Whenever I ask a Japanese woman how many times she’s been to Disneyland or Disney Sea, I always get a similar answer. Most of the people I’ve asked can’t even count the number of times that they been. For others it’s been ten or more. Yes that many times! My friend Mikage and her husband Yoshi actually got married there. I don’t know if Japanese men go as much as the women do, but Disney is EXTREMELY popular in Japan.
I have tried going over the reasons why in my mind.
We have to keep in mind that Disney is also wildly popular in America, that’s where it originated, right?
So what makes Disney World, Florida so popular? Or Disneyland, California so popular? Well I think there is a mass appeal for all things that are good, wholesome family fun. As long as there are people, there will be families looking for something to do.
What about those people who don’t have children? For people who are dating, or married couples without kids, couples are always looking for a getaway. I know for many women here in Japan, Disney is magical, dare I say…romantic?
I really like Disney and much of the work they’ve done over the years, but I can’t say I’ve been to Disney countless times. Why? Well to get from where I was staying in Georgia to Disney World Florida, door to door, took seven hours. That’s one reason I didn’t go very often, because 7 hours is a bit of a trek. So this brings us to another reason Disney is so popular. It’s conveniently close! If I hop on train I can be to Disney in about an hour and a half (or somewhere thereabouts). If I asked how many people had been to Universal Studios Japan (in Osaka), I bet the numbers dwindle a bit, because it’s a longer, more expensive trip.
What other angle can we look at this from? Ahh. I’ve got one more. Japan is known for being a hardworking society, one where most workers devote themselves wholeheartedly to their jobs, often without question. Some may argue the case that the Japanese society is overworked. I think this ends up manifesting in the ways Japanese people entertain themselves.
For example, manga (Japanese comics) are HUGE here. Every single day that I’m on the train, I can find some Japanese businessman reading a comic. In my mind I think this is a way to escape the daily grind, even if it only lasts for a commute. I think this may have something to do with why Disney is so popular. It’s literally a world of it’s own, magical creatures, magical lands, no work, stress, and no pressures from the world of work. Disney is the ultimate escape.