Located in the Chiba Prefecture, Disneyland and Disneysea are perfect additions to any family vacation. Each park spans approximately across 115 acres, and were the first Disney parks to be opened outside of the United States.
In Disneyland, there are seven themed areas in the park: the World Bazaar, the four classic Disneylands (Adventureland, Westernland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) and two mini lands, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toontown.
Disneysea has an overall nautical theme to it. It was built in 2001, and unlike Disneyland, the intention was to be a more adult-like park including faster, scarier rides and shows designed for an older audience. There are also seven themed areas: the entrance to the park is Mediterranean Harbor, which opens up to six more nautically themed ports: American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, and Mysterious Island. There are several hotels affiliated with the parks, offering packages such as a three night stay and 2-day pass. The affiliated hotels are often cheaper than Disney Resort itself. Ticket prices average on $70 pp for adults and $60 pp for children. There are no family tickets available. Discount tickets are available for groups of 25 people or more. The experience is amazing for families, groups of friends and couples alike. The park brings with it an air of innocence and only serves to remind you of your childhood in the best light possible.
The last time I went to Disneyland and Disneysea was when I was 15, and I was delighted to go back during this trip to Tokyo. My memories were especially fond of these theme parks. At every corner there seemed to be various flavoured popcorn stalls, and I couldn’t have a whiff of hazelnut without my mind being thrown back into glorious nostalgia. It’s the same every time I smell tatami, and I think of Japan.
This time round I was a little older, and was more accustomed to the theme parks in Australia, which boast high speed rollarcoasters and giant drops like you couldn’t imagine. My memories of Disneyland were a little bit different to reality…
What I envisioned was a wonderland full of colourful characters and playful scenery; what I got was concrete walkways and big, crass plastic backdrops. What I imagined were long and fast rides with the wind whipping my hair; what I got was 4-5 hour waiting times for even the simplest of rides. I remembered the various gift shops to be filled with many different delights, each one themed according to location in the park; what I got was the same, small amount of Disney memorabilia in the form of plush toys, T-shirts and mugs, repeated over and over again in every store. On top of that, Disneyland was simply nothing like I remembered. I know I used to be younger, but somehow the park felt very small and nothing like the big fantasy land escape I had made it up to be in my mind.
We still spent all day at Disneyland – even just walking around, and not attempting to go on any rides, that still almost makes the ticket price worth it. The “big, crass plastic backdrops” are still a wonder to walk through, and as long as you don’t peer too closely, you could feel the Disney magic. Music plays throughout all of the park, making you feel as if you’re inside a cartoon.
Disneyland is definitely geared towards a very young crowd. If you come here under the age of 14, or as a family, this can damn well be the best day of your life. If you come to this park as a group of 20-somethings looking for a day of excitement, well, only if you really love Disney will this be the case. I had fun at the park, but not as much fun as I could have. I was too busy comparing it to my memories. But when I asked my travel buddies how they felt about the day, they said the same thing; it was all a little young for them. I guess it doesn’t help that the biggest attractions to the park (such as the Alice in Wonderland maze and The Haunted Mansion) were closed for maintenance.
Disneysea on the other hand, not only lived up to my memories and expectations but surpassed them. This park has been geared towards adults and children alike, and will delight even the most unenthused theme park goer. The areas to the park have not necessarily been made to look like a cartoon, but as different parts of the world or different parts of time. There’s the Mediterranean Harbor, which is so realistic you’ll suddenly feel as if you left Japan. And if you turn left and walk along for a little bit, you’ll come across a small part of Venice. You can even get a gondola ride (which I recommend taking closer to dusk). Just another 50 metres along and you’re in old time New York, with swinging bands and chic cafes. Across the harbour is an interactive pirate ship and what appears to be an active volacano (every half hour or so, it erupts!). Inside the volcano is the ride “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, which was also unfortunately closed for maintenance.
We spent approximately 14 hours at Disneysea, and went on nearly of the rides. I’m sure we missed a few by mistake, and we even missed one on purpose (let me tell you now, there is no point in waiting nearly six hours for a Toy Story themed ride. Not. Worth. It).
I would highly recommend the Tower of Terror, which is similar to the giant drop in Australia, but makes use of story and imagery to better itself. It’s also not as heartstopping, and quite worth the wait. My advice is to get the Disneyland/sea Fastpass at both parks to avoid waiting for rides. Fastpass is like putting your place in line, going off and doing something else for two hours, and coming back and cutting the line. You can only do a Fastpass for a ride every 2 and a half hours, so I recommend getting to Tower of Terror first for this, then go off and explore.
Some of my favourite parts of the park do not include the rides, but simply the atmosphere. Disneysea has certainly got the Disney magic down pat. The food at both parks is pretty basic; expect burgers, hot dogs and hot chips, with not a whole lot of variety. Each area might have a specially themed meal or dessert, but don’t expect anything too flash. In the New York area, we got the ‘All American Hot Dog’ and were rewarded with a plain sausage in a bun. It was minus 2 degrees Celsius when we went, but there was no shortage of matcha lattes or hot chocolate around the place. Unfortunately, there was also no shortage of ice cream (no one was buying from these stalls and I felt bad for the staff who just stood there in the cold).
Recommended: I would say definitely get on the Tower of Terror, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Raging Spirits, Storm Rider (there’s a surprise at the end!) and Indiana Jones ride at Disneysea. Basically, any of the more thrilling rides are definitely worth it. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is also worth the wait and quite exciting. At Disneyland, you can’t miss the Haunted Mansion or Star Tours, which is kind of like a virtual reality ride as a cast member of Star Wars.
The best places to check out in Disneysea are Mediterranean Harbour with Fortress Explorations and a ride on a Venetian gondola. Don’t forget Mermaid Lagoon – the rides are aimed for younger ones, but the atmosphere is unforgettable. You feel like you really could be swimming along with Ariel. I would definitely recommend exploring Toon Town at Disneyland, Tom Sawyer Island and Critter Country.
Don’t do: If you can, avoid “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland at all costs. Not necessarily because the ride is bad (you’re on a little boat that travels through a canal, going past various nationalities in traditional garb), but because the song “It’s a Small World Afterall” is the only song that plays, and the ride lasts about 15 minutes. You’ll be ready to kill by the end of it. And the song will be stuck in your head for about 3 years.
Try not to hop on any of the various cruises at Disneyland. They aren’t very exciting, and they eat into time that could be spent exploring or on rides.
If you’re trying to limit your time, don’t stick around for the float parade at Disneyland, or the light show and fireworks at Disneysea (around 8:30pm nightly). While it’s okay if there’s a small group of you and you all want to see it, don’t stick around if you have cranky children that have been up since the crack of dawn and are sick of walking for 10 straight hours.
Advice: If you’re interested in saving money, then only visit one park, and let that park be Disneysea (unless you have young kids).
Get the Fastpass to one of the biggest rides straight away to avoid disappointment.
Get to the park well and truly before it opens to avoid the crazy lines that can form, and buy your tickets online prior to going, so you can just flash your ticket and walk in.
Once inside, head straight to the back so as not to be overwhelmed by the craziness that can occur at a Japanese theme park. Over the course of the day, make your way to the front as if you were visiting the park in reverse.
So, who wins out of Disneyland and Disneysea? I think it’s safe to say, Disneysea!