Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There's One Less Excuse For Not Visiting Tokyo Disney

Tokyo Disney Made Easy, by Kevin Yee. Orlando, FL: Ultimate Orlando Press, 2008; 180 pp.

If you've been a Disney theme park fan for a while, you've heard all kinds of stories about the Tokyo Disney Resort - about how beautiful and well-maintained it is, about the unique, top-tier attractions and shows there that can't be found at the other Disney theme parks, and about how visiting the parks is such a different experience from visiting Disneyland or Walt Disney World. It all sounds wonderful, but there's just one potential problem with going for a visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort: It's in Japan. A few thoughts of spending a whole lot of money, taking a long plane ride, trying to navigate one's way around one of the largest cities in the world, and not being able to understand the culture or communicate with anyone are usually enough to discourage all but the most devoted Disney fans from making the trip to see Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. A trip to the local bookstore doesn't provide much assurance; there are a lot of guides out there to Japan and to Tokyo, but there's not much information in most travel guides to Japan about the Tokyo Disney Resort, and there are no English-language guides to help someone plan a trip to the Tokyo parks. Until now, that is.

Kevin Yee, author of several books on Disney-related topics (including Mouse Trap, which I've previously reviewed in this blog), has put together the first English guide to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, Tokyo Disney Made Easy. In his book, Kevin provides a lot of useful information to the American traveler who'd like to make a trip to see the Tokyo parks, including how to plan for the trip, how to get to and from the airport to your hotel and to the Tokyo Disney Resort, what to see and what you can afford to miss, and a few cultural and linguistic pointers to make your visit less stressful. Kevin even provides tips on how to save a little money during your visit and how to navigate the parks with children in tow.

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about how useful Kevin's book would be in planning a trip to Japan. Not to cast any aspersions on Kevin or anything - I think he's a very good writer - but I'd heard that he'd only visited the Tokyo Disney Resort once, and I wasn't sure how much information he'd be able to provide to the novice traveler based on one visit. I really needn't have worried. As Kevin himself mentions, the key to a successful trip is planning and research, and Kevin's definitely done his in writing this book. The information in Kevin's book is concise and well-organized, and I think even a veteran traveler to Tokyo Disney could pick up a helpful hint or two. The book provides a brief overview of the attractions and shows that can be found in the Tokyo parks, including recommendations on what rides and shows should be on a visitor's "must see" list and what rides and shows can be sacrificed if time is short and the crowds are particularly daunting (which they can often be at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea). I particularly liked how Kevin walks the reader through the steps of dining and shopping transactions, which could be a little tricky if you're not aware how such transactions are done in Japan. Kevin also provides a mini crash course in Japanese in this book, with a few useful phrases, some basic rules of grammar, and a couple of other items that a visitor may find helpful.

So, are there any potential pitfalls or drawbacks to Tokyo Disney Made Easy? Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that this book is intended to be a guide to visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort, not a guide to Japan or even to Tokyo; while Kevin does provide a few pointers on how to get around Tokyo and Japan using Japan Railways, this book doesn't provide a lot of information about getting by in Japan once you leave the Disney parks. Frankly, that's not necessarily a bad thing; as I mentioned above, there are a lot of good travel guides to Japan, and there was really no need for Kevin to re-invent the wheel. Consider Kevin's book an excellent supplement to a good travel guide to Tokyo if you're planning on seeing more than the Tokyo Disney Resort while you're in Japan (and if you're going to travel all that distance, you really should see more!)

If you're one of those folks that just can't visit a Disney theme park without a touring plan, I'm sorry to tell you that there aren't any touring plans provided in Kevin's book; Kevin does provide some tips for navigating the parks and a few tips for creating a touring plan for your visit, however, and I think that the information Kevin does provide and a little research on the Internet should give readers a good start on devising a plan of their own. Aside from these quibbles, I think this is a very good guidebook.

Tokyo Disney Made Easy more than lives up to its name, providing a concise and informative guide to planning and enjoying a trip to the Japanese Disney theme parks. The book provides a good general overview of the parks and their shows and attractions, and it provides helpful tips for overcoming common linguistic and cultural pitfalls that a first-time visitor to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea may encounter during their visit. Any Disney fan that is planning their first trip to the Japanese parks should really consider picking up a copy of this book.

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