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A tour of Tokyo DisneySea: Mysterious Island

Written by
Published: December 27, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Mysterious Island is Steampunk heaven.

Set within the confines of Mount Prometheus, Mysterious Island pays tribute three classic Jules Verne novels in a richly detailed setting. Step behind the mountain walls that guard Mysterious Island from the rest of Tokyo DisneySea, and you'll enter a nineteenth century vision of futuristic technology, where ingenuity and willpower can take you anywhere, including to the bottom of the sea and the center of the Earth.

Outside Mysterious Island

Inside Mysterious Island

Inside Mysterious Island

Looking down at 20K

In Jules Verne's world, Mysterious Island is the final port of the Nautilus, and we see it here, moored in the lagoon at the center of the island. But the Nautilus' retirement does not mean the end of our adventure 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Instead of riding the Nautilus on a submarine ride as we did years ago at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, here we descend in four-passenger diving bells to explore Verne's undersea world.

Inside 20K
Inside the 20K diving bell. Photo by reader Madeline Kimmich.

Your trip begins innocently, though underwater farms and a ship's graveyard. But a narrow escape from a giant squid sends you to depths unknown, where you discover the ruins of Atlantis. And who is that living in Atlantis now?

Turn the joystick in front of your seat to direct the spotlight as you travel "underwater." Really, the bubble effect is just in your window - this is otherwise a traditional, tracked dark ride. But I preferred it to the old Magic Kingdom sub ride, since you could feel elevation changes here - drops and rises that never physically happened on Disney World's Florida-flat submarine track. I tried to record the ride for you, but while having a single spotlight to illuminate the sights helped reinforce the feeling of traveling in the deepest, darkest seas, it made for video way too dim to see well.

As much as I enjoyed 20K, it's far from the highlight in the land. That honor goes to Journey to the Center of the Earth. Imagine if the ride from Epcot's Test Track weren't trapped inside a car commercial, but instead liberated with a classic science fiction narrative, and a truly awesome villain from which you narrowly escaped in an exhilarating finale.

That's Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Entrance to Journey of the Center of the Earth

Your journey begins ever before you enter the queue, as you see Captain Nemo's giant drilling machine boring its way through Mount Prometheus, from outside the ride.

The drillig machine

As with many attractions at Tokyo DisneySea, the queue itself also provides many of the ride's delights. Lava bubbles up from the depths,

Lava bubbles

Nemo's laboratories await inspection,

Laboratory equipment

but the most engaging sights, for me, were the drawn illustrations of Nemo's journeys - here depicting a tunnel of the winds, the grand cathedral, and the lake of fire.

Illustrations

I wish that Disney's merchandise team would cool its Duffy obsession long enough to print and sell some of these illustrations as posters - or at least as a book of postcards. I would have made space in my backpack to bring these home.

Once through the queue, you board one of several mine-shaft elevators to take you down to the mine cars for your journey.

Boarding the mine shaft elevators

Boarding the mine cars

On the ride, you begin with a leisurely drive through the Crystal Caverns, then into the Giant Mushroom Forest. Of course, then something goes terribly wrong - a cave-in prevents you from continuing along the tour course, and your car blasts through a red warning light on its way into restricted areas. Lightning crackles around you as you dive further into the Earth, driving past lakes of fire. And then… the monster.

This might be the most impressive animatronic I've ever seen - nearly 20 feet tall, looking like some unholy offspring of Harry Potter's dragon and the alien from "Super 8." My thanks to Theme Park Insider reader Madeline Kimmich for capturing this close-up photo.

The monster

The creature roars and it's the moment for your escape. Your car accelerates, rising back toward the surface before blasting through the fog out the side of Mount Prometheus.

Blasting out of the mountain

Yes, you even get airtime as your car hops the crest before plunging back into the depths for a run around the island and your return to Nemo's station. While the ride itself is short, it impressed me more than anything else I rode at Tokyo Disney Resort. As soon as I exited, I ran for the FastPass machines to pick up a return time for a re-ride.

After riding Journey to the Center of the Earth, you'll also better understand the architecture of Mysterious Island. The mountain walls surrounding the lagoon are, in fact, the track of the Journey ride, where you take that final, high-speed spin before returning to the station.

While Mysterious Island has just two rides, there is a third major attraction here.

The Gyoza Dog.

Gyoza Dog

Tokyo DisneySea's signature snack item is on sale only at the Refreshment Station in Mysterious Island, on the side exiting toward Mermaid Lagoon.

Refreshment Station

For 420 yen ($5.40), you get a mild, uncased sausage, stuffed with cabbage, green onion and mushroom into a steamed bun. Don't be intimidated. The bun tastes like a fresh white bread with an airy, almost spongy texture, but without the browned crust.

Biting into the Gyoza dog

The bun's neutral flavor keeps the focus on the filling, which offers a spicier kick than a traditional hot dog. Think of a giant bratwurst potsticker and you'd be close to what the Gyoza sausage tastes like.

If you're hungry for something else while visiting Mysterious Island, you have two other counter-service options: Vulcania Restaurant, serving Chinese meals, and Nautilus Galley, a small eatery serving turkey legs and beer, down on the surface of the lagoon.

Tomorrow, we'll step next door to visit Mermaid Lagoon.

Also on the tour: History, layout and Mediterranean Harbor, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, American Waterfront

Readers' Opinions

From Tim Hillman on December 27, 2011 at 2:35 PM
Great article, Robert!

The pictures of the park are awesome, but it so difficult to capture just how impressive and intensively detailed Mt Prometheus is. It is easily the best of any of the Disney "mountains."

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth are two rides that I would love to see added to DHS or Epcot. If we ever did get them added to a park stateside, I only hope that they would make the ride element of Journey to the Center of the Earth a little longer. I felt slightly letdown after the phenominal buildup in the queue.

This whole week of articles on DisneySea is going to be a tribute to the cheapness of Michael Eisner. DisneySea is a showpiece of what the Imagineers can build, and DAK, DHS, and DCA are examples of what the Eisner regime would let them build. If more Americans had been exposed to DisneySea when it was first built, the peasants would have been reaching for their torches and pitchforks a long time ago.

From Joshua Counsil on December 27, 2011 at 8:10 PM
Great article!
From David Sutter on December 28, 2011 at 5:29 AM
Id have taken this over Avatar any day. Thank you very much.
From James Rao on December 29, 2011 at 10:56 AM
In a word: breathtaking.
From Michael Gilmore on December 30, 2011 at 8:44 PM
Oh how true for Michael Eisner's cheapness, yet in my humble opinion, it was Eisner who was a new lead for a lost company (a company that had lost it compass - Walt Disney)that I consider the world's best.

I will always wonder myself what Disney would really be able to create...if given the real
"Go Ahead!"

Thanks for the pictures and commentary on DisneySea. I have been viewing online for several years but did not have your cool take on what was there. It help me visualize it better so when I finally take my big trip to Japan...you know what will be BIG on my list.

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