10 Reasons Tokyo DisneySea Is Disney’s Best Park
Tokyo DisneySea is Disney’s best theme park anywhere in the world. It’s rare for me to make an unqualified statement when calling something the best, but this park is so good that I’m confident in that statement without any sort of hedging my bets. The other day, I encountered a conversation in which Disneyland fans were debating whether Tokyo DisneySea or Disneyland is the best theme park in the world. I’ve had similar conversations in person on a couple other occasions, so I thought it would be a fun topic to discuss.
My take is that Tokyo DisneySea is superior to Disneyland (and every other Disney theme park) when viewed in terms of an objective (or as close to objective as humanly possible) analysis of which is the “better” theme park. I think Disneyland is brought up in the “best theme park in the world” conversation primarily for two reasons: nostalgia and its pioneering status.
In terms of nostalgia, many Disneyland and Walt Disney World fans grew up on those parks, and a big part of their love for the parks is steeped in idealized memories of the past. Heck, I’ve readily admitted that those influenced by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia even includes me! I see nothing wrong with nostalgia and wanting to embrace fond memories of the past (to a degree), but nostalgia has no place in a conversation about “the best.” Nostalgia is judgment-clouding and, more importantly, personal to the individual.
As for its pioneering status in the world of theme parks, that makes Disneyland more historically significant and important than Tokyo DisneySea, but it does not make it better. The fact that Walt Disney actually walked down Main Street USA in Disneyland is a ‘bragging right’ that Disneyland fans will always have over fans of every other theme park, but again, that’s about history not current quality.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that the Apple-1 is better than the MacBook Pro Retina because Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak actually worked on the former, and it seems odd to me that theme park fans would argue that an entire theme park is better because Walt Disney once was involved in a version of the park that is radically different from what exists there today.
Other reasons crop up concerning attraction count and the number of “classic” attractions as trump cards for Disneyland, but these arguments are usually made by those who haven’t actually been to Tokyo DisneySea, and thus they haven’t realized it’s at least a 2-day park that performs better in the flesh than it does on paper. To me, Tokyo DisneySea is a fully realized conceptual park, closely akin to the original EPCOT Center, but with a more balanced execution.
As for why Tokyo DisneySea is the best Disney theme park in the world? Here are 10 (of many) reasons why…
10. Mysterious Island.
You may think putting this at the top of the article is a way to avoid burying the lede by putting this at #1. Quite the contrary. Almost every Disney fan who yearns for a visit to Tokyo DisneySea cites Mysterious Island as their top reason for wanting to visit.
Mysterious Island is every superlative you can imagine it being, but I do not consider it the end-all, be-all of Tokyo DisneySea. In fact, I waiver back and forth on whether it’s my second, third, or fourth favorite land in the park. Mysterious Island lives up to the hype, it’s just that other lands in the park far surpass their relative lack of hype.
9. Hotel MiraCosta is in the Park.
From the ocean wall in Port Discovery to the S.S. Columbia to the monorail that circles the park that you somehow never see when you’re inside the park, Tokyo DisneySea uses a litany of design tricks to great success. By far the greatest of these tricks is its placement of Hotel MiraCosta inside the theme park in an unobtrusive manner. But this isn’t just hidden like Club 33 (used to be). The Hotel MiraCosta is hiding in plain sight, “rubbing guests noses in it” who cannot afford to stay there.
That, or it is in plain sight and is enhancing the environment of Mediterranean Harbor as it provides depth and lived-in buildings that would otherwise be false facades. The prominence of Hotel MiraCosta in the design of the park had to have been a big gamble at the design stage in terms of how it would be perceived, but here the gamble paid off in spades, as Hotel MiraCosta is one of the most important and groundbreaking features of Tokyo DisneySea.
8. It Takes Transportation Seriously.
Pretty much every Disney fan knows of Walt Disney’s fondness for trains, and also of how important various means of transportation have been to the kinetic energy of Disneyland. Tokyo DisneySea continues the proud tradition of transportation in Disney theme parks.
The park uses everything from Venetian gondolas to the elevated Tokyo DisneySea Electric Railway, which is their version of the PeopleMover, in my opinion. Boats, cars, and other forms of transportation abound, not only serving utilitarian purposes, but also giving the park that ever-important kinetic energy.
7. Great Versions of the Best Attractions.
When I did my Top 10 Worldwide Disney Attractions list, only two Tokyo DisneySea attractions made the list. One of those will be discussed below, so here we are only considering Tower of Terror. However, on that list I noted that Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure barely beat out Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull at Tokyo DisneySea.
Additionally, Journey to the Center of the Earth was barely edged out by Radiator Springs Racers. Another attraction that everyone but me seems to love, Toy Story Mania, has its best version at Tokyo DisneySea. It may not have classics like Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion, but Tokyo DisneySea does have great versions of several new-classics, plus several original attractions that are not to be missed. Take a look at our overview of every Tokyo DisneySea attraction to get an idea of the full lineup.
6. It Does America Better.
Being that the first three Disney theme parks were all built in America and are rooted to varying degrees in Americana, it’s a bold assertion to claim that a theme park in Japan does America better. But this blog is all about bold assertions. Tokyo DisneySea’s American Waterfront port of call is the largest port in the park, and has a level of detail the US parks seem to reserve for exotic locales, while taking more superficial approaches to areas based on America itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Main Street USA and the American Adventure, but in the latter, once you get past the amazing American Adventure attraction, there’s not a ton of detail to the pavilion. It’s just a large mansion. Contrast that with the Morocco pavilion. Other Americana in the U.S. parks delicately toes the line between sentimentality and kitschy.
American Waterfront turns the idea of Americana in Disney theme parks on its head, offering an area that’s romanticized, and always loaded with realistic and gritty detail. Attractions like Tower of Terror and Big Band Beat are Disney at its best, and there’s even an ocean-liner with a lounge themed to Teddy Roosevelt on board. Need I say more?
5. The Counter Service Options are Unreal.
In other parks, there’s a standout counter service option here or there with either great food or cool ambiance, but usually not both. Tokyo DisneySea is the best Disney theme park for counter service food, and for counter service theming. At Casbah Food Court, you can dine in an Arabian open-air bazaar while having excellent curry. Vulcania offers guests the opportunity to eat inside a converted geothermal power station carved out of an active volcano while dining on delicious Chinese food.
At New York Deli, you can dine inside the shops of various mom and pop proprietors while having a Mile High Sandwich. At Cape Cod Cook-Off, you can eat inside a boathouse while watching a Duffy stage show and eating awful burgers. Okay, that last one was a bad example…but there really are about a half dozen other awesome counter service restaurants in Tokyo DisneySea. And don’t even get me started on the table service or the snacks…
4. Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage
If Tokyo DisneySea gets penalized for not having classics like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, every other park gets penalized for not having new-classic Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage.
The fact that this is the only attraction that has its own spot on the list should speak volumes, but in case you want to read more on why Sindbad and Chandu are so great, we’ve already dedicated an entire article to the topic.
3. The Entertainment is Second to None.
With an entertainment lineup anchored by Big Band Beat, Fantasmic, and seasonal harbor shows (our favorite being It’s Christmas Time during the holidays) and rounded out with Hello New York and a variety of pop-up atmospheric performances, Tokyo DisneySea’s entertainment is top notch.
These shows take up good chunks of the day, and the quality and repeatability of DisneySea’s best shows means you consistently will eat up large portions of your visit by watching entertainment. US guests aren’t as likely to give as much deference to entertainment when evaluating a park, but that’s often because shows in the US parks is dated or are of the “one and done” variety.
2. The Cast Members are Second to None.
I love Disney Cast Members. From Orlando to Anaheim to Hong Kong to Paris (yes, even Paris), Cast Members are a big, essential part of what makes the parks wonderful. With all due respect to any individual Cast Members in the US parks who may be reading this, no group of Cast Members, collectively, hold a candle to the Cast Members at Tokyo Disney Resort.
To be sure, there are absolutely amazing Cast Members at every park, and most Cast Members at every park are good-to-great, but almost every single Cast Member we’ve ever encountered at Tokyo Disney Resort is of the ‘absolutely amazing’ variety. From just general politeness to literally walking you to where you need to go when you ask for assistance to perfectly handling crowd control and upkeep, the Cast Members there rock.
Now technically, this is an attribute that applies equally to both Tokyo parks, but unless someone is arguing that Tokyo Disneyland is the best theme park in the world, this is a characteristic of Tokyo DisneySea that gives it an advantage over all other challengers.
1. You Never Remember You’re in Tokyo.
For me, the single most important aspect of any Disney theme park is its ability to transport you from where you geographically are to where its creators want you to imagine being. This is the quality that separates a theme park from an amusement park or a random collection of attractions. From the time you walk through Aquasphere Plaza until you leave at the end of the day, you are not in Japan, you are in those various ports of call. As a foreigner, the only reminder that you’re thousands of miles from home is the occasional Cast Member who has trouble with English. Aside from that, it’s just another day on the Lost River Delta with Indiana Jones.
As an adult, it’s not so much that I actually believe that I’ve stepped under the sea when entering King Triton’s Castle, or that I’ve jumped into the pages with Jules Verne. It’s that the park gives me no plausible alternatives for the experience I’m having. There are no cracks in the illusion and there are no failures in the way the experience is presented and executed. In other words, it’s not so much that you believe you’re actually in these places, since in the back of your mind you know you are in a theme park, it’s more that you stop thinking about the outside world and sort of take where you are for granted since it is so detailed and so immersive.
I’ve heard Imagineers describe their goal as creating spaces and attractions that facilitate the suspension of disbelief. Typically, for this to occur, it’s the shared burden of the creator and the audience. The creator has to make something so compelling that there’s a subconscious, psychological desire in the audience to overlook its flaws and enjoy the fantasy without rational thought, and the audience has to embrace that fantasy without giving consideration to the faults. Suspension of disbelief is what happens throughout every inch of Tokyo DisneySea, but it seems like more of the burden has shifted to the creator, and rather than being an audience member passively enjoying a fantasy-story, the guest is an active participant in adventures.
This all may seem like over-analysis of a theme park, but I think this is the linchpin of why Tokyo DisneySea is such a great and compelling theme park. It is very difficult to articulate this other than in the abstract terms above, and without having experienced the park, it may be difficult to fully comprehend. That’s why I drew the comparison to EPCOT Center at the outset. Much of what once made EPCOT Center special has been stripped from the park, but some of these transportive places remain. Again, Morocco is a prime example. I often find that I lose myself in the paths, nooks, and crannies of Morocco, never once contemplating that I’m in a theme park. I suspect many of you have had that same feeling. Relative to the whole of the park, Morocco is a pretty small area. Now, imagine an entire park like Morocco.
Is your mind blown by all of that? That’s Tokyo DisneySea. The greatest theme park in the world.
If you’re planning a visit to Japan, make sure to check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide. It offers comprehensive advice for visiting Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, plus general tips for visiting Japan!
Which Disney theme park (of the ones you’ve visited) do you think is #1? Why? Of the parks you haven’t visited, which do you most want to experience? If you have any questions, tips, or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!
I’d love to take my family here. We are in Australia. I was wondering if anybody knew if there was a package deals for families within Australia? They range from 16 to 9 years old and I think this would be more appealing especially for the two older ones. Any comments would be appreciated including accommodation for families. Thanks!
Hey so yea I know it’s been 2 years, but I have been going to Tokyo since I was 5, and each time I and my family would stay there for 2 days, 1 day for land and 1 for sea. I love it there so much and it always makes me happy! I really agree with you about the majority of the points, and I’m wanting to go there next easter again! But the thing is, rides like Tower of Terror, Journey to the Center of the earth, and Indiana Jones are a bit more of a “teen” ride don’t you think? Because I got pretty scared when I was little, but Disney Land seemed to suit me better. Other than that, I’m so happy so many people actually enjoy the park was much as I do! And your article really brought back happy memories!
I’ll be traveling to Tokyo in September 2019 with 3 little ones (ages 5, 2 and 10 months). I only have time to visit one park. I’m reading that Disneyland is better for young kids, but I’ve been to California’s Disneyland and WDW enough times that I feel like I should be doing to DisneySea just to experience something that I haven’t already. Would you advise that it would still be best to go to Disneyland over DisneySea given the ages of the kids? Is there too little for the kids to do at DisneySea? My children love to watch shows… Are there great shows and entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland as well? Thank you for your help. â˜ºï¸
Go to Disney Sea! It’s the only one of its kind in the entire world. Remember that both parks were designed with kids in mind and there will be plenty for them to do. I enjoyed it a lot and saw all ages there when I went. Enjoy!
In terms of all the comments about the crowds at DisneySea and how it doesn’t have all the original rides, its because:
In Japan the people who go to Tokyo Disney are very competitive about getting the fastpasses quickly, therefore they go to the park two hours early, get to the fastpass as early as they can etc. Before I went there, I researched for many, many hours about how to beat the crowds, and I was fine.
About not having the original rides, this is because most of the original rides are in Tokyo DisneyLand, so there’s no point in having them in Tokyo DisneySea as well. If you want to experience the original rides, you can go to Tokyo DisneyLand instead.
Been to all 12 and yes, this one is the best!
Me and my wife totally agree with the writer of this article, DisneySea Park is hands down the single best Disney Park as compared to anything abt Walt Disney World or Disneyland (we’ve been to WDW in Florida 3 separate times for a week each time, and Disneyland 200+ times as annual pass holders). The underground dark / underwater area themed around Little Mermaid was amazing. Nothing quite as magical as that themed area at any other Disney Park. The 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey to the Center Of The Earth rides are super detailed and amazing. Sinbad’s Voyage is an amazing ride. Loved the Alice In Wonderland themed restaurant in the other park, Tokyo Disneyland, too, it’s only 2nd to the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant in Florida for a themed restaurant. And the theming of all the lands and the amazing hotels is so much better than anything in Florida or CA. We are true Disney fans as we’ve been to Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland on two separate trips. Now we need to go to Shanghai and Paris parks!
Tom, we went to this park based on the article you wrote and it couldn’t be further from the truth. It stands absolutely no chance against its counterparts in the U.S. Even though we love Japan, their people, and their culture, this article is an gross misrepresentation of the truth. Future readers, if you have been to Disney theme parks in the U.S., you will not be impressed here.
Seriously?! Wow. I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t impressed. Maybe your expectations were too high. We have been to WDW numerous times & DL many more times, as well As DL Paris. We love all of these parks (with the original Disneyland being our favourite), but Tokyo Disney Sea blew us away. We were just there this past March/April and were completely wowed by the place. It was so beautiful, and the level of detail was absolutely stunning. I will admit that our ability to suspend disbelief was lacking – because we just kept talking about the amount of work & detail that went into building the place, and having to pick our jaws up off the ground. We just gawked in awe the first day there! Disney Sea is a sight to behold. I will say that if one is all about the attractions, then it doesn’t have as many must do’s as some other parks, but the park itself is the attraction in my book. On our last day there, I just wanted to wander and take it all in, not caring if I went on a single attraction that day at all. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I have not seen many (any?) other reactions to Tokyo Disney Resort like yours. I would suggest that everyone who is interested should go and form their own opinions. 🙂
I never really under stood the individual park comparisons, for me WDW is all parks, not individual parks. Park hopping removes the ‘individual parks’ and makes them parts of a whole, never separate. So looking at it through that lense, WDW is no brainer for best park in the world, as for me it is always as one park. There’s a reason its the number one vacation spot in the world.
Look it’s a very nice theme park but my Disney loving son asked to leave just four hours in. The amount of rides we’d managed was just two, and one was the electric train transport.
Simply far too crowded, even the lines for the food stands stretched for fifty or so people. And this was a cold March Monday. We got a fastpass ticket for Temple of doom at 12:00 – time of ride 19:40.
Absolute disappointment. Would not even think of going back. Worst Themepark I’ve ever been to if experiencing the rides is a priority.
I am sorry that the crowds were too much for you. My sister and I bought the special fast pass package- knowing that the parks would be crowded. However, we did not think the crowds were any worse than Disneyland or California Adventure in California. I have waited 3 hours to ride the tower of terror and cars.
The cast members at Tokyo Disney are the best in the world. They were so kind to us. We are planning a return trip in 2023!
My sister and I just returned from 3 days at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. I agree that that the two parks are the BEST Disney resort. We used fastpasses and did not have waits any longer than at Disneyland California. We loved the cast members, they were so helpful and gracious. I felt like I was back at Disneyland in the 1970s due to the service orientation. Also, the parks are spotless and the shops are awesome. We loved our time there and would go back in a minute.
FYI – It is our new favorite park. Our father was Disneyland CA on day 2, 1955, and we are Disneyland and Disneyworld regulars. Also, I have been to Paris Disney a few times. Finally, while in Shanghai, I declined to go to Disney due to the crowds.
I was completely misled by this blog post and actually believed DisneySea was going to be epic. Spoiler alert: it’s not. There are maybe five interesting rides to go on, and you can enjoy waiting 30-130 minutes for everything, from getting a churro to riding a thrilling 1 minute ride. Stick to Disneyland for a non-disappointing experience.
If you go on a day that is not busy and research on the best fastpass, memorise the map and memorise the route, you would have been fine. At TDS, the people are very competitive about getting to the attractions as fast as they can, so they get to the park two hours early and have the route in their mind (e.g. Get a fastpass for toy story mania and go on standby for centre of the earth). Before I went to TDS, I researched daily for many hours and I was able to beat the crowds when I went there.
You suck Denise Rick. Do your research before going to the park. What a loser. You are such a Karen,
Since Disney Sea does not have all the loved classic rides HOW on earth can you consider it the best Disney Park? Also, you forget you’re in Tokyo yet all the staff and characters are local? This post is ridiculous. I’m sure the park is great but by YOUR accounts it shouldn’t even be in the running for best DISNEY Park.
Yours and Sarah’s Instagram pics were a treat to follow. Everything in Japan looks amazing! I need to get there somehow.
It is very nice. Every hotels are very nice but they are small. I am not saying very small that you only can fit one adult and one child
My partner and I are choosing between Disneyland and Disney Sea. I’m not much of a thrill-seeker so don’t enjoy roller coasters (fear of heights!) and we are in our late 20’s. After reading your comments, I’m probably more inclined to go to Disneyland rather than Disney Sea but I wouldn’t mind visiting something different given we have done Disneyland before in the US. What are your thoughts? Or is it still worth visiting Disney Sea despite the thriller rides?
I will do Disney Sea because it is cool. I feel like I belong up there. There are very cool rides.
I will be visiting tokyo October 2018 with family of 3 kids age 5, 10 & 12.
Which park should I visit if I have only time to visit one. And Why?
As a Japanese resident who has been to both numeral times, I can say with confidence that it depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. DisneySea is definitely a thrilling and emmersive place. Since it is not directly owned by Disney, it has its own mascot characters named Duffy and Shellie-May and puts more emphasis into the different worlds instead of the Disney theme. Whereas DisneyLand is the classic DisneyLand, and has all of the classic rides and attractions that most other Disneyland’s worldwide do. So, from my experience, I would say that if you’re a Disney loving family and want to immerse yourselves completely in the Disney world, then go to DisneyLand. But if you tend to be more of the thrill seeker type and do not mind missing out on some Disney for some more excitement, then go to DisneySea. Generally, people say that DisneyLand tends to be more appropriate for families and DisneySea for youngsters, but I believe that it depends on what you like, and either way, you’ll have an amazing time.
Tokyo disney resort nice!
We only have one day in Tokyo and can only choose between Disneyland or Disneysea. Our child is 5 and 7 years old. Kindly suggest which one should we go for, thanks!!
Disneyland is far better suited to younger children. DisneySea is more adult-oriented.
I lived in Tokyo for 15 years, and our kids consistently preferred trips to Disneyland. (Personally, I love DisneySea; the attention to detail there is mind blowing.)
Have a great time in Tokyo. It can be challenging with small kids, but you’ll have a blast.
DisneySea is the best theme park ever. Loved Mysterious Island and the different types of popcorn. It’s clean, calm, and very orderly and the Disney staff are so kind. People there are so pleasant and we are going back again this year.