Tokyo Part 3: Adventure at DisneySea

MARCH 2008

After some healing time at Hakone, it was time for some adventure. My friend wasn’t interested in theme parks, so I made my way to DisneySea myself. DisneySea is one of the two theme parks at the Tokyo Disney Resort, the other being Disneyland. I have never been to Disneyland either, but since DisneySea is unique to Tokyo, I thought I should visit that instead. I could visit other Disneylands another time.

The Tokyo Disney Resort was easy to get to with just a short 15-minute train ride from Tokyo Station. Once there, you can transfer onto the Disney Resort Line to get around Disneyland, DisneySea and the surrounding hotels. Don’t mistake the monorail as just another means of transport, not with its Mickey Mouse-shaped windows and Mickey Mouse-shaped train handles. I couldn’t resist but smile when I saw them.

On the Disney Resort Line at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

Look at the cute Mickey Mouse-shaped train handles!

When I arrived, it was drizzling. That’s the bane of being a tourist, you can’t head out depending on the weather; you head out regardless of the weather. Since I was already there, there was no point in taking a rain check. So, out came the brolly.

The first thing I noticed: the park was empty. I’m not a regular of theme parks so I wasn’t sure if it was a weekday thing or an early morning thing. It was quite surreal to see an empty Disney theme park; I would imagine it’s packed to the brim all the time. But it was nice in a way, walking in the rain in a deserted theme park (fortunately it was only a drizzle). It was only when the rain stopped that the crowds appeared (literally out of nowhere). Mystery solved: they had been hiding indoors all along.

The Mediterranean Harbour at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The Mediterranean Harbour greeting visitors to DisneySea.

DisneySea is divided into seven themed areas or “ports” (it’s Disney-SEA after all). There’s the Mediterranean Harbour, American Waterfront, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast and Mysterious Island. Even from the names themselves, you could tell that DisneySea is less kiddish than Disneyland, but there’s still stuff to keep the kids entertained.

The Mediterranean Harbour at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The Italian-inspired Mediterranean Harbour.

Once you enter, the first port that greets you is the Mediterranean Harbour with its Italian-inspired landscape and Venetian gondola rides. Navigation around the park was easy with the park map, or you could just wander from one port to the next.

The Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The Mermaid Lagoon beckons from afar.

My favourite port was the Mermaid Lagoon. The facade caught my attention from afar with its pretty pastel colours and seashell mosaic designs. Inside, I found the characters of The Little Mermaid and kid-friendly activity areas. Evidently, this area is more for the younger ones, and while I loved the design of the facade outside, the overdose of sugary colours inside got to me after a while.

The Mermaid Lagoon at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The pretty pastel colours and seashell design of the facade.

Across Mermaid Lagoon is the Arabian Coast. If you love the Aladdin movie, you’ll love this place. You’d get to live a day like the characters in the movie with rides like Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage and Jasmine’s Flying Carpets.

The Arabian Coast at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The entrance to the Arabian Coast.

Upping the drama factor, I next came across the Lost River Delta. This is where the Indiana Jones thrill ride and the rollercoaster Raging Spirits with a 360-degree loop are located. I didn’t attempt the rides but just walking through this port felt like being in an Indiana Jones × Lara Croft movie set.

The Lost River Delta at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The ruins of an ancient Aztec pyramid and the Raging Spirits rollercoaster in the Lost River Delta.

The Lost River Delta at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

Who was on that plane and where are they now?

Another thrill ride Journey to the Centre of the Earth can be found at Mysterious Island, where a replica of Mount Prometheus spews hot lava. The giant volcano is the centrepiece of the whole park and can be seen from anywhere.

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The DisneySea Steamer Line against the backdrop of Mount Prometheus.

Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

Trace the footsteps of Captain Nemo in his submarine, the Nautilus.

Elsewhere, there’s also the Port Discovery, home to a fictional “Marine Life Institute”. The feeling I got from this port was part out-of-this-world and part futuristic and experimental. Maybe a setting for a new science fiction movie?

Port Discovery at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

Port Discovery looks like one big experimental lab with its futuristic architecture.

For something a little more normal, there’s the American Waterfront, modelled after 20th century New York with a huge passenger ship as its centrepiece. Over here, I momentarily lapsed back into city sightseeing with its shops, restaurants and shows, albeit back in time. Maybe that’s why I lowered my guard and thought nothing of heading into the Tower of Terror…

The American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

A trip back in time to 20th century New York.

The American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The huge passenger ship at the American Waterfront.

I didn’t know why I thought the Tower of Terror was a 3D ride (the kind that shook you around while watching a screen). Only when I was strapped into my seat and made to double check my seatbelt did I sense something was amiss. Then the elevator started going up. It was a freefall ride. Oh. My. God.

The Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea, Japan.

The Tower of Terror. What horrors lie behind these walls?

For someone like me who can’t even get onto a rollercoaster (too fainthearted), taking a freefall ride is akin to a death sentence. Anyhow, I was already strapped in so there was nothing I could do without making a nuisance of myself, not to mention in front of the (largely) teenage crowd. So up the tower, we went. Let’s just say I screamed my lungs out and leave it at that. Surprisingly, it was a cathartic experience and I actually felt like I had fun. But I would never do it again. Never. Ever.

I’m not a fan of thrill rides or rollercoasters, that’s why I hardly head to theme parks. Kiddish rides suit me better but I’m now too old to be seen in them, at least not alone. Although the draw of theme parks is definitely the rides and attractions, I also like them for the little (even if touristy) touches. Like the souvenir medals, the food stands in the middle of nowhere (and everywhere) selling popcorn, cotton candy, snacks, etc. I expected nothing less from a Disney theme park, I guess, and it lived up to my expectations. Just maybe a little feedback to label the freefall rides more clearly.

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