(link to Part 1)

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Toei Kyoto Studio Park

The Uzumasa area of Kyoto is often called the Hollywood of Japan. The otherwise unremarkable neighborhood is home to the Toei Studios Kyoto (TSK), famous for jidaigeki films, historical dramas often set during the Sengoku (1467-1603) or Edo (1603-1868) periods, and often featuring samurais engaging in chambara swordfighting action. First built in 1926 by the "king of samurai dramas" Tsumasaburo Bando, TSK is both an active movie studio with multitude of indoor studios and sound stages and a huge, 5.3 hectare open set which, since 1975, became a one-of-a-kind movie-themed amusement park called Toei Kyoto Studio Park.

The open set used to film jidaigeki movies and TV shows is divided into several areas, all faithful reconstructions of Edo-period street scenes and neighborhoods. With a costume rental shop and professional makeup studio staffed by active film industry artists and veterans, you can feel like an actor in a jidaigeki movie as you become a sword-carrying samurai or young lord swaggering through the set. There are fun movie-themed attractions, a ninja training studio and trick ninja house with secret trapdoors, hidden entrances and mirrors, a performance hall where you can enjoy popular Edo period street performing arts, an exciting drama spectacle combining chambara and digital projection, a mock film recording studio where you can learn how jidaigeki movies are made, live chambara shows outside in the set with opportunities for participation, a 3-D maze for smaller kids, a reproduction of a terakoya school where you can learn about everyday life in the Edo period, a thrilling haunted house featuring film-quality special effects, and more.

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Terakoya Classroom

Although Toei Kyoto Studio Park is famous for its numerous attractions and its authentic open set where you can experience the world of jidaigeki period Japanese films, it also provides several learning opportunities about Japanese film history as well as Edo period culture. One such opportunity is provided by the Terakoya, a reproduction of a pre-modern private school where actors provide short and entertaining lessons on the way people lived in the Edo period.

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Grape Japan

On the day we attended, we were treated to a fascinating look into the Edo period monetary system, including the weight and value of the different currency units in use at the time.

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This is a prop representing a senryobako, a box containing a thousand ryo. As we will see in Part 3, jidaigeki films use numerous props like these which look authentic to audiences yet are lightweight and easy for actors to handle.

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A hands-on demonstration of the weight of coins segued quickly to another commonplace metal object in the Edo period, the sword. Unlike movie props, authentic swords, as we were allowed to discover first-hand, are surprisingly heavy.


Haunted House

Already from the outside, Toei Kyoto Studio Park's haunted house looks foreboding. Inside, you'll be treated to blood-curdling thrills with a level of quality only possible from film making experts. Film industry professionals have created the props and makeup on the actors to create a truly unforgettable experience which may actually justify the name they have given it: "Scariest Haunted House Ever Built." But be warned, it isn't for those with a weak heart...

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Grape Japan

With permission from © Toei Kyoto Studio Park

With permission from © Toei Kyoto Studio Park


Ninja Show: Sasuke

The Nakamuraza Theater, as we saw in Part 1, is not only host to traditional performing arts, but also hosts an exciting ninja show featuring acrobatics and 3D digital projection mapping!

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Grape Japan

Grape Japan

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Grape Japan

One of the actors from the show was kind enough to pose for us in front of Nakamuraza Theater

Samurai Sword Fighting Lesson

After seeing the thrilling sword action on the stage of the Nakamuraza Theater, you might be in the mood to try some sword action of your own. You'll get that opportunity when you attend the Samurai Sword Fighting Lesson in the Edo Town area of the open set.

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Grape Japan

After a brief sword fight re-enactment, it's time for some hands-on practice...

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Kids of all ages are welcome to join.

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Kids of all ages...

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Film Set Viewing Area

The amazingly authentic-looking film set area, actually used as the backdrop for films, is the true star of Toei Kyoto Studio Park. You literally feel as if you have just exited a time machine and stepped into the Edo period.

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Grape Japan

Grape Japan

Grape Japan

In addition to street sets, there are individual rooms such as this one, actually used in interior scenes.

Feel Like A Star In Your Own Samurai Film

Walking around the set is already quite impressive. However, if you really want to experience what it would be like to star in a samurai film, you should make a reservation at the costume rental shop. A staff member at Toei Kyoto Studio Park was kind enough to demonstrate for us.

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The costume rental shop entrance

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First, you change into traditional undergarments.

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A veteran makeup artist is aided by assistants.

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Using a special bamboo tool, he fixes the base which will form the scalp under the wig and smooths out the edges.

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Grape Japan

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Grape Japan

The topknot wig is fitted on the base.

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Grape Japan

Grape Japan

After the makeup is completed, you are fitted with the outer garments...

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As a samurai, you are given two swords, according to custom.

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Now you are ready to make your appearance on the set!

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Grape Japan

Grape Japan

Grape Japan

Target practice looks much cooler in samurai costume!

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Grape Japan

Naturally, seeing it all in motion is better than still photography, so here's a little sample we put together (thanks to DJ Amaya for the soundtrack):

Toei Kyoto Studio Park is an unforgettable adventure for the whole family. For more information on hours of operation, holidays and directions, please see their website.




In Part 1, we covered the Location Studio where you can learn how a jidaigeki show is made behind the scenes, the Ninja Star Dojo where you can learn how to throw shuriken stars, the Ninja Mystery House where you'll experience the exciting tricks and secrets of a ninja house, traditional street performance of Nankin Tamasudare in the Nakamuraza Theater, a tasty ramen shop where they sell Mito-han Ramen, popularized in Japan by Tokugawa Mitsukuni of Mito Komon fame, and a costume photo studio where you can easily enjoy wearing jidaigeki period costumes and take a photo to remember your experience.

In Part 3, we will step into the heart of Japanese Hollywood in Toei Studios to reveal the world of details behind the scenes of jidaigeki film production.


By - Ben K.