I love Tokyo Disneyland. However, having visited Walt Disney World all of my life, there are some times when I almost stop in my tracks and do a double-take as I walk around the lands of Japan’s castle park, since parts of it feel like a “Bizarro Magic Kingdom.” (Updated April 15, 2020.)
Elements of Tokyo Disneyland borrowed liberally from Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and to a lesser extent, Disneyland. Certain parts of the park mirror present day Magic Kingdom, other parts (like Tomorrowland) look like the Magic Kingdom of years past, other areas feel like out of place versions of the Magic Kingdom, and other parts still incorporate a dash of Disneyland.
Then, of course, there are the entirely original areas of Tokyo Disneyland, which tend to be the most interesting of all. These original areas are pretty much everything of consequence that has been added to Tokyo Disneyland since the mid-1980s, and what really make Tokyo Disneyland a world-class theme park and not just “the Magic Kingdom, but in Japan.”
This focuses primarily on the similarities that make some areas of Tokyo Disneyland feel eerily familiar, so don’t underestimate Tokyo Disneyland based on the cloned or near-cloned parts of the park covered here. You don’t get to be the best Disney castle park, as Tokyo Disneyland is in my opinion, by being nothing but clones!
If all of this doesn’t make sense via text, don’t worry. The photos tell the story a lot better, and offer a fun to take a look at the areas of Tokyo Disneyland that are like Twilight Zone versions of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland!
Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland was modeled after the original 1971 Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, and although it has changed over the years, a lot of its key aesthetic stylings remain the same.
While much of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland looks different than Tokyo Disneyland’s due to the Magic Kingdom’s 1990s relaunch as “New Tomorrowland,” this should look familiar to Walt Disney World guests.
The StarJets are one of my favorite features, and while they may look unfamiliar to some Walt Disney World fans, anyone who has been going since the 1970s or 1980s should recognize them.
(Note: Tomorrowland has changed significantly since this article was originally published. Sadly, the StarJets have been retired to make way for an all-new Beauty and the Beast mini-land.)
This is perhaps my favorite example of Disneyland meets Walt Disney World in Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo’s castle is modeled after Cinderella Castle (there are some minor differences, but it’s basically a direct clone) and the area around the castle mostly embraces the landscaping of Walt Disney World.
However, this area to the west of Cinderella Castle, called Snow White Grotto is actually modeled after Snow White Grotto in Disneyland (and now, Hong Kong Disneyland). While these elements of Tokyo Disneyland are cloned from Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I’d say it got the best of both worlds.
For some reason, The Walt Disney Company is found of giving The Oriental Land Company statues as gifts to celebrate milestones. In the case of Partners and Sharing the Magic, these statues work well and fit in Tokyo’s parks, even if they are placed in different locations.
Sharing the Magic is located just inside Tokyo Disneyland’s entrance and Partners is located at the edge of a reserved parade seating area between the end of World Bazaar and the hub. In the case of a Storytellers, the ‘young’ Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue, the location in Aquasphere Plaza in Tokyo DisneySea is not quite so logical.
The Haunted Mansion is close to a direct clone of the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion, with most of the exceptions being in the queue, and in terms of a few different effects (many of which were part of Florida’s Haunted Mansion until its 2007 refurbishment).
It’s even rumored in fan circles that the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare (Nightmare Before Christmas) overlay was actually designed for the Florida version of the Haunted Mansion before ultimately ending up in Japan. Oh, the biggest difference here? This Haunted Mansion is located in Fantasyland, right behind Dumbo!
Tokyo Disneyland’s Crystal Palace is a carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom’s, right down to its location (more or less) in the park and the fact that both are buffets.
Interior decor differs slightly, but the main differences are operational: Tokyo Disneyland’s buffet has a time limit, doesn’t feature Winnie the Pooh characters like the Magic Kingdom, and offers superior cuisine.
Here’s one place where it might seem like Tokyo Disneyland has a restaurant that was cloned from a Disneyland restaurant, but this is in name only. Both parks have “Hungry Bear Restaurant,” but beyond the name and the loose connection to bears, they have absolutely nothing in common.
From the design of the restaurant to the menu, these two restaurants are about as similar to one another as World Bazaar and World Showcase. (Which is to say, not similar at all.)
Tokyo Disneyland has a Winnie the Pooh attraction that was added in the late 1990s, much like Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, but as is the case with just about every addition to Tokyo Disneyland after its original construction, this is unique.
Pooh’s Hunny Hunt is arguably one of the best theme park attractions in the world, and the only thing it has in common with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is that they both are centered around Winnie the Pooh characters.
Tokyo Disneyland doesn’t have a New Orleans Square “land” like Disneyland, but it does have a New Orleans Square area in Adventureland. Think of this sub-land as the equivalent to Caribbean Plaza in the Magic Kingdom–not recognized as a land of its own on park maps, but having its own distinct style that differentiates itself from the rest of the land.
The reason why New Orleans Square is rolled into Adventureland is unclear, but my guess would be because the bayou was “adventurous” in the view of Japanese guests, and it was unlikely that they’d recognize New Orleans as a real-world location.
Tokyo Disneyland’s New Orleans Square-ish area draws a lot of inspiration from Disneyland’s New Orleans Square, but ultimately is much smaller than the actual New Orleans Square.
Nevertheless, Tokyo’s version has its own unique wrinkles. For instance, we love the counter service Cafe Orleans crepe restaurant!
Here’s the second sub-land in Tokyo Disneyland’s Adventureland. This area is known as Coral Landing, and was one of the first areas added to Tokyo Disneyland in the early 1990s.
The goal was to increase dining capacity, and it did exactly that with China Voyager (a ramen shop) that has one of the largest seating areas in the park. In addition to that counter service restaurant, two snack stands also were added with this expansion. (Including Squeezers, an international treasure.)
This area ostensibly doesn’t have anything in common with either the Magic Kingdom or Disneyland, but it does share some bloodlines with another, albeit surprising, Walt Disney World location…Typhoon Lagoon!
Coral Landing debuted shortly after Typhoon Lagoon, and some of the water park’s design team also worked on this area of Adventureland with the intent of giving it a Typhoon Lagoon feel. It may not be apparent from this one photo, but any Walt Disney World fan who has walked through this area of Tokyo Disneyland will likely feel a Typhoon Lagoon vibe.
Another addition built after Tokyo Disneyland opened is Critter Country. The anchor of this land is Splash Mountain, which is obviously a clone.
However, the unique wrinkle here is that the rest of the land is woven into Splash Mountain, making everything an extension of that attraction. Both Grandma Sara’s and Rackety’s Raccoon Saloon are interconnected with Splash Mountain, providing a dramatically different overall experience. (See our “Inside Disney’s Splash Mountain Restaurant” for a closer look.)
This has been Tokyo Disneyland’s approach with almost all of its additions in the decade since the park originally opened. Subsequent expansions have replaced clones and flat areas of often inconsistent design, providing something unique and engaging.
These are just a few of the similarities (and differences) between Tokyo Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland that might stop you in your tracks while in Japan. Although Tokyo Disneyland started as a checklist style clone park of the existing castle park, it has grown and evolved in the last several decades, and now stands apart as a distinction destination.
While there are also attractions that are direct clones–as is the case at every Disney castle park–there’s also enough that’s completely different in Tokyo Disneyland to make it well worth visiting. Couple that with the superior maintenance and incredible courtesy displayed by Cast Members and other guests, and Tokyo Disneyland is an absolute must-do theme park for any Disney fan!
If you’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland, what other similarities did you notice? What about differences? Have you found yourself doing a double-take based on similarities or differences between other Disney theme parks? Any questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!