To those who are Japanese fanatics, I bet you must have watched Japanese historical drama before. But have you ever wondered what life was like in the past? Have you ever wished to live in that time? If so, why not come and visit Edo Wonderland, a cultural theme park that features the Edo Period?
The Edo Period is the period between 1603 to 1868 in the history of Japan when the Japanese society was under the rule of Tokugawa Shogunate. It is characterized by rapid economic growth, strict social order, isolation of foreign policies and self-sufficiency. It is considered one of the national golden periods as life was affluent and stable, there were dozens of unique entertainment created (including shibaraku – a form of kabuki) and a poetic meter for music called Kinsei kayo “近世歌謡” was developed and is still used in some of today’s folk songs.
Edo Wonderland is located in the Kinugawa Onsen area of Nikko, Tochigi and takes around 2 hours by train from Tokyo. Its designs are based on the Edo period’s golden era, known as Genroku. It hosts a wide variety of period buildings, ranging from rural village houses to urban samurai residences and government agencies. The park is populated by staff dressed in the various period attire of people from different social classes and speak and behave like the people of that time. Therefore, you will see a variety of samurai, ninja, merchants, peasants or even princesses there. Also, to make your experience even more memorable, you can even dress as one of them too by renting your chosen period costume in the shop near the gate entrance.
Live shows are held at various theatres around town every day, including traditional water magic, comedy, romance, comic shows and the most popular Grand Ninja Theater, where exciting music, martial arts, and swords are used. Apart from these, what makes the park look even more like a town in the Edo period is that various incidents will occur without any notification. Assassinations, stealing, fire alarms and Oiran (courtesans in Japan) shows take place from time to time.
Visitors are treated to a spontaneous live show, where you may see ‘policemen’ running out from different edges to catch the criminals. Also, children (only) can even be treated to becoming one of them by joining the Okappiki（岡引） police experience, holding hooked truncheon in hands and patrolling along the streets. Once the thief or assassin shows up, you can chase after them and yell ‘Go-yo da, Go-yo da（御用だ御用だ）’ like the police of the Edo period. However, if your children prefer standing up for justice in the dark, you can take them to a samurai or ninja experience instead.
The buildings are also worth exploring since there are many secrets hidden within them. For example, the blacksmith and armor repair shop there are replica storefronts, with staff dressed like craftsmen, demonstrating what work was like in that time. The Ninja Trick Maze（忍者からくり格言迷路） is a human sized labyrinth that is extremely hard to escape. Also, anyone that is courageous enough should definitely visit the Jigoku Temple（地獄寺）, where it is believed to be occupied by creepy unknown laughter and ghosts. But among all, the Kodenmacho Jail House（小伝馬町牢屋敷） and Kira-Kozukenosuke Residence（吉良上野介邸） gets most of my attention, they display grisly scenes of prison life, torture and battle. So, if gruesome scenes make your stomach turn, be sure to visit them with friends and family!
- 9.00 – 17.00 (mid March to November)
- 9.30 – 16.00 (December to mid March)
- Closed on Wednesday
- 4,700 yen for adult and 2,400 yen for child
- 4,100 yen for adult and 2,100 yen for child after 14.00 in summer or 13.00 in winter