Everyday at Epcot, thousands of people wander by a pretty important tribute to Roy O. Disney without even knowing it. There is now plaque or signal that you should stop and take a selfie, and thus, people simply don’t realize it’s there. To most, it is just one more piece of scenery, but if you know the story, you can impress your friends and also pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, and the man who made sure Disney World came into being.
Emperor Hirohito of Japan and I had something in common. We are/were both Disney fanatics. When he visited Disneyland in 1975, he was given a Mickey Mouse watch, which became one of his most prized possessions. In 1979, it stopped ticking, which became something of a national emergency. American watch experts were called in and it was even reported in the Times. At last, it was discovered that it simply needed a new battery. To him, Disney was a deep part of his life.
Because of this friendship, it came as no surprise that after Disney World’s opening, Japan sought to open a Disney park of their own and by 1979, the contract was signed and work began.
In honor of the friendship between the Emperor and Roy, Hirohito gifted a stone lantern, known as a Toro, during the dedication of the Magic Kingdom. The lantern, which is quite large, was placed on display in the Polynesian Resort. Once Epcot opened, it was moved to the Japanese area and was given a place opposite of the entrance building where drum shows are performed. The building itself was inspired by a pagoda in the Horyuji Temple, found in Nara. The deer on the back of the lantern is a representation of the Nara Deer Park. The fit was perfect.
Next time you pass by this lantern, take a moment to reflect and understand. Here, much like Roy himself, sits a silent tribute. No plaques or calls to camera action. It is simply there, overseeing the park and making sure guests have a good time. Share the story of the emperor and his watch and his gift to Roy, so that next time your friends pass, they can do the same. That’s the best way to share Disney history, right? Pay it forward. We’ll all appreciate things in the park that much more.