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The happiest place in Toyko

This Disneyland is every bit as Disney as you could want, writes Deborah Dickson-Smith, but it’s closeness to the rich Japanese culture on offer in Tokyo city makes for an awesome experience for families.

I’m a kid again, grinning with delight at the Mickey Mouse-shaped muffins in the bakery window in the lobby. I’ve been playing a game of ‘spot the mouse ears’ since I got here, and I’m not tiring of it yet.

They’re everywhere. In my room the carpet, curtains, bedspreads, ceiling and wallpaper, bathrobe and slippers all brandish the famous ears. And don’t get me started on the toiletries – Goofy toothbrush, Donald Duck razor, shampoo and shower gel with mouse ears. They were even everywhere on the courtesy bus on the way here.

We are staying at the Ambassador Hotel, one of nine official hotels at Tokyo Disney Resort. Located next to the Ikspiari shopping centre and a short shuttle to the parks, it’s a splendid art deco-style hotel currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

Disneyland, Tokyo style

There are now three Disneyland resorts outside the USA (the other two are in Paris and Hong Kong). Tokyo, however, was the first. On the surface it looks the same as the others, but there are subtle differences which make it all the more interesting. For one, the largely Japanese clientele get dressed up for the occasion – in matching outfits.

Large groups of teenagers walk around with a range of mouse ears and froufrou skirts, and even couples in their twenties wear matching ears

There are entire mothers’ groups here with matching children dressed up as Mickey and Minnie or Donald and Daisy. And the dress-ups are not limited to the kids either. Large groups of teenagers walk around with a range of mouse ears and froufrou skirts, and even couples in their twenties wear matching ears.

Making a splash

The resort boasts two theme parks: Tokyo Disneyland Park and the more recently opened Tokyo DisneySea Park inspired by myths, legends and lore of the sea and divided into seven unique ports of call including Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast and Lost River Delta.

Here we scare ourselves silly on the Tower of Terror, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Stormrider, before spending a pleasant lunch watching the spectacular Legends of Mythica show in Mediterranean Harbour. Think fire-breathing dragons, unicorns, hundreds of performers, synchronised kites and jet skis and then, just when you’re sure it can’t get more over the top, the fireworks start.

For the littlies, Mermaid Lagoon is a must and, being underground, a welcome relief from the midday sun.  There are plenty of places to eat, including the Sailing Day Buffet where you’ll find a great range of kid-friendly food including mouse-shaped pancakes, pizzas and hash browns.

Disney’s lands

The next day we head over to Disneyland, home to familiar places such as Fantasyland, Adventureland, Westernland and Tomorrowland. The most popular character (other than Mickey of course) is Stitch – that funny little alien who lands in Hawaii and learns how to surf. The other surprising favourite here is Monsters Inc Ride & Go Seek! So you can expect to queue for up to two hours here and at another favourite, Pooh’s Honey Hunt.

The highlight for the day is an old favourite, Space Mountain, where we skip the queue with an ingenious invention: the FastPass. With the FastPass you can visit your favourite rides first thing, enter your Park Passport into the ticketing machine where you’re issued with a specific time to come back and head straight to the head of the queue. Sounds good to me.

Tempted by Tokyo

The beauty of visiting Tokyo Disneyland is that while you’re here you can explore Tokyo and the rich Japanese culture that leaps at you from all directions. In the evenings we head into Tokyo on the efficient metro system to districts such as Ginza and Shinjuku where we’re dazzled by neon and the choice of noodle and barbeque restaurants.

We head over to the Harajuku district to experience the extremes of this culture: an ancient Shinto temple in the middle of a beautiful park and a shopping strip frequented by outrageously dressed teenagers.

Following this little excursion we head back to Disneyland for another treat, Cirque du Soleil’s resident theatre. It is a gob-smacking display of human athleticism and coordination featuring flying trapeze, poles and trampolines.

Our visit has been a whirlwind of amazing displays, performances and (of course) theme park rides as we sadly head to the airport, our suitcases stuffed with Disney-inspired toiletries courtesy of the Ambassador Hotel.


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