How DisneySea Helped Ease Us into Our New Life of Living Abroad in Japan
I am a lover of all things Disney. It started with the movies, which hold a special place in my heart even to this day, and has expanded into visiting their parks. Disney is the place where so many memories of my life have been made because we have chosen to celebrate special moments there.
When Robbie got back from a nine-month deployment we chose to spend a week visiting Disney World. We stayed in a Disney hotel (Animal Kingdom Lodge – with a view of the animals) and rode as many rides as we could. Not only did it serve as a place for us to reconnect but also allowed us to start making memories together again.
As soon as I found out we were moving to Japan, one of the first things I looked up was how close a Disney Theme Park was to us (not even kidding). I knew that if we were going to move across the world, we had to do things we never would be able to do ordinarily. Enter - the Disney parks in Tokyo! What better a way to help accustom you to living abroad than diving in to a fun-filled day at Disney?
Tokyo houses two Disney parks: Disneyland and DisneySea. After researching both parks I discovered a few things:
1) Unlike Disney World, there was not a “park hopper” option available so you have to pay two admissions if you want to go to both parks.
2) Disneyland has many rides similar to Magic Kingdom while DisneySea seemed like it would provide us a more unique experience.
3) Fastpasses were available once you arrived in the park but you could only grab them one at a time after your first time slot began (apparently this is like the old FastPass system before the wristbands came into fruition).
4) DisneySea has more “adult” rides than Disneyland.
Based on these points, we decided to first explore DisneySea.
I determined what day it would be best to go based off of the traffic predictor on their website (link here). This was a very helpful tool as it allowed us to maximize our time at the park as much as possible since we were making it a day trip only. Disney is a two-hour multi-train ride from us which meant that there was no need to book a hotel, just schedule someone to let our pups out a time or two so they would be comfortable.
Packing Essentials for the Park
For our first Disney trip when Robbie got back from deployment we used this climbing backpack that was water resistant. It is feather light, durable, and can be folded up into a small size for packing. Since he carried it around that entire week, we gave it the pet-name of his “buddy” because he wouldn’t go anywhere without it. This has become a travel must-have any time we venture out (not just to Disney), so it was no debate this was going to our next Disney journey with us.
In his “buddy” we packed water bottles, snacks, IB profen (because we are old), wallets, external chargers for our cell phones, and jackets. In DisneySea they do have water fountains accessible for you to use, but I have a phobia of drinking from them due to germs. I got super sick off of a water fountain in my college gym one time and have never forgotten it.
We wore comfy shoes and a basic jean/t-shirt outfit. In Japan people tend to dress slightly more “up” to go anywhere so I knew that my usual theme park outfit of leggings with an oversized shirt would make me stand out like a sore thumb. I mean I am already a blonde American in Japan, I do not need any more attention. One thing I did not change was pulling my hair back. I was not about to deal with all the tangles from roller coasters that would happen to my long hair. Since outward appearance is coveted here, I saw people with their hair down wearing dresses or skirts and even walking in heels at the park. I was still on the lower end of the “nicely-dressed” spectrum but I did not regret any of my outfit choices.
Something unique to Disney parks here are that people who are visiting together like to coordinate outfits. I’m not talking “Croy Family Vacation” t-shirts that all have mickey mouse silhouettes heat-pressed on. No, I’m talking matching sweaters with the same pants or skirts and the same shoes. They will buy the same Mickey “ears” and have the same backpacks or purses as well. Even guys participate in their matchy-matchy outfit ensembles. Half of my fun at the park was people-watching!
Park Rides and Lines
Once we got off the train from the main station, we rode the “Disney” train to the park (it runs in a loop around the hotels and both parks – you can purchase a pass for it at their station when you arrive). We did not purchase our tickets in advance for the park and only had a short line to wait in once we got there a few minutes after they opened the gates. This, sadly, was the shortest line we stood in that day.
We ended up riding almost all the “adult” rides that were open (Indiana Jones was closed unfortunately) and here are a few take-aways we discovered.
We started out walking to the back of the park in hopes that we could get to enjoy a ride without a huge line. On our way we decided to pick up our first fastpass for “Journey to the Center of the Earth” as the line looked like it was getting long – probably our smartest move of the day. We could not ride “Journey” for a couple of hours so we went to stand in line at “Raging Spirits”.
This ride’s line was ridiculous when we started to stand in it and only got worse as the day progressed. We waited almost two hours to ride this ride but that was ok since we had a couple of hours to kill until our first fastpass.
I recommend trying to get in line for this one as soon as you can or get a fastpass immediately as it is the most thrilling ride at the park. This coaster does a 360-degree loop and will have you screaming your head off the entire time.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
After riding “Raging Spirits” we headed over to this one to utilize our fastpass time. The fastpasses for this ride quickly ran out (they only go until 8pm) so either you brave the line or grab a fastpass immediately like we did.
This ride seems to be pretty “chill” as you go through a scene out of the “Center of the Earth” until you reach an extremely long drop that will have you wondering if it is ever going to end.
Toy Story Mania
While we waited for our next fastpass to “Nemo and Friends” (we grabbed it as soon as our time slot started for “Journey”), we stood in line for two hours to do “Toy Story Mania”.
This ride is similar to the Buzz ride at DisneyWorld where you “shoot” things in 3D. It was definitely fun and generated a bunch of laughs with friendly competition.
Nemo and Friends
We grabbed a fastpass for this ride because the lines were outrageous and we read that it was one of the favorites of the park.
This ride would have been something we regretted had we stood in line. “Toy Story” was already slightly kid-based but this one definitely was not thrilling and 100% geared towards smaller children. The concept is that you ride in a submarine with Nemo and his friends as your guide. You sit in a theatre with other people while all facing a screen going through the simulation. The worst part was that the entire thing was in Japanese so we had NO IDEA what was being said. It was very cute but not as thrilling as the other rides.
The entire time at the park we rode those four rides in six hours. The only other heart-skipping ride that was open (and we did not ride) was Tower of Terror. I did not want to wait two hours to ride it by myself (Robbie doesn’t do heights and the fastpasses were already gone). I have ridden it at Hollywood Studios and I did not want to sit through the story entirely in Japanese. Although it would have been interesting to compare the differences, the wait time to actually ride the ride was not worth it.
We skipped a lot of rides geared to younger-children because we did not want to wait in line. However, they did have a lot shorter of a line than the ones we rode - probably for that reason.
Like at all Disney parks, there was food everywhere you turned. DisneySea is divided into “Ports” that represent different areas of the world and the food coordinated with each “port” all with underlying Japanese roots.
All the lines for food were always 20-30 people deep (especially the churro stand) so we ate at the place with the shortest line in the America Port. I ordered a chicken sandwich while Robbie got a burger. My chicken sandwich had a sweet and sour-like sauce on it while Robbie’s burger had a Sriracha based sauce on it (like I said, Japanese Roots people). I also got an ice cream sandwich from a stand which was flavored similarly to Tiramisu.
A unique thing with DisneySea is their popcorn flavors. You have regular flavors like caramel or salt and then you have not-so-regular flavors such as blueberry, curry (which burned my nose walking by), and garlic shrimp. No flavor really made us want to stand in line for 10 or more minutes, so we passed on experimenting.
Like after you visit any Disney park, we were exhausted for the next couple of days recovering from our adventures. We already are planning a trip to go to Disneyland and cannot wait to see the similarities and differences this park has in comparison to the States.
Going to Disney was the perfect immersion activity into the Japanese culture. It helped us ease our way into navigating the train system and work on communicating with a language barrier. Disney is something I consider very “American” which made it nice to feel like you were tackling these immersion activities with a home court advantage.
We created another memory that will stay with us forever with the help of Disney. Each stage in our life we will try to work in a “Disney Memory” so we can see how far we have grown not only as a couple, but as a family.
What is your favorite Disney memory?
Always chase your tales,