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Tokyo Disneyland Guide
|Konnichiwa! A look at Disney in Japan|
BEFORE YOU GO
Do yourself a favor and invest in a travel guide or two on Japan and/or Tokyo. Even if Tokyo Disneyland is your only destination, it will greatly benefit and enhance your experience to learn about the Japanese people, their culture, and behavior.
Unfortunately, there is no English travel guide out for the Tokyo Disney Resort; hopefully, you’ll be able to get information from reports like this one, as well as from the official website.
If you’re traveling to Tokyo from the United States you almost certainly will arrive at the Narita airport, which is approximately 45 miles from downtown Tokyo. To get to Tokyo Disneyland from the airport:
If you’re elsewhere in Japan, just take the train to Tokyo Station and follow from step 2 above. Basically any train line in Japan will be able to eventually get you to Tokyo Station. It may sound confusing, and it may seem confusing when you see all the different train lines and the tons of people in the stations, but it is very manageable. If you are at all lost or confused, you can always find train attendants at ticket windows or in various places around the platforms. They are always very friendly and helpful.
For those unfamiliar with subway and/or train travel: tickets on Japanese subways and trains are purchased from automated machines. Check the maps to determine which station you’re at and which station is your destination; a chart will tell you the proper fare amount. Insert the appropriate amount of money into the ticket machines, choose the appropriate fare amount, and obtain your ticket. You’ll insert this ticket at the platform turnstile to open the turnstile gate; retrieve your ticket at the end of the turnstile, and keep it handy, as you’ll need to do the same thing to get out through the turnstiles at your destination. The subway and train tickets are small (about the size of a movie ticket stub), so keep them somewhere secure.
Remember that trains into Maihama around park opening times, and out of Maihama around park closing times, will likely be very packed.
Written by Lisa Edwards, all photos by Tom & Lisa Edwards (scarlett1214@ yahoo.com)
Dates at Resort: Arrived January 28th, departed January 31st
Travel Method: Plane, express train, and subway
Resort Accommodations: Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta, Porto Paradiso Double Room (room with 1 queen bed that has a view into the DisneySea resort)
Ages Represented: Myself (age 35) and husband, Tom (age 36)
Disney Experience: First time at Tokyo parks (We’ve been to Walt Disney World several times, and visit Disneyland several times per year; we both grew up near Disneyland)
Reason for Trip: Our 10th Wedding Anniversary (We also visited Kyoto and Tokyo city)
Due to the recent expansion of the Tokyo Disney Resort (and expectations of larger crowds) a new Welcome Center (shown above) was built just down the stairs from the Maihama train station. The entry level of the Welcome Center provides visitors with maps and other information. A check-in desk for all of the Tokyo Disney Resort hotels (Disney Ambassador Hotel, Sun Route Plaza Tokyo, Tokyo Bay Hotel Tokyu, Hilton Tokyo Bay, Sheraton Grande, and Disney Hotel MiraCosta) is down one level in the Welcome Center.
We were able to do a preliminary hotel check-in there, have our bags sent on to the MiraCosta, and receive our resort liner tickets for the length of our stay. Be sure to keep the receipt you receive for your bags if you send them ahead as the bell captain will need it to retrieve your bags.
Disney Resort Liner: The Welcome Center’s Resort Gateway Station (above) is just that: the main station for the Disney Resort Liner, the monorail which circumnavigates the perimeter of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, as well as the hotels (shown below). This is the primary method of transportation for anyone entering the parks or staying at any of the resort hotels. We received complimentary multi-day Resort Liner tickets. Since we were staying 4 nights/5 days, we received one 2-day and one 3-day pass each.
The first time you use a multi-day Resort Liner pass, a date is stamped on the back, and the pass will only be accepted through that date. For this reason, you need to be sure you use up one pass before using another, as the pass will be rendered invalid after its expiration date. A fee is charged for locals and other "outsiders" who wish to use the Resort Liner. In this case, you need to purchase a ticket as you would in any other train station. Each ticket is good for one day.
The monorail cars themselves are wonderfully themed, with Mickey head-shaped windows and hand-holds, fabric seats in a collage of Mickey’s colors, and even vintage Disney toys and memorabilia in glass cases in each car (above & below).
The Resort Liner has 4 different stations in total: Resort Gateway Station, Disneyland and the Ambassador Hotel, Bayside Station (for non-Disney resort hotels and the Tokyo NK Hall), and Tokyo DisneySea and Hotel MiraCosta.
The Resort Liner operates from 6 a.m. until around 11:30 p.m.; reader boards over the platform let you know how long you have to wait until the next liner arrives (anywhere from 3 to 13 minutes). The trains get very crowded in the hour or so before the parks open, and in the hour after the parks close. Fortunately, trains are added during the busiest times of the day to move people quickly and keep wait times down. Be warned, however: trains are sometimes taken out of service just as quickly as they are put into service.
On our second day, we got on a Resort Liner train about an hour after Disneyland closed. We rode one stop, to Bayside Station, and were forced to disembark as our train was being taken out of service. We then had to wait for another train, which arrived about 2 minutes later. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it doesn’t necessarily serve the guest very well, but that’s just how they operate I guess. It would be a bigger deal if we had to wait quite a while, or if we weren’t able to board trains due to overcrowding.
Ikspiari: Also located near the Welcome Center is Ikspiari, a shopping center and entertainment complex similar to Downtown Disney. The shopping area contains a number of mall-like shops (J Crew, The Gap, etc.) and boutiques, while the entertainment area has a Disney Store, Planet Hollywood and other restaurants, movie theaters, and game areas.
There is also a grocery store on the lower level, which is great for buying snacks and drinks to take back to the hotel. We bought pastries there for the next morning’s breakfast to escape the crowds and expense of the hotel breakfast. The prices are higher than a standard grocery store, as you’d expect, but not too outrageous. Only one restaurant opens for breakfast at Ikspiari, the "It’s Mono Café", which serves coffee and pastries.
After checking in at our hotel (see the next chapter of this report), we spent our first afternoon and evening shopping here. It was fun to go into the Disney Store and see what kind of items they had, and how they differed from or were similar to what was available in the USA. I picked up some Disney-themed origami paper and chopsticks, and was quickly approached by a Cast Member who offered me a shopping basket to more easily carry merchandise. This is very typical of the complete and courteous customer service that exists everywhere in Japan, and it was particularly welcome for me to find such excellent service in a Disney Store.
If you are into sporting goods and memorabilia, check out the Prospark Sports Shop. We met an employee there named Takeshi Asada and talked baseball with him for a long while. It’s always fun to strike up conversations with the locals, particularly in a "tourist" destination such as the Tokyo Disney Resort—the Japanese are usually eager to speak with Americans and to hear about where you’re from and why you’re there. Since we’re from the Seattle area and big Seattle Mariners fans, we found it easy to start conversations about the Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki, and Kazuhiro Sasaki!
Bon Voyage Shop: Located just west of the Maihama station and on the walkway to the Ambassador Hotel, the Bon Voyage shop is Tokyo Disney Resort’s version of the World of Disney stores at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Avoid the shop near the parks’ closing times in order to beat the crowds. A lot of the same merchandise from inside the parks is available here, particularly food and candy tins and gift items, pins, buttons, pens, and plush characters.
We arrived right around park closing time and found the place an absolute mob scene. We suggest spending time browsing or eating at Ikspiari until the crowds have time to dissipate after the parks close; even during this busy time, Ikspiari shops and the food court were not crowded at all. Bon Voyage stays open late anyway, and the crowds die down quite a bit about an hour or so after the parks close.
Home Delivery Service: This is a service available through the hotels and theme parks so you may ship home souvenir purchases. Each resort hotel has a Home Delivery desk, and each of the theme parks have stations located near the entrances of both parks: at DisneySea, near the stroller and wheelchair rental areas on the left side of the Aqua Sphere entry plaza; at Disneyland, also near the stroller and wheelchair rental areas and the smoking area on the far right side of the entry plaza. This may be convenient, but it’s very expensive, especially when you’re sending packages internationally. Understand that the "home delivery" of their service is really intended for shipment to only Japanese addresses and not international.
The system they have is a little screwy as well: you must purchase a box from the Home Delivery desk, take it up to your room and pack it yourself, and then fill out a form. The form is in Japanese, so we had to find an English-speaking cast member to help us, and then had to find someone else who knew exactly how to send something internationally (it requires a different form), which they are not used to doing and are not exactly prepared to do. The box is then taped up for shipping, weighed, and shipping is calculated.
We then discovered that we could only pay with cash, since the payment is really for an external airmail carrier service, and we could not charge the fees on our credit card. Tom convinced them to allow him to charge the shipping to our room; in order to do that, he had to find another English-speaking cast member, go to the front desk, and fill out a special room charge slip with another clerk. This allowed the clerk to get actual cash to give to Tom who gave it to the Home Delivery desk cast member, who had accompanied Tom to the front desk (with the whole process taking over an hour to complete).
We had purchased a number of higher-end collectible, limited edition, and bulky items that we absolutely had to ship, and we paid a pretty penny to have 3 boxes sent home: a 9.5 kilogram box cost 14000 yen (about $105) to ship, a 13 kg. Box was 17300 yen (about $125), and a 4.2 kg box was 7500 yen (about $55). However, even though we requested the "cheapest" and "slowest" rate, they were shipped via 4-day express courier (hence the high shipping costs), and all three boxes arrived home before we did.
For us, it was worth the expense to save space, and also to avoid having to pay duty going through customs on the way into the U.S., since we were way over our limit. Everything made it home intact, save for one ceramic cup. A more affordable alternative might be to find a post office or other mailing facility somewhere; however, with the language barrier, this might be an exercise in futility and you’d still be dealing with international shipping rates.
Also, we weren’t sure that express courier was the only shipping alternative available; for example, maybe a more affordable sea rate could be an alternative. However, with the language barrier, it may be difficult to have even asked. Another alternative would be to bring an extra suitcase if you think you’ll be purchasing a lot of souvenirs.
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