A Disneyland with a Twist
When my wife and I went on a trip with friends to Japan in 2010, on a whim we decided to visit this strange Disneyland Resort just a small train ride out of Tokyo called Tokyo DisneySea.
First, a partial definition of what is the DisneySea Resort on wikipedia.org:
DisneySea has an overall nautical exploration theme to it. Unlike Tokyo Disneyland, the overall intention was to create a more adult-themed park, including faster, scarier rides and shows designed more for an older audience. By the time Tokyo DisneySea opened in 2001, its concepts and designs had been in development at Walt Disney Imagineering for well over 20 years.
...and it shows!
I have to say without reservation that Tokyo's DisneySea is one of the most well-crafted amusement parks I ever visited. From the faux-Firenze palazzo at its entrance, the false-perspective volcano at the center of the park, to the supremely constructed medieval buildings that house replicas of Leonardo Da Vinci's inventions like a fully functional (but gamified) astrolab, we were blown away.
It is definitely one of the few Disney parks geared for teenagers and adults. There is barely any of that typical "toddler-to-pre-teen" Disney branding with the ultra-bright colors or cutesy iconography everywhere like it is in other resorts.
In one of the sections of the park, a Western medieval town was specifically designed for an exploratory scavenger hunt. It had to do with finding Da Vinci's lost seal by going through a bunch of puzzles that were scattered throughout the area. If one wanted to participate, you were herded into a small dark room where a park-employee dressed up as a wizard speaking Japanese gave each small group a map where you have to go to each "station", figure out the puzzle, which then pointed you to the next leg of the hunt.
The puzzles and set-ups were pretty varied ranging from a giant crossbow that had cool sound fx that you needed to calculate it's arrow velocity, to a high-ceiling room with an astrolab which projected constellations on the ceiling where we needed to input the right coordinates on these little dials to match up stars, to at the end a ship's spyglass that pointed to an area with a secret device that stamped your map with a Da VInci's "seaL of approval".
Other sections of the park included a downtown 1920's New York City area (with mini-Statue of Liberty), a romanticized Middle-eastern Aladdin-themed area, an "Under the Sea" Little Mermaid-esque area (with Kabuki mermaid show), a Mayan jungle area (with very well-constructed minecart rollar coaster), and one of my favorites which front and center of the park, a steampunk-themed outpost in a magma-flowing volcano.
This jewel of the park is the area based on Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". There is an entrance to the center of the volcano which reveals a ton of steampunk machinery, a shop, and a ridable Nautilus in a small lake on the floor of the "volcano". To top it off, sandwiched in the walls of the "rocks" was a roller coaster ride that weaves in and out of the caves and tunnels.
When I visit Japan again I would love to go back to this resort.
See some pics I taken with my little Canon Powershot at the time, below.