I've talked plenty before about my history with and love for Japan. So it probably comes as no surprise that Mitsukoshi in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase is among my most favorite shops in all of Walt Disney Word.
Mitsukoshi's roots go all the way back to 1673 with the door to door sale of kimonos under the shop name Echigoya. Ten years later, in 1683, Echigoya set up a store where people could purchase items on the spot. More than 300 years later, Mitsukoshi has been through countless changes, including a 2007 merger with the major Japanese department store Isetan. To date, Wikipedia lists around 29 Mitsukoshi shops throughout the world (run by Mitsukoski or others and some under different names). Only one is currently operating in the United States…and we're lucky to have Epcot call it home.
When you visit Mitsukoshi's Epcot location's website, you see that the store runs on the principal of giving us a (perhaps first) experience of omotenashi. In their own words, “omotenashi can be defined as a philosophy toward how customers are treated in one’s place of business. It centers on complete attentiveness to the guest’s experience, anticipating needs and thoughtfully offering whatever is required to meet them. The goal with omotenashi is to serve, trusting that prosperity will follow.“
I adore that last bit and think that it's a great lesson for all of us in how to approach business – and perhaps life in general.
For westerners visiting Japan, experiencing omotenashi for the first time is truly eye-opening. Imagine visiting a shop or restaurant and feeling as though you’re being welcomed into the home of dear friends, and your hosts feel deeply that what you experience during your visit will be a lasting reflection of who they are at their core. They take it personally. That is the principle behind omotenashi.
All of this said, all of this would be fine and good if Mitsukoshi wasn't otherwise an amazing shop. But it is.
It doesn't matter if your an average park guest with no special love for Japan or a major Japanophile – or if your love for all things Japanese focuses on traditional goods or kitch or manga or kawaii culture. Mitsukoshi has you covered.
In the front of the store, you'll find video game-inspired merchandise covering everything from newer games to Zelda and Mario.
As you slowly work your way back you'll find everything from J beauty to manga (comics) to the impossibly cute Gudetama and Hello Kitty to sushi erasers to stationary and Funko Pops.
Then you'll be inundated with everything Japanese that you might want to learn – from origami to the Japanese language to growing your very own bonsai tree.
Then you'll hit perhaps the coolest part of the entire store – the chance to select and open your very own oyster and unearth a pearl (or two!). Your luck will determine just how big it is, and what size!! You can even buy a pendant or other item on the spot to house your little treasure.
This is without a doubt one of the best bits of fun that you can have with your kids at Epcot.
But if you prefer your pearls pre-selected and made into jewelry, Mitsukoshi has you covered, too. Because a little further into the shop you'll find an actual Mikimoto storefront full of gorgeous pieces.
You'll pass all sorts of kitch clothing, bags, fans and more as you keep walking – not to mention a pretty killer display of katana for sale…
Before you arrive at the Marketplace, which is loaded with kitchenware and Japanese snacks and drinks.
Not to mention a room full of incense that might only be second to the Morocco pavilion's shops as the best smelling spot in all of Walt Disney World.
And a full on sake bar that will suit your needs – whether you're a curious novice or a die hard aficionado.
But don't leave yet…but in the back corner is perhaps the very coolest section of the store. A shop within the shop full of authentic kimono for men, women, and children, along with Japanese sandals called geta or zori.
Honestly, this shop is so loaded with all things Japanese that it's hard to imagine what you could want that's not here. Whether it's a craft for a child, a snack, a glass of sake, or a string of pearls, Mitsukoshi has it.