I'm continuing on with our Nikko trip recently. Despite the blah experience with Ayasa Hotel, our first day was not all lost with Takimibashi Suspension Bridge. The Nikko trip got much much better after that, thankfully, and our second day at Nikko Edomura - Edo Wonderland was nothing less than memorable and fun. You can read reviews of Nikko Edomura at TripAdvisor, or just click around on their English website I linked to in the previous sentence.
On a side note, while googling around for english information for Nikko Edomura I found yet a Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura, also called Edo Wonderland, very similar but is cheaper (admission is about half that of Nikko Edomura!) while seemingly much newer, larger, more detailed Edo theme park located in Hokkaido ^.^ See this website for detailed pictures of the Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura. Of course, getting to Hokkaido will cost an arm and a leg by itself, so if you're in Kanto, your best bet is Nikko Edomura.
Ticket booth at Nikko Edomura
Anyway, the entrance fee to Nikko Edomura is cut throat, around 5,000yen per person, but there is a much cheaper option available to foreign tourists - the Tobu Nikko Free Passes! That's right, if you're a tourist (or at least try looking foreign :P), you can get this awesome 2-day pass that will include roundtrip transportation (train and bus fares) to and from Nikko, and if you want, admission to Nikko Edomura or Tobu World Square or both, just pick among the 3 Kinugawa Theme Park options! The catch is that you would have to depart to Nikko from Asakusa Station (I think Tokyo Station is another option, but don't quote me), and the pass expires in 2 days. That means only one overnight stay in Nikko. If you stay for additional nights you'll have to pay for the trip back, which defeats the purpose of the pass. But otherwise the savings is great if you only stay for one night, considering admissions for Nikko Edomura is already 5,000yen and Tobu World Square is another 2,500yen, all on top of individual train and bus fares! If you're wondering, Tobu World Square is a large park featuring super detailed recreations of landmarks/Heritage Sites from all over the world, to scale of course. See pictures of Tobu World Square or read its Wikipedia page!
The first thing we did at Nikko Edomura was to get brunch, and of course it was Japanese food. I wasn't too thrilled about having tempura soba at 11:30AM but this place was the only one open at that time. Hubby loved it though, he can eat tempura soba three meals a day. Bleargh.
There is a reason I don't like tempura soba. I love fried food (fries!!!), but my stomach seems to hate tempura anything. Whenever I eat tempura I get nauseous with a terrible stomachache (minus Caocao's pursuit, thank goodness), I don't know why. Hubby thinks I'm somehow allergic to tempura and it hurts my stomach and makes me nauseous but that's about it. This time was not any different. I had a painful stomachache and was nauseous for a few hours after the meal but I endured both in the sweltering heat like a ninja ^.^
Yes, speaking of ninja, the first thing hubby and I went to see after brunch was the Ninja Kaikai Tei House of Illusion. I didn't make up this name, promise. It says so on the sign there ^.^ We had split up from my sister and her friends because they wanted to go dress up in Edo style cos-play, which I thought was totally insane. Not only it was crazily expensive, but more importantly considering the heat, layering on several additional thick layers of coarse cotton sounded more like an eighteen levels of hell torture experience rather than an Edo one. And even if they were similar, I wouldn't want to know anyway. Yes, I'm a killjoy, but at least a rational one :P
The Ninja House of Illusion was kick ass fun! It's basically a house built on a steep slope but the interior is made to look balanced to, well, throw off your balance ^.^
You'd first have to walk up a high slanted pathway to get to the entrance, the inside of which is totally tipsy turvy to confuse your sense of direction and angle and then boom, you forget you're standing on a slope once you're inside the main house.
Inside the main house, suddenly your body feels 100 lbs. heavier and when you stand upright, your body involuntarily tilt in a funny direction. After a couple of minute, you'll get incredibly dizzy. I was already nauseous thanks to the tempura, so being in there was like taking a roller coaster ride with a stomachache. In short, it was painful. And yet at the same time, it was rocking fun.
Hubby is actually standing upright, and trust me, it was not easy climbing up those few steps.
The back exit of the Ninja House of Illusion. Watch water running uphill in the house's yard ^.^ Yes, if you're standing right next to it, it really looks like water was running uphill. But move away to a further distance and you'll see that nature was just taking it's course. A very cool optical illusion via physics.
In my Takimibashi post, I mentioned that the pilgrimage to Nikko Edomura was my sister's "lifelong dream." She is a huge fan of the Shinsengumi, an unrepentant otaku, and a total riot. I salute her ninja-esque endurance of the heat while in costume. Trust me, having about 4 layers on top of her own clothes she was roasting the entire time but was still game. Apparently dressing up as Okita Souji, and an adorable chibi one at that, was worth the torture. Good for her, and me too, because I had such a blast playing photographer to her chibi Shinsengumi as well as K.'s Himura Kenshin and Y.'s ninja xD
Check out the Kenshin-ninja-Okita square off in front of the Ninja Museum LOL!!!
Phew...finally got away from that crazy chibi Shinsengumi!
As bitter enmity fills the air, will this be a battle to the death between Kenshin and Okita?
Don't you just wish all conflicts are resolved this way? ROFL
Extra, extra!!! Hot off the press! The forbidden bromance between Kenshin and Shinomori Aoshi! Extra, extra!!!
Actually, if you read enough manga, especially doujinshis, bromance pairings like this are actually no news at all ^.^
Shinomori Aoshi, you must die! Kenshin is mine and mine alone!!! xD
By the way, did I mention there will be a new Kenshin anime series, OVA, as well as a live-action film? I'm not too thrilled with the cast, namely Sato Takeru as Kenshin, but hell, it's Kenshin! Wahoo!!!
...And in front of a mini waterfall. This entire area is what they call the Photography Garden. Self explanatory, no?
There was also a small section of the Edo style town built solely for the purpose of photography. Apparently it is occasionally used as a set for period dramas and movies as well!
The showdown of the day was the Oiran Dochu, a ritualized parade as the oiran is escorted to her destination of the night along with an entourage of servants and geishas.
Check out those getas!
Samurais sending visitors to the exit doors ^.^
In all, Nikko Edomura was one of my best experiences in Japan, but only because of the fun company we had. If cos-play is not something you or your friends are into but you still want to get a sense what Edo Japan looked like, I would recommend skipping this theme park altogether head to Kyoto. If Kyoto's too far away or too expensive (it is very expensive...), Kawagoe of Saitama will do. At least hubby and I are definitely checking it out as we've been to Kyoto a couple of times already!