Japan takes step towards ordinary life as Disneyland reopens

Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:46am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

URAYASU, Japan (Reuters Life!) - Snow White and Donald Duck cavorted before hundreds of fans Friday as Tokyo Disneyland reopened after five weeks, marking a tentative step back toward ordinary life for a Japan still reeling from natural calamities and a nuclear crisis.

The popular resort shut its doors after the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated a broad swathe of northeast Japan and damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant 240 km north of the capital, hit by rolling power cuts and ground liquefaction that caused some parking lots to crumble.

Screams of "Mickey!" rose from among the several hundred people lined up outside the park as popular characters waved in greeting before the gates swung open at 8:00 a.m. (2300 GMT), sending many sprinting inside.

"It was pretty lonely without the park," said 32-year-old Yasuhiro Sato, with his 3-year-old daughter Yume in a blue Cinderella dress, who said he came once or twice a month Before the disaster struck.

"Certainly we still have earthquakes and the nuclear crisis, both of which mean we can't relax yet. But here we can forget about them for a while."

The first Walt Disney theme park to open outside of the United States, Tokyo Disney Resort includes Disneyland and DisneySea, a water theme park, two hotels and a shopping mall. The parks have about 25.8 million annual visitors, over 96 percent of them from Japan and most from the Tokyo area.

DisneySea remains closed for now and Disneyland has cut its opening time by four hours.

"We repaired things to offer our guests dreams and peace again," said Kyoichiro Uenishi, chief operating officer of Oriental Land Co Ltd, the company that runs the resort, which opened exactly 28 years ago Friday.   Continued...

<p>A visitor is kissed by Disney character Mickey Mouse at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, east of Tokyo April 15, 2011. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>