Tokyo Disney Resort – May 2004 – Part 4

Day One – Tokyo Disneyland, continued

Graveyard at Haunted Mansion, showing the lovely landscaping.After lunch we felt pretty confident that we were going to get through the short list I had compiled, so we decided to try the Haunted Mansion, even though it’s virtually identical to the attraction at Disney World. However, its location at Tokyo Disneyland is unusual. It is in Fantasyland!

The Haunted Mansion is one of my favorite rides and I’ve experienced it at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort Paris (where it is called Phantom Manor), so I thought it would be fun to complete the “set” and also ride it at Tokyo Disneyland. The standby line was about 15 minutes long, so that was no problem.

The landscaping at the front of the attraction is beautiful and lush, though the grounds seem a lot smaller than those at the other three theme parks’ Haunted Mansions. There’s a little graveyard at the front and a narrow strip of garden around the edges of the queue area, and that’s about it.

The actual ride is all very familiar, though the narration and most of the dialogue are in Japanese. Some dialogue and songs are in English, and all of the signs are in English. Let’s face it, you really don’t need the dialogue to enjoy this attraction anyway.

I found the effects in the Tokyo attraction were much better-looking than at Disney World or Disneyland. Mike suggested that since the Tokyo attraction was built more recently, the technology might be more up-to-date. However, I think the main reason is even simpler than that: in the Tokyo park they keep the interior a lot darker, so you can’t see things that detract from the effects. For example, lately I’ve noticed in the American attractions that you can sometimes see wires and scrims (translucent theatrical screens) that really shouldn’t be visible. I have no idea why they don’t just bring the lighting level down a notch.

Also, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland in California now has a bunch of brightly lighted exit signs everywhere that are quite distracting. I assume they were added because of concerns about safety, but they are pretty noticeable. At Tokyo Disneyland the attractions have exit signs that are not lighted during the ride. An automated system will light them in case of emergency.

Anyway, I felt I was seeing the attraction as it was meant to be seen, for the first time in years. The difference was subtle but pleasing.

Exterior of Grandma Sara's KitchenAfter the Haunted Mansion, we continued our counter-clockwise journey around the park and walked up into Critter Country, home of Splash Mountain. The weather was cool and overcast, so we chose not to ride it and take a chance on getting wet.

However, the area around the attraction is interesting. There is a restaurant, Grandma Sara’s Kitchen, that has been made to look as if it’s carved into the stone around Splash Mountain.

Detail of area around Splash and Grandma Sara's.This counter-service restaurant has great theming both inside and out. The exterior really adds to the “Song of the South” atmosphere of the Splash Mountain area, with lots of fun details. You half-expect Br’er Rabbit or one of his friends to pop out of some of the cute little houses that are perched on the rocks.

Rustic interior of Grandma Sara's Kitchen.In glancing over the outside menu board, I noticed that all of the “down-home” menu items at Grandma Sara’s Kitchen seemed to include rice. I said “well, I guess that makes sense in Japan,” but Mike pointed out that it’s actually also very appropriate for a bayou-themed restaurant, since they grow and eat a lot of rice in Louisiana. And in fact we did see an item on the menu that was supposedly “Cajun.”

Seating area for Grandma Sara's - note the Splash Mountain log going by on the left.We enjoyed taking a look inside the restaurant. The rustic interior is very elaborate, with lots of wood. You definitely have the feeling you’re in a place that has been carved out like a cave.

There is seating on an upper level and the lines for counter service are on the lower level. There are also several seating areas outside. What makes the outside seating fun is that it is integrated into the Splash Mountain ride. You can watch the logs go by as you eat lunch — and presumably this also means you can watch people eat lunch while you ride Splash Mountain!

The train crosses overhead. Below you can see a log from Splash floating by.The Western River Railroad also meanders through here, so there is one part of the outdoor seating for the restaurant where you can watch Splash Mountain logs passing below you and also see the train going by overhead.

If you’re on a budget, this restaurant might be a good choice when visiting Tokyo Disneyland, since you get a lot of atmosphere for your money. (I can’t vouch for the food, since we didn’t eat there, but we really didn’t have a bad meal anywhere, so it’s probably a safe bet.)

Western River Railroad passing over the trestle above the outdoor dining area.There is a lunch set for ¥1450 (a bit over $13) that includes a specific entree, salad, drink and dessert, or you can order a la carte. The a la carte prices are pretty similar to what you’d pay at the American Disney parks for fast food, but at Grandma Sara’s you’re getting a hot cooked meal instead of a burger.

Tokyo Disneyland has the uniquely-named Westernland, which is similar to Frontierland in the other parks. It contains Big Thunder Mountain and is separated from Critter Country by a body of water. In the center of the water is Tom Sawyer Island. The Mark Twain riverboat as well as various canoes and rafts all navigate around the island. The Western River Railroad also circles this lake.

As we walked into Westernland, one of the first things we saw was a very long line of people waiting for something. We thought perhaps it was another popcorn line, but it turned out they were waiting to buy engraved leather and wood items from a small shop called Frontier Woodcraft. We were quite puzzled and amused by the obvious popularity of this particular location. You can see a picture of just part of the line below!

We walked along the edge of the water, and the views were stunning. The landscaping is so natural-looking that it’s easy to forget you’re in a theme park. You can see a few of the views below.

Just a portion of the very long line of guests waiting to buy things at Frontier Woodcraft! View of Splash Mountain across the water.
The Mark Twain heads down the "river." View of Tom Sawyer Island across the water.

Go to Part 5 of the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.

Back to Part 3 of the Tokyo Disney Resort trip report.