Kyoto is well-known for its cultural offerings–temples, shrines, the opportunity to dress up like a geisha or maiko for a day, international centers where you can take classes, all of that. What is slowly becoming more popular with tourists here is a little place called Toei Kyoto Studio Park, or Eiga Mura.
I have been to the park three times thus far in my time in Kyoto, and each time has been a different experience. The park’s theme is Edo period Japan, and as such the staff will be dressed accordingly. There’s a whole little neighborhood set up where you can walk through and see what it would have been like for people to live in the Edo period (1603-1868). There are also several attractions, from swordfighting shows to a haunted house.
What is the draw for me?
I’m not only talking about the employees working at Eiga Mura, of course, but the people who also come to enjoy.
My second time I went, I remember the swordfighting show involved lots of audience participation. The samurai leading the show picked a few members of the audience to join in on an impromptu lesson. Most were kids, including a little blonde girl who couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old. She was thrilled to be chosen, and the staff were doing their best to speak to her in English. The conversation went something like this:
Samurai: Welcome to Japan!
Girl: *Gives him a funny look*
Samurai: Where are you from? Your country?
Samurai: I- what? Uhhh, one more time, what country are you from?
Girl’s mother: Honey, no.
They eventually figured each other out and the lesson went smoothly afterward.
Another thing I enjoy watching is people’s reactions to the little Easter eggs throughout the park. If you think that this place takes itself seriously, then you are in for a surprise- everything is just a little bit silly, from the swordfighting (puns galore) to the studio (gags galore) and even a few events that happen at certain times throughout the day. I won’t spoil them for you because I’m sure you can find them elsewhere online, but one example is there’s a little mountain near the haunted house and ninja funhouse where something occurs every several minutes. Seeing people immediately rush up to begin filming the wonder always makes me smile because I was like that the first time I saw it too.
Finally, one other thing I love is the cosplayers that flock to Eiga Mura. It’s a prime place to play in costume, especially if your aesthetic is Edo Period Japan. Even if it’s not, you can get some great pictures in using the backgrounds available to you. Almost everything you see in the park is a prop- unless you see a sign telling you NOT to touch it, you probably can. There are little soba stands where you can pretend to be a noodle shop owner, shacks where you can pretend to be a poor person in the Edo period, a well you can pretend to get water from… the list goes on.
Eiga Mura is a bit tricky to find, despite being accessible from multiple train stations. I would recommend if you want to check it out, go to JR Uzumasa Station (which is accessible from JR Kyoto Station). It’s about a 5 minute walk. Just be sure to double-check with the staff at the train station as to which way to go once you leave the station!