2020 has been a remarkably crappy year for most of us. While things have been hard here in Japan, they’ve been comparatively better than in most other countries, thanks to the ready willingness of Japanese citizens to wear masks when in public — something they were already doing, as part of a tradition that took hold during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and never went away — and generally follow recommended safety guidelines. Japan managed to hold their infections to a reasonable daily rate, and have only had a total of 2800 deaths since the beginning of the crisis. Things have returned to normal so much that the Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks were able to reopen in June, with lots of safety guidelines in place for guests to follow. Here’s my report on what Tokyo Disneyland was like in Christmas 2020!
Since I’m your official Friend in Japan®, I’ve felt an odd need to document what was going on during 2020 for posterity. I took photos of what Shinjuku and Kabuki-cho were like during the depths of the lockdown in March, and did an update showing my gyms were managing to reopen in July. I hope you like my report!
My Visit to Tokyo Disneyland During COVID-19
In addition to loving anime, I’m a card-carrying Disney fan. I especially love the theme parks, because they’re pretty much the only place in the world where you can discard all facts and reality and really believe that you’re posing for a photo with Mickey or Minnie Mouse, and not some dude wearing a costume. It helps me keep in touch with my inner man-child, which isn’t hard.
We went on December 23rd, which is usually part of the big Christmas celebration the park puts on every year, complete with a big Christmas tree and a parade with all the company’s characters. While it was fun to walk around and enjoy the park, none of the usual Christmas decorations had been brought out, and none of the rides had switched to their Christmas versions. Naturally the reason was “to encourage social distancing” but it was also clearly out of budgetary concerns by the park.
There was one new attraction I wanted to see: the Beauty and the Beast ride, which was outstanding. To ride, we needed log in with the official app and win a lottery, which we fortunately won. The ride was really incredible, if you’re into Disney ride design.
Lining up for the Pirates of the Caribbean. Having so much space between groups meant that every line looked super long, but took about 10 minutes to get to the ride itself. The super-popular rides, like Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, all required reservations through the app…and some stores were so popular you couldn’t get in without reservations, too. After every ride there was an alcohol dispenser to sanitize your hands.
My friend and I made reservations to get a photo with Donald. We were required to keep masks on and maintain distance for the photo, which was easy to do. (I should have remembered to bring my SUGOI DEKAI mask with me.)
If you’ve never visited Tokyo Disneyland, it’s kind of a unique place. It’s the most affordable park to visit, thanks to the tendency of the Japanese to spend more per guest on gifts for themselves and others than in other countries. You used to be able to spend the day here for $50-$60, though with the new caps on the number of guests the max prices has shot up to $80. Still the cheapest Disney park in the world.
Naturally, Disney otakus are a thing in Japan, and you can see them walking around the park. They’re usually identifiable by having dozens if not hundreds of plush toys safety-pinned to their backpacks, and they carry $5000 cameras, because you need a really good camera to take pictures of those cast members when you spot one.
(The girls in the photo above are all wearing masks but have them pulled down temporarily to take their photo.)
The line for Space Mountain was similarly socially-distanced.
Tokyo Disneyland is kind of a sad place if you’re a Star Wars fan. Because it’s not owned directly by Disney, but Orient Corporation, the conglomerate that licensed Disney’s name and characters to build the park in 1983, there are various issues between the two companies. Because Orient would have to pay extra to Disney to license updates to rides, this is the only Space Mountain in the world to not have been updated to a Star Wars-themed ride, which might be a good or bad thing depending on your views of Disney updating existing rides. It kind of makes me feel like I’m back in the 80s whenever I visit.
There’s also no giant-ass toy store when you get out of Star Tours with tons of quality Star Wars merchandise to buy.
While they don’t sell any masks inside the park, as they probably don’t want their brand closely links with a virus that’s killed millions, I did find some Disney and Star Wars masks at the shops outside the park.
If you’re a fan of Disney merch, you’d have been disappointed. There was ZERO new merch and nothing themed for Christmas for sale, and they were clearly selling through all the leftover stock of products they had from the shutdown. You could still buy Easter themed products, for example. For some unknown reason, the snow globes with 2020 printed on them were on sale for 75% off. Can’t imagine why people wouldn’t want one of those!
Another reason I can’t help loving Tokyo Disneyland is…this fucking anime-style commercial. They own me forever because of the emotions this commercial evokes. Good going, Disney!
Thanks for reading my post about what it was like to visit Tokyo Disneyland during a pandemic. Got any topics you’d like me to write about on this blog? Tell us below, or give us feedback on Twitter!
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