The most important takeaways: plan well, and don’t forget to bring your smartphone.

The pandemic has brought many delays, closures, and changes to establishments around Japan, and Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are no exception.

Besides closing entirely for a period of time, the insanely popular theme parks also asked customers to not scream on rollercoasters, and limited the number of visitors allowed in the parks at one time.

But just how much has changed? Our local Disney fanatic and Japanese-language reporter Maro managed to snag tickets to the Land of Dreams, and she was shocked at how much had changed in the two years since she’d been there last.

So without further ado, here are five things that surprised her the most.

#1. The lines to get into both Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea were insanely long.

Maro went to Tokyo DisneySea on Sunday and Disneyland on Monday. She figured that with entry to both parks being limited due to the Christmas season, along with the current restrictions on foreign national entries into Japan due to the Omicron strain of COVID-19, there would be at least a bit of leeway.

▼ The red arrow is pointing to the park gates.

Boy, was she wrong. This was the line 30 minutes before the gates opened for the day. Maro thought it looked like an airport — and not to mention, there was a lack of social distancing going on because of it. As she got closer to the entrance, she realized why it was taking so long to get in.

▼ It really was like an airport!

The Disney Parks installed security gates and bag scanners at all entry points. This system had been in place for a portion of the gates for a few years already, but at some point the parks decided to expand the security measures to all of the gates. Overall, it took about an hour to get in.

#2. No more Fast Passes — now they’re Standby Passes.

Fast Passes are like the golden tickets of Tokyo Disney Parks: if you have one of these passes, you can almost guarantee a spot on even the most popular of rides. Any Disney park strategist knows how and when to get them.

But since Fast Passes aren’t being offered anymore, they’ll need to think of a new strategy.

▼ Basically, prepare to line up a lot more than you’re used to.

Instead, Standby Passes are being put in place. These give you the right to line up for an attraction at a certain time period, just like a Fast Pass. However, the big difference is that people with Standby Passes and people without Standby Passes can’t line up for the same ride at the same time.

So basically, if you don’t have one of those passes during a designated Standby Pass time, you are not allowed to line up for that ride.

▼ No magical journey for you.

These Standby Passes are being handed out for the most popular attractions like the Beauty and the Beast castle and Toy Story. And what’s more, they only hand out a limited number of passes per ride in a day. That means it could become commonplace to enter the parks just to ride certain rides, only to lose the ability to ride them.

Strategize carefully, Maro recommends!

#3. Another new lottery-based system has been put into place: the Entry Reception.

One of the bigger attractions of Tokyo Disney Parks is the chance to meet and see your favorite Disney characters in shows, but now that could become pretty difficult unless you have good luck. Shows are now running on an “Entry” system, which is a lottery.

▼ Feeling lucky today?

There was a lottery system for good seats for shows in place a couple of years ago when Maro last went, but back then it was still possible to see the show from non-reserved seats. But as it now stands in December 2021, you cannot see any of the Disney Shows unless you win a lottery ticket. So if you’re coming from far away mainly hoping to see shows, think again.

▼ By the way, Maro didn’t win tickets to see any of the shows. She did see Duffy, though!

On a positive note, it’s slightly faster to take pictures with characters now! The greeting time is shortened to just one photo per group, but because of that the turnaround is pretty quick.

#4. It’s super important to bring your smartphone!

If you’re planning to brave the new Standby Pass and Entry Reception systems, the only way you can do it now is via the official Disney Parks smartphone app. While smartphone use is already the norm for Disney Park fans for buying tickets, booking hotels, and more, it’s not often something you need to actively use at the parks.

▼ Now you need it for the new systems, and you’ll even need it to place orders at Park restaurants via QR codes.

Maro understood it was for the sake of reducing contact as much as possible, but she had to admit that it felt a bit lonely. But on the plus side, the Parks now have smartphone chargers for rent in order to help make the transition smoother.

▼ And it looks like there’s plenty of them.

If you don’t want to rent one though, Maro highly recommends bringing your own mobile battery!

#5. No snacks at the souvenir shops?! Tokyo Disney Parks are facing a huge shortage.

One of the biggest shocks for Maro was that there were absolutely no snacks at the famous Bon Voyage souvenir shop. It’s tradition to grab something tasty to remember the fun of the day by on your way out, but there was nothing edible on the shelves.

▼ No popcorn? No cookies? Nothing?

When Maro asked a staff member what was going on, she was told that there was a crippling shortage of Disney snack stocks. They weren’t even available in the Disney hotel shops!

As of December 14, there is a way to get Disney Park snacks via the Disney app, but you’re only limited to one of each souvenir per person. There’s no end date to this system in site, so prepare for this as well!

▼ There are still items in the souvenir shops, just not ones you can eat.

And there you have it, the five things that shocked Maro the most when she visited Tokyo Disney Parks for the first time in two years. She was surprised at how crowded it was despite there being limited entry, but all in all, park goers did a good job of maintaining social distance.

▼ It makes you wonder just how many people are allowed in per day.

She did have fun, but she does recommend planning your trip heavily before braving the parks anytime soon.

▼ Just make sure you’re wearing a mask and regularly sanitizing your hands, and you’ll be able to enjoy the parks safely!

Maro, like many others, is looking forward to the day when Tokyo Disney Parks go back to “normal.” But for now all we can do is follow the new guidelines and envision what the new Frozen and Tangled expansions will look like.

Photos: ©SoraNews24 
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