Well, my one month summer vacation finally started. Hooray!! If you thought summer vacation was great as a student, try summer vacation as a teacher. I have to say, I was feeling a little worn down toward the end there.
Saturday saw me head to Tochigi-ken once again with Yuri, Kentaro, Sayaka and Hide. My Japanese has been very weak for the last month and a half, probably because I have been so tired, but being on a trip with all Japanese speakers and without school to worry about on Monday, my Japanese came back with a vengeance. And it is a good thing it did, because the place we were going was Nikko Edo Mura, a.k.a. Edo Wonderland.
Let me tell you a little story about Japan. This story is about the bubble. In the 1980's and early 1990's Japan was on top of the world. There was tons of money to be spent. Or at least that is what people thought. And that money got spent and mis-spent by private organizations and city governments. Well, the Japanese economy shrank, and now there is billions of dollars worth of poorly thought out, half-finished, or unmaintained stuff all over the country as a result of this expansion and subsequent contraction. One of the things that got built literally all over the country during the bubble was theme parks. Almost every city you go to has a theme park. Shibukawa has one, and Shibukawa only has 85,000 people. Lots of these theme parks went out of business. Some are still around. One of these is Nikko Edo Mura.
Nikko Edo Mura is a medieval Japan themed park where actors run around dressed as people from that period. We were greeted by a rough looking samurai that promptly drew a real looking sword and started slashing at us. In a sense it is like those places in the US where volunteers dress up like they are from the old west and walk around town, except these actors were paid. Now, I had been under the impression that we were going to Nikko to see the tomb of Tokugawa Ieyasu. If I had understood before we went that we would be skipping a trip to the tomb, a World Heritage site and one of the most famous places in Japan, and instead paying $40 to go to a fake Japanese village where actors pretended to be samurai, ninja and geisha, I would have passed. But I'm glad I didn't. While historically inaccurate, fake looking and dilapidated, Nikko Edo Mura has a world class crew of actors. It is better cast than any movie, TV show or play that I have ever seen.
(I have no idea why the rest is underlined. Sorry, Blogger still has some issues.)
Nikko Edo Mura is basically a series of plays that you go and watch. All are based on history, but liberally stretch historical fact in order to make the experience more enjoyable. For example, in the first play, one about the old Red Light district in Tokyo, one of the actors came out on stage and asked for a volunteer to be the customer. In Japan, no one volunteers. So then he said whoever met his gaze would be selected. I thought he said whoever didn't meet his gaze would be selected, so I stared right at his as hard as I could and before I knew it I was up on stage as the customer. And looking quite terrified as I had only a vague idea what he was saying (they sometimes use very old words at Nikko Edo Mura, and if I haven't ever heard it before I don't have much of a chance of understanding).
Well, he put an awful hat on me, told me my one line, which translated as "What the hell is this!!?" and told me to look rich and grunt a lot. Done and done. Hard to keep in character though when the women dressed as a geshia starts to ask you questions and expects a response.
At those times I just tried not to smile and grunted.
Our group and the cast.
This was the next play. Hilarious. The story was the Shogun needed a body double, and the only look alike was this Kabuki actor, who was very hard to teach manners to. The old man in the back fell down in exasperation every time the actor said something outrageous. So every other line.
This is one of the haunted houses (there were three haunted houses at Nikko Edo Mura, and they really were the weak point of the experience).
This is another.
Here is the live combat show. Very, very, very well done.
As you can see.
And here is the villain of the Ninja show holding me hostage.
Me in the Ninja house.
This is the part of Nikko Edo Mura that they occasionally use to film movies and commercials. Rather dilapidated, sadly.
And the final play, "Playboy Kin". Absolutely hilarious.
At the beginning of every play the actors handed out white sheets of paper, then in the middle they explained that these sheets of paper were for wrapping money in to throw at the actors. Which we all did with relish at the end. Here is the closing ceremony. Maybe half of the staff of the park assembled to see us off.
Everybody at Nikko Edo Mura seemed to be trying their absolute best to make sure the guests had a good time so that we would tell our friends and they would stay afloat. Even this really strange mascot.
Unfortunately, Nikko Edo Mura is one of those places that has no appeal if you don't speak Japanese. There is no English in the park.
As a parting shot, this how cheap Japan can be in the countryside. Whole cabbages for 8 cents.
I guess no one wants white produce.