At the start of the holiday season, we visited Tokyo Disneyland to experience the Japan castle park’s ‘Christmas Fantasy.’ In this trip report, we’ll share 50+ photos from the parks, including seasonal entertainment, decorations, and more.
This is our favorite time of year to visit–not just Tokyo Disney Resort, but Japan, period. For the last two years we’ve gone at the tail end of Halloween and stayed for Christmas season. You can read all about the planning logistics in our HalloXmas: the Ultimate Disney Trip post.
For this trip, we started at Tokyo Disneyland for Halloween, then took the Shinkansen to Kyoto for the beginning of fall colors season there (read our Kyoto, Japan Fall Trip Report on TravelCaffeine.com for more on that leg of the trip), before return to Tokyo Disney Resort for Christmas. This approach gives us the best of all three worlds.
It’s taken me a while to post this Christmas trip report because I debated whether to write it in the first place. Few people read these, and our posts about Tokyo Disney Resort probably alienate more readers than anything. I am cognizant and sensitive of the fact that some readers view these posts as being a way of boasting about our trips to Japan, but that’s really not my intent.
We share our experiences from these parks because we adore them and want others to share in the experience, whether that be vicariously through our posts or with these being as the resource for planning your own trips to Tokyo Disney Resort.
Many readers have told us that traveling to the international parks is intimidating, and we’re striving to make it more approachable–because it’s not nearly as inaccessible as you might believe.
Anyway, Christmas is our absolute favorite season and it’s ‘holiday break’ time now anyway, so I’m going to indulge myself with this quasi-trip report. Basically, I’m going to share some thoughts via text, followed by a photo dump afterwards.
Unfortunately, Tokyo Disneyland is a bit light on holiday spirit this year because the park’s 35th Anniversary is still underway. That celebration brought with it a new day parade, nighttime spectacular, stage shows, fireworks, and a lot of decorations. For this Christmas season, Tokyo Disneyland had to work around the 35th Anniversary decor and entertainment, which makes the park a little less festive.
As a result, the tree that traditionally stands in World Bazaar is not up this year, there’s no holiday nighttime spectacular, and the only Christmas entertainment is the day parade. Tokyo Disneyland still felt incredibly festive–there are storybook vignettes all over the Central Plaza, lights on Space Mountain still dance to the tunes of Mannheim Steamroller, and there’s garland galore.
For anyone visiting the park for the first time since April, the ‘dual celebrations’ is great news as they get to double-dip in the 35th Anniversary and Christmas offerings.
The other good news is that there are unique photo ops, such as the new Christmas tree in Fantasyland that likely wouldn’t exist but for the 35th Anniversary displacing the regular holiday decor.
The Fantasyland Christmas tree looks nice in the photos here, and it definitely has a sense of storybook charm to it..at night. During the day, it’s more like something Charlie Brown would pick out.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Tokyo Disneyland does this again next year once the 35th Anniversary is over and the main tree returns to World Bazaar. It’s a nice detail in Fantasyland, but I suspect it’ll be one and done.
The other thing I’m betting doesn’t return next year–or at least, I’m hoping it doesn’t return–is the the ‘Disney Christmas Stories’ parade. They usually get new holiday parades every couple of years, meaning 2019 would be time for a new one.
Tokyo Disneyland normally does parades incredibly well, but this one doesn’t do much for me. I’m not sure why–the music is catchy, and performer costumes are beautiful, and some of the floats are elaborate and detailed.
Disney is so masterful at evoking a sense of elegance and nostalgia at Christmas, and this has neither. It’s hard to articulate how it misses the mark, and maybe it’s just me, but it’s my least favorite seasonal parade that Tokyo Disneyland runs.
I don’t feel the sense of holiday warmth that other Disney Christmas productions, including both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland parades, achieve. I guess it just feels a bit too bubbly for my tastes.
One thing that does not disappoint is the attraction overlays that Tokyo Disneyland does for Christmas. We do Country Bear Christmas/Jingle Bell Jamboree more than any other attraction, and it’s the biggest reason why we visit at this time of year. (No joke–read our Merry Country Bear Christmas post for more on our love of this overlay.)
There’s also Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare, which is a variation of Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland in California. The Tokyo overlay is rumored to have been created for Florida, but was rejected by Walt Disney World management.
As far as the beauty of Tokyo Disneyland at Christmas, I think photos speak louder than words, so here are a bunch of ‘reasons’ to visit Japan in November or December. (A few of these photos are from last year that I just never got around to sharing.)
Finally, a bit of a sales pitch. A major aspect of Christmas at Tokyo Disney Resort that we love is that everything is included in the price of regular admission. This means in a regular day at Tokyo Disneyland, you can watch 3 parades–the regular day parade, Christmas parade, and Dreamlights.
Not to go on too much of a tangent, but it’s somewhat odd to hear from people dropping $90+ on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, $80+ for Early Morning Magic, etc., who think the ~$65 one day tickets at Tokyo Disneyland–which includes more entertainment than a hard ticket event at Magic Kingdom–are too expensive.
In fairness, airfare is likely going to cost more. This is especially true if you are flying from a smaller city, refuse to do any research, and want to cherry pick an example of $2,000+ person flights. Of course, as with anything, a little bit of comparison shopping and waiting for deals will yield better results. We’re talking flight prices below $900/person even for smaller airports; even more research (and good timing) and you can score deals for under $600.
That’s still more than most people pay for flights to Orlando, but once you add park tickets to the mix, the gap starts to close. The cost difference will disappear entirely for anyone who stays at a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World, as the monorail loop Sheraton and Hilton Tokyo Bay routinely can be booked for $150/night on weeknights. But we digress. The point is that visiting Japan doesn’t necessarily cost as much as you might think–you can find more thorough budget tips in our Money-Saving Tips for Visiting Tokyo Disneyland post.
Ultimately, hopefully this post shows a bit of why Christmas is our favorite time of year in Japan. While Tokyo Disneyland was a bit light on holiday cheer this year, Tokyo DisneySea stepped up its game with one of the best pieces of holiday entertainment we’ve ever seen. (If you’re interested in seeing photos from Tokyo DisneySea at Christmas, let me know; if there’s enough interest I can throw together a quick photo report from there, too!)
If you’re thinking of 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 at Christmas? If not, is this a time of year you’d like to take a Japan trip? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!