Friday, April 17, 2009 ;
11:30 AM
After Arashimaya, we took the bus to Uzumasa Eigamura. The neighbourhood is very much less touristy and the theme park is not by the main road, so we got to see a lot more local Kyoto citizens going about their daily life.

I must say, having been in Tianjin for almost a year, where service standards and courtesy is something we cannot take for granted, the natural politeness and helpfulness of people here is a big and welcome surprise to us.

Both boys fell asleep on the bus and we had to carry one each, plus bags. We could not refer to our maps and there were no signs so we had no idea how to get to the Uzumasa (also known as Toei MovieLand or Toei Studio Park).

We asked 2 schoolgirls who pointed us to the correct direction, then when we headed down that way, we asked a construction worker, who confirmed we were in the right path and gave us further directions that were very helpful. They all didn't speak English, they used a lot of gestures, and were always smiling and trying hard to understand us.

As we walked past the construction site, the person in charge of directing traffic there stopped all the traffic and let us pass through first. We were trying our best to walk quickly under the load of the kids' sleeping bodies since we were holding up the cars, but he told us to take our time (I presumed, from his body language and gestures).

When we got there, we were offered 2 strollers for free rental. Ahhh, finally Dh and I could rest our tired arms.

Compare this. In Beijing (I've not tried renting strollers in Tianjin because I have my own, so I don't know), I've had to pay a huge cash deposit before I can rent a stroller at Wangfujing. The deposit will be returned. At the Beijing zoo, they charge a fee per hour that is not cheap (cannot remember because I didn't want to rent and had just seen the sign as I passed by the rental area).

In Singapore, I've had different rentals before. At one mall, I had to leave a deposit of S$50 that was refundable. I've had to leave my identity card or some form of identification with the reception before borrowing the stroller. But I have not been charged fees before.

In Japan, at Fuji Daimaru and at the theme park, rentals were always a breeze. I just told them I needed a stroller (or 2!) and they'd appear with the stroller. I only needed to leave my name and contact no. When I told them my cell phone is not a Japanese-registered one, they said it's fine then, and just let me walk away with the strollers. Purely based on trust. No cards, no deposits. Wow. Maybe I look really innocent and incapable of crime.

We visited this theme park because of the Edo-period and Meiji-period style buildings. They have different sections that are modelled after different periods in Japan's history. They have a lot of info and interactive displays/ activities on samurai, ninja and cultural stuff too. Furthermore they have 3D shows and plays in the theatre that we thought the kids might like.

This is one part of the village.

A samurai show was starting soon, so we headed for the theatre. ds2 woke up first and enjoyed the whole show. ds1 slept through the noisy fighting, changes in lighting and loud music.

Here's one of the actresses. They really engaged the audience by jumping down from the 2nd storey, running throughout the theatre in the midst of the audience, acting below, above and on the stage etc.

A lot of lighting, sound and musical effects.

But all in Japanese. Surprisingly, Dh and I could get the gist of the story just from the acting. But there were quite a lot of jokes lost on us though. The rest of the audience would laugh their heads off, and the kids were practically shrieking with laughter and excitement while we didn't quite get why. Most of the visitors are Japanese, so I gather this is not a common stop for foreign tourists. But we still did enjoy it very much.

Outside the theatre, we saw a samurai and ds2 wanted to have a picture with him. Yet, he seemed scared or suspicious of the guy because he simply refused to look at the camera and had to keep eyeing the guy. He had his hands in his pockets throughout too.

Maybe he saw the other kids hugging and making poses with the samurai before his turn and he shoved his hands in his pockets to show that he was not keen to be that intimate with the warrior. haha

Then we passed by a shop that had a lot of wigs, accessories and costumes. Of course I was interested. :-)

Then I browsed the photos of various types of maiko, geiko, Japanese princesses, princes, ninja, samurai.... The girls no doubt look very cute but I had boys. And I noticed the boy pics are so fun too. Posing like a ninja or samurai seems so cool. So I asked ds2 if he would like to wear those fun things and be a warrior.

Sigh... he flatly refused and wouldn't change his mind despite me persuading him with various reasons. So ok, I'll try it myself.

I chose to try on a Japanese princess' kimono. The kimono was so beautiful! Unfortunately, I didn't like the awkward pose I had to keep and I think the resulting photo looked awful. Dh did not take the final photo, so I only have the studio's polaroid which I haven't scanned, hence it is not shown here. Dh took some of these photos which show the process of being dressed.

It was very fun though, and not expensive (can't recall now). Very fast as well, not like those packages that require make up and walking around.

Cherry trees in the park, and notice an automated ninja in the background? That ninja will keep pulling himself across the rope back and forth, hilarious!

These ladies could be those who bought the packages that allowed you to walk around with the kimonos and clogs, or they could be performers in the park. Whichever they are, they look so beautiful and elegant!

Even the little girls bought these packages, so fun! In the foreground there is a girl in red. In the background there is another in pink. The one in red should be maiko or geiko, the one in pink has a princess get-up.

Older women too, although Dh says this one may be a real one.

These 2 were such classical beauties!

Crossing the bridge. A lot of filming for Japanese movies and TV serials occur here. There was a sign beside this bridge that says the bridge plaque is left blank for the movie producer to place a name on, whatever that is appropriate for the movie.

Lovely quaint buildings with beautiful sakura.

Some young people- cosplay? Not sure. They do look like they are having a lot of fun though.

The kids saw a donkey and were so taken by it. From the man's gestures, it seemed we could feed the donkey and ride him. I thought the kids could ride the donkey around the village square so I paid. But, it was just to feed a plate of carrots and sit on the donkey for a while. Hmm, I felt a bit like an overpaying tourist then.

The kids enjoyed the feeding though. Somehow kids always get a thrill feeding animals, it's so funny to watch their faces as the donkey chomps the carrots down. N.B. at the last part, I shouted "no. no. no." because ds1 reached out to take a carrot from another dish (i.e. must pay for another set). I realised how uptight and nervous I sound and act when it comes to forking out more money, oh man!

A carriage for the royalty.

I found paying for these more worth it. This kind "grandpa" made different animals and cartoon characters from sugar and showed the kids every step. He even let them squeeze the air pump to inflate the animals or Doraemon figurine.

He couldn't speak any English either but we assumed he was asking the kids to pick an animal. ds1 chose his favourite "shark" and ds2 wanted a "snake", so he fashioned these for them too. I bought those. He made Doraemon and Dinosaur shapes too but I didn't buy those.

Not sure if you can catch it, but the air pump was the most fun to me. It inflates the whole sugar ball, so cute.

Then the kids wanted to play the ninja game too. They saw shurikens and both had 3 turns at throwing the metal pieces at target boards. They even got small prizes despite not hitting anything! haha.

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