We just got back from a short, last-minute but amazing trip to Tokyo. What a city! It was like we landed in a living stereotype. From tatami mats and futons on the floor for sleeping, to the vending machines lining the neat, narrow streets, with more bikes than cars, men in business suits reading manga in 7-11, and the sound of ‘The Circle of Life’ karaoke- style drifted from ahead. Yeah, that’s when you know you’re in Japan.
We only had four nights and three days in Tokyo, top and tailed with a day of travel either side. For a 2:15 flight, it took about nine hours to get there, and the same coming home. The bus trip from Daejeon to Incheon airport was longer than the flight itself! Was it worth it? HELL YES!!!
Even though we’ve done a lot of overseas trips since The Monsta was born, I class them more as holidays rather than travel. Travel to me is busy, full of sightseeing and activities. Holidays are relaxing by the beach or visiting family in Korea.
This short trip was a good test for us to see how we’d all handle more travel in the future. We learnt a lot in that short time about what works for our family (and what doesn’t).
The Tokyo plan
We went through a decision-making process, even before booking the trip that went something like this.
TJ: I think we should go on a holiday – maybe Boracay?
Me: Don’t talk to me about travel! Are you crazy?!? I just travelled for 35 hours to get home!
(I went to Australia with The Monsta in May/June for two weeks)
TJ: Oh look, cheap flights to Tokyo.
Me: Book ’em!
Me: I think The Monsta will be too young for Disneyland.
TJ: Yeah, I agree.
TJ: Do you think one day at Disneyland will be enough?
Me: Nah, let’s get the two-day pass
Even if The Monsta is too young to remember to his visit to Disneyland, he’s certainly not too young to enjoy the experience.
Tips for visiting Tokyo Disneyland with young kids
Hire a stroller
We would not have been able to see as much of Disneyland and would have dealt with a very tired little boy who needed to be carried after the first hour or two if it weren’t for the stroller. We paid Y2,000 for two days hire. The strollers are located inside the main gate after you show your tickets but before you walk through the World Bazaar and into Disneyland itself. They are at the far right. You can’t miss them. We got a slip of paper to insert under a waterproof clear plastic cover with The Monsta’s name on it to help identify our stroller in the sea of strollers left outside rides. To get our stroller on day two, we just had to present that paper again. Too easy!
The bonus of having a stroller was that we could put our wet weather gear and bag and snacks in the base of the pram so our hands were free.
It’s still a good 10-15 minute walk from Disneyland to the train station, so be prepared for tired feet at the end of the day that still have a while to go before getting on the train.
Because the queues for the popular rides can be more than an hour, Disneyland has created a system where you can get a fast pass ticket every two hours that lets you jump the queue and more or less get straight onto the ride or attraction. We were too slow to effectively use the fast passes – before you know it, the fast passes are all gone or the time allocated is late in the evening.
We got to Disneyland around 11 am both days with just enough time to secure one fast pass each day for Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters – a favourite of The Monsta’s. If you get there when they open, you’ll have a much better chance for securing multiple fast passes to go on the rides earlier in the day.
To get a fast pass, you have to go to the ride or attraction itself and scan your ticket. It would be good to have a single fast pass station near the entrance of the park where you can get a fast pass for any ride rather than having to traipse all over the park to get them.
Hang out in Toon Town
Toon Town is past the Tomorrow Land space complex where some of the cool rides are (like Star Wars, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters and Monster’s Inc.). It’s less crowded than the rest of the park a great place for the kids to explore.
There were many attractions The Monsta enjoyed, even really simple things like Donald Duck’s boat or Chip and Dale’s Treehouse. But best of all, we loved the Go Go Gadget Rollercoaster! I was surprised The Monsta was allowed on. If your kids are over 90cm, they can go on almost all of the rides.
Under 4s are free
There are no cheap places to buy Disneyland tickets. Don’t bother searching – we did that for you and ended up buying the tickets direct from the Tokyo Disneyland website. We didn’t really need to, though, because the queues to buy tickets at the gate were very short – though we were around 11 am both days. Maybe there are queues if you arrive earlier in the day.
The good news is that kids under 4 get in for free. We brought The Monsta’s passport with us each day to prove his age but didn’t need to show it. No one asked for it.
Our tickets were Y132,00 each for a two-day passport. Tickets for ‘juniors’ and kids over 4 are cheaper. If you buy a three-day or four-day passport, you can also go to Tokyo DisneySea. We opted not to because DisneySea is better for much older kids.
Ditch the parades
Sacrilege, I know, but if rides are your thing, ditch the parades when the queue times drop from 70 minutes to 10 minutes for popular rides like Monster’s Inc. and The Haunted Mansion. Because we were there for two days, we thought it would be fine to skip the parades on one day and take advantage of the short queues at the big attractions.
Bring food from outside
I’m no foodie and certainly not a food snob, but the food at Disneyland was AWFUL. Yeah, a Mickey Mouse shaped burger is kinda cute, but it was gross. On day two, we stocked up at Family Mart with their amazing sandwiches, drinks and other snacks. It’s perfectly fine to bring outside food in and Disneyland even provides fabulous picnic areas where you can enjoy your own food.
I have to add that the convenience stores were amazing for fresh food – from sushi to grilled teriyaki chicken sticks and their egg and mayo sandwiches to a full range of Japanese beers – and so cheap! We ate breakfast every day and even some dinners from Family Mart and 7-11 because we couldn’t push our exhausted Monsta further to endure a restaurant. But it was perfectly OK because it was sooo yum and delish.
Get a Tokyo Disneyland ride time app
There wasn’t a decent Tokyo Disneyland app for Android but we found the TDR Wait Time Check app (by ThreeSixtyApps) to be invaluable for making decisions about which part of the Park to visit next. Here’s an Apple version.
Go on a week day
Avoid weekends, if you can. We went on a Friday and Saturday. We sailed around the park easily on the Friday and got through most of the main rides and attractions. It was unbelievably crowded on the Saturday and much less enjoyable. If we go back, we’ll make sure we only go on a weekday.
The best rides
The rides we enjoyed most were:
- Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters – The Monsta loved it so much – you get to shoot aliens. Get a fast pass for it.
- Monsters Inc. – huge long queues but we pretty much walked straight onto it while the night time parade was on. Grab a fast pass if you can.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – only a 10-minute wait max for this fun boat ride with some eerily life-like pirates. We did this ride twice and The Monsta is still singing ‘Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me’.
- Western River Railroad – fast moving queue and a fun steam train ride – all aboard!
- Star Tours: The Adventure Continues – I snuck away for this Star Wars ride. Shhh! Don’t tell The Monsta. You have to be over 110cm to ride it – it’s one of those 3D rides and very fun. The wait time said 10 minutes but it was more like 25 minutes.
- Go Go Gadget Rollercoaster – fun for all of us and you only have to be over 90cm to ride it – we rode it twice and the queue was fast moving and not very long both days. It had some genuinely thrilling rollercoaster moments. The Monsta screamed the whole way but LOVED it.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – a fun spinning ride through Roger Rabbit’s world and a tiny bit scary! The queue was really dark. I mean tripping-over-you-feet dark, so be careful and nimble.
- The Haunted Mansion – this started off really lame but the ride itself was sooo good – we all loved it and it wasn’t scary at all. I was expecting spooky things to jump out and spiders to land on my shoulder but it wasn’t like that at all.
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic – a 4D movie with Donald and Mickey and lots of Disney hits. It was nice and cool in there so we went about three times to escape the heat and humidity of mid-Summer in Tokyo.
Oh what am I talking about, we loved them all!
Other Tokyo attractions
We made a list of other places we’d like to visit besides Tokyo Disneyland, and I’m including them here for my future reference because I think we’ll go back to Tokyo again before leaving Korea:
- Tokyo Tower – for views across the city
- Tsukiji Fish Market – for some fresh sashimi
- Odaiba – for Legoland and other adventures on this man-made island
- Yoyogi Park – for something different
- Sensoji Temple – for some Buddhist relief
- Fukagawa Edo Museum – for some a glimpse into traditional Japanese life of the past.
With only three full days of sightseeing available, and after spending two of those days at Disneyland, we only had one day left for the rest of our trip.
We decided to go to Meji Shrine and take it from there – we’d had enough of trains and subways by then and wanted a less frantic day. Meji Shrine was only a train stop or two away from where we were staying, so we headed off there. I was there for the architecture. Some say it’s a tribute to war criminals. The Japanese say it’s a tribute to war heroes. I guess it depends which side of the war you were fighting on.
Takeshima Street, Harajuku
Nearby Meiji Shrine was Takeshima Street in Harajuku. It was one of the most crowded and busiest streets we’d ever seen. We took time out to cool down in MacDonalds with The Monsta treated to an ice cream and cold water for us.
We walked from Takeshima Street to Shibuya, a shopping and eating district. We rested on a bench for a while and watched the world go by. I was surprised to see that people dressed like twinsies and grown men wore Mickey Mouse T-shirts in places other than Disneyland.
We finally got to eat something other than convenience store food… a very salty pork ramen!
After lunch, we caught a train back to our tiny one room Air BnB accommodation for an afternoon nap. After walking 20,000+ steps each day in the heat and humidity, we were depleted and needed a rest. It was exhausting!
We ate another salty ramen locally to our accommodation before heading off to Shinjuku to take in the crowds and neon lights – but it was a Sunday night and although busy, it wasn’t the crush of crowds we were expecting. Disneyland on the Saturday was busier! But we got to see Godzilla.
And we capped off the day enjoying a cold Japanese beer.
Even though it was such a short trip, I know we’re going to look back it as one of the best little holidays our family has ever had.
My parents went to Japan in the early 1980s and even to Tokyo Disneyland. I’ve already put in a request to look at photos from their trip.
TJ and I went to Osaka by boat from Pusan to see in the new year back in 2003/04.
There’s something about Japan. I LOVE it. We are wondering why it took us so long to go back to Japan. We loved it when we went to Osaka for a short trip. I’ve also been to Fukuoka for a visa run back in the early 2000s. I can see us returning to Japan a few more times over the coming year and a half before we move back to Australia.
Have you been or do you want to go to Japan?