The word “frontier” does not translate adequately into Japanese so the name Westernland was used in Tokyo Disneyland to describe the American West. For me, the name “Westernland” is a lot easier to accept than Main Street being called World Bazaar.
When entering Westernland from Adventureland, the transition is smooth enough.
But the division between Fantasyland and Westernland is practically nonexistent. I don’t know what the Imagineers were thinking. One moment you’re in Fantasyland, and the next, Westernland. In fact, in one section, the Snow White Grotto is across the street from the Diamond Horseshoe. Admittedly it’s hidden behind trees, but its proximity can’t be dismissed. I wish I had a picture to show you this proximity, but I don’t. This is one area where Tokyo Disneyland falls way short.
Like Adventureland, I feel that you can divide Westernland into two sections, the township and the wilderness area. Here are a few pictures of the streets of Westernland.
There are three attractions in the township area, Westernland Shootin’ Gallery, Country Bear Theater, and the Diamond Horseshoe.
Let’s start with the Shootin’ Gallery.
Unlike most of the other attractions at Tokyo Disneyland which are included in your admission price, the Shootin’ Gallery coast Â¥200 (about $2) for ten shots. Target practice takes place in an old-time saloon and sharp shooters use an imitation Winchester rifle that fires lasers at an assortment of targets.
Each target performs in some manner when hit. For example, shoes will dance, bottles jump, and the piano plays. At the end of your round you’ll receive a score card with a message from Pecos Goofy.
The interior of the Diamond Horseshoe in Westernland is almost identical to the one at the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The one noticeable difference, they actually use the theater in Tokyo rather than letting it sit empty. Several lunch shows are presented each day starring Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye form Toy Story 2. And at the dinner shows you can find Pecos Goofy and a number of “Can-Can” girls on stage while you enjoy your vittles.
Reservations are an absolute must and if you have any desire to see one of these shows, you need to be among the first to enter the park and then make a mad dash to the Diamond Horseshoe Theater.
All of our ursine friends are alive and well and performing in the Country Bear Theater. Henry, Trixie, Wendell, and the rest of the gang now speak Japanese but some of them are bilingual as several of the songs are sung in English.
Also, all three versions of the show are presented here. The original “Country Bear Jamboree” is performed from January through June. The “Country Bear Vacation Hoedown” is performed from July through November. And finally, the “Country Bear Christmas Special” is performed in December.
Among the many shops in Westernland is the Picture Parlour. Here, guests dress up in western garb and can have their picture taken against an Old West backdrop. I remember when you could do this at various Walt Disney World locations. But alas, those days are long gone. This type of souvenir shop just doesn’t generate as much money as yet another candy store. Sigh.
Straddling the township and the wilderness area of Westernland is Big Thunder Mountain. While you enter the queue at the far end of town, the runaway mine trains take you on a wild trip through the rugged canyons of the American Southwest.
Much of the scenery and effects are similar to those at WDW, but the track layout is completely different. I can’t say that this attraction is any better or worse than WDW’s. It’s just different.
Now let’s move on to the wilderness area of Westernland. In my previous blog I mentioned that you board the Western River Railroad in Adventureland, but since most of what you see is actually in Westernland, I said I would discuss it in more detail here.
After leaving the few sights of Adventureland, you pass by a railroad station. This is strictly a prop and can only be seen from the train.
Beyond the station is a vast wilderness. Here the sights are many. Of course, there is the ever lively statuesque moose and deer. A number of Native Americans can be seen in several encampments. And numerous prairie dogs pop up from their burrows for a look at the passing train.
Eventually the train leaves the backwoods and enters a clearing. Here the train runs along a lengthy trestle that skirts the Rivers of America and Critter Country. For me, this is the most beautiful spot in all of Tokyo Disneyland. The train is majestic as it weaves its way around several attractions and over walkways. The views from the train are pretty good as well.
Eventually the train winds its way to Big Thunder Mountain. Here, it runs beside the attraction and the runaway mine trains can often be seen as you pass by. Additionally, a number of dinosaur bones are present in this area.
The next three pictures are of poor quality as I did not have any good shots in my collection. So I “snapped” these pictures off of a video I took. It’s the best I could do.
As the dinosaur bones become more prevalent, you enter a tunnel and are transported back in time to witness “Primeval World.” This is the same dinosaur diorama as at Disneyland in California, even down to the music. When you emerge from the tunnel, you’re back in Adventureland and the end of the ride.
The Western River Railroad is my favorite of all the Disney steam trains around the world. Even though it’s the shortest ride of the five, you see the most along your journey. That’s because this train actually runs “through” Westernland rather than just passing on the sidelines. I admit, by not having the train circle the park you don’t get a train station at the beginning of World Bazaar, so this does make it a tough call as to which is better.
The theming of Tokyo Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island is different from that of California’s or Florida’s. Instead of being located in the middle of the Mississippi River, this island is more likely to be found in the middle of the Colorado River.
Since Big Thunder Mountain sits nearby, the same red-orange spires that make up this mountain range are carried across the water to the island and beyond. The entire effect is beautifully executed.
Like its American cousins, guests in Tokyo board a raft on the mainland for a short trip across the water, piloted by Tom himself. Once on the island, you’ll find many of the same attractions: the barrel and suspension bridge, Fort Sam Clemens, caves, a treehouse, and more.
The final attraction in Westernland is the Mark Twain Riverboat. This boat is a copy of the one in Disneyland California, even down to the fact that guests board and unload on the same level.
For me, the riverboats have always been one of the more enjoyable attractions at the Disney parks. The lines are never long, you get a 15 minutes ride, and it’s a great place to get away from the crowds for a few minutes and relax. Here are a few pictures of the riverboat and some of the sights you’ll see along the way.
There are several restaurants in Westernland, but I’m only going to talk about one, the Lucky Nugget CafÃ©. This is a counter service restaurant that serves reasonably good fried chicken and fries. But the real reason to eat here is the location. It’s somewhat out of the way, so it’s not as busy as most other restaurants, and the tables overlook the Rivers of America. This is a wonderful place to relax and watch the Mark Twain and the canoes pass by.
On my last trip, I must have spent about half an hour here waving to everyone who floated by. They seemed to get a kick out of the crazy American as they all laughed and enthusiastically waved back at me. It’s funny, but on big and expensive vacations, it’s often the little things we remember. And for me, this was one of those special moments that I’ll never forget.
Here is one last picture of Westernland. I’m posting to for two reasons.
First, to give you and idea of how crowded it usually is at Tokyo Disneyland. This picture is typical of any given afternoon. Second, notice that you don’t see anyone wearing shorts. That’s because shorts really aren’t part of the Japanese fashion scene. In an effort to fit in and not offend, I wore long pants on all of my visits, even though the weather called for cooler attire. When in Rome (um, I mean Japan). . .
Next stop, Critter Country.