It should not surprise anyone who knows me that I am a huge fan of the Disney parks. I’ve been fortunate to visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea several times, and if you’re looking for a unique, obsessively-detailed and remarkably-themed park, then DisneySea is the one for you. It is truly stunning, with incredible attention to detail and an excellent selection of rides.
I originally wrote this guide for someone on Something Awful, and I enjoyed writing it so much I thought it would be a good idea to share with the world at large. Just one note – the last time I visited was in 2011, so some of the information here may now be out of date. But if you are thinking of visiting, I hope this guide gives you a good idea of what to expect!
Don’t even think of queueing for tickets at the park on the day. I usually buy tickets a day or two before, at the Disney Store in Shibuya. There’s a dedicated Disneyland ticket desk on the top floor – much quicker and much less hassle!
The best way to get to Tokyo DisneySea is by train – the JR Keiyo line (red) from Tokyo Station is direct, about 15 minutes if you get one of the faster non-local trains. You’ll want to get off at Maihama station. You can’t really miss it, they play Disney music on the platforms when you arrive!
From Maihama station, exit and turn left to head towards the monorail station. Although it is technically possible to walk to DisneySea, it’ll take you a fairly long time and it’s not well-signposted. Just take the monorail, it’s a cool, if unnecessarily long trip. You can also use your Suica card to pay for it, so no need to queue for tickets.
The park’s divided into areas themed around worldwide waterfronts, and even though the areas on offer are diverse, they blend into each other almost seamlessly. Seriously, when people say that the theming at DisneySea is top-notch, they’re not joking! So here we go, you’re past the ticket gates and into the Aquasphere plaza, which contains (funnily enough), a globe resting on a fountain of water. The adventure begins, set sail for fun!
Otherwise known as Venice, Italy. Not much in the way of rides here, it’s all about the atmosphere. Ahead of you is a huge, lake that will come into use later, a fort you can explore (not done it myself, but I believe an English map is available) and Mysterious Island. The buildings which line the harbour are in fact DisneySea’s hotel, the MiraCosta. This is a great place to grab some snacks and ice cream, but otherwise there’s just the one ride.
It’s a boat ride. I seem to remember this being ridiculously popular for some reason, so skip unless there’s a short queue.
Heading to the west brings you to…
A mix of a turn-of-the-century New York harbour and a quaint fishing village like the one in Murder She Wrote. Or Jaws, I suppose. At least when I was last here it was the least-themed part of the park, but it does contain the park’s most intense ride…
Tower of Terror
A drop ride. If you’ve been to any other Disney park you’ll know what this is already, but even so I recommend it because the story and atmosphere is completely different. The entire show’s in Japanese so I’ll give you a little bit of the back-story, during the ride it should be simple to work out what’s going on.
This is the Hotel Hightower, owned by a one Harrison Hightower III, famed explorer and adventurer. Apart from being a property developer on the side, Harrison also built the hotel to keep his large collection of artifacts collected from his travels. On one such travel, he brought back an idol called “Shiriki Utundu”, once considered sacred by the African tribe he… uh… “borrowed” it from. At a press conference he organised to commemorate his successful return, a reporter asks him about rumours of a legend surround this particular idol – a curse. Harrison naturally laughs it off, convinced curses don’t exist.
Harrison Hightower was never seen again.
The day after the press conference, the private elevator leading up to his room was found smashed on the bottom floor. There was no body. Now rumoured to be haunted, the hotel closed and was left to fall into ruin. In 1912, a New York restoration company decided to renovate it and re-open it to the public – the hotel is now open for guided tours. The Hotel tour includes a brief history of its founder’s history, a sneak peek at the vast treasure archives, and a trip up to Harrison’s personal chambers at the top of the hotel.
As much as ToT scares the shit out of me, this version is easily my favourite. You’ll see why.
To its left is…
Toy Story Mania!
This wasn’t here last I went, so no idea, sorry. I assume it’s exactly the same as the US version.
This also wasn’t here last time I went, assuming it’s a live “talk with a character on-screen” thing. I also don’t know if they offer any shows in English, sorry!
Head on over the bridge and towards…
A simulator, half-way between the old and the new versions of Star Tours. The pre-show is explained by a live cast member, and English subtitles are provided so I’ll avoid spoiling anything about this ride.
I really enjoy this, so I’d say go for it if it has a 45 minute wait or less, otherwise FastPass it or come back later. Also avoid sitting in the front rows for the best experience.
Opposite StormRider is…
This is a weird one. A dark ride? I think? In the open. On a lake. “Pointless” is a word frequently used for this ride. My recommendation is either ride the “wet” version during the day if you want to cool off, or ride the “dry” version at night for the cool lighting and slight spookiness. Don’t bother waiting more than 30 minutes for this though.
Nestled behind the weather research centre is the entrance to…
Lost River Delta
Let’s just call this Indiana Jones Land and be done with it. Lush tropical forest, a quiet river running through it, and if you look carefully you might even see a crashed plane belonging to a certain whip-swinging adventurer. Speaking of which,
Indiana Jones Adventure
Do. This. Ride. If you’ve already done it at a US park then you know exactly what to expect, there’s nothing new but this ride is SO GOOD. Do it do it do it do it do it do~
The park’s only rollercoaster. It has a loop, a fact the info sign above the entrance will keep reminding you of. It’s an exact mirror image of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril in Paris, but with better theming. I’m not a huge fan, but might be a bit more thrilling towards the evening/night.
Just past this ride lies…
Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage
Do you like It’s A Small World? Well, this is DisneySea’s version. A sedate (and ridiculously long) boat ride, with THE BEST SONG EVER playing throughout the whole attraction. It will linger in your mind, it will linger in your dreams, it will become the soundtrack to your nightmares.
No, in all seriousness, this is super-cute and much better than Small World. Apparently it used to be a LOT darker in tone, and after scaring kids shitless they reworked it completely. You can request an English lyrics sheet at the entrance of the attraction, and in true Disney style, the English lyrics match the music perfectly too!
Exploring the rest of the area brings you to…
The Caravan Carousel
This is one hell of an impressive carousel. And check out the fountains in the square! It is a carousel though, so it won’t have you screaming unless something goes terribly wrong.
The human world, it’s a mess. Better visit…
Well, that just about wraps it up. Just keep walking towards the fort and you’ll…
Oh holy shit.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
Interactive dark ride. Well, “interactive”. Board a mini-submarine and explore the very bottom of the ocean. The queue area alone is worth the wait, so intricate, so full of little details. The ride itself is OK, I personally wouldn’t wait much more than an hour for this as it’s pretty tame, even though very well-made. It’s also a bit uncomfortable if you’re tall.
But we all know what you’re here for.
Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
FastPass this as soon as you possibly can. This is the park’s star attraction, a dark ride located inside the volcano, taking you deep, deep below the surface of the earth, down to depths previously unexplored and unseen by human eyes. Who knows what you’ll find when you journey… to the centre of the earth?
Seriously, this ride is SO GOOD. The queue area sets up the whole ride perfectly. I’ll avoid spoiling anything, but absolutely do not miss this ride.
So, them’s the rides. There are a couple of small shows I’ve never seen, mainly because I’ve only ever been with friends who were always like RIDES RIDES RIDES GO GO GO, so if the park’s not too busy you might want to give some of the ones not on this list a shot. When it comes to eating, take your pick – the food’s all great. There are also lots of transportation methods available to you in the park.
- Transit Steamer Line
A boat service that circles the park. Quite relaxing if the queues aren’t too long, and lets you see some areas of the park that you don’t see very well from the walking paths. Worth at least one trip.
- Electric Railway
A tram connecting American Waterfront to Port Discovery. Kind of noisy, but quaint.
You can check if rides will be open or if there’s planned maintenance on the official website. Hopefully everything will be running and you’ll have an awesome time!
There is, however… one more thing.
You know that huge lake in the Mediterranean Harbour I mentioned at the start? The one with no rides in it? Yeah.
Even if you’ve seen this in one of the US parks, the Tokyo version is completely different. Tokyo has a lake, it damn well uses it. Fantasmic is an awesome way to end your day, I HIGHLY recommend you don’t miss this show. Japan takes queuing for shows very seriously, you can’t expect to rock up 15 minutes before showtime and get a good standing location. If you’re tall you can get away with standing at the back, otherwise you might want to consider getting a spot at least 45-30 minutes before showtime, depending on how busy the park is.
I think that’s all for now, but if you have questions or comments please don’t hesitate to leave them below. And if you’re going soon, have a fantastic time!