Tokyo Disney Resort

Updated April 2014. Prices are given in Yen (¥). Because of constant fluctuations in exchange rates, we have not tried to give the amounts in US dollars. You should check a resource like xe.com for current exchange rates.

Tokyo Disney Resort is extremely popular with the Japanese and has been very profitable for the Oriental Land Company, which owns and operates the resort. (That’s right, the Walt Disney Company does not own or operate Tokyo Disney. Disney provides the Imagineers and gets a piece of the profits, but that’s it.)

Tokyo Disney Resort has two theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983, and Tokyo DisneySea, which opened in 2001.

Tokyo Disneyland is sort of a cross between Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida, but it has a unique layout and there are quite a few other surprises. Some of the attractions are different. For instance, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is nothing like the Pooh rides in the US. It’s a spectacular ride in Tokyo. Some of the shows at Tokyo Disneyland do not exist elsewhere. There is also a do-not-miss, spectacularly-themed buffeteria restaurant called Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall.

Tokyo DisneySea is ocean-themed, with “ports” instead of “lands.” It is a fantastic theme park that no Disney fan should miss. Start saving your pennies for a trip to DisneySea now! You won’t believe what Disney’s Imagineers can do when provided with the necessary resources. It puts the other Disney theme parks to shame. Virtually all of the attractions at DisneySea were created especially for this park and so far have not been duplicated elsewhere.

The resort also includes three luxury resort hotels, the Art Deco-style Disney Ambassador Hotel, the Italian-themed Hotel MiraCosta and the traditional-style Disneyland Hotel.

Rounding out the resort is Ikspiari, a shopping and dining center.

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Monorail at Tokyo Disneyland ResortAn Affordable Dream?

As long as the Yen is relatively weak against the Dollar (trading at 95 Yen or more to the Dollar), visiting Tokyo Disney Resort is not all that expensive for US residents. In fact, if you can afford to fly to Walt Disney World and stay in a Moderate or Deluxe hotel, you can almost certainly afford to visit Tokyo Disney Resort.

Airfares are not an insurmountable barrier. Everyday off-season (non-summer) fares from the West Coast of the US are frequently under $1000 roundtrip in Coach, and sale fares can be as low as $500-$600. If you have any frequent flyer miles accumulated, we strongly recommend using them to upgrade from Coach to Business class (or if you have enough miles, redeem them for free Business class tickets) because it is a long flight. From Los Angeles, the travel time is 11.5 hours going to Japan and 9.5 hours returning (it’s faster coming back due to the jet stream). Click here for tips and tricks to help you find the best airfares.

Tickets for the Tokyo Disney Resort theme parks are much less expensive than tickets for the US theme parks! (As of April 2014, they cost about 55%-70% as much as equivalent Disneyland California tickets and about 45%-60% as much as equivalent Walt Disney World tickets.) One quirk to keep in mind is that you cannot “hop” between parks on 1-day or 2-day tickets. If you buy 3-day or 4-day tickets, you can “hop” only on the third and/or fourth days. On most Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, you can buy lower-priced “after 3:00 pm” tickets, and on most week nights (Monday-Friday) you can buy discounted “after 6:00 pm” tickets. There is a discounted 1-day Senior Passport (age 60 and over). Four days is the maximum length of a regular passport. Annual Passports are available, but are very expensive.

Meals at Tokyo Disney Resort are generally somewhat more expensive than in the US Disney theme parks. Full-service dinners (especially character meals) at the official hotels are especially expensive. However, there are significantly less expensive dinner options at Tokyo Disney Resort, including non-character buffets and “buffeteria” locations. Full service lunches are a lot cheaper than dinners, so if you want to experience the nicer restaurants, do it at lunch! As you’ll find elsewhere in Japan, “lunch sets” (full meals that can include appetizer, entree, dessert and/or drink) are well-priced. Counter-service meals are generally reasonable, with many offering higher-end dining options than you’d find at Walt Disney World. Most snacks and beverages from the theme park vending carts are similarly priced to the US parks.

Some sample meal prices from late 2013 – early 2014:

Hotels are the most expensive aspect of visiting Tokyo Disney Resort. Land is extremely precious in Japan and that is very much reflected in the cost of hotel rooms. If you want to stay on-site at an official Tokyo Disney Resort hotel, the cheapest room at Ambassador Hotel, in the lowest-priced season in 2014, is ¥30000 a night. Fortunately the resort is very close to central Tokyo — about 15-20 minutes by commuter train from JR Tokyo Station — so there are many other possibilities. See the Hotel Options section below for suggestions.

Hotel Options

An important thing to bear in mind is that Japanese hotels typically charge per person, not per room. (Unless otherwise noted, prices quoted below are for a double room sleeping two people.) Also, even if you’re willing to pay for extra occupants, many Japanese hotel rooms are so small that they don’t sleep more than two, or at most three, people. That can be an issue if you’re travelling with a family: you may need to book two rooms.

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Disney Hotels

Disney Ambassador Hotel is a lovely Art Deco wonder located right next door to the Ikspiari shopping center at the entrance to the resort. It will cost you ¥30000 or more per night, depending on season, for the the lowest-priced double room). Standard rooms sleep up to 3 people.

Hotel MiraCosta is a luxurious, beautifully-themed hotel with a private entrance into Tokyo DisneySea. The lowest-priced double rooms at this hotel cost ¥36000 or more per night, depending on season. Standard rooms sleep up to 3 people.

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is the largest of the three on-site resorts and features a Victorian architectural style similar to the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World. The lowest-priced double rooms are ¥36000 or more per night, depending on season. Standard rooms sleep up to 3 people.

There are four seasons at the Disney hotels: Value, Regular, Peak and Top. Value season is mainly weekdays in January and February. Regular season is mainly weekdays in May, September, October, November and the first half of December. Peak and Top seasons include most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the last half of July, all of August and the late December through early January holiday season.

Obviously it’s best to avoid Peak and Top seasons, both because of high prices and because of crowds. Click here to see more about when to visit.

Online reservations are now available for the Tokyo Disney Resort hotels, but not all rooms are available online. If you can’t get what you want online, try calling. From the US, you must call 011-81-45-683-3333 between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm Japanese time. That is normally 15-17 hours ahead of US time, but it’s 14-16 hours ahead during Daylight Savings Time, because Japan does not participate in the time change. For instance, from California this would mean calling between 4:00 pm and 4:00 am PST, or between 5:00 pm and 5:00 am PST when Daylight Savings is in effect.

When you call to make a reservation, you will initially hear a recording in Japanese, but the recording then welcomes you in English and tells you if you need to speak to someone in English to please press 9 and then 1. The operators speak excellent English and are very efficient.

Official Hotels

Near the theme parks, and connected to them by the Disney Resort Line monorail service, are six full-service “official” hotels: Hilton Tokyo Bay, Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel, Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Bay Hotel Tokyu and Sunroute Plaza Tokyo

Hilton Tokyo Bay and Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay are both very nice hotels and can be easily booked through their respective websites in English. Both have English-speaking staff members.

Another MouseSavers.com reader, Richard K, reports, “I’ve been to The Tokyo Disney Resort half a dozen times and stayed at two hotels: The MiraCosta and the Hilton Tokyo Bay. I am a DVC member and always stay at Disney hotels whether on the east or west coast of the United States. That said, I now ALWAYS stay at the Hilton in Tokyo Disneyland. Considering that it is half the price per night of the MiraCosta or Ambassador hotels, it is (in my opinion) nicer! I always have (for Japan) an unusually large room with two beds and an ocean view. It’s really a lovely hotel and I think a better option for more of your readers than MiraCosta or Ambassador which, in addition to being more expensive, are much harder to actually get into!”

Until recently, the other “official” hotels were marketed to the Japanese and did not offer websites in English, nor did they necessarily have English-speaking staff. However, the Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel, Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Bay Hotel Tokyu and Sunroute Plaza Tokyo now all have English websites and some offer excellent rates. Thanks to Claudia B for update.

Hotel Dream Gate

In March 2004, a “budget” hotel, Hotel Dream Gate Maihama, opened under the tracks at JR Maihama Station, the train station that serves Tokyo Disney Resort. Rooms at this hotel are somewhat spartan, with single beds only (up to 3 per room) and still quite expensive, depending on season.

Rooms may be noisy due to the trains overhead. Dream Gate is primarily marketed to Japanese people and the English language website is pretty minimal. The hotel staff speak a little English.

Partner Hotels

MouseSavers.com reader Sharon L wrote to tell us that Tokyo Disney Resort now has a group of “Partner Hotels” that are outside the immediate resort area.

After researching the Partner Hotels, she found that Palm & Fountain Terrace Hotel presented the best value for her family and had an easily navigable website in English. (The other three Partner Hotels only have Japanese-language websites.) Sharon reports, “Reservations can now be done online and they have a breakfast plan which is great value. Online reservations tip: type in a 7 digit postal code (anything!) and you’ll be fine. Otherwise an error message keeps on popping up. Breakfast plan is not available via the phone reservation service.”

Bookings for the hotel can also be made via Disney Resort Reservations Center at 011-81-045-683-3333 (9:00 am – 9:00 pm Tokyo time). The phone system is automated and initially the “person” will speak in Japanese. Wait all the way till the English spiel starts and then proceed from there.

Toyko Hotels

Fortunately Tokyo Disney Resort is not far from the eastern districts of central Tokyo. From JR Tokyo Station, it’s about a 15-minute train ride to JR Maihama Station at Tokyo Disney Resort. The trains run very frequently and absolutely on time. There are a wealth of hotel options if you stay in Tokyo.

The thing to keep in mind about Tokyo is that there are no “bad areas” — some are nicer or more convenient than others, but none are dangerous. The overall quality of Tokyo hotels is very good. You can count on cleanliness even at the lower end, though rooms are often very small in less expensive accommodations.

We recommend checking Expedia and searching by price. Expedia frequently has very decent 2-star and 3-star Tokyo hotels at low rates ($100 or less).

Another worthwhile option to consider is Priceline. Only a few hotels in Tokyo seem to be participating in Priceline, which allows you to choose an area and a quality rating (up to 5 stars), but does not allow you to pick the exact hotel. All of the hotels are very nice, though you should expect small rooms, as is typical of Japanese hotels. Most rooms will have either two twin beds or one small double bed in the room — it is highly unlikely you’ll get a room that sleeps more than two.

Transportation

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Getting To and From Tokyo Disney Resort

If you’re coming directly from the airport, simply go to the Limo Bus counter and buy a ticket for Tokyo Disney Resort (¥2450 adult/¥1230 child, one way). The buses run frequently and will take you straight to the resort in about 60 minutes. The same thing applies in reverse.

If you’ll be staying in central Tokyo and commuting out to the resort, get to JR Tokyo Station and find your way to the JR Keiyo Line. (It’s a long walk — be prepared!) When you reach the gate for the Keiyo Line, put your JR ticket through the gate. Hold on to your ticket, which must be inserted into the gate on your way out of the destination station.

(If you don’t already have a JR ticket, buy one from the machines on the walls in the main part of the station, before heading off to the Keiyo Line. There is a button in the upper right corner of the ticket machines’ screens marked “English” that will make the machines switch languages. If you are not sure of the exact fare, simply buy the least expensive fare and then stick your ticket in the “Fare Adjustment” machines before you exit on the other end. The machines will will tell you how much more you owe. Insert that amount and it will be added to your ticket.)

From JR Tokyo Station, you can take pretty much any Keiyo Line or Musashino Line train (which is just a variant on the Keiyo Line), since they all seem to stop at JR Maihama Station, the station at Tokyo Disney Resort. If you take a “Local” train, Maihama will be the sixth stop; if you take a “Rapid” train, it will usually be the third stop. Normally there will be lots of families and schoolkids on the train, and they’ll all get off at Maihama, which will be a good indication if for some reason you’re unsure. When returning, just make sure you’re getting on a train going to Tokyo. That’s the last stop, so it’s pretty idiot-proof.

The fare will vary depending on where you start from and whether you use a JR train to get to JR Tokyo Station, but it will be relatively inexpensive, typically ¥400 or less.

Limo Bus Service

The easiest way to travel between Narita Airport (NRT) and Tokyo (including Tokyo Disneyland) is to use the Limo Bus. Despite the name, this is not a limousine; it’s a shuttle bus service. The Limo Bus is frequent and goes directly to major hotels in Tokyo and to Tokyo Disneyland. One major advantage of this service is that they handle your luggage for you and take you door-to-door.

Due to traffic it takes quite awhile to get to Tokyo hotels. Count on 90 minutes to the eastern districts (Ginza, Shimbashi) and 2 hours to the western districts (Shinjuku, Roppongi). Also, the seats are narrow, so if you’re a big person, be prepared for a tight squeeze.

Unfortunately, Limo Bus has limited service going to the Tokyo Disneyland Resort from Narita. The last bus typically leaves around 5:00 pm, so take that into account when booking your air ticket. You can look up departure times on the Airport Limousine Bus website. Buses run later going into Tokyo.

Getting Around on Japan Rail (JR) and Subways

The bullet trains (shinkansen) operated by Japan Rail (JR) from the airport to central Tokyo are faster than the Limo Bus (about one hour). The cost is about the same. It is perfectly safe and the trains run on time.

However, you’ll be dragging your luggage up and down stairs, because many stations don’t have escalators or elevators. Also, major stations like JR Tokyo Station and JR Shinjuku Station are extremely large and confusing, which is guaranteed to be frustrating if you’re jet-lagged. If you’re arriving during rush hour, you will find yourself “swimming upstream” through absolutely mind-boggling crowds, too. In short, this is not a fun way to start your trip.

If you will be visiting Tokyo and/or other parts of Japan in addition to Tokyo Disney Resort you may want to consider a Japan Rail Pass. However, it is really only cost-effective if you plan to cover long distances by rail. For instance, it will pretty much pay for itself if you plan a roundtrip between Tokyo and Kyoto plus at least one other fairly long journey. Otherwise, it’s usually better to skip it and buy separate fares.

There is also a JR East Pass that is good for travel in the Tokyo area and areas to the North and East of Tokyo, but again you will have to do a lot of rail travel to make it worthwhile.

Bear in mind that if you buy a rail pass, that locks you into using Japan Rail (JR), but often JR is not the most convenient or desirable option. For instance:

If you will be traveling around Tokyo a lot, consider buying a Suica card, which works on JR rail lines and Tokyo subway lines, as well as the Disneyland Resort Line monorail. Having a Suica card will save you a lot of time and calculation, since you just tap it on the reader at the ticket gates and the fare is automatically debited. The standard card costs ¥2000 and gives you a credit of ¥1500 (the other ¥500 is a deposit, which you can get refunded on your way out of Japan at the JR office in the airport, if you want). The Suica card can be purchased in any JR rail station or at the airport JR office, for cash only. You can also “refill” it from machines in the stations, again with cash only.

Taxis

Taxis in Tokyo are expensive. The minimum charge is ¥710 for the first 2 kilometers (about 1.25 miles). Plus, due to the constant heavy traffic, taxis are extremely slow. The JR commuter trains and subway trains are tremendously faster and cheaper.

Also, be sure you have written directions in Japanese to your destination (get your hotel front desk or concierge to write them out for you) and/or have a map with the destination clearly marked. The layout of Tokyo is so confusing that even cab drivers got lost, which can quite a bit to the fare.

General Tokyo Advice & Planning

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When to Go

Tokyo Disney Resort is most crowded on weekends, especially on Saturdays. If you can manage to visit on a weekday, crowds will be significantly lighter.

Probably the nicest time of year in Japan, weather-wise, is spring (April-May). However, you’ll want to avoid Golden Week (see below). The fall is also pleasant, particularly in October-November.

Winter can be cold (low 30s to upper 40s F) but January and February offer the lowest crowds at the theme parks.

If at all possible, avoid going in the summer. It’s miserably hot and humid, it rains a lot, and there are also two holiday time periods in mid-July and mid-August associated with Oban that can have bigger crowds (the date of the holiday can vary in different areas of Japan).

Be aware that Japan has two national holiday periods that you will definitely want to avoid: New Year (January 1-3 and any associated weekend) and Golden Week (April 29-May 5 and associated weekends).

Planning, Maps and Guidebooks

You will want maps in Tokyo. If you will have an international data plan on your smartphone, you can use the Google Maps. Alternatively, you can pick up paper maps for free at any tourist information counter in the airport or major train stations.

We do recommend downloading and printing out both JR commuter train and Tokyo Metro subway maps in English, before you leave on your trip. Carry these with you in case you get lost or find yourself in a station with no maps marked in English. When you download the files, if you get a pop-up from Adobe recommending you download the Japanese language add-on, we recommend you do this so that the text prints properly. Also, be sure to use a color printer, because the train lines are color coded.

Because relatively few English-speaking visitors go to Japan, English-language guidebooks aren’t updated annually. Most guidebooks to Japan are updated only every 3 to 5 years. So by far the best and most up-to-date planning resources for travel to Japan are online. A few of the most useful and interesting sites are:

Akiyo Urano, a reader of MouseSavers.com, was kind enough to send us a “Japan Survival Guide” — a wonderful guide to the basics of traveling in Japan — and gave us permission to include it here on MouseSavers.com. It contains a great deal of the most important information you will need for a trip to Tokyo. We would venture to say that with that guide, and some visits to the sites above, you can probably skip the printed guidebooks.

Akiyo’s “Japan Survival Guide” This is a PDF file and you will need Adobe Reader to view and print it. To download the file in Windows, right-click on the link and select “Save Target As.” To download the list on a Mac, hold down the Option key while clicking on the link.

Changing Money

It’s good to have some Yen in your pocket, because Japan remains a relatively cash-oriented society — at least more so than the US. For instance, many small restaurants only accept cash. (One thing you won’t need cash for: tips. There is essentially no tipping in Japan.) However, you can use major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) at many hotels, department stores and chain restaurants, as well as throughout Tokyo Disney Resort, except at food stands.

You can pre-order some Yen through Travelex or a major US bank, but it’s easier to use an ATM (which is generally called a “cash machine” outside the US) to get some cash once you arrive. Before you depart, call the number on the back of your ATM card and let your bank know you’ll be using your ATM card internationally. Most banks will block international withdrawals if you don’t warn them. Be sure to ask how much the ATM fees will cost you: many banks charge something like 3% plus $3 per transaction. If that’s the case, to save on transaction fees, consider taking your maximum per-day limit in Yen out of an ATM at the beginning of the trip. Lock some of it in your hotel safe if you want, but don’t worry about carrying a fairly large amount. We wouldn’t give this advice almost anywhere else — and certainly not in a major US city — but in Tokyo it’s safe to walk around with cash in your wallet, because there is virtually zero street crime.

Not all ATMs in Japan will accept foreign ATM cards. ATMs in the airport, 7-Eleven stores, Citibank locations and post offices will work. Most ATMs are not open 24 hours, either. In fact, outside of the airport, many ATMs are open for very limited daytime hours. However, MouseSavers.com reader Jae reports, “At most 7-Elevens you can use the ATM free of charge (at least I didn’t get charged) and typically with a better exchange rate than you get from the bank. [You will need a] card with the Plus sign on the back. You have to withdraw about ¥10000 at a time, but it’s a lot more convenient than the post office (which often closes at 3) and 7-Elevens are typically everywhere, at least in Tokyo.” (Click here for 7-Eleven locations.) This is good advice if you’re heading into Tokyo. If you’re going straight from the airport to Tokyo Disney Resort, however, you should get your cash at the airport, since there are no 7-Elevens at Disney.

Language Issues in Tokyo

Mary Waring (founder of MouseSavers.com) and her husband Mike headed off to Japan for their first visit knowing exactly two words of Japanese — arigato (thanks) and konichiwa (hi). Yet the language barrier was not as problematic as they expected. When you consider the relatively small number of English-speaking visitors who go to Tokyo each year, it’s remarkable how close the city is to being bilingual (Japanese/English). A great many directional signs, instructional signs, advertisements, “you are here” map displays, etc. are at least partially in English as well as Japanese. Train stations in central Tokyo show the station names and train line names in both languages, so it’s easy to navigate through the stations. On some of the major train lines, all announcements are made in both Japanese and English.

Most Japanese young people who work in public positions throughout Tokyo can speak at least a few words of English. For instance, most of the time restaurant servers know relevant English words and phrases like “thank you,” “water,” “lunch set,” numbers in English, etc. Between that and the common practice of providing plastic food displays and picture menus at many restaurants, you’ll usually have little trouble ordering what you want. Most shops in central Tokyo have at least one sales person who speaks some English.

Every so often you’ll hit a location in Tokyo where everything is in Japanese, and you’ll be confused or disoriented. Don’t panic. The solution is to ask someone who works there for help. Even if that person doesn’t speak English, they will find someone who does, or you can communicate by pointing to places on maps and using sign language.

Make sure you always have a street map (or Google Maps) and both JR and subway maps in English with you, and you’ll be all set.

Language Issues in the Disney Theme Parks

At Tokyo Disney Resort you’ll have no problem navigating the theme parks even if you know no Japanese. Virtually all of the signs throughout Tokyo Disney Resort are in English.

However, the narration in the the actual show or attraction is often completely in Japanese and can be a bit difficult to follow if you don’t speak the language. You can usually get the general idea. Ride announcements are made by Cast Members in Japanese, but they are pretty obviously the same ones you’d expect in the US: keep your hands and arms in the vehicle, etc. You’ll be able to figure out what you’re supposed to do.

Cell Phones in Japan

US phones with 3G or later will work in Japan, but be sure to check with your provider about international roaming plans, or you might end up paying through the nose for any calls, texts or data you use during your stay in Japan.

If you have Skype loaded on your smartphone, you may be able to call home for very low cost through a wi-fi connection, such as the one in your hotel.

Mobility Issues When Visiting Tokyo and Tokyo Disney Resort

Tokyo has an inexpensive and extremely reliable public transportation system, but only if you have full use of your legs. In most train stations you must be able to walk up and down a significant number of stairs. Many stations have no elevators (although more are being installed all the time) and many trains are not wheelchair-accessible due to gaps between the platform and the edge of the car.

For that reason alone, visiting Tokyo has the potential to be challenging and expensive for anyone in a wheelchair or with any kind of mobility issue. Outside of Tokyo things are usually even worse. However, Japan is making greater efforts to become “barrier free,” and with careful planning it’s not an impossible prospect for someone in a wheelchair or who has difficulty walking. If you want to try it, be sure to check out the Japanese Disability Information Resources site (which has an English version) for some useful information.

Walking around Tokyo is extremely tough for anyone with bad knees. There are lots of stairs everywhere and the terrain is hilly. For those who have difficulty with walking long distances and/or up and down stairs, be aware that it is difficult to avoid those things if you’re going to visit Tokyo Disney Resort and stay in central Tokyo. For example, the connection from the central part of JR Tokyo Station to and from the Keiyo Line that serves Tokyo Disney Resort is 520 meters (about a third of a mile) and involves three escalators, three moving walkways and a couple of flights of stairs.

Once you are at Tokyo Disney Resort, the situation is significantly better than Tokyo in general. The train station that serves the resort (JR Maihama Station) does have elevators, though you’ll have to do some research on how to get there and where you can go from there, since many other stations do not have elevators.

Most of the attractions, particularly at the newer park, Tokyo DisneySea, are accessible. The accessible entrances are not always clearly marked and you’ll need to allow extra time. It would be wise to call ahead and ask for help, too. Lots of people in wheelchairs visit Tokyo Disney Resort and there are wheelchair rentals available.

Other Resources

Your first stop should be the official Tokyo Disney Resort website, which is in English and is quite informative and comprehensive.

Travelers Series Guide to the Tokyo Disney Resort is the only printed guidebook in English. Click on the link to read a review.

As of April 2014, a worthwhile blog to check out is Konnichiwa Mickey, which has nice short summaries of how to use Fastpass, Single Rider and Priority Seating at Tokyo Disney Resort, plus a few money-saving tips and several restaurant reviews.