Tokyo Disneyland reopens five weeks after quake

Five weeks after Japan's quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis struck, Tokyo Disneyland threw open its doors again Friday, bringing some welcome relief to thousands of disaster-weary families.

Mickey Mouse greeted and hugged many of the 10,000 visitors who had queued up, some of them all night, outside the giant theme park, which had been shut despite suffering only minor damage in the tectonic disaster of March 11.

"I'm delighted that the park is open again," said Hiroko Ichimura, 35, visiting with her husband and daughter. "We made reservations six months ago to celebrate our daughter's birthday here but we had almost given up on the plan."

"We have been waiting impatiently for the park to reopen," said another Disney fan and parent, Kazuhiro Sugiyama, 34. "My little daughter is overjoyed and just keeps saying: 'Mickey, Mickey!'"

Many guest were visibly relieved to revel in Disney's fantasy world amid the grim realities of an ongoing nuclear crisis and scores of recent strong aftershocks from the massive seabed quake that have badly strained nerves.

To celebrate its reopening, the park put on a colourful musical parade of floats featuring Disney characters at the facility located on reclaimed land on the outskirts of Tokyo at Urayasu in Chiba prefecture.

"I was touched and encouraged to see the happy smiles of our guests," said Kyoichiro Uenishi, president of Oriental Land Co., which operates the Tokyo Disney resort under a licence from the Walt Disney group.

He said that while some people thought it was too early to go back to normal, "we were also prompted by many to reopen early, to create an environment to cheer people up".

The company plans to donate 300 yen (about $3.60) per guest through the Japanese Red Cross Society into a relief fund for the quake-hit area.

Despite the lashings of Disney magic, the atmosphere was somewhat subdued as some lights were switched off amid a nationwide electricity saving campaign prompted by damage to atomic plants and the power grid.

The park also stopped some fountains and waterfalls, turned down air conditioning systems, and shortened its opening hours to 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, four hours less than usual at this time of year.

The park had repaired damage to its carpark caused when the quake hit and the tsunami slammed into Japan's northeast coast, flooding areas in Tokyo Bay through a phenomenon called liquefaction, when landfill becomes saturated.

The only major attraction at the park to be closed for now was "Big Thunder Mountain," under repair because of quake damage to its rock surface.

The park resumed operations on the 28th anniversary of its 1983 opening as the first Disneyland outside the United States, which was later followed by Disney theme parks in Paris and Hong Kong.

The adjacent Tokyo DisneySea park remains closed for the time being, but the operator said it hopes to reopen it soon too.

yi-fz/mtp

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