April 17, 2007
by Chika Hisano; Shoko Fukuzakik
This is the only theme park in Japan where visitors can observe the filming of a movie or a TV period drama, and there are some outdoor film sets which are used for real filming and are open to the general public. You can walk freely around the film sets owned by Toei Kyoto Studios, the largest film studio in Japan, which include full-scale replicas of rows of houses and streets from the Edo period (1603-1867) and the Meiji period (1868-1912). The overall size of this extensive site is about 36,000㎡. Numerous movies and over 200 episodes of TV period dramas are shot here throughout the year, and there are also a lot of other attractions, for example, a Ninja/Samurai show and unique street performances. In brief, the Kyoto Studio Park is run pretty much along the same lines as Universal Studios in Hollywood, USA.
There used to be a lot of film studios in the Uzumasa area of Kyoto at one time, and this earned it the name of the “Hollywood of Japan.” In other words, it is fair to say, it was the birthplace of the Japanese movie. However, the movie industry fell into decline due to the advancement of television and a diversification in leisure activities, over a period of time. This studio park was built in Uzumasa in response to this by Toei Co. as a way of defending the traditions of the Japanese movie industry.
Movie Culture Hall
SFX Pool and Port Town
At this exhibit, the “Monster”, a strange, dinosaur like beast, which is the second biggest attraction in Kyoto Studio Park, can be found in its own large, special effects pool. This pool has a mechanism for making artificial rain and waves, which means the studio technicians can turn the pool into either a raging sea or a flowing river by simply pushing a few buttons.
Old style House and Edo Period Law Courts
Here, you can enter and see the inside of a Samurai style residence. There is an old-fashioned lavatory and bathroom at the rear, and also jail cells for criminals. Cruel execution scenes which were drawn for the movies are introduced, along with photographs, and you can even enter a jail cell and get a taste of what it was like to be a criminal.
These sets are called ‘open sets’, and only the exterior is used for shooting. Therefore, when you go inside a building you come out the other side almost immediately. Period dramas are usually filmed here, and there is a special “Attic Set” which is specifically used in ninja movies or dramas. Moreover, the acrobatic “Samurai Show” is performed in the center of the main street, along with the “Chambara Show”, a demonstration of Japanese style sword fighting. The program features two bad guys and one good guy and the three of them jokingly walk you through the basics of stick-fighting.
Although this bridge was specially built for filming, half of it is actually genuine. Simply by changing the name on its signpost, this bridge is magically transformed for the camera into any famous bridge in Japan. This bridge is currently named “Nihon Bridge”, the starting point of the Tokaido highway in the Edo period.
European-style buildings and structures from the Meiji Era can be seen here, and there is an old fashioned police box, post office, coffee shop and public telephone box, among others. In the telephone box, you can listen to the voices of historical movie or drama actors.
Location Studio “Moviemaking Secrets True/False”
This is a movie school set up to teach moviemaking tricks. There are three performers involved: a
director, a samurai and a villain. They demonstrate and explain, with a fair bit of humor, how a scene is developed, so it’s very funny as well as informative, and very easy to understand.
In Kyoto Studio Park, a row of houses from the Edo era has been reproduced. When you see actors walking down the Edo period street wearing samurai costumes, etc, you may feel as if you are slipping back in time to this exciting period in Japanese history. The “Historical Costume Disguise Corner”, will allow any person who wants to enjoy being transformed into a star of a samurai movie, for example, to do so. There are about 30 kinds of outfit to choose from such as geisha, lord, ninja or samurai, and you can walk around the Studio Park dressed like this if you wish.
A lot of elementary or high school students visit here as part of their school trip on weekdays, and a lot of families visit on weekends. Many foreigners visit, too, as this park is a good introduction to Japanese culture in a fun way. It is possible to enjoy this place even if you are not really interested in the historical aspects, so anyone from adult to child can spend a great time here at Kyoto Studio Park.
10 Higashi-Hachigaokacho, Uzumasa ,Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, 616-8586 (5 minutes walk from Uzumasa Station on the Keifuku Line,
or 10 minutes walk from Hanazono JR Station)
Opening days and times:
Everyday – Mar.-Nov: 9:00-17:00. Dec.-Feb: 9:30-16:00
Dec.25th – Dec.31st
Adult: ¥2,200 / Student:¥1,300 / Child:¥1,100