Why Does Japan Love Disney So Much?

By Donnie | Hmm...

A Japanese mother and daughter decked out in Disney, Donald stuff (a little Mickey, too)

Standing on the train, I couldn’t help but notice this grandmother (not shown), mother, and daughter trio nearby after an obvious Tokyo Disneyland excursion. I actually asked to take a photo because they were loaded with Donald Duck apparel. I had to snap the shot because it proves, once and for all, who the best Disney character of them all? I mean, clearly, it’s Donald Duck, right? With an AMAZING name like Donald, how could you go wrong (I’ll stop)? But I do see it pretty often. I’m on the train during the weekend, and a family, or mother/daughter is on their way back from Disney. It makes me wonder, just what makes Japan love Disney so much?

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.

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  • T says:

    Your the best dude. I love your Blog. Good Job.

    • Donald Ash says:

      Thanks Teechan! I appreciate the support. I really really do 😀
      Please feel free to stop by and post anytime.

  • Clive Bugle says:

    This is one of the biggest mysteries. I have no idea. Something about Japan and Mickey goes hand in hand.

  • Sam says:

    Kingdom Hearts!^-^

  • icarus says:

    I read somewhere that most Japanese animated films usually have sad endings. Dunno if this true but Grave of the Fireflies comes to mind. Disney on the other hand have happy endings. Always. Even though we know the The Little Mermaid’s real story have a tragic ending. Or probably it’s a case of admiration for foreign things. Example, in my country, foreigners are crazy over our straw hats and straw bags. But the locals don’t care about it at all. Instead the locals long for baseball caps and western clothing which they only see on tv.

    • thejapanguy says:

      UGH!! Please don’t mention Grave of the fireflies. I watched that move while I was sick with a fever…bad idea:


      But you make a good point. Disney keeps things pretty magical and happy. Maybe the next time I have a crazy fever (most likely from high-fiving one too many kid students) I’m watching something happy.

      • manchir says:

        I watched that cartoon just once. And never watched that again. He and his little sister fought against everything. But what was the end? So what was the point of their war against that hard life? No way that can end like that. At least that brother could have move on and try to survive after her loss, but instead he throws everything away. It actually depressed me. Thats why i dont want to watch it again.

  • J Reyes says:

    Probably to hold on to the remaining sliver of childhood in a safe space. As most would lose their innocence, curiosity, and carefree attitudes early on in childhood, as their strict teachers, parents, sempais and societal norms dictate. Even probably more so for girls who have to also slut it up in terms of fashion and demeanor even when they’re still pre-adolescent (look at their “idols” e.g. AKB 48, Morning Musume, etc.).
    Could also be because of their longing or belief that they are already “western” in the cultural level, despite the seemingly feudal institutions and anachronistic practices still prevalent in their society.

    Or yeah, probably coz it’s near and the souvenirs are so Kawaiiiii ;-D.
    Don’t forget to try the curry at the cafeteria. Yummers!

  • jay says:

    not to bash the japanese but they are pretty childish. im a half japanese and spent time in japan on vacations growing up. disneyland was a place i used to go a few times a year, mostly summer. until i started living here, i realized my bragging of going to disneyland about 20 times meant nothing to the people living here. the fact that some have a year long pass and go almost every season. but going back to what i said. the japanese are pretty childish in a way.
    no matter what type of person you are, you are back to being a kid in disneyland. thats the mentality for the japanese i think. when i think of amusement parks, i think of the ride and the thrill. not the food or the characters. but to them thats everything. the characters, the rides, the food, the merchandise. i mean if you look at advertising, they tend to use mascots or characters with childish voice. even in the hospital they talk to you like youre a baby at times, especially the nurse. they treat you like a kid in japan sometimes.
    also its also a tie up of disneys subliminal or just multiple advertising on television. every season, some channel shows something going on in disneyland. that basically promotes there way of selling new products. in the end, disney is a huge market and power house to the japanese people. we didnt celebrate the idea of halloween or easter until disneyland implemented it in their way of showing various seasonal themes.
    not a rant or negative bashing on japanese. but just an observation i have made over the years as a japanese and also as a bit of a foreigner since i lived abroad for a long time as well. another way of telling asians apart is if there is a disney doll character hanging on their bag…theyre japanese!

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