Learning about Japanese New Year traditions at Epcot
Despite that Disney is currently giving Epcot a makeover, Epcot is still a largely educational park. You can learn about science in Future World, and other cultures in World Showcase. How this will change once Disney adds in some new marvelous characters (Guardians of the Galaxy) has yet to be seen, but I sincerely hope they don’t stray from what most of us know Epcot as.
While visiting Epcot recently, I got to experience holiday traditions from around the world. Most countries had some version of Santa (or Krampus!), but Japan focused on teaching about the New Year celebrations and traditions. Our host–a Daruma sales person–educated us on the history of the Daruma (a doll modeled after Bodhidharma, who founded Zen Buddhism). If you get a chance, read the full history behind this guy. It’s an awesome tale.
Around the New Year you buy a Daruma. His eyes are blank, so you think about a goal or wish you have, and paint one of the eyes. Once that wish or goal is manifested, you pain the other eye in. If the other eye isn’t painted by the end of the year, well, you always have next year.
Our host also told us about another tradition–eating soba noodles on New Years Eve. The long noodles symbolize a long life, as the buckwheat can withstand a lot. Of course this may vary from region to region. After that our host went about her day, and I was hungry. The Japanese pavilion at Epcot had a holiday food stand set up, and wouldn’t you know it, they had soba on the menu.
The New Year Celebration Soba was exactly what I needed to fill me up. I got both the shrimp tempura and chicken, cause why not.
The broth was very salty, but the noodles were crazy soft and delicious. The spinach was just right, and the chicken and shrimp had plenty of flavor. For $6.50 this was a great meal, if only the rest of the year was just as afforable!
If you ever get the chance to visit Epcot during the winter holiday season, do so. And make it a point to hear about the Daruma. You’ll absolutely take something out of the experience!
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