Stevo B

Published: December 13, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Robert, I might have missed this somewhere in your updates but did you travel alone? And if so, how was it? I've often thought of going to both the Paris and Tokyo parks on my own.
Robert Niles

Published: December 13, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Yes, I did travel alone. I was around plenty of other people covering the Transformers opening in Singapore, so I never felt alone on that part of the trip. And I've done so many theme park trips by myself over the years that the Tokyo Disney leg felt perfectly normal, too.

Having a second helps with justifying the hotel costs, sure, but they were nothing compared with the airfare, in this case. ($1500 for LA->Singapore->Tokyo->LA)

Stevo B

Published: December 13, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Yes, I've priced it out and it isn't cheap. I've heard the language barrier is easy to navigate, did you have problems with it at the Tokyo park?
Robert Niles

Published: December 13, 2011 at 7:43 PM

No problems, but of course my trip would have been more rewarding had I been able to speak more Japanese. I missed the full experience at several attractions because I didn't know exactly what the characters were saying. (Though I always got the gist of it, and in a few cases knew the corresponding English dialogue by heart so I didn't miss a thing.)

There's a kind of cast member pantomime that I learned when I worked at Disney World and would try to get visitors from other countries to go where I needed them to be. In Japan, I just tried to plug into the other end of that, to communicate whatever I needed as a guest (which wasn't much - again, I know my way around a Disney theme park).

For the most part, though, you just go where the arms point, while smiling and nodding in return. When you want to order food, just point at what you want. At buffeterias and table service locations, that's easy enough. At counter service locations, a cast member would come through the line handing small paper menus to each person. I'd just select what I wanted on that menu (which was written in both Japanese and English) and point it out to the person taking the order. (While saying "Arigato," when they rung it up correctly.) This practice is all sorts of awesome and I wish Disney would do this during the high season at Walt Disney World, too.

So even though I met only two cast members who spoke English to me while I was there, I didn't have any problem communicating (with one exception that I'll get to during Tokyo DisneySea week, and that one totally was my fault).

As far as accommodations, I stayed at the Hilton, which has enough bilingual staff to address any issue you might have. And English is the international language of aviation, so there were no problems whatsoever at the airport.

The biggest problem I faced was making Priority Seating reservations at Tokyo Disney. You can do this online, but only via the Japanese version of the Tokyo Disney website. This was the one place where I cheated, and pulled a string I had inside the Disney company to make my reservations for me.

Published: December 13, 2011 at 8:17 PM

About the visitor makeup of Tokyo Disneyland-- I was told maybe 10 or 15 years ago by relatives visiting from Japan that there was a high percentage of people from other Asian countries visiting Tokyo Disneyland. They explained it by saying that people from Korea or China didn't have to fly all the way to California or Florida to visit a Disney park, as Tokyo was a lot closer for these people.

Of course, there is a Disney park in Hong Kong now, with another under construction in Shanghai. But I find it interesting that more Asians from outside Japan don't go to the Tokyo Disney parks.

Published: December 14, 2011 at 4:38 AM

Hey Robert, I was thinking about you said on the number of greeters in the park. I reckon it is a cultural trait more than anything. I have never been to Japan, but my brother was and he told me a lot about how in Japan every little shop have at least a person working as a greeter at the door. He said that in Japan business owner treat costumers and guests as the most important value, and that it is considered disrespectful to do not have someone to greet and say "good day" to people.
It is even true here in Brazil. Especially in São Paulo, where I live and the biggest Japanese community outside Japan. On every business owned by Japanese, or their descendents, there is always a person at the door for the sole purpose of saying "good morning" or "goodbye". Some shops have machines to do it too. Of couse it doesn't happen in business of other ethnicity here. Japanese people are very found of politeness and devoted to the costumer, client or guest.
Anyway, I am a big fan of your blog and theme parks. I hope someday to visit Tokyo Disneyland also. I am enjoying immensely your posts.
Anon Mouse

Published: December 14, 2011 at 8:42 AM

It was a long time since I've been to Japan (10 years), but I never felt language was a barrier. They made it quite easy to navigate. Although few speak English, enough did to make it possible to figure things out. They use English signs and instructions on the machines. The greeters at the subways were very helpful. You merely point to where you want to go. No one will cheat you or steer you wrong.

To lessen the hassle, read up on literature. You don't want to waste time once you arrive.

Published: December 14, 2011 at 9:23 AM

I'm surprised you didn't use Disney's translating service when visiting Tokyo Disneyland. At the U.S. parks, Disney offers a translating device for foreign visitors. I believe the translating device activates at various attractions to translate the ride/show dialogue into the native language of the visitor. So, for example, if the guest is from Brazil, the device would translate the dialogue in Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress into Portugese. Doesn't Disney offer a similar device at its non-U.S. parks?

- Brian

Robert Niles

Published: December 14, 2011 at 1:42 PM

I didn't bother. I didn't want to mess around at the beginning of the day trying to track down a translation unit - not when thousands of people were already getting in lines. Plus, I suspected I wouldn't need it for 95%+ of what I wanted to do, and I was right. The only place where I wished I'd had a translation was in the Magic Lamp Theater in Tokyo DisneySea, which runs a show we don't have in the U.S. so I hadn't seen it before. But I still understood the basic narrative and got the sight gags.