Yes, we did it! We took 16 rides, watched two parades (the Springtime Parade in the day, the Electric Parade in the night) and caught the stunning fireworks display all within 1 day! This being our 1st visit, we never thought we can conquer so much of Tokyo Disneyland but we did, all thanks to the unique ‘Fast Pass’ System it uses. We would like to share how we maximized our visit to Tokyo Disneyland.
Disneyland rides are catered more for children and pre-teens. The G-forces here are much lesser than rides in Universal Studios but there are still some rides that are fast and turbulent to some degree.
What you need to know – General Park Info:
1. Everything you read from travel blogs about the huge crowd in Tokyo Disneyland…they are all true! Consider yourself warned! Even on a Monday like ours! It is one of THE MOST crowded Disneylands in the world with the longest waiting times. But it is the most ‘happening’ Disneyland compared to HK and Anaheim. Here the locals come dressed either in character, synchronizing their dressing or wearing similar Disney accessories….this is truly a theme-park!
3. If you are arriving by bus from your hotel, be prepared to lug your luggage to the Welcome Center. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the bus bay.
4. The popular rides have Fast Pass (FP) System. Look for the ‘FP’ sign next to those rides.
5. Wear a good pair of walking shoes (in my case, I wore my running shoes as I knew I would be the one dashing for the FPs).
6. Bring along bottles of drinking water. They are allowed and can be refilled at the many drinking fountains inside the park (usually outside the toilets).
7. Bring along sun block (in Summer). If the weather forecasts predict rain, bring ponchos. June was supposed to be Japan’s rainy season but we were blessed with good weather (only passing showers).
8. Set meals average about SGD15 to SGD20 per pax in Disneyland restaurants.
9. Be prepared to walk, wait and sometimes run.
10. While the park generally opens at 9am, during certain holiday season, it may open earlier at 8am or 8:30am. Do check the Tokyo Disneyland website when planning your visit.
How the Fast Pass Works:
Download map here. It pays to research before your trip.
The Disney Fast Pass (FP) System is different from the Express Pass System we are familiar with back in Singapore’s Universal Studios. Here in Tokyo Disneyland, everyone is entitled to redeem FPs and they are free (Hurray!). In many ways, this system more equitable – you don’t have to pay for this privilege and everyone is entitled to redeem the FPs for rides of your choice (as long as the FPs are still available). So it is to your benefit that you understand how it works:
1. All rides in Disneyland and DisneySea are inclusive in your park admission ticket but the very popular ones have a separate FPs queue next to the regular queues (also known in Japan as ‘Standby’ queues). FP stations are usually located near the entrance of each different rides.
2. Very popular rides do not mean violently exciting rides. In fact, most are ‘cutesy’ rides (think ‘It’s a small world’ type). The Japanese love anime and manga, plus everything in between including Disney characters. So anything that is cute and ‘kawaii’ is gonna draw a crowd. A HUGE crowd.
3. Rides which offer FPs (as at June 2015) are:
a: In Tomorrowland: Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek; Star Tours; Space Mountain; Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters
b: In Fantasyland: Haunted Mansion; Pooh’s Hunny Hunt
c: In Critter Country: Splash Mountain
d: In Westernland: Big Thunder Mountain
4. FP Timing or ‘Return Time’ – the time period that your FPs allow you to return for the ride – are displayed on the screens at each FP counter. These counters are unmanned. What you do is that you have to scan the QR codes on your admission tickets in order to redeem an FP (Do note that 1 admission ticket can only redeem 1 FP ticket per ride so if you are redeeming for your family of 4, make sure you have all 4 admission tickets before you dash to the FP booth).
5. For those printing their admission tickets at home, do note that you can’t reprint copies of the ticket so make sure you safe-keep the originals well.
6. Be prepared to dash from one ride to the next to redeem the FPs of your choice. Not every ride’s FP return time is the same. You have to be physically there at the booth to see what is the Return Time available. FPs are released in batches so a really popular ride can be distributing an FP for 4pm at 11am while another not so popular ride can be displaying FP for 2:30pm at 11am. You have to prioritize and make a decision on the spot.
7. Since FPs are given out in batches, once the slot for a particular FP return time is filled, the next FP return time is displayed. FP return times can stretch from early morning to 9pm (before the park closes). If there are no FP Return times displayed, it can mean that all FPs for the entire day have been fully redeemed (therefore you need to queue at the regular ‘Standby Queue’ if you still want to try that ride).
8. Each FP’s return time printed on the ticket lasts for one hour. So, there’s no need to rush to take the ride as long as it is within the FP’s return time stipulated. E.g. The FP return time for your ride is 2:30pm but you are currently in line for another ride. You can still finish your current ride and then proceed to take the FP ride, as long as you make it there before 3:30pm.
9. Once you redeem a FP, you are NOT entitled to redeem another FP until:
a. 2 hours AFTER the time you redeemed that FP or
b. 30 minutes before the current FP return time or
c. AFTER the current FP time itself (whichever comes first).
Here’s an illustration of how the FP works:
10. Once you redeem a FP, start planning which FP you want to redeem next. Meanwhile, wait in a regular Standby queue to enjoy some rides with shorter queues. If you are lucky, some popular rides may have short-waiting times (by short, I mean 60 minutes or less) so, go for it if you spot one!
11. You can redeem as many FPs as the rule permits or as your energy level permits! Each FP entitles you to only go on that same ride ONCE.
12. FP tickets will be checked and collected at the entrance by the staff. Don’t lose them.
We missed the Peter Pan ride as it was closed for renovations. Oh well, good excuse to come back again.
How we conquered Tokyo Disneyland!
Here are the ‘First-Person-Views’ (FPVs) Videos of our rides at Tokyo Disneyland for keepsake and to relive the moments. Enjoy!
Read our notes attached with the videos for more info.
Monorail Ride to Disneyland – Here you’ll get to see the huge crowd gathering at the entrance on a summer Monday morning before it opened:
Running to get Fast Pass – Motion sickness alert! You’ll get to see me running thru the large crowds, trying to register for the next ride’s Fast Pass:
Reserving my Fast Pass – Here you see how a Fast Pass registration was done. Imagine doing this for ALL the popular rides:
Star Tours – The classic! We took it twice! :
Star Jet – This is very nice. Very little adrenaline but offers a bird’s eye view of the park:
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster – Excellent ride! Very fun though low on adrenaline
Grand Circuit Raceway – Quite nice! Driving your own car without any risks! Good family fun! :
Monsters Inc – A hugely popular, cutesy ride. We prefer Buzz Lightyear’s actually:
Big Thunder Mountain – This is an awesome roller coaster ride thru and around the mountains. AWESOME! :
It’s a Small World – The classic. Helps to slow our pace down and keep a right perspective on our world:
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt – Low on adrenaline but still a nice ride. Like going into the book!:
Space Mountain – Hear us SCREAM! We love this ride! The classic Disney indoor roller coaster in TOTAL DARKNESS. This ride also has a special meaning to me. Find out here:
Thoughts on Tokyo Disneyland:
Disneyland in Anaheim is known as the ‘Happiest place on earth’. Here in Tokyo, that slogan was missing but I would gladly replace it as the ‘Busiest place on earth’! This is a busy and crowded Disneyland. Many websites have forewarned the massive crowds, especially in the morning and it’s true. To make it more ‘interesting’ the Fast Pass system can be confusing for us non-Japanese and takes some getting used to.
Having said that, it is also a theme park that is REALLY like a theme park. Thanks to the Japanese culture which loves anime and manga, the locals actually dress up to visit Disneyland. This really adds on to the theme park feel like no other theme parks we have been to. Take time to soak it all up.
For me, this crazy busy theme park will always have a special place in my heart: it is the theme park where my 7 y/o was able to ride Space Mountain with me – a ride which I’ve enjoyed since visiting Anaheim years ago as a teen. When we visited Anaheim Disneyland three years ago, she was still not tall enough but this time, she could. It’s always a special feeling sharing something that I enjoyed as a teenager with my own daughter. Sometimes, these things don’t have to be things of serious nature but could be just something parent and child can have fun and bond over…even if it’s a ride that leaves both of you screaming in total darkness.
Finally, as we wind down for the evening, Dana remarked that she is looking forward to DisneySea as she heard that the rides there are ‘bigger’. So there you have it, my little adrenaline junkie is growing up while I’m growing older so I better grab as much opportunities as possible to enjoy these thrill rides with her while I still have the fitness to do so.
Where we stayed and how we got there:
We took the complimentary Disney Shuttle Bus service from Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo to Disneyland Bus Station. Lugged our luggage up the steps and walked 15mins to Disney Welcome Centre. If you are staying at the Disneyland Resort or any of the Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotels (like our Hilton Tokyo Bay), you can check into your room from the Disney Welcome Center (next to Maihama JR Station). We collected our room key upon check in there.
At opening time (9am), the Disneyland Resort’s reception counter opens 30 minutes before others so that their guests can check in and make their way to Disneyland first. Once you are checked-in at the Disney Welcome Center, you’d be happy that after a day’s visit to the park, your luggage will be waiting for you in your room. Hilton Tokyo Bay provides free shuttle service from Disneyland monorail station to hotel and to the nearest Maihama JR Station which connects you to the rest of Tokyo. Hotel is clean and provides extensive breakfast buffet but note it does not have provide bottled drinking water in room. We suggest buying the Disney Monorail 2 Day Pass for seamless travel between hotel, Disneyland and DisneySea.
Our DIY Japan Trip 2015 (Summer):