I love learning more about Disney Cast Members and how individuals can influence the environment we enjoy spending time with. This week, Disney Parks Blog published an article about long-time cast member, arborist Shoji Kanaoka, and an idea that was 20 years in the making. Let’s take a look at how the Japan pavilion came to host a shishi-odoshi (pronounced as she-she oh-doe-she) – a Japanese clacker garden – as part of the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
Shishi-odoshi translates to “scare deer” and consists of a segmented tube, usually of bamboo, water and rocks. As a slow trickle of water fills the segmented bamboo tube, the device tips and creates a distinct thud, scaring away deer, boar and other herbivores to prevent them from eating crops.
Arborist Shoji Kanaoka first presented the idea over 20 years ago as a way to bring a new and authentic feature to the pavilion during the festival. With immediate and enthusiastic support of his leaders, Shoji built and introduced this new element, which quickly became a favorite for guests and cast alike. The garden has since been featured at the festival intermittently over the years.
For the festival, Shoji and his team also incorporated wooden wind chimes – which Shoji built himself – bells, drums and other noise-making items. The bamboo was even harvested from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom Park.
“It’s always been important to me to introduce new elements into the landscape at the Japan pavilion as a way to honor my culture and to introduce guests to other heritages,” Shoji said. Disney is built around community and inclusion – a place where everyone can make a difference, and Shoji has made quite the difference in the Japan pavilion since becoming an opening-year EPCOT cast member.
Throughout his 40-year career, he has worked with Disney Legend and Imagineer Bill Evans, among several other cast members, to bring new and culturally authentic offerings to life. Some of his accomplishments include two Zen gardens and several bonsai trees in addition to smaller shishi-odoshis that can be found year-round in the stream near Katsura Grill at EPCOT.
With retirement on the horizon, Shoji’s leaders thought this was a perfect time for the shishi-odoshi garden to make a triumphant return to EPCOT with Shoji at the lead. Shoji has trained other cast members, like fellow arborists Leon Fevry and Sierra Ruparelia, on how to build and create a shishi-odoshi so that it can continue to be incorporated in the festival and landscapes for years to come.
“Knowing that my legacy will continue to live on in Japan pavilion is very humbling,” Shoji shared. “It’s an honor that my fellow cast members showed interest in carrying on my work, and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”
The horticultural installation is a wonderful addition to the area near the check-in podium for the Japanese restaurant, Takumi-Tei. I will be delighted to see this tradition live on and hope that Shoji Kanaoka can next time enjoy the shishi-odoshi as a guest and admire his contribution to the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.