These Japan Pavilion facts are almost better than fresh sushi. Almost.
Every cultural pavilion at EPCOT includes impressive detail that often remains a mystery to even the most dedicated Disney fans—but the Japan Pavilion has to take the cake for the most jam-packed with cultural easter eggs and authentic products and food.
Keep reading for an inside scoop on all the must-sees, must-tastes, and experiences you just can’t pass up at the EPCOT Japan Pavilion!
1. Kawaii – The History of Cute!
When you step through the torii gate of the Japan EPCOT Pavilion you enter the world of cute! Or “kawaii” in Japanese. Kawaii is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, adding a little extra fun to even the most mundane parts of everyday life.
In this mini-museum, you can see a myriad of insanely adorable kawaii items and learn all about the history of kawaii in Japan and how it emerged.
The kawaii movement started after World War II as a distraction from wartime. Nowadays, cute memorabilia is used by individuals of all genders and ages, and kawaii products can be seen anywhere from grocery stores to on the side of airplanes, to pink bunny barriers in construction sites. Check out the Bijutsu-Kan Gallery for the history of cute, and then get your own adorable kawaii merch in the Mitsukoshi store.
2. Sushi, Sake … and More Sushi!
In the Japan Pavilion, there is no shortage of sushi—in every restaurant, there are sushi dishes included on the menu but our favorite sushi restaurant at the pavilion is Tokyo Dining.
The newly-reopened restaurant not only offers a plethora of sushi, including both sashimi, nigiri, and sushi rolls but also offers other authentic Japanese dishes. Tokyo Dining is a Table-Service restaurant, so if you’re looking for fast sushi, visit Kabuki Cafe or Katsura Grill to get to-go rolls (though these are more like grocery store sushi).
Sushi at the Japan Pavilion, Ranked:
- Takumi Tei $$$$ (Table-Service) temporarily closed)
- Tokyo Dining $$$ (Table-Service)
- Teppan Edo $$$ (Table-Service)
- Kabuki Cafe $$ (Quick-Service)
- Katsura Grill $$ (Quick-Service)
For more to tickle your umami taste buds, tucked across from the Mitsukoshi Department store is the Garden House Sake Bar.
Whether you are a seasoned rice wine drinker or new to the flavor, this is the place to explore the unique and enticing beverage that is sake. With around ten different types of sake, including different flavor palates, such as dry, sweet, and flavored. Here you can sample sake by the glass and bottle.
3. The Architecture Tells a Story
There is a very special element of spirituality weaved into the architecture in the Japan Pavilion. The large red torii gate in the water represents transition in Shinto and Buddhist beliefs.
The Goji-no-to Pagoda is another landmark that has poetic and spiritual meaning. If you look closely you will notice that the Pagoda has five different roofs. Each one symbolizes the different essential elements in the Buddhist religion, including, water (sui), wind (fu), fire (ka), earth (chi), and void (ku).
The blue pagoda is a replica of a 7th-century Japanese temple and includes calming pools and gardens with native maples, various trees, and bamboo. The sense of serenity and calm that the garden gives is unmatched and will definitely leave you feeling very zen.
4. The Only Mitsukoshi in America
The Mitsukoshi Department store is one of the grand treasures of EPCOT—it is the only Mitsukoshi store that exists in North America!
Here you can shop for authentic Japanese merchandise from cultural kimonos to Sanrio, Pokemon, and anime products. Forget expensive international shipping, stop at the EPCOT Japan Pavilion and bask in the glory of all the Mitsukoshi store has to offer.
In the Mitsukoshi store, you will find a large shallow pool with a ton of oysters, these are not for eating but for pearl hunting. This experience is currently closed for COVID-19 precautions, but it is a classic of the pavilion, so we’ll let you know when it returns.
Pick an oyster and chant, “Ichi, ni, san!” (“One, two, three!”). A Cast Member will shuck it and measure the pearl found inside, the pearl is yours to keep and take home!
5. Historic Candy Creations
From 1996 to 2013, Miyuki (aka the (candy lady, or Candy Miyuki) was a must-see attraction at the Japan Pavilion. Miyuki is a Japanese candy maker, and the only female to receive training in Japan in the art of Amezaiku (Japanese candy making), she is only one of 15 people trained in the art.
Her candy creations started out as hot balls of rice starch, then were handcrafted into different animal sculptures per the request of an audience member. To finish, she hung them to cool and the candy was then given to the guest as a free souvenir.
Candy was handed out sparsely to crowd members who are able to make requests, so it was best to get in line early for the show to have a chance at taking home a piece of authentic Japanese candy.
The next time you find yourself in The Japan Pavilion you can share your knowledge of these carefully placed details and treasured attractions. Think we missed anything? Let us know over on our Facebook page!