Japan Today



Can Tokyo DisneySea become vibrant again?

By Horace C White

It is noon on a hot and humid Tuesday. The air is ready to be filled with the sounds of laughter and the sights of schoolchildren, teachers, parents, tourists and couples getting ready for a day of adventure.

Lines should extend in all directions, and excitement should be everywhere. Unfortunately, the parking lots at Tokyo DisneySea are virtually empty. Getting through the normally busy ticket booth stands, where visitors can purchase admission tickets and enter the central area of Tokyo DisneySea Plaza, takes only seconds. The huge globe structure that usually stands luminous and larger-than-life, gushing with water on all sides, has become darkened and less powerful.

Mickey and his friends, DisneySea shoppers purchasing the latest “Duffy” bear items, and newlyweds and their families streaming romantically down the Mediterranean Harbor in a Venetian gondola all once contributed to the exciting and vibrant mood that was the cornerstone of Tokyo DisneySea. All that has changed nowadays.

Tokyo DisneySea was forced to close its doors on March 12, a day after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The plan was to conduct safety checks on infrastructure, ensure that the staff and visitors were safe and secure, and re-organize the car park area, which was damaged due to liquefaction, before opening the doors once again. Yet even though the inside of the park did not sustain damage, the atmosphere at Tokyo DisneySea has not returned to normal to date.

Tokyo DisneySea, a 176-acre theme park located in Urayasu Chiba, is the 5th busiest amusement park in the world. It is owned and operated by Oriental Land Co and licensed from the Walt Disney Company. In 2010, it, along with its sister theme park Tokyo DisneyLand, achieved an estimated 500 million visitors collectively since 2001.

Pressured to reduce electricity to avoid a possible Tokyo blackout during the summer, Tokyo DisneySea, which consumes a total of 570,000 kilowatt-hours each day of electricity (equivalent to the electricity used in 50,000 households), has been taking measures to cut off power and water to fountains, disconnect hand-dryers in restrooms, and recharge the batteries on floats carrying the lovable Mickey and other characters. Despite Tokyo DisneySea’s efforts to minimize electricity and conserve water supply, however, the normally buoyant atmosphere of the park has not returned.

Contributing to the gloom is the fear of radiation. International companies pulled staff away from Tokyo out of safety concerns, a total of 25 embassies closed their doors, and panic-stricken tourists returned to their home countries in droves. Tokyo, as a result, ground to a standstill and is still slowly recovering. Although the Tokyo metropolitan and national governments provided adequate assurances that Tokyo was and is safe, and many international companies and embassies are now fully operational, tourists have yet to return fully to Tokyo and, by extension, Tokyo DisneySea.

Another issue that has changed the mood at Tokyo DisneySea is the Japanese custom and attitude of “jishuku,” or self-restraint. In Japanese society, it is often considered impolite to have fun or show excitement while others are suffering, especially when a national disaster, such as the earthquake-tsunami, occurs.

As such, Tokyo DisneySea, a combination of American and Japanese culture blended together, is no longer a place of escapism. It is difficult to travel to a faraway land filled with a mystical and vibrant American waterfront, an Arabian coast, a mermaid lagoon, and a Mediterranean harbor when so many Japanese feel that they have to refrain from enjoyment in order to be in solidarity with the victims of March 11.

Despite all this, it is time for change. Instead of relying on Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for electricity, or succumbing to radiation fears, or allowing “jishuku” to take center stage, it is time now for the foreign community and Japan alike to alter the way they think. This can be done by creating alternative sources of energy; revisiting Tokyo and its tourist areas; supporting the victims of March 11;contributing to the economy so that jobs can be kept and created; rebuilding new and improved infrastructure in the earthquake-tsunami areas; and, most importantly, helping to uplift the entire Japanese community by showing the Japanese fighting spirit to keep hope alive.

As one Tokyo DisneySea employee who wishes to remain anonymous states, “I hope that people will return to Tokyo in full again and the Japanese economy continues to thrive. Tokyo is safe, and Tokyo DisneySea is the joy and hope for many.”

Like Mickey, as he creates a breathtaking world of wonder and fantasy, captivating and dazzling us all with his magical wand, tapping feet, and all around “Big Band Beat,” it is time for visitors in Japan and the international community to once again enjoy Tokyo DisneySea. It is one of the foundations of Japan Inc, and the joy and hope for many generations in Japan.

After reopening its doors on April 28, it must become vibrant again. Hopefully, we will all do our part to find alternative sources of energy, reduce the phobias and rumors of radiation fears, and get back to the Japanese fighting spirit instead of the “jishuku” custom—and do it all quicker than one can say, “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E.”

© Modern Tokyo Times

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Tokyo Disney Co can reinvent itself to re-emerge with innovative and creative values for months to come. I hope I can joint it to create such new programs.

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A strange article. It gives no stats on visitor numbers, even though it's a key piece of information of its premise. Also, no interviews with visitors who are there. And then the cheerleading finale.

...get back to the Japanese fighting spirit

Does that refer to the 1930s and '40s? That's the last thing the world needs now!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Maybe they should just shut it down and turn it back into one big huge farm.

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i am so sick of disney:p

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The strong yen is as much of a detterent to visiting Japan as anything else.

It may also help if the situation with radioactivity was not so confused. Where is the reliable data? What are the governments, local and national, doing over there?

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Now is a good time to visit DisneySea. Hurry, before the crowds come back with a vengeance!

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I only went there once on a bitterly cold January day and in 8 hours only made it onto 4 rides. The fewer people the better, maybe you can actually get on a ride in under a few hours.

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If vibrant means housewives spending more on a two-day trip to Disney Sea/Land than they could spend learning about Asia in a week-long SE Asia tour than I hope the place NEVER recovers. Knowing the people I know here, though, they'll spend the equivalent of a ticket to any country in the world for a picture with Mickey for the tenth time. Maybe less than said ticket if 24 hours of the two days is spent on night buses.

Close 'em down, ask people to get with reality.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I mean what I said... fantasy and magic are a nice break from reality from time to time, but spending what some people would literally die for in areas in the north of this nation just to see a light parade that's draining power from them... well... you really have to wonder where we're headed.

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How do you know that it drains power from the people up-north? Are those floats powered by the grid? If they are they need some serious cables to be plugged in.

You are aware that Disney Resort also has Generators that supply a large portion of their power needs and that many rides, etc are NOT switched on right now.

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I find it sad that tourists would want to visit such a place because Disney does not represent Japan.

Yes, some Japanese nationals may like; but why oh why would a tourist want to visit?

Surely tourists should want to see the best of Japan?

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I went there yesterday and it was bustling. We arrived at 08:45am before opening (already long lines) and we left at 10pm. The 8pm show on the main lake was great. Overall it did not seem desperate.

Concerning the power supply, I cannot compare with before 03.11, but everything seemed normal. Anyway, there is enough power supply for normal days, and even on hot days (this summer) the demand will exceed offer only on peak hours. No energy restriction is needed outside peak hours.

A good tip to avoid long lines: between 08:30pm and 10pm, the waiting lines are significantly shorter than earlier in the day.

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DisneySea realtalk: "We are sad because you are not giving us money. Please come and give us money."

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Would it be un-Disney-like to build a massive colorful windmill?

You could even use it for something useful, like er....

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Have you ever seen the type of hand waving and singing of songs during the Disney parade that you see at Tokyo Disneyland. This is a unique phenomena of a country like Japan that shuns most outward expression of religions, except the religion of Disney. Kind of scary watching mothers indoctrinating their kids to the "Mickey and Minnie" religion. But these mothers are the first generation of little girls who grew up on going to Disney and learning all of the religious customs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow...lots of people down on Disney. It may not be your cup of tea, but others may enjoy it. I know I am not a fan of the crowds but it is exciting to wander around enjoying the sights. Also, some other countries don't have Disney, so while in Japan they might enjoy going to Disneyland...especially if they are living here long term and never want to go to America.

Truthsearch: jaded much? I think there is a lot of expression of religion here and many other hobbies that seems to be much more engrained in customs. Yes, there are children that like Disney, but those exist all over the world. And why are you so down on girls liking it? Is it ok for boys to enjoy Disney?

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Is "Jaded" another word for being realistic. Grammar point don't start your sentences with an "and". I am not down on girls. Since fathers are mostly absent because they are working, it is the mothers who are doing the socialization of the children. I was pretty alarmed when I found out an acquaintance in her late 30's had dropped 60,000 dollars during her lifetime to buy and store her collection of Mickey and Minnie dolls.

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Truthsearch: I may have used 'and' in a less than textbook style but I know for sure jaded and realistic are 2 different words. Moreover, your example is an exception to the rule and you seem a little over-zealous in your thinking that Disney is a religon.

Most people that go to DIsneyland are well adjusted and will simply enjoy taking in the theme park and doing the standard (over) buying of souveniers. There are an abundance to mothers that take their kids to Disneyland but just as many families go together. If fact, if you are from outside of Tokyo, it would probably become a family vacation to go to Disneyland. In fact, my family all loaded up in a van and did that adventure last year. My niece is not of the cult of disney any more now than she was before and she actually prefers Japanese programs over Disney the majority of the time.

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Sakula. I used to work in that "Disney" environment for a number of years. No. Not everyone is maladapted. But there is a lot of people who move there just to be close to Mickey and Minnie. There are people who really believe that Minnie and Mickey really do exist. Strange.

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Haha, crazy! Im guessing that many of them didn't have kids though .

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"Unfortunately, the parking lots at Tokyo DisneySea are virtually empty. Getting through the normally busy ticket booth stands, where visitors can purchase admission tickets and enter the central area of Tokyo DisneySea Plaza, takes only seconds."

Ummm... Did they go on a weekday when the kids were in school? I am pretty sure when I make it out there this July it will be the same hot cluster**** it always is. (I always swear I am never doing that again but once again it is into the breach...)

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Go to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. At least the water is not radioactive.

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i went to disney land on the weekend and although I've been fighting tooth and nail to come up with any excuse not to go..but my wife came up with the "at least experience it once in your life" trump card and so I couldn't throw any more punches. I must say that overall, it was an interesting experience..not only to observe alot of the americanisation at disney (very over the top I thought), but also to witness the people surrounding me. Snow white needing security guards to fend off hordes of children wanting to touch her or take photos, families placing hanami mats along the parade line wanting to get the best positions, 40yr old oba sans dressing up like Minnie (can not erase that image for the life of me), etc.. I did not like the long queues though...who wants to wait 100min just to view some crazy robotic rabbits and drop down a water fall? I guess I had the pleasure of experiencing this once in a life time moment. It was ok, but I can think of better ways to spend my 6,000yen ...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Go to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. At least the water is not radioactive."

Did that last week. Going when kids are in school and when they are not makes it a completly different experience.

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Disney is a little bit of escapism. They go to great lengths in the park to make the outside world "invisible" from within the resort. I remember reading an article on here not so long ago saying that Disneyland was doing great amidst recession, and the visitors they interviewed said that for less than ichi-man for a day including entrance, food and souvenirs they could just escape from reality for a little while into a world where the sun always shines 8theoretically at least!) and everyone is always happy.

I totally get what some people are saying that Japanese are not dealing with reality very well, and Disney doesn`t promoter reality but actually, you are absolutely correct - it goes to great lengths not to! Reality is all well and good, but when the proverbial poo is flying everywhere, what is wrong with a litte escapism, just for a while?

I hope Disney recover in time, because although I am not into Disney myself, the kids love it, and every time we go we always have a great time. The park is not just about the rides, it is the whole atmosphere on offer that people go for.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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