Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) is home to two world class theme parks and rests just a few miles outside of one of the grandest cities in the world. Traveling there from the U.S. can be intimidating and we’re often asked about the differences between the parks here and there. With that in mind, it’s time to start a new mini-series about that very topic. We started this series with how TDR is different from a culture standpoint, affecting how guests might act inside of the parks. Today we move on to how the parks are different in a physical sense, mainly focusing on Tokyo Disneyland and how it differs from other castle parks.
Similarly to the first post in this series, I’m not going to get into every single difference that Tokyo Disney Resort offers. You’re all probably used to long blog posts from this site but that would be too long. Also, there are changes that I simply don’t think will move the needle in one way or another for you and don’t for me. A deep dive into how the Tomorrowland stores are shifted 30 feet to the left of where Magic Kingdom would have them (I just made this up) does not sound all that fun to write and I can’t imagine it would be fun to read. Instead, I’ll stick with the major differences and add in my commentary from there. As I said, much of this post will focus on Tokyo Disneyland but let’s talk about the elephant in the room first.
Tokyo Disney Resort features an original park that isn’t replicated in America. I’ve spent many words on this site raving about DisneySea and for good reason, it is the best theme park in the world. The themed environments are one of a kind, with beautifully detailed lands that are totally enveloping. There’s also some of Disney’s best attractions inside of the park. DisneySea sports a couple of replica attractions that can be found inside of the American parks including Toy Story Mania, Indiana Jones Adventure, Turtle Talk with Crush (in Japanese), and Jumping Jellyfish. Tower of Terror is also inside of DisneySea but has an entirely original story that we adore. Everything else about the park is original.
Frankly, this is the biggest difference in this resort and the ones in the U.S. It’s hard to do the scale, beauty and story of DisneySea justice. There is nothing that can compare to the park in terms of theme parks and, if you’re considering a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort, this should push you to visit.
Let’s move on to the differences between Tokyo Disneyland and other castle parks.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek
Tokyo Disneyland offers two exceptional dark rides that can’t be found anywhere else. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is in Fantasyland and is a trackless dark ride that is considered one of the world’s best. Hunny Hunt is the park’s most popular ride and will continue to be before another trackless dark ride, Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, debuts in April. Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek, in Tomorrowland, is also very popular, as the ride takes guests into Monstropolis and has a fun interactive element to it. Both of these dark rides are fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.
Tokyo Disneyland offers a few other original attractions, although they aren’t as interesting as the two I’ve listed. The park also has a few unique spins on the classics including Stitch in the Tiki Room and Country Bear Jamboree in its entirety (along with holiday editions of the show). Overall, the attraction lineup isn’t all that different from Disneyland but the additions are impressive.
Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast and The Happy Ride with Baymax
In late September of 2020, Tokyo Disneyland debuted a new area and a couple of new attractions. The headliner is Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, a trackless dark ride that takes guests inside of Beast’s Castle. This new Fantasyland area looks beautiful and we could not be more excited to ride the state-of-the-art attraction. The Happy Ride with Baymax will look familiar to American park goers as it’s the same ride system as Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Alien Swirling Saucer, just this time it is themed to Big Hero 6. This new expansion took the place of Grand Circuit Raceway, similar to Autopia and Tomorrowland Speedway.
As I mentioned in the previous installment of this post, Tokyo Disneyland is home to two excellent, original parades. The daytime parade is called Dreaming Up!, a whimsical and larger than life offering. Despite not loving most daytime parades, I absolutely love this one. Somehow Tokyo Disneyland’s nighttime parade, Dreamlights, is even better. The floats are gorgeous, the soundtrack matches perfectly and the parade’s theme is hopeful. Regardless of your feelings about parades, these two should be must-sees and are an essential part of the Tokyo Disneyland experience.
World Bazaar Instead of Main Street
The biggest physical change in terms of Tokyo Disneyland’s actual lands is that Main Street is not supposed to be some small town in the American midwest. Knowing that wouldn’t appeal to locals, Imagineers opted for a more universal entrance to the park, calling it World Bazaar. The formula is largely the same with World Bazaar mainly consisting of shops and a few dining spots. One of the biggest differences is that there is an arcade covering the main walkway. Not only does it protect from the weather, but it adds more texture to the already beautiful landscape. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about World Bazaar going in but instantly became a fan as it fits the rest of the park beautifully.
Westernland and Trains
There are two parts to this one, the first being very simple. Instead of being called Frontierland, Tokyo Disneyland refers to the same land as Westernland simply because of language differences. This includes much of what is in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland including Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Splash Mountain actually has a nice little mini land right by the attraction including a little walking trail, restaurant and food stand. Along those same lines, there’s a mini-New Orleans Square at Tokyo Disneyland but it is part of the bigger Adventureland.
Westernland is also home to Tokyo Disneyland’s train. Due to a quirky Japanese law that states if a train has multiple stops it must charge, Westernland River Railroad takes off and ends in the land. The route doesn’t circle the entire park, instead going around the river and through part of Westernland before getting to Primeval World Diorama which is similar to Disneyland’s. While it’s slightly strange to not have a train station outside of Main Street, or World Bazaar, I enjoy the path the train takes and it adds some nice kinetic energy to Westernland.
No Fireworks (Sort of)
The last major difference that we’ll get into is that Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t offer a fireworks show the majority of the year. DisneySea generally has a nighttime spectacular in the main harbor (Fantasmic! recently came to an end but I expect a new one by summer) but Tokyo Disneyland sticks to a projection show and nighttime parade. There are exceptions, as the 35th anniversary brought a bigger show, but for the most part the park stays that way. I shouldn’t say that there are no fireworks as they do shoot off fireworks in between the parks each night. This show doesn’t really compare to most Disney fireworks shows and we recommend skipping it.
I’m a huge fan of fireworks and Tokyo Disneyland not having a huge nighttime spectacular is a little bit disappointing. That said, the incredible nighttime parade more than makes up for it. Along with that, there are other benefits including the park flowing a little better at night and a beautiful projection show.
Those are the main differences in Tokyo Disneyland and other Castle Parks. Our next post in this series will address the language barrier, food and a few other more obvious differences in the way the resort operates.
Do you have any questions or thoughts about the cultural differences at Tokyo Disney Resort? Let us know in the comments! Curious about planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? Check out our planning guide to get you started! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney. If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page. Have a great day!
Categories: Vacation Tips