Back in the days of dial-up internet I used to sit excitedly in-front of my computer waiting impatiently for images to download. Bit by bit the picture would reveal itself to me, my teenage boy excitement growing with every pixel, getting my first look at something that I knew one day I’d see in the flesh, that I’d get to touch and experience first hand. I’d save the images in a special folder and keep going back to them, the fantasies growing… Then it finally happened. I went to Japan, visited Tokyo DisneySea and saw it all in real life.
The best way to combat the crazy queues is to get there early. Stupid early
The first thing you need to know is that, despite opening in 2001, Tokyo DisneySea is still the fourth most visited theme park in the world. It’s busy. Very busy. And it’s easy to see how they spent $4 billion on it – there are rides, attractions and dining that you won’t find in another Disney park. The theming and execution is spectacular. Despite that, it’s actually cheaper to visit than any of its American counterparts.
The best way to combat the crazy queues is to get there early. Stupid early. Stay at one of the on-site hotels (there’s Disney-owned options and chains like Hilton) so you’re close to the action, and then get there around 90 mins before the park opens. There’ll already be a line of Japanese visitors (the park’s customers are 99% Japanese – I saw hardly any westerners on my visit) patiently waiting. Grab a hot coffee from the vending machine and enjoy the people watching: couples and groups in matching outfits, and others dressed as their favourite characters.
When the park opens, join the mad rush and swing into action. My wife and I split up – I ran to get a Fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania, she went to get a restaurant reservation for the evening. By the time I got my Fastpasses there was a 40 minute line behind me. That’s right: a queue to join a queue. I rushed over to Mysterious Island (the giant volcano in the centre of the park) to meet my wife, Italian restaurant reservation in her hand, and we joined the queue for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.
JTTCOTE (as the cool kids call it) is the showpiece attraction of the park and unlike any Disney ride anywhere else. This is the sort of ride that you shouldn’t Google and I shouldn’t tell you about. So I won’t. Just go, get on it and be amazed by its originality and brilliance.
To make the most of our day we alternated between getting Fastpasses and joining standby lines. Using this strategy we were able to go on all the rides we wanted to try, while also finding time to relax and take it all in.
we were ready to eat again 10 minutes later, so noshed a batch of custard-filled dumplings in the shape of the green aliens from Toy Story
The Japanese love to collect things (gotta catch them all, after all!). Tokyo DisneySea releases limited edition snacks and merchandise to coincide with various times of year and they’re so popular that Tokyo locals with season passes come into the park, just to buy one single item. This meant we found ourselves in a 45 minute line to buy a special villain-themed beer cocktail.
There are six different popcorn flavours to try at Tokyo DisneySea too. We got through soy and honey, curry and wasabi flavours before feeling full. Of course, as it was popcorn, we were ready to eat again 10 minutes later, so noshed a batch of custard-filled dumplings in the shape of the green aliens from Toy Story.
The food at Tokyo DisneySea is far from what you think of when you think of theme park food: there are exquisite, carefully prepared dining options served in beautifully themed dining rooms as well as all the counter options. It puts other theme parks (and some restaurants) to shame.
Tokyo DisneySea is a place that lives up to all my teenage fantasies. Its themes and design are truly immersive, and its rides ruined other theme parks for me for life. It’s busy and stressful to navigate, but it’s also easy to find the peace and tranquility to take in a life size steamship, or the fire blasting from the top of the volcano.
As is traditional, you end your Disney Day with a viewing of the nightly show Fantasmic. In America people wait for hours to get the best seats to see the show. Here it’s much simpler: because the show takes place in their giant lagoon in the middle of the park, we walked to a great viewing spot 10 minutes before it started. That gave us enough time to try out one final popcorn flavour. It was milk tea and it was, like so much of our day, a revelation. C
Chris Cox is a mentalist magician – a self-proclaimed “mind reader who can’t read minds”