Edo Wonderland, Nikko City, Tochigi
There are many reasons why people become interested in Japan. For me, my interest started when I was very little, but it was reading James Clavell’s Shogun as a prepubescent girl that really ignited the passion and desire to visit this illustrious country. Further to reading Shogun I got my hands on any fiction or non-fiction related to Japan, available in Ireland at the time. There was not a lot available then, but thankfully the stories of Miyamoto Musashi were. I read them fervently, intrigued and roused by the imagery of what life was like in the days of Samurai.
Those days may be long gone, but thankfully there is one place where you can step back in time and catch a glimpse of how life was in the time of Shogun, Samurai and Ninja. Edo Wonderland in Nikko, Tochigi, offers visitors the chance to not only witness what life was like in the Edo period, but to also experience it by dressing up in one of several costumes and trying your hand at some Edo period activities. It is an amusement park in the sense that it is a park full of entertainment, but not in the typical sense: there are no roller coasters or any electronically operated rides in this park. It is one of only a few places in Japan were you can get a real feel for what life was like under imperial and shogunate rule. Even better news for short term visitors to Japan, that it is relatively easy to get to and only a few hours from Narita airport. From Saitama, where we live, it took us less than two hours to get there, even with a pit stop.
A lot of people combine Nikko and Edo Wonderland in the same day, but I would personally suggest that if you are visiting with kids you allocate a full day to Edo wonderland. We were there for six hours with our four kids and it was not nearly enough time. We missed three shows, didn’t get to peruse the museum at the far end of the park and some other buildings, and didn’t have time to try some of the experiences available at this entertaining and educational theme park. If you are just going for a half day you can get a discounted ticket for afternoon access only.
Highlights of Edo Wonderland Theme Park
- Costumes – for an additional cost you can be dressed in a edo period costume of your choice. On the day we visited there were patrons dressed as samurai, ninja, princesses and even court attendants.
- Shuriken – there is a shuriken salon near the center of the park where you can pay to throw shuriken (ninja stars) at targets. If your ninja stars hit the target you get a souvenir to take home. Depending on the number of shuriken you aim correctly, the choice of prize /souvenirs improves.
- Sembei – you can grill your own sembei for a small price. They have instructions in English printed out for foreigners to follow and the shop attendant also speaks enough English to direct you on how to do it.
- Shows / Performances – there are a number of different shows you can enjoy at Edo wonderland. Some of them re-enact life during the Edo period, others are remakes of shows that were available during the period. You can pick up a list of the shows at the reception area. They have an English version too.
- The Ninja Show – the undisputed top show at Edo Wonderland is the Ninja show. Actors perform a thrilling show depicting the journey of a ninja. Lights, smoke and other props are used to enhance the performance. This is one of the few shows that you cannot take photos of.
- Mizuge – this is a type of magic show with water that was performed in hot springs during the Edo period. In Edo Wonderland staff perform the highly entertaining show.
- A court trial – you can witness how they executed a trial in the Edo period.
- Geisha show – a stage performance where an acting Geisha hosts a “guest” demonstrating Geisha games, dance and song.
- A crooked house – I don’t know how they designed this quirky building to impact the way it does, but if you visit Edo Wonderland you must test your gravity by visiting the crooked house. Be warned: it can make you feel sea sick, if you are that way inclined!
- Challenging maze – I have tried a number of mazes in various parks in Japan, but this is the only one that really got me. I had to be directed out by one of my children after going around in circles, or rather rectangles, for half an hour.
- Ninja house – the ninja house isn’t particularly great. You will be in and out in 10 minutes. However, I mention it because if you are truly interested in ninja you will enjoy the secret passages.
- Samurai experience (for adults only) – even if you don’t dress up as a samurai you can still try a samurai experience where a trained professional shows you how to handle a sword. The staff dressed up in the park as samurai also carry swords and will show you theirs if you ask. The swords are not real, but they were designed to be the same length and weight of a real sword.
- Japanese archery (for adults only) – an archery master will show you to hold and shoot a Japanese bow and arrow. It is actually a lot more difficult than it looks!
- Food! – there are lots of different eateries and restaurants in the park. The cost is a little pricey, but you can try some truly quintessential Japanese delights.
This is just the highlights, there are lots more things to see and discover at this diverse Edo period theme park.
Despite my unwaning interest in Samurai, Shogun and Ninja, I was in Japan 14 years before I visited Edo Wonderland. Part of the reason for that is because I had failed to grasp what exactly this park has to offer. I was also put off by the price, but after being there realize it is worth every yennie, probably even more. But don’t just take it from me; my Japanese husband was unexpectedly impressed by the location, my four kids aged between 3 and 8 years old absolutely loved it and have been asking to go back, and my 19 year old cousin who was in Japan for sightseeing places it very high on her favorite touristy locations during her trip. You can also see all the excellent reviews on the Google Map at the bottom of the post. If you like quirky theme parks or dressing up or have an interest in the Edo period, Samurai, Shogun or Geisha… or particularly if you like getting your Ninja on: this park is a must for you!
Edo Wonderland Information
Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko City,
Karakura 470-2Phone: 0288-77-1777
Opening hours: Edo wonderland is open from 9 am to 5 pm from April to November and from 9.30 am to 4 pm during the winter months of December, January,
February and March.
Cost 2018: General admission is 4,700 yen per adult, 2,400 yen per child. If you enter after 2 pm (1 pm in the winter) the cost is 4,100 yen for an adult and 2,100 yen for a child. There are currently discount passes you can print off on their website. Please do see the official website for charges for groups, seniors and other up-to-date information:
Official English language website: http://edowonderland.net/en/
By public transport
By train Edo Wonderland is only about 2 hours from Tokyo. From the Tobu Asakusa Station you can take a direct train to Kinugawa-onsen station. From JR Shinjuku , Ikebukuro and Omiya (Saitama) stations you can also get a direct train to Kinugawa-onsen station. You can take a bus or taxi from the station directly to the theme park.If you are already in the Nikko area you can get a bus to the park. There is detailed information in English on their website, click here.
Take the Tohoku Expressway (Utsunomiya IC) to the Nikko Utsunomiya Toll Road. Exit at Imaichi IC (Imaichi / Kinugawa-Onsen Exit) and follow Japan National Route 121 towards Kinugawa-Onsen (approx. 15 minutes from Imaichi IC).
Alternatively, exit at Dozawa IC of the Nikko Utsunomiya Toll Road (Imaichi / Kinugawa-Onsen Exit) and proceed along the road for approximately 25 minutes.
For more day trip ideas please see the daytrip / drive category;
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