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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Taste of Japan: Disney's Epcot

There are many circumstances that can keep people from travel such as health conditions, fear of flying, and just not having the finances. I still find these circumstances sad for those who really want to experience Japan but can't make it over there. It can be hard traveling to other countries, and I understand. That's why I'd like to help those in America (where I'm from). You'd be surprised at how many places in America have areas that resemble Japan. These places obviously aren't going to be exactly like Japan, but it'll give people a good taste of what Japan may be like.

I plan to talk about Disney World's Epcot located in Orlando, Florida in this segment of "A Taste of Japan." Disney World is a great family or friend vacation for all ages. There's literally something for everyone to enjoy. There are several parks to explore, but I'll be talking about Epcot. I will eventually do more blog posts like this as I have the finances and time to travel to places that resemble Japan. So expect this to be a long running series on my blog.

Let's get started! Epcot is a park in Disney World that let's you travel around the world with its World Showcase. As you circle the park you'll arrive in countries such as South Korea, Mexico, China, Ireland, France, Germany, and, of course, Japan. I've been to Epcot three times already and it's always my most look forward to moments when I'm in Disney World. Epcot Japan resembles the real Japan in many ways that can come to many as a surprise. When you first transition from leaving America to entering Japan you can hear taiko drums in the distance, welcoming you to Japan. In the lake that is in the middle of the park, there's a torii, or gate, that is sitting in the water just like you can find in Japan. Once you enter that Japan section of Epcot the scenery changes drastically from the previous America section. The buildings are designed like traditional Japanese architecture. These buildings house shops, an exhibit, and restaurants. Towards the back corner, a Japanese garden and a pond can be seen. There's a pathway you can follow to stroll through the small garden area, leading to a small restaurant and the shopping area.
In the middle of the Japan section of Epcot.
The pond in the small Japanese garden. Those are some big koi fish.
There are two dinning restaurants to enjoy Japanese food like sushi and tempura. Then there is a casual restaurant, perfect for lunch, that serves items such as curry, garlic shrimp, and chicken teriyaki. The last time I went to the casual restaurant they had okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) on the menu that was delicious, but I guess it was too foreign to visitors so they exchanged that item for curry. I got the chicken katsu curry for lunch. It tasted just like the ones I got in real Japan. The workers were super friendly. They had no problem starting a conversation with my husband and I about his Kokoichiban (a curry house franchise in Japan) t-shirt. We enjoyed the small talk and got to know the workers a bit. Every worker, even in the other countries of Epcot, had a name tag on that would give where they were from. So the cashier at the casual restaurant was from Tokyo, Japan. I loved looking at all the name tags to see where the Japanese workers were from.
The exhibit room, featuring Kawaii Culture.
The next thing I saw was the exhibit. These exhibits are long-term, about 4 to 5 years. In 2012, the exhibit was about Japanese folklore. I really loved that one because they had a life size statue of a tengu (crow/man) that was so cool. This year they had an exhibit on Japan's kawaii (cute) culture. The room had glass cases filled with cute plushies, accessories, and other little trinkets. As you look at the exhibit you can hear Kyary Pamyu Pamyu playing in the background. It's a fun little exhibit that always introduces an interesting part of Japanese culture.
One of the glass cases explaining how cute culture can be present at work and for play..
Once you exit the exhibit there's an entrance to the Mitsukoshi department store. The store is nicely organized, sectioning off parts of the store for different things. There was a section for sake, snacks and candy, food, kitchen, kimono, hobbies, clothing, beauty products, stationary, Miyazaki items, Japanese learning books, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, and anime.  All of these great things in one store. It was hard not to buy everything in sight. My very first time in the store I went crazy, buying a purse, stickers, Pokemon plushies, a kimono, and candy. This time I only bought mochi candy and an umbrella.
The hobby section of the Mitsukoshi department store.
So as you can see Epcot Japan is in the comfort of American soil but lets you experience tiny parts of Japan. You'll get to eat real Japanese food, learn about Japanese traditions, and learn about the Japanese culture. All of this without the worry of speaking Japanese, yet if you'd like you can practice your Japanese with the workers and they'll be thrilled to talk with you. Not only will going to Disney's Epcot be a vacation, but an opportunity to learn about Japan in a relaxed setting. I won't be fully immersed into the culture. You will get little taste of Japan from Disney's Epcot, but enough to understand the country better.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I'm looking forward to doing more like this in the future. Thank you for reading and giving me support. I have so much fun writing about Japan and sharing it with everyone.

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