Japan is one of the most beautiful of the country pavilions in Epcot’s World Showcase. From the landscaping and architecture, to the food and beverages it will draw you in for hours of fun exploration. Sadly, there are no rides, or movies, teaching us about Japan’s history or present day culture, but you will leave with more than you came in with.
7. Architecture and Statues
The Pagoda is patterned after one built in 700AD. Each level represents an element of creation: earth, water, fire, wind, sky. It is 85 feet tall. It serves as the stage for the Matsuriza Taiko drummers. The main building of the pavilion is based on the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The building above, which houses the Katsura Grill is patterned after the Tea House at the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The large wall at the back of the pavilion was originally supposed to be the entrance to a bullet train roller coaster that was never completed. It represents a castle wall from the 17th Century. The Tori Gate at the front of the pavilion often serves as the backdrop to Disney Weddings. You will find two statues of great warriors at the bridge crossing near the back of the pavilion. They are there as guards to the entrance of the castle.
6. Great Shopping
You can’t beat the amount of merchandise inside Mitsukoshi Department Store on the ground level of the pavilion. When entering from the front you will first encounter pop-culture items from Hello Kitty, Pokémon, Manga stars, to figurines of Sailor Moon and dinnerware featuring Totoro. Pick up videos, origami paper, clocks, fine jewelry, home goods, personal grooming, purses and backpacks, socks, apparel, fans, live Bonsai, incense, 3-D cards, art supplies, huge assortment of chopsticks, solar run car ornaments, dishes, mugs, beverages, candy, snacks, mochi, sake, and so much more! Inside you will also find an Oyster bar, not the kind you eat from, but you select an oyster and the Cast Member opens your oyster to reveal your special pearl measuring it, describing it, as well as giving you the appraised value of it. Mitsukoshi is a Japanese store chain that has been in existence since 1673.
Matsuriza Taiko Drummers perform several times a day usually at the base of the Pagoda. They are energetic and fun to watch and listen to. You can purchase their CD’s inside the Mitsukoshi store. Watching the oyster openings inside the store are very entertaining thanks to the great Cast Members. The Spiritual Beasts: “From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars” Museum features anime characters and folktale legends.
4. Koi Pond and the surrounding landscaping
The landscaping is beautiful and very peaceful. Sitting in the upper level is surprisingly quiet if you need a place to “escape” a busy day in World Showcase. During the International Flower and Garden Festival there are several Bonsai trees on display that are quite impressive. The large Koi pond is such a nice area to pause and watch nature. 90% of the plants growing in this pavilion are native to Japan. Japanese gardeners are very meticulous in their planting to enjoy the best of nature.
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3. Their Beverages
In the back of the Mitsukoshi store you will find a section set aside for Sake Tasting, There is a small wooden building opposite the stairs leading up to the second floor of the pavilion that serves one of, if not the best, beer in Epcot: Kirin. You can choose it on Draft or try the frozen variety. Here you can also get a seasonal specialty cocktail, additional beer choices, and plum Wine. At a small kiosk outside you will find a wagon of ice holding bottles of Ramune in different flavors. This is a pop culture drink from Japan that is fun for children. It is unique as the bottle holds a marble locked inside and children like popping the bottle open.
Tokyo Dining is upstairs on the second floor and they have floor to ceiling windows along the World Showcase Promenade giving a nice view of IllumiNations at night. They make and serve Sushi, Sashimi, Tempura, and some other cooked dishes. Try the Bento box, it is delicious! Teppan Edo is in the back of the second floor. It is set up with guests sitting around a large grill that the Teppan chef comes out to cook your food on and entertain you in the process. It is entertaining, delicious and very filling. Try the Ichigo frozen strawberry beverage, it is very refreshing! Up on the hill is Katsura Grill a counter-service area that has a menu of Udon noodles, Tempura, Curry, Miso soup and a limited sushi menu. It is a delightful spot which offers comfortable seating inside and some outdoor seating as well. Down on the lower level next to the Pagoda make sure you try the Kakigori flavored ice at Kabuki Café. They serve additional flavors of ice cream as well as snack items and beverages. Kabuki Café serves Kirin, Kirin Light, Kirin Draft, Kirin Frozen, Asahi Beer, Sapporo Beer, Plum Wine, Cold or Hot Sake as well. You can purchase frozen Mochi for a quick dessert at the outside merchandise kiosk.
1. Super Kind Cast Members
The Cast Members here go the extra mile in being polite and kind to all the guests of the Japan pavilion. They show respect and do their best often bowing their heads. I have never encountered a rude Cast Member in Japan.