Tokyo DisneySea: The 15 Coolest Things You Can Experience
Disney’s hidden gem is weird, wild, and one-of-a-kind.
There are Disney parks all over the world--and while the two in North America might be in the spotlight right now thanks to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there are plenty of new and totally unique things to experience all around the world--if you’re willing to book a very real and not at all interstellar flight, that is. And that’s exactly what we did when we traveled all the way to Tokyo to visit Tokyo DisneySea, Japan’s one-of-a-kind Disney park.
Massive and packed to the proverbial gills with original Japanese rides and attractions spread across seven unique lands, DisneySea is maybe the only Disney park in the world that, well, doesn’t feel like a Disney park at all. In fact, you’re likely to forget you’re in the Mouse’s house entirely until you step into a gift shop and spot the decorative mouse-eared headbands and Mickey and Minnie logo t-shirts. There’s no Star Wars or Marvel to be seen, no Disney staples like Splash or Space Mountain--for those, you’ll need to hop on the monorail over to Tokyo’s Disneyland, a close duplicate of the Disneyland you’ll find in Anaheim, California. Instead, at DisneySea things are a whole lot weirder.
Situated around a massive water feature (the “sea” part of the name) DisneySea is an exercise in atmosphere and set design. Themed areas that look like the Mediterranean give way to steampunk sci-fi cave systems and then into Indiana Jones flavored wilderness exploration with anything you can imagine in between. The rides are almost entirely kept hidden behind walls and buried deep within the scenery to keep the illusion of endlessness going--and trust us when we say this park really does feel endless.
It may not be a galaxy far, far away but DisneySea is still one of the world’s best theme parks, and well worth a visit to anyone planning on making it to the Tokyo area. To prove it, we compiled a list of 15 of DisneySea’s totally original features, from snacks to theatrical productions to rides.
1. Duffy and Friends
One of the first things you’ll notice upon stepping into DisneySea is a teddy bear. His name is Duffy and he and his pals--Shelly Mae, another bear; Gelatoni, a cat; and Stella Lou, a bunny--are ostensibly more iconic in the park than even Mickey and Minnie. You’ll see people carrying plush toys, wearing backpacks and purses and dressed up in Duffy and friends regalia--and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to meet the crew themselves. Their mascot characters have a dedicated meet and greet zone in the American Waterfront area. While Duffy and Shelly Mae do technically exist in the US parks, their popularity in DisneySea is something to behold.
2. Pineapple Jelly Drink
Japan loves drinkable jelly, so this bright blue concoction shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s only loosely pineapple flavored with a few other tropical fruits mixed in. The jelly texture might be a bit of a surprise if you’re not expecting it, but it’s actually pretty refreshing and very on-brand for the aquatic-themed Port Discovery land where you’ll find them.
Port Discovery is full of science themed buildings and characters.
The only real ride in Port Discovery is Aquatopia, a sort of crazy, randomized race where riders zip around a shallow pool in “hovercraft” cars. It doesn’t sound like much--and really, it technically isn’t--but it’s speedy and fun and really unlike anything either American park has to offer, not to mention a perfect piece of set design for the sleek, aquatic-themed Port Discovery area.
4. Yucatan Sausage Roll
Japan’s hot dogs tend to be extremely barebones or totally off the rails and the former is definitely the case of DisneySea’s sausage dog snacks. A totally stripped down, plain sausage wrapped in what is ostensibly croissant dough, these definitely aren’t corn dogs--though they’re as close as you can get in Disney Sea.
The Lost River Delta also includes a tiny Star Wars Easter Egg.
5. Too many types of popcorn
DisneySea’s popcorn choices are constantly rotating and legendary. The basics are here--butter and caramel--but that seems like kid’s stuff next to the other options on the table. This spring, the selection ranged from curry, to garlic shrimp, to strawberry, to honey. There was milk chocolate and even an incredibly specific Chinese spice available at certain stalls in the park. There's something for everyone if you’re willing to get a little adventurous.
6. The Magic Lamp Theater
DisneySea is home to not one but two permanent live stage shows with the Magic Lamp Theater taking up residence in the Arabian Coast. It’s sort of similar to Muppet*Vision 3D Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios, with Genie from Aladdin occupying a large 3D movie screen as actor’s play out a story on a stage in front of him. Weirdly, Genie is the only character from Aladdin in the story--the human protagonist and villain are Disney Sea originals.
The show is entirely in Japanese with no subtitles, but thankfully it’s meant for children so it’s definitely not too difficult to follow along with context clues.
7. Mermaid Lagoon
One of DisneySea’s most interesting and unique lands is actually the indoor Little Mermaid-themed grotto, which is predominantly a kid’s play area and eatery, centered around a permanent theater. It’s a masterful look at some of DisneySea’s most painstaking attention to detail and set design, as well as a really convenient place to go if you’re looking to get out of the sun (or the rain, depending on the season.)
8. King Triton’s Concert
The second year-round live-action stage play isn’t really a stage play at all. In King Triton’s Concert, a giant animatronic King Triton heralds the way for a handful of puppeteers brandishing Little Mermaid characters and a performer dressed as Ariel who “swims” into the room on wires that glide her around the room as she sings the Japanese versions of Little Mermaid songs. It’s a really impressive athletic display if nothing else, and another one even non-Japanese speakers can appreciate.
9. Sinbad's Storybook Journey
The DisneySea answer to It’s A Small World, Sinbad’s Storybook Journey is a modern dark ride where guests slowly glide through scene after scene down a lazy river--except unlike It’s A Small World, this one’s actually got a narrative you can follow, and a slightly catchier song. Sinbad and his pet tiger cub Chandu venture through all sorts of mythological predicaments, featuring some really impressive, only slightly creepy animatronics.
10. Chandu Curry Bun
One of the rides unique to DisneySea is Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage which features the titular hero, Sinbad, and his pet tiger cub, Chandu. Chandu, unsurprisingly, is a bit of a mascot for the Arabian Coast area of DisneySea and even gets his very own snack to prove it. It’s a steamed chicken curry bun in the shape of his face, complete with a steamed gyoza hat.
11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The centerpiece of DisneySea is a land known as the Mysterious Island, home to two different eating areas and two different rides inspired by Jules Verne novels. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a unique dark ride where riders load into (sort of awkwardly positioned) submarine cars to venture, well, 20,000 leagues under the sea. The ride experience differs based on which side of the sub you sit on, and also allows riders to aim flashlights at different features as the sub putters through scenes. It’s not the most thrilling ride in the park, or the most comfortable, but it’s certainly something you can only do at DisneySea.
The Mysterious Island is a Steampunk paradise.
12. Journey to the Center of the Earth
The second Jules Verne ride is a bit less slow going than 20,000 Leagues. Journey to the Center of the Earth is a roller coaster dark ride that takes riders through a handful of different visually stunning cave scenes loaded with fun and interesting fluorescent creatures before blasting them off through a brief high-speed track. It’s not a very long ride, but it’s got some of the park’s best animatronic and creature designs.
Journey to the Center of the Earth's queue is full of interesting rock formations.
And the remnants of the ill-fated scientific expedition.
13. Potato “Churros”
Disneyland is pretty famous for its wild variety of churros, but the savory market in the world of fried dough is still up for grabs. DisneySea makes a unique play with its potato “churros”--basically a giant, churro-shaped french fry. It actually tastes a lot better than it sounds. Just don’t bite into it expecting cinnamon and sugar. DisneySea has regular churros too, but where’s the fun in that?
14. Steamed Gyoza Buns
If you’re a fan of gyoza dumplings, DisneySea has a treat for you. About five inches long and packed to the brim with gyoza filling, these steamed buns are convenient on-the-go treats for your day at the park and they’re absolutely delicious.
15. Fortress Explorations
Situated on the far side of the Mediterranean Harbor is an odd little gem that’s easy to miss. DisneySea’s Fortress Explorations isn’t really a ride as much as it is a sort of giant, interactive playset full of weird rooms and coin games to be played, all themed to look like a medieval castle. It’s surprisingly large and tricky to navigate without a map, but another great piece of theming and design totally original for the park.
A map definitely comes in handy when wandering around the fortress.