Hubby and I are taking our time dating through World Showcase at Epcot. Each opportunity we take to break away and spend time together over there has been a memorable adventure and we always look forward to the next one. We love looking into the nooks and crannies of each pavilion and finding things we never knew were there. This time, we explored the Japan Pavilion, located near the back half of World Showcase. Can you believe we made it this far? After having explored Mexico, Norway, China, Germany and Italy, it’s hard to believe we are half way through and closer to finishing the series.
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Wait a minute!
Okay, okay. Yes ~ you got me. Some of you who have followed the series from beginning to end (or simply know World Showcase) may have realized that we skipped a pavilion. We have a good reason for doing so. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the American Adventure – quite the contrary, actually. We just weren’t able to make it to Epcot in time to enjoy what it offered that evening. In fact, since we were in between “seasons” at that point, there was nothing even happening on the American Gardens Theater stage. So, we chose to save that exhibit for a later “date.”
~ The Journey to Japan ~
The night we planned out our Japan date, however, it was drizzling a little bit at first. It wasn’t anything to worry about, but we did have an umbrella with us just in case. Usually when you have it, the downpours hold off. When you don’t, a deluge tends to occur. Am I right?
So, here we are at the entrance to World Showcase ready to make our way to the back of the park. We had a big decision to make this particular night. Picture this – standing at the six o’clock position of World Showcase with the American Adventure across the World Showcase Lagoon at “noon.” We had finally reached a spot in our dating series where we had to decide which way would be faster. Should we go to the left towards Mexico, which we had been doing for weeks now, OR do we actually go towards the Canada Pavilion and perhaps shave off a few minutes?
We chose Canada ~ sorry, Mexico. No hard feelings, right?
NOTE: For those who don’t want to walk the promenade to reach the farthest point of the showcase, there is a boat that will take you from the Canada Pavilion to the Morocco Pavilion. I’ve taken that boat before – it’s a nice, relaxing trip!
Uh-Oh…Hubby’s at it again!
Soooo….yeah. For fun, just like the night we visited the Top of the World Lounge, Hubby thought we should time our walk, as well as check to see how far it actually was from the entrance of World Showcase all the way to our destination that evening.
So that you all feel well informed and empowered before taking your next jaunt to the Japan Pavilion, it took us 12 minutes and 12 seconds to reach our destination one-half mile from our starting point. There – now you have all the information you need. (It would be a lot shorter if you were staying at one of the Epcot resorts or taking the boat, of course).
Japan Pavilion – So, Let’s Talk About It
This particular themed exhibit sits between the American Adventure and Morocco Pavilion. It was fun to find out that it was actually one of the original World Showcase exhibits in Epcot, having been a part of the planning since the late 1970s.
Enclosed in this pocket of World Showcase are a variety of dining options. There are two table service restaurants, a small sake house, a quick service and a small “cafe.”
Shopping opportunities are broad and easy to find with the ginormous Mitsukoshi department store located on the ground level of the two story building on the right side of the courtyard. Nestled in the back on the left, there is a gallery that houses various long-term exhibits that are fun to explore.
Interestingly, the Japan Pavilion has the privilege of boasting two icons to draw the attention of Guests. On the water sits a beautiful torii gate. I have no doubt that you have seen it in many photos from Epcot visitors and, when positioned well, it can create a beautiful frame with Spaceship Earth in the background.
In the corner of the courtyard itself stands a very tall, very proud Go-ju no-to, or five-story Japanese pagoda. The nearly 83-foot building is designed to represent, in ascending order, the five elements in which Buddhists believe all things in the universe are produced ~ earth, water, fire, wind and sky. It is a fascinating structure to gaze upon and speaks volumes to the skills and craftsmanship of the Japanese architects.
DID YOU KNOW:
Many ideas, such as a roller coaster and a Circle-Vision attraction, were considered by Imagineers when it came to designing the Japan Pavilion. However, many of these ideas found themselves either translated into other attractions elsewhere around the Resort or were simply put on hold, considered not ready for development. I don’t know that anything finds its way into an Imagineer’s waste basket.
A Little Music to Start the Night
Just before dinner, we were able to catch the traditional Matsuriza Taiko drummers performing on the stage at the base of the pagoda.
I love watching these women perform! They are completely in sync, so powerful and captivating. Every time I stop to listen, I am honestly mesmerized by the uniformity and precision.
Time For Dinner
After the five to six minute performance, the two of us hiked up the tremendously tall staircase that leads to the both of the table service restaurants – Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo. Our reservations were for the former, as our goal was to once again share a meal. Visiting Teppan Edo, which is an hibachi style restaurant, would not provide that option for us this go round. However, I highly recommend dining there at least once. I enjoyed it for my birthday a few years ago.
So ~ we arrived, checked in, received a buzzer and went to sit. Actually, I went to take pictures ~ you guys should know me by now. However, it didn’t take long before we were called to be seated.
Our host placed us directly in front of the sushi bar. This actually turned out to be a fascinating location ~ watching four women with HUGE smiles on their faces quietly and precisely putting together sushi rolls. It was quite satisfying to watch because it made me extremely hungry.
Meeting our server
Our server for the evening was Risa, another sweet-hearted Cast Member who was ready and eager to make our evening enjoyable and memorable.
Risa was born and raised in Osaka, Japan, where she ultimately became a kindergarten teacher. Approximately ten years ago, she arrived in the United States and learned English while living in Rochester, New York. She was there about seven months before she picked up and moved across the country to Los Angeles, where she began to teach in a Japanese school. Her students there were primarily of Japanese descent and attending so that they didn’t lose any knowledge of their heritage.
Risa spent about two years in that position before moving back to Japan, where she once again worked as a kindergarten teacher. While she loved her job, she was very curious about returning to the United States and working with other cultures. So, in 2018, she returned as a cultural representative with the Disney International Cultural Representative Program. She will stay here for one year and then return home, where her family awaits.
As this is a third party restaurant, I walked in very curious as to how they would handle food allergies should we decide to bring our son (egg, peanut and tree nut). I am happy to report that, immediately upon our arrival and without any prompting, we were asked if we had any food allergies in our party. For this allergy momma, that always warms my heart! When our server first introduced herself, she even asked us a second time.
As this piqued my curiosity, I asked Risa if I could speak to someone a little more in depth regarding their ability to manage food allergies in that particular restaurant. Again, since it’s a third party establishment (meaning Disney does not own this restaurant), it sometimes comes in to question how comfortable they are with special dietary preparation, thus creating an uncomfortable scenario for the Guest requiring the attention. It is critical and crucial to connect with management so that everyone understands the situation and well-informed decisions can be made before something “not-so-magical” occurs.
Meeting the manager
Brianne was the manager on duty that night and she arrived at our table within minutes. She had a bright smile on her face and was ready and willing to answer any questions I had. Hubby and I discussed our own particular situation (eggs, peanuts and tree nuts), as well as others as I openly let her know that I write with food allergy families in mind. Brianne was extremely attentive, helpful and willing to personally review the menu with me and what would work for specific allergies.
- Any Yakimono entree can be prepared to accommodate food allergies.
- When it comes to the sushi, the kids’ portion is already prepackaged, so it may not be safe for those with particular dietary restrictions. However, the adult offering can be tailored to accommodate.
- Desserts are all brought in from an outside source and may not be very safe. It’s important to check the packaging and know your own sensitivities.
- There are no peanuts or tree nuts in the facility, but there is egg in the tempura batter.
- When it comes to the noodles, those carry a disclaimer on them that states they were made in a facility that also works with eggs. However, there are none in the actual noodles themselves. So, if you are able to tolerate disclaimers, the noodles may be fine. Again – know your allergies, know your severity and make a well informed decision.
Okay – It’s Time For Us To Eat
To start things off for our evening, we ordered the Cassava Flour and Panko-crusted Shrimp as an appetizer. It was a delicious combination of lightly floured and Japanese-breaded shrimp with shishito pepper. These were gone in a heartbeat.
For dinner, since we were sharing, we ordered the Bento Box. This Chef Creation included:
- Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura
- New York Sirloin Steak with Garlic Ginger Sauce
- Chicken Teriyaki.
- Tuna and Salmon Poke Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
- Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp Nigiri and Vegetable Roll.
To be honest, this had some pretty new tastes for us.
Neither of us have actually been real fans of sushi in the past. Hubby still isn’t, but we still enjoyed what was included and had opportunity to say that we tried something different that evening. Who knew I could stomach raw tuna??? (PS – the box was left empty…we ate everything!)
So, here’s a funny story….
There was this little tiny drop of green stuff in the box. Yeah – I think you guys know where this is going. I mean, it looked just like avocado – I swear! Neither of us had touched it until just about everything else in the box was gone. Hubby grew a little too curious and, without even thinking about it, put a little on his finger and then into his mouth.
Ummm ~ no, that wasn’t avocado!! It was WASABI!!!
Call the fire department!! Hubby’s mouth was on fire! Water, water, water!!!!!
Okay – I laughed hysterically…..I couldn’t help it. He actually did, too….as did Risa, our server. It was obviously a memorable moment that we may never – ever – forget.
Oh – dessert? Nah – we decided to wait on it. You’ll see…
Something New We Learned
Here’s a little more fun we had ~ and this one didn’t require near-medical attention!
In the midst of our meal, we noticed one of the other servers folding napkins into beautiful creations to place on the table. Hubby and I were both fascinated with how fast and precise she was, so I asked if I could record her doing it. She was very kind to oblige. Check this out!! (I even took a stab at it myself – I did NOT include that video, but I didn’t do too badly)
Time to Shop ~ or Browse
Once we were done with dinner and capped our conversation with Risa, we headed downstairs to browse through the gigantic store. While many don’t like this particular store for one reason or another, I don’t mind it. I actually enjoy browsing through the merchandise and seeing what “cute” things they have on display.
There is this one section where a Guest can pay to pick out an oyster and a young lady basically “guts” it to find the pearl inside. We did this once a few years back. I believe mine measured at 7.5. I will say that the Cast Member working this department is always charismatic, energetic and very engaging.
As we strolled through this store, we found everything from toys and candy to cultural apparel and expensive jewelry ~ there seems to be something for everyone ~ every class, every age, every personality.
The “Cuteness” Gallery
As I noted above, there is a section of the building located on the bottom floor at the back left of the pavilion that houses various long term exhibits. During our visit, they were showcasing a collection of Japanese arts that they referred to as “Kawaii,” which represented the Japanese “cute culture.”
While we’re okay with the whole Hello Kitty stuff, we found ourselves particularly fascinated with the “Melty-Go-Round” statue, or the “Hakajuru girl.” I mean, look at these colors and the shape. This must have been so fun to create.
Darkness was setting in and dinner had finally settled, so it was time to grab our sweet treat for the evening. Earlier in the year, we introduced ourselves to kakigori, which is a Japanese shaved ice dessert flavored with syrup and a sweetener. Here at Epcot, that sweetener is condensed milk ~ one of Hubby’s favorite tastes!
They have a variety of syrup flavors ~ including rainbow, strawberry, melon, cherry, tangerine and blue raspberry. For this go round, we both went with cherry and asked for the additional sweet milk topping. Next time, we’re asking for double the sweet topping! Yum!
FYI – If you are not allergic to dairy, the sweet milk topping is a MUST!!!! Oh, so good!!!
Guess What We Finally Did?
To this point, many of you following along know that we have not yet stayed to watch IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. We always seem to want to beat the crowds out and get home early enough for a decent bed time (big yawn). However, the weather was perfect that night, it wasn’t crowded and the timing just seemed right.
In other words, we finally stayed to watch the fireworks at Epcot!!
To be honest, the display felt shorter than we remembered. It also lacked a little in captivation and wasn’t as dynamic as Happily Ever After. Okay, I willingly admit it…..I think we’re pretty partial to the Magic Kingdom fireworks display.
Nonetheless, we still enjoyed ourselves and had a great view from where we were standing.
Psst – have you heard that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will see its last performance in the summer of 2019? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t eager to see what will be replacing it. How do you feel about the upcoming change?
Calling it a Night
As the night wasn’t too remarkably hot and the crowds were not at all too thick, we casually and leisurely made our way back to the front of the park. No ~ we didn’t time it. However, we did walk back the route we came, through Morocco, France, UK and Canada. It just gave us a little more to be excited about as these are pavilions we plan to explore in the coming months. Oh, don’t fret! We will definitely spend a date night in the American Adventure pavilion in the near future. We just want to make sure that we get there in time to enjoy The Voices of Liberty, watch the audio-animatronic show and perhaps catch whatever act is headlining the American Gardens Theater that night.
So ~ stay tuned…that date night is coming!
Have you explored the Japan Pavilion? What do you like about it? What would you like to see improved?
To read more about our Dating Around World Showcase series, click here: Our 11 Dates Around World Showcase: Leaving Footprints in Epcot
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