on August 24, 2010
When you tire of touring Kyoto's magnificent temples, Kyoto Studio Park is an entertaining alternative way to spend an afternoon. Kyoto Studio park is owned by Toei Kyoto Studio, Japan's largest TV & movie studio, which was also historically particularly renowned for making samurai movies. Much of the park is constructed to look like streets of ancient Japanese villages and these settings are used in filming movies occasionally. Along these streets you'll encounter actors dressed as old samurai warriors or geisha women strolling around and happy to pose with you for a photo. Walking around charming old streets and posing for photos only goes so far, of course, and the real fun is in the shows and craft demonstrations that repeat periodically through the day. One show we took in was sort of a comic stunt show. There was a MC providing some narration in Japanese, but you didn't really need any translation to understand the slapstick pranks onstage. Another song-and-dance style show drew the biggest crowds of the Japanese tourists there, but the appeal was mostly lost on us foreigners. The star was sort of like a Japanese Don Ho figure, who we later figured out was some movie/TV star from posters we saw there. A smaller street-side show featured some samurai actors sword fighting and teaching some little kids to go through a short choreographed fight, all done with a nice comic touch (again, no translation required). We had fun going through the haunted house (500Yen/US$5 extra) and seeing the Japanese courthouse/jail set buildings, complete with gruesome models of severed heads used in the movies. Less impressive parts of the park featured an animatronic godzilla-like creature emerging from a pool and a simulated earthquake turning a stream into a torrential waterfall that results in a monster coming out the top of a mountain.A larger more modern main building houses some souvenir shops and displays of Power Ranger-style uniforms and rubber monster costumes/masks. There are sound stages here also, but there was no filming going on during our visit. Much of the park is aimed at, and would be really appreciated most by younger, grade-school aged children. Since we were there on an end-of-conference tour, we were only adults, but we had fun anyway. It is billed as the Japanese version of Universal Studios but it is on a much smaller scale than the US Studio tours. Some parts are pretty hokey, but go in with a fun attitude and you will have a good time.You may want a taxi or at least really good directions to find Kyoto Studio Park. I believe it is about 15 minutes from the closest train station, and even our group tour guide was a little uncertain about how to get there.Please note that this is in Kyoto, not Kobe, but I'm including the review in my Kobe trip because it was visited as a day trip from Kobe.
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