Whether you’re looking to escape the haze or are a theme park nut, we know how to make the most of a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort with kids!
If you’re travelling to Japan with your children, it’s hard to ignore that Tokyo boasts not one, but two Disney theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Families with children of all ages will find something to love here, so put on your mouse ears and check out our tips for enjoying all the Disney magic Tokyo has to offer.
Tokyo Disneyland or DisneySea?
Tokyo Disneyland is almost twice as large as its Hong Kong counterpart. You’ll find all the familiar rides from Space Mountain to The Haunted Mansion and Alice’s Tea Party. Of the 40 rides on offer, only seven have height restrictions of 90 or 102 centimetres. The other 33 are infant and toddler-friendly. Disneyland boasts daily parades, fireworks, and an evening programme called “Once Upon a Time”, where images projected onto the castle showcase beloved Disney stories.
DisneySea was conceptualised to appeal to a more mature audience. While there is much to see, there are only 28 rides, of which seven have minimum height requirements (up to 117cm). Rather than street parades, DisneySea’s parades happen in the massive lake called “Mediterranean Harbor”. There’s only one child-centric port of call – Mermaid Lagoon. Should your child dislike The Little Mermaid, you may want to give DisneySea a pass until they are tweens/teens.
If you have only one day, go to Disneyland. If you have several days, add on DisneySea. Be prepared for massive crowds and if you have the option, go on a weekday for fewer visitors and shorter wait times.
Where To Stay And How To Get There
There are two hotels on the parks’ properties and another six official hotels along a monorail route. If you’re staying in downtown Tokyo, the parks are easily accessed by riding the Keiyo Line to Maihama Station and then switching to the monorail. Suica cards (the Tokyo equivalent of a tourist Octopus card) work on both.
A good option for families is the “Happy Magic Rooms” at the Hilton Tokyo Bay. These huge rooms are found on dedicated non-smoking floors. There are three beds that can be pushed together to form one giant bed, or moved apart to suit the needs of your family. The hotel is a five-minute walk from the Bayside monorail station and offers a regular shuttle service to both the monorail and the Maihama subway station.
Children three and under go free at the Disney parks (woohoo!)h, but there are some notable differences in Tokyo’s ticket policies as compared to the original parks in the United States. In Tokyo, multi-day tickets must be used on consecutive days and there are no park hopper passes that allow entry to both parks on the same day. All the latest ticket prices and explanations can be found online.
There are a number of food options in both parks. Bottled water is not widely available in the park, although there are fountains in some restaurants. Your best bet is to bring a water bottle (good for the environment too) to refill at the fountains throughout the day. We highly recommend The Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall in Fantasyland (Disneyland) where you will find healthy (and delicious!) alternatives to typical park fare.
Sassy Mama tip: Do not miss out on the popcorn. The parks feature a different flavour of popcorn at every stall, so you can try curry popcorn, soy sauce and butter popcorn, and other exciting flavours beyond the usual salted. Should you buy a souvenir container, you can get cheap refills from the different stalls throughout the day.
Do not avoid the park when it rains – park attendance drops, which means the lines become shorter! Even uncovered rides like Dumbo The Flying Elephant still operate in a downpour. Ponchos and raincoats do sell out quickly, so bring your own. Parades continue in the rain, although fireworks may be cancelled.
To get a free map and daily schedule in English, go to any of the stores and ask at the counter. Many cast members speak a little English or Mandarin. Smiling and pantomime will get you further than you might imagine, and we all know Mickey is universally beloved in any language.
All the shows at both parks are in Japanese (although English lyrics to songs are sometimes used). All the speaking roles are also in Japanese, so attractions to skip unless you have some Japanese language skills are Turtle Talk, Magic Lamp Theater and Stitch Encounter.
Favourite Rides (Disneyland)
Disneyland offers all the perennial favourites. Younger children will particularly enjoy Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and Gadget’s Go Coaster. In Toontown walking through Minnie’s house and Donald Duck’s boat is always a treat. Meet the Mouse himself at Mickey’s house (long wait warning). This is one of only two parks in the world where you can catch The Electric Light Parade, so don’t miss out!
Favourite Rides (DisneySea)
Fans of The Little Mermaid will love Jumping Jellyfish, Flounder’s Fish Coaster and Scuttles Scooters, all in Mermaid Lagoon. Meeting Ariel is a highlight as is Jasmine’s Flying Carpets in the Arabian Coast. Fantasmic! is a wonderful way to end to your time at Disney, with pyrotechnics, boats, and a giant dragon Maleficent that rises out of the water to do battle with Mickey.
Keep your child’s personality in mind when evaluating which rides are right for them:
- Are they scared of the dark?
- Do they like thrill rides or more sedate ones?
- Can they handle a long wait time?
It’s a good idea to review the rides on the website in advance and know which you’ll prioritise; there are plenty of choices for everyone. With a bit of advance planning, Tokyo Disneyland might just be the highlight of your families’ Japan vacation!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written by Crystal Nanavati and published on Sassy Mama Singapore on 7, October 2015. It was updated by Jess Mizzi on 15, July 2019.