Our next stop takes us to Nikkō (日光), which is about 90 miles away from Tokyo. Within this town is Edo Wonderland (日光江戸村), a theme park that re-enacts life from the Edo Period (1603-1867). During this period when the shoguns, ninja, samurai, and geisha were prevalent. In other words, this was when things were awesome! (relatively speaking) Edo Wonderland is full of cool activities for any one who loves ancient Japan. While this site is not directly related to anime and manga, you can see the culture and lifestyle that inspired many of your favorite samurai and ninja shows!
When you enter the park, there will be many things to see and do. You have several options, from stage shows (both in the traditional styles and modern, stunt shows), exhibits, museums, traditional buildings to explore, and of course, plenty of shopping and dining options!
For theater lovers (like myself), Edo Wonderland offers plenty of traditional and modern theater experiences. There is the ever-popular Grand Ninja Theater, where ninjas fight and perform acrobatics. There is also the outdoor, Open-Air Live Action Theater, where there are other samurai and ninja shows depicting battles and death-defying stunts! There is also the Kitamachi Magistrate’s Office, where you can see re-enacted trials of Ooka Echizen, who was a samurai, judge, and magistrate. For those more interested in artistic theater, there is Ryogoku-za (lantern illuminated images with narration), Mizugei-za (water tricks), and Culture Theater Wakamatsu-ya (where an audience member is treated like a “guest” being served by servants and geisha). Also, during the day there is a parade featuring samurai and geisha!
But there’s more than just theater at Edo Wonderland, there’s plenty of interactive exhibits as well. There are two ninja “mystery houses” built to confuse and perplex those that dare to enter, as well as a ninja maze. There are also some “haunted” areas as well like Jigoku Temple, the Choushuu-han Residence (where you can find wax figures of samurai hacking each other to pieces), and the Kodema-cho Jail House (where you can find out about the grisly torture methods for criminals in the Edo Period). For those who don’t want to get sick to their stomach, there are other exhibits like the firefighting museum, blacksmith museum, and the Ninja Karasu Yashiki House (where you can find out about the various weapons that ninjas used in the day). And for those who really want to get in on the action, they can dress up in Edo Costume (who doesn’t want to dress up like a samurai or a geisha?) and either walk around the park in costume or just get their photo taken. There are also boat cruises, the Yaba Archery Range (a game where you can try to win a prize by hitting the target enough times), and Kazaguruma Darts (which is a dart game where you throw a “knife” with a pinwheel attached to it).
And for those who just want to take a pleasant stroll, there are plenty of Edo-style buildings to just stroll through, like Fudoumyou-ou (a statue of a fire god and guardian of Edo), the Water Mill House, Hatago Inn (a replica of traditional, cheap lodging back in the Edo period), O-Edo Tenmangu Shrine (which houses the golden god of scholarship, so pray here for good grades), and the Golden Tea Ceremony Room. Also, for those willing to make reservations in advance, there are “cultural tours” available, where you will be shown traditional folk toys and can try your hand at Japanese calligraphy.
And what theme park wouldn’t be complete without shopping and food? There are several eating and shopping spots in Edo Wonderland. For eating, you can enjoy ramen, sweets, snacks, soba, udon, seasoned rice, yakitori, rice bowls, and of course, sake (you must be at least 20 to partake)! For shopping options, you have options with stones with your name carved on them, Japaense tea, swords (real and wooden, though you’ll have some trouble getting a real one through customs on your way back home), sandals, fans, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), and kick knacks.
Edo Wonderland is a lot of fun to explore, but it can be a little pricey to get in. For a full-day pass to get in for adults (13 and up) is ¥4,500 (¥2,300 for kids) or there is also the option of the half-day pass (starting after 2:00 PM in the summer and 1:00 PM in the winter) for ¥3,900 for adults (¥2,000 for kids). But check out their website, they offer a coupon for visitors and if you have an ISTC I.D. you can get 15% off admission. There are also discounts available if you are in a large group (8 or more). Also, children under 7 years of age can enter at no charge.
From March 20 – November 30, the park is open during its summer hours, which is 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. And from December 1 – March 19, the park is open from 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM. Admittance is allowed until one hour before closing. The park is closed on most Wednesdays.
To get to the park, there is a free shuttle round-trip shuttle from Edo Wonderland to Nikko Station (日光駅). However, this shuttle only runs 5 times per day. A more assured way to get to the park is to take the train to Kinugawa Onsen Station (鬼怒川温泉駅), which can be reached with either with the JR or the Tobu Line, and take the local bus (15 min. for ¥400) or a taxi (10 min. for ¥1600).
For more information, visit the park’s website.