If Disney isn’t your dream but you love a good theme park then Tokyo won’t disappoint—choose from Hello Kitty boat rides to record-breaking rollercoasters and everything in between.

If you’re not really a fan of long-haired princesses or lost fish, or you’ve been to Tokyo Disney one too many times, there are plenty of alternative options to try in and around Tokyo. Whether you’re looking for terrifying drops from extraordinary heights, haunting journeys through dark hospitals or a nostalgic trip to your Sonic-playing days, there’s something for everyone at these alternative theme parks.

1. Fuji Q: For Fuji-views and thrills

View of Mt Fuji from a train window going to Kawaguchiko
There are usually some good views of Mt Fuji from Fujikyu Railway trains from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko | Photo by iStock.com/PixHound

Fans of fast rides and freaky haunted houses need look no further. Fuji Q is the undisputed king of both in Japan, with views of a certain famous mountain thrown in for free. The tallest and fastest coaster is Fujiyama, with drops of 70m and numerous world records to its name. Alongside it are the recently renovated Do-dodonpa which accelerates to 180km/hr in under 2 seconds, Takabisha which boasts an angle-drop of 121 degrees, and Eejanaika, the second 4th dimension coaster in the world.

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In case that doesn’t put enough adrenaline in your system for one day, Fuji Q is also home to the scariest haunted house in Japan, named Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear. It takes at least 90minutes to complete and has multiple exits installed for those who can’t handle it. If fear isn’t your game, then there are classic funfair rides, plenty of family sections like Thomas Land and great water rides too.

Entry: Afternoon free-pass tickets are available from ¥4,100. Allowing entry after 12pm, these include unlimited access to all rides except the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, bowling and coin-operated games (obviously). A full-day ticket costs between ¥6,000 and ¥6,500 depending on the season and the day of the week and can be purchased online or on-site, with the same exclusions but extra hours to enjoy! Tickets are also available through their app, and if you’re looking for an all-in-one deal, you can get a 1-day pass including transfers from Tokyo for ¥8,100.

2. Sanrio Puroland: Cute characters galore

If you’re a fan of that lazy egg or cute cat, Sanrio Puroland can be more than just a kids’ day out. Themed around the different Sanrio characters like Gudetama, Kirimi, Pompompurin and My Melody as well as Hello Kitty, this park is a brightly-coloured cuteness overload. Entirely indoors, it’s perfect for rainy days and offers a boat ride through the world of Sanrio, character meet-and-greets and themed areas too. The cafe has character-inspired foods and daily shows include Kawaii Kabuki, the Miracle Gift Parade and light-projection show Miracle Happiness Illusion (we’re hoping the illusion isn’t referring to the happiness) as well as a Gudetama movie-show where the egg becomes a director (!).

Entry: Adult tickets cost ¥3,900 on holidays and weekends and ¥3,600 on weekdays while kids tickets cost ¥2,800 and ¥2,500 respectively and cover the ages of 3–17 years old.

3. Hanayashiki: Japan’s oldest amusement park

As Japan’s first-ever amusement-park, Hanayashiki opened in 1853 and is a wonderful combination of old-fashioned charm and… well, a bit more old-fashioned charm? Making the most of its central location, the parks modest attractions weave in and out of each other’s paths and include the country’s oldest steel-track rollercoaster, a ferris wheel and the iconic Bee Tower. A symbol of the park, it offers views of Asakusa including Skytree and Sensoji from 45m high. While this park is by no means thrilling, it’s friendly, great for kids and pretty cute – so keep your expectations old-school and have kitsch day out to remember.

Entry: Admission costs ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for children, with ride tickets costing ¥100 each. Although most rides require 2–3, it is usually cheaper to pick and choose your rides as the free-pass costs ¥2,500 for adults and ¥2,000¥2,200 for children on top of your admission fee.

4. Cosmo World: Family fun at its best

Panorama of Yokohama at Minato Mirai waterfront district.
Cosmo World with Landmark Tower in the background | Photo by iStock.com/xavierarnau

Easily spotted thanks to the giant ferris wheel, Cosmo World in Minato Mirai is divided into three different sections based on age. All sections are free to enter and rides are paid for individually, so it’s pretty good for a non-committal stroll until something catches your eye. The Panic! Rollercoaster which shoots down through the water of the log flume and Ferris wheel are probably the highlights but there’s nothing like a simple old-fashioned haunted house to keep you on your toes. They have introduced a new VR ride (at the higher end of the price range) but have plenty of traditional rides too, with a definite funfair feel.

Entry: The parks are free to enter and rides cost between ¥300¥900 per ride.

5. Tokyo Dome City Attractions: Ride the Thunder Dolphin

The roller coaster threads the ferris wheel | Photo by Gregory Lane

Probably most famous for its Thunder Dolphin ride which can be seen looping through a hole in the LaQua building and through the center of the Big-O Ferris Wheel, Tokyo Dome City Attractions isn’t just a one-trick pony. While the fantastically-named Thunder Dolphin steals the show as the 8th tallest coaster in the world and Tokyo’s largest, the Super Viking and water-based Wonder Drop aren’t too shabby either. The park has the requisite haunted house, an evening water symphony show and all the usual fairground treats. The Big-O is the first centerless ferris wheel in the world and also has Karaoke machines in eight of its 40 gondolas so you can sing your heart out while admiring the view of the city.

Entry: While entry is free, rides are not so you will have to choose between individual ride tickets for between ¥450¥1,200 or try a day pass. These cost ¥4,200 for adults, ¥3,700 for youths/seniors and ¥1,800¥2,800 for children and are reduced by around ¥1,000 if you opt for a night-pass instead. If you prefer daylight, you can save a few yen by opting for the 5-ride pass for ¥2,800.

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6. Joypolis: A VR Theme Park with Added Sonic

Joypolis is an indoor Sega Amusement arcade which will take you back to the good old days of Sonic and into the new world of virtual reality all in an afternoon. Despite being indoors and contained by walls, Joypolis offers versions of all the usual theme-park rides, including rollercoasters, log flumes and haunted houses – all made possible by VR. Plenty of rides are also interactive, meaning kids (or adults) can burn off energy on a rainy day or try to impress a date with their shooting/laser-avoiding/long-jumping skills. The half-pipe is one of the most unusual rides – two people must coordinate to win a spin battle (pictured above, in case you were wondering what was going on there). While it won’t keep you entertained all day, it’s a solid afternoon of fun right in the heart of Odaiba.

Entry: Entrance tickets costs ¥1,200 for adults and ¥500 for children, with individual rides costing ¥600 each. Day passports, which include all rides as well as entrnace to the park cost ¥4,200 for adults and ¥4,500 for kids, night-passport tickets (5pm onwards) cost ¥3,500 for adults and ¥4,500 for the youngers. You can get ¥300 off if you present your (non-Japanese) passport or residence card.

Bonus Idea: Take a trip to USJ

A little further afield than the other suggestions, Universal Studios Japan is the natural contender for best theme-park in Japan, but it’s also in Osaka. While this means you can’t get there and back in a regular day, with the help of night-busses it can be done in 24 hours if needed, but it also makes a great mini-break with a day or two in the city itself.

USJ has a whole host of highlights including Harry Potter World – a major draw for the wizards, witches and muggles among us – and rides featuring the Minions, Spiderman, Jurassic Park and Jaws. While some of these are available at Universal Parks in the US, some (like Jaws) have been replaced, so there’s a nice old-school feel to parts of the Japan park. If you’re considering it, check out our tips on getting in as well as getting to Osaka and what to do there.

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