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February 2012 Archives

February 6, 2012

Tea Cups at the Disney Theme Parks

You either love 'em or you hate 'em. There isn't much middle ground when it comes to the Tea Cups. I categorize this attraction as a "Spin & Puke" ride so you can guess what camp I'm in. Actually, I will venture onto the Tea Cups just as long as my fellow passengers swear on their life that they will not turn the wheel inside the cups to make them spin faster. Usually the threat of wearing my recently consumed lunch is enough to make them keep their promise.

The Tea Cups are inspired by the Disney animated movie "Alice in Wonderland" which was released in 1951. Walt's retelling of this famous story is based primarily on Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" with a few additional elements from "Through the Looking-Glass."

Alice in Wonderland Movie Poster

The movie was not a success in its initial release. In fact, it was never rereleased in theaters during Walt's lifetime. Animator Ward Kimball blames the movie's lackluster performance on the fact that five directors managed the film and each tried to outdo the other. Walt believed the film failed because Alice had no heart. We didn't care about her emotionally. And when you think about it, he was right. When I watch "The Little Mermaid" or "Beauty and the Beast" I really care what happens to Ariel and Belle. But when it comes to Alice, I'm not really concerned that the Queen wants to lop off her head.

Despite the movie's poor reception, Walt still wanted the film represented in his new park, Disneyland. The Mad Tea Party was an opening day attraction, July 17, 1955. On June 14, 1958, a dark ride named "Alice in Wonderland" joined the park's roster of attractions. Like other dark rides, an abridged version of the movie is presented in just over three minutes. The Alice in Wonderland attraction is unique to Disneyland and a favorite of many.

Old Tea Cup Ride at Disneyland

Alice in Wonderland Attraction

In the early years, not all of the teacups sported fancy designs on their exterior. This could be very disturbing to a young child scurrying for the prettiest cup. You might also notice that the early Tea Cups did not have doors. Instead, a loose rope was draped across the opening.

Early Tea Cups

In 1983, Disneyland's Fantasyland received a major facelift. The theme was changed from Medieval Tournament to European Village. During the remodel, the Mad Tea Party was moved from the heart of Fantasyland to an area directly in front of the Alice in Wonderland attraction. Having the two attractions together gave better continuity to the area. Even today, not all the cups have fancy designs, but at least the plain ones have a white stripe.

New Tea Cup Ride at Disneyland

The ride itself is very basic and appeared in amusement parks long before Disneyland. Walt just took an old favorite and dressed it up and themed it after the Unbirthday Party seen in the movie. The ride system is quite simple. Within a large turntable (which turns counterclockwise) are three small turntables (which rotate clockwise). There are six cups on each of the smaller turntables which can be turned independently by rotating a large wheel located in the middle of each cup. It's this last feature that can add a gut-wrenching element to the ride.

The Tea Cups appear in all five Magic Kingdom-type parks around the world. This is partly due to the fact that this is a popular ride. But also, in the scheme of things, this is a relatively inexpensive attraction to build and maintain.

When the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World, the Mad Tea Party, as it is called as in Florida, did not have a roof. However, the brutal Florida sun and rain caused the Imagineers to rethink this initial design decision.

Magic Kingdom Tea Cups without a Roof

Magic Kingdom Tea Cups with a Roof

Magic Kingdom Tea Pot

Near The Mad Tea Party is a beautiful topiary of Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the March Hare. This is a great picture spot.

Alice Topiary

Near the topiary is a leaf with an inspirational message. It was written by Randy Pausch.

Inspirational Leaf

Randy Pausch

Randy (born October 23, 1960) was a professor of Computer Science and Human-Computer Interaction & Design at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2006, Randy learned he had pancreatic cancer and in August 2007 was told he had three to six months of good health left. On September 18, 2007, Randy gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon entitled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." Rather than being maudlin and morose, the lecture was upbeat and stirring. Randy discusses how he realized his childhood dreams and how he learned to be a better person. As it turns out, one of Randy's young ambitions was to be an Imagineer with Disney - a goal he did achieve.

During his lecture, Randy asks the audience, who would you rather be, Tigger or Eeyore? He hopes you pick Tigger, who has a zest for life.

After the success of his lecture, Randy and Jeffery Zaslow wrote a book titled "The Last Lecture," expanding on Randy's speech. The book was published by Hyperion, a company owned by Disney.

So why are Randy's words seen near the Mad Tea Party?

One of the curriculums Randy developed at Carnegie Mellon was called the Alice Program. This program advanced the idea that learning can be fun if presented in the right way. For example, instead of telling students they must learn a particular computer language, tell them their assignment is to make a movie - that requires the use of these computer skills. The students will then focus their enthusiasm on the movie and learn the computer language as a way to enhance their film. The Alice Program was an unqualified success. Disney chose to honor this courageous man next to an attraction that represents Alice.

Randy died on July 25, 2008 at the age of 47. If you are interested in seeing "The Last Lecture," click here. The presentation is 1 hour in 16 minutes in length and definitely worth your time. Over 14 million people have viewed it on YouTube.

Recently, the Enchanted Grove, the refreshment stand next to the Mad Tea Party, underwent a name change. It is now called the Cheshire Café to tie the restaurant and attraction together and add better continuity to the area. The Cheshire Café is a wonderful spot to buy a refreshing slushy on a hot day and relax for a while. Even on the busiest days, the lines are manageable here.

Cheshire Cafe

Cheshire Cafe

Cheshire Cafe

At Tokyo Disneyland, the tea cups are called "Alice's Tea Party. This attraction and the one in the Magic Kingdom are they only two versions of this ride to have a giant teapot in the center of the turntable.

Tokyo Disneyland Tea Cups

Tokyo Disneyland Tea Cups

Tokyo Disneyland Tea Pot

At Disneyland Paris, the attraction is called "Mad Hatter's Tea Cups." With its glass roof, I think this version of the ride is the most visually appealing of them all.

Disneyland Paris Tea Cups

Disneyland Paris Tea Cups

At Hong Kong Disneyland, the ride is called "Mad Hatter Tea Cups." It's interesting to note, in Paris the name is possessive (Hatter's) while in Hong Kong it is not possessive (Hatter). If you study the roof, you'll notice the Hong Kong version matches the attraction covering in Tokyo.

Hong Kong Disneyland Tea Cups

Hong Kong Disneyland Tea Cups

I've always found this next sign at Hong Kong Disneyland to be interesting. Since they don't serve alcohol in the park, do they really have enough people showing up schnockered that they must post this warning?

Hong Kong Disneyland Warning Sign

Although I have video of the Tea Cups in Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, and Florida, I felt sharing them all might be overkill. After all, once you've seen one tea cup spin, you've seen them all. So today you'll just be seeing a two minute video of the Magic Kingdom's version of the ride.

The duration of a ride on the Tea Cups lasts approximately one and a half minutes. To people like me, this seems like an eternity. But to teens, this interval is hardly enough - especially after waiting in a 30+ minute line.

Love 'em or hate 'em. How do you stand on the great Tea Cup debate?

February 13, 2012

Epcot's China Pavilion - Part One

When the idea for a World Showcase of nations was beginning to gel, Disney sent feelers out to a number of countries to see how much interest could be generated and how much financial support could be secured. Among those solicited were two communist countries, China and the Soviet Union. Both liked the idea and were willing to commit, but the Soviet Union stipulated that communist ideals must be presented at its pavilion. The Imagineers said this was unacceptable and the Soviets backed out. However, China made no such demand. They were more than happy to present a representation of their architecture, heritage, and culture and leave politics out of the mix.

The beauty of the China Pavilion begins on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon. Three large rocks (one now hidden behind Good Fortune Gifts) and several stone benches have been placed at water's edge. Centuries ago, the Chinese believed that contemplation of unusual rock forms brought inner peace and serenity. So profound was this practice that ancient rulers would spend considerable amounts of money and engage hundreds of men to search for and transport a particularly interesting rock back to the palace. Some of these expeditions could last up to three years. The rocks at the China Pavilion offer good examples of thought-provoking boulders. Like looking at clouds, one's imagination can easily see many images when studying these monoliths. Maybe on your next trip to Epcot, when you're emotional energy is running on empty, you should try sitting for a moment to contemplate these rocks' beauty and recharge your spirit.

Chinese Rocks

Chinese Rocks

Also at the water's edge is the "Joy of Tea" stand. This small counter service eatery offers more than you might think. Besides the obvious hot and cold tea drinks, slushies, ice cream, BBQ pork buns, curry chicken pockets, egg rolls, and an interesting selection of alcoholic beverages can be purchased. This is a good spot to stave off thirst or hunger until more substantial offerings can be obtained.

Joy of Tea

Tea was discovered in China. According to popular legend, in 2737 BCE, Emperor Shennong was boiling water when a leaf from a nearby shrub fell into his pot and the hot liquid extracted its delicious flavor. Tea plays an integral part in Chinese culture and history and the beverage is considered one of the seven necessities of life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar.

Next to the "Joy of Tea" stand is a little detail that is of monumental importance in China, a bicycle. This two-wheeled vehicle is inconspicuous and an easily missed detail at the China Pavilion, however, its importance cannot be downplayed. Anyone who has visited China knows that most people use this form of transportation for commuting. It's not uncommon to see bikers in the middle of a busy street filled with automobiles. The second picture below was taken on a Beijing avenue and the third was taken in Shanghai of a bicycle parking lot.


Bicycles in Beijing

Bicycles in Shanghai

Near the "Joy of Tea" stand is a shop named "Good Fortune Gifts." This spot offers a nice selection of typical Chinese souvenirs. The puppets are especially appealing and guests can't resist the temptation to give them a try.

Good Fortune Gifts

Chinese Puppets

Chinese Puppets

Chinese Puppets

At the south boundary of the China Pavilion, a stone and tile wall separates the gardens from the promenade. Have you ever noticed its wavelike appearance? This wall represents the back of a dragon, a creature important in Chinese lore.

Dragon Wall

Guests enter the China Pavilion by walking beneath Zhao Yan Men or Gate of the Golden Sun. This gate is a reproduction of one found at the Summer Palace located nine miles north of central Beijing. Construction of the Summer Palace began in 1750 and covers an area of approximately 1.8 square miles. The Summer Palace contains a lake, hills, gardens, pavilions, halls, and temples. The purpose of the Summer Palace was to provide an escape for royalty so they could rest and entertain in lavish style. Today the Summer Palace is open to the public and is a popular tourist destination. The first picture is of the original gate, the second at Epcot. (I have better luck taking people-less pictures at Epcot than I do in China. LOL)

Gate at the Summer Palace

Gate of the Golden Sun

Once passed the Gate of the Golden Sun, you cross a bridge which traverses a lovely lotus pool surrounded by a typical Chinese garden. These gardens were inspired by those in Suzhou, a large city located adjacent to Shanghai.



Be sure to take a walk along the winding pathway found at the far side of the garden. The atmosphere in this remote section of the pavilion is serene and some fantastic photo opportunities will present themselves. You just might discover a babbling brook as you enjoy this area.

Remote Garden Pathway

Babbling Brook

China Pavilion

China Pavilion

Care was given when the Imagineers selected the plants for this garden. As always, they wanted to tell a story. For example, this Contorted Mulberry tree tells two stories. First, it was selected for its beauty. In China, this tree provides florists with a number of possibilities. Its foliage is large and turns golden in the autumn before the leaves fall. In the winter, its twisted branches add beauty to any garden or flower arrangement.

Contorted Mulberry

But this mulberry tree was also selected to represent China's silk industry. Silk moths lay their eggs on mulberry leaves and their offspring feed on the greens until entering the larvae stage. At that time, the caterpillar encloses itself in a cocoon made from one single strand of silk. This strand can range in length from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, which can be unraveled and turned into thread. The famous Silk Road came into being sometime between 206 BCE - 220 CE. Although many goods were traded along this route between Asia and the Mediterranean, its name came from the magnificent silk textiles produced in China.

The following pictures (taken in Shanghai) show silk cocoons soaking in warm water to loosen the natural binding agent. The machinery is used to unravel the cocoon into thread.

Processing Silk

Processing Silk

Another plant found in the China garden is the camellia. This beautiful bush with dark green leaves and an array of different colored blossoms is a native of eastern Asia. It was cultivated in China and Japan for centuries before being exported to Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In China, camellias are known as cháhuā (flowering tea) as many specimens are suitable for brewing.



How can we speak of Asia and not think of bamboo? This member of the grass family is widely used in China as a building material and as a food source. In Hong Kong, contractors use bamboo scaffolding (rather than metal piping) when building skyscrapers reaching 30 to 40 stories high.


Bamboo Scaffolding

For those of you looking for some one-on-one time with Mulan, you won't be disappointed. Currently, this Chinese heroine makes her first appearance promptly at 11am when World Showcase opens. If you're looking to avoid a line, be at the Norway Pavilion rope-drop a few minutes before 11 then scurry over to the garden area just past the Gate of the Golden Sun.



In 1997, Buena Vista International (a Disney owned company) distributed the movie "Kundun" a biography about the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government felt the movie was inflammatory and threatened to block Disney's access to Chinese markets if they continued with the project. A boycott of this nature would have a significant impact on Disney given that in 1994 "The Lion King" was China's highest grossing film. Yet, Disney did not back down.

Disney hoped the movie "Mulan" might help smooth over the soured relations the film "Kundun" had generated. However, China only allows ten Western movies per year to be shown within their borders and having a film selected is an arduous undertaking -- and Disney's current standing with China wasn't going to help in the selection process. Finally, after a year of negotiations and delays, the Chinese government allowed "Mulan" a limited release, but only after the Chinese New Year, so that local films could dominate the more lucrative holiday market

Perhaps the most popular street entertainment to be enjoyed at World Showcase can be found at the China Pavilion. To say The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats are amazing is a vast understatement. Their gymnastic performance is jaw-dropping. It's not possible for the human body to do what these gifted athletes accomplish - yet it's right there before your eyes to watch in disbelief.

The show is presented in the courtyard just beyond the Gate of the Golden Sun. If you want a good viewing spot, I suggest showing up twenty minutes before the show. Those guests lining the rope (and several layers back) will be asked to sit on the concrete to allow those standing behind to see. And just because you've enjoyed one performance doesn't mean you've seen it all. Different feats are staged at the various shows throughout the day. Currently, The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats perform five days a week and stage five shows per day. Check your Times Guide for more information.

This is a MUST SEE Epcot attraction! Plan your tour of World Showcase accordingly.

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats

The centerpiece of the China Pavilion is a reproduction of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests which is part of the Temple of Heaven complex located southeast of central Beijing. The complex was built between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who also oversaw the construction of the Forbidden City. The temple is constructed completely out of wood and was built without nails. It was here that the emperor would make sacrifices and pray to heaven and his ancestors at the winter solstice, asking for a good a harvest in the coming year. The circular blue roof represents the sky and heaven. Red is the color of royalty.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests - Beijing

The Disney version of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was built at ½ scale of the original (and does contain a few nails).

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests - Epcot

Like everything the Imagineers do, the details here are stunning. In an effort to capture the authenticity of the original temple, the Imagineers silkscreened hundreds of elaborate patterns onto each and every tile of the structure. The next three sets of pictures showcase the details of the original and the Disney copy. The first picture in each pair was taken in Beijing, the second in Epcot.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Beijing

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Epcot

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Beijing

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Epcot

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Beijing

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests Detail - Epcot

You will notice two creatures are represented on the temple, the dragon and the phoenix. The dragon represents power, and if the dragon has five claws, it represents the power of the emperor. The phoenix symbolizes peace and prosperity. When paired, they signify marriage.

Phoenix and Dragon

Leading up to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a beautiful marble relief. If you'll notice, the dragons have five claws, indicating this was a temple used by the emperor. Once again, the first picture in each pair was taken in Beijing and the second in Epcot.

Beijing Relief

Epcot Relief

Beijing Relief

Epcot Relief

Inside the real Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests you would find an altar and other spiritual paraphernalia. At the China Pavilion, the interior rotunda acts as a lobby for the upcoming "Reflections of China" movie.


Within the rotunda, notice the twelve outer columns that support the roof. These represent the months of the year and the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. Another four columns can be found closer to the center of the room and represent the four seasons. These four columns support four beams which are arranged to create a square. This square represents the earth. Above the "earth" is a circular beam which symbolizes heaven.

The domed ceiling is a magnificent work of art. Although difficult to make out, the gold medallion in the center sports a dragon and phoenix.

Rotunda Ceiling

Rotunda Medallion

The importance of numerology continues to be seen on the rotunda floor. The center stone is surrounded by nine stones. Nine is a lucky number in China. So important is the significance of this number to some believers that a Hong Kong businessman paid $1.67 million for a license plate bearing the single numeral 9 in 1994.

Rotunda Floor Tiles

This center stone also allows guests to have some fun. Stand anywhere within the rotunda and utter a few words out loud. Nothing significant will happen. Then stand directly on the center stone and speak again. This time, your voice will bounce off of the ceiling and be directed back at you. You will literally hear yourself talk.

That's it for Part One of the China Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.

February 14, 2012

Epcot's China Pavilion - Part Two

Yesterday I discussed the promenade, gardens, and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests of the China Pavilion. Today I'll discuss the Circle-Vision 360 movie, museum, shops, and restaurants that make up this interesting World Showcase nation.

Venturing past the rotunda of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests you come to the waiting room for the "Reflections of China" 360 film. A clock above the stage indicates how long until the next show begins. If the wait is longer than 10 minutes, venture through the nearby door and enjoy the current exhibit, "Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China." I'll discuss this display in more detail later.

Waiting Room

Countdown Clock

Door to Museum

Before I talk about the "Reflections of China" movie, I would like to discuss the film's predecessor, "Wonders of China: Land of Beauty, Land of Time."

Wonders of China Sign

Planning for World Showcase begin in the mid to late '70's, only a few years after Nixon's famous trip to China in 1972. Although relations with China were improving, the country was still shrouded in mystery and many areas of this vast land were off limits to foreigners. When Disney requested permission to film the country for a travelogue-type movie, the Chinese were interested, but leery. They insisted that all filming be strictly supervised and aerial shots of the Great Wall and Tibet were out of bounds.

Knowing that the limitations set by the Chinese government would greatly limit the Imagineers ability to create a compelling movie, negotiations for more freedom ensued, but little progress was achieved. In a last ditch effort, Disney sent a final contingent to meet with officials to see if they could loosen up some of the restrictions placed upon them. They concluded the negotiations with a special showing of the movie Fantasia. This Disney classic seemed to do the trick and arrangements agreeable to both parties were worked out.

Fantasia Poster

The film would be shot in Circle-Vision, a technique pioneered and refined by the Disney Company for Disneyland in the 1950's. This method requires nine cameras be mounted on a platform facing outwards in a circle to capture 360 degrees of scenery. This apparatus is then positioned atop some sort of a moving vehicle or suspended from a plane or helicopter.

Circle-Vision Camera

The Disney film crew scoured China for two months, scouting locations to be included in the movie. Actual filming began in autumn, 1981 and the crew returned in the winter of 1982 to capture the seasonal changes. The Disney crew was the first Western film group to shoot in many areas of the country. When aerial shots of sensitive areas were required, the Disney director relayed his desires to his Chinese counterpart. Then, only the Chinese film crew would go aloft and film the sequence. Once back on the ground, the footage was reviewed by the American crew who would decide if the task had been achieved or if a second or third take was needed.

When filming the Huangshan Mountain sequence, over three dozen locals were hired to haul the 300-pound camera apparatus up 16,700 stone steps. After the editing was completed, this labor intensive scene only lasted a few seconds on screen.

Filming wrapped up in spring of 1982.

To make the movie more interesting and less like a travelogue one might see on TV, an ancient poet, Li Bai was added into the mix. Li Bai acted as narrator and educator, but his dialogue was limited. It was felt the visual wonders depicted in the film could better tell the story. The axiom "less is more" was employed.

Known in the West as Li Po, this poet wrote during the Tang period, which is often called China's "Golden Age" of poetry. Around a thousand of Li Bai's poems still exist today.

After all editing on the movie had been completed, the film was 19 minutes in length and presented a breathtaking view of a country most westerners had never seen. "Wonders of China" was also shown at Disneyland in Tomorrowland from 1984 to 1996.

For twenty years, "Wonders of China" had been a mainstay of the World Showcase list of attractions, but the film was beginning to show its age. During this time, Shanghai had become a world-class city with skyscrapers reaching to the heavens and China had taken back possession of Hong Kong and Macau. None of this was depicted in the film. In addition, China's tourist industry had moved into high gear. When the film debuted, few Americans had ever seen this ancient land. With the turn of the new millennium, this was no longer true. China had become a popular vacation destination. It was time for the movie to be updated. "Wonders of China" was shown for the last time on March 25, 2003.

On May 23 of that same year, a new film incorporating segments from the original movie and new footage recently shot premiered. The new version of the movie was shortened to twelve and a half minutes and contains glimpses of Hong Kong and Macau. All of the scenes of Shanghai were completely replaced. Updated shots of the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Beijing, Harbin, and Urumqi were added. In addition, Li Bai's dialog was rewritten. Since the actor's beard covers his mouth in many scenes, the Imagineers were able to rewrite much of his dialogue without having to film a new actor.


Here is a list of all of the scenes seen in "Reflections of China" in order of appearance:

1. The Great Wall at Jinshanling
2. Shanghai from the Bund with a view of Pudong
3. Shanghai montage
4. Nanjing Road, Shanghai
5. Shanghai from the riverfront park
6. Huangpu waterfront
7. Morning exercises in Hangzhou
8. Huangshan mountain
9. Li Bai's study
10. Yangtze River
11. Suzhou canals and garden
12. Heavenly Lake in wilderness of Xinjiang Province
13. Urumqi night market
14. Gobi Desert, Gansu Province
15. Inner Mongolia
16. Yunnan Province
17. Shilin Stone Forest, Yunnan Province
18. Harbin Ice Festival, Heilongjiang Province
19. Macau
20. Hong Kong
21. Hong Kong skyline
22. Dragon Wall in Behai Park, Beijing
23. Terracotta Soldiers
24. Ming Tomb Statues
25. Giant Buddah of Leshan
26. Peking Opera performing "Havoc in Heaven"
27. Forbidden City in Beijing
28. Tien An Men Square in Beijing
29. Behai Park, Beijing
30. Reed Flute Cave at Guilin
31. Limestone formations at Guilin
32. Li River
33. The Great Wall at Jinshanling

There are no seats in the theater. Guests stand during the entire presentation. Although there are no bad areas, I would suggest finding a spot in the middle or toward the rear of the theater. (When you enter the theater, you will notice a podium to your right. This is considered the "front" of the auditorium.) Although the movie is presented in Circle-Vision and you will be in a constant state of movement trying to take it all in, the film definitely has a focal point which can be found on the screen directly above the podium. The theater can easily accommodate wheelchairs and ECVs. And remember, the lean rails were not designed to support your weight or that of your children. They were named "lean" rails because you're supposed to lean against them. If Disney had wanted you to sit on them, they would have named them "sit" rails.

Lean Rails

In 1974, local farmers in Xi'an, China were digging a water well about one mile away from the Qin Emperor's tomb mound. For centuries, roofing tiles, bricks, and other bits of masonry were found in this area, but the farmers unearthed something remarkable, a figure of a soldier. This find prompted Chinese archaeologist to investigate further and the famous Terracotta Army was eventually unearthed.

The terracotta figures are life-sized and vary in height, uniform, and hairstyle in accordance with rank. Their purpose was to guard Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, in the afterlife. It is believed that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there are over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 chariot horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits

Terracotta Army at Xi'an

On October 1, 2006, a new exhibit came to the House of the Whispering Willows gallery, a scaled down model of this famous terracotta army and excavation. Entitled "Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China," this remarkable reproduction is impressive and makes you ponder the enormous scale of the original in China.

It is believed that when the ancient Chinese were constructing the life-sized soldiers, six basic face molds were used. Then, artists would use additional clay to ensure that every statue had a unique countenance. This painstaking attention to detail can be seen on this scaled-down model. If you look closely, each man is an individual.

House of the Whispering Willows

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army

Here is a representation of what these figures might have looked like when new and before their paint had chipped and faded.

Terracotta Soldier

Authentic artifacts can also be enjoyed in this gallery. Mingqi pieces from the collection of Lillian and Ezekiel Schloss have been secured with additional objects in storage to be used for occasional updates to the exhibit.

Museum Pieces

Museum Pieces

While in the gallery, be sure to look up and admire the ceiling. It is yet another work of art. If you look closely, you'll see the dragons have five claws. Noticing ceilings is something you should get into the habit of doing while visiting any Disney venue.

Museum Ceiling

The main thoroughfare of the China Pavilion is called Street of Good Fortune. This street was inspired by roadways found in both Beijing and Shanghai. The Imagineers intentionally designed this area to be narrower than crowd control would demand. This was done to help guests experience the crowded conditions the Chinese experience every day.

Street of Good Fortune Sign

Street of Good Fortune

The Street of Good Fortune is filled with details. I could spend an hour here just enjoying the rich architecture.

Street of Good Fortune

Street of Good Fortune

Street of Good Fortune

Street of Good Fortune

Street of Good Fortune

Street of Good Fortune

As we know, the West occupied a number of cities in China during the colonial period of the 18th and 19th centuries. This foreign influence can be seen on one building in particular. This "telephone company" structure has a distinctly European flavor with Asian accents. It's interesting to note, a pay telephone can be found in this building.

Telephone Building

Telephone Building

Telephone Building

At the far end of the Street of Good Fortune is a biān zhōng bell. This instrument would be part of a set of bells (always in an odd number) and played during rituals and ceremonies. These bells did not have clappers, but were played by striking them with a mallet. Biān zhōng bells date back 2,000 to 3,500 years.

Biān Zhōng Bell

Biān Zhōng Bell

While on the Street of Good Fortune, take a look at the magnificent tile roofs. The craftsmanship here is mindboggling. Of special interest are the figures perched on the corner tiles. Here you can see 3rd-century ruler Prince Min sitting atop a hen. Because of the cruelty he imposed upon his subjects, he was eventually hanged. It is now customary to install an effigy to him on buildings throughout China as a warning to other tyrants. The various animals behind him are there to thwart any escape attempts. The first picture below was taken in Beijing, the second in Epcot.

Beijing Roof Tiles

Epcot Roof Tiles

The main shopping spot at the China Pavilion is the House of Good Fortune. This enormous shop carries everything from simple souvenirs to expensive works of art. This is one of my favorite World Showcase stores to browse and wander. I find the merchandise here fascinating.

House of Good Fortune

It would be impossible to describe all of the goods available at the House of Good Fortune, so I'll showcase just a few of the items I hope you will find of interest.

If you're interested in palmistry, numerology, feng shui, and a host of other curious sciences, guides are available.

Chinese Pamphlets

For home décor, beautiful vases, lanterns, and jade plants are just a few of the categories to choose from.



Jade Plants

If you're looking for a beverage, a large selection of Chinese teas is for sale. And for you wine aficionados, Dragon's Hollow wine is available. This is the first premium wine to be produced in China.


Chinese Wine

For the ladies, jewelry from the inexpensive to the luxurious will tempt your pocket book.


The China Pavilion Kidcot station is also located in the House of Good Fortune. Those having their passport stamped here are in for an extra treat. The cast member will ask in what year were you born. Then he will stamp your passport with the appropriate "year" symbol. For example, I was born in 1952. So my passport would be stamped with a dragon as that is the Chinese sign I was born under.

Kidcot Station

Outside the House of Good Fortune are two lions. In China, the lion is regarded as a special creature as it was believed to be the king of all animals. The lion represented prestige and power and was often associated with an individual's rank. Lions like these are often placed in front of gates or doorways as they were believed to have mystic and protective powers.


Although the two lions look like they're both male due to their bushy manes, in fact, one is female. Look closely at their paws. The male has a ball underneath his right paw and the female has a lion cub under her left paw. The ball represents unity of the empire and the cub symbolizes prospering offspring.

Male Lion

Female Lion

The China Pavilion counter service restaurant is named Lotus Blossom Café. In the early years, this eatery was designed with a more traditional Chinese motif. The chairs and tables appeared to be made out of bamboo and the ordering station had a rural feel about it. A couple of years ago, the restaurant went through a transformation. It was decided to give this spot a cosmopolitan look that might be encountered on a busy street in Beijing or Shanghai. I like this spot for lunch. It's nice to grab a table next to the railing and watch people pass by as you enjoy your meal. To see the complete menu, click here.

Lotus Blossom Café

Lotus Blossom Café

Lotus Blossom Café

Next to Lotus Blossom Café is the pavilion's table service eatery, Nine Dragons Restaurant.

Nine Dragons Restaurant

Nine Dragons Restaurant

Like its counter service counterpart, this establishment also underwent a transformation a few years back and its interior given a more sophisticated styling. When entering the lobby, be sure to look at the dragon relief overhead. It's amazing.

Nine Dragons Lobby

Nine Dragons Lobby

Nine Dragons Ceiling

Nine Dragons Restaurant

Nine Dragons Restaurant

Nine Dragons Restaurant

Nine Dragons Restaurant serves Cantonese, Mongolian, Szechuan, Hunan and Kiangche-style specialties. The service here is good and the atmosphere lovely. This is also one of the last World Showcase restaurants to fill its reservation quotas. I think part of this has to do with the fact that many people associate this establishment with their corner, home-delivery Chinese restaurant. I admit, the prices here are considerably more than you'll pay at your local Chinese eatery, but the experience is far superior. If you haven't already done so, I suggest giving this spot a try on your next trip to World Showcase. I suspect you'll be pleasantly surprised.

To see the complete Nine Dragons lunch menu, click here. To see the dinner menu, click here.

That's it for the China Pavilion. I hope you have learned a few new things and your next visit to World Showcase will be a little more interesting because of this blog.

As always, I have created a video showcasing the China Pavilion. In this case, the video is a little longer than usual running at just shy of 16 minutes. Part of this extra length has to do with The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats. I condensed their 20 minute show down to 5 minutes and added it to the end of the presentation. Enjoy.

February 20, 2012

Disney Dedication Plaques

Today, I want to talk about an often overlooked detail that can be found in all eleven Disney parks, the Dedication Plaques. Usually located somewhere near the front of the park, these plaques offer words of inspiration and sets the tone for your adventure to come. They are all signed by the reigning top executive(s) at the time of the park's opening.

Most people never see these plaques, and in reality, that's okay. Your adventure really isn't going to be altered significantly if you skip this little detail. But on the other hand, it is a nice way to be welcomed to the park and start your day.

Disneyland opened to invited guests on July 17, 1955. Even though many predicted the park would fail, others knew this was an important event. An array of VIPs was invited. Movie stars, the Mouseketeers, California Governor Goodwin J. Knight, and even Walt's competition, Walter Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm) were in attendance. Sometime in the late afternoon, Ronald Reagan announced to the TV cameras in a hushed tone, "And now, Walt Disney will step forward to read the dedication of Disneyland." Then, the 53-year-old Walt stepped forward and read the following:

To all who come to this happy place:

Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past " and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America" with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.

July 17, 1955

Ronald Reagan

Walt Disney at Disneyland July 17, 1955

Walt Disney at Disneyland July 17, 1955

Today, this plaque can be found at the south end of Main Street at the base of the flag pole.

Disneyland Dedication Plaque

Disneyland Flagpole

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971; however, the actual dedication took place several weeks after this date. Because of the fiascos encountered with Disneyland's opening, it was decided to postpone the "official" opening of Walt Disney World to make sure everything was running smoothly before inviting the world to see this new and magical land. The dedication was a three-day event beginning on Saturday, October 23, 1971 and culminating with Walt's brother Roy reading the dedication plaque on October 25th. The festivities were taped and broadcast "in living color" on NBC a few days later on October 29th. The 90-minute TV special was called "The Grand Opening of Walt Disney World." Roy died shortly after the opening of Walt Disney World on December 20, 1971. He was 78.

Here are Roy's words:

WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place ... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn - together.

Dedicated this 25th day of October, 1971

Roy O. Disney

Roy O. Disney and Mickey Mouse

Magic Kingdom Dedication Plaque

Like Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom dedication plaque can be found at the base of the flagpole on Main Street.

The next park to open was EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982. Similar to the Magic Kingdom, Disney management decided to postpone the "official" opening to provide the park with a break-in period. The three day Grand Opening Celebration ran from October 22nd to the 24th.

EPCOT Center Dedication Festivities

The Epcot dedication plaque is located outside of the park in front of the ticket booths -- once again, at the base of the flagpole. Card Walker, the CEO at the time, read the dedication plaque. The plaque reads:

To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship

Epcot is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.

E. Cardon Walker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Walt Disney Productions
October 24, 1982

Epcot Dedication Plaque

Epcot Dedication Plaque

Card Walker

Epcot took three years to build and at that time was the largest construction project on earth. It is estimated that the Disney Company had spent $1 billion on the park by opening day.

In the late 1970's, the Oriental Land Company approached Disney with the idea of building a Disneyland-type park in Tokyo. Since most of Disney's capital was already tied up with the building of Epcot, it was decided to let the Oriental Land Company finance and own the park and pay licensing fees to Disney. And since Imagineers were in short supply as they were busy with Epcot, the Oriental Land Company used Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom as a "shopping cart" and selected which attractions they wanted. For the most part, the rides selected would end up being carbon copies of the original. The only two unique attractions to be built at Tokyo were "The Castle Mystery Tour" and "Meet the World" - the latter already being planned for the Japan Pavilion at Epcot. The Oriental Land Company also insisted on bringing "The Mickey Mouse Review" to Tokyo. Stretched to its limit, Disney decided it would be easier to close the attraction in Florida and move it to Tokyo rather than build a second rendition.

Tokyo Disneyland opened on April 15, 1983. Card Walker also dedicated this park. The dedication plaques, written in both English and Japanese, can be found beneath the Partners statue located on The Hub. The plaques read:

To All Who Come To This Happy Place

Here you will discover enchanted lands of Fantasy and Adventure, Yesterday and Tomorrow. May Tokyo Disneyland be an eternal source of Joy, Laughter, Inspiration, and Imagination to the peoples of the world. And may this magical kingdom be an enduring symbol of the spirit of cooperation and friendship between the great nations of Japan and the United States of America.

April 15, 1983
E. Cardon Walker
Chairman of the Board
Walt Disney Productions

Tokyo Disneyland Dedication Plaques

Tokyo Disneyland Dedication Plaques & Partners Statue

When Michael Eisner was brought to Disney in 1984 by Roy E. Disney (son of Roy O. Disney) and the Bass Brothers, he was charged with developing the underutilized Florida property. When he saw the plans for "The Great Movie Ride" being considered as a future attraction for Epcot, he decided to build a third theme park around this ride. Thus, the idea for the Disney/MGM Studios was born. In addition to rides and attractions, the park would contain real film and TV production facilities were guests could witness the magic of movie-making. The Disney/MGM Studios opened on May 1, 1989 and was dedicated by Michael Eisner. The dedication plaque can be found at the end of Hollywood Boulevard. Here are Michael's words:

The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood - not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was - and always will be.

May 1, 1989 Michael Eisner

Disney/MGM Dedication Plaque

Director's Statue at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Seeing the unqualified success of Tokyo Disneyland, Eisner decided the Company could strike gold again in Europe -- only this time, Disney would own the foreign park. Disney pitted the countries of Spain and France against each other, seeing which would offer the more lucrative deal. In the end France won out.

No expense was spared and the most beautiful and elaborate Disneyland-type park of them all was built just outside of Paris. In addition, five themed hotels and a campground flanked the park. Euro Disneyland opened on April 12, 1992. However, due to a recession and other factors, attendance at the park and the hotels did not meet projected goals. At one time, the Paris resort was losing $1 million per day. The gold of Tokyo was not to be repeated in Paris.

Things have since turned around, but only after a major infusion of cash from outside sources. Today, the Disney Company owns 39% of what is now called The Disneyland Paris Resort.

Michael Eisner dedicated the park and the dedication plaque written in both French and English can be found at the base of the bandstand located on Town Square. Here are Michael's words:

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome."

Once upon a time... A master storyteller, Walt Disney, inspired by Europe's best loved tales, used his own special gifts to share them with the world.

He envisioned a Magic Kingdom where these stories would come to life, and called it Disneyland.

Now his dream returns to the lands that inspired it. Euro Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart... with a hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration for all the world.

Michael D. Eisner
Chairman, The Walt Disney Company
12 avril 1992

Disneyland Paris Dedication Plaque

Disneyland Paris Band Stand

When the Magic Kingdom was the only park at Walt Disney World, guests would stay on property for 2 to 3 days. When EPCOT Center opened, guests extended their visits to 4 to 5 days. And when the Disney/MGM Studios opened, guests were staying 6 to 7 days. So if followed that if Disney opened a fourth park in Florida, guests would stay for 8 to 9 days - and spend more money. With this logic in hand, Disney's Animal Kingdom joined the Walt Disney World roster of parks. Unfortunately, guests did not extend their vacations. It seems that one week is the limit for most people.

Disney's Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998. Once again, Michael Eisner dedicated the park. The dedication plaque here is perhaps the most un-ceremonial of all. A simple stone is engraved and found in The Oasis beneath bushes just past the turnstiles. The plaque reads:


Welcome to a kingdom of animals... real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.

Dedicated this 22nd day of April, 1998
Michael D. Eisner

Disney's Animal Kingdom Dedication Plaque

Disney's Animal Kingdom Dedication Plaque

The next park to open was Disney's California Adventure. But not before Disney pitted two cities against each other to see who would pony up the better deal.

Jack Wrather was a good friend of Walt's and built and owned the Disneyland Hotel across the street from Disneyland. In 1989, the Disney Company was finally able to negotiate a deal to purchase the Wrather Corporation, thus giving Disney clear title to the hotel. Included in the deal were the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose which were located in Long Beach. Disney proposed building DisneySea, a park based on the oceans and seas of the world in Long Beach adjacent to the Queen Mary. They also proposed building a park next to Disneyland in what was then the parking lot. Thus, the two cities were locked in a contest to see which could offer Disney the most perks.

Some say that Disney never seriously considered Long Beach and only used them as leverage to secure a better deal from Anaheim. True or not, Anaheim won out and Disney's California Adventure began to rise. Disney subsequently sold the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose.

Having suffered substantial losses in Paris, Disney's California Adventure would be a far less ambitious project. Many "off-the-shelf" rides were purchased from outside companies and dressed up with Disney flourishes. But these flourishes were not enough and the park was a critical and financial failure. People were incensed that admission to Disney's California Adventure cost the same as Disneyland, yet offered little more than carnival rides. Today, Bob Iger (Disney's current CEO) is pumping $1 billion into the park to bring it up to Disney standards.

Disney's California Adventure was dedicated by Michael Eisner on February 8, 2001. The dedication plaque was located in Sunshine Plaza beneath the Golden Sun. However, this area is currently under reconstruction and no plaque is visible at this time. There are rumors that the park will be rededicated once all of the construction is complete, but this remains to be seen.

The old dedication plaque reads:

Disney's California Adventure

"To all who believe in the power of dreams" welcome! Disney's California Adventure opens its golden gates to you. Here we pay tribute to the dreamers of the past" the native people, explorers, immigrants, aviators, entrepreneurs and entertainers who built the Golden State. And we salute a new generation of dreamers who are creating the wonders of tomorrow" from the silver screen to the computer screen" from the fertile farmlands to the far reaches of space. Disney's California Adventure celebrates the richness and diversity of California... its land, its people, its spirit and, above all, the dreams that it continues to inspire."

Michael D. Eisner
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
February 8, 2001

Disney's California Adventure Dedication Plaque

Golden Sun

The plans for DisneySea did not go to waste. The Oriental Land Company was interested in building a second park in Tokyo and the concept of a "sea" based park fit right into their plans. Tokyo DisneySea is arguably the most fantastic park Disney has built to date. I often tell people you can pay your admission, never ride on one attraction, and you will still get your money's worth. The park is beautiful and stunning - interesting and exciting - and filled with more details than you can imagine.

Unlike Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure whose main entrances face each other, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea sit back to back. Tokyo DisneySea even features a large ship, the USS Columbia, which might remind some of the Queen Mary which would have been included in the Long Beach version of this park.

USS Columbia

Like Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea is completely owned by the Oriental Land Company and pays licensing fees to Disney. The park opened on September 4, 2001.

The dedication reads in both English and Japanese:

Welcome, one and all to a world where Imagination and Adventure set sail.

Tokyo DisneySea is dedicated to the spirit of exploration that lives in each of us. Here you chart a course for Adventure, Romance, Discovery and Fun and journey to exotic and fanciful Ports of Call.

May Tokyo DisneySea inspire the hearts and minds of all of us who share the water planet, Earth.

September 4, 2001
Michael D. Eisner
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

Tokyo DisneySea Dedication Plaque

When details for Euro Disneyland were being negotiated with the French Government, a second park to be built by Disney became part of the deal. Scheduled to open in 1996, another Disney/MGM Studios was designed for France. But due to the financial losses incurred during the initial years of the resort, the second park was cancelled in mid-1992. Eventually, a much smaller park, the Walt Disney Studios Park, would be built and opened on March 16, 2002.

The Walt Disney Studios Park is the least attended of the eleven Disney parks. To rectify this, Bob Iger has pumped significant money into the project over the last seven years. This has resulted in new attractions with growing attendance and more favorable reviews.

The dedication plaque is located at the base of the Partners statue just beyond the Front Lot section of the park. It reads in both French and English:


"To all who enter this studio of dreams... welcome. Walt Disney Studios is dedicated to our timeless fascination and affection for cinema and television. Here we celebrate the art and the artistry of storytellers from Europe and around the world who create the magic. May this special place stir our own memories of the past, and our dreams of the future."

Michael D. Eisner

Walt Disney Studios Park Dedication Plaque

Walt Disney Studios Park Dedication Plaque

Hong Kong Disneyland is a joint venture between the Disney Company and the Government of Hong Kong. It is located on landfill on Penny Bay on Lantau Island. The park opened on September 12, 2005.

During the first several years of operation, the park did not meet its projected attendance. Much of this had to do with the fact the park was lacking in attractions. Many called Hong Kong Disneyland a "half-day" park. But once again, Bob Iger is investing in the resort and new attractions have opened and others are slated to come online in the near future. Attendance is now on the rise.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort features two hotels and room for several more. In addition, the land was designed so a second theme park could easily be added when the time is right. Hong Kong Disneyland caters to Southeast Asia, Australia, and India.

The dedication plaque is located on Town Square just beyond the band stand. It reads in both English and Chinese:

Hong Kong Disneyland

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome."

Fifty years ago, Walt Disney introduced the world to enchanted realms of fantasy and adventure, yesterday and tomorrow, in a magical place called Disneyland.

Today that spirit of imagination and discovery comes to life in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Disneyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart - with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration, and an enduring symbol of the cooperation, friendship and understanding between the people of Hong Kong and the United States of America.

Donald Tsang
Chief Executive
Hong Kong S.A.R.

Michael D. Eisner
Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company

Dedicated this 12th day of September, 2005

Hong Kong Disneyland Dedication Plaque

Hong Kong Disneyland Band Stand

Shanghai Disneyland is now under construction and is slated to open sometime in 2016. Phase One will include a Disneyland-type park, an entertainment district, two themed hotels, recreational facilities, a lake, and associated parking and transportation hubs. Land has been set aside for two additional parks and more hotels.

It's my belief to wait at least a year before experiencing a new Disney park. This allows the company to fine-tune the operation and hopefully, add a few new attractions that didn't quite make opening day. So it's my intention to visit Shanghai Disneyland sometime in late 2017. Check back with AllEars at that time and I'll have another dedication plaque to share with you.

So there you have it, the dedication plaques from all eleven Disney parks. As I said at the beginning of this article, the words here will not have any significant impact on your visit. But they do remind us that it took many dreamers to create the wonderful parks we enjoy and so often take for granted. So I repeat what so many of the plaques said:

To all who come to this happy place, welcome.

February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras at Port Orleans

Anyone who works for a living knows, morale is paramount. Happy workers make happy customers. Disney understands this all too well and does its best to make the working conditions at its parks and resorts as pleasant as possible. And in their search for ways to encourage teamwork, the management of Port Orleans has come up with a novel way to boost morale and engage its cast members in fun. Playing off of the New Orleans theme of the resort, the cast members use Mardi Gras as a time that they can celebrate in a friendly competition with their fellow workers.

Every year, the resort's various departments (Operations Learning & Development, Merchandise, Food & Beverage, Front Office, Housekeeping/Custodial, Recreation, Watercraft Transportation, and Engineering) create floats to be paraded around both the Riverside and the French Quarter sections of Port Orleans on Fat Tuesday. But these floats are not the type you might see on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. At Port Orleans, the CMs transform the resort's Pargos into festive displays. A Pargo (brand name) is the electric cart that transports guests and luggage around the resort. With great imagination, these simple vehicles are converted into colorfully themed floats that are eligible to win an award for Best Themed, Most Creative, and Best Show. The theme for 2012 is "Disney's Heritage through the Decades." All of the CMs participating volunteer their time. They decorate their floats the night before, starting around midnight. All are given equal time so no team has an advantage.

Of course, the CMs aren't the only ones to benefit from this team-building activity. The guests staying at the resort also enjoy this celebratory event. Sure, it's not as sophisticated as the parades seen in the theme parks, but that's what makes it so much fun. It's obvious that these floats were made with love and the enthusiasm of the CMs is infectious. As the floats pass by, dozens of CMs hand out candy and necklaces to the spectators that line the parade route.

Today's parade (February 21, 2012) began with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen.

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

They were followed by the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean

"it's a small world" came next with a number of Duffy Bears dressed in international costumes.

it's a small world

it's a small world

The Haunted Mansion followed, complete with a boom box playing that oh so familiar "Grim Grinning Ghosts."

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion

For you sun worshipers, Typhoon Lagoon made an appearance.

Typhoon Lagoon

Typhoon Lagoon

Disney's Hollywood Studios and the Great Movie Ride passed by next, complete with a few of the attraction's characters.

Great Movie Ride

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Great Movie Ride Characters

At first glance, the Tree of Life seemed to be lacking in size. But what it lacked in stature, it made up in detail. Upon closer inspection, you could see that the trunk was covered in animals, just like the real thing.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm was very cute. It even included the Pepto-Bismol Castle created for Disney World's 25th anniversary.

Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm

Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm

And finally there was Lights, Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt Show with the Opal that was designed to run backwards.

Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt Show

Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt Show

It was obvious the CMs were having a great time and the guests seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Watching this parade made me feel good - as if I had a special connection with the Port Orleans staff. I had fun today! I'm glad I experienced this almost completely unpublicized Disney moment.

So remember, if you're staying at Port Orleans next year just before Lent, ask for details at the Front Desk when you check-in so you can witness next year's parade.

February 26, 2012

Your Name in Thai at Animal Kingdom

It had been a few weeks since I last visited the Animal Kingdom, so when a friend suggested getting together for lunch, I proposed Flame Tree BBQ. After enjoying a chicken & rib combo and a pulled pork sandwich, we decided to ride Expedition Everest. As we entered Asia, I noticed a small stand near the entrance to this exotic land. Since this stand was new (at least new to me) I stopped and snapped a picture.

Thai Kiosk

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that both cast members were from Thailand and a sign on their kiosk said, "Get your name written in Thai."

Get Your Name Written in Thai

On a clipboard were sheets of paper displaying a Disney character and their name written in Thai. Additional space was available for the guest to write their own name and then an area where the cast member could translate it into their language. Here you can see what "Jack" looks like when sounded out in the Thai alphabet.

Stitch in Thai

Jack in Thai

The Thai alphabet has 44 consonants, 15 vowels, and 4 tone marks. The vowels combine to create at least 28 vowel sounds.

The cast members also had maps of Thailand and other information to share about their country. This spot would be a wonderful way for parents to introduce their children to another culture, but like most Disney attractions, adults can enjoy the experience as well.

I asked the cast members if this booth was temporary to handle the President's Day Weekend crowds, or was it a permanent fixture. They said that as far as they knew, they'd be around for a while. I sure hope so. I love the "little" things.

Check back on Monday for my regularly scheduled blog. This week I will cover the Japan Pavilion.

February 27, 2012

Epcot's Japan Pavilion - Part One

The Japanese call their country, Nippon, which means "source of the sun." It refers to the fact that Japan lies to the east of China, and to the ancient Chinese, it appeared that the sun rose from Japan.

The sun symbol has been incorporated into the Japanese flag for thousands of years. The red disk is named Hinomaru. The white background expresses honesty and purity.

Japanese Flag

Japan and China are the only two Asian countries represented in World Showcase. Although they are geographically close to one another, they are worlds apart in appearance. Whereas the buildings in the China Pavilion are painted in bright reds and other vivid colors, the Japanese counterparts are subdued and subtle. The gardens of China have a natural, weathered look while the grounds in Japan have a manicured, well-ordered appearance. Although these countries share many of the same historical roots and customs, they are really quite different.

Most Japanese do not identify with or practice one single religion, but rather incorporate and apply aspects of various faiths into their individual beliefs in a fashion known as Shinbutsu. In most cases, the Japanese combine elements of Shintoism and Buddhism. This is why at the Japan Pavilion you will see representations of both Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples.

The Japan Pavilion has two icons, the first being the massive torii gate which welcomes guests to her shores. This gate is fashioned after the one found off the coast of Itsukushima Island in southern Japan. (Epcot first picture, Itsukushima Island second)

World Showcase Torii Gate

Itsukushima Island Torii Gate

Torii gates are associated with the Shinto religion and are commonly found at the entrance to Shinto shrines. However, some Buddhist temples also incorporate the torii gate into their designs. Torii gates symbolically mark the transition from the "profane" to the "sacred." It is believed that walking or sailing beneath a torii gate purifies the individual and makes him or her worthy to enter sanctified ground.

Torii gates are traditionally made of stone or wood, with the latter being painted vermilion. The origins of the torii gate are unknown but there are several different theories on the subject. One suggests that they were originally built as perches for roosters to welcome the sun goddess, Amaterasu.

Notice the barnacles at the base of the torii gate in the Japan Pavilion. This is a realistic representation of the gate it was modeled after as it sits in the salty waters of Japan's Inland Sea. But the Imagineers included this detail for a second reason. It denotes age and helps guests believe this symbol of purity has been here for many centuries.

Barnacles on Torii Gate

The second Japan Pavilion icon is goju-no-to, or five-story pagoda. Although pagodas are associated with several religions, they are most commonly linked with Buddhism.
The modern pagoda is an evolution of the ancient Nepal stupa which was used to house religious relics. As pagoda's spread across Asia, their design was altered to fit the needs of the people and their beliefs. The Japan Pavilion icon was inspired by the eighth-century pagoda found at Horyuji Temple in Nara. (Epcot first picture, Nara second)

Japan Pavilion Pagoda

Nara Pagoda

During the planning stages of the Japan Pavilion, the Imagineers were incorporating elements from a number of different pagodas. When their Japanese advisor saw their drawings, he explained that they had used many Chinese components and their designs did not accurately represent the pagodas found in Japan. Compared to Chinese pagodas, Japanese structures use muted color, less ornamentation, and their roofs have simple lines. Below is a typical Chinese pagoda. Compared to the picture above, it's easy to see the differences.

Chinese Pagoda

The five tiers of the pagoda represent, in ascending order, the elements from which Buddhist believe all things in the universe are created: earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. On the roof is a sōrin (finial). A sōrin is divided into several sections, each having symbolic meaning. At the Japan Pavilion we find nine rings which act as wind chimes and topped with a water-flame. Being in Florida, this sōrin contains one additional element, a lightning rod.


One of the biggest attractions at the Japan Pavilion is Matsuriza, a group of Japanese taiko drummers which perform five days a week at the base of the pagoda. Taiko means drum in Japanese. According to legend, taiko drumming was started by Ame no Uzume, the goddess of the dawn, mirth, and revelry (in the Shinto faith).

As the story goes, one day the sun goddess Amaterasu, became frustrated and fearful of her younger brother Susano'o, the god of storms. To escape his wrath, Amaterasu hid in a cave, plunging the world into darkness.

Realizing that the world needed light, Ame no Uzume took action and overturned a tub near the cave's entrance and began to dance upon it. The other deities found this comical and laughed loudly.

Amaterasu, hidden in the cave, heard the laughter and was curious. When she peered out to see the merriment, she saw her brilliant reflection in a mirror which had been placed near the cave's entrance by Ame no Uzume. The brightness of her reflection drew her out of hiding and another deity closed the cave behind her. Thus, light was restored to the earth forever. Below is a representation of Ame no Uzume dancing on a drum.

Ame no Uzume dancing on a drum

The Matsuriza group performs several times a day and their routine varies from set to set. See the Times Guide for times.

Matsuriza Group

Matsuriza Group

To the left of the pagoda on the World Showcase promenade is Kabuki Café. This quick-service spot sells soft drinks, Japanese beer, sake, plum wine, green tea, edamame, and most importantly, kakigōri. Kakigōri is shaved iced topped with a flavored syrup and condensed milk. Although similar to a snow cone, the ice used on kakigōri is smoother in consistency and more akin to fresh fallen snow. This is a summer treat in Japan and sold virtually everywhere.

Kabuki Café


To the right of the pagoda is a typical Japanese garden, a cultural aspect that dates back centuries. Originally transported to Japan from China, the Japanese garden has evolved over time and taken on a distinctive look of its own. While Buddhist gardens were designed for meditation and contemplation, gardens of the nobility were intended for recreation and aesthetic pleasure. As gardens grow and mature, they are constantly sculpted to maintain and enhance the overall experience. In Japan, gardening is considered a high art form.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

A typical Japanese garden contains a number of elements in its design. These include water, rocks & sand, bridges, architecture, lanterns, fences, trees & flowers, and fish. All of these can be found in the Japan Pavilion garden.

Water - Japanese consider water to be a life source and thus is abundant at the Japan Pavilion.


Rocks & Sand - Rocks in Japan represent the enduring nature of the Earth. Most of the larger stones found at the Japan Pavilion were imported from North Carolina and Georgia since boulders are scarce in Florida.

Rocks & Sand

Bridges -- Bridges symbolize transition, the passing from one segment of your life to another. In other words, "We have made it this far. Do we want to turn back? Do we wish to continue on the same path? Or change direction?"


Architecture -- "Traditional" Japanese architecture has been characterized by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Inside, sliding wooden doors were used in place of walls, allowing for the customization of space depending on the need.


Lanterns -- Stone lanterns were introduced by tea masters to guide guests through their gardens to the tea ceremonies held in the evening.


Fences - Fences are often used in Japanese Gardens to compartmentalize. It's not uncommon for several types of landscaping to be displayed in one area. A fence can add beauty and helps divide one section of the garden from another.


Trees & Flowers - Evergreen trees are symbols of eternal life and are plentiful at the Japan Pavilion. Because of the climatic difference between Japan and Florida, only a few trees native to Japan can be found at the Japan Pavilion. Some of these include the Sago Palm, the Japanese Maple, and the Monkey-puzzle tree. Azaleas, native to several continents, including Asia, can also be found here. In Japan, a number of cities celebrate the azalea with festivals and events

Trees & Flowers

Trees & Flowers

Fish -- Koi are simply domesticated carp that are used to decorate ponds and water gardens. They were first bread by the Japanese in the 1820's for their distinctive color. They were virtually unknown to the outside world until 1914 when they were exhibited at an exhibition in Tokyo. Interest was immediate and the hobby of keeping koi spread worldwide.


Atop a nearby hill is Katsura Grill (Formerly Yakitori House). This structure was designed to resemble a tea house that might be found in the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. (Epcot first picture, Katsura second)

Katsura Grill

Katsura Imperial Villa

The Katsura Imperial Villa is considered one of Japan's most important cultural treasures, yet it is probably less known to foreign tourists than other sights in the country. Tour companies often overlook the wonderful gardens and architecture found here in favor of the nearby Kyoto Imperial Palace.

In Japan, a tea house, which is usually near a garden, is traditionally used for performing the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony is a very special event in Japanese culture and considered an art form. Participating in a tea ceremony is deemed more of an experience than an event. The presenter of the ceremony may take days to make sure everything is prepared and presented perfectly. This includes the tea, the food, and the exact placement of the utensils to be used. The actual presentation is a carefully choreographed ritual that has evolved over the centuries. The invited guests will give themselves totally to the "here and now" and savor every moment.

Although Katsura Grill was designed to resemble a tea house, its actual use is a little more pedestrian. Here it is used to serve hungry tourist semi-authentic Japanese fare.

Katsura Grill Exterior

The inside of the restaurant is bright and cheery and offers beautiful views of the surrounding gardens.

Katsura Grill Interior

Katsura Grill Interior

Katsura Grill Interior

The menu has a number of selections within three categories, Sushi, Udon, and Teriyaki. Several additional offerings, like Chicken Cutlet Curry and Miso Soup, are also presented. To see the complete menu, click here.

Outdoor seating is also available in a lovely garden setting. Overhead, Japanese lanterns swing in the breeze and a nearby waterfall creates a charming backdrop in which to enjoy your meal.

Katsura Grill Outside Seating Area


Another detail of the Katsura Imperial Villa has been captured for the Disney replica, a fence. At the Imperial Villa, a bamboo fence surrounds much of the property. At Katsura Grill, a similar fence separates "onstage" from "backstage." (Epcot first picture, Imperial Villa second)

Katsura Grill Fence

Imperial Villa Fence

At the back of the Japan Pavilion is a castle. This imposing fortress was modeled after Himeji Castle, one of the best preserved fortresses of early Japan. The structure is also known as Shirasagijo or "White Egret Castle" due to its brilliant white color. Like its European counterparts, Japanese townsfolk built their homes and businesses near the base of Himeji Castle and in times of peril, found refuge within their mighty walls. The first picture is of Himeji Castle, the second two were taken at the Japan Pavilion. When looking at the original and the duplicate, it's easy to see the similarities.

Himeji Castle

Japan Pavilion Castle

Japan Pavilion Castle

Japanese castles were constructed primarily of stone and wood and almost always were built atop a mound or hill. This gave the structure an imposing presence and provided for better views of the surrounding land. Their sloping rock walls helped strengthen the structure and protect it from earthquakes, an ever present concern in Japan. Unlike their European counterparts, Japanese castle walls were never built around the town but were restricted to the building itself. In larger castles like Himeji, a secondary moat was constructed between the primary structure and out-buildings which would house lower-ranking samurai. This can all be seen at the Japan Pavilion. The statues of the samurai soldiers are positioned in the outer portion of the castle and guest must cross the moat to reach the principal fortress.

Castle Entrance

Shogan and Horse

Moat & Castle Walls

Today, the Japan Pavilion castle houses a Kidcot station, a museum, and a portion of the Mitsukoshi Department store, but that wasn't the original idea for this structure. Early plans called for the castle to be an entryway into an attraction to be titled "The Winds of Change" and later changed to "Meet the World." Consideration was so positive that the show building to house the attraction was built behind the shopping area we now enjoy.

"Meet the World" was a four-act show in the spirit of "Carousel of Progress." However, the arrangement of the stages and seating area would be reversed. For "Meet the World," the audience would sit in the middle of the building on a rotating turntable and face outwards toward stationary stages. This is just the opposite of "Carousel of Progress" which has the audience sitting on the outside looking in. Although the seating area would be smaller for "Meet the World," the stages would be larger with this reversed arrangement, adding more flexibility for the presentations.

"Meet the World" would also incorporate a feature CoP did not have, a movie screen on the back wall of each theater. This would be a presentation akin to "The American Adventure" where both movies and AudioAnimatronics figures would be employed simultaneously.

"Meet the World" was also being developed for Tokyo Disneyland where it was an opening day attraction in Tomorrowland. It ran from April 15, 1983 to June 30, 2002.

Meet the World at Tokyo Disneyland

"Meet the World" presented a history of Japan in four acts. Act One opened in current day Japan with two children from Yokohama discussing their country's past. They would soon be joined by a magical, talking crane that would transport them back in time and allow them to see for themselves the colorful history of their nation. As the audience rotated through the various acts, the island nation's volcanic beginnings were discussed along with early trading with other nations, isolationism, the reopening of the country, and their promising future. The catchy tune that was sung between acts was written by the Sherman Brothers. You can hear a portion of this melody at the end of the video I made about the Japan Pavilion.

Scene from Meet the World

Scene from Meet the World

Scene from Meet the World

Scene from Meet the World

This show sounds pretty cool, right? So how come this attraction never materialized at the Japan Pavilion even after the show building was constructed? Yet it did make it to Tokyo Disneyland.

Although there were a number of reasons for its omission at Epcot, one of the primary concerns was the way Japan's role prior to and during World War II were addressed - or should I say, not addressed. This entire period in Japanese history was summed up with three sentences:

Little Girl: It's awfully dark.

Crane: Yes, it was dark. But that's all over now.

Disney executives were fearful that the glossing over of this negative time in Japan's history would offend some guests, especially those who fought in WWII.

Other attractions have been considered for the Japan Pavilion. One was for a roller coaster to race through Mount Fuji in the same manner as the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland. Another idea would be a walk-through version of "Circle-Vision". Here, guests would board a Shinkansen (bullet train) that would be surrounded by movie screens and take guests on a train trip around Japan. But alas, these have not come to pass. I'm sure if you could find a sponsor, the Imagineers would be more than happy to dust off the plans and breathe new life into these ideas.

Shinkansen Attraction

Shinkansen Attraction

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.

February 28, 2012

Epcot's Japan Pavilion - Part Two

Yesterday, I discussed the plans that never materialized for the castle located at the back of the Japan Pavilion. Today I'll begin with what exists here today.

When entering the castle, guests are greeted by a Japanese host or hostess at a Kidcot station. This is the spot to get your Epcot Passport stamped. And remember, these passports make good souvenirs for adults as well as kids.

Castle Entrance

Kidcot Sign

Japan Kidcot Station

EPCOT Center Passport

Japan Page of Epcot Passport

Across from the Kidcot Station is Bijutsu-kan. This museum presents cultural exhibits and the displays change every two to five years, most recently on September 24, 2009. Currently being presented is "Spirit Beasts: From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars."

Kijutsu-kan Gallery Entrance

Kijutsu-kan Gallery

For centuries, Japanese stories and art have featured heroic animals and magical creatures. Today these characters have become pop culture superstars in manga (printed cartoons and comic strips) and anime (Japanese animated cartoons). This transition is the topic currently on display at Bijutsu-kan. Below is an example of this transformation from fable to modern-day hero.

Legend tells of a rabbit who, having no food to give an old beggar, offered himself instead. The beggar was actually a deity and he rewarded the rabbit's compassion by enshrining him in the moon. This story was the inspiration for an updated animated television miniseries entitled "Densha Otoko." This modern story tells of an ordinary school girl, Mina Tsukishiro, who is transformed into a superhero rabbit and leader of the lunar-based Rabbit Force who are responsible for enforcing treaties and capturing offenders. The Moon Rabbit and Mina Tsukishiro are seen at the museum as a handmade paper collage.

Moon Rabbit and Mina Tsukishiro

Let's move back to the front of the Japan Pavilion and take a look at the rock garden.

Rock Garden

Rock gardens (Karesansui) are associated closely with Zen Buddhism. Unlike traditional gardens, rock gardens have no water feature. Instead, gravel or sand represents the sea, ocean, rivers, or lakes and sometimes the sky. Raking the stones provides two benefits. First, the patterns are esthetically pleasing and represent waves or ripples. However, achieving this "perfection" is not easy and raking allowed Zen priests to concentrate and meditate while performing this task. When viewing the rock garden at the Japan Pavilion, ask yourself, "Are the large rocks islands in the water, or are they the tops of mountains protruding above the clouds?"

Near the rock garden is a stone lantern. This lantern represents the more than 3,000 lanterns found at the Kasuga Taisha Shrine in Nara.

Japan Pavilion Stone Lantern

Kasuga Taisha Shrine

These lanterns are illuminated three times each year -- once during the Setsubun Mantoro Festival in February and twice during the Obon Mantoro Festival in August. The deer on the side of the Japan Pavilion lantern represents the famous Nara Deer Park adjacent to the shrine.

Deer on Lantern

Near the entrance to Mitsukoshi Department Store is an unassuming stage. But magic happens here.


Seven times a day, five days a week, Miyuki amazes audiences as she takes heated (200 degrees) rice dough and transforms this putty-like substance into amazing creatures. Flamingos, dragons, flowers, scorpions, and more come to life before your eyes.

Miyuki Making Candy

Miyuki Making Candy

Miyuki Making Candy

The act of candy sculpting is called Amezaiku. This art form goes back hundreds of years and has been passed down from one generation to the next. Working with simple tools like tweezers and scissors, the artist must complete his or her work in less than three minutes or the heated candy will begin to harden as it cools.

At one time, these candied works of art were given to the children in the audience at the Japan Pavilion, but this practice was discontinued in early 2010 due to health regulations.

Across the courtyard from Miyuki and her magic candy is Garden House. This spot sells sake, Japanese beer, green tea, plum wine, and soft drinks.

Garden House

Garden House

The large, imposing building of the Japan Pavilion was modeled after the Gosho Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The Shishinden, or Hall of Ceremonies, was built in 794 and is said to be one of the first true styles of Japanese architecture. (Epcot first picture, Shishinden second)

Mitsukoshi Building


At the Japan Pavilion, this building houses two restaurants (upper level) and the Mitsukoshi Department Store (lower level). We'll start with a little shopping.

Mitsukoshi Department Store Entrance

In 1673, Mitsukoshi was founded in Edo (Tokyo), as a traditional Japanese clothing store under the name of "Echigoya."


In 1904, the company operated the first westernized department store in Japan.

First Western Department Store in Japan

For more than three centuries, the Mitsukoshi Organization has striven to impart the spirit of "Hospitality with Sincerity" in every aspect of their business. Today they are a leading department store in Japan with an impeccable reputation. Below is a picture of their main store in Tokyo.

Mitsukoshi Main Store

Shopping at the Epcot branch of Mitsukoshi can be a learning experience if you do more than give a cursory glance at the merchandise as you pass by. To help you get more out of the experience, a number of signs have been placed around the store, providing you with a history of some of the goods offered. In addition, the cast members are more than happy to chat with you and share stories about their country. Here are a few things at Mitsukoshi that I think you might find of interest.

For over a hundred years, the Mikimoto Company has been farming cultured pearls and creating beautiful jewelry. This harvesting process can be witnessed and you can own a genuine pearl for just $15 at Mitsukoshi.

Pearl Stand

But before I go on, let me explain a little about how pearls are created.

The creation of a pearl inside a mollusk is actually a defense mechanism against unwanted substances entering the shell. When this happens, the creature deposits layers of calcium carbonate over the foreign matter to isolate the unwanted substance from its internal organs - this creates a pearl. Pearls occur naturally in nature and almost any bivalve can create a pearl. However, pearls of value can only be produced inside certain mollusks and need man's intervention to produce them in any quantity. In the case of oysters, man introduces a bead or piece of shell into a mature animal. The bigger the object inserted, the bigger the pearl produced. The oyster is then returned to the ocean where the pearl is allowed to grow from one to three years before harvesting.

At Mitsukoshi, you select an oyster you find tantalizing from one of two tanks. Then, with a little pomp and ceremony, the cast member will open the oyster and dig out the pearl. The pearl will then be measured for size and presented to you in a small plastic bag. A bit of drum playing by the cast member will end the occasion. Children find this show especially fascinating.

Pearl Tank

Opening the Oyster

Measuring the Pearl

Pearl and Plastic Bag

Drum Playing

If one pearl gets you excited, then be sure to seek out the separate room nearby and gander at some of the jewelry created by Mikimoto. Here they have price tags to match the beauty.

Mikimoto Counter

Mikimoto Jewelry

Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees in small containers. Almost any perennial tree or shrub that produces real branches can be used. All it takes is careful crown and root pruning and a lot of patience. A small selection of these trees (already well underway) is available at Mitsukoshi. How-to books are also for sale.

Bonsai Trees

You can't help but notice a number of ceramic cats for sale at Mitsukoshi. These are called Maneki Neko, which literally translates to Beckoning Cat. However, this feline is also called Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Cat Swipe, Money Cat, or Fortune Cat. The people of Japan love to display these felines as mascots. They are often placed at the entrance of the house or in store windows.

Maneki Neko dates back 500 years, but its exact origin is unknown. However one legend tells of a woman and her beloved pet cat. One day, she invited a swordsman friend of hers over for tea. While enjoying their brew, the cat suddenly became frantic and started clawing at the woman's kimono. Believing the cat had gone mad and was attacking his friend, the swordsman severed the cat's head which flew through the air and lodged its teeth into a highly poisonous snake peering down from the rafters. The woman was distraught over the loss of her pet and would neither eat nor sleep. In an effort to make amends, the swordsman went to the best woodcarver in the land who made him a replica of the woman's cat with its paw raised in greeting. When the swordsman gave the carving to his friend, she was overjoyed and put her grief behind her and began to enjoy life once again.

Maneki Neko

Maneki Neko

Different colored cats will bring you different bits of fortune. For example, the white cat will bring you good luck and happiness while the orange cat will protect you during your travels. Lists explaining all ten colors can be found on signs near the cats.

Just as the France Pavilion offers wine tasting, the Japan Pavilion offers sake tasting. At a booth at the back of the store, a selection of this rice wine can be sampled for prices ranging from $5 to $10. And if you like what you sample, a large assortment of sake is available nearby. You can also purchase traditional sake drinking cups and for $2 more have your cup personalized with your name printed in Japanese characters.

Sake Tasting Booth

Sake Selection

Personalized Sake Cups

The Mitsukoshi Department Store is one of my favorite shopping adventures in World Showcase. The store is large and offers a wide array of merchandise. Even if you're not into Japanese goods, a lot of fun can be had here exploring the many items for sale. I found this next item especially intriguing.


Next to the large stairway that leads to the second floor of "Hall of Ceremonies" is a booth manned by cast members. Here you can make reservations for Tokyo Dining or Teppan Edo located on the second floor of the building. If you already have reservations, you can check in at this podium or in the lobby upstairs.

Restaurant Podium

If the imposing stairs are too much for you, an elevator can be found next to the main entrance of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Stairway to Restaurants

Elevator to Restaurants

The Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo restaurants open each day at noon. A few minutes before this time, many of the chefs and servers enter the lobby and conduct a small ceremony, welcoming you to the restaurants and to the department store downstairs. This is not a "must see" show, but it is a wonderful way to start your meal. I highly recommend making noontime reservations just so you can witness this three-minute ceremony. Be sure to arrive early!

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

It is interesting to note, this ceremony is not a tradition at restaurants in Japan, but it is something that is performed at some of the better department stores.

Tokyo Dining combines elegance and comfort into one package. The restaurant is well ordered with somewhat austere furniture and perfectly folded napkins, yet there is a sense of well-being here. It exudes warmth and friendliness. The tables situated by the windows offer unparalleled views of the World Showcase promenade during the day and Illuminations in the evening. And you couldn't ask for more charming servers who provide the best in Japanese hospitality.

Tokyo Dining

Tokyo Dining

This table-service restaurant offers a nice selection of tempura, as well as grilled meats and seafood, crusted chicken breast, pork chop, and bento box combinations. The same menu is used for both lunch and dinner. To see the complete offering, click here.

At the Teppan Edo restaurant, each table seats eight guests who are positioned around a grill. Smaller parties will be seated together, but that's okay. Teppan Edo isn't about intimate dining. It's about fun and showmanship. In no time at all, you'll be conversing with your fellow tablemates. And if you're shy, there is a surefire opening question you can ask to get the conversation going, "Where are you visiting from?"

Teppan Edo Table

Teppan Edo Table

The restaurant features teppanyaki style cuisine. Teppan means iron plate and yaki means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Here, a chef entertainingly prepares your meal at the table, while you watch. The concept originated in 1945 as a way of introducing western-style foods to the Japanese. However, the concept quickly became more popular with foreign visitors to Japan than with the Japanese themselves. So as time progressed, the chef's performances became more elaborate and amusing to continue attracting tourists.

This tradition is continued at Teppan Edo. The chefs here all have a sense of humor and good dexterity. They can handle a knife, toss a spatula, and create an onion volcano all while keeping up an amusing banter.

Eppan Edo Performance

Eppan Edo Performance

Eppan Edo Performance

The same menu is used for both lunch and dinner. To see the complete offering, click here.

If you arrive at noon at either Tokyo Dining or Teppan Edo, you should be able to secure a table with little or no wait. However, reservations are always a good idea and absolutely necessary later in the day.

That's it for the Japan Pavilion. This amazing place has so much to offer, see, and explore. It would take a full hour to tour the museum, see the shows, and shop at Mitsukoshi Department Store, and you'd still be missing many of the other details offered here.

As always, I have created a video highlighting the pavilion. Enjoy.

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About February 2012

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in February 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

March 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.