Experiencing Omotenashi in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion
I think I’ve experienced omotenashi every time I’ve visited the Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s world showcase. Some of our best family memories have been made at the pavilion.
During one of our family’s first visits, we had dinner at the incredible Teppan Edo. We checked in at a small kiosk outside. A Cast Member saw our kids, who were seven and one year old respectively, and promptly gave them a pair of origami paper cranes. Both still have the cranes, though many years have passed since that visit.
Once we were inside, Cast Members continue lavishing us with attention, beyond the simple service you might expect at a restaurant. After we were seated, our kids were given chef’s hats. A small, origami Pikachu was placed on one of the hats, and then our server wrote both of the kids’ names in Japanese on the hats as well. Like the paper cranes, we still have the hats.
If you’ve never eaten at Teppan Edo, it’s part meal, part dinner theater. The chef cooks your meal at your table, joking with guests and performing tricks. Our kids were particularly taken with the steam volcano made from onions. The chef then went out of his way to explain which sauces worked best with which types of food. For reference the white sauce is good with everything. It was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable dining experiences we’ve ever had as a family.
The experience of omotenashi is also central to the Guest experience in the Mitsukoshi store, located just beneath Teppan Edo. The business has deep roots in Japanese history. According to the official Mitsukoshi web page, “In 1673, Mitsukoshi established Echigo-ya, a traditional Japanese dress shop known as a gofuku store in Tokyo.” It’s a bit difficult to describe Epcot’s Mitsukoshi store. It’s like a sensory explosion. Though the company began as a simple dress shop, you can now find just about anything there. We typically spend a bit of time perusing their pop culture collectibles, which include items from video games like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros, to cartoons like Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z. You can purchase items of clothing, such as a traditional kimono, hand bags, or scarves. You can also find a variety of Japanese candies, and the adults can check out the store’s sake bar.
However, for the best sense of omotenashi, you have to visit the “pick a pearl” stand inside of Mitsukoshi. This was an experience my wife had dreamed of having since she was a little girl, and finally got to fulfill during one of our visits. It’s impossible to miss when you step inside. The pick a pearl station is the area with large pools of water, each containing dozens of oysters to choose. You purchase a ticket at any register within the store, and then wait for your number to be called. It’s a bit like a deli in that way. Once it is your turn, a Cast Member will guide you through the process of picking your oyster. That’s when the show really begins. The Cast Members are always enthusiastic, turning the entire process into something like a ritual. They make a big deal out of each oyster they open, accompanying it with drum playing and lavish praise for the pearl you find inside. Once you have your pearl, they can help you have it set or simply take it home as is. Oh, and don’t worry, on the rare occasion when an oyster doesn’t contain a pearl, they’ll let you choose another. No one goes home empty handed.
Like dinner in Teppan Edo, the show is just as much a part of the purchase as the actual item. Of course, my wife and our kids kept the pearls they acquired. However, their memories of the pageantry involved in acquiring the pearl have been just as precious. That is all thanks to the lengths that the Cast Members went to in order to make them feel special.