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We were only visiting Japan for 10 days but we knew we wanted to experience a Disney park while we were there. We had two choices: Tokyo Disney or Disney Sea. Since we had been to Disney World in Florida a few times, we were taken with the idea of visiting the only Disney Sea park in the world.
Both parks are just outside Tokyo and you could spend a whole week exploring them if you had the time. If you are like us and have limited time (only 1 day!) you will want to choose one and plan properly to make the most of your one day. If you want a classic Disney experience, Tokyo Disney might be more for you. If you want a really unique park that many bill as the best Disney park in the whole world, choose Disney Sea. Here is our Disney Sea guide to help you plan your visit. dis
- 1 About Disney Sea
- 2 When to Visit
- 3 Tokyo DisneySea Tickets
- 4 Plan Your Day
- 5 Fastpasses
- 6 Dining and Eating
- 7 Getting to Tokyo Disney
- 8 Staying at Tokyo Disney
- 9 Tokyo with Kids
About Disney Sea
Disney Sea is hard to describe in words. I think it most closely compares to Epcot in Florida because the focus is not just on rides, but on theming of different lands with an appeal across all ages. They have fantastic rides and shows and since the park is in Japan, the park has a uniquely Japanese feel to it. It is a big thing for friends to dress in matching outfits for their Tokyo Disney visits and we loved checking out all the various twin outfits.
Although the park has English signage and some employees speak English, most of the Tokyo Disneysea rides and shows are in Japanese. The park draws large crowds and is something visitors from North America or Europe might not be used to. I have visited Disney World on some of the highest crowd weeks and the lines and crowds are nothing compared to what we experienced at Tokyo Disney Sea. That is why it is so important to plan before you arrive so you don’t spend the whole day waiting in super long lines.
When to Visit
We were headed to Japan in August and we didn’t really have any flexibility of when to go. However, if you are planning your trip and you can be slightly flexible, check the Crowd Calendar for Disney Sea. There used to be a really good English one that I used when we were planning our trip. Now that one is gone, but there is a Japanese one that is supposed to be really good and here are instructions for how to use it.
You don’t want to visit either of the parks on a weekend when crowd levels swell. If you can avoid visiting during school holidays, that is helpful as well. We had 5 days in Tokyo and using the Crowd Calendar, we selected Wednesday as the best day for us to visit. It was our first day in Tokyo but I didn’t want to brave the crowds as we approached a long weekend in Japan. Check the calendar!
We visited in August which is another time of year that I would try to avoid if you can. People warned us about the humidity in Japan in August and it really isn’t an ideal time to spend hours out in the sun traipsing around a theme park. I would think fall and spring would be the best times of year to plan your visit.
Tokyo DisneySea Tickets
In order to make the most of your 1 day at Disney Sea, you want to make sure you purchase your tickets in advance before you arrive at the park. There are massive queues to enter the park in the morning and you don’t want to have to queue any longer then necessary.
We recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance here. Disney Parks Tokyo now use variable (dynamic pricing), depending on the day you visit. 1 day tickets cost 7,900-9,400 Y/adult, 4,700-5,600/child (4-11) and 6,600/youth-7,800 (12-17). We purchased our tickets online on the Tokyo Disney website but it was a bit confusing and we had to use a few credit cards before one worked (they don’t accept Visa, only MasterCard). If you purchase multi-day tickets, the per day cost goes down.
You can also purchase tickets at select Disney stores in Japan and many of the convenience stores (Lawsons or Family Mart).
Plan Your Day
I know some people walk into a theme park without preparation and simply walk whichever way that interests them. That isn’t us and since you are reading this, it probably isn’t you either. We spent a couple of hours the evening before our visit planning out our day. We prioritized rides and took notes on where to eat and what shows to attend. We were visiting on a 7 crowd level day and we knew that Tokyo Disney can quickly have queues of 120+ minutes. Thankfully, since reopening, queues have been much more reasonable than they had been in the past. However, they no longer use Fastpasses, which can making planning a bit more difficult.
Here is what we did to make the most of our Disney Sea 1 day itinerary.
Get There Early
The park opens at 8 am most of the time. Check the calendar for your dates. You want to get there at least 30-60 minutes before that. I know that is early especially if you are coming in from Tokyo. We left our apartment in Roppongi at 6:30 am and were in the queues to enter by 7:30 am. Read about how to get to Tokyo DisneySea below. Luckily queues are extremely orderly in Japan; in fact when lines aren’t moving, everyone sits orderly in the line. There are lots of lines at the front gates – join the shortest and sit down. This is going to be a really long day, so sit while you can!
Familiarize Yourself with the Park
Have a look at the map online and familiarize yourself with the layout of the seven lands. This is also a good opportunity to look at height restrictions for the various rides, so you know what your kids can/cannot ride. Generally the first ride you get to, an employee will measure a child that is close to the height restriction and give them a wristband. This is helpful in that they don’t have to be measured at every ride.
Use Your First Hour Wisely
A few minutes before 8, the line started moving as we quickly went through a bag security check. Our tickets were then scanned and the race was on. If traveling with small children, be mentally prepared for the crowds and hang on to kids tightly. Every one has to funnel through a fairly narrow entrance area and it is quite crammed. There are employees trying to encourage people not to run, but it is busy. We didn’t lose our kids (ours were 6, 7 and 9), but I can easily see how that happens. I wish I had written our email or something on each of them in case they were lost. These bracelets are a cheap and easy solution. We definitely chatted while we were waiting in line about what to do if they got lost.
One of the most popular rides in the park is Soarin’ which should be your priority once the park opens. While this ride is almost the same as the original at Epcot, California Adventure and Shanghai Disney, it is incredibly popular.
Another one of the most popular rides at Disney Tokyo Sea is Toy Story Mania!, which attracts massive lines quickly. Since it is pretty much the same ride as Disney World and Disneyland, we made the decision to skip it. If you want to ride it, go there right away or pay for Premier Access (more about that below).
I walked quickly with the kids to Journey to the Centre of the Earth at Mysterious Island and we pretty much walked right on to the ride. I had read that many claim this is the best Disney ride of all time and it was so fun, we rode it again later in the day. The under-volcano theming (I know this isn’t a real word, but is a must when describing Disney Sea) is really well done and even the queue has fantastic things to look at. This is a roller coaster ride around the volcano and our 6 year old was a bit scared, but loved it.
Next up, we rode the nearby 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by walking on without a wait. I still have memories of riding this ride at Disney World in the ’80s. This ride has come a long way since then. It puts you in your own little submarine as you navigate under the sea. Everything is in Japanese so you sort of miss out on the story, but obviously you run into problems as you descend deep under the sea. Younger kids might instead enjoy experiencing Nemo & Friends Searider instead.
We rode Indiana Jones and again were impressed with the amazing theming of the ride. A big tip for those with older children is that you can ride Indiana Jones really quickly using the single rider line.
The Rest of the Day
By now (9:30 am) the park was really starting to fill in and ride times were well above 100 minutes for the big rides. We used this opportunity to wander and start enjoying all the little details of the various lands.
We also started our popcorn exploration. Popcorn is a big deal at Tokyo Disney and there are seven interesting popcorn flavours to try. We splurged and bought a big souvenir bucket (approx. 2400 Y); different lands and popcorn locations feature different souvenir buckets. We got a Nemo bucket and enjoyed some Caramel flavoured popcorn.
This was also the time where we tried to get tickets to the more popular shows. Big Band Beat is reputed to be the best show in the park and is in English. We also wanted to get tickets to the Pirates seasonal show. Since shows are so popular at Disney Sea, you will need to try to get a ticket through the lottery system on the Tokyo Disney Resort app. We tried for both shows and didn’t get it. I am not sure why they can’t put more shows on as I would have really liked to have seen them. Another option is to get in the standby line for the first show (30+ minutes before it starts).
We did end up seeing some of the show which took place in Mediterranean Harbour. This show is now Let’s Celebrate with Colors. Since the show involved boats, you did not have to be in the seating area to see the show. It was all in Japanese, so while it looked interesting, we had a bit of trouble following the story.
We rode Journey to the Centre of the Earth again after lunch. We then walked through Ariel’s Lagoon which is an indoor area with lots of rides for younger kids. It was incredibly busy, with long lines, so we didn’t spend much time there.
We headed to Arabian Coast where the theming is just as amazing with an Arabian harbour and a magnificent fort. With minimal waits, we rode the Carousel, Sinbad’s Story and Jasmine’s Flying Carpets. Sinbad’s Story reminded me of It’s a Small World and is enjoyable for all ages. Jasmine’s Flying Carpets is nothing special, but my kids still enjoyed it.
At this point we tried to take the Disney Sea Transit Steam Liner, but it was closed, due to the show in the Harbour I believe. We walked over to Port Discovery to ride Aquatopia (45 min wait) where the kids enjoyed cooling off in this summer, wet version of the ride.
The park was really busy and we liked the idea of sitting down for a refreshment in the air conditioning. We had read that the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge on the SS Columbia in the American Waterfront was a good place to have a mid-afternoon rest. We waited 45 minutes for a table and we couldn’t help but think that we could be using this time to do something more productive in the park. The Lounge serves expensive drinks and light meals and is beautifully themed.
We grabbed some dinner and then the two older kids rode Tower of Terror. Miles and I checked out the Fortress Explorations in the Mediterranean Harbour. Miles loved the pirate ship that you could board and explore in the Harbour. You can walk through the Fortress and explore the displays of nautical instruments and exhibits on the solar system.
Believe! Sea of Dreams
Believe Sea of Dreams is the new evening show at Disneysea at 7:20 pm. This show replaced Fantasmic. We were so tired by this point from a long day out in the heat that the kids dozed as we waited. We got to see the volcano erupting, which is quite the sight. The Disney night shows are fabulous and definitely worth staying for. We always worry about the huge crowds departing a Disney park after the night show, but it wasn’t too bad. You have to be patient and keep a close hand on the kids, but we were able to move towards the exit fairly efficiently.
DisneySea like most Disney Parks has gone away from the Fastpass system, a reservation to ride a ride (or see a show) at a certain time period. They have been replaced by:
Standby Passes – on some days, select attractions and stores require a StandbyPass to stand in line. If you don’t have a StandbyPass, you won’t be able to ride or enter.
Entry Request – a “lottery” to experience select character greetings and shows.
Disney Premier Access – a purchased fastpass (skip the line) for a specific ride (2,ooo Y/attraction)
Dining and Eating
Popcorn is the big snack option at Disney Sea and we enjoyed sampling the various flavours throughout the park. We purchased the big souvenir bucket ($20 AUD) and re-filled our bucket throughout the day. Our fav flavours were the Tomato Herb and Milk Chocolate.
Other then popsicles and popcorn, we didn’t sample any of the other snacks at Disney Sea because there weren’t a lot of vegetarian options.
Bring your own water bottles and re-fill them throughout the day. You don’t want to have to be paying money for water.
Vulcania Restaurant, Mysterious Island
We had read that this was one of the best restaurants in the park and it was decent for theme park food. We did have to queue for about 30 minutes to get into the restaurant, which serves Chinese food. There was limited options for vegetarians and most meals cost 1000 Y.
Zambini Brothers Ristorante, Mediterranean Harbour
This place serves up pizza and pasta, with veggie options (Yay!). It is a large place so we didn’t have to queue very long. We hadn’t planned to eat dinner here, but didn’t want to hike all the way over to the Casbah Food Court in the Arabian Coast for curries (where we had planned to eat dinner).
Getting to Tokyo Disney
You can take a bus straight from Shinjuku if you are staying in that area. We were staying in Roppongi and took the JR Keiyo/Musashino line to Maihama station. You can walk from Maihama Station to the park in 20 minutes (1 km) or you can take the Disney line from Maihama to the Park for 260 Y. We knew we would be doing lots of walking once we were in the park so happily paid to skip the walk. The Disney monorail is cute with Mickey shaped windows that definitely got us excited for our day. From the Disney Sea station, follow the crowd for a few minutes to the queues at the entrance. It took us just about an hour to get from Roppongi (downtown Tokyo) to the front gates at Disney Sea.
Staying at Tokyo Disney
We only allocated one day to explore Disney Sea, but you could definitely spend a few days exploring both of the parks. If you are going to spend a few days in the park, it would be much more convenient to stay out at Disney instead of commuting in each day (45 + minutes),
If you do want to stay in the park, here are your best bets:
Hotel MiraCosta – the best and most expensive Tokyo Disney hotel, if you can afford it choose the Hotel MiraCosta. Located right inside DisneySea overlooking Mediterranean Harbour, it doesn’t get any better then this. Easy and complimentary monorail access for getting around the parks. Check the latest prices here.
Hilton Tokyo Bay – an on-site, non-Disney hotel, the Hilton Tokyo Bay offers the best value. You can enjoy ocean views over Tokyo Bay from your room and their is a convenient shuttle bus right to the parks. Check the latest prices here.
Tokyo Disneyland Hotel – this is the closest hotel to Tokyo Disney and offers character rooms themed after Disney characters. You will have full use of the monorail system to get around the parks when staying at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Check the latest prices here.
Disney Ambassador Hotel – this hotel also offers themed rooms and character dining in the Chef Mickey restaurant. Check the latest prices here.
Tokyo with Kids
We spent our first day in Tokyo at Disney Sea. Find how how we spent our other days in Tokyo with kids.
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