Within the Japan Pavilion, where for years Japanese Tin Toys were on display in the Bijutsu-kan (a collection of Japanese arts) Gallery now resides "Spirited Beasts - from Ancient Stories to Anime Stars."
It is here that the Disney World guests will get the chance to learn about various characters from Japanese Mythology and see how they still have connections in modern Japanese society through their inclusion in the popular Anime Characters.
From one of the key displays within Spirited Beasts reads:
For centuries, heroic animals and magical creatures have appeared in traditional Japanese myths, stories, and art. Today, they are the heroes and villians of Japan's manga comics and anime. These "spirited beasts" from Japan's past have become pop culture superstars, known and loved around the world.
Above is an homage to Kitsune - the magical fox spirits. They are capable of growing extra tails as they gain in age, wisdom, and power. They have the ability to take on human form and are known as expert tricksters. You can find Kitsune characters in popular kabuki drama and in manga and anime series.
Saru is the Japanese name for monkey. It is often used to represent the guardians of sacred shines and temples. The famous Monkey King is known as Son Goku, and is frequently found as a hero in comics and anime due to his popularity.
Japan's "racoon-dog", known as Tanuki is actually a real species, but is better known by its mythical references. The Tanuki is a magical trickster that possesses shape shifting abilities to go along with it's wisdom and spirituality. In modern times you will see the tanuki figure donning a straw hat and carrying a sake bottle used as a sign of good fortune for shopkeepers.
The Kappa are mythical water sprites that live in Japan's lakes and streams. They have turtle-like shells, webbed feet and, oftern a beaked face. A bolw like indentation on top of their head holds water, the source of their might sumo wrestling ability.
Bakeneko & Inugami
Even cats and dogs have a role in Japanese mythology. Bakeneko is the cat spirit. It can walk on its hind legs, cast ghostly fire, and impersonate humans. Inugumi is the dog spirit. Known for its fierce loyalty, this magically gifted spirit is diffficult to capture. and quite powerful.
The beautiful Japanese crane is known as Tsuru. For centuries the crane has been a popular subject of Japanese artwork and decorations. The Tsuru is a symbol of happiness, prosperity, and world peace.
Legend has it if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, which is known as Senbazuru, you will be granted one wish.
The legend of the Moon Rabbit states that a rabbit came across an old beggar looking for food. Since he had none to offer, he offered himself to the beggar. The beggar was actually a deity and rewarded the rabbit's compassion by enshrining him on the moon. The Moon Rabbit as he became known ( Tsuki no Usagi in Japanese) can be seen on a full moon night pounded rice cakes with a wooden mallet.
Japanese Myths Inspire Current Culture
"Spirited Beasts" is an excelllent display that shares an element of Japanese history and present day culture that was very interesting to see and learn about. The self guided display allows you to spend as much or as little time as you wish to read about the displays and look at all there is to discover. I would definitely recommend this Gallery for all Epcot visitors to check out. The subject matter is such that it can appeal to all ages.
This is one of the great aspects of Epcot's World Showcase where you come away knowing a little more about cultures other than your own. This is an experience that you do not get from any of the other Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks.