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The Asian ApertureVisit to Disney's Epcot: World Showcase Japan
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, July 7, 2013    Share



The last time I went to Disneyís Epcot was way back in 1982 when it first opened. I donít remember much of that trip, only the ride inside the giant ball that showed the city of the future. Being a lifelong Sci Fi fan, I thought it was a cool idea.

A few months ago, I was looking for something entertaining to do with my Tampa Japanese Meetup group and I vaguely remembered that Epcot had World Showcases and that Japan was one of the countries. After looking at Disneyís site and checking out some Youtube videos I was sold and proposed to Esther, the meetup organizer about a possible trip to Epcot. What sold me on Epcot was Mitsukoshi Department store, one of the oldest in the world, that dates back to 1673.

On June 29th, Saturday morning, I woke up to a heavy rain. I decided to leave early, a good call on my part, to meet up with everyone in Dover. I started out on the Crosstown and near the exit for Ybor City, the police had the road blocked off due to construction. I turned right and something didnít look right so I had to do a U turn and that brought me past Ikea and I saw the street sign for Adamo Dr and I was back on track. I had to get to Dover by 10am. As usual with rain in Tampa, people slow down to a crawl. Finally after missing my turn in Dover and stopping at a Racetrack in Turkey Creek, I was at my friendís house. Esther agreed to drive us and the trip only took an hour from the Dover/Plant City area.

I was with Esther and Steven. Steven is someone who I met briefly at one of the Japanese language study meetups. Steven is very passionate about learning Japanese and in some ways reminds me of a younger version of myself.

We got to Epcot and I misread my email ticket because somewhere it mentioned that certain dates were blacked out and you couldnít use it for those dates. I walked up to Will Call, with Esther, and everything went well. I kept quiet about blocked dates. So I had my Mickey card and I was legal to get into the park. Then I had to scan my card and get a finger scan. How much does Mickey know about me now?

So we all wanted to see Japan and we quickly passed Britain, Canada, France and then I saw the Torii gate that is modeled on the tori at Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima. There is a multiple story pagoda and several building with quaint, old world Japanese style architecture.

First up was Mitsukoshi and to get out of the drizzle. Mitsukoshi is amazing. I was looking at Pokemon DVDs with Steven and he told me that Pokemon was such a big part of his childhood just like Starblazers, Battle of the Planets, Ultraman, and Godzilla movies was for me. I went to the books and they had Yokai Attack! about Japanese fairy tale creatures, and Yurei Attack! about ghosts by Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda, a husband and wife team that write excellent articles and books about pop culture.

I also stood in awe at the display case with Mobile Suit Gundam and Ultraman figures. The Ultraman figure was around $60, which I thought was high. Then it was time to leave the pop culture area to see the traditional arts like the beautiful kimono that Esther pointed out was a Wedding Kimono. I just started Shodo, Japanese calligraphy lessons, so I picked out a $5 cloth that you place the paper on top of.

Mitsukoshi had lots of cool stuff for the Japanologist and my favorite childrenís drink Ramune. I got coconut flavor. Steven wanted something unusual so I worked hard looking through various flavors until I found one that would make Elvis proud called Blue Hawaii. Iím not sure how it tastes but it was a pretty blue color. Then it was time for snacks and Steven asked one of the Japanese staff for something unusual and he pointed out his favorite snacks that were all dried sea creatures. Steven decided on dried cuttlefish. He tore open the bag and offered me some and dried cuttlefish is fantastic.

I was chatting with the girl at the counter and spoke in Japanese and I discovered that she was from Kansai Gaidai, the same university I studied at back in 1999. Small world indeed, forgive the Disney attraction pun. Steven offered her some dried cuttlefish and she couldnít eat on the job but she did explain that it goes well with beer. She was right about that as we all found out later.
Then we found a small museum off to the right that had Yokai called Spirited Beasts. It was in a small room and each display combined traditional art with pop culture anime and manga characters. It was cool to look at but just not enough. It needed a bigger room because there are so many different Yokai that the limited space could only show off the popular ones.

Standing in front of the pagoda we heard Matsuriza, the Taiko drumming group that is based in Orlando. They perform regularly at Epcot and other local festivals like the Orlando Japanese Festival. I always love hearing them play and it is not just about the drumming because there are synchronized moves.

We briefly discussed lunch options. There was Tokyo Dining for sushi, bento boxes, and other traditional foods. Teppan Edo had Teppanyaki where a chef cooks at your table and puts on a show, popular at Japanese steakhouses. However both choices had double dollar signs. That left Katsura Grill with a single dollar sign. Katsura Gill had Japanese comfort foods like curries, udon noodles, and Yaki Soba, stir fried noodles. We all ordered the same lunch, Chicken Katsu Curry rice. It was so good. Basically it is breaded fried chicken on top and beef curry with vegetables over rice underneath. You spoon the curry over the fried chicken to soften it. I had hot sake with mine.

Steven also ordered hot sake and he felt it was too strong so he gave it to me. I had two glasses of sake and feeling really good. A sake buzz is the best way to view Japanese gardens, koi ponds, and waterfalls. So I silently contemplated the beauty of the waterfalls and glazed at the koi pond.

Now it was time for beer. We visited the little beer hut with a pretty thatched roof. I spoke to the bartender and found out she was from Osaka and also went to Kansai Gaidai. My college must have an exchange work program. I ordered my favorite beer, Asahi Super Dry, a very popular beer in Japan. I can only find it at certain Japanese restaurants in Tampa but never at any of the Asian markets or liquor stores. I love Asian beers and if you like malt beers then I recommend Kirin Ichiban.

Esther and Steven both ordered frozen beers. They looked like regular beers with whipped cream looking frozen beer on top. However, neither really liked the taste. The topping kept the beer cold but was tasteless. We drank beer and ate dried cuttlefish without a care.

We all learned that the way to win a Japanese girlís heart is an offering of dried cuttlefish. Steven asked me how to say what is your phone number in Japanese and then he practiced saying it several times. He went back inside to try in on the lovely bartender. He came back feeling slightly rejected because she took his number and didnít give hers. Steven explained that when a girl does this that means no. I replied that Japanese girls are different. She told him that she finished working at 8 and his offering of cuttlefish would have to wait.

After beers and various sea creatures we went off to see the rest of Epcot, including China that had a great 360 movie. I wished Japan had a ride or a movie. There were plans for a Shinkansen ride but it didnít work out between the Japanese companies involved and Disney. Then we saw Future World with Mission: Space, a spinning fast ride that made me ill afterwards. Do beer and sake mix? Iím not sure why but seeing the Earth spinning and the bumpy ride on Mars made my stomach queasy.

We also went on Spaceship Earth inside the giant ball and it was revised but just as good as I remembered it.

Just after 8pm, Steven got several text messengers from Nami, the girl from the bar. Even though he stuttered through his Japanese phrase the offering dried cuttlefish worked its magic.

At 9pm, Illuminations, the fireworks spectacular started. The black sky filled with reds, greens, and blues. The fireworks at Epcot are dazzling. If you visit Epcot, stay until night for the show.
After that it was time to head back home.

Epcot and World Showcase Japan are definitely worth your time and money. We all had a blast and I am already looking forward to my next visit.






"The Asian Aperture" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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