Tokyo Disneyland Merchandise Guide
Depending upon who you ask, Tokyo Disneyland either has the best or worst merchandise of any Disney destination in the world. In this post, I’ll share some photos of merchandise from the Japan parks so you can form your own opinion, and offer some of my commentary.
There’s very little middle ground in attitudes towards Tokyo Disneyland merch, which is a result of Tokyo Disney Resort having, essentially, only one type of merchandise. There are a lot of character-driven designs, many of which toe the line between whimsical and loud.
While subtlety is not something the Tokyo Disneyland merchandising team does well in crafting its designs, they are some really clever items. Even if the stuff is “not for you” I think it’s tough to deny the artistic quality of these items. Therein lies part of the criticism: merchandise that’s really cool to appreciate at a distance, but that (for many people) is too over-the-top for everyday wear…
Before we get to the analysis of this merchandise, let’s provide some context by taking a look at some items that are currently available at Tokyo Disneyland as of December 2017:
I think this is a pretty fair cross-section of both the good and bad, at least in my subjective assessment. It’s minus Duffy and friends, since that’s another beast entirely (really, this article is about clothing–Tokyo’s non-clothing merchandise is fairly good and reasonably diverse).
I’ll admit that I’m not a fan of the bulk of attire sold at Tokyo Disneyland. Like I said at the outset, I admire the artistic value of some of the items, but so much of this is way too loud for me to consider wearing. (And I think I wear some fairly vibrant things.)
I’m sure my quibbles with Tokyo Disney Resort’s merchandising could easily dismissed as those of an outsider, or part of an infinitesimally small group that isn’t a demographic to which the park caters. There’s no question about the fact that Americans aren’t exactly Tokyo Disney Resort’s primary demographic.
However, I do have eyes. With those, I have seen the attire of other guests and people in Japan, as well as myriad stores selling clothing that’s virtually indistinguishable from retailers in the United States.
When I’m at a train station in Japan, it’s a veritable sea of muted colors, simplified styles, and conservative designs. The types of kawaii and Harajuku fashions that people commonly associate with Japan are not popular in the mainstream (heck, they’re dying even in Harajuku!).
As that article astutely points out, Japanese style is basically UNIQLO. When I look at a store like UNIQLO, I don’t see anything all that different from American retailers. There is absolutely nothing distinctly Japanese about UNIQLO (aside from perhaps the graphic tees). It’s basically Japan’s Abercrombie (minus all branding) and J.Crew hybrid, at Old Navy prices. UNIQLO has absolutely nothing in common with the merchandise at Tokyo Disney Resort, although UNIQLO does have its own very popular line of Disney merchandise.
In fairness, when wandering around the streets of Japan and strolling through the parks, I notice a huge chasm in attire. I don’t think there’s an ‘average’ Tokyo Disneyland guest, but the ones who are purchasing merchandise are often decked out. These styles have more in common with what you’d associate with Harajuku than anywhere else in Tokyo.
It has been suggested that the rise of ‘extreme’ fashion in Japan has been a reaction to traditional forms of dress and behavior, and attempts–by young people in particular–at individuality. While I hardly have the cultural experience in Japan to corroborate this, it certainly seems plausible to me. While wholly different in intent, I’d say you’ll see more loud fashion statements at Tokyo Disney Resort than even in Harajuku these days.
It also makes sense in describing the appeal of the merchandise at Tokyo Disneyland. I doubt it’s totally about expressing individuality, since it’s mass market goods featuring characters from one of the largest corporations in the world. Perhaps ‘attire escapism’ is a better term? Younger people accustomed to school uniforms or a stringent dress code at the office Monday through Friday are eager to embrace something different, something fun on Saturday and Sunday when they visit the parks. With locals primarily treating the parks as a weekend escape, I think this is highly plausible.
My difficulty with this is that this audience of younger people is far from the only type of guest visiting Tokyo Disneyland. While this demo is undoubtedly the park’s “whales,” it’s also worth noting that these styles miss the mark with older and more conservative-dressing guests. Just as Harajuku fashion is a niche, I have little doubt that the loud merchandise sold at Tokyo Disney Resort has niche appeal. It might be a niche with a lot of disposable income, but it’s a niche, nonetheless.
As someone with the mentality of a crotchety old person, I can tell you that–across cultures–older people are not looking for the designs that Tokyo Disneyland is selling. It’s not just old people, either. There are a variety of guests visiting Tokyo Disneyland who are being ignored via merchandise because it’s easier to target a smaller subset of big spenders. I think this is a mistake.
As for why it’s a mistake, an interesting ‘case study’ is Walt Disney World. A little over a decade ago, almost all merchandise was fairly gaudy. A lot of bright, not-so-subtle designs that featured characters and the words Walt Disney World quite prominently. Much of this merchandise displayed the year, and an inexplicable amount was tie-dyed. It was something like Japan’s merchandise, except without the redeeming artistic value.
At that time, only a few attractions had their own lines of merchandise, and much of that wasn’t very good. The tide started turning around the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, and has been improving ever since. More of an effort has been made at creating a mix of designs, from understated ones that include sly in-jokes (and many not even conspicuously “Disney”) to even more over-the-top ones.
In my estimation, Walt Disney World’s merchandise is now better than it has been at any point since I’ve been visiting (and is, frankly, the best Disney resort in the world for merchandise now), and this is due entirely to a diversity of designs, and a willingness to take risks on things with niche appeal. At least on the merchandise front, Walt Disney World has started to recognize its varied guest demographics, and there’s pretty much something for everyone.
Tokyo Disneyland still seems to be going almost exclusively for its low-hanging fruit (although some recent bright spots, such as the line of magnets pictured above, offer room for optimism). Just like Walt Disney World used to cater fairly exclusively to one-time tourists wanting something bright to commemorate their trip, Tokyo Disneyland goes after its passionate local fanbase looking for a weekend escape.
As with Walt Disney World, this is far from Tokyo’s only demographic–it’s just the biggest and safest one to go after. (Then again, perhaps Tokyo Disney Resort has tried appealing to other demographics, and they just aren’t interested in merchandise, no matter the designs? I do find this hard to believe given the popularity of UNIQLO’s more conservative and mainstream Disney attire.) I don’t doubt that Walt Disney World’s most lucrative demo is still those bright designs featuring the fab five with the year emblazoned on them, but the fact that they’re continuing to increase their range over merchandise 5+ years after betting big on a variety of styles suggests to me that they’ve found success with the approach.
In the end, I can appreciate what Tokyo Disneyland does in terms of merchandise. It pushes the envelope and features a level of creativity that is missing in a lot of the designs you’ll find at other Disney parks around the world. I do think there’s room for improvement, and I’m probably (selfishly) a little bitter, as so little of this admittedly clever design-work is something I’d ever wear. Here’s hoping Tokyo Disneyland’s teams have the same realization as their counterparts in Florida, and we start to see things catering towards a wider range of guests.
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.
Do you agree or disagree with my take on merchandise at Tokyo Disneyland? Are you a fan of Tokyo Disneyland’s styles, or are they not to your tastes? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
My wife bought a super-cute Tiki Room dress in Anaheim in January, and wore it to Tokyo Disneyland last week (Sept 2018). It has a fun print, but isn’t obviously Disney merchandise. The number of complements (and requests for photos!) from both staff and random guests shows that there clearly would be an appetite for such designs. Everyone wanted to know where it came from.
Stuffy old boring t-shirts with generic dated logos need to go. I’m all for the “loud” and vibrant merch because at least it’s not just a “Disney” logo stamped on a muted colored shirt. I’ve seen that for the past 20 years and honestly it’s just stale. Disney is all about being magical and colorful and yet you want a gray t-shirt with a dark gray text say “Disney” on it like that is somehow more tasteful or classy?
Your post comes off very elitist/unwelcoming. Why can’t people wear vibrant stuff all the time? Why restrict it to the weekends? Why is it a “niche”? Just because you don’t like it or it’s not the same generic thing that 90% of the world wears daily?
retro stuff like it was theree in 1983 when stationed in Japan
We were at TDR in December 2015. I can agree that the clothing merchandise was more limited and brightly colored–in comparison to the US parks. I also was in search of a Christmas ornament and then realized why there was limited selection. (Again you cannot compete with Ye Olde Christmas Shop at the Magic Kingdom or the Christmas ornament shop in Sleeping Beauty Castle at DLP). However, some items at TDR I found beautiful. The paper/stationery products are gorgeous, including a Disney princess origami set I bought. The calendars–so beuatiful and such a selection I couldnt decide. And, we still order a TDR calendar each year from ebay, because the art is so great. Finally, I would like to agree with another poster on how fun the hats are and give a shout out to the awesome popcorn buckets. Golly how cute are not only the current popcorn bucket offerings (I have no doubts!) but we loved seeing Japanese guests with buckets from prior seasons and years. Adorbs!
We also noticed the stark difference between how people were dressed in the parks to the rest of Japan. However, I much preferred how people were in the parks, gaudy included 🙂 Our first day in the parks I planned on buying some ears as I wear them in the parks here in the US but based on how others were dressed I felt I needed to up my Disney spirit game and went all out with one of the huge Minnie hats. There were 4 of us in our party and we all were wearing them and got looks, smiles and giggles (in good ways)
While some of their clothing is atrocious (I think we only bought one shirt we found that was classy) I hope they do not change their hats or accessories as it does feel it helps people break out of their shells they seem to live in outside of the parks.
I just recently became a Disney nut as an adult (within the past 2 years) and the parks help me to not be so stiff and serious in my life outside of the parks too. So if the wild styles from the Tokyo parks help the Japanese in the same way then I say to keep doing it 🙂
Tom- I just KNOW you bought that shirt that is 3rd from the bottom in the post and are rocking it right!? (It actually looks similar to designs from Robert Graham)
Yeah, the loud character designs leave little to be desired. But what I appreciate is the availability of park-specific parade and show music on CDs.
The resort keeps up with the frequency at which new entertainment is introduced year-round, and you can take the music home with you to commemorate it. Whereas stateside, the “official albums” have been on the way out, even though they’re on iTunes. No Soundsational or Paint the Night CDs? At least make them available for lossless quality downloads! But like you said, maybe there’s not enough of a demand for them.
I do wish Tokyo had a “souvenir pictorial” too. One that focuses less on the characters that roam the park.
What I think is adorable, however, are the plush badges that are quite popular with the locals, because they’re made specifically to the parades and shows seasonally. And if the miniature plushes have kimono-clad Mickey and Minnie, well then, those would make unique souvenirs to bring back for the kids! (And myself)
i was at TDL resort for Halloween and I was SO EXCITED to buy all the weird Japanese merchandise — I was ready to buy anything and everything. But when I got there and saw it all, I was kind of like “when will I ever use this again?”. Maybe when I’m walking around another Disney resort but I can’t imagine wearing anything of the clothing or trinkets in my day-to-day life. Then, it’d probably collect dust in my closet and I’d regret buying it when I move. Ultimately, I only bought myself 1 souvenir, a rather understated windbreaker that I actually use fairly often and honestly that’s enough.
Also, I was really bummed that there wasn’t anything resembling the Main Street Bakery anywhere. Like I just wanted a crisped rice treat but couldn’t get one at all.
I don’t know I feel like, with the right style, you could make some of these work well. The sweatshirts? Maybe not. But one of the t-shirts with jeans and a more neutral coat or sweater could be a really fun outfit. It’s definitely not for everyday.
And honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a more dismal lack of worthwhile merchandise as when we visited Disneyland Paris in September. It was the 25th Anniversary and we couldn’t find any merch worth buying – clothes, pins, ears? Nothing.
while I’d say my dress sense is more out there than most, I also found the clothing a bit kiddy and gaudy. I was also gutted that they didn’t have any Haunted Mansion merch.
However I bought loads of cute househould items – chopsticks, cotton buds, a bath room mat shaped like an alien, so I think that’s where they truly win.
We were surprised that we couldn’t find a single Christmas ornament for sale in TDR, until it dawned on me that the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas. I would still have loved to find an ornament for our “Disney tree,” but suppose I’ll have to settle for the toy monorail cars we bought for our son instead.
Japanese people DO celebrate Christmas. It’s a huge profit machine reminiscent of American holidays. Therefore, Tokyo Disney Resort and Disney Store are FULL of Christmas merch, on top of the elaborate decorations there. Here’s an example of Xmas Tokyo Disney merch on Yahoo Auctions: https://auctions.yahoo.co.jp/search/search?p=ãƒ‡ã‚£ã‚ºãƒ‹ãƒ¼+ã‚¯ãƒªã‚¹ãƒžã‚¹+2017&oq=&tab_ex=commerce&ei=UTF-8&rs=3
I probably wouldn’t buy clothing from any of the Disney parks unless it was based on a favourite attraction (as there’s so much character-clothing available cheaper elsewhere).
Where Tokyo merch really hit the spot for me were its accessories – particularly the minnie bow headbands. I bought two on our 4 day trip – one designed like a watermelon!
I’m looking forward to wearing them in Orlando next trip.
The most surprising part of the TDR merch was how hard it was to find anything with the name of the park on it, regardless of design. Everything seemed generically Disney and not park specific.
I agreed with you on US merch for a while, but over the last year I feel like a lot of there more stylish, wearable clothing has slowly disappeared. The 28 and Main line has all but disappeared from the shelves in Anaheim and online (I’m not sure if it’s still available in Orlando where it had a dedicated store in Disney Springs).
TDR has had basic (and cheap, like $15 each) logo tees for both TDL and TDS for quite a while. I got some in July and they were there before that. And there can be attraction specific stuff, just depends on when you go and where you shop (sometimes only one store will have something … most Americans can’t fathom that this was SOP in Aanheim and Orlando until the mid-90s Walmarting happened). I wish they sold more stuff that appealed to me and less Duffy crap, less over the top tees and hats that only a TDR blogger would wear, but people buy that stuff and those candy and cookie tins in huge numbers. They aren’t going against that.
And while I agree with Tom on WDW merchandise largely being best, I mean that in the non-Disney way, which I suspect strongly he doesn’t. The DAK merchandise and World Showcase stuff is great. But not talking Disney branded or character IP stuff. That I think is ridiculously lazy and unimaginative. The just tell DDG staff to go back and pull old designs and voila! RETRO tees and hats and all sorts of stuff. None of the new 2017 stuff is any better than the 2007 lines were.
Oh, and 28 and Main still exists in the swamps. No one buys much of it. And then it sits at the outlet stores. I’ve watched for over a year s they have tried to sell Penny Arcade, Mike Fink Keelboat and HoP tees for ‘only’ $14.99 and they sit and sit and sit when they should be stuck on a rack at the front for $1.99 like this year’s MNSSHP shirts have been!
The things you reference at WDW are exactly what I mean, particularly with fresh and understated designs. I agree that too many of the retro designs are simply recycled, although I don’t share in your utter disdain for them. I think there are some retro pieces that bring new ideas to the table, and I’m a fan of those. (Although I seldom buy any WDW merchandise.)
The year merchandise is just as bad now as it always was, it’s just ‘diluted’ by virtue of there being better alternatives.
I realize the article is predominantly regarding clothing and I agree it is quite “colorful”!
But oddly enough every time I am cruising ebay for collectibles, frequently when something catches my eye, I see it is from Tokyo, and usually fairly expensive.
I would love to go to the Japan parks to experience them, but also to check out their collectibles which appear very different from our US parks.
I have never been to Tokyo DL so my only experiences is through your photos or seeing Japanese tourists at WDW or DL (CA). I appreciate most of the TDL merchandise has classic characters like the Fab 5 or the fur Disney characters (rather than face Disney characters or all the never ending amounts of Star Wars and Frozen merchandise in the USA), it is indeed very loud for my taste.
You are spot on with the WDW merchandise lately. I love the men’s t-shirt selection at WDW the last few years as I have added some rarities representing classic rides to my wardrobes to wear at the parks. The decent attraction t-shirts used to be so bright or tie-dyed.
On a side note – I wish the domestic parks would bring back the solid TDL import Duffy in a bigger role again and market him properly this time. Similar to Figment, Country Bears, or Tiki Birds, I associate Duffy as Disney Park creation. I appreciate Disney Park creations more than other characters.
I don’t know what that purple fuzzy thing is (with the winter sweaters) about 2/3 of the way through your photos, but I want it. Tom, can you buy it for me, bring it home and I’ll pay you back? 😉
Thanks for sharing, as usual!
I love the pictures you posted! I think the merchandise looks pretty cool! Thanks for sharing!
All valid commentary, but it is notable that TDL is the only resort where those who don’t have some sort of merchandise with them as they visit – whether a shirt, towel, bag, tsum-tsum, hat – are the extreme minority. I’d suggest around 10%, based on my observation.
At other parks, even at WDW, it seems like 10% of guests DO have one of the above items (if you don’t count magicbands).
I strongly suspect their retort would be “we know what we’re doing, thanks”. I mean, the extent to which Japanese guests are enthused by merchandise is in my opinion the most shocking and different thing about the parks.
I wonder what percentage of guests are buying boxed foods as gifts (a huge as part ‘omiyage culture‘ but not exclusive to TDR) versus attire? At the end of the night, the stores selling food souvenirs often have empty shelves; by contrast, I see fewer and fewer people wearing novelty shirts or hats.
I’d hazard a guess that a ton of merchandise sales are a result of cultural norms in Japan, and aren’t a direct consequence of the merchandising team’s efforts at Tokyo Disney Resort.
As a life long Hawaii resident (= a strong “local” Japanese culture, a large Japanese ex-pat culture, and LOTS of Japanese visitors) I was going to comment about never underestimating the power of omiyage culture on Japanese guests. Also the too “cute” and matchey-matchey stuff. As a kid growing up all the Little Twin Stars/Hello Kitty/Tuxedo Sam stuff coming out of Japan held an almost magnetic pull, this was back in the late 70s – early 80s so the pull of these items in really ingrained by this point. What I’ve observed (anecdotally) is there is a strong cultural desire to fit in, hence the almost uniform quality of work fashion, but a lot of Japanese I know have a very strong closeted wild side.
We were there at Easter time in 2016 for the first time. I loved the quirkiness of some of the merchandise and bought a few things that I use fairly often. What I didn’t like so much was the differences in the principal Disney characters. A lot of the merchandise had slight differences in appearance that made you think of Disney knock offs, which of course would be the intention at all. As a massive Daisy Duck fan (who is always disappointed in the huge lack of merchandise for her in WDW outside of plush toys), I was delighted to find her more popular in Japan. The only problem was that in a lot of the things I picked up, she was ‘too’ different in appearance.
Interesting. I’ve never noticed this, aside from TDR still using old Mickey and Minnie, and that freaky Fairy Godmother.
Yes, she is definitely creepy!
I loved the stuff they sold at DLP back in 1992, after it had opened (yes, boys and girls, there are people who are that old). Everything was so minimalistic and not in your face. The T-Shirts had tiny, tiny logos that read “Eurodisney”, and that was it. No MickeyÂ´s in neon colors below lines like “Ride the freakin RockÂ´nÂ´Roller coaster!!!” anywhere…
Ha, I’m not sure visiting Paris in 1992 necessarily makes you that old. I’ve seen a couple of the shirts you reference on eBay, and I like them (Epcot had similar stuff).
I’ve also seen some very 1990s stuff with geometric shapes, patterns, and odd color schemes.
I have to say that I like some of it (not all of it) maybe because as you mentioned, it looks like the stuff WDW had years ago, giving it an 80s/90s retro feel. Everything that’s old is new again! I especially like the “all over” prints, which are having some popularity right now.