40 years ago, the first Disney theme park outside of the US opened its doors. Also 40 years ago, I (Guy Selga) made my arrival into this world (thanks mom and dad). I’ve never been one to expect or demand a lavish celebration for my birthday, but this year I wanted to have some extra special fun for the start of my 40th year. What better place to do this in than my favorite place to visit on the planet, Tokyo, Japan. I didn’t start visiting Japan until 2014, and since then I’ve been hooked. I love the people, the culture, the sights, and I of course especially enjoy Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. As a kid I consumed any Disney theme park media I could get my hands on, such as souvenir books, the Disney News Magazine, and Disney company annual reports. Thankfully I was raised by a Disney-loving mom and grandma who always were willing to supply me with any theme park material they came across. I was born just 19 days before Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15, 1983, so I’ve been lucky enough to follow most of the park’s history via the aforementioned mediums. Before my first trip I had been dreaming (and I’m talking about actual lay in bed at night and have vivid dreams) visiting Japan since I was a kid. After my first visit in 2014 I’ve been completely hooked.
Before continuing on with this trip report, I do write and maintain a Tokyo Disney quick planning guide. I go over the basics of planning a trip, including how to book airfare, currency, how to buy tickets, and many other topics. Please give it a look, a lot of people have told me it’s helped them plan their trips so I think you’ll enjoy it. End of shameless plug!
In this trip report I won’t go over every minor detail of every day, but it’s still going to be a long one and I will touch on things big and small. Also, this will include Disney theme park stuff as well as non-Disney things.
We arrived in Japan at Narita airport and found this fun Nintendo display. While I vastly prefer arriving at Haneda Airport due to its closer proximity to the city, you got to do what you got to do. Narita was cheaper, so Narita it was.
If we look jetlagged it’s because we are! The total flight time is about 11 hours coming from my home town of Los Angeles, California. Before I forget, joining me on this trip is my girlfriend, Jen, and my BFF Ray. Jen has been once before, and this was Ray’s first trip so I was excited to show him around. For almost as long as I’ve known Ray (which at this point is over 20 years) he had also wanted to visit Japan, so this trip was a dream come true for him.
We hopped on the Airport Limousine Bus and headed to Tokyo Disney Resort for the first portion of our trip. I’ve been to Japan 11 times now and I still get excited like it’s the first time!
We stayed “on site” at Hilton Tokyo Bay, which is connected to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea via the Tokyo Disney Resort Line, which is their version of the monorail. It’s extremely convenient and not too expensive depending on the day. Here’s Jen testing out the daybed with the Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel (which opens in 2024) in the background. Nice view!
Here’s a look at our room at Hilton Tokyo Bay. By Japanese hotel standards the Hilton has some very large rooms. We stayed in one of the Celebrio category of rooms. During previous visits I’ve stayed in these rooms with three other people and we always found it to be roomy enough room for everyone to move around and have enough space for their luggage. During this trip it there was just three of us.
Up to four people can stay in this category of room, and they’ll add as many beds as people you have staying.
We made the short walk to Bayside Station to hop on the Resort Line and head to Tokyo Disneyland for a few hours of fun in the park. We bought a Weeknight Passport which gets you access to Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea after 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. It’s available for a deeply discounted rate of around $30 USD.
Speaking of Tokyo Disneyland tickets, buying them in the US with most US credit cards is a huge hassle. Tokyo Disney Resort’s official website is extremely picky with US credit cards. I tell everyone I know to purchase Tokyo Disney Resort tickets easily and securely with Klook. I’ve used them for years and they’re fantastic. Using our Klook link supports keeping this guide updated.
Now fast forward to the next day, which was Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th birthday. The Tokyo Disney parks are legendary for their crowds, and in the mornings before opening it’s not unusual to see huge lines like this. Thankfully it’s all well organized and there’s plenty of staff to move visitors through the front gates.
It’s looks bad but the line moved fast and we were in the park in less than 20 minutes. Also, while we did get some great weather later on in the trip, it did rain most of the day on the 40th anniversary.
The theme of Tokyo Disneyland’s 40th anniversary celebration is lots and lots of pennants. They call the celebration “Dream-Go-Round” and all around Tokyo Disney Resort and on every piece of 40th anniversary merchandise is the pennants theme. Every 5 years Tokyo Disneyland goes all out for their anniversary celebrations with new parades, shows, and lavish decorations. This year they did get a fabulous new parade but the decorations are subdued to say the least. The World Bazaar decorations are much more lowkey than previous anniversary celebrations. For example, during the 35th anniversary, a large decoration with sculptures of Mickey Mouse in every special anniversary outfit was located in the center of World Bazaar. Meanwhile special lighting and projection effects were displayed. Not this year. This year it’s all pennants.
Why did Tokyo Disneyland go cheap for their 40th anniversary celebration? I have some guesses. It’s reasonable to assume OLC, the company that owns and operates Tokyo Disney Resort, wants to and/or needs to scale things back in order to recoup some of the costs after losing money during being closed during the pandemic. My second guess is that most of the company’s money is going into getting Fantasy Springs and the new Tokyo DisneySea hotel finished and opened. Fantasy Springs is the newest expansion DisneySea, which includes 4 new rides, three restaurants, one shop, and one deluxe hotel. It’s a $2 billion dollar expansion, so it’s safe to assume all resources are going into getting the completed.
To say I snack a lot during my Tokyo Disneyland visits is a huge understatement. I snack a truly ridiculous amount. Everything is so cute and delicious, plus I enjoy letting loose on vacation, so I must try everything. You’ll see A LOT of snack pictures in this post.
Tokyo Disney Resort if famous for their variety of special popcorn flavors. New for the 40th anniversary is the berry cheesecake flavor which Ray, Jen, and I really enjoyed. It’s freshly made and served nice and warm which makes it even better.
One of Tokyo Disneyland’s most famous snacks it the Little Green Men Dumplings. They’re little pieces of ice cream filled mochi that are themed after the alien toys from Toy Story. They’re cute, delicious, and I crave them almost every day.
New to me was this pre-packaged food item where Tokyo Disney visitors can buy Little Green Men Dumplings and take them home. So cool. I’m very jealous of this.
The headliner attraction of the 40th anniversary is Tokyo Disneyland’s new parade, Disney Harmony in Color. Expectations are always high when Tokyo Disneyland introduces a new parade, especially with how well received the last two parades were (Happiness is Here and Dreaming Up). Harmony in Color does not disappoint. It’s grand in scale with colorful and dynamic floats, and it has a catchy new earworm of a theme song that gets stuck in your head for weeks after you hear it.
Every Tokyo Disney Resort cast member wears a anniversary pennant below their name tag. These same pennants are also available to buy. There’s a large variety of colors to choose from. I of course went with purple and gold (go Lakers). The best part is when you come across a cast member that sees someone wearing the same color they are also wearing. They point it out and get excited about the matching colors. A lot of thumbs up were exchanged with excited cast members with matching pennant colors.
One of my top things to do on this trip was to get a couples silhouette to commemorate my 40th birthday. Here I am in the hot seat.
As you can see it turned out fantastic! We even got a snazzy TDR 40th anniversary frame. I can’t recommend doing a silhouette enough, it’s a great souvenir.
I wanted Ray and Jen to see some of the more obscure things in Tokyo Disneyland so I made sure to take them to guest services so they could see the brail map. The buildings are raised and textured so people with visual problems can get an idea of how the park is laid out.
More snacks while we wait for the parade. In the American Disney parks the seasonal drinks are known to be extremely sweet but this isn’t a problem over in Tokyo Disneyland. This was a Sparkling drink (Passion Fruit & Peach). Yum.
I’m a sucker for sundaes so I had to grab this was the Special Sundae from Ice Cream Cone (yes the store is just called Ice Cream Cone). It’s got soft serve ice cream, berry jelly, and bits of cereal. So many Tokyo Disney Resort sundaes over the years have had cereal for some reason.
The newest ride in Tokyo Disneyland is Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast. Wow, what a ride. You ride in giant teacups that make use of trackless vehicle technology, while going through highly detailed recreations of Beast’s castle. Also, look at that exterior.
Here’s the Mickey Ukiwaman Chicken. Think chicken stew inside a soft warm bun. This was glorious on the day of our trip that was chilly and overcast.
Here’s Jen with a giant churro plush. It was almost as big as her!
A mainstay of the Tokyo Disney Resort snack lineup is the Tipotorta. Think of it as a PopTart in stick form, but much better tasting. The special flavor for the 40th anniversary celebration is Orange & Chocolate, which was delicious.
Did you think I was kidding when I said we snacked a lot??
If you know anything about me, you know I love Country Bear Jamboree. My favorite Disney attraction ever, hands down, is Country Bear Jamboree Vacation Hoedown. It warms my heart to see the bears still so beloved over in Tokyo. They had a great selection of Country Bear merchandise available.
For lunch during one of the days we had to stop by China Voyager, which is one of Tokyo Disneyland’s most popular restaurants. The menu is made up of ramen and other noodle dishes. I’m a ramen snob but China Voyager’s ramen is fantastic, and you get the egg with the Mickey shape in it.
The 40th anniversary sign at the entrance looked great lit up at night.
Heading back to the hotel we got lucky and got to ride in the Resort Line train decorated for the 40th anniversary.
Pretty cool! It even played a instrumental version of the anniversary theme song.
Heading into Tokyo DisneySea, the pennant theme continues.
So many pennants.
Pennants everywhere and in every land. I found a big one that matched the one I was wearing that day.
Some of the exteriors around the park have these cute murals for the 40th anniversary.
If you know anything about DisneySea then you probably are aware of how popular Duffy and his friends are. I really liked this window display of Duffy grimacing at the paint on his foot paw.
No visit to Tokyo DisneySea is complete without a stop at Tower of Terror. The Tokyo version has a completely different theme and storyline. It features the evil Harrison Hightower who was mysteriously killed in his suite on New Years Eve, 1899.
One of my favorite restaurants in DisneySea is Casbah Food Court, which is famous for their delicious curry dishes. It never disappoints.
Tucked away in the S.S. Columbia in Tokyo DisneySea is a loving tribute to the US’ 26th president. Teddy Roosevelt Lounge is a space where you can relax with some drinks and appetizers, and enjoy the lavish furnishings and displays.
I don’t drink alcohol so you can probably guess which drink is mine.
A cast member at Teddy Roosevelt Lounge gave us these stickers with personalized messages on them. A fun part about the 40th anniversary is that in return guests can also give compliment flags back to cast members. It was so much fun giving cast members a compliment flag and watching them get all excited.
This sign is near the path that will lead into the new Fantasy Springs expansion.
I will rarely pass up an opportunity to eat more Little Green Men Dumplings…
…Or double fist a boba drink! This is not the last time you will see boba mentioned in this trip report.
Here’s Ray making use of one of the hand washing stations that can be found around TDR. I love these things.
The soap is dispensed in the shape of Mickey.
In Disneyland and especially Walt Disney World it’s advisable to stay clear of fast food seafood. Not so in Tokyo Disney Resort. The seafood is all fresh and delicious. This pizza was topped with salmon and shrimp and it was one of the better entrees I ate when I was there.
You can look at this prop and guess the era of Disney when DisneySea was designed and built.
There are so many sections of Tokyo DisneySea where you’ll look at it and say to yourself, “I can’t believe this is a theme park.”
Tokyo Disney Resort cast members made the 40th logo out of traffic cones. Such a fun little detail.
This concludes the Disney portion of this trip report and since this is a Disney blog and I’m a Disney internet person I wouldn’t blame you if you dropped off at this point. But I’m going to keep going with some of the other things we did in Tokyo because I wanted this to be something Ray, Jen, and I can look back on to remember our trip. Keep reading and maybe you’ll be inspired to do some of the things we did on our trip. If not, thanks for visiting and reading this far.
It’s always fun to stop by one of the free observation decks outside of Tokyo Station. We were blessed with beautiful weather on this day.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our visit to Small Worlds Tokyo. It’s home to these insanely detailed miniature cities and dioramas. I love stuff like this.
The miniatures are fully lit and some even have moving cars and props.
Peek inside some of the buildings and you can see interiors big and small.
Here’s a building where a dance is taking place.
Fans of Sailor Moon will recognize this location.
Speaking of Sailor Moon, there’s even a miniature recreation of Crystal Tokyo.
One of the highlights is a functioning mini airport. Here’s the terminal. Even the baggage claim in the lower left moves.
Planes taxi the miniature runway and “tale off.” Small Worlds Tokyo is a ton of fun.
Some of the displays have comical interactive elements, such as this one.
I’m a big fan of the Densha De Go series of arcade games, so when I saw this kid’s sized version I knew I had to cram in and get a picture. My advice when visiting Tokyo is to not only hit the tourist spots, but walk through a mall, visit an arcade, go in a grocery store, and explore any other thing you remotely have an interest in. All of these give you a look at the culture that you can’t get at tourist locations.
We stopped by the famous Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara. This is a gamer and tech nerd’s paradise!
They even had a wall of cuckoo clocks. I’m serious, don’t overlook stuff like this.
Ray and I are absolute boba addicts so we didn’t pass on almost any opportunity to obtain obtain cups of what we call “our medicine.”
There’s no other food associated with Japan more than sushi. We’re all huge fans of sushi and Tokyo has no shortage of cheap and amazing sushi restaurants. Here’s Ray’s first time eating sushi in Japan. We went HARD.
Yet another thing Japan is famous for is their knives. Here’s Jen deciding which one she wants to bring home.
I wanted to share what our Air BNB looked like. We stayed at a one bedroom place in Shinjuku. I love staying in Shinjuku thanks to its proximity to many places in Tokyo. So many places are easily accessible with a relatively short train ride.
I understand and agree with many of the criticisms people have with Air BNB. The rules, the often high prices, etc. But we got a great deal on our one bedroom apartment and I love living like the locals do when staying in Tokyo.
Here’s our view. It’s nothing too spectacular, but it’s not bad at all.
Here’s the shower room that was separate from the bathroom. This is a typical setup in Japanese households.
One of the pluses of staying in Shinjuku is the many izakayas. We enjoyed a lot of yakitori that night.
And Ray enjoyed a refreshing beverage after a long day of exploring Tokyo.
A must visit in Shinjuku is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
It’s a beautiful park with over 20,000 trees.
Ray and I enjoying some more boba in Akihabara.
And another stop for sushi!
Over in Shibuya we of course had to stop by the world famous Hachiko statue.
Some more boba!
We stopped by the Nintendo Store in Shibuya. This is a Nintendo fan’s paradise. There’s a ton of items from all of Nintendo’s biggest games. It’s also located across the walkway from a Pokemon Store.
We kept seeing these “3D” billboards pop up on social media before our trip. We saw this one with a panda playing around. It’s a cool effect for sure.
Not every meal needs to be extravagant, and in my opinion you would be a fool to skip out on trying the food at one or more of Japan’s thousands of convenience stores (known as konbini). Every single morning, without fail, I eat konbini onigiri for breakfast when I’m in Japan. They’re fresh, cheap, and delicious. Here’s a spread of items we enjoyed, including a curry bun, steamed pork bun, and matcha cookie.
Sometimes something so minor will stick in your head from a vacation. You could do 100 amazing things, but the littlest thing will stand out and endure. During one of our last nights of the trip, I stood alone on our Air BNB’s balcony and reflected on how lucky I am. Not just that I’m able to take this amazing trip, but also to experience it with two people I love very much. As I was thinking and meditating I kept focusing on all the little details of this sign that was across from us. When you visit Tokyo, or anywhere else in the world, be sure to slow down every once in a while and really soak in your surroundings.
I’m all for exploring things that are off the beaten path, but sometimes you simply need to experience popular tourist spots that are famous for a reason. So on one of the nights we went to experience the New York Bar at Park Hyatt Tokyo. Better known as the bar from Lost in Translation. It does not disappoint. In the movie the bar represents loneliness, but in real life it’s got incredible food, drinks, live entertainment and views.
LOOK AT THIS VIEW.
Ray and Jen surprised me with a special birthday dessert. I really am lucky.
Speaking of things that are high up, we also visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s home to a 202 meter observation deck. The best part is that it’s completely free to access.
It offers some stunning views of the city. If you’re visiting Tokyo and it’s a clear day, be sure to go out of your way to visit.
I love trying random drinks from the vending machines in Japan and I found a real winner during this trip. The Asahi Craft Cola has citrus and spice flavors and it was fantastic. I was overjoyed to find this in a local Japanese grocery store when I got back home.
Ray ended up leaving Tokyo a couple days before Jen and I did, so for one last meal we enjoyed my favorite restaurant, Pepper Lunch. Food is served in sizzling skillets and it’s all glorious. I’m so glad Ray finally got to visit Japan and he seemed to have a great time and is eager to go back.
After Ray flew back home Jen and I went to Nakano Broadway which is a shopping distract famous for vintage games, anime, watches, toys, and almost anything else you can think of. Nakano is a hotbed for great vintage Tokyo Disneyland merchandise, so you may find some gems if you have the time and want to do some searching. Also, yes I’m aware the picture above shows the shopping arcade that is in front of Nakano Broadway.
After that we of course ate more sushi! Look at the look on Jen’s face. This location was especially cool because everything could be ordered on an iPad, and then conveyor belts bring the sushi directly to your table.
We did some damage that night!
We had to cap it off with a sundae.
All good things must end, and with that we made our way back to Narita via the Airport Limousine Bus.
As we waited for other passengers I enjoyed the wonders of technology and watched a bit of the Lakers game on my cellphone. Living in the future is awesome.
I didn’t stay on my phone for long. There’s still some great views of things you wouldn’t normally see in person.
Here’s a nice view of this waterway with the Skytree in the background.
This was a truly unforgettable trip from beginning to end. I’m so glad I got to experience it all with my wonderful girlfriend, Jen and my best friend, Ray. And if you’re wondering, I already can’t wait to go back.
If you made it to the end, thanks so much for reading. If you ever have any trip planning questions or need advice, hit me up on Twitter.