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    Tokyo DisneySea Overview

Tokyo DisneySea Overview

A Brief History of Tokyo DisneySea

On April 15, 1988, a press conference was held to kickoff Tokyo Disneyland's 5th anniversary celebration. Masatomo Takahashi (then President of Oriental Land Company, the owners and operators of Tokyo Disneyland) announced that a second theme park would be added to the Tokyo Disneyland complex. It's not surprising that a "second gate" was already being announced, as Tokyo Disneyland was instantly a massive success. The first idea for Tokyo's second Disney park was "Disney Hollywood Studio Theme Park at Tokyo Disneyland," which would have been based on the Disney-MGM Studios theme park that opened in Walt Disney World in 1988. But OLC pushed for something bigger and better. In their words, they wanted to "create a new market by providing a completely different experience from Tokyo Disneyland." 6000 miles away, in Long Beach, California, a project called Port Disney (which would have been home to a similar park that was also named DisneySea) had been canceled in 1991. Around this same time, the plans for a Tokyo studios park went "under reconsideration." Negotiations between The Walt Disney Company and OLC for a new park went on for several years. In 1997, plans were announced to bring DisneySea to Tokyo. On September 4, 2001, Tokyo DisneySea opened to the public.

At Tokyo DisneySea's opening ceremony, Roy E. Disney (Walt Disney's nephew, and then Vice Chairman of The Walt Disney Company) gave the park the best review it could possibly get: "I can think of 2 people in particular who would have been thrilled with this new park, next to a park they would have found very familiar. Of course, I refer to Walt and Roy Disney. They would have both loved to be with us here today, but in a real, very real way, I believe they are."

Welcome, one and all to a world where Imagination and Adventure set sail.

Tokyo DisneySea is dedicated to the spirit of exploration that lives in each of us. Here you chart a course for Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Fun and journey to exotic and fanciful Ports of Call.

May Tokyo DisneySea inspire the hearts and minds of all of us who share the water planet, Earth.

September 4, 2001
Michael D. Eisner
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

It’s impossible not to be hyperbolic when talking about Tokyo DisneySea. It’s amazing, incredible, and jaw dropping. Any superlative you can think of applies to this beautiful theme park. There are hundreds of details to discover around every corner, and what’s most impressive is how it all is brilliantly blended together. Whether you’re wandering around the streets of an early 20th century recreation of New York in American Waterfront, exploring a dense jungle in Lost River Delta, or venturing deep in to a smoldering volcano in Mysterious Island, everything flows together perfectly.

A key factor to any Disney theme park is the entrance experience, and DisneySea has one of the best. You start off by walking through a breezeway that goes through the beautiful Hotel MiraCosta. This is where you will catch your first glimpse of Mount Prometheus, the centerpiece of the park. Basically it’s the park’s castle. Mount Prometheus can be seen from almost anywhere in the park, and even though you’re seeing the same mountain, it will look different depending on what land you’re in. So if you’re in Mediterranean Harbor it will look like a towering ominous volcano, but if you’re in the Cape Cod section of American Waterfront it will look like a peaceful mountainside. It’s a very impressive effect.

Getting Oriented at Tokyo DisneySea

Like other Disney theme parks, Tokyo DisneySea is divided into different themed sections known as "lands," or in DisneySea's unique case they're sometimes referred to as "ports." Seven different lands/ports make up Tokyo DisneySea.

After entering Tokyo DisneySea you'll find yourself in a plaza with a large sculpture of Earth, known as AquaSphere. The northern side of the plaza is dominated by the exterior of Hotel MiraCosta, which is unique for a Disney hotel because it's mostly located inside the theme park. Walking through the breezeway under MiraCosta, you'll enter Mediterranean Harbor, which is themed after an Italian port city. As you enter Mediterranean Harbor you'll notice a large body of water. This is where lagoon shows happen during the day, and Believe! Sea of Dreams occurs at night. Mediterranean Harbor is a sprawling land that has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. For example, across the water you'll see Fortress Explorations, where you can take a self guided walkthrough tour through detailed fortress with many interactive exhibits and illusions to discover. Partially hidden on the southern edge of the land is a recreation of Italy's famous canals. Here you can soak in the scenery and take a relaxing ride on the Venetian Gondolas, which we highly recommend. Also in Mediterranean Harbor is one of the park's headliner attractions, Soaring: Fantastic Flight. Following the pathway on the right side of Mediterranean Harbor will take you directly in to Mount Prometheus, which is the park's icon. It's located in the park's next port, Mysterious Island. This Jules Verne-inspired land is influenced by Vulcania Island, from the Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which also has an attraction here by the same name. The centerpiece attraction in Tokyo DisneySea is also located in Mysterious Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth. It’s part dark ride, part thrill ride, it's exclusive to DisneySea, and it's incredible. Both 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth are a must see. Exiting the northern side of Mysterious Island will take you to a branching walkway. The left path will take you to Mermaid Lagoon, a land inspired by Disney's The Little Mermaid film. Mermaid Lagoon is mostly made up of rides for families and small children, but there's still some charming elements to be discovered. Taking the path on the right when heading out of Mysterious Island will lead you to Arabian Coast, a land heavily influenced by Disney's Aladdin film. Arabian Coast is home to one of the park's best rides, Sindbad's Storybook Voyage. This slow moving boat ride is good for the whole family, has all the quality details you'd expect from a Disney ride, and features a soundtrack written and composed by Disney Legend, Alan Menken. South of Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast is a Central American tropical rain forest called Lost River Delta. Here you'll find the mega-headliner ride, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull (a combination track ride and motion simulator). To the southeast of Lost River Delta is Port Discovery, a retro-futuristic land that is home to Nemo & Friends SeaRider, which is a more gentle and family friendly version of Star Tours. Finally, to the right of Port Discovery and the left of Mediterranean Harbor, is American Waterfront. This massive land is jammed packed with details and mini-lands to explore and discover. We recommend putting in some time to have a look around and reward yourself with one of Disney's best themed environments. As far as rides go, another must see attraction is located in American Waterfront: Tower of Terror, which is an elevator drop ride that takes place inside a haunted hotel. We're only scratching the surface with the rides mentioned in this section. There are many other attractions, shows, and smaller experiences to discover as you explore Tokyo DisneySea.

Is Tokyo DisneySea "English Friendly?"

One of the questions we get the most from our readers is: "How English friendly is Tokyo DisneySea?" or "Is there an issue with the language barrier?" or "Will I enjoy the parks if I don't speak Japanese?" along with many other variations of the same question. In our many years of visits to Tokyo Disneyland for both pleasure and to research for this website, we have never experienced any issues with communicating the resort staff. As to be expected in a country that is not your own, most Tokyo Disney cast members will not fluently speak your native language. But, most will know enough to help you with whatever you need. If a cast member can't understand what you are asking, they will do their best to find a colleague who can. If you find that you are having difficulty communicating with a cast member, be patient, don't raise your voice, show respect, and anything you are asking will be handled in a short amount of time. Also keep in mind most cast members at ticket booths, guests services, and the hotels will usually speak fluent English. Will you enjoy the rides and shows if you don't speak Japanese? Yes. Themed entertainment uses a lot of visual storytelling. While some rides and shows are in English, most are not, but they're still just as enjoyable visually. Is Indiana Jones speaking a little Japanese on Indiana Jones Adventure going to ruin your enjoyment of the ride? No, it shouldn't.

Tokyo DisneySea Dining

Tokyo DisneySea is packed from end to end with delicious, unique, and photo-worthy food items. There's so many different items and restaurants to choose from, and exploring different locations and finding new entrees and snacks is one of our favorite things about the park. Our favorite food item? The Ukiwa Bun (a innertube-shaped steamed bun, filled with shrimp, ground pork, and vegetables) is available at Seaside Snacks in Port Discovery. DisneySea is also home to what we consider to be one of the most beautiful Disney restaurants in the world, Magellan's. See our Tokyo Disney dining page for more information on dining in Tokyo Disney Resort.

How Much Time to Allocate

Tokyo DisneySea does not have as many attractions as Tokyo Disneyland does, but there is still a lot to do in this park. DisneySea is not a park to be rushed through. Keep your phone in your pocket and let your eyes explore every exquisite detail. Savor it. You'll regret it if you don't.

If you visit on a weekend, the park will be packed with tens of thousands of other visitors. Smaller attractions may have up to an hours' wait. We've seen marquee rides, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, reach over a 200 minute wait. The crowd sizes at Tokyo Disney Resort are unlike any other Disney resort so you'll need to set your expectations at a certain level. The parks will be busy almost every day of the year. Sure they will be less busy during the week, but you'll rarely see headliner attractions under an hour wait even when the parks are slow. Even with the large crowds in the parks, guest traffic flows fast, and crowd control was excellent. This is also helped by the fact that walkways in the parks are large enough to handle the crowds that parks receive. Plenty of cast members are on hand to make sure that ride lines and crowds move at a steady pace, without feeling rushed. Merchandise sales are a big part the Tokyo Disney parks, so I wasn’t surprised to see the same amount of crowd control and large number of cast members in the shops, as well as walkways and attractions.

Where to Find Strollers, Wheelchairs, Lockers, Etc.

Almost all guest services are found at the front of the park, just inside the main entrance. Services and amenities include stroller, wheelchair rentals, and lockers (¥300 to ¥700 depending on the size) to the left as you enter. Lost and found is located in the Guest Relations building, which is on the right side of the park's entrance plaza (look for a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse). There you will find cast members that are fluent in English that will try to answer any questions you may have. First aid is located near Cafe Portofino in Mediterranean Harbor. All of these services are clearly labeled in the park's guide maps; just be sure to grab an English map (they're also available in many other languages).

What Type of Currency and Credit Cards Does Tokyo DisneySea Accept?

For cash, only Japanese yen is accepted at any dining or retail location in Tokyo DisneySea. You can exchange foreign currency at the Guest Relations building, which is in the park's entrance plaza, near the right set of turnstiles (look for a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse). We recommend exchanging your currency before you arrive in Japan. Most banks offer a service where you can order Japanese yen and have it delivered directly to your house.

If you don’t want to carry around cash, all of the shops and restaurants in Tokyo Disney Resort take standard US credit cards. Some shops and restaurants outside of the resort require credit cards with the “Smart Chip” inside. You will not be able to purchase anything from these retailers if you do not have a credit card with a smart chip. No matter what kind of credit card you have, be sure to call your bank before you leave home and let them know you will be traveling. If not, your credit card will probably immediately be blocked for suspicious activity. Another thing you want to watch out for is your credit card’s foreign transaction fee.

If you run out of cash, there is an ATM in Ikspiari (which is basically Tokyo Disney Resort’s Downtown Disney), which accepts American debit cards. It is located on the first floor, near the Tokyo Disney Resort Ticketing Center and a shop called Nana’s.

Where to Start?

The easy answer for where to start at Tokyo DisneySea is any one of their incredible exclusive attractions. Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Sindbad's Storybook Voyage are massive and fantastic original attractions that you won't find anywhere else. There's also of smaller exclusive rides that are easy to overlook, but are an important part of the overall DisneySea experience. Examples of these rides are the Venetian Gondolas, Tokyo DisneySea Transit Steamer Line, Big City Vehicles, and many more than can be listed here. The bottom line is don't overlook anything at DisneySea (unless it's one of the children's rides in Mermaid Lagoon, don't waste time on those). As we mentioned in previous paragraphs, DisneySea is a park that you should thoroughly explore.

Last updated by Guy Selga on October 4, 2022