Universal Studios Japan

Asia's leading economies are growing fast, and disposable incomes are increasing. It's no surprise, then, that the theme park industry is beginning to take off in the region. In this article, we take a look at the 10 most popular theme parks in Asia, based on the Themed Entertainment Assocation's annual report.

It's noticeable that giants Universal and Disney do not yet dominate the Asian top 10 in the same way that they dominate the US list. Still, the planned opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2015/16, the ongoing expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland and the 2010 debut of Universal Studios Singapore (which falls just off this list, at number 13) show that the industry's powerhouses have their sights firmly set on the Asian market.

10. Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

Location: Yokohama, Japan2011 attendance: 3.8 million

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise's attendance figures are probably boosted by the park's free-to-enter nature, with attractions being charged for on a per-ride basis (although all-inclusive passes are also available). Located at the tip of Yokohama Bay, it is home to one of Japan's largest aquariums as well as shops, restaurants, a marina and a hotel.

The park's best rides make use of its unique setting, jutting out into the sea. Like SeaWorld parks in the US, the Sea Paradise combines marine exhibits with more traditional theme park attractions, and boasts a number of live shows.

Don't miss: The world's first "surf coaster", which soars out over the bay.

9. OCT East

Location: Shenzhen, China2011 attendance: 5.8 million

OCT East

Image: Clestur

Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) East is one of China's oldest theme park resorts, having opened in 1985. It actually consists of two sub-parks, Knight Valley and Tea Valley. The former hosts actual rides, while the latter is essentially a botanical garden.

In Knight Valley, guests board a funicular railway which carries them up a hillside that hosts the park's major rides. These include a thinly-disguised clone of Tokyo DisneySea's Journey to the Center of the Earth (here dubbed "4,000 Miles to Earth Center"), a log flume and a wooden roller coaster.

Don't miss: Mountain Flyer, an impressive wooden coaster manufactured by US firm Great Coasters International.

8. Lotte World

Lotte World

Image: Yoshi

Location: Seoul, South Korea2011 attendance: 5.8 million

While it has sometimes been accused of borrowing a little too heavily from Disney's parks, South Korea's Lotte World is a hugely successful resort in its own right. It comprises the world's largest indoor theme park and a large outdoor park, based around a Disney-style castle.

The park hosts some impressive rides, including Pharoah's Fury, an enhanced motion vehicle ride that is similar in style to Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure. It even has its own Disneyesque mascots, Lotty and Lorry, a pair of anthropomorphic racoons.

Don't miss: Fantastic Odyssey, a water, fire, light and projection show that has been compared to Disney's Fantasmic!.

7. Nagashima Spa Land

Location: Kuwana, Japan2011 attendance: 5.8 million

Nagashima Spa Land

Nagashima Spa Land is home to a number of extreme thrill rides, as well as an adjoining water park. Like many of Japan's theme parks, it juts out into the sea, providing an impressive backdrop for its line-up of coasters and other attractions.

One of the park's biggest draws is the Aurora Wheel, an enormous ferris wheel that stands at an incredible 295 feet tall and offers views for miles around.

Don't miss: The enormous Steel Dragon 2000 roller coaster, which hits a top speed of 95 miles per hour and reaches a height of 318 feet.

6. Hong Kong Disneyland

Location: Hong Kong2011 attendance: 5.9 million

Hong Kong Disneyland

Located on a patch of reclaimed land, Hong Kong Disneyland is based on the template of the original Disneyland in California. Guests enter via Main Street U.S.A., walking towards the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. From there, they can reach Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Adventureland, all of which feature attractions that will be familiar to fans of Disney's US parks. Toy Story Land hosts a handful of themed flat rides, while Grizzly Gulch is the park's first unique offering and is headlined by the impressive Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars roller coaster.

Hong Kong Disneyland has struggled to meet its attendance targets, although visitors numbers have picked up in recent years. A major expansion plan was announced in 2009, with the first new land, Toy Story Land, opening in November 2011. A second, Grizzly Gulch, followed in 2012, with Mystic Point due to debut in 2013. Unusually for a Disney park, all three new lands are located outside of the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad track.

Don't miss: Due to open in spring 2013, Mystic Manor will be a modern take on Disney's classic Haunted Mansion. Set to boast a trackless ride system and cutting-edge special effects, it looks sure to be the envy of Disney fans all over the world.

5. Everland

Location: Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea2011 attendance: 6.6 million


South Korea's largest theme park is operated by a subsidiary of the Samsung Group, and is also home to a zoo and a water park. Its attractions, which include several roller coasters, are spread across several themed lands, including European Adventure, Magic Land and American Adventure.

Among Everland's biggest draws are Mystery Mansion, a Haunted Mansion-style shoot-em-up ride, a log flume and the Zoo-Topia animal exhibit area. Predictably given its owner, the park also hosts several robot-themed rides.

Don't miss: T Express, one of the longest wooden roller coasters in the world at 5,838 feet.

4. Ocean Park

Location: Hong Kong2011 attendance: 7.0 million

Ocean Park

Despite growing competition from the expanding Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park remains the most popular theme park in Hong Kong. The park has continued to invest heavily in new rides and attractions in recent years, including a sprawling rainforest-themed area. This hosts a rapids ride through a jungle setting, along with an aviary and animal exhibits.

As its name suggests, Ocean Park is a SeaWorld-style hybrid of a theme park and a marine life centre. In 2011, the park opened Thrill Mountain, which features a Bolliger & Mabillard-built roller coaster, and another new land, Polar Adventure, debuted in 2012.

Don't miss: Hair Raiser, a steel floorless coaster that boasts four inversions.

3. Universal Studios Japan

Location: Osaka, Japan2011 attendance: 8.5 million

Universal Studios Japan

Image: momopy

Universal Studios Japan opened its gates in March 2001. It proved to be an instant success, pulling in 11 million visitors during its first year in operations. While visitor numbers have fallen from those initial highs, the park has continued to expand, with additions such as the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman in 2004 and Hollywood Dream: The Ride in 2007.

Similar in style to the Universal Studios parks in Hollywood and Florida, Universal Studios Japan imports many popular ride concepts from the company's US parks. This includes the renowned Jurassic Park: The Ride water ride and Shrek 4-D Adventure. It is now the only park in the world still to host the classic Jaws ride, and expanded its line-up of unique attractions with the addition of spinning coaster Space Fantasy: The Ride in 2010.

Don't miss: Back to the Future - The Ride, the last remaining version of the classic simulator ride, which sees guests boarding a mock DeLorean for an adventure through time in pursuit of the mischievous Biff Tannen.

2. Tokyo DisneySea

Location: Tokyo, Japan2011 attendance: 11.9 million

Tokyo DisneySea

Image © Tokyo Disneyland Resort

While Disney fans in the US were lamenting the underwhelming debut of Disney California Adventure, visitors to the Tokyo Disney Resort were enjoying the 2001 opening of Tokyo DisneySea. It was everything that California Adventure wasn't: packed with expensive attractions, extensively themed and boasting incredible attention to detail. No wonder it was the most expensive theme park ever built, at a cost of some $4 billion.

As its name suggests, the Tokyo Disney Resort's second theme park features a nautical theme. After entering via Mediterranean Harbor, guests can explore six themed "ports": American Waterfront, Mermaid Lagoon, Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta, Port Discovery and Mysterious Island. Whereas neighbouring Tokyo Disneyland borrows most of its ride concepts from Disney's US parks, Tokyo DisneySea features many original rides of its own. This includes the Journey to the Center of the Earth dark ride, the StormRider simulator and the innovative Aquatopia boat ride. Look out as well for unique versions of the Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones Adventure, along with the park's take on the Fantasmic! pyrotechnic show concept.

Don't miss: Widely regarded as one of the world's top theme park attractions, Journey to the Center of the Earth reuses the ride system from Epcot's Test Track in a new and intentive way. Riders board "steam-powered" mine vehicles, which carry them on a trip to the Earth's core.

1. Tokyo Disneyland

Location: Tokyo, Japan2011 attendance: 14.0 million

Tokyo Disneyland

In an ambitious move, Disney agreed to build its first theme park outside of the US at the same time that it was constructing Epcot at Walt Disney World. Tokyo Disneyland threw open its gates in April 1983, and is owned by the Oriental Land Company, which licenses the attractions and characters from Disney. It has proven to be a spectacular success, and is currently ranked behind only the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland as the third most popular theme park in the world.

Covering a 115-acre plot in Urayasu, Tokyo Disneyland is similar in style to the original Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It features the chain's standard hub-and-spoke layout, although guests enter via World Bazaar instead of the usual Main Street, USA. From there, they can reach Adventureland, Westernland (Tokyo Disneyland's equivalent of Frontierland), Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, along with the smaller Critter Country and Toontown.

Don't miss: Pooh's Hunny Hunt, a traditional Disney dark ride with a difference. The attraction employs a groundbreaking "trackless" ride system, enabling computers to control the movement of each individual car.

Which park is your favorite?

Tokyo Disneyland is the most popular theme park in Asia, but is really the best? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.



No contest. Easily Tokyo Disney Sea. I have been to most of the parks except the Korean ones. That said, you honestly "see the money" at TDS. And the attraction technology and amazing themeing everywhere is sometimes overwhelming. But in an awesome way, lol.

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