Inviting Disneyland to Japan(1972 to 1980)

From 1972 to 1973, we undertook a study of European and American leisure facilities in an effort to bring to fruition the leisure facility named “Oriental Land.” The results of the study led us to the conclusion that Disneyland in America was the ideal choice to realize our vision.

Subsequently, in February 1974, we made a formal request in writing for the top Disney executives to come to Japan on a fact-finding tour. In June, President Kawasaki paid a visit to The Walt Disney Company. He met with the Disney president to reiterate Oriental Land’s desire to bring Disneyland to Japan and again issued an invitation to the top executives to visit Japan. The movement to bring Disneyland began to gain momentum. In July, we submitted to The Walt Disney Company our “Oriental Land Feasibility Study Report 1974,” which outlined the project and the suitability of using the land in Urayasu. We emphasized that the Urayasu area in Chiba, being adjacent to the Tokyo metropolitan area, was ideal for the construction of Disneyland.

In response to our efforts, the Disney executives agreed to come to Japan in December 1974. After thorough preparations, the fateful day was at hand. On December 4, at the Imperial Hotel, our proposal to bring Disneyland to the Urayasu site was presented to the Disney executives. We made our appeal through aerial photos of the site and surrounding areas, presenting marketing data, pointing out the long-term promise of the value of the Japanese market, and showing that the proposed site was located in the Tokyo area right in the heart of Japan.

After the presentation at the Imperial Hotel, the Disney executives boarded a deluxe limousine bus (one of the few in Japan at the time) for a tour of the Urayasu site. The Disney and Oriental Land executives were then taken aboard three helicopters to view the proposed site from the air. They could see how the site was located adjacent to the Tokyo Metropolitan area with the sea and rivers surrounding it on three sides, which gave it an out-of-the-ordinary quality. We explained how appropriate the proposed site for Disneyland would be, and pointed out its special features. The Disney executives were particularly impressed by the view from the air.
Two days later, on December 6, the two companies met again. At that meeting, Disney clearly expressed its wish to pursue the possibility of building the Disneyland theme park together with Oriental Land. Our company’s effort over many long years of hard work and passion to attract such a leisure facility was rewarded in these three days. With the “Basic Agreement” between the two companies, President Kawasaki’s long-held dream began to bear fruit.

After the basic agreement was signed, we began studying how to build and operate a Disneyland-type theme park on the site under development. The work on this First Phase started in January 1975. About nine months later, The Walt Disney Company summed up the First Phase work in the “Oriental Disneyland Concept” document which determined that the site in the Urayasu area of Chiba Prefecture was indeed appropriate for building a Disneyland-type theme park. Disney also produced a site development plan based on the concept document.

We met with Disney multiple times to negotiate the terms for entering the next phase of work. In June 1976, we concluded an agreement to determine the work for the Second Phase. At last, the “Oriental Disneyland Project” entered the concrete design stage.

In March 1977, the name of the theme park was officially decided to be “Tokyo Disneyland.” After more than a year of deliberations on the Second Phase, Disney was ready to give us a presentation on it in September 1977.

In parallel with the concrete planning for the construction of the theme park, negotiations on the business terms were also moving forward. Our heartfelt wish to bring Disneyland to Japan now faced the reality of business negotiations that were conducted repeatedly in countless meetings. There were even times of very tense negotiations.
However, on April 30, 1979 at the headquarters of The Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California, then President Takahashi of Oriental Land and then President Walker of Disney signed a basic agreement concerning the design, construction, and operation of Tokyo Disneyland Park. Over the five years since the first basic agreement was signed, both companies conducted tenacious negotiations on the theme park. This agreement was a big step leading to the goal.

Prior to the signing of the agreement with Disney, we were faced with securing the financing to realize the Tokyo Disneyland project. The amount of construction funds needed for the theme park was several hundred billion yen and raising such an amount did not progress as we hoped it would. While we were making every effort to raise the necessary funds, we approached Chiba Prefecture to position the Tokyo Disneyland business as a strong pillar for the prefectural government. In April 1979, the then vice-governor, Takeshi Numata accompanied us on a business visit to the Industrial Bank of Japan (at the time) where we were warmly welcomed. With the Tokyo Disneyland project positioned as an “industry with heart,” appeals were made to similar financial institutions. As a result, 22 of them organized a co-financing group and a foothold for funding the project was achieved. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without this co-financing group, which was formed in August 1980, Tokyo Disney Resort would not exist today. For our company, this was a major milestone.

We had thus made great progress toward fulfilling our dream and steadily proceeded with preparations to open the theme park in 1983.