Yesterday, I wrote an article “Discovering a One of a kind Buried Treasure at Epcot” which talked about the Tomb Warriors exhibit on display in Epcot’s China pavilion. Today, I’m writing about another Walt Disney World hidden treasure, Pick-a-Pearl , which is located in the country of Japan in Epcot’s World Showcase.
The Mitsukoshi department store, with its huge array of merchandise and popular Hello Kitty and Pokemon brands, is located to your right when entering the Japan pavilion. Mitsukoshi is also home to the “pick a pearl” oyster stand which has, in my opinion, one of the most “bang for your buck” souvenirs on Disney property. What makes this souvenir even more special is the fact that you take part in every single step of the experience.
For those of us who travel on a budget, we often find ourselves feeling a bit of sticker shock when it comes to buying vacation souvenirs for ourselves or the friends and family back home. For about $17.00, you can own your very own pearl. If your budget allows, you can also have your pearl set into either a necklace, ring, pin, or other pieces. The sterling silver necklace settings that I have purchased range in price from $18 to $30. There are more expensive settings for you to choose from as well if your budget allows.
The oyster purchasing and “picking” process is quite simple and, unless the park is particularly crowded on the day you visit, it won’t require that you take too terribly much time away from your park touring. You’ll first need to go to the register located to the right of the oyster tanks and purchase your pearl. At the time of purchase, you’ll be given a number and told to wait until it is called. When your number is called, you are to show your number card to one of the cast members who will direct you to the table near the front of the tanks.
I’m going to let you in on a secret – or pearl of wisdom, if you will – that was whispered to me several years ago … pick the ugliest, hairiest, moldiest looking oyster that you can find. They are supposed to have the biggest, prettiest, best color pearls in them. That’s exactly what I did:
After you have chosen your oyster from one of the two tanks, the charming cast member will place your oyster in a wooden tray and you’ll both bow.
To say that the cast members at the oyster stand are exuberant is an understatement. They really get into their “role” and make the countdown to opening your pearl an experience in and of itself when they ask you to count 1-2-3 in Japanese and to do it quite loudly. There’s really no need to worry if you don’t know Japanese as they will say the numbers to you and the others who may be watching. Ichi! Ni! San! (Yes, it does sound like itchy knee san.) Countdown done, the cast member will start to open the oyster:
and reveal the hidden treasure which lies within:
If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that my big, ugly, hairy oyster had not one but two pearls in it. I picked an oyster that had twins!
After showing the oysters to the guest, they clean the pearls and ask permission to show them to the other guests who are watching. The pearl, or pearls on this occasion, are measured on a measuring chart. Once the measurements are done, they write on a small plastic bag the size and the date that the pearl was harvested.
Then, the drumming ceremony begins and you and others are encouraged to clap along to the beat.
Once the ceremony is done, your pearl is placed inside the bag and you are ready to go.
However, if you want to have the pearl mounted into a setting, they do offer quite a selection from which to choose . As I mentioned above, some are very friendly to the pocketbook and some can be expensive. A few of the settings will only fit up to a certain size pearl but never fear, the cast members will be happy to help you choose a setting and make recommendations. My budget for Pick-a-Pearl is in the $50 range and I have always been able to find a setting for my pearls. The first picture is of the setting that I chose for my twin pearls and the others are those that were chosen during previous visits.
If you do have your pearl set by the cast members, the length of time that it will take depends on how busy they are on that particular day. Most of my wait times have been between an hour and two hours which hasn’t been a problem for us. We usually stroll around in the other countries and go back to pick it up. If you intend to pick a pearl and have it set, you will need to factor in the time that it will take for it to be done. I would recommend that you do this experience soon after World Showcase opens or early to mid-afternoon.
There are other Pick-a-Pearl stations on Walt Disney World property but the experience at Epcot is much more lively and more of an experience.
So, if you are looking for a budget-friendly souvenir and something “different” to do while in Epcot’s World Showcase, pop into Mitsukoshi and Pick-a-Pearl. You’ll be glad that you did!