Disneyland vs. DisneySea: The Battle of Tokyo’s Disney Parks

Disneyland vs. DisneySea: The Battle of Tokyo’s Disney Parks

We’re pitching the two Tokyo Disney Parks: Disneyland and DisneySea. Between the rides, shows, parades and more, which will emerge superior?

Tokyo’s Disney Resort is home to two amazing amusement parks – Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. Whether it’s seeing your favourite characters come to life or getting an adrenaline rush from the thrilling rides, you can be sure that you’ll have a magical time re-discovering the awes and wonders from your childhood in these two attractions.

Image credit: Tom Bricker

Despite having a similar name, the neighbouring parks offer a diametrically different experience from each other. As a huge Disney fan, I just had to visit both of them – and it was certainly worth every cent! Given the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting both for the whole Disney package in Tokyo. However, if you could only visit one of the two, which would you choose?

Rides

Both Disney parks have a plethora of exciting rides, each with its own trademarks. Generally, both amusement parks have a good mix of rides for all sorts of theme park-goers – the kids, the thrill-seekers, and everyone in between.

Image credit: Tom Simpson

One of the highlights of Tokyo Disneyland has to be the gold rush-themed roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain. Similar to the attraction in Orlando, the mine train speeds through a small Western town, into caves and weaves dangerously close to the rocky pits. With all its sharp turns and sudden drops, it was probably the most exhilarating yet terrifying Disney ride I’ve taken!

Image credit: nagi usano

As for DisneySea, my favourite was definitely Toy Story Mania! The ride is notoriously known for its three hour long queues starting as early as the park’s opening! At first, I was questioning all the hype about the carnival-styled game, but every doubt was thrown away when it was my turn to be shrunken down to a toy in Andy’s world. A cart brought me through different stations where I was tasked to shoot the colourful animated targets. The concept may sound simple, but I hadn’t had that much fun in a theme park in a long while!

Personally, I felt that the rides at DisneySea were more adventurous and invigorating, as compared to the ones at Disneyland that focused more on creating the same fantasy reverie of the Disney films. Of course, there were exceptions, but overall, I enjoyed the rides at DisneySea more.

Shows

The stage shows of the two parks cannot be individually compared – they’re just a completely different experience altogether! What I can offer though, are my top picks for each park:

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For Disneyland, the history buff in me enjoyed One Man’s Dream II The Magic Lives On as it charted the journey of Walt Disney’s imagination, performing key moments from his oeuvre of work, right from the very beginnings of the black-and-white Steamboat Willie cartoon. Another show worth watching is Minnie Oh! Minnie, and outdoor Latin dance concert. I didn’t manage to catch it (was too busy queuing for my second Big Thunder Mountain Ride) but it’s a well-raved performance and exclusive to Tokyo Disneyland!

Image credit: Tokyo Disney Resort

Most of DisneySea’s shows have, naturally, a nautical theme. I didn’t think much of it at first, I mean, just add some water stunts and ornaments, right? I WAS WRONG. King Triton’s Concert was a musical extravaganza complete with stunning details and astounding acrobats filling the theatre. I would liken it to a Little Mermaid version of the Festival of the Lion King in other Disney parks; it was a condensed version of the film with the same enchanting musical numbers. Even after the show ended, I was still humming “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” to myself as I explored the rest of the Mermaid Lagoon!

Parades and night shows

Image credit: Leah Davies

In terms of their daytime parades, Tokyo Disneyland has its classic Happiness is Here parade commanding through the World Bazaar. If this is your first time visiting a Disney park, I highly recommend watching the extraordinary spectacle at least once. However, if you’ve seen it before, head over to DisneySea instead and watch Pirates Summer Battle “Get Wet!” for a splashing good time! With its water stunts and explosions underwater, it’s an interesting twist to the usual floats and parade choreography that Disneyland-goers are familiar with. Unfortunately, the show runs only till 31 August next month, so catch it before it closes!

Image credit: Joel

Comparing the night shows, I personally preferred Disneyland’s Electrical Parade Dreamlights over DisneySea’s Fantasmic! show over the Mediterranean Harbour. The former jazzed up the daytime parade, decking the streets with luminous LED lights, while the latter was a multimedia light show packed with fire, lasers, and fireworks.

But despite the two stellar performances, the Once Upon a Time fireworks in Disneyland wins the top spot in my books! The spectacular show transforms the castle into a storybook canvas projecting the best of Disney’s fairy tales alongside its iconic tunes. This night show alone gives Tokyo Disneyland the point for this section!

Unique features

How to make your day in Disneyland better? Munch on some popcorn! Japan’s Disney parks have special flavours inspired by its local cuisine. There are about eight popcorn flavours across both parks, but some are only available to either. For example, you’ll only be able to find cappuccino and white chocolate popcorn in DisneySea, and honey-flavoured popcorn in Disneyland. Depending on your taste, look out for the old-fashioned carnival pushcarts around the park for a mouthwatering snack! In my opinion, the two flavours that are a must-try are definitely curry – which is sold in both parks – and the soy sauce & butter-flavoured popcorn which is sold only in Disneyland!

Image credit: nagi usano

Duffy and ShellieMay are characters exclusive to DisneySea. Thus, if you want to meet these huggable sailor bears and their friend Gelatoni, you know where to go! DisneySea even has a dedicated show for them at the Cape Cod Cook-Off. Be warned, locals go crazy over Duffy and snatch up his merchandise at the gift stores!

The final verdict

Image credit: Loren Javier

Image credit: kaku shinya

Overall, the atmosphere in Tokyo Disneyland is easily more true to the original parks in Orlando. It ticks off your standard Disney park “must-do” checklist – from character meet-and-greets and the iconic Cinderella Castle to classic attractions like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt and “it’s a small world”. There’s a lot to cover in one day, but I didn’t feel bombarded simply because each ride and show was just an incredible experience that was worth every second. On the other hand, being the only one in the world, DisneySea was a unique way to spice up my regular Disney experience.

All in all, it really depends on your personal preference for amusement parks! Whether you choose Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea, you’re guaranteed a magical time at the Happiest Place on Earth!

About Author

Stephanie Lauw
Stephanie Lauw

Stephanie is an English literature and film student who has succumbed to the occupational hazard of over-analysing her favourite TV shows. She enjoys theatre and music, and dabbles with both by writing bad plays and experimenting with her band. Her current dream is to island hop the filming locations of all 34 seasons of Survivor.

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