Two hours later, I'd be on the ground in Tokyo, stepping off a bus just outside the gates of Tokyo Disneyland.
Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disney theme park built outside the United States, opening in 1983. But the park closed for a month earlier this year after the devastating earthquake and tsunami crippled power supplies and transit routes in much of Japan. Today, there's no obvious sign of damage or disruption at Tokyo Disneyland, which remains one of the world's top theme park destinations.
And for good reason. Visiting Tokyo Disneyland is like visiting the best of Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom - at the same time. There's Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, and Disney World's Haunted Mansion. There's the immense Cinderella's Castle, just like at Disney World, but there's an attraction inside it, too, just like at Disneyland.
But Tokyo Disneyland takes it U.S. counterparts one better, preserving elements long gone from the American Magic Kingdoms. Want to see the Country Bear Christmas show? Or visit Fort Sam Clemens on Tom Sawyer Island? Better catch a flight to Tokyo, because this is the only place where those attractions still exist. At 115 acres, Tokyo Disneyland is larger than the Magic Kingdom (107 acres) and Disneyland (85 acres), too.
All this week, we'll explore the lands of Tokyo Disneyland. So let's start with the beginning:
Main Street USA.
Whoops, I meant World Bazaar.
The Main Street USA name isn't the only thing missing from Tokyo Disney's entry land. There's no railroad station, either. (Tokyo Disneyland's railroad is called the Western River Railroad, and circles just Adventureland. We'll visit that tomorrow.) With no train station to go around, you simply pass under a short portico, and you're there.
But Tokyo Disneyland's World Bazaar trades that train station for... a roof.
The glass roof that spans World Bazaar provides shelter from Japan's occasionally inclement weather, though the rest of the park remains exposed to the elements. World Bazaar's also unique among Disney entrance plazas in other ways, too.
Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom follow essentially the same layout: Main Street leading to the "Hub" - a circular plaza from which extends "spokes" to the main lands in the park, including Adventureland, Frontierland/Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. An outer wheel connects the land, but it doesn't go all the way around. The only way back to Main Street is via the Hub. Here's a rough sketch:
Tokyo Disneyland follows a different basic layout. The biggest difference is that the outer "wheel" completes the circuit. It goes all the way around, meeting in the middle of World Bazaar. That means that the land has two streets, the Main Street running north/south, and a complete Center Street running east/west. (In Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, Center Street's just a stub on either side of the middle of Main Street.)
World Bazaar also doesn't go all the way to the main hub in the park. Instead, it terminates at the Partners statue of Walt and Mickey, which stands in a "mini-Hub" that precedes the main hub.
Here's the park map:
Also, when you walk into Tokyo Disneyland, you are facing south, as opposed to when you walk into either Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, where you are facing north. (Which makes photographing the park difficult, as I was facing into the low December sun when I faced the castle.)
Another difference? Many of World Bazaar's restaurants and storefronts include public second floors. In the US parks, the second floors are simply facades in front of upper-level office space. And Disney Imagineers use a forced perspective effect on those facades, to make the structures seem larger than they really are.
In Tokyo, there is no forced perspective. The second floors are actual sized, with a roof on top of them. The forced perspective effect used in the United States is missing, making World Bazaar seem a bit... top-heavy to my eye, which is used to the scale of the US Main Streets.
With no railroad of Main Street vehicles, there are no attractions in Tokyo Disneyland's World Bazaar. But there are six (yep, six) restaurants. (Click through for more photos, full descriptions with menu selections, and reader ratings.)
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