Different Disneylands around the world
Mickey and Minnie Mouse wave from rickshaws to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese star festival, at Tokyo Disneyland. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty)
Disneyland calls itself the happiest place in the world, but to keep visitors happy in its five locations across the globe, each theme park is tweaked to cater to local cultures and tastes. Outside of the two original resort areas in the United States, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, the Disneylands in Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong offer subtly different selections of food, rides and layout to make the millions of visitors each year feel at home.
Opened in 1983 and larger than the original Disneyland California, Tokyo Disneyland is the third most visited of any theme park in the world after the two Disney parks in the US. Like Walt Disney World in Florida, Cinderella’s Castle is located at the centre of the park, rumoured to have been chosen because the princess’s qualities of duty and a strong work ethic would resonate more deeply in Japanese culture than Sleeping Beauty, whose castle is featured in the centre of Disneyland California.
But like karaoke, which originated in Japan and is a country-wide obsession, Disneyland gives the often-reserved Japanese people a place to unleash their rowdy side. In Tokyo Disneyland, even adult visitors will sing, clap and dance along to the internationally themed live shows, such as the Latin-American vibes of Minnie Oh! Minnie or the street show Jubilation!; it is a level of audience participation that would be a rare sight in the US.
Similarly, the food offered at Tokyo Disneyland is noticeably different from the US, infusing both Chinese and American flavours with Japanese cuisine. To refuel between rides or while waiting in the lengthy queues, you can buy a steamed bun -- originally a traditional Chinese delicacy with hot, sweet or savoury fillings -- from Boiler Room Bites in Adventureland. The usually round bun is in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, with the iconic mouse ears filled with teriyaki chicken. The donburi, a traditional Japanese dish that consists of rice and savoury toppings, can be ordered with US flavours like taco meat (spiced minced pork), creole chicken or shrimp patties instead of teriyaki meats. This is then topped with cabbage and an egg, just like you would find in any donburi eatery in Japan.
If you are still feeling peckish, try some popcorn with local flavours, such as soy sauce with butter from the popcorn stands next to the ImageWorks photo studio in Tomorrowland or Café Orléans in Adventureland, or Japanese curry from the stand next to the Trading Post gift shop in Westernland. For milk tea-flavoured popcorn, a popular sweet, South-East Asian fusion of tea and milkshake that also goes by the name of bubble tea, you will have to head to the nearby Tokyo DisneySea, a separate park with water slides and watery rides.
Hong Kong Disneyland
The small Hong Kong Disneyland, opened in 2005, incorporates feng shui and traditional Chinese elements into its design to attract tourists from mainland China.
Feng shui balances the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to create positive energy, and these elements can be seen throughout the theme park. Rocks represent stability and prevent good luck from flowing away, so two gigantic boulders have been placed at the park’s entrance to stop energy from flowing out of the resort. Water stimulates fortune and wealth, and the park is full of lakes, ponds and streams -- not to mention the large fountain featuring Disney characters placed at the main entrance of the park.
The main gate of the theme park has been positioned in a north–south direction for good fortune, and as you approach the entrance, look out for a sharp bend in the walkway. This was put in intentionally to stop good qi (energy) flowing into the nearby South China Sea.