World Showcase Japan
IF TRAVELING COUNTERCLOCKWISE AROUND LAGOON
A showcase of
Japan featuring traditional Japanese architecture and more...
Magic Kingdom Tickets
2 Free Disney Tickets here
the shoreline of the lagoon, a bright red torii gate, patterned after
one in Itsukushima, welcomes visitors. A plaque inscribed in calligraphy
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
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
Japans 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 Chinas,
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, Japans 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
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
In Teppanyaki's five teppan rooms, chefs prepare beef, seafood and chicken
entrees on grills set into the dining tables.
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
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.
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.
This small gallery in the feudal castle towards the rear
of the pavilion features constantly rotating exhibitions of Japanese
art, culture, and history.
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
Tori (Grilled Chicken), Nihon-Kai
(Grilled Shrimp, Scallops, and Lobster),
Grilled Mixed Vegetables & Ginger Dressing Salad
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
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.
Outside the pavilion, a small kiosk sells film, sundries,
and Japanese souvenirs.