Some of you may be wondering about the appeal of visiting a theme park in Japan when you can visit similar ones back in North America. I was on the fence about it myself during a March Break trip to Japan with friends – with so little time and so much to see, I was initially hesitant on spending a full day or two at a theme park.
At the same time, mixing in theme park time with visiting various cultural attractions gave the kids something to really look forward to. In the end, we went and had an enjoyable experience, and I don’t regret it at all.
Here are my thoughts on our visit to Tokyo DisneySea, which is one of two theme parks we visited on the trip. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive guide to the park, but should assist you in planning and maximizing your visit, with some information you may not easily find elsewhere.
Tokyo Disney Resort is comprised of two theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Both Disney parks are unique, but Tokyo Disneyland has many similarities to Disneyland in California, with the iconic castle and similar rides like Splash Mountain, It’s A Small World, and Space Mountain, just to name a few.
DisneySea, for the most part, is unique, with a marine theme. Given that we only had a limited amount of time, we settled for DisneySea this time.
Tokyo Disney Resort is located in the Tokyo Bay area, slightly removed from the downtown core. You can easily reach Tokyo Disney Resort on Tokyo’s extensive subway system, which connects directly with the Disney Resort Line.
From our hotel in Ginza, it took just under 30 minutes to get to Tokyo Disney Resort, and then another 15 minutes to hop on the Disney Resort Line to reach Disney Sea.
If you’re planning on going to Tokyo Disney Resort, consider purchasing your ticket beforehand. It’s not uncommon to see days that are sold out a week or more in advance.
If your plans are up in the air, it’s best to track ticket sales on the theme park’s webpage, as it will show which days are low in tickets or sold out. Keep in mind that special passes can sell out weeks in advance.
Be warned that theme parks in Japan are very busy. Expect line-ups for everything, including when waiting for rides, buying souvenirs, and purchasing snacks and meals.
In our case, travelling in a group of with other friends helped a lot, as the kids often kept each other entertained while waiting. You can also split up to have some people wait for food while others stay in line for rides.
Be sure to download the park app before your visit. The app allows you to load your tickets once inside the park, and also shows live wait times for attractions and restaurants.
Buying Tickets for Tokyo DisneySea
Tickets for Tokyo DisneySea can be bought directly from the official Tokyo Disney website or app, from a legitimate third-party website like Klook, or at any of the big convenience stores in Japan, like 7-Eleven.
There have been many reports of people having issues buying their tickets using their North American credit cards from the official website, so I would highly recommend going the Klook route.
Tickets are released only two months in advance at precisely 2pm Japan Standard Time daily. Prices vary depending on the day of the week, with weekends being more expensive.
A regular ticket will cost around ¥8,400 ($84 CAD) per adult, ¥7,000 ($70 CAD) per youth, and ¥5,000 ($50 CAD) per child.
Timed entry for a later visit to the park or weeknight visits are available for a cheaper price. There are no multi-day tickets, so if you’re planning to spend two days in the park, you’d just buy two one-day tickets.
Your ticket is all you’ll need for entry – unlike North American parks, park reservations are not necessary.
We were frankly shocked at the line-ups we encountered when we arrived at Tokyo DisneySea. It was literally a sea of people. but at least everyone was polite and orderly.
If you want to plan for a day where it may be a little less busy, check out the crowd calendar.
We arrived just before 9am, which is the published park opening time. However, the park often opens up to an hour earlier than the published time, so you can consider arriving before then, too.
It took us close to an hour in line to get into the park. To get in earlier, consider showing up an hour or an hour and a half before the published opening time.
If you’re spending more than a day at Tokyo Disney Resort, it may make sense to stay at an onsite resort as well. Fortunately, you can find the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel and the Hilton Tokyo Bay right outside the resort.
By 10:30am, the lines had almost completely dissipated. Although it may be tempting to go later, going early is the only sure way to reserve Premier Access passes for the few rides that you can use them on.
If you’re mainly doing kids rides that won’t require them, then you could consider going after 10am, once the mad rush has completed.
Tokyo Disney Resort got rid of the familiar FastPass system in 2020. In 2022, the Disney Premier Access system was implemented in its place.
A Premier Access pass is a pay-per-attraction system that grants you access to an expedited line for certain popular rides. It’s only available for a few select experiences at DisneySea, which are as follows:
- Toy Story Mania!
- Tower of Terror
- Journey to the Centre of the Earth
- Souring: Fantastic Flight
- Believe! Sea of Dreams
You can only make your first Premier Access booking upon entering the park. From there, subsequent bookings can be made an hour after the last Premier Access purchase, or after the start time of your purchased Disney Premier Access, whichever comes first.
Premier Access passes are limited, so the later your arrive at the park, the higher possibility the passes will be sold out. Passes can be purchased through the Tokyo Disney Resort app.
The cost of each pass ranges from ¥1,500–2,500 ($15–25 CAD), which comes on top of your regular admission to the park.
Each guest over the age of three needs their own pass for an attraction. You can add all members of your group by adding their entry tickets into the app, and then buy passes for your whole group at one time.
Tips for Planning a Day at Tokyo DisneySea with Your Family
If you’re able to get Premier Access for any rides, then work your schedule around your ride passes. If you can, divide your group to line up for for rides, popcorn stands, food stalls, restaurants, or souvenir shops.
There are plenty of cute and yummy snacks to keep the kids going while they wait in lines. Speaking of snacks, there are up to 20 different flavours of popcorn to try!
The lines for kids rides were reasonable, and only took around 30 minutes. Popcorn and food stalls had similar wait times; however, rides for older kids and adults could have wait times of up to three hours!
Travelling as a group certainly has its perks. Often, we’d divide and conquer. One set of adults would take the kids on rides, while the other adults lined up for food or took advantage of single-rider lines.
Single-rider lines can greatly cut down on wait times. For example, we waited a total of five minutes to get onto a ride that otherwise had over a two-hour wait.
Single-rider lines are only available for two rides at Tokyo DisneySea:
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
- Raging Spirits
There’s also a Rider Switch service, which allows guests to take turns waiting with kids or guests unable to ride due to ride requirements without needing to line up again.
Unlike in North America, where the guest waiting with the child can take one or two other guests on the ride with them, Tokyo DisneySea only allows the guest waiting to go on the ride.
During a March Break trip to Japan, we had a great time at Tokyo DisneySea alongside a few other families.
While we were a bit surprised at the lengthy lines at first, we decided to divvy up our group to keep the kids entertained, fed, and rested during a busy day.
If you’re heading to Tokyo DisneySea as a family, you’ll want to buy your tickets in advance and consider using Premier Access to cut down on wait times for the most popular rides.
In the end, I’m happy that we decided to add a theme-park visit to our trip to Japan.