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COLUMN: Disney in Japan — let the dancing begin!

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Creative Commons | The Daily Wildcat

Disneyland in Japan is an amazing experience. "The Tori Gate" by Trey Ratcliff/Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

One memory of Disneyland I wish I had was the first time I went there. I feel that most people have this problem, because for many of us our first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when we were babies. I do remember my first visit to another one of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, but this park is not in the United States. It is a wonderful place in the far away land of Japan. Near the outside of the city of Tokyo lies a beautiful theme park known as Tokyo Disneyland. 

I am sure you know how this goes by now. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the magical story of Tokyo Disneyland and my journey to that Magic Kingdom. 

Once Disneyland and Walt Disney World were completed, the company was looking to expand. After the passing of both Walt and Roy Disney, executives had plans for theme parks around the world. Luckily, their first project did not require any tough negotiations, because the government of Japan called the Walt Disney Company. Japan was in love with Disney, and they were willing to do anything to have a Disney park built in Tokyo. The Oriental Land Company, who oversaw the construction of Tokyo Disneyland, sent engineers and many other workers back to the United States to learn from the Imagineers everything about Disney. 

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Once ready, the engineers returned to Tokyo to begin building the theme park. The Oriental Land Company wanted everything to look as close to Disney World and Disneyland as possible, so they paid for everything. After months of hard work and millions of dollars, Tokyo Disneyland opened to the world on April 15, 1983. After constructing the park, The Oriental Land Company decided not to sell it back to the Walt Disney Company. Instead, they pay hefty licensing fees every year that allows them to use the Disney name. This is tough for me, because this is the only Disney property in the world that I do not get into free as a Cast Member. That is okay though, because tickets at the park are not that expensive. I would know because I have been there!

As I detailed in my Daily Wildcat opinion piece about Japan, my trip to Tokyo’s Magic Kingdom was sudden and unexpected. This was in 2016, three years before I would become a Cast Member, but my love for Disney was no different. Once I found out Japan had a Disneyland, I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not miss out on. 

When my father and I arrived at the park, I had a hard time figuring out if we were in Tokyo or Anaheim, California. The Imagineers did such an amazing job in replicating the front of the park. Once inside, I recognized the first difference from our parks at home. Their Main Street USA, or as it is called in Japan the “World Bazaar,” is completely enclosed in a huge glass dome. That is because it rains so much in Japan, that for the days many of the rides are closed people are still able to shop and dine around the World Bazaar. 

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After you reach the end of the dome, you are immediately hit by the beauty of their Cinderella Castle. The architecture, design and size of the castle blew my mind. I had never seen a building that beautiful in my life, I was stunned. It took a while to get there, because Tokyo Japan’s HUB is much larger than those at the other Disney parks. The HUB is the center circle in all the parks that directs you to all the lands in case you were wondering what it meant. 

While many people at the American parks are constantly moving around, most of the people in Japan are sitting all around the HUB. They were calmer and more relaxed than people at home. They were enjoying Tokyo Disneyland for what it was, a place of rest and escape, while many people at home treat Disneyland as a place of running around and invasive social media "shout-outs." 

My favorite part of my visit was the parades. While a lot of 20-year-old adults at home act like they are too old to have fun during a Disney parade, folks in Japan get down to the music during the parade. It was around Halloween time when my dad and I went, and once the music started all I saw were young adults dressed as princes and princesses dancing to the music. I am not going to lie, once I saw everyone was getting down, I danced a bit myself. 

After the dance party, I searched for the train station to take me around the park. Unfortunately, Tokyo Disneyland does not have a train due to Japanese Railway regulations. Tokyo Disneyland also doesn’t have New Orleans Square, but it did not bother me. I looked at it as something that made Tokyo Disneyland unique, and I appreciated it for its differences. Other than those two things, the park looks the same as the ones at home. 

I also really enjoyed my experience because only my dad and I traveled to Japan. I am very close to my dad, and I am so happy that I got to share that experience with him. 

Well Disney friends, that is the end of our journey for now. I cannot wait to see you all for our next adventure. To all my Japanese Cast Members, I leave you with this special message. 

東京ディズニーランドとあなたの素晴らしい日本の国での忘れられない経験をありがとう。 あなたは私の父と私をとてもよく扱いました、そして私はもっと素晴らしい冒険のために戻るのを待つことができません! 


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 Sean (he/him) is a business administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time. 


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