World Showcase Japan  FIFTH COUNTRY IF TRAVELING COUNTERCLOCKWISE AROUND LAGOON
A showcase of Japan featuring traditional Japanese architecture and more...
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Japanese World Showcase at Disney's Epcot

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Along the shoreline of the lagoon, a bright red torii gate, patterned after one in Itsukushima, welcomes visitors. A plaque inscribed in calligraphy proclaims, "Japan."
Japan is one of eleven international villages around the World Showcase at Epcot, the Walt Disney World theme park of discovery.
Near the open air entrance to the grounds stands the blue roofed, five-story Goju-no-to pagoda, inspired by a shrine built at Nara in 700 A.D. Topping it is a bronze, nine-ringed sorin, or spire, with gold wind chimes and a water flame.
An oasis of serenity extends from the pagoda: a hill garden which is a Japanese art form at least 1,000 years old.
Careful arrangements of waterfalls, rocks, flowers, lanterns, pebbles, foot paths and rustic bridges form a story. Multicolored koi fish in the pond create living images of Japanese art.
In the courtyard west of the garden, guests find artisans practicing ancient skills. Using anesaiku (Japanese rice toffee), the candyman practices a 2,400 year-old art. Singing and dancing, he snips, swirls and shapes the brown candy into dragons, unicorns, dolphins and other fanciful creatures.
Further west, to the right of the courtyard, stands the Shishinden, inspired by the ceremonial and coronation hall found in the Imperial Palace grounds at Kyoto.
Inside the Shishinden, guests can browse through the world-famous Mitsukoshi Department Store, which offers everything from ornate kimonos, vibrant-colored robes designed after the traditional Japanese dress, to Japanese toys and dolls, bonsai trees and authentic Mikimoto pearl jewelry.
On the second level, guests can sample a variety of Japanese dining experience in five teppanyaki rooms. Chefs working with flashing knives demonstrate tableside cooking. Lobster, shrimp, scallops and beef are chopped and sautéed with fresh vegetables. The preparation is a feast in itself.
Beautiful lacquered screens and traditional decorated alcoves -- tokonoma -- set a mood for each room.
Guests seated around the horseshoe bar of the Tempura Kiku enjoy display cooking of batter-dipped, deep-fried seafood, shellfish, chicken, beef and fresh vegetables.
In the Matsu-no-ma Lounge, visitors see a majestic view of Future World across World Showcase Lagoon while sampling sushi, Japanese pickled vegetables, tempura and exotic specialty drinks.

The restaurants and shops are presented by Mitsukoshi, one of the oldest and largest department stores in the world (founded in 1673).
On the east side of the courtyard stands the Yakitori House, a small version of the Shoken-tei in the Kyoto Imperial Villa gardens. This rustic building with its thatched roof serves as a restaurant, offering Japanese snacks and refreshments.
The massive wood and stone Nijo entry castle with its huge sculptures of mounted samurai warriors beckons guests through the courtyard.
Passing through it, visitors cross a wide bridge spanning a moat to the Himeji or White Heron Castle with its curved stone walls, white plaster structures and blue tile roofs. Its style dates from the mid 1300s.
Japan’s neighbors on the World Showcase Lagoon are Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, The American Adventure, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.
Unlike many of the other World Showcase nations, about 90 percent of the plants used in the Japan pavilion are native to that country. While many people think garden style in Japan is similar to China’s, differences are noticeable. In China, the ponds are still and reflective, while in Japan the water is running and active. Sounds also add another dimension to the Japanese garden -- notice the bamboo “clacker” near the bridge in front of the Yakitori restaurant.
Unlike Chinese gardens, Japan’s are landscaped very meticulously, with every tree and shrub placed and maintained to achieve a specific look. Look for groupings of 3, 5 or 7 in our Japan garden -- these auspicious numbers are but one example of the symbolism and meaning which can be found in the garden.
The trees in Japan undergo intensive pruning and training. The painstaking work of Japan pavilion gardeners is evident when observing wire twisted around a branch to direct its growth or twine tied between branches to encourage a more classic style of growth
Overlooking tranquil gardens, the Yakitori House features yakitori (broiled skewers of chicken basted with teriyaki sauce) and beef soba (paper-thin beef simmered in a spicy sauce and served with noodles). Modeled after a teahouse in the Katsura Summer Palace in Kyoto, the Yakitori House also serves such uniquely Japanese desserts as green tea and ginger ice cream.
The Matsunoma Lounge, on the second floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store and Restaurant, serves sushi and tempura, along with Japanese sake, plum wine and even sake martinis (sake with vodka or gin).
Tempura Kiku seats only 25 people, so the atmosphere is friendly around the central counter. Shrimp, scallops, beef, chicken and fresh vegetables are dipped in light batter and fried by chefs trained in Mitsukoshi's Tokyo restaurant.
In Teppanyaki's five teppan rooms, chefs prepare beef, seafood and chicken entrees on grills set into the dining tables.

Entertainment
As for entertainment, it's hard to miss the taiko drummers when they perform. You can hear their drums almost all the way around the World Showcase! It's worth the walk to see them perform as they twirl and crouch throughout the show. The other main entertainer is a woman who manipulates candy into amazing animal sculptures. She's easy to miss and well worth the time it takes to find out when she'll be showcasing her craft.
Dining
The main dining area in the pavilion is the Teppanyaki Dining Rooms. If you've ever been to a Japanese steakhouse (i.e., Benihana), you know what to expect. You are seated at long tables with a grill in the center in groups of 8 to 10 people. A chef appears and cooks your meal right in front of you with much knife flashing. The prices are a bit high but you are also paying for the entertainment aspect of watching your chef. You may choose to eat tempura in a separate sit down restaurant or yakitori in the gardens. Another special treat is something called a kaki gori that you can purchase from a small stand near the front of the pavilion. These are much like snowcones and come in interesting flavors including honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon. This is one of my favorite treats but I know plenty of people who don't care for them. It all comes down to personal preference.
Shopping
For shopping, there is something in all price ranges at the Mitsukoshi Department Store. Their merchandise includes kimonos, Mikimoto pearls, bonsai trees, chopsticks, tea sets, dolls, candy, foodstuffs and all kinds of books and toys (including plenty of Pokemon). Be prepared to spend a bundle if you want to purchase some of the very fine merchandise such as the better kimonos or dolls. However, you can pick up small wooden toys, t-shirts, candy and the like at somewhat reasonable prices.
The End of the Day
Finally, the Japan pavilion is a wonderful place from which to enjoy the Tapestry of Nations parade and Illuminations. Just park yourself near the tori gate and settle in for a wonderful show. Some people may be put off by this location since it is on the opposite end of the World Showcase from the main Epcot entrance. Keep in mind that there is a secondary entrance to Epcot (the International Gateway) only two pavilions over behind France. You can easily walk or take a boat to any of the Boardwalk area hotels where you can catch a bus to your final destination if you plan beforehand.
   The Japan pavilion, like the nation it represents, is a bit of a contradiction.  Large and detailed, it's obvious that care was taken in its construction.  Yet for its size, there's really nothing to do here.  A lot of this is due to the fact that the large building at the back of the pavilion, a replica of a feudal Japanese castle, was originally built to house a show about Japan's history.  Unfortunately the show, Meet the World, was shipped to Tokyo Disneyland instead and the building is instead used for storage.  The remainder of the pavilion is taken up by various gardens and scenery, a pagoda, and a restaurant.  It also has one large shop, an extension of the Japanese department store Mitsukoshi.
Bijutsu-Kan Gallery
   This small gallery in the feudal castle towards the rear of the pavilion features constantly rotating exhibitions of Japanese art, culture, and history.

Mitsukoshi
   The Mitsukoshi Restaurant, named for the Japanese corporation that operates it and the department store of the same name, resides on the second floor of the Japanese Showcase.  The establishment is actually three eating areas in one.
   First there is the Matsu No Ma Lounge, a small lounge with a bar which serves as a waiting area for tables.  Drinks are available, as are sushi and tempura dishes from the neighboring tempura bar.  It is perhaps one of the greatest people-watching areas in all of EPCOT, as its large windows provide a great view of the promenade and lagoon.
   Next to it is the Tempura Kiku, which serves tempura, the Japanese version of deep-fried food (from southern Japan, I guess).   Guests here sit at a horseshoe shaped bar and can watch the chefs cook right in front of them.  The tempura itself consists of batter-dipped seafood, chicken, beef or vegetable pieces that are then deep fried.  Also available are sushi and sashimi dishes.
   The rest of the restaurant is composed of the Teppanyaki Dining Rooms, which is what most of us probably think about when Japanese food is mentioned.  These are the large, flat tables where the wacky chefs come out and cook for you.  The food is good, consisting of stir-fried seafood, chicken, beef, or vegetables, but the quality of the experience really depends on how good a waiter you get.  If they're appropriately wacky you're set, but if they're stoic you've pretty much thrown away $50 or more.  Also, I don't recommend this place for couples who want to be alone or other seekers of intimate-settlings-with-candlelight.  It's quite possible that you'll wind up sitting with complete strangers, who may well include large sweaty guys from Alabama named Bubba who yell at their ADD-afflicted kids (or even worse, people from a.d.d.! Haha!).  In other words, this place is best enjoyed if you're already part of a large party.
Matsu No Ma Lounge

Specialties:
Tori (Grilled Chicken), Nihon-Kai (Grilled Shrimp, Scallops, and Lobster), Grilled Mixed Vegetables & Ginger Dressing Salad
Yakitori House
   The Yakitori House sits atop the hill outside the Japan pavilion and is the showcase's fast food venue.  The building itself is a replica of the Katsura Imperial Summer Palace in Kyoto, which dates back to the 16th century.  The menu consists of snack-food versions of Japanese dishes, such as teriyaki sandwiches, sweets, and skewers of meat.
Mitsukoshi Department Store
   If, in the year 2300, Wal-Mart is still around, then it can talk smack.  Until then, the Mitsukoshi rules.  Because that's what this huge store really is - a Japanese Wal-Mart.  With the added cachet of the fact that above the door it mentions it has been around since the 17th century.
   If you're looking for something Japanese, this is a good place to find it.  Samurai swords, kimonos, cookware, toy Buddhas, jewelry, pearls, bonsai trees, origami books, china, foods, beverages, toys, chopsticks, art, and housewares... the list goes on.  This is the kind of store that infuriates you as a kid because it sucks your parents in for valuable minutes that could be spent riding Horizons. Oh wait, they demolished Horizons... OK, so valuable minutes that could be spent riding Journey Into Your Imagination.  Um, come to think of it, kids probably love this store these days...
   Anyway, this store is huge and features tons of stuff Japanese and Japan-related.  Everything except giant robots and bizarre pornography.  It's definitely worth a few minutes of your time just to check everything out.
Mitsukoshi Kiosk
   Outside the pavilion, a small kiosk sells film, sundries, and Japanese souvenirs.

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