Epcot - World Showcase - Japan Pavilion

Of all the lands represented within Epcot's World Showcase, the Japan Pavilion would have to be the one I've visited the most. In fact, there was a span of time where my son's weekly allowance required a shopping run here for the latest in Pokemon gear. We learned quickly to make this a last stop at Epcot, because the kids always held out for Japan before calling it a day.

Located between America and Morocco at World Showcase, Japan is an architectural masterpiece. From the familiar red torii archway gate to towering pagodas, this is an area full of inspirational design. Subtle, modest decorative touches appear throughout the pavilion, while lush, tranquil gardens surrounding sparking koi ponds add a more natural beauty, as well as a charming photographic backdrop. Japan boasts more open space and an overall more relaxing setting than other World Showcase pavilions, but curiously - there is also more to see, more to buy, and more to eat here!

Let's start our tour of Japan  with a highlight that many Epcot guests seem to overlook: Bijutsu-kan! Located at the back of the courtyard, across from Teppan Edo, Bijutsu-kan is an indoor exhibit showcasing the historical Japanese influence on modern pop culture via the "Spirited Beasts: From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars" display. This is one area where you will not have to bribe or fool your children into gaining a wee bit of knowledge. They'll soak up the informative references to the origins of their favorite Anime and video game stars and storylines! Those of us who were fans of the hit TV series Prison Break will also appreciate the paper crane display, and the story of the "Tsuru". 

While you're in 'cultural sponge' mode, soak up a performance by Matsuriza, a Taiko percussion trio providing synchronized musical storytelling at the base of the pagoda. Scheduled appearances occur multiple times daily, and it really is an exceptional show.

There's no better way to absorb Japanese culture than by taking a little bit of Japan back home with you, and Mitsukoshi allows you to do just that. The only North American branch of Japan's famed department store is located right here in Epcot, and I can attest - it's a fantastic way to stock up on authentic Japanese merchandise. From wearables to edibles, Mitsukoshi has it all. I've personally saved a small fortune in International shipping fees on Pocky alone! What can you find at Mitsukoshi? Here's a small sampling: plush dolls and action figures, books and Manga, housewares, clothing, jewelry and decoratives... all depicting Japanese myths, legends, tradition and pop culture. Inside, be sure to take advantage of the 'pick a pearl' station. Outside, pay a visit to 'candy artist', Miyuki. And - did I mention there's a sake bar in the back of the store? Perhaps a small visual tour is in order...

Naturally, you can't claim to have completed your Japanese journey until you've tried the cuisine. Fortunately, there are four different food service options to choose from in the Japan Pavilion. 

  • Kabuki Cafe is a snack shop located just before the pagoda as you cross into Japan from America. I cannot stress enough the necessity of trying Kakigori (shaved ice) - especially on a typically hot Florida day. Kakigori is available in four different flavors, or a "rainbow" combination of all of them. Also available: sushi, sake, ice cream and edamame. This is grab-and-go, kiosk style service, and most menu items are under $5. 
  • Katsura Grill is located on the hill overlooking the koi pond. This counter service location offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The Katsura Grill menu includes sushi, Japanese pasta, soups, curry, teriyaki-style meat dishes and a small selection of native drinks. Those who suffer from indecision will appreciate the sampler offering of the Tonosama Combo. Lunch and dinner service is offered at Katsura, with an average adult dinner priced at under $15. 
  • Tokyo Dining serves an array of sushi, tempura, sashimi, seafood, soups, salads, steaks and other grilled creations in a setting of modern elegance. This gem of the Japan Pavilion is located above the Mitsukoshi shop, overlooking World Showcase lagoon (perfect for Illuminations viewing, by the way). Tokyo Dining offers the most exquisite of Japanese dining experiences, for both lunch and dinner service. Reservations are highly recommended. Food and drink selections are plentiful here, with the average adult meal ranging from $15-$30. 
  • Teppan Edo brings the tradition of the Japanese steak house experience direct to Epcot. Essentially a dinner show, Teppan Edo provides a demonstration of culinary skill combined with acrobatic grace as your multi-course meal is prepared at your table by a masterfully trained chef. Located above Mitsukoshi, Teppan Edo tends to draw crowds. Reservations are strongly suggested. Lunch and dinner service is offered, and the menu includes an assortment of meat, vegetable and sushi selections, as well as desserts and drinks. Average adult meal price is $15-$30. 
More to know about Japan Pavilion at Epcot: 

During the holiday season, Epcot presents Holidays Around the World. Japan's Daruma Vendor explains the Daruma doll and the customs of the Japanese New Year.

The KIDCOT station in Japan is in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery. What is KIDCOT? Click here. Don't forget to get your Epcot Passport stamped here as well. 

To prepare for your visit to Japan: 
  • The national drink is sake. The national dish is sushi or sukiyaki. 
  • The official language of Japan is Japanese. 
  • Japan's capital, Tokyo, is also its largest city.
  • Hello in Japanese is "konnichiwa".
  • Bowing is essentially a Japanese handshake. Be prepared for this customary greeting, and respectfully return the gesture.

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