Tokyo Disneyland Language Barrier: Things to Know
The biggest question about Tokyo Disneyland is its language barrier. Once you start your planning, questions start popping up in your head and cause you anxiety. “Wait, am I able to visit and enjoy the Parks without knowing Japanese? How difficult is it? How’s the language barrier?” Those are excellent questions and are anxiety-inducing. I’ll help ease some of that anxiety.
The short answer is, yes and depends. I know that’s not an ideal answer but I’ll go more in-depth to help make things clear. For the most part, you’ll have with the language barrier and knowing zero Japanese, but there are few things to be mindful of with the language barrier. Let’s go over those things, so you’re well-prepared when you visit.
Table of Contents
Travelling to Japan Without Japanese
Before talking about Tokyo Disney Resort, I want to quickly talk about travelling through Japan without knowing Japanese. In general, you’ll be fine without knowing Japanese as you navigate the country. Locals are extremely friendly and customer-oriented, this means most Japanese go to great lengths to help, even with a language barrier.
With the increase in tourism over the years, a lot of the tourist areas have ample English signage and information readily available. A lot of tourist attractions have fluent or even native English speakers (not always the case, however). Even the trains within the major cities (including the bullet train) have English signage and announcements.
Once you leave the city centers, it’s hit-or-miss if there’s any English around, so be aware of that. As a rule of thumb, knowing a few basic phrases and having a pocketbook with Japanese phrases is helpful. With that said, a lot of locals will do their best to speak English with you, if they know any.
If you want to take your Japanese ability further than a few words, I highly recommend the Genki Textbooks. I used this when I began learning Japanese.
Read more about travelling to Japan without knowing Japanese. Also, read our list of best things to do in Tokyo and our practical Japan tips. Now, let’s talk about English at Tokyo Disney Resort.
English-Speaking Cast Members
For the most part, English among front-line Cast Members varies greatly. You’ll meet some that speak nearly fluent English while others may know a few pleasantries and everything in between. With that said, there are almost always Cast Members who speak some level of English in these positions:
- Hotel Check-in
- Park Ticket Booths
- Ticket Center (Ikspiari)
Language Barrier at Restaurants in Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea
Chances are Cast Members may not know much English at the restaurants, both counter and table service. No need to worry though, all menus are in English. A lot of the food names are the same in English as they are in Japanese. That means if you simply say “cheeseburger” that’s understood. When all else fails, you’re able to point at the menu.
If you have allergies, that’s tougher. My best advice is to print out these allergy Japanese cards for dining. As a general rule in Japan (not just Tokyo Disney Resort), you aren’t able to customize meals as you can in many other Western countries. If you’re looking for vegetarian or vegan options, see our lists for Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo DisneySea.
Signage at Tokyo Disney Resort
You’ll be happy to know that any important signage at the Resort is in English (toilets, monorail stations, menu, etc). You’ll have zero issues navigating the Parks, the monorail, or even the train system to get to Maihama Station. Grab yourself an English Park Map (along with a Japanese Today Guide), and you’ll find your way through the Parks without issue.
Many announcements over the speaker system throughout the Resort are in Japanese and English (sometimes Mandarin too). One thing to note is most receipts are only in Japanese (restaurants and stores).
English in Attractions & Entertainment
The most noticeable aspect during your visit is there’s little to no English in dialogue for attractions and entertainment. Almost everything is in Japanese. This includes characters speaking during parades and shows to dialogue in attractions.
Unless you speak Japanese, it’s tough to understand exactly what’s being said. However, the stories are usually simple enough you’re able to get an idea of what’s happening. It’s also quite fun to hear Mickey and other characters speak Japanese. Listening to “Compass of Your Heart” in Japanese from Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage is always a treat.
Does this take away from your experience? I don’t think so, it makes for fun memories of visiting a different country! It’s also fun to try to guess what’s being said by creating your own interpretation.
What happens if I need an English speaker?
If you find yourself in a situation where you need an English speaker (and hand motions don’t help), Cast Members will find someone who can help you. The best advice I can give is if you’re in a situation where the language barrier is an issue, it’s best to use simple short phrases with hand gestures. In most cases, that’ll help.
How difficult is the language barrier in Tokyo Disneyland?
Long story short, the language barrier shouldn’t deter you from visiting Tokyo Disney Resort. Besides the challenges we discussed above, you’ll still have a wonderful time without any Japanese ability.
With visiting any foreign country, it’s always an excellent idea to equip yourself with a few key phrases and pleasantries. That’s always appreciated by locals. It’s also fun trying to speak another language and lends itself to experiences you wouldn’t have elsewhere.
Here are a few resources to help you learn some Japanese to use:
- 50 Easy Japanese Words to Learn in One Day
- Basic Japanese Phrases to Know
- Japanese Phrases Useful for Dining
- Japanese Phrase Book
If you want to start learning Japanese, I highly recommend the Genki Textbooks. It’s what I used to begin learning Japanese.
More Things to Do in Tokyo
My recommendations for things to do in and around Tokyo! Plan a day at the Hello Kitty theme park, Sanrio Puroland, and an afternoon at the popular TeamLab Planets TOKYO. Take a tour around Tokyo with the convenient hop-on and-off bus. Spend a rainy afternoon inside Japan’s largest indoor theme park, Tokyo Joyoplis, near Tokyo Disney!
More on Tokyo Disney Resort
Tokyo Disney Resort Guidebook
Are you planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? If so, you need our digital guidebook! Our guidebook is the most comprehensive resource available, covering everything you need to know about the park, including tickets, hotels, restaurants, attractions, shows, seasonal events, and more! With our guidebook, you’ll be an expert on Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea before you even set foot in the Parks. You’ll know what to expect, where to go, and what to do. You’ll also be able to avoid the crowds and make the most of your time.
Get tickets for Tokyo Disney Resort
It’s vital to buy your tickets ahead of time for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Read our comprehensive guide on tickets to learn how to purchase tickets. For recommendations on SIM cards, portable Wi-Fi devices, travel insurance, cheap flights, and hotel bookings, read our travel resources page.
Learn more about Tokyo Disney Resort
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As always, very informative article from Chris.
In the last few times we have been to Tokyo Disneyland Resort, there has been absolutely no problem whatsoever in getting around, w/o speaking Japanese. There were always english translations on everything from food menus to souvenir cards. The English map does help where to find essential things, like bathrooms, first aid, etc. And from our last visit there (2013), there were a few of the DisneySea attractions that had these little English booklets, that basically gave you the story of what was going on. And there was an electronic translator given to us to use during the Genie’s Show. And all the cast members were so friendly, it just made our visits there all the more…. Disney. By the way, no matter where one goes around the world, “Thank You” is always an essential phrase, in any language (o;