Finally, I get to talk about our day at Tokyo DisneySea! We woke up extra early with the intention of getting to the park when it opened, but once we discovered the beautiful temple near our hotel we had to stop and explore it first. (You can read about the temple in Day 2 Part 1.)
To get to the Disney resort grounds, we had to transfer subways and then transfer again to the Disney rail line. We were surprised that we had to use our IC cards to get onto the Disney railway. This would be like using your New York City MetroCard to transfer onto the Walt Disney World monorail!
Now is as good a time as any to mention that each stop on the Japan subway system plays a little tune when the subway doors are closing. When we got to the Disney line the tune was Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah! We got to ride in the front of the monorail car, which was Mickey themed. I was practically giddy by the time we got off at the DisneySea stop around 9:30am.
It was a hot morning—not Florida hot, but definitely toasty in the direct sunlight. We learned that the Japanese dress very conservatively, even in the heat. There wasn’t a pair of shorts or tank top in sight. To protect their skin from the sun, many people wore hats (mostly Disney themed) or carried umbrellas. In fact, when we first entered the park we saw a mass of people sitting around Mediterranean Harbor under their umbrellas waiting for the first Villain’s World performance of the day.
I knew that the park would be crowded, but the amount of people milling around the front of the park was still overwhelming. We grabbed an English map and tried to orient ourselves with the park.
As with all Disney parks, there is one large iconic structure located at the front and center. For DisneySea, this structure is Mount Prometheus—an “active” volcano that intermittently erupts fire. The volcano happened to be spewing fire when we first walked into the park, but I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to catch it. The blasts don’t last very long. In front of Mount Prometheus is the giant Mediterranean Harbor at the center of the park.
First, we made our way to Mysterious Island to grab a FastPass for Journey to the Center of the Earth. After that we waited in the 40 minute line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is also located on Mysterious Island.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Unfortunately, I was never on the Disney World ride of the same name before it closed so I’m not sure if they were same. For this ride, passengers boarded tiny submarines six at a time. Unlike most ride vehicles where there are rows of benches or seats, 20,000 Leagues had three separate benches each facing a round submarine window. Our backs were toward the other passengers in our car, but we could turn around and see them since there was no barrier between us.
During the ride, our submarine submerged and we sailed past beautiful animatronic sea life. There was some sort of story behind our journey, but the narration was in Japanese. Even so, it was a delightful ride. My only complaint was the height of the submarine windows. Since they were very low to the ground, we ended up stooping the entire ride (so we could see) and had sore necks by the time it was over. I’m a little over 5’7 and Adam is about 6’1, so I imagine we are much taller than the average Japanese rider.
Next, I got out our handy park map and brought us to Mermaid Lagoon, themed after one of my favorite Disney movies The Little Mermaid!
What Mermaid Lagoon lacks in thrill rides, it makes up for in atmosphere. The outside of King Triton’s Kingdom is absolutely stunning.
The castle is covered in a mosaic of multicolored ceramic tiles, shells, and gems that sparkle in the sun.
After admiring the intricate design on the outside of King Triton’s Kingdom, we decided to explore the inside. We didn’t realize it would be huge! There were indoor kiddy rides, a water play area, gift shops, and Sebastian’s Calypso Kitchen—a counter service restaurant.
At this point we decided that we wanted to grab something to eat for lunch, so we got in line at Sebastian’s. I knew ahead of time that the only restaurant in all of Tokyo DisneySea that offers a vegetarian meal is an expensive sit down place called Ristorante di Canaletto, but I thought I would be fine just ordering a side salad and fries at Sebastian’s. MISTAKE. The “salad-in-a-cup” had what I can only assume was some sort of fish paste on top and the fries were not very appetizing. I ended up scooping half the salad out onto a napkin to avoid eating the fish paste and the fries were sort of soggy. The best part of the meal was the mango & yogurt mousse dessert that came in a souvenir Flounder mug. I definitely wouldn’t have ordered it if it hadn’t come with the cup, since anyone who has ever met me knows that I prefer chocolate.
Adam ordered the chef’s special, which was just a sandwich and fries. At least his sandwich was shaped like a seashell so it was sort of cute. All in all, we wouldn’t recommend this restaurant.
After lunch, we were eager to get out of King Triton’s Kingdom and walked over to the Arabian Coast, which is essentially Agrabah from Disney’s Aladdin. It was particularly enjoyable to walk through this land because we had just seen Aladdin on Broadway for my birthday, two days before our Japan trip.
As with Mermaid Lagoon, the Arabian Coast also has an incredibly intricate design aesthetic.
Lost River Delta
At this point we were able to get another FastPass (although it still wasn’t time for us to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth, yet.) We walked over to the next land, Lost River Delta, with the intention of getting a FastPass for the Raging Spirits roller coaster, but we discovered that it was closed for construction (boo!).
Instead, we got a FastPass for Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and moved on to the next land.
Port Discovery is arguably the most boring land in the entire park. It is supposed to be themed around a “futuristic marina,” but it lacks the charm of Disney World’s futuristic Tomorowland.
Since there was a short wait time, we got in line for Port Discovery’s main attraction: StormRider. The pre-show featured a live cast member showing off the Center for Weather Control’s latest invention: a giant laser gun that has the power to eliminate storms. (Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to build a land around a ride that is a glorified version of The Weather Channel?)
Even though there were screens featuring English subtitles for the pre-show, the premise hardly made sense. We were introduced to a prerecorded captain and his sidekick and learned they were going to fly into the center, or “eye,” of a dangerous storm and eliminate it using their big storm zapper. The audience was going to fly behind them in an observation vehicle to see how it works.
After the pre-show, the audience entered the ride/theater, very reminiscent of Star Tours in Disney World. We buckled in and “took off,” watching a large screen as we heard Japanese commentary from our captain. Much like Star Tours, the room bobbed and weaved along with the film. Toward the end, the storm zapper gun ended up going through the roof of our observation ship, pointing toward the audience. I cannot imagine an American audience feeling comfortable with a giant gun pointing at them, but we enjoyed the ride nonetheless.
Afterwards we made our way to the final land, the American Waterfront. I knew of this land before the trip and had been looking forward to seeing how the Japanese depict Americans—I was not disappointed. As one of the largest lands in Tokyo DisneySea, it’s actually divided into a couple parts. First, we walked through Cape Cod, which Adam and I dubbed “Duffy Land.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with Duffy, let me introduce you. Duffy is Mickey’s stuffed bear, and “your friend forever.” (Challenge: How many Duffys do you see in the following photo?)
As far as I know, there aren’t any Disney movies behind Duffy, just merchandising. And boy, is there merchandising! There were at least four stores entirely dedicated to Duffy merchandise. There was also a Duffy live show and a Duffy meet-and-greet located in the American Waterfront.
As we continued to walk through the park, we began to understand just how much the Japanese love Duffy. Nearly every man, woman, and child had at least one Duffy item on their person at any given time—many had several Duffys! We saw people carrying Duffy keychains, Duffy backpacks, large Duffy stuffed animals, and even plastic Duffy popcorn buckets—sometimes all at once. At Tokyo Disney, Duffy is king.
After Cape Cod/Duffy Land, Adam and I made our way through the rest of the American Waterfront. Much to my delight, this area was themed after an old-fashioned New York City, complete with a Broadway Music Theatre, New York Deli, and (in my opinion) the crown jewel of the American Waterfront: McDuck’s Department Store.
Yes, Scrooge McDuck—the wealthy, money-obsessed duck who is the embodiment of consumerism and capitalism—has found a home in Japan’s version of America. (And yes, those are dollar sign flags atop the store.) Out front there is the serene fountain made of stacks of gold coins.
Inside, the walls are embedded with gold coins and covered in portraits of McDuck himself. While this may seem like an offensive view of Americans, please know that we still have the last laugh—McDuck’s primarily sells Duffy-themed merchandise. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Finally, we made our way back to the front of the park where we stood to watch the afternoon performance of “Villian’s World.” Instead of an afternoon parade on land, Tokyo DisneySea utilizes the water-filled Mediterranean Harbor for its park-wide entertainment. This show was Halloween themed and incorporated several large ships each for a different Disney villain: Jafar, Hades, Evil Queen, Captain Hook, Malificent, and Ursula. Besides the show’s theme song (which irritatingly repeated “Welcome to the villain’s world!” over and over again), all the dialogue was in Japanese. I gathered that the villains tried to take over the park, but when Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Chip, and Dale appeared on board the ships, they saved the day.
There were beautiful costumes and lots of dancing from performers on the platforms around Mediterranean Harbor, but unless you were standing right in front of them it was hard to see. My favorite part was when the synchronized jet skis raced around the ships. Overall, the show was a cool concept, but nothing groundbreaking for Disney. I could have gone without seeing it.
Next, we walked through Mediterranean Harbor and got ourselves some much-needed ice cream. Sadly, there are no Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream bars (my favorite) at Tokyo Disney, so I got the Tiramisu Ice Cream Sandwich and Adam got the Sea Salt Ice Cream Monaka. Mine was good, but Adam’s definitely wasn’t like a salted caramel treat like he was expecting. We think it must have been a mistranslation of “seashell.” We’ve seen lots of humorous mistranslations on our trip that I will recap in a later post.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
After our snack, it was finally time to use our FastPass for Journey to the Center of the Earth! (The park was so crowded that our FastPass time was for the afternoon.)
For this ride, you get in a train that’s headed for “the center of the Earth” (hence the name). At first you leisurely roll past beautiful caverns, then the train speeds up and you whip past strange, almost extra-terrestrial wildlife. The ride concludes with an adrenaline-pumping drop down Mount Prometheus. It’s a close call, but this was my favorite ride of the park!
Tower of Terror
Next, we went all the way to the other side of the park to ride Tower of Terror. We decided to wait in the standby line for this one since the FastPasses were all sold out for the day and I didn’t want to miss it.
The premise of this Tower of Terror is very different from the ones in Walt Disney World and Disneyland in California. Instead of traveling to The Twilight Zone, visitors tour of Hotel Hightower (which has been preserved by the mythical New York Historical Society) after the mysterious disappearance of its owner and namesake, Harrison Hightower III. Mr. Hightower, the noted adventurer and collector, filled the hotel with self-portraits and the conquests from his many explorations.
After going through the lobby, guests are brought into Mr. Hightower’s study to hear a cast member explain (in Japanese) the story of his last expedition and listen to the final phonograph recording (also in Japanese) Mr. Hightower recorded before his mysterious disappearance. During the recording, a stained-glass image of Mr. Hightower collecting a tiki comes to life. Then, with a flash of green light, the actual tiki idol sitting in the room begins to glow and lets out an evil laugh.
From there, the audience is then ushered into the elevator to take the traditional Tower of Terror plunge. I loved this ride and the haunted tiki motif. The attention to detail was superb, and I only wish I could have understood the pre-show dialogue. As you can see from the ride photo, Adam and I had a great time! (I’m seated directly in the center at the top of the aisle and Adam is next to me on the right.)
Next, we ventured back to the Arabian Coast (I so wish we had pedometers on to track how many miles we walked this day!) to scope out some rides with reasonable standby wait times. The double-decker carousel with a five minute wait time was just what we needed! I’m sorry to report that we rode on the lower level instead of just waiting the extra five minutes for the top. At this point in the day we were both feeling exhausted from looping the park so many times and I made a poor judgement call when the cast member asked if we wanted to wait extra for the upper level. (Also, the stairs looked super unappealing to my aching feet!)
Throw in some camels, and this is just like your traditional carousel set to Aladdin themed music. I did get to ride an elephant beside a little girl on the Genie, so all was not lost!
Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage
After our uneventful carousel ride, we happened upon the most underrated ride of the park: Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage. This ride had virtually no wait time at night and we walked right on. (I’m not sure if it had one earlier in the day when the park was more crowded, but I almost feel like this ride deserves a long wait time.) The vehicles for this ride are large boats, very similar to the boats used in Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney World. We got seats in the front row in a nearly empty boat.
Before we boarded, I asked a cast member for an English translation sheet (thanks for the tip, Mom!) and she handed us each a small, double-sided strip of paper with Sinbad “comics” featuring scenes throughout the ride and English translations. At first I tried to strain my eyes to read it while on the boat, but it was way too dark to see. Instead, I enjoyed the ride and read the translations after we disembarked.
I’m hesitant to compare this ride to It’s a Small World in Disney World (mostly because IASW can become irritating after the second room) but that’s the most similar ride in terms of size, structure, and feel. (For all you It’s a Small World haters, hear me out before you completely write off Sinbad!!)
Passengers sail through rooms following the delightful adventures of Sinbad and his pet tiger Chandu (think of a baby Rajah from Disney’s Aladdin.) Sinbad reminded me (a bit) of an Arabian Robin Hood, protecting the seas from bandits and wrongdoers and sharing his bounty for the common good. Each scene was more beautiful than the next, and you can’t help but fall in love with the heroic Sinbad as he sings out his catchy theme song in a rich baritone voice. (I later learned that the song was written by legendary Disney composer, Alan Menken.) “Follow the Compass of Your Heart” was mostly in Japanese, but our handy Sinbad handout included an English translation of the lyrics.
I would estimate that many of the rooms were nearly as large as the ones in It’s a Small World, which was unexpexted considering how few people were actually on the ride. The technology was similar to IASW, but Sinbad had way more realistic animatronics and an actual story to follow.
I wish I took more pictures throughout the ride, but I was too awestruck to even think about photos until the very last scene when I grabbed this precious shot of Chandu.
Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage was one of my favorite rides of the day, possibly even surpassing Tower of Terror!
Having seen Fantasmic! several times in Disney World, I knew I didn’t want to miss it at DisneySea. The premise of the show was basically the same: Sorcerer Mickey uses the power of dreams to fight Disney villains and the forces of evil.
In Florida, the show takes place on the water in front of a large outdoor theater. Clips from lovable Disney films are projected onto large fountains of spraying water in time to music. At the height of the show, Sorcerer Mickey stands on a high peak and fights a dragon.
Instead of a theater, Fantasmic! at DisneySea takes place on the Mediterranean Harbor and guests stand to watch from all sides of the park. This brought the show much closer to the audience, but it was sort of strange to watch from the side of the harbor instead of head-on like in Florida. The biggest difference between the show’s was that in DisneySea, Mickey stood atop a giant floating sorcerer’s hat made of LED screens. There were also clips projected on spraying water throughout the harbor, but because it was windy they were nearly impossible to see. We had to look at the screens on the hat to watch. The dragon at the climax of the show was much more impressive at DisneySea and breathed real fire! Mount Prometheus also erupted in the background at crucial parts in the show. My photos from the show came out terrible, but in this one you can sort of see the dragon coming out from around the hat.
The soundtrack for the show was half in English and half in Japanese. I noticed that the “wordier” songs, such as Aladdin’s “Friend in Me,” were in Japanese, while others that don’t rely as heavily on lyrics to convey a message were in English.
The show was dazzling, but standing to watch was sort of a bummer. We didn’t have to worry about not being able to see over people’s heads since we were much taller than many of the people around us, but our feet were already really tired from looping around the park so many times during the day. We were practically limping away at the end.
When Fantasmic! was over, they made an announcement that we had seen a “modified version of the show due to weather conditions.” I’m assuming this was referring to the wind. A few minutes later they made another announcement that the evening’s Halloween fireworks show had been cancelled due to the weather. To be honest, I was relieved the show was cancelled because I didn’t think we could make it through another 45 minutes of standing.
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
Remember when we got a FastPass for Indiana Jones earlier in the day? Well, after Fantasmic! it was finally time to ride. We had to trek back through the Mysterious Island, Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon, and the Arabian Coast to get to Lost River Delta. We were exhausted, but I insisted that we go on this last ride before we left. After all, this trip may very well be my only trip to Japan. Who knows if I’ll get another opportunity to come back?
Indiana Jones Adventure is very similar to the Indiana Jones ride in California, but based on the Temple of the Crystal Skull—you know, the worst movie of the Indiana Jones series. The ride vehicles, loading platform, and even the various rooms seemed nearly identical to its California counterpart, just with a more extraterrestrial spin and a Japanese-speaking Indy. (Full Disclosure: I haven’t been to Disneyland in California since I was about 12-years-old, but I was experiencing some major nostalgia on this ride.) There was even the giant boulder at the end, to which Adam exclaimed mid-drop: “Wrong movie!”
It was nice to get in one last thrill ride before we left, and you can tell from our ride photo, thrilled we were! (We’re seated in the front row, far left.)
After a long, long day, Adam and I dragged ourselves back to the front of the park so we could catch the monorail and then take the subway back to our hotel. I’m happy to say that I did everything I set out to do at the park—all in one day! It was definitely exhausting, but well-worth it.
I can’t wait to share the rest of our trip with you! This post took so long to write (mostly because I wanted to describe everything in painstaking detail) that it caused a backlog on the rest of my posts. Even though I just got home, I still plan to finish writing about the rest of our trip—so stay tuned for Day 3!