At Tokyo Disneyland (TDL,) Christmastime comes in a timely and comprehensive fashion.
Even the monorail stations have their own decorations.
As with every other Disney Main Street, TDL's World Bazaar has their tree sparkling and gleaming already, surrounded by eager photographers.
TDL's holiday offerings include a wide variety of entertainment, including their own version of Disneyland's "Nightmare Before Christmas" Haunted Mansion overlay.
Although it looks relatively similar on the outside, as if the DL decorations had been transported and planted on the WDW mansion, the inside has a number of variations on the theme--a large cake multilayered cake in place of the yearly gingerbread house in the ballroom scene, for example.
A seasonal overlay also comes to the Country Bear Jamboree--nostalgia writ large for those of us who remember it from Disneyland.
Of course they had a Christmas parade--the floats are charmingly decorated, and seem to feature these elves quite a bit, which are either cute or off-putting, as your tastes run.
There seem to be two show stops during the parade, which are reasonably long, so positioning is important if you want to see the whole thing. If you ask the CMs where you should stand in order to get a good view of the stop, they are likely to ask you what your favorite character is, in order to direct you to the area where that float stops.
Some great but lengthy YouTube video of the parade:
Although people stake out their places fairly early for the parades, it is in some aspects much less stressful to try to watch them at TDR, because of the relatively strict control the CMs exercise (although always in the most cordial and polite manner) over the audience. There are designated areas for sitting, versus standing, and people are repeatedly admonished to remove hats and hairbands to facilitate other people's view. Raising cameras or children over the level of your shoulders is similarly not allowed.
Planning tip #6: Don't mistake politeness for weakness.
Because, in general, Japanese service is usually considered to be very conciliatory, with a high degree of deference, it can sometimes be tempting to assume someone coming in with an aggressive manner and a disinclination to follow rules would just be able to ride roughshod over everybody. The reality is a little different; for the most part, they have developed certain methods and procedures for various circumstances (sometimes extremely efficient and rational, sometimes less so) and there are typically no alternatives or exceptions permitted. My personal belief is that their culture is deeply dependent on conformity to a group standard, with any deviation seen as an invitation to chaos. Is a certain level of inflexibility a fair tradeoff for a more ordered, considerate way of doing things? You make the call. Either way, it can make for a more relaxing viewing experience when you don't have to worry about someone coming and standing right in front of you two minutes before the parade, or yelling and screaming at the CMs until they get their way.
Along with the myriad decorations that pepper the different lands, there is, of course, an abundance of seasonal merchandise to purchase as well.
Planning Tip #7: The souvenir you want, may not be the souvenir you get.
One thing interesting about the TDR is how different the general tastes must be as far as what they want to buy. They don't seem to have much use for t-shirts there--there are very few for sale, and you don't see many people wearing them around the parks. The ones they have are fairly generic looking, and only a couple even have "Tokyo Disneyland" written on them. While the assortment of pins available seems to have increased in the past years, there is still nothing like the mania for them that you have here, in the States, and the trading of pins inside the parks is prohibited. Mickey ear hats must have taken a dive in popularity as well, because I don't think I saw any this last trip--jillions of hairbands and furred hoods were sold in their place.
The mainstay of TDR shopping is 1) cell phone charms, and 2) cookies. Individualizing the appearance of their cellphones seems to be a huge deal there, so there are endless seasonal trinkets around. The Japanese people also have an elaborate gift-giving obligation structure known as "omiyage," which, as far as I can tell, requires them to buy massive quantities of cookies and candies for their friends and family whenever they go anyplace, so massive Emporium-sized stores are dedicated to that.
Back to Christmas: A castle show also takes place with holiday fireworks. One of the aspects of TDL that has always been a little lagging compared to the Western parks, is their pyrotechnics. Japan in general, and Tokyo in particular, has a long history of devastation by fire, so I think there are strict regulations about how extensive shows like this can be. Nevertheless, I thought this show was greatly improved over the previous one I saw there, which seemed extremely short.
Their nighttime parade, Dreamlights, also gets some holiday touches, with new wardrobes for a number of the characters, and at least a Santa hat for others.
So that was the bulk of the holiday offerings over at Tokyo Disneyland, not counting the million little (and not so little) decorative touches and photo opportunities.
Next time: Christmastime at TDS.
The previous post in this blog was Holidays aboard the Disney Dream - Day 1.
The next post in this blog is Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 4--Christmas comes to Tokyo DisneySea.