Tokyo Disneyland on Saturday celebrated 40 years since first opening its doors to visitors, marking the milestone with colorful celebrations featuring Mickey Mouse and other iconic characters after weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
The theme park, located just east of Tokyo, welcomed 20,000 people on its first day in 1983, according to Disneyland's operator Oriental Land Co. It has expanded continuously since, adding attractions such as Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, which remain popular among visitors.
The construction of nearby JR Maihama Station and several hotels in the area also encouraged steady growth before the opening of neighboring theme park Tokyo DisneySea to the public in 2001.
The total number of visitors to the two parks had surpassed 800 million as of March last year, according to the company.
Over time, the theme parks have produced die-hard fans, with some making several trips a year to enjoy seasonal parades and purchase limited-edition goods for big events, such as Halloween and Christmas. The parks have also come to be known as venues for the city's Coming of Age celebrations since 2002.
The parks' operator experienced financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic, however. After closing for around four months from the end of February 2020, the company saw the number of visitors to both theme parks in fiscal 2020 drop to a record low of 7.56 million, far below the peak of 32.55 million in fiscal 2018.
In the business year through March 2021, Oriental Land fell into the red for the first time since listing on the stock exchange in 1996.
But the imposition of limits on daily visitors to the parks due to the pandemic has not been entirely negative, an Oriental Land spokesperson said, noting it had led to "shorter waiting times, and guests are spending their time at a more leisurely pace than before."
The company now plans to reduce the number of annual visitors to the parks from the more than 30 million seen before the arrival of COVID-19 to about 26 million by fiscal 2024.
"We want to make it a special year, celebrating our 40th anniversary with our guests," the spokesperson said.