Disney is all about being transported to another world and experiencing a feeling of magic. It’s about being a kid again. Tokyo’s DisneySea takes that notion to a spectacular new level.
The Japanese are perfectionists in everything that they do and produce – food, drinks, technology, clothing, art – so it should come as no surprise to find that this nation also takes their thrill-rides, shows and attractions very seriously. So seriously in fact, that theme park addicts consider Tokyo’s DisneySea to be the best of its kind in the world.
The craftmanship, technology, passion (and let’s face it, money) that goes into Disney products is mind-boggling, so if you’re going to jump in, make sure you do your research, make a plan and do it well. And as any theme park enthusiast will know, one thing that can dampen a fun day out at Disney is seemingly endless queues, so purchase a FastPass and head straight to Go. Also consider a two-night stay at one of the Disney Resorts in or near Disneyland, and for the latter, take advantage of the free shuttle bus and a pass that gets you through the gates 15 minutes before everyone else.
DisneySea’s attractions are all (surprise, surprise) based around water. There are many ‘tastes’ of the world you can experience, such as taking a boat ride down a life-like Venetian canal, wandering around an awe-inspiring Mediterranean harbour, exploring the coastal (fictional) Arabian city where Aladdin was set, and getting up close and personal with the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Soar to New Heights
If you have your early entry pass – or even if you don’t – when DisneySea’s gates open, run like the wind and be one of the first to reach Soaring: Fantastic Flight. It’s an incarnation of the popular Disney Soarin’ experience featured at other Disney Parks, but Tokyo blows the others out of the water. Excuse the pun.
The expansive venue for this relatively new ride is an old-worldly European museum dedicated to humanity’s pursuit of flight, and the building itself is extraordinary. As visitors gather to look around the museum, just like in a Disney film, a painting of early-aviation innovator Camellia Falco, and a marble statue of her eagle come to life to tell a story – which includes her old-fashioned flying contraption, the Dream Flyer.
The Dream Flyer is something else – in a darkened room there are rows of theatre-like seats, canopies above them. After buckling in as you would on a plane, take your shoes off, swing your legs and act like a kid, because here, technology merges seamlessly with Disney brilliance. On this flight simulator you’ll be propelled at dizzying speed into the clouds (like at the beginning of a Disney film) and taken on a jaw-dropping journey around the world – the countries so close and real below you, that it feels as though you’re right there, flying like a bird into the magical scenes that unfold in every direction.
African elephants kick up dirt as they run below you, it billows into your face, complete with the smells of the African jungle. The animals are so close it’s as though you can touch their backs and feel their coarse hair. Then there’s zooming to be done – above the Great Wall of China, where ladies walk and talk beneath pretty parasols. The height and sense of grandeur is breathtaking.
A soar over Sydney Harbour (where a seaplane speeds right at and through you) will have you gasping in wonder, and then you’re bursting in upon camel riders as sunset spreads a warm glow over Egypt’s pyramids. There’s America’s canyons, Pacific Islanders paddling their canoes and shouting out hello as you fly above them. Niagara Falls thunders right under your feet, and suddenly the Arctic Circle is there, polar bears walking across ice caps and humpback whales leaping right up at you, the water spraying everywhere.
It has to be one of the most extraordinary travel and ride experiences out there, and many people shed a few tears while adrenaline still pumps. Stand up gently as your legs might be quivering.
Ahoy Me Hearties!
DisneySea is set around an enormous lake and harbour with cities and villages on all sides. The sheer size of it really hits home when, a couple of times a day, life-size pirate ships sail into the harbour, pistols blazing while shooting off tonnes of water from canons. The pirates go so wild with energy that the crowd erupts in a frenzy. Welcome to the Pirates Summer Battle “Get Wet” performance.
The Japanese go bonkers for a great show. No matter what their age, most of them throw themselves into fun activities with the unbridled excitement of a five-year-old. And during this extravaganza, which is an epic buccaneer fight just like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies – Japanese spectators cheer like mad and dance crazily while clapping and screaming out applause, all while being drenched by the pirates. Really, there’s no choice but to join in, leap around like a lunatic, and get really wet. Watching the crowds is just as hilarious as watching the show. Pack a spare set of clothes for this one.
While your adrenaline is pumping, delve into Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. On a roller-coaster you’ll be shot around through tunnels with special effects going bonkers at every turn, like the out-of-control boulder from the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
For more thrills, the park’s take on a hair-raiser is surreal. It’s set in a circa-1912 creepy New York hotel where the owner mysteriously disappeared in 1899. Guests enter Hotel Hightower’s lobby and take an elevator to the top floor. There’s plenty to see en route. When you ‘drop’, you’ll no doubt feel as though you left your insides at the top of a skyscraper.
Don’t leave the mountain before heading into the heart of it, for a roller-coaster ride like no other – Journey to the Centre of the Earth. After all, there aren’t many places out there where you can be shot out of the top of a volcano, just like in the classic film.
You might be getting the gist by now – rides at Tokyo DisneySea aren’t just rides. They are entire experiences in lands that have been so well crafted you can’t help but believe the magical story behind them. And that’s the beauty of Disney.
DisneySea is awesome, but make sure you also fit in a day at the impressive 46-hectare Disneyland, right next door. In 1983, it was the first Disney park to be built outside the US
- Splash Mountain: A log ride through ‘Critter Country’ based on the Disney film, Song of the South. It ends with an epic 45-degree drop down a 16-metre-high waterfall.
- Space Mountain: It’s worth waiting in the long queues to experience this breathtaking roller-coaster. as it’s quite literally like flying through space in a chair.
- Haunted Mansion: With fantastic design and special effects, this gothic structure takes the haunted house to a totally new and totally spooky level
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Michelle is a publishing consultant who has worked as a journalist, foreign correspondent and travel writer for the past two decades.