Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planner

Welcome to the Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planner!

On this page, we have put together a variety of categories that, when clicked, give you a wide range of detailed information to help you plan the various stages of a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort.

Here at Character Central, we are quite familiar now with the bizarre and even infuriating systems and hoops you have to jump through to get a TDR trip organised. Hotels, tickets and dining reservations are not as easy as the US and DLP to arrange, and take some concentration, forward thinking and meticulous planning.
We hope that this planning guide will help you to achieve all those things, with as little stress possible!

Links to Other Pages & Websites

Many very useful and important links are provided in each section on the left, but below we have also included some of the main ones that you may need.

Useful Pages at Character Central:

Character Central Tokyo Trip Reports:

Other Useful Links:

Pictures of Tokyo Disney Resort

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Booking Your Flights

The first time we flew to Tokyo Disney Resort, we actually flew from Los Angeles (LAX). We flew Singapore Airlines direct to Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT).
If any of you have ever flown Virgin Atlantic, then Singapore Airlines will feel very similar. They have very high standards, and throughout the flight you get complimentary drinks, snacks and a whole manner of other things. I really liked them, and would definitely fly with them again.
The second time we flew, we flew with Cathay Pacific from London Heathrow, via Hong Kong. The reason of course we flew via Hong Kong is because we wanted to do a two part trip and include HKDL. The flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo is a further four hours. The flight to Tokyo is long enough as it is, so if you don't want to do a multipart trip, and want to fly direct, then Cathay Pacific is probably not the best option. Again though, I liked the airline overall and would recommend them. By my own standards, I wouldn't say they are the best I have flown, but they are better than nearly all US based airlines (though in my experience that isn't hard). If you're going to fly direct from Europe, I would recommend Virgin Atlantic, who fly direct from London Heathrow. I flew with Virgin direct from Heathrow in MAy 2014, and they were up to their usual high standards.
Flights from West Coast USA and Europe both are around 11 or 12 hours. If you fly from Europe you'll usually flying overnight, and arrive the following day. Tokyo is 9 hours ahead of the UK/GMT.
If you fly from the US, you'll usually fly westbound and head over the date line, which causes all sorts of confusion with your body! You'll be losing an entire day when you arrive, but when you return, you'll gain most of a day back. We were actually able to visit Tokyo Disney Resort on the morning we left, and arrived in California "3 hours" later, and went to Disneyland there for the rest of the day! It certainly is an interesting, and exhausting, experience!
Flights from Europe can cost anywhere from 800 to 1000 pound/euros return fare. From the US, they can cost anywhere from $1000 upwards. If you are flying from the US and are considering a multi-stop trip, then definitely consider including Hong Kong, if nothing else, to make the price tag for the flights more affordable! Believe it or not (and we've tried and tested this), it can work out the same price, if not actually cheaper to fly via Hong Kong to Japan, than it is to fly direct to Tokyo!
Booking early gets you the best fares
Flying internationally nearly always means the best deals are had when you book as far in advance as you can. Prices normally go up as more seats sell.


At the Airport

When you arrive in Narita, you follow the signs like any other airport, to the immigration area. You'll have to fill out a landing card, and then you're on your way. I don't think I really need to explain the rest of the airport and luggage process, because that really is just the same as anywhere else.

Transfers to Your Hotel and Disney

On one trip, we had good intentions of getting the bus from the airport, which runs to different Tokyo area destinations, including Tokyo Disney Resort. However, for some reason the next bus directly to TDR wasn't for another 2 hours and to be honest we weren't prepared to wait in the airport for that long, especially having just flown in.
We decided to take a different bus to Tokyo Station, which is in the heart of Tokyo. We figured we could then get the train to TDR. Not as convenient, but it would save us a good hour and a half. I'm not sure why a major international airport had so few busses to Disney this day, but that's how it was.
The bus came, we got on. An hour or so later we were in Tokyo. Easy so far. As with everything in Japan, the next step was more complicated than it needed to be though!
We were dropped off at a bus stop that was apparently Tokyo Station.
We were left a bit confused, and had to walk literally a good 10 to 15 minutes through a confusing and not very well signposted underground network of tunnels. Once in the station it's fairly easy to work out where you're going.
When you eventually get to a train, if you only buy a single ticket it will only be for the one operator. For example, JR might operate one line you need to use, but another company operates the line you have to transfer to.
This means you have to exit, buy a new ticket every time, and re-enter to get to the train you need! I don't know of anywhere else in the world that does this, and again, it adds to the mystery of Japan and their "most advanced country" claim!
There are maps and signs in Japanese and English to point you in the right direction.
My recommendation would definitely be to use one of the automated machines (selecting the English option) and purchase an "IC card" as soon as you arrive at the airport train station. You should purchase a PASMO card for each member of your party, NOT a SUICA card. PASMO is like a local travel card scheme whereby you can top it up and use it on nearly all Tokyo metro area lines, including the JR line from the city to Tokyo Disney Resort, including the Disney Resort Line monorail (SUICA is not valid on as many lines as PASMO, so beware!). It will save you time and money, and all you have to do is top it up and touch it at the barriers when entering the stations. It should be noted that you have to make a deposit on the card that cannot be used for fares, but you can get refunded once your trip ends and you no longer require the card.
The bus is the easiest way, so long as it's direct!
Overall, using the bus was not too much of a harrowing experience, but being left at a bus station on a random street in Tokyo, that was apparently "Tokyo Station" was quite confusing, and it really was an effort with all our luggage to get to the actual train station. Using the train from the airport to the city, and then out to the resort actually worked better for us in terms of time flexibility - it can just be a pain with all your luggage.
On the trip where did use the bus, coming home was even more of a pain tan arriving at Tokyo Station! We were flying back on a Sunday, and the busses (again, from the Disney Resort to a major international airport…) were at certain "selected" times! So, again, we had to deal with a series of other busses and trains to get the the airport. Luckily we have a Japanese friend who helps us with these things, but I warn you, if you don't know the system, you will be in a lot of bother! Yet, on another trip, where again we were returning on a Sunday (I'm not sure why this always happens to us!), we used the trains instead (because of the hassle we'd had the previous time with busses), and we had no issues at all with timings or limited service availability; in fact, it was quite easy.
So, be warned! Getting from Narita can be complicated, or it can be easy!
To avoid the hassles we encountered, be sure to book your flights to arrive and leave at sensible times of the day, which I know isn't always easy. It will mean you are more likely to get a direct bus wherever you want to go, and you can avoid using the the trains if you have lots of luggage.

I have included the links on the panel on the right, but I just want to point out that the official Narita website has a TON of information for visitors (you should go to the "Airport Guide" section of the Narita website), including links to all sorts of useful bus and train websites, banking services, car hire info, and lots more really good travel information for visitors. Definitely recommend you read it!

The Tokyo Disney Resort Official website has a good amount of information and links about trains and busses. Links can be found on the side panel to the right of this article.

Useful Flights & Transfers Links


Airport Websites:

Airline Websites

Transport Websites:

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Considerations when searching for a Hotel

The easiest way to look for hotels for Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) is to check the main travel websites such as Expedia. Take a look on the TDR website first, make a list of the on site partner hotels, and check them out (links provided on the side panel to the right of this article). They aren't the cheapest of places, but they will be a fraction of the cost of staying at a Disney Hotel, and the partner hotels are on site anyway.
The benefit of on site partner hotels, besides being cheaper, is that some have more included, too. Some have limited internet access (though not all, and internet is a perpetual issue in Japan anyway!), some include breakfast (ours did), and most have a convenience store and a variety of other facilities.
The on site Hilton we stayed at
In October 2012 we stayed on site at the Hilton Tokyo Bay. Buffet breakfast was included, it was right outside the one of the resort's monorail stations, and the hotel was friendly, clean, and offered excellent facilities, including a 24 hour mini market (useful to know even if you aren't staying there - anyone can go in, and they carry many essential items that may be needed).

The biggest problem you might encounter is finding one that has internet access. Even when it says it has internet, be cautious! Ours had internet, but as we discovered, it was only available in the more expensive rooms. Not even in the lobby, like most hotels in the rest of the world!

Disney Hotels vs. Other Hotels

The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel
As for the Disney Hotels, the cheapest would be the Ambassador. The Disneyland and MiraCosta are exorbitantly priced, and you need to be either very wealthy or very lucky to stay at either! We have explored all three hotels, even if we haven't stayed at them, and to be honest, although they are really nice, and offer the usual Disney service, there are very few benefits to staying at them.
Anyone can walk in to the hotels, shop in them, dine at their restaurants and so forth, just like any other Disney hotel around the world. The only real tangible benefits are that you get to utilise the 15 minutes early admission into the two parks, you get a free hotel monorail pass for the length of your stay (subject to conditions at time of booking) and you also are not restricted to the weird rules about selecting certain parks on certain days on your entry tickets. If though, you know which park you want each day, and the 15 minutes extra time doesn't really matter to you, then the Disney Hotels can bear a hefty price tag for just being Disney themed.

There are also some other local hotels which offer bus services to TDR. On one trip we stayed locally in the Maihama area and we used the local busses, but these are somewhat difficult to navigate like everything else in Japanese, so unless you have someone who can guide you (luckily we did), then I would say staying on site is the way to go.

Of course, you could stay in Tokyo itself, and then that opens up the chance to use the main JR Railways line into TDR. The JR line runs direct from Tokyo Station to TDR's Maihama station in the heart of the resort. This avoids the issue of being in a local suburb and using a local bus, like I mentioned above.
In the city, we have stayed in the Hotel Chinzanso, which is a high end hotel, and the Horidome Villa which is a lower end property. Both offered free wifi which worked fine, and were both fairly well located for ease of access around the city and to Tokyo Disney Resort. Just be warned that lower end properties in Japan can have exceptionally small rooms! However, despite the small rooms, and despite being a fairly cheap inner city hotel, the Horidome's service was very good, staff were friendly, and it was exceptionally clean and well kept.
So long as you can find your way around a train station and to the JR line to Maihama, then you'll get to TDR fine.

Arriving for the First Time

The neat Resort Cruiser for trips to the Ambassador
When you arrive in TDR, you'll probably need to get a monorail or a bus to your hotel. If you're staying at any of the on site partner hotels, or the MiraCosta you will need to take the Monorail.
The Ambassador Hotel has a cute retro Disney themed bus that leaves from the ground level outside Tokyo Disneyland, or you can walk through Ikspiari directly to the Ambassador.
The Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is a short walk from Maihama Station past Bon Voyage (though you can take a monorail to that, too if you want).

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Pre-booking Your Tickets Online

Before you arrive in Tokyo you MUST buy your park tickets online. I cannot stress enough how important this is!
When you arrive at the parks each day, you do not want to (a) wait 2 hours in line to get a ticket, and (b) having waiting so long to buy your ticket, be told the park is already at capacity at 10am. This WILL happen.
So, beware that if you don't buy your tickets before you travel, you will come unstuck!
Overall the online process is fairly easy, it's just a pain to have to do. The Tokyo Disney English website sells all four main ticket types, plus the late entry ones that are offered during select seasons.

Hotel Tickets

Before we get into the weird rules surrounding ticket purchasing, it should be noted that if you book a vacation package through Tokyo Disney Resort directly at one of their three Disney Hotels, then your park tickets are not subject to these conditions. If however you are staying at any other hotel besides the official Disney ones (including all other on site hotels), then you need to continue reading below.

Selecting Your Days

Sadly, unlike the other resorts, there isn't as much flexibility with the tickets, and they cost the Earth, too.
For all tickets types, the first day (or only day if you have a one day pass), is valid for one park only. No hopping, ever.
Buy tickets online in advance, with your days pre-selected
The second day of any pass type is for one park only again. No hopping. Both these days MUST be selected in advance. On our visits to TDR we always have selected TDL for the first day, and TDS as the second day. Days 3 and 4 can be hopper days on any pass type.
TDR only sells up to 4-day passes, so if you are staying longer, you have to do the same process all over again. Day 5 for you would be another "day 1", and you'd have to pre-select your park once again, on a new ticket.
It might sound complicated, but actually it's not that difficult, and all you do is print the confirmation and take it with you.

How Many Days Should I Book?

In terms of how many days to spend at the resort, I'd strongly recommend at least three, probably four.
Tickets cost the earth, and you can only visit one park per day for the first two days anyway, which gives you one whole day at each.
Your third and fourth days can be hopper days, which is very useful when you want to revisit attractions, or cover different aspect of the parks that you missed the first time, without being forced to stay in one place.
Four days would allow you a solid two whole days at each park - two designated, and two hopper days.

Collecting Your Tickets

Sign for the Ticket Center at Ikspiari
When you arrive at TDR, you visit the Ticketing Centre in Ikspiari (clearly signposted, just opposite Maihama Station) with your confirmation and the credit or debit card you booked them with to collect your ticket.
The best thing about pre-buying your tickets is that you are guaranteed entry, even on capacity days, and you don't have to stand in line to get them. The ticketing office is always quiet (surprisingly), and the collection process is very easy.

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Arriving at the Parks for the First Time

Tokyo Disneyland is often described as being the most popular or successful theme park of all time (a fact I personally can't prove, but honestly don't doubt!). On all our ventures into the park, from open 'til close we have always experienced complete and utter mayhem.

Long lines form hours before opening
To begin your day at the parks, you will need to be prepared in advance for every eventuality.
If you want to ensure you aren't blocked from going in to the park because it has hit capacity at 11am, you will have to be at the gates before opening. And wait in the long lines that form hours before the park opens. I would strongly recommend getting to the entrance of either TDL or TDS at least a half hour before the park opening time. They will not open the gates early, and except for a measly 15 minutes for Disney Hotels guests, the parks do not offer Extra Magic Hours.

Once the gates open, you'll probably have about 15-20 minutes before you get into the park, but depending on how thorough security is that day, it could be quicker.
Security checks at the Tokyo parks can be a bit slap dash, which in all honesty, is fine with me! If they had the same set-up as in the US it would take another half hour to get through, if not longer because of all the ridiculous amounts of stuff the Japanese bring with them to the parks!

The FastPass Dash!

Once you are in, you should have already pre-decided which attraction you are going to get a FastPass for first.
If you're at TDL you'll pretty much have the choice between Pooh's Hunny Hunt or Monsters Inc. My personal recommendation would be for Pooh, and do FastPass for Monsters if you have a second day at the park.
Then, take my word, once through the turnstiles, you have to run to the FP distribution. You'll probably end up in a good 10 minute long line to get the ticket, and when you collect it, it'll be for a lot later in the day. As happened to me, one time, I ran to get a Monsters FP at opening, and by the time I had exited the distribution with my tickets, the FP had all gone! It really is that bad.
Since writing this guide, Star Tours 2.0 has now opened, and the FastPass dash now tends to be for that first thing in the morning. Monsters Inc and Pooh's Hunny Hunt might have slightly shorter lines first thing, but it really depends on the guest mood that day!

Over at TDS, you should run to Journey to the Center of the Earth or Tower of Terror (it's really quite different here) first for FP, unless you really want to ride Midway Mania (which is of course at both US resorts).

Once you have your FP in hand for the main attraction, you can then take a slower, but still brisk pace, to your first attraction of the day. The first half hour the Japanese tend to run like crazy to all the FP areas, so once you have you FP you might have about 20 minutes before the mass crowds start filtering out around the park to actually do some other stuff.

Other Experiences without FastPasses

Before the crowds get too bad, in TDL I'd recommend, Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, or Space Mountain, as they are the other three main attractions that will get long lines almost instantly. All three of these are very similar to their US counterparts, but do offer some different twists to the classics that we all know and love, and are well worth experiencing if you get the chance.
Tom Sawyer Island is fun to explore & doesn't attract crowds
There are a lot of things around the park that will stay relatively calm throughout the day, and although still attract record numbers of guests compared to their counterpart attractions in the US, can be done with relative ease. For a calmer, more sedate experience, you can often (in our experience), quite easily see the Swiss Family Treehouse, Stitch Tiki Room (which I actually highly recommend!), Tom Sawyer Island, the Riverboat, Country Bears (which seems to now permanently be in the summer Vacation Jamboree mode, for those who want something a little different), Cinderella's Fairytale Hall (best later in the day, around early to late evening), Minnie's House, Donald's Boat, and Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse.
I know most of those are walk through attractions, and are usually considered not particularly thrilling in the other parks, but, Tokyo is so insanely busy, that trust me, you'll be glad to actually have some reprieve! Wandering around Tom Sawyer Island with little or no crowds will be worth the "short" 20 minute wait to get across on the raft! You'll find yourself forcing yourself to do things in Tokyo that you would otherwise walk past in the other parks, just to make the most of your time.
I have to say, even though those things aren't the most exciting, they can provide an interesting and somewhat calm day, and you will get to see TDL from a different angle. You'll get to enjoy some of it's unique details, and see things at this exotic park that you wouldn't otherwise appreciate.
The three other attractions that can attract long lines early in the day, but thin out later (you might get lucky and wait less than 20 minutes by late evening), are Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise and the Western River Railroad. Again, all three offer a slightly different experience, and you get to see how Imagineering did things differently for the Japanese.

FastPasses for 20000 Leagues are easier to get
At TDS, similarly you will find that there are some attractions that offer a more sedate experience.
At TDS, first thing in the morning there is usually no line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and I HIGHLY recommend this attraction. It has some of the most amazing details, and is so completely immersive. I absolutely love it, and it is my personal favourite attraction in the park, even more so than Journey. The biggest, and saddest problem with Journey is that it ends so abruptly. You are just getting into the action, through the absolutely stunning detail and theming, when you hit a fast curve, and - wait for it - end up back in the loading bay! You're left wondering if you missed something, sadly. It's a big let down, because the two minutes prior to the sudden end are really neat!
Across the park, as I mentioned, there are things that you can do though that will definitely enhance your time at TDS and enable you to see things from a different perspective, especially when the crowds are immense.
Fortress Explorations offer amazing detail & less crowds
The Fortress Explorations are incredibly detailed, beyond anything I can justly describe, and are well worth the wander through.

You can also take a trip around the entire park aboard the Transit Steamer Line. Be aware that some stations you board at you have to exit the next stop, but others allow you to circuit the whole park. Check on the day of your visit, so you don't get all comfy for a relaxing cruise, and are told to leave 5 minutes later! Having said that though, despite not being the most efficient mode of transport, it actually provides a fantastic overview of the park from the waterside angle, and is well worth doing.

The elevated Electric Railway is a one way trip between American Waterfront and Port Discovery (or vice versa), and although brief, again gives a good view of certain areas of the park.

Over at Arabian Coast, either early in the day or later in the day and early evening, Sindbad's attraction has fairly low foot flow. It is wonderfully detailed, and is something akin to "it's a small world", but with an Arabian twist. This is Jon's personal favourite attraction in TDS.
A real hidden gem, and one that is best to do last thing at night (no crowds and because it looks really neat lit up), is Aquatopia at Port Discovery. It's definitely a lot of fun.
Try your hand at a game - you always win!
In Agrabah, there is one other thing I really recommend you try. Abu's Bazaar is a series of small games that you can play for Y500. The prize for winning the game is usually a seasonally themed giant plush, which in Tokyo is a good deal for Y500! But, the even cooler thing is that even if you lose, you still get a prize! The prizes are special seasonally themed pins. They usually have some really cool ones, and have a few different ones you can collect at any one time. For Y500 it is definitely worth losing to get the different pins! Regular pins in the parks cost around Y900 alone!

What to Avoid When You're Short of Time

If your time is limited in the parks, say you only have two days, everything I mentioned above (with maybe the exception of the Toontown stuff which I added in just get your attraction count up on busy days), is definitely worth attempting. Of course though, Disney aren't perfect, and the Japanese parks are no exception. If time is limited, there are also some things you should outright avoid!
it's a small world in TDL is dreadful
Fantasyland at TDL has the worst copies of attractions, and they really are not worth the incredibly long wait times. Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures, and even Dumbo the Flying Elephant are all totally dire, but the worst of the lot by far is "its a small world". The yellow concrete tunnel-queue, awfully dull and grey loading are, and the completely uninspired sets are truly depressing. If you are on a longer trip, then maybe experience it just to be able to say you like the Magic Kingdom version better (!).


Obviously you will know your own limits, and the kinda of experiences you like to have when at Disney, but I hope that with my recommendations, you can try to get the best out of your precious time at the parks.

Recommended Attractions


Here is a list of our recommended attractions at each park. Each attraction can be clicked, to take you to its dedicated page here at Character Central.

Recommended attractions at Tokyo Disneyland:
Big Thunder Mountain (FP)
The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents "Aloha E Komo Mai!"
Splash Mountain (FP)
Western River Railroad
Pooh's Hunny Hunt (FP)
Space Mountain (FP)
Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek! (FP)

Recommended attractions at Tokyo DisneySea:
Fortress Explorations
Journey to the Center of the Earth (FP)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (FP)
Aquatopia
Sindbad's Storybook Voyage
Abu's Bazaar (Y500 charge, but you always win!)

(FP) = Disney's FastPass service normally available at this attraction

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The Waiting Game

Tokyo is renowned for it's completely insane and bizarre shows and parades.
The Japanese people could win the Olympic gold for waiting in lines, and this extends to waiting for parades and shows, too.
We have been during some exceptionally busy times, and I can assure you it is not uncommon to see them camping out all day, from park open, to wait for a special seasonal show.
People waiting at 9am for a nighttime show!
You have to really plan ahead and know where you want to be at what time. When people start camping out, be prepared to start waiting too, otherwise you will not gets space.

We encourage you to take a small towel or blanket, as the Japanese must sit for all parades, and they get their blankets out to mark their spot, so one person can wait while the other go off to do things. It's probably a good idea that you prepare to be able to do the same. Blankets and mats are usually allowed to be put down an hour before a parade start time, and a park wide announcement will be made informing you of this, at which time just about everyone will get out a mat from their huge bags they carry around, and will set themselves down on the spot! Don't say I didn't warn you!
For regular shows, you should be at the entrance or seating for any show at both parks, at least a half hour before the time you want to see it.

The Lottery System

Lotteries are held in Tomorrowland Hall
Some shows, such as Once Upon a Time (TDL), Big Band Beat (TDS) and One Man's Dream (TDL), plus most seasonal shows at both parks have a lottery system, whereby you have the chance - and it just a chance - to get a priority seat for these shows. It's free to enter, and you will need your park tickets. Each party must present all their tickets at the time you enter the lottery and is only allowed one entry, and trust me, it really is random. If you get a "no", then it's a no for that whole day, and you cannot try again, and if you want to see the show, you will have to wait like everyone else.
Lotteries are held in Tomorrowland for the TDL shows, and in Med Harbor for the TDS shows. You should go first thing after getting your FP tickets if you want a chance of attending a lottery show.
It should be noted that the first performance of the day, of any show except Once Upon a Time, will not have a lottery, but all performances thereafter will.

Enjoy the Uniqueness!

Whatever happens, or however much time you have, you should definitely take in a parade and show, or two, as they are certainly an eye opener to the ridiculous and over the top showmanship, and trouble the Japanese go to in order to entertain!
For the most bizarre show experience you're ever likely to have at a Disney Park, watch "A Table is Waiting" in TDS. I don't even think the Japanese know what is going on, but it's ridiculously entertaining nonetheless!
The daytime parade at Tokyo Disneyland is a must see, and is probably the best daytime Disney parade you're likely to see!
The TDL Electrical Parade Dreamlights is an absolute must. It is simply spectacular, and is by far the best nighttime parade Disney have ever had.
Flamboyant... Minnie! Oh Minnie
Minnie! Oh Minnie in Adventureland is one of our favourites, and has some really "colourful" costumes!
Fantasmic! at TDS's Med Harbor is an interesting take on the beloved US show, but in our opinion is not as good. The vastness of the lagoon really lacks the intimacy of the Disneyland show, and the characters seem like they are miles away.
Both parks offer many more shows and entertainment happenings, but those mentioned above, and on the list to the right are the ones that we think are particularly notable, and would definitely offer you the most unique experience on your trip.

Seasonal Entertainment

It should also be noted that TDR has some of the most elaborate seasonal entertainment. In the spring, they have the Easter Parade, and Duffy's Spring Voyage. The summer often sees some fantastical water show at the Castle. Autumn is Halloween, where there is usually a Halloween parade in TDL, and a show at Med Harbor in TDS. Christmas is celebrated, and has a fantastic parade and some shows.
Be warned though, that these periods are even more busy than the "off season" times. We went at Halloween one year, and honestly, it was more than I could bear.
You should check the Seasons and Events section of this Trip Planner for more detailed information.

Cirque du Soleil

The now defunct Cirque du Soleil theatre
Just a note here about Cirque du Soleil.
You may have heard that there is a large theatre on property that was built for Cirque du Soleil's "Zed". Oddly enough, after only a short run, and despite having their own theatre space, the show ended.
The theatre now sits empty, until the day when some other company decides to perform there.
The reason I mention it is so that you don't think you mis-read or mis-heard. There was a Cirque du Soleil show here, but now it's gone.

Recommended Parades & Entertainment


Here is a list of our recommended parades and shows at each park. Each location can be clicked, to take you to its dedicated page here at Character Central.

Tokyo Disneyland:
Minnie! Oh Minnie
One Man's Dream II - The Magic Lives On
Dreamlights
Happiness is Here Parade
Once Upon a Time nighttime spectacular

Tokyo DisneySea:
A Table is Waiting
Big Band Beat
Fantasmic! (Despite my dislike for it, I'm putting the link here for reference)


Dining close

Avoid the Rush

If you want to eat at TDR, you may face some challenges. The restaurants, like everything else, are incredibly busy, and waiting an hour or more in line to get in to a restaurant (Grandma Sara's Kitchen and Horizon Bay spring to mind), is not uncommon!
There are ways around this of course though. If your hotel offers breakfast, eat it. And fill up! That way you can hold over until the main lunch time rush has passed and actually find somewhere to sit.

Things to Consider

Food is generally very good, but comes in very small portions, and can cost a fortune. The drinks cups across the parks are tiny even by European standards, but water fountains with small cups are provided for free in nearly all restaurants, so you can take as much as you want of that.
You'll also come to discover that beverages are inconsistent throughout the resort, even at the major restaurants. In some places you'll find certain drinks, and others they will be different. Coca-Cola is not standard across the board, especially if you want Diet Coke/Coke Zero! If you're a Sprite lover like me, you'll also find you might have to try other drinks!
Food is expensive, and portions small
Sadly, many of the table service restaurants and buffets in the parks are by reservation only, and can only be reserved in advance, online, in Japanese. Luckily we have a Japanese friend who can do this for us, but otherwise it is very difficult. Sometimes, if you're lucky, there might be space if you enquire directly at the restaurant (we've done this, and it can work), but more often than not, you'll be turned away.


Dining in Tokyo Disneyland

We found that the Plaza Restaurant (which faces into Central Plaza but is technically part of Tomorrowland), is often quiet during the afternoons. Similarly, Tomorrowland Terrace in Tomorrowland offers a large seating area, and can be less busy outside main meal times. It's a good place for burgers and fries.
Food at Lucky Nugget is pretty good
We discovered that the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Westernland was nothing like its Disneyland CA counterpart, and offered some really decent curry meals. I don't eat anything spicy, and was absolutely fine with what they offer.
Also in Westernland, the Lucky Nugget Cafe offers some fairly decent "western" food, with pretty riverside seating, next to the Rivers of America. It's a bit secluded, so it doesn't get as busy as other places in the park. You can also find churros here.
We also really liked the food at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, but that is always mega busy, and probably not worth the hour wait just to get in. The Sweetheart Cafe in World Bazaar has some good sandwiches and pastries, for those wanting lighter options.
If you're able to get reservations (which is likely to be nearly impossible), I also would recommend the Lilo and Stitch lunch show at the Polynesian Terrace in Adventureland. The food was great, and the show is cute. Plus, the characters come down and meet guests too, unlike any other dinner show I've ever been to.
On the subject of dinner shows, there are three others inside TDL that are worth mentioning. At the Polynesian Terrace you can enjoy dinner with Mickey and Minnie at the Polynesian Paradise show. The Diamond Horseshoe in Westernland has two shows also. At lunch you can join the Toy Story gang in the Horseshoe Roundup, and at dinner Mickey and Company is especially great.

Popcorn Crazy

Popcorn is a BIG thing in Tokyo, and you can find a LOT of really cool, and often disgusting, flavours!
Popcorn buckets are like the Holy Grail, and the Japanese go nuts for popcorn and the buckets. Flavours and bucket designs can vary by location, season and event (for example you may find a Winnie the Pooh one near Pooh's Hunny Hunt, or a Halloween one in Westernland during October).
Expect to wait in long lines for popcorn at any time of the day, pretty much anywhere across the parks.

Dining in Tokyo DisneySea

The food at Zambini Brothers is decent
In Tokyo DisneySea, I really like Zambini Brothers, which is an Italian counter service place in Med Harbor. Lines can be long, but manageable, here.
We also quite like Casbah Food Court (counter service) in Arabian Coast, which also serves curry. Again, I like it, and don't normally like curry!
Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen in Mermaid Lagoon offers some good burgers, fries, and desserts.

Our dining experiences at TDS are a bit more limited than TDL, for a number of reasons. The main one is that, honestly, the crowds and lines to get into most places is beyond what I call acceptable, and we would either go back to TDL, or to some place in Ikspiari, such as the Rainforest Cafe.
Also, dining options, at least I felt, were more limiting in TDS than TDL, with less good counter service, and more exorbitantly priced table service.

Dining at Ikspiari and the Hotels

If you want to escape the parks for a while, and want to find a decent sized "Western" meal, then go to the Rainforest Cafe in Ikspiari. The food and drinks are similar to the US and Europe, and I think they offered refills too, from what I recall. Obviously RFC isn't the height of cuisine, but when you've had a really hectic day in the park, with little to eat and drink, you'll appreciate the American sized burger and fries, trust me! I will add though, that some of the options definitely do have a Japanese "twist", and while it's certainly a safe house for Westerners, just beware that some dishes might come prepared a little different to what you expect!
Ikspiari also has a TGI Friday's and a Starbucks for those seeking other Western fare.
We have had dinner at Oceano at the MiraCosta, which overlooks Med Harbor. It's a really good buffet, with great park views, but very expensive.
If you time your reservation right, you can get terrace/balcony priority viewing of any of the water shows in Med Harbor, for no extra cost. When the show is about to start, the doors will open and you can leave your table, and head onto the terrace to view the show.
Chef Mickey at the Ambassador
The other hotel restaurant we dined at - that is worth recommending - is Chef Mickey at the Ambassador.
It's another buffet, and is a character meal (what did you expect with the name Chef Mickey?).
You'll usually find four of the Mickey and friends characters in attendance, wearing specially themed costumes.

Snacks

The Japanese parks are filled with a wide range of wonderful, and often wacky, snacks and treats. They always seem to change what is on offer, too, which keeps things interesting! Some of the more interesting things we have tried include sundaes with a multitude of toppings, brownies, cakes and sweet dumplings with varying fillings to multiple flavoured churros, seasonal desserts in souvenir cups and tipo torta, and much more!

Bars and Lounges

While I admit our experience of bars and lounges at TDR is limited, I thought it worth mentioning that we have had drinks at both Magellan's Lounge and the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge at TDS. Both offer classy, air conditioned, quiet settings away from the hustle and bustle of the parks. The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge especially made me feel like I was drinking in an exclusive bar on a high end cruise liner!

Vegetarian and Vegan Dining

Since I initially prepared this planner, Jon and I have become vegetarian. I can honestly say that vegetarian dining in Tokyo Disney Resort is a definite challenge, and sadly vegan dining is near impossible. There are just four restaurants that officially offer one vegetarian meal option each. At Tokyo Disneyland the two options are Eastside Cafe in World Bazaar and Hungry Bear in Westernland. In Tokyo DisneySea there is Restaurante di Caneletto and Zambini Brothers, both in Med Harbor.
Let's start with the table service options (Eastside and Caneletto). We have tried both, and honestly they were really good. The food portion sizes for both dishes were actually decent, which is a relief for Tokyo dining, and had a lot of flavour. The downside of course is that both locations are table service and can be quite pricey - not to mention you need reservations to eat at them. Thankfully, even though reservations are recommended, we haven't ever encountered a problem with a walk-up request, although, I can't guarantee that'll always be the case.
The counter service options - Zambini and Hungry Bear - were also both very good. Zambini has just one margherita pizza, and Hungry Bear has a vegetable curry dish. The vegetable curry is actually one of our favourite things to eat at TDR.
Of course, many snacks and treats across the parks are usually meat free too - though be careful with sundaes and the like, as they nearly always have jelly (jello) in them, which of course contains gelatine.
We have also found many restaurants (though not all) to be quite accommodating if you ask to speak to a manager. The Pan Galactic Pizza Port in TDL was able to prepare for us a meat free pizza, even though there was literally nothing on their menu that was vegetarian friendly!
The final option would be to dine at buffets, and while these are expensive (and of course usually require reservations), it gives you the flexibility to choose. Chef Mickey at the Ambassador Hotel was one of the highlights of our trip last time because the chef was specially able to prepare for us a huge pasta dish and a pizza - each! - as well as having all the meat-free options on the buffet! They were super friendly and very accommodating.
One final tip. Vegetarian in Tokyo can literally mean you "prefer" vegetables, as opposed to not eating meat at all. Even if the Japanese say something is "vegetarian", it could well just have more vegetables in it! We have found that if you use the internet to translate "I do not eat meat or fish" (using Google Translate or the like), and literally have a print out or a screenshot of that to show the person serving you, they will understand what you mean and try to find a solution to the "everything here has meat in it" problem.

Dining Recommendations


Here is a list of our recommended dining locations at each park. Each location can be clicked, to take you to its dedicated page here at Character Central.

Recommended Dining at Tokyo Disneyland:
Sweetheart Cafe
Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall
The Hungry Bear Restaurant
Lucky Nugget Cafe
Grandma Sara's Kitchen
Plaza Restaurant
Tomorrowland Terrace
Polynesian Terrace Dinner Shows landing page (reservations essential)
The Diamond Horseshoe Dinner Shows landing page (reservations essential)

Recommended Dining at Tokyo DisneySea:
Zambini Brothers
Casbah Food Court
Sebastian's Calypso Kitchen

Recommended Dining Outside the Parks:
Rainforest Cafe, Ikspiari
Oceano, Hotel MiraCosta
Chef Mickey, Ambassador Hotel

Shopping close

Avoid the Rush

Anything Marie will be gone within hours
Shopping at the parks is probably the easiest of the three core experiences you'll have (shopping, dining, attractions). So long as you don't intend to shop up to two hours before park close, then you should be fine. If you're not in a hurry for any specific attraction, then park opening is the best time. The stores are left untouched until just after lunch time. If you want to experience how the Japanese shop, then go into the Emporium or World Bazaar Confectionary last thing at night, and be prepared to be battered and bruised from the insane crush. The CMs can't get the merchandise on the shelves quick enough before the displays are literally torn apart.

Buy things you like when you see them, or they'll go!
The other piece of advice you should heed is that, when you see something, buy it! Nothing lasts the day in Tokyo, and if you think "I'll come back later", you'll never see that item again!


Price, Variety and What to Expect

The Japanese love to buy things that are "cute", and the smaller and cuter something is, the more expensive it is. Most things cost at least double what they would in the US, and sometimes even more than that.
Plushes and hats cost the Earth, and you'll find these, along with weird tasting Japanese candy products, at nearly every store. Expect to find lots of merchandise - cute or otherwise - relating to Marie or Stitch.
Love Stitch? TDR has everything you could possibly imagine!
If you buy any of the candy products, be warned that it probably won't taste as good as it looks. The best part will definitely be the awesome decorative themed box or tin the item comes in!
Merchandise is fairly varied, but we felt that in October 2012 their merchandise wasn't as varied as it used to be. Nonetheless, you can find some really unique items, as well as all the usual stuff.
They have a huge selection of really bizarre and interesting Genie merchandise at Agrabah Marketplace in TDS.
For all your Duffy needs, Aunt Peg's Village Store in American Waterfront is the place to be.

For Your Convenience

There are some convenience stores at the on site partner hotels that open all hours, as well as one at Maihama Station. Good to know if you really need something. We actually found these stores a good place to check out what kind of odd and interesting things Japanese convenience stores sell, as well as to pick up bottled water and snacks.
We even found that they had some really interesting generic licensed Disney merchandise, that I guess you can find all over Japan, such as accessories for your car, and candy products.

Something for Nothing

Tokyo don't give much away, not like the other parks do, but here's a few items you should pick up as neat - and free - souvenirs of your visit.
At the loading area for the rafts to Tom Sawyer Island they have bins with maps on of the Island.
The Fortress Explorations have free maps, which are usually on a wall mounted bin near the entrance.
The DVC centre in Ikspiari hands out DVC stickers, just like the US do, but they have unique Japanese designs.

The entrance to Ikspiari
Ikspiari
Ikspiari is the TDR equivalent of Downtown Disney, but much more expensive and up-market! Ikspiari is more like a really fancy shopping mall, that looks like it could have been designed by Disney (which of course it was).
It has a large Disney Store (an actual Japanese Disney Store, not related to TDR), a Rainforest Cafe, a Starbucks (as I mentioned above), cinema and quite a lot more dining and retail locations, over several levels.
They even have a DVC centre there now (you can get free Japanese DVC stickers!).
If you're staying at the Ambassador there is direct access to Ikspiari from the hotel (or if you have a dining reservation, or just want to explore the hotel, you can walk there from Ikspiari too).
Nothing really grabs me about Ikspiari except that it is just expensive and filled with designer stores. The two places we generally found ourselves was the Disney Store and Rainforest Cafe (simply because the food was decent, and portion size more normal, unlike the TDR parks).

Bon Voyage

The giant suitcase that is Bon Voyage
Bon Voyage is just along the way, and although not connected to Ikspiari, is the resort's equivalent of the World of Disney Store. It stocks a wide selection of merchandise from across the resort, in one large travel themed room.

Shopping Recommendations


Every shop offers something different and quirky, so here are our top recommendations for shopping at Tokyo Disney Resort (clicking each item will take you to its dedicated page here at Character Central):

Tokyo Disneyland
Grand Emporium, World Bazaar
World Bazaar Confectionary, World Bazaar
Kingdom Treasures
Monsters, Inc. Company Store

Tokyo DisneySea
Emporio
Valentina's Sweets
Agrabah Marketplace

Around the Resort
Bon Voyage
The Disney Store Ikspiari


Useful Shopping Links


Links to the Official Tokyo Disney Resort pages for shopping locations.

Practical Information close

The Disney Resort Line Monorail

Resort Gateway Station. Note the ticket machines
At TDR you have to pay to use their monorail system if you are staying anywhere but the three official Disney Hotels. If you are staying at the Disney Hotels you are given a hotel monorail pass for the length of your stay (subject to availability and booking conditions). For all other guests, the easiest way to get quick access to the monorail throughout your trip, is to buy a pass. They sell multi day passes, so if you do a lot of back and forth (hotel-park-hotel/nap-park-hotel etc), then they definitely work out more economical than buying a single ticket each time, plus you avoid having to queue up and use the complicated ticket machines more than once! It should be noted that certain IC Cards (including the PASMO card) for the Tokyo metro lines are accepted on the Disney Resort Line monorail, but you will pay the regular single fare each time. The monorail passes definitely work out cheaper and it means you also get a neat souvenir monorail pass that has a seasonal design on it.
Once you have your ticket, keep it safe and use it to travel between any station. The monorail only runs in one direction around the resort, but is fairly quick and efficient. Trust me, you'll need it after a crazy day at the Japanese parks!
As I mentioned above, the tickets do have different designs throughout the year, depending on the season. If you visit during a cross over period, you'll get two different Disney themed designs!
Ticket prices start at Y250 for a single trip, up to Y1400 for an adult 4-day pass.
Machines might not accept non-Japanese credit/debit cards (we have had issues in the past), so be prepared to use cash.
Monorails usually run from 6am until around 11.55pm daily. Check on the day of your visit.

The Welcome Center, Guide Maps and Ticket Center

In Ikspiari is the TDR Ticket Centre, and the Welcome Center. The Welcome Center is where you can find out a whole manner of information and collect guide maps. If you're staying on site and arrive during certain (albeit odd and restricted) hours, you can even check in here and have your luggage transferred.
The Ticket Center is where you can collect your pre-booked park tickets for your stay. You will need your credit card for verification.
The Welcome Center will give you extra maps

For those who love to collect the guide maps and programme guides, Tokyo Disney are really stingy. They don't have the pickup boxes with them in, anywhere.
At the turnstile the CM will give you literally one only, in your own language (pretty much English or Japanese). If you want more you have to go to guest relations at either park, or the Welcome Center in Ikpiari to ask for them.
Jon and I usually go in separately and tell the CM we have four people in our party, and they'll begrudgingly then hand them over!

Internet Access

In the Hotels section I mention the lack of WiFi at the hotels. This is a major issue where ever we have been in Japan, and to be honest it is really difficult to find anywhere at all that offers a good internet service. So, be prepared to be disconnected from the world for the duration of your stay, depending on your hotel and other situations. One thing we did learn is that there is a Starbucks in Ikspiari. Of course, being Japan, that doesn't mean free and easy! You have to sign up for their WiFi - wait for it - using the internet! So, if you are able to sign up for the Starbucks service before you leave home, then you might be able to use the one in Ikspiari. The other issue is of course, their Starbucks is really small and crowded, and getting a table to sit with your laptop might be just as difficult as finding internet itself!

Photography - DLSRs, Rules and Tripods

In all the other parks (US, DLP, HK), you can pretty much take a picture of anything, anywhere. Even in attractions - you just can't use a flash. But for the most part, nobody cares. In TDR things are very different. You cannot take any photos, flash, no flash or otherwise inside any attraction, most queue areas (I kid you not!), or at the TDS show, Big Band Beat. You will be told, very sternly, to stop. And you should if you don't want to risk being thrown out, because I have no doubt that would happen, given the bazillion rules posted across the resort! (This is a resort that even has a sign at Maihama Station informing people they cannot wait overnight at the park entrance.)
Tripods are not allowed in the parks
The other important thing you should know is that you will not be allowed in with a tripod. DSLRs are ok. If you have long lenses, large, bulky lenses and the like, you might be refused entry. Professional photography is not allowed inside the parks. We've never experienced this directly, but it is in their guidelines, and we have been told off a few times inside attractions about taking pictures!


Locker, Stroller and Wheelchair Rental

Tokyo Disneyland's rental location
Lockers are available at both parks, both inside and outside the gates, as well as at the monorail stations and Ikspiari.
The lockers are old fashioned coin operated, meaning they are one time use, then you have to put more money in! Prices can vary with size. The sizes we mostly used were either Y400 or Y500 each usage, but of course you might want to open it a few times, meaning it'll likely cost you three or four times the amount per day.

The parks do offer stroller and wheelchair rental.
Strollers cost Y700 per day, and can be rented for two days at a time.
Wheelchairs cost Y300 per day, and can be rented for two days at a time.
Motorised Wheelchairs (ECVs) can be rented daily for Y2000.
A "battery assisted" push wheelchair can be rented daily for Y1000.

A note about accessibility: Tokyo DisneySea is a difficult park to navigate, even for the fittest of guests. The park is filled with walkways that go up and down steep slopes, steps and winding pathways. Although you can get around if you have a disability (there are plenty of flat, wide areas as well as the more difficult ones), or you are aiding someone, or even have small children, just be warned that TDS is an exhausting park that takes the energy out of anyone, especially on their hot, humid summer days.

Money, Foreign Exchange and ATMs

Japan's currency is called the Yen
Be warned that you will need cash with you. Not everywhere accepts credit or debit cards in Japan - even at Disney. Smaller kiosks, outdoor vendors etc will not accept them.
Important Note: McDonald's in Japan does not accept credit cards, and you must have cash to place your order! There is one exception, and that is at the airport on the gate side.

The Banking Corp offers some limited services to tourists
The Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation has an office in World Bazaar, that offers limited banking facilities, including the exchange of major foreign currencies and traveller's cheques. Times are limited, but are typically 9am - 3pm weekdays, excluding Japanese holidays.
Guest Relations across the resort should also be able to accept limited foreign currency in exchange for Yen. Check with the location on the day of your visit.
Be aware that barely any of the ATMs in TDR work with foreign credit and debit cards, and you may have to go on a hunt to find a machine that takes your card! The only one we know to work for sure is in Ikspiari, which is actually signposted and is on the mall map (I guess because they know it's the only one that works for tourists!)

Park Hours

Park hours are usually shorter than the US, with 9am to 10pm daily being fairly standard on peak days (yes, peak days!)
Only official Disney Hotel guests get in early, and even then, it's only a mere 15 minutes.

Package Delivery Service at Tokyo Disneyland

Package Delivery Service

TDR also offers a package sending service, whereby you can have your items mailed home.
Package Delivery locations can be found in World Bazaar (near the entrance), Med Harbor (near the entrance) and on the lower level of Bon Voyage.
Useful to know, and a good idea in theory, but be warned of the ridiculous costs!

Meeting Disney Characters close

Rules and Crowds

Tokyo Disney Resort has often been a fan favourite for meeting characters, because of the sheer volume that are out daily, and the excellent variety. You can't walk into an area of the park without finding someone out!
There are of course some differences in meeting characters in Japan.

When making a line (I stress a line) for a character - any character, anywhere - you will be allowed one photo only. Either you take it, or you're in it (the CM takes it). You will be told off very sternly if you attempt more than one. And for that privilege you get to wait in line hours, and hours.
We have literally seen wait times posted for Mickey at his house easily reaching 4 hours. Four hours for one picture. I'm not joking either, sadly.
Characters are mobbed in TDR
I should make it clear that if a character is free roaming, you can take any picture you like, so long as you can get a chance! Characters are mobbed left, right and centre, and are not easy to meet unless you are somewhat hardcore about it!


Rare Ones and Cool Costumes

Characters have a lot of different costumes for the different lands and areas. You should check out the main pages for each park and land in the dedicated sections of this site, instead of me going through every one of them here. Links are on the panel to the right.

Some of the most uniques ones are definitely more obscure, and although I can't guarantee the current availability of these characters, on any given day it could be quite possible to meet:
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
ShellieMay the Disney Bear
The Big Bad Wolf
The Three Little Pigs
Bernard and Bianca (The Rescuers)
Panchito and Jose
Indiana Jones
Max the Sea Dog and Chef Louie (from The Little Mermaid)
Angel (Stitch's sweetheart)
All Seven Dwarfs
The Princes (Snow, Charming, Phillip, Eric)
The Jungle Monkeys

Luckily some of the rarer ones (at least to the other parks!) are not as popular in Japan. You will find it easier to meet Clarabelle, Horace, Indiana and some of the others because they aren't "cute" or they aren't in any media in Japan. Of course, this also depends on the time of year and the crowds, but I'm talking generally.

Other Tips

The face characters are nearly always from the US or Europe and will speak English, which is a relief! You will find they are often really happy to see people from their home lands, and you'll get some good interactions and conversation out of them.
Finally, something that goes without saying in any park really, but if you know the set time or when a character is due out, be waiting ready. If you follow them from the gates and talk to them as they walk, you'll get a bit more interaction out of them, and when they arrive at their spot, you'll most likely be picked first for a photo.

Providing you can fight your way through the insane throngs of people, characters at TDR can be really fun to meet.

Character Hot Spots


You can click the links below to see more detailed information about each location, and the characters that meet at those locations.

Best places to find Characters at TDR:
World Bazaar (main entrance side, not Central Plaza)
Fantasyland
Toontown
Mediterranean Harbor
American Waterfront
Mermaid Lagoon (for Max the Sea Dog)

That's our top places, but there are some good places to meet a variety of other characters too, either in cool costumes, or really random characters you don't see often.
These locations include:
Westernland
Lost River Delta
Arabian Coast

We also have a "cheat sheet", which is a big list of where to find every character at TDR. Click here to access it.

Seasons & Events close

Japanese Events

Throughout the year, Tokyo Disney Resort holds some uniquely Japanese events that usually involve characters, shows, parades and merchandise.
These can vary year to year, and in the past have included the Star Festival.
Sadly we haven't really experienced these particular kinds of events, but they do happen, so check the events calendar on the TDR website for more information.

Late Winter through Spring

From about January to April (dates vary, but usually cross winter and spring), the past few years the resort has had a romance-come-Valentine's event. This year it was Sweet Duffy. Usually it involves merchandise and other small happenings.
The main spring event is the insanely popular Easter Wonderland and Spring Voyage, which happen from April through to June (yes, Easter in June...).
In Tokyo Disneyland they hold their Hippity-Hoppity Springtime Parade which involves some wacky outfits, energetic show stops and great music.
At DisneySea they have Mickey and Duffy's Spring Voyage, which involves multiple different shows at various ports around the lagoon. Expect to have to wait several hours to get a good viewing area, as Mickey and Duffy are the beyond ridiculously popular!

Summertime

The summer is an odd time at TDR. They actually cut a bunch of stuff such as Super-Duper Jumping Time. I'm not sure why they do this, because what they add in place of the things they cut aren't any more wild or insane than the things that they have say at Easter alongside their regular lineup.
Characters will also be lost in the park, which is really odd. When we went in the summer, the Three Pigs weren't out at all, amongst others.
So, be aware that if you visit in the summer, you'll get some neat summer entertainment, but also miss out on some other stuff.
Cool off with Cool the Heat
There is usually multiple different Castle shows, that involve thousands of gallons of water being dumped on the audience. The day time show will be a brief experience with maybe one or two characters, then in the evening, in the past, they have had a cool night show that features a bunch of cool characters - and lots more water! Trust me, the summer in Tokyo is intensely hot and humid, so you might just want to stand and get wet!

Over at TDS, they usually have the Cool Service (or yearly equivalent, as it can change slightly), which involves a bunch of characters in a boat, sailing around the ports throughout the park firing water cannons at people.
In the past TDS also had some night time entertainment. When we went it was Bonfire Dance at Arabian Coast, but that has since been cancelled. I don't know what it will be this year, so check the TDR official website before your visit for details of the current event.

Halloween

Halloween is a big thing at the parks in Japan. The decorations are really neat, and they have some cool entertainment offerings.
In Tokyo Disneyland they have the main parade, which up until 2012 was Welcome to Spookyville. This may change in the future, but expect the same level of insane costumes, dancing and music!
Their Haunted Mansion becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare, and is a similar but uniquely different take on the California version.
The fireworks are given an "overlay", and become Night High Halloween at both parks. Fireworks at TDR are questionable at the best of times I'd say, and Halloween is not especially thrilling either.
Over at TDS, they have a large lagoon show, which in 2012 was A Halloween Daydream. Again, expect fantastical costumes and high energy performances. In 2012 they also had a mini-parade/cavalcade in Lost River Delta, hosted by Chip and Dale in cute outfits. I don't know if this will return in the future.
Oddly enough, given how popular characters are in TDR, the only ones who meet in seasonal outfits at Halloween, at either park - are Duffy and ShellieMay, in American Waterfront's Cape Cod area.
You may also find some Villains (really very few, and only the likes of Hook or Cruella), in front of the Castle during the day.
Crocodile anyone?
For us, one of the most bizarre experiences of Halloween is the guest costumes.
Guests are allowed to wear costumes during the day to the parks only in the last week of October, and they must represent a Disney character.
All I will say is, your eyes will be opened and your memory forever etched with the images of some of the craziest sights you're ever likely to witness!

Christmas and New Year

Christmas is celebrated in TDR, and is quite pretty. They have a parade in TDL, again to a very high standard, and with great outfits, as well as decorations.
Visiting at Christmas is a Holiday Nightmare
Their Haunted Mansion remains as Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare from Halloween Season, and is a similar but uniquely different take on the California version.
In TDS there is usually a show either at the lagoon or American Waterfront, and again, decorations.
In TDL at Toontown some of the characters get some Christmas costumes, as do Duffy and ShellieMay in TDS.
You can also meet Santa Claus in TDS.

At New Year they usually have a New Year's Day Parade, or other small happenings. It's best to check when you visit, as this can vary.

For better or Worse?

I can't honestly say whether it is better to visit at one of these more refined seasonal times of year, or not, to be honest. The biggest problem with them is that they are insanely popular events, and draw even more crowds than usual.
For me, I like to visit and see the park in its regular state, too, just to be able to take it all in and enjoy it for what it is.
Decorations, events and shows can clutter the parks and shut down entire areas, which can give you a different perspective altogether.
It's really up to you and what you want to get out of a visit to TDR, but if you're visiting for the first time, unless there is some real reason to go at for example Halloween, then it might be best to get to know the parks first, perhaps in January, February, March, late June, July or September? (I include Jan-March because even though they have New Year events, they aren't as big or intrusive, from my understanding).
Since writing this guide the first time around, we have now been back to TDR twice more, and discovered that after the big national holiday they have mid-May, the following week can also be relatively quiet. Just another suggestion for those who want to avoid the crowds.
There is a useful Japanese language crowd calculator that is linked on the side panel which might help you decide when to go, or not. Although it is in Japanese, Google Chrome does a pretty good job of translating it. To use it, look at the calendar, and select the month you want by cycling through them. Once you have your desired month, all you have to do is look at the day, and which colour it is (for example 22nd August might be in dark red). Scroll down the page further, and there is a colour coded chart that shows you how many people are expected that day.

Visiting the Area close

Tokyo Sights and Attractions

Catch the train from Maihama Station
If you wish to visit Tokyo itself while you're staying at TDR, you can easily catch the JR train from Maihama Station at the resort directly into Tokyo Station.
We had a map and a small guidebook that I bought at home, to help us find our way around. We managed to visit several key areas of the city, dine out and go shopping all by using some well established English language guide books from a local bookstore at home. I recommend you do the same. Tokyo is a fascinating place, with a lot to offer. To travel around the world and miss even just taking a glimpse at least, would be a great shame.
Stark contrasts abound in Tokyo
We visited the Ginza district, and hit some of the large stores, and checked out some of the cool buildings.
We went in a big electronics department store, which was really interesting.
We have also been to the Imperial Palace Gardens. The Japanese take great pride in creating beautiful scenes with trees, plants and topiaries. There are some little building here and there where you can stop for snacks. What's even more interesting is its location in the heart of Tokyo. There is a stark contrast between these almost sacred grounds, and the high rise offices looming overhead.
It might sound funny, but it actually really reminds me of the Japanese gardens at EPCOT, and you can definitely see how the Imagineers got the inspiration.
Another attraction to visit would be the new Tokyo Tower, which has amazing views over the city.
Sanrio (think Hello Kitty) has a large indoor interactive theme park in Tokyo, which is very popular with Japanese women. It'll probably be one of the most bizarre experiences you'll ever have, but worth the visit!
The city also has a mall which features a LEGOland Discovery Centre and a Madame Tussauds.

Further Afield

Mount Fuji watches over Tokyo
You should also visit Mount Fuji and the surrounding areas, which can be seen from many points in the city (including TDR), for a more authentic Japanese experience.
Further afield, Japan also has its own Universal Studios. Universal Studios Japan is located in Osaka, and can be easily be reached by train in a few hours. It has a distinctly different twist, but still authentically Universal, much like how TDR is "different but similar", to the other Disney Parks.