Disney Christmas is the seasonal event at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea during November and December consisting of “Christmas Fantasy” in Tokyo Disneyland and “Christmas Wishes” in Tokyo DisneySea. There’s a great holiday spirit around Christmas-time in Japan; although the holiday itself has a largely different meaning in Japan than in Western countries, the parks and guests celebrate similarly to the US Parks in terms of Christmas offerings.
Much like Disneyland and Walt Disney World, there is a Christmas parade, attraction overlays, holiday stage shows, special merchandise, and seasonal food menus. This post takes a look at Tokyo Disneyland’s “Christmas Fantasy” from our visit, with photos plus my thoughts.
This info does not fully reflect what will occur for Christmas 2017 at Tokyo Disney Resort, as some of it is stale for pure planning purposes, although there are many things that remain the same from year to year. Consider this a hybrid post of info and a portion of the trip report I didn’t find the time to write. Just keep in mind that what’s pictured here probably won’t be exactly what you’ll see this year or after. Let’s start with a Christmas 2017 update…
April 6, 2017 Update: Tokyo Disneyland has announced a new limited time Cinderella Castle projection show called “Disney Gift of Christmas” that will run during ‘Christmas Fantasy’ this year from November 8, 2017 until December 25, 2017.
Aside from the concept art that Tokyo Disneyland released, not much is known about the new show, other than that it will be shown 1 to 2 times per night (in place of “Once Upon a Time”) and will have a duration of approximately 15 minutes. We’re guessing it’ll be something like World of Color – Season of Light at Disney California Adventure, with lots of Christmas imagery from Disney films, plus traditional Christmas music.
Let’s start with a little background: like all seasonal offerings in the Japan parks, Christmas Fantasy’s special entertainment is included in regular park admission. At ~$60 for a 1-day Tokyo Disneyland ticket, a full day at Tokyo Disneyland including regular attractions and Christmas entertainment is actually cheaper than just the hard ticket Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Walt Disney World. I mentioned this in the Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland post, but I think it bears emphasizing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Christmas Party at Walt Disney World, but I am not such a fan of the rising cost of party tickets each year. I think it says something that Tokyo Disneyland features better seasonal enhancements and manages to include them in the cost of a regular day ticket (one that is also cheaper than the US parks). In fairness, demographics are different in Japan (annual passes are much more expensive than they are to the US parks) and getting there from the United States has its own expensive costs.
Okay, now let’s visit Tokyo Disneyland at Christmas…
Another piece of background information that sort of speaks to how Christmas differs in Japan is that you might consider dressing nicely if you plan to visit, especially on weekends. In Japan, Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday by a majority of people. Rather, Christmas in Japan is a time for romance.
Couples often have elegant date nights to celebrate Christmas with one another, and apparently, Tokyo Disney Resort is a prime destination. The parks legitimately look like everyone stepped out of some old EPCOT Center concept art, except everyone wears silly hats. That’s another thing: all of the suits, dresses, etc., that people wear to look fancy are playfully contrasted with ridiculous novelty hats. This isn’t just a few guests wearing these hats–it’s the majority.
You can see how we dressed below, and I honestly felt under-dressed with this attire. It was both a great feeling that people looked so nice in a theme park, and embarrassing that I wasn’t reppin’ America better.
Because it’s a popular Christmas date-night spot, it’s especially busy on the weekends throughout pretty much the entire Christmas season. The days we went in mid to late November were capacity sell-outs on the weekends. FastPasses were out park-wide by noon. Were it not for our infatuation with Country Bear Christmas and wandering around enjoying ambiance, we would have spent a lot of time waiting in line. If it’s your first visit, stick to weekdays and make sure to line up at the turnstiles an hour before park opening. Following our 1-Day Tokyo Disneyland Itinerary is a good plan, penciling in the special Christmas stuff along the way.
The biggest priority in that plan should be Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare. It’s incredibly popular, and a really fun overlay. I really like this overlay to the normal Haunted Mansion, but I feel the same way about the controversial Disneyland version. There are plenty of differences, but also a lot of similarities. Basically, if you don’t like the Disneyland version, you won’t like this one. If you like Disneyland’s, you’ll probably like this, too.
For those unfamiliar with the attraction, this isn’t simply a matter of throwing a few pumpkins, Santa hats, and Jack Skellington cutouts into the normal Haunted Mansion scenes and calling it something different. For Halloween and Christmas, Haunted Mansion becomes an entirely new attraction, with a completely new storyline and script, and different show scenes. The attraction is so dramatically transformed in some places that it’s barely recognizable.
The next holiday overlay is one that shouldn’t be nearly as much of a priority in terms of when you do it, but it should be your absolute top priority (and perhaps the main reason you go to to Asia!). Yep, I’m talking about Tokyo Disneyland’s crown jewel, and national treasure of Japan: Country Bear Christmas.
I have covered Country Bear Christmas at length in this article, so I won’t rehash all of that. There are a ton of photos in that post, and it’s a must-read for anyone with a pulse.
I do want to make it abundantly clear that none of this is tongue in cheek or my usual poor attempts at humor. I absolutely love Country Bear Christmas (as I love all versions of this brilliant attraction) and it is by far my favorite thing Tokyo Disneyland does for Christmas.
I don’t know how many times we did it on our Christmas visit, but I know the number is in the double digits. Obviously, tastes vary and not everyone is a fan, but if you have excellent taste in things, you will most certainly love Country Bear Christmas.
Rounding out the holiday overlays is ‘it’s a small world’ very merry holidays. This overlay is also similar to the Disneyland (Anaheim) overlay, with the same holiday soundtrack and the same types of decorations used, but it’s also unique in the precise decor. I find the Disneyland version to be superior not just thanks to its exterior lighting, but also in the scale and thoroughness of the decorations inside. Still, Tokyo Disneyland’s overlay is no slouch.
I found the wait times for this to typically be on the low side, usually no more than 30 minutes, at the very worst. Do it whenever you have free time during the middle of the day.
For most guests, the Christmas parade is the start of the show. Called the Santa Village Parade, it runs twice daily and draws a huge crowd. It’s a really well done parade, with the highlights (in my opinion) being the soundtrack and the elaborate costumes the performers wear. The parade as a whole is a nice mix of cool floats, character fun, and elegant design.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t go through World Bazaar, which means no snow on Main Street. I think this is a big part of what makes the Christmas parade at Walt Disney World so awesome, but even without that, this parade is top notch.
The park’s nighttime parade, Dreamlights, also is advertised as having a Christmas version, but it’s mostly just random Christmas decor thrown onto the regular floats. It’s a great parade regardless, but the Christmas additions aren’t all that inspired.
The final Christmas attractions, the fireworks and Super Duper Jumpin’ Time, aren’t noteworthy. Super Duper Jumpin’ Time is a normal high-energy character show for kids, and is exactly what the name makes it sound like: characters jumping around. It’s aimed squarely at kids, and the the Christmas version is basically just the normal version with some slight changes.
Starbright Christmas is the fireworks show that Tokyo Disney Resort runs for Christmas, and it’s visible from both parks. Don’t get too excited for this. The fireworks in Tokyo are canceled around 50% of the time, and even if they aren’t canceled, blink and you might miss them. This is a 5 minute long show that is not centered behind Cinderella Castle and doesn’t really feature the kind of choreography found in virtually any other Disney fireworks show. In the show’s defense, the soundtrack is catchy and the bursts are very vibrant. It’s an incredibly photogenic show.
In Tokyo Disneyland, the fireworks aren’t something you grab a spot to watch. They are more like a post-show to Dreamlights and pre-show to Once Upon a Time, or something you notice while you’re in line somewhere. Fireworks are always fun to watch, but these are an afterthought to the other excellent nighttime entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland.
For a blog that’s accused of praising Tokyo Disney Resort unconditionally (and I’ll admit that I love these parks to a fault), there hasn’t been much praise of the Christmas Fantasy offerings up until this point. Sure, Country Bear Christmas is life-changing and the rest is all pretty good, but in most cases, Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World do each individual item better. However, when you put it all together and consider that one single park is doing all of these “pretty good” things, it’s quite impressive. Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the decorations and other “little things” Tokyo Disneyland absolutely nails for Christmas.
I’ve sprinkled photos of the decorations throughout this article, and many of them speak for themselves, but it bears writing: the Christmas decorations at Tokyo Disneyland are awesome.
In the central hub is Santa’s Village, which has tons of lights and pretty elaborate decorations. These decorations have a specific theme, and change yearly. These are a huge highlight, and are really awesome.
Another little touch that I really, really like is the lighting on Space Mountain. Yes, this is a Christmas thing. Tomorrowland has a specific (thematically appropriate) background music loop for Christmas, and the lights on the roof of Space Mountain dance to the music. Words and photos can’t possibly do this justice, so check out this video (even it doesn’t do the effect justice, but you’ll get the idea). I may have spent a “little” bit of time sitting on a bench watching this dancing light show…
There are a lot of other decorations, from sculpted Santa hats on the Liki Tikis to beautiful decor in New Orleans Square to scarves and hats on the lamp posts in Toontown, and much more. I’m sure there is plenty I missed, because there seemed to be little nuggets of awesomeness hidden in plain view all over the place.
I mentioned the background music in Tomorrowland, and the same goes for every land of the park. World Bazaar is especially good in this regard, as it also has Christmas music performed by the Tokyo Disneyland Band and the Bicycle Piano Man.
As I wrote in my Main Street Around the World comparison article, I’m not normally a huge World Bazaar fan, but I think Christmas is the best time of year there, as the Christmas tree gives it a warmth and kinetic energy that is otherwise lacking. The tree looks great, and hanging around it just makes you feel great, absorbing the positive energy and happiness of the couples and families entering the park and stopping for photos, as cheesy (and quite possibly creepy) as that sounds.
Finally, there’s the merchandise and food. I typically gain 57 pounds when we visit Tokyo Disney Resort, and that’s despite walking 10+ miles per day while carrying 20+ pounds of camera gear. Tokyo Disneyland is always a snacker’s paradise, and the seasonal snacks are no exception. These change every year, so there’s no point in tempting you with something you can’t get now, but I will drop this here…
As for merchandise, the highlight is the novelty hats. As a connoisseur of ridiculous Disney hats, this scratches me right where I itch. I’ve found at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, a lot of adults scoff at wearing novelty hats as being “childish” or whatever, but the Japanese embrace the whimsy of a ridiculous alien hat with a sport coat and tie, and in so doing, make the world a better place. There’s other merch available for Christmas (and a lot of it), but that’s not really my thing, so I’ll defer to this excellent article by TDR Explorer on the Top 57 Christmas Souvenirs. Some of that stuff is seriously kawaii.
That about does it for our look at Tokyo Disneyland during the Christmas season. Check back later this week as we pay a visit to Tokyo DisneySea for Christmas!
If you’re visiting Japan for the first time and are overwhelmed with planning, definitely check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide. It covers much more than the parks, from getting there to WiFi to currency and much, much more. For more photos and an idea of what we did day-by-day during our first visit, read our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.
Have you visited Tokyo Disneyland for Christmas? Does a Christmas trip to Tokyo Disneyland interest you? If you have any other comments or questions about the holidays at Tokyo Disneyland, post them below and we’ll try to answer!