Finding a Spot of Calm and Serenity in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

As one tours the World Showcase at Epcot, it's easy to get caught up in the waves of people and even if you have a concrete plan, sometimes the hustle and bustle of the day takes a toll. Suddenly you find yourself a weary world traveler in need of a quiet spot to rest.

The Japan Pavilion is that perfect quiet spot. I will admit that up until very recently this was one pavilion that I usually passed by, unless the kids wanted to visit the Mitsukoshi Department Store. I never stopped and just took in the beauty of the pavilion.

But on a recent trip I slowed down and took the time to discover what makes this pavilion so special.

At the lagoon's edge guests will see a bright red tori gate, which is a gate of honor that resembles a Japanese calligraphic character. Looking toward the pavilion, you will see a five-story pagoda (a goju-no-tu).

Pagoda in the Japan Pavilion with gardensPagoda in the Japan Pavilion with gardens

The five stories of the pagoda represent the five elements from which Buddhists believe everything in the universe is created: earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. The pagoda was inspired by the eighth century Horyuji temple in Nara and it stands 83 feet high and is topped with a 9-ringed spire that features gold wind chimes.

The formal garden behind the pagoda was created to evoke a sense of serenity with its cascading waterfalls, footbridges, and koi pond. On a recent visit this serenity was broken only by the sounds of Matsuriza, the Taiko drummers who perform each day in the pavilion. A good tip: there is a great spot to sit just below the Katsura Grill where you can relax, enjoy some sushi, and listen to Matsuriza perform.

Matsuriza, the Taiko drummersMatsuriza, the Taiko drummers

On the other side of the pavilion's courtyard is the Shishinden which was inspired by the ceremonial and coronation hall located in the Imperial Palace grounds in Kyoto. This is where guests will find the Mitsukoshi Department Store, which is a retail wonderland.

If you are looking for a traditional Japanese gift, this is the place to find it. The store features Japanese footwear, kimonos, anime items, Hello Kitty, and snack foods. There's also a "pick a pearl" tank where guests can choose an oyster and you get to purchase the pearl (it costs about $20). You can spend a lot of time wandering around the store and there's even a sake counter in the back where you can try a sample of sake.

If you can make it out of the store, you'll want to check out the Bijutsu-kan Gallery where you'll find the exhibit "Spirited Beasts: From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars." The exhibit showcases how popular contemporary characters like Naruto have roots in traditional Japanese folklore. Another highlight of the pavilion used to be Miyuki the candy lady, but sadly her last performance in the pavilion was at the end of November.

After all the touring and shopping, perhaps you've worked up an appetite. The Japan Pavilion is home to several popular dining locations. If you're looking for a quick service meal, stop by the Katsura Grill where you'll find sushi, teriyaki dishes, and udon. Our friends at the Disney Food Blog reviewed the menu if you want to get a sneak peek into the menu before you visit.

Katsura GrillKatsura Grill

A fun dining option is always Teppan Edo, which is a traditional teppanyyaki-style restaurant, also known as a Japanese steakhouse. Guests are seated around a hibachi and you're treated to great food and entertainment all in one. You'll want to check out this review from our friends at the Disney Food Blog!

Next door to Teppan Edo is Tokyo Dining, the other table service location in the pavilion. Here you'll find traditional Japanese dishes including sushi, tempura, and grilled meats. The restaurant also has a prix fixe lunch menu.

Between the gorgeous gardens, the incredible shopping, and the delicious food this pavilion is one of my new favorite places to spend some quality time while touring Epcot. And while the younger members of your touring group might be disappointed that there are no characters to meet in Japan, there is still a Kidcot Stop and a whole lot of fun stuff to buy at Mitsukoshi.

What's your favorite thing to do while visiting the Japan Pavilion?

Don wrote on Mon, 12/09/2013 - 17:58:

Anonymous's picture

Trivia: The location of the art exhibit was originally planned as queue area for a large-scale attraction. The enormous show building, behind the retail sake area, had originally been set aside from the main attraction. It's mainly just used for storage and some office space, now.

The attraction is variously described as a Mt. Fuji bobsled-style roller coaster, a walkthrough "bullet-train" Circle Vision experience that simulated a ride through the Japanese countryside, an Americanized version of Disneyland Tokyo's "Meet the World" attraction, and other concepts.

Kristen K. wrote on Tue, 12/10/2013 - 13:00:

Kristen K.'s picture

That would have been so cool Don! I don't think that I knew that, but I've always fel like there was supposed to be something more there. SO many attractions that were planned for Epcot never really made it to the Park, its sad to me.

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