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Sunday, May 1, 2011
Hard times for Mickey
The national mood of self-restraint in the face of the disaster in the Tohoku-Pacific region, the dropoff in visitors from abroad because of the nuclear threat, and the uncertainty of the electricity supply in the all-important summer months spell hard times for Tokyo Disneyland and other Japanese leisure facilities.
Disneyland and Disney Sea suffered relatively little damage in the quake itself, and an emergency control center was quickly set up. According to the Nikkei newspaper (April 16), the 70,000 visitors present at the time were guided outside and, when struck by sudden rains and strong winds from Tokyo Bay, provided with plastic sheets, towels, and improvised cardboard shielding.
The 20,000 still in the park after 11 p.m. were fed emergency rations and, after gas service was restored, with hot soup and hot dogs. The well-trained "cast" and staff won praise for their professionalism. The park carries out over 160 drills of employees per year before and after operating hours.
However, the rolling outages and restrictions on mass transit in the Tokyo area after the quake forced Tokyo Disneyland to close until April 15. It then reopened for limited hours to 6 p.m. with energy conservation in effect for interior lighting, escalators, and fountains.
On April 23 it extended its hours to 10 p.m. and resumed its popular evening electric parade. (A spokesman explained that the lighted floats are powered by batteries that are recharged late in the night when demand for electricity is low.)
However, it still faces the problem of sufficient electricity for the summer, as it relies on Tokyo Electric Power Co. for total daily consumption at the two parks of 570,000 kilowatts.
Therefore, it is purchasing three generators run on natural gas at a cost of ¥300 million. Longer term, a new Disney theme park near Shanghai — groundbreaking took place April 8 — threatens to draw away Chinese and other Asian tourists.
It is to be hoped that such a well-run and well-loved facility as Tokyo Disneyland can overcome its difficulties and continue to provide promise of a return to happier times, as Mickey Mouse and other characters did on their visits to evacuation centers in?Miyagi Prefecture on April 23 and 24.