Ninjas on rooftops, samurais and sword fights, super robots. These were just some of the things my husband and I were looking forward to when we made the trip to Japan last March. Him especially. And we found them all at Toie Kyoto Studio Park.
If Kyoto is referred to by guide books as the the Japan of your imagination (what with its dizzying number of historic temples and shrines, teahouses and tradition), then Toei Kyoto Studio Park is place you want to go to if your imagination is keen to include anime, manga, ninjas and samurais.
Toei Uzumasa Eigamura or Kyoto Studio Park is an active film set and theme park in one. Designed as a small town from the Edo period, it’s used as a location for Japanese period movies and television dramas while some of the traditional buildings serve as theaters, museums, and houses featuring some ninja action and spooky zombies.
When we went there on a gray and rainy morning, the park grounds were almost empty. Small clusters of young Japanese students moved from one area to the next. There was a Filipino family with three young boys in tow. Almost everyone at one point looked familiar. Some streets in the made-up Edo neighborhood were deserted. You almost expect tumbleweeds to come rolling across.
While the atmosphere outside seemed cheerless (the weather certainly didn’t help), there was something to ooh and ahh and laugh about inside some of the structures.
Inside a sound stage, there was show that featured behind the scenes from how a Jidaigeki (period drama) is filmed. A director and two actors would show how period dramas were filmed; they all spoke in Japanese and there were no English translations or audio guide, but thank goodness there was a good amount of physical comedy, which translates well in any language.
There’s also a ninja show in one of the theaters (watch out for some acrobatic action), a samurai sword-fighting lesson (volunteers are chosen from the audience!), and a superhero show scheduled in the park. These shows are free for anyone to watch, and are often packed. So that was where the people were hiding out from the rain!
But some places in Kyoto Studio Park entail additional charges on top of the 2,200 JPY entrance ticket. This includes the The Ninja Mystery House, the Haunted House, the 3D 360 Theater, and the Costume Rental and Photo Shops. If you’re on a budget, the free shows are already fun to watch. And since it’s a film set, you may even chance upon an actual shoot, like we did! Tourists can’t go anywhere near the filming area though, but some young Japanese tourists who were giddy over the movie actress in the film got to ask for autographs.
One of the few attractions in the park that didn’t have any additional charges was the Toei Anime Museum. Grendizer was there by the entrance to greet you, and inside are animation cells and promo goods from some of Toei’s anime series. The were items from Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Slam Dunk, One Piece Spooky Kitaro, Mazinger-Z, and from so many other anime series I wasn’t familiar with.
To get to Toei Kyoto Studio Park, take the JR Sagano Line to Uzumasa Station, which is just one station before Saga-Arashiyama. (If you’re planning to go to Arashiyama, before you schlep back to downtown Kyoto, you can go down Uzumasa.) From Uzumasa, it’s a 10-minute walk to the Kyoto Studio Park; head toward the train crossing. (See map below) Address: 616-8161 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Uzumasa Higashihachiokacho, 10; phone no: +81 75-864-7716