actually tasted like popcorn. And yes, it was incredible. Better bring an adventurous appetite!
24. Souvenir Food Item Additions
Another constant of the seasonal events at Tokyo Disneyland is the adorable souvenir items that come with mini-desserts. There’s always a dessert plate, a small coffee mug, and a lunch case to mark the occasion. It makes for a cute little keepsake, and a cheap one too at around $8.
25. Massive Anniversary Celebrations
Remember the Diamond Celebration at Disneyland for the 60th anniversary? Imagine that scaled up even more, and you’ve got the anniversary celebrations at Tokyo Disneyland! Every five years, the park explodes with decorations and celebrations galore. New permanent features typically include a new daytime parade, a major attraction renovation, a new fireworks show, and a new stage show somewhere in the park. Plus refreshes or complete overhauls of at least one or two seasonal events! And then there’s the insane amounts of merchandise, decor, the commemorative theme song playing everywhere, and everything else that just changes the general vibe of the park to a massive celebration every day for a year! If you have the chance to visit Tokyo Disneyland during an anniversary celebration, you won’t be disappointed.
26. Today Guides
The Today Guides at Tokyo Disneyland are basically your introduction to what’s happening at the park right now. While Times Guides are still customary at the domestic parks, you don’t see the kind of detail from these mini-booklets! In here, you’ll find things like the latest seasonal merchandise lines, the new and limited-edition food around the park, and of course the entertainment schedules. It’s so big and intensive that it folds out to the same size as a Guide Map!
27. Rules, Rules, Rules
One of the eternal symbols of Tokyo Disney Resort is a Cast Member crossing their arms in an X-shape, indicating something you’re doing is wrong. Whether it’s taking videos in an indoor show, standing for parades, or having your camera out on a ride, there’s a lot of rules, written and unwritten to follow. And they’re serious about it. For example, the official rule is that you can’t wait for more than one hour before a show starts. But the true, unwritten rule is that you can wait without spreading your leisure sheet or leaving your belongings behind. Once that one hour mark hits, you may spread out your sheets and leave your belongings behind to shop, eat, or visit the restroom before the parade or show begins! But beware, if you break this rule, a Cast Member may confront you immediately, or leave a note on your belongings. And if you’re gone too long, they can even take your belongings to lost and found!
28. Gachapon (Capsule Toys)
Gachapon, or capsule toys, are a staple of Japanese arcades. For anywhere between ¥100-¥500 ($0.90-$4.67), you can get a little toy or collectable contained in a small capsule. And for many events at Tokyo Disneyland, special items are produced for these machines! The best part is that it’s at random, meaning you never know what you’ll get. Infuriating for some, invigorating for others!
29. No Pin Trading
Don’t be mistaken, Tokyo Disneyland still sells pins. But they’re strictly for pin collecting, not trading. Pin trading was introduced at the park in 2000, and it was insane. For those without context, Japanese fandoms LOVE to collect things. And pin trading was no exception, sparking an insane craze that reportedly included stampedes to the pin trading stands and continued harassment by collectors, traders, and scalpers of Guests and Cast Members wearing pins. Additionally, avid trader Guests would bring their books and displays full of pins to the park and set them out on the ground for other traders to admire and attempt trades with, creating crowding issues. And of course, the merch resellers capitalized on this like nothing else. After just under a year and a half, OLC shut the whole thing down and pivoted to pin collecting rather than trading. And so it has remained to this day.
30. Collection Cards
Truth be told, I don’t really know why we do this. But with every new show and seasonal event comes a set of “collection cards” which feature pictures from whatever they represent. They all contain the same cards (it’s not a random thing), so I guess the point really is to collect them all, like some sort of Pokemon cards thing but for Disneyland?
31. Atmospheric Entertainment
While atmospheric entertainment isn’t unique to Tokyo Disneyland, the sheer amount of it certainly is. From the frequent performances of the Tokyo Disneyland Band and the Bicycling Pianist on World Bazaar, to the a cappella Opus Five performers in Tomorrowland, you’re highly unlikely to spend a day at Tokyo Disneyland without encountering some sort of spontaneous, unplanned entertainment!
32. Japanese Vending Machines
You may think you know vending machines, but you don’t until you’ve visited Japan. And that philosophy extends to Tokyo Disneyland as well. Five machines are spread throughout the park, each themed to the area its in and serving beverages appropriate to the weather. In the summer, it’ll be filled with cold drinks like Kirin Lemon, green tea, and water. In the winter, you’ll probably encounter cold Coke alongside hot milk tea and green tea. When you’re parched and in a rush, look no further than the vending machines throughout the park!
33. Colored Pavement
While some may argue that it’s outdated, tacky, and cheap, part of the charm of Tokyo Disneyland is how part of it stands almost as a time capsule of Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom in the 1980s. While new expansions, like the upcoming New Fantasyland expansion, feature brick, stonework, and other more themed groundwork, Tokyo Disneyland largely still features the color-coordinated-by-land pavement that was a staple of the Magic Kingdom from the 1970s through the 1990s!
34. Mediocre Fireworks
There’s a lot of great things that can be said about Tokyo Disneyland’s entertainment offerings. Our fireworks are definitely notone of them. With around a 60% or so success rate, the “fireworks spectacular” is often cancelled due to even the slightest winds from the south. Additionally, the fireworks are just not held through the entire summer. Shows are typically about 4-5 minutes long and are really nothing special. It’s almost blink-and-you-miss-it. The real entertainment at night is DreamLights and whatever nighttime spectacular may be around at that time.
35. Nighttime Spectaculars
Say what you will about our fireworks shows, but the recent trend of projection shows at Tokyo Disneyland has been nothing but incredible. Of course, projection shows with pyro and fountains is nothing new, but the scale and splendor of both Once Upon a Time and Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland are only bested by Happily Ever Afterat the Magic Kingdom, if only by a little. I only hope that we see these shows return once it’s safe, now that the castle is out of refurbishment. If you’re a parks fan, I can’t recommend enough that you watch Celebrate! Tokyo Disneylandenough. It’s basically a love letter to castle parks in general.
36. Music Releases
Unlike every other Disney resort, Tokyo Disney Resort releases just about every show and parade soundtrack on CD a few weeks after it premieres. No listening to shady, mono versions of the Dreaming Up! soundtrack here, because you can get it on CD straight out of the recording studio! For a huge parks music geek like myself, this is probably the best thing they do.
37. New Fantasyland
Aw come on, you didn’t think I’d make this whole list without talking about what we’re all truly waiting for? It was supposed to open today, after all. Whenever it finally opens, New Fantasyland will solidify Tokyo Disneyland as not just a “if you’ve been to Magic Kingdom, you could skip it” park to Tokyo DisneySea’s “you absolutely have to see this park” level. From Belle’s Village to the incredible The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast attraction, this alongside Galaxy’s Edge will be the bar to beat for some time. All we can do now is eagerly await when we can finally visit.
And that’s 37 unique things about Tokyo Disneyland! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit homesick right now. I can only hope that it becomes safe enough for us all to visit once again soon. Happy 37 years, Tokyo Disneyland! Here’s to many, many more!
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