From Hong Kong I flew to Japan for seven full days at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Before I start describing the parks, I’d like to give you a little background about the resort.
In the late 1970’s, the Oriental Land Company approached Disney with the idea of building another Disneyland-type park in Tokyo. At the time, Disney was busy planning and building Epcot. With Epcot’s price tag nearing one billion dollars, Disney did not have the capital to invest in another park so the Oriental Land Company took on sole ownership of the project. The Oriental Land Company pays royalties for the use of the Disney name, design concepts, and other services.
Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney park to be built outside of the United States and opened on April 15, 1983. The park is not actually in Tokyo, but in the city of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. It sits on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay and is approximately 115 acres. The park has a large parking lot and is adjacent the Maihama train station.
Elements from both Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida were used plus a few original concepts to create this new park. Tokyo Disneyland has seven themed lands: World Bazaar (Main Street), Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown, and Tomorrowland.
In the late 1990’s, a major expansion occurred at the Resort and Tokyo DisneySea was built along with the Ambassador Hotel, MiraCosta Hotel, Ikspiari, and a monorail line linking various areas of the resort together. The total cost was said to be around $4 billion. In addition, a five story parking structure was built to accommodate the new facilities.
Tokyo DisneySea opened on September 4, 2001 and is approximately 176 acres and backs up to Tokyo Disneyland. Original concepts for this park called for it to be built in Long Beach, California, adjacent to the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose which Disney owned at that time. But due to economic problems brought on by the EuroDisney project, Disney decided the idea was not feasible at that time and passed the idea along to the Oriental Land Company.
Tokyo DisneySea is more adult in scope than Tokyo Disneyland. Its seven themed ports center on the oceans and seas of the world and range from the historically accurate to fanciful escapes. Here is a list: Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, Arabian Coast, Mermaid Lagoon, and Mysterious Island.
Ikspiari is a retail, dining, and entertainment center and is similar in concept to Downtown Disney. However, with the exception of The Disney Store, the shops you’ll find here are similar to the ones you’d encounter in any shopping mall.
Besides the two Disney hotels, the Ambassador and the MiraCosta, six non-Disney hotels are also part of the resort. This area could be compared to Hotel Plaza Blvd. at Walt Disney World.
Later this year, the Disneyland Hotel will open as will a permanent Cirque du Soleil show.
Monorails connect all of these locations with four stations along the route. Even though the system is owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company, the trains had to meet the same governmental regulations as any other transportation system in the country and must be regarded as a “public” system. Because of this, guests must purchase a ticket to ride the monorail.
The trains are much larger than the monorails at Walt Disney World as you can actually walk from one car to the next. Their design is more like a regular commuter train than a theme-park attraction. The monorails are completely automated; however, they do have an “engineer” to oversee each train for safety reasons.
The area surrounding the Tokyo Resort is rather industrial and lacks any of the aesthetics that can be found as you approach the Disney World, Paris, and Hong Kong resorts.
One interesting phenomenon American guests will be struck with in the Japanese parks is their cleanliness. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in California, he insisted that his park be kept clean. He did not want it to look like some cheap carnival. Over the years, the Disney Company has done an excellent job of maintaining Walt’s high standards in California and Florida, but the Japanese have taken cleanliness to a new level.
In the California and Florida parks, it’s difficult to take a picture without at least one trash can ending up in the photo. If memory serves, I think trash cans are placed approximately 30 feet apart in the American parks. In Tokyo, it’s often difficult the find a trash can. The Japanese people are far more willing to hold on to their trash until they come to the next receptacle. Even the pavement looks like it has been recently painted as you won’t find any “gum-spots” where custodial had the scrape the gooey stuff off the concrete.
You also won’t find any paper towels in the restrooms. Instead, they have these wonderful hand-blowers that do a much better job of getting the water off your hands than the machines we see here in America.
I’m not sure if the Tokyo management does a better job than its American counterparts of maintaining this cleanliness, or if the Japanese people are more willing to keep the parks clean. I’m guessing it’s a combination of both. But either way, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are immaculately maintained.
Now that I’ve given you an overview of the Tokyo Disney Resort, I can start providing more detail. Next blog: The MiraCosta Hotel