Home » The 8 Best Rides at the Tokyo Disney Resort

    The 8 Best Rides at the Tokyo Disney Resort

    There’s seemingly no limit to the innovative and ground-breaking ways that the folks at Disney Imagineering can bring a story to life. Combined with the quality-driven Oriental Land Company’s limitless trust in Disney and its product, Tokyo Disney Resort has created a number of attractions that are simply so outstanding, they must be seen to be believed. Here, at least, we can provide a brief overview of the best of the best – the must-see highlights of each park at the Tokyo Disney Resort.

    Tokyo Disneyland

    1. Pooh’s Hunny Hunt

    Located in Tokyo Disneyland’s Fantasyland, behind the gentle façade of a giant storybook is the unprecedented Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. Superficially related to the Many Adventures dark rides located in California, Florida, and Hong Kong, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt follows everyone’s favorite yellow plush bear through the hundred acre wood in a whole new way: via trackless, LPS guided “hunny pot” ride vehicles. Three pots enter the attraction at a time, each diverging along different paths, spinning, bouncing, and swirling around each other in synchronized “dances” that are choreographed via satellite with apparent “near misses” at every turn. The attraction features full-scale sets, true audio animatronics, and an adventurously quick pace that the other Pooh rides lack.

    The Best Moment: During a particularly dizzying rendezvous with the dream-sequence-induced Heffalumps and Woozles, a fourth ride vehicle joins in on the fun: this one, with the zany, trippy elephant-like creatures on board. In another fantastic scene, a wooded glen morphs into a bouncing adventure with Tigger with a curious mix of tactile and visual sensation.

    Inner Workings: The LPS-guided hunny pot vehicles were Disney’s second foray into trackless technology, also utilized in the park next door (more ahead). The same system was implemented in 2013 in the universally-adored Mystic Manor in Hong Kong.

    2. Monsters, Inc: Ride & Go Seek

    © Disney – Pixar

    If the rides and attractions at Tokyo Disney Resort are any indication, the Japanese have little interest in reliving the stories they already know and love. Instead, they want to see their favorite characters in new situations that are familiar, but fresh. That trend continues in Monsters Inc: Ride and Go Seek. In lieu of cloning California’s Monsters Inc. dark ride, Tokyo’s version extends the story into new realms by having the monsters orchestrate a company-wide game of flashlight tag. Mike pulls the main breaker and you’re off, through the massive, dark, full-sized rooms of the Monsters Inc. factory with a flashlight in hand, emitting a real beam of light. Striking any of the recognizable blue hard hats worn by the company’s finest reveals a playful monster in hilarious ways. While its location in Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland is hotly debated (mostly by people who have not been and will never be to Tokyo Disney Resort, by the way), the ride is charming, fun, and like the rest of Tokyo Disney, top quality with no expense spared.

    The Best Moment: As is only fitting, the nefarious lizard-like Randall meets his fate in a garbage compactor; Roz, ever glowing, thanks guests for their participation in personalized messages at the ride’s end; and perhaps best of all, even with its “interactive” component, Ride & Go Seek does not keep score.

    3. The Western River Railroad

    Via TDRfan.com, click for original.

    The intensely organized and structured Japanese rail system apparently must follow a time table and charge a fare, leaving a “Tokyo Disneyland Railroad” that encircles the park an impracticality. (Besides, there’s no Main Street Train Station to pass under at the park’s entrance – in fact, there’s no Main Street at all!) Enter the Western River Railroad, a narrow gauge railway that boards in Adventureland above the Jungle Cruise, and encircles Adventureland, Frontierland, and Critter Country before returning to its single station. Announced in the famous call (“Your attention please: the Western River Railroad is now arriving at Adventureland. Booooarrrdd!”), the ride passes the Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain, a mining town scene, Splash Mountain, the Rivers of America, and through a version of Disneyland’s Primeval World diorama.

    4. The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents Aloha e Komo Mai!

    © Disney

    Though the addition of accessory characters to Walt Disney World’s Tropical Serenade drew the ire of the entire fan community, the rabid Disney base centered around the Tokyo Disney Resort saw no harm in adding one of their most loved characters to this show. In addition to their desire to see characters in new situations, the Japanese also have an odd adoration of seemingly random Disney characters: primarily, the Genie from Aladdin, the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Stitch. So here, Stitch joins in the fun, painting graffiti on the walls, burping, and playing a ukulele in a Hawaiian shirt straight from Disney’s California Adventure 2001. Is it any more successful than Stitch’s Great Escape? Objectively, probably not. But the Japanese love it – they laugh and participate and stare in wonder at the animatronic Stitch figure that rises from the central pedestal. Their excitement is electric and they genuinely enjoy the show. What more could you ask for?

    Tokyo DisneySea

     Tokyo DisneySea, the second park at Tokyo Disney Resort, is a wonder. Often considered the pinnacle of theme park design, DisneySea is both extravagant and finely detailed – enormous and quaint. Opened the same year as Disney’s California Adventure (but with nearly four times the budget), DisneySea has become a destination dreamed of by all Disney Parks fans. Even when it borrows concepts, technology, or ideas from existing Disney Parks, it amps up the spectacle, wonder, reliability, and budget. With very, very few exceptions, every single ride at DisneySea is unique to the park. Here are a few highlights.

    5. Tower of Terror

    Forget everything you know about the Hollywood Tower Hotel, a mysterious maintenance service elevator, and a lightning bolt. Of the four “Tower of Terror” attractions, only Tokyo’s replaces the tried-and-true formula with an original story, setting, characters, and atmosphere. Here, the dastardly millionaire Mr. Harrison Hightower has returned from another trip around the world where he “collects” priceless artifacts (usually without the prior knowledge of their rightful owners). On one particular trip, he collects a frightening African tribal doll named Shiriki Utundu. A bit groggy and boastful at a New Years Eve party in 1899 (a full 40 years before the Hollywood storyline of the other Towers), Hightower denies any fear of a “so-called curse” and just to prove it, he puts his cigar out on the idol’s head. Just before midnight, he retreats to his penthouse with the statue in hand. There, a mysterious flash of green light caused the hotel’s windows to burst as the elevator fell, crashing in the basement. Mr. Hightower’s body was never found in the wreckage, but Shiriki Utundu stood, unharmed, on a pedestal in the hotel’s main office.

    Set in the park’s American Harbor section – themed to 1920s New York City – a preservation committee has rescued the now-abandoned hotel from near destruction and is raising money for its restoration via tours. Of course, no better way to attract tourists than to sensationalize, so Mr. Hightower’s collection has been put on display through the hotel grounds and guests are invited to explore what the locals call “The Tower of Terror.” The tour leads through the hotel’s grand lobby (containing countless murals of Mr. Hightower “borrowing” relics as local tribes chase after) and into his office, where Shiriki Utundu still stands… at least, until you wake him up; at that point, in one of the most astounding effects I’ve ever seen, Shiriki’s razor-sharp teeth gleam in a twisted smile and he disappears farther into the hotel. Replace America’s boiler room with a vault of antiquities, then find yourself at an elevator door to ascend to Mr. Hightower’s penthouse yourself… Where Shiriki is waiting!

    The Best Moment: Shiriki’s disappearance in the office will leave even the most seasoned theme park aficionado speechless. Altogether, though, the atmosphere of the ride is unmatched. It leaves behind The Twilight Zone’s otherworldly dissociation and replaces it with something much more earthly, visceral, and downright upsettingly creepy. 

    Inner Workings: The ride system itself is identical to California and Paris’, with three elevator shafts, dual load levels, and a horizontal “push” to and from the ride. The scenes on board are also similar, with a “mirror” scene and a rough equivalent to the “hallway” scene. The different aura, atmosphere, and style of the story provide for a 100% unique experience, regardless.

    Fun Fact: The hotel’s founder, Harrison Hightower, was supposedly a prominent member of S.E.A. – the Society for Explorers and Adventurers. That same elite club is behind the park’s Fortress Explorations. The much more benevolent Lord Henry Mystic (of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor) was also a member of S.E.A., creating Disney’s first interresort mythology. As well, a painting in the hotel’s lobby shows Hightower stealing one of the stone dragon heads from the park’s own Raging Spirits.

    6. Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage

    Often discounted for its apparent similarities to “it’s a small world,” Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is indeed a musical boat ride past yea-high dolls (or, the ride’s creators might protest, “action figures”). But Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is more than it sounds. The figures used have got to be some of the most advanced on earth, with unparalleled motion, dexterity, and detail (especially for being no more than a few feet tall, at most). And with a cast of thousands, the ride is so densely populated and detailed that it’s almost unbelievable. Even background figures play real games, conduct natural conversations, and wish Sinbad well on his voyages (which would later become the stuff of literary legend).

    Originally opened as “Seven Voyages of Sinbad,” the attraction was – for lack of a better word – terrifying. The highly-articulated figures were marauders, enraged, screaming monkeys holding deadly spears, an evil giant holding Sinbad’s crew over the water, and pale white sirens bent on crashing his boat… The ride was closed for extensive overhauls after just a few years, softening the experience by removing Sinbad’s goatee (it helped), adding a trusty tiger cub travel companion named Chandu, and installing a “small world” style song in the form of Alan Menken’s catchy and fantastic “Compass of Your Heart.” Similarly, the sirens became helpful mermaids, the monkeys’ spears were replaced with maracas (though they’re still terrifying with insane smiles and black eyes), and the giant became a friend Sinbad was trying to save who sings along to the ride’s anthem while playing a lute. Now, the ride is one of the resort’s best, and a terrific family ride with memorable characters, an incredible song, and unbelievable detail.

    7. Journey to the Center of the Earth

    Regarded as Tokyo DisneySea’s signature attraction (the equivalent of its Spaceship Earth or Kilimanjaro Safaris), Journey to the Center of the Earth is a high-speed dark / thrill ride that takes place in the park’s icon – the 180 foot tall Mount Prometheus, which spews lava, flames, and smoke all day long. Part of the park’s Mysterious Island (which is located entirely within a rocky caldera at the volcano’s base), Journey and the rest of the Island are based on the literary work of Jules Verne, who also famously wrote Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (which is represented by another ride in the land). Journey continues the adventures of Captain Nemo. Guests pass into the volcano and pass beneath a massive drill that bores into Mount Prometheus’ side. Through dark tunnels, guests enter Nemo’s subterranean lair and then board a “terravator” that takes a group deep into the planet’s crust. Opening into a dimly lit cavern full of Victorian style valves and presses and pipes that burst steam every few seconds, guests get their first glimpse of the ride vehicle: a narrow, six passenger drilling cart ready to navigate the tunnels cut through the earth by the drill you’d just seen so many miles above on the mountainside.

    The ride passes through incredible caverns of glowing gems, through underground forests populated by bioluminescent life, and through a massive chamber containing its own atmosphere, and a subterranean sea. Of course, an unexpected earthquake diverts the cars from their intended camp and sends them down further into a murky chamber of jagged rocks and sticky, gooey egg sacks big enough to hold a large child. Apparently getting too close to the eggs, a massive spider-y claw is seen in silhouette, rapping against the chamber’s walls. The car speeds off further toward the Earth’s core as flames burst around it. Then, turning the corner, riders come face-to-face with the mother of those sticky eggs – a massive molten creature that’s somewhere between a spider, a worm, a crab, and a dragon, armored enough to withstand the earth’s heat and pressure, but sleek enough to travel effortlessly through the planet’s lava tubes. Easily the most incredible animatronic figure Disney’s ever created, the creature sniffs the car, rears back, and strikes with a roar, signaling the car’s rapid acceleration and a dizzying ascent back through the earth, up the spiral cone of Mount Prometheus, and out the side of the mountain with a moment of airtime so palpable, you can practically feel it even when watching videos.

    Journey to the Center of the Earth may well be the most impressive ride Disney has ever created. With original characters and a literary source, it pleases Disney purists. It’s also got unparalleled attention-to-detail, an unbelievable setting, effortless storytelling, and really superlative animatronics. What’s most astounding, though, is how much ride is contained in so little space. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure where in the park the ride takes place, as it seems far too massive to actually be located inside the volcano. Even with tight chambers and moments where [convincing] panels stand in for “endless tunnels,” the ride feels massive and larger than life. It’s quality from start to finish. 

    Inner Workings: The ride system used at Journey is the second generation of the slot car design created for Epcot’s Test Track and later doubled at Disney California Adventure’s Radiator Springs Racers.

    8. Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull

    © Disney

    What would be the undeniable leading E-ticket at any other Disney Park plays here as an (albeit, magnificent) supporting cast member. When Disneyland Park opened Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye in 1995, it was the height of technological advancement, showmanship, special effects, and storytelling – a practiced and successful collaboration between George Lucas and Disney’s Imagineers. Not to be outdone, DisneySea opened in 2001 with a version of the attraction replacing the Forbidden Eye of Mara with a vengeful Crystal Skull (unrelated to the film, which wouldn’t come until years later). Improving upon near-perfection, Tokyo’s version features fully carved sets, consistent uptime, and effects that never appear to age.

    The Best Moment: Like the California attraction, a large portion of the attraction takes place in an enormous multi-story temple chamber with a wooden suspension bridge, caverns, mudslides, snakes, and bugs within. The centerpiece of the chamber is a forty-foot tall stone carving of the Crystal Skull. Blue and green energy melts from the statue’s mouth, fueling a swirling blue vortex (the fountain of youth) while lasers blast from its eye, threatening to collapse the watery chamber once and for all.