This week (parent.thesis) is reporting from Japan
For some Americans visiting Japan, Tokyo Disney would be the resort of last resort, but for our family, we decided that spending our first two days and nights there would be a good way to motivate our 8-year old to tackle the 11-hour jet lag head-on. The resort is made up of two parks, Disneyland, which is a near-exact replica of the California original, and DisneySea, a unique park that opened in 2001.
I have read that DisneySea was a design originally considered and rejected for an additional park in California, but to me DisneySea melds perfectly with Japanese style. It is amazing to see what can be done with current technology and design--going well beyond the 1960's "magic" used to create Disneyland. Instead of Sleeping Beauty's castle, there is an erupting volcano anchoring the center of the park, containing one of the best rides I have ever been on. Journey to the Center of the Earth is a combination themed attraction/roller coaster that culminates in a simulated free-fall shot "up and out" of the volcano.
The rides are impressive, but what strikes me most about DisneySea is its commitment to delivering a complete experience. The park features seven themed lands, including a Mediterranean Harbor, a Jules-Verne themed Mysterious Island, the South American Lost River Delta, and the futuristic Port Discovery. Within each land, the design is carried out fully through every detail, from rides to buildings. As you transition from land to land, even the ambient music changes at the same moment as the visual landscape.
One place in DisneySea completely stymied my ability to separate illusion from reality. Looking at this seawall, I could not tell you what was behind it. I knew we were near the actual sea, but were we that close to Tokyo Bay? I didn't think so, but even climbing the highest point in Port Discovery I could not tell for sure.
It was only when we rode the monorail around the outside of the park that I learned that this seawall was an illusion, and that the monorail track and road ran behind it. Even one of the official park maps fudged this detail a bit to maintain the illusion.
A running theme through the attractions at DisneySea is man's trying to control science and nature and finding that the results run amok, but as far as a visitor's experience goes, DisneySea is a fantastic blend of Disney imagination and Japanese execution.