Kyoto Part I – Arrival and Toei Kyoto Studio Park (‎東映太秦映画村)

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So, at about the halfway mark through the program, we had a week-long trip to Kyoto! Kyoto is about 2 hours from Himeji via the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), and is seen as the cultural capital of the Kansai region. Kyoto was once the capital of Japan, so it is filled with amazing historical landmarks, including many, many temples and shrines! One week is not even close to enough time to explore all of Kyoto. However, I knew I wanted to do my best to see as much as possible while I was there.

As mentioned above, we took the Shinkansen from Himeji to Kyoto. It was a bit of an adventure getting there with all of our luggage. From Kyoto-Eki (the central train station, where the bullet train connects), we took another train to the stop nearest our new temporary home university, Doshisha University(同志社大学). From there we made our way to the keishikan (継志館) our dormitory building.

The first thing we all did was to rejoice at the VASTNESS of the keishikan rooms! Look at all that space!! Not to say that by this point I hadn’t grown to adore my tiny Floral Inn room in Himeji. I didn’t know what to do with all of the space in my new, temporary keishikan room.

After dropping our things off in our rooms, we had a big meeting where we were briefed on the rules & regulations of the keishikan, familiarized with the new schedule for our week in Kyoto (which was designed to give us extra time for exploration!), and then we met our new Doshisha language buddies! I was paired with an amazing girl named Mayu. But more about Mayu & I’s adventures will follow in later posts!

Some extra photos of the nice little neighborhoods around the Doshisha area.

The next morning, we set off to visit the Toei Kyoto Studio Park (東映太秦映画村). For those of you unfamiliar with the Toei Company, it is a massive producer of Japanese films and television, and it’s been around for quite a while. They have extensive studios set up in both Tokyo and Kyoto where they film everything from feudal-era period pieces to shows set in contemporary Japan. Before entering the park, we actually got a special tour of some restricted areas, including sets where some popular TV shows are currently being shot! It was lots of fun seeing the variety of sets.

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Here’s the logo. Maybe a little familiar?

Snooping around the sets!

Uh oh. What’s Okuda-sensei getting up to?!

Sensei-gata having a little too much fun pretending to be super strong with some fake foam rocks. Haha!

After seeing a bunch of sets, we got to go into some of the prop shops, and even the costume and makeup area!

An actor doing some feudal-era hair, costume and makeup!

They let some students and teachers try on some of the feudal-era hair pieces. Lookin’ good!

After the tour, we finally entered the Studio Park. It’s a park entirely decorated to look like pre-modern Japan. If you noticed in earlier pictures, some of the CLS students decided to wear their yukata and jinbei in order to take some snazzy pictures inside, against the backdrop of traditional wooden Japanese buildings. There are little food stalls, games, and even some performances and exhibitions inside of the Studio Park.

Sensei-gata, ninja-style!

Beyond the traditional areas of the Studio Park, there was a building with a Dragon Ball Z exhibition (!!!) as well as a small museum of the various anime that Toei has produced over the years. My inner nerd (as well as Aki and Dylan’s) could not resist exploring.

You have to admit this is super cool!! There was also an amazing kame-hame-ha simulator machine, where if you stood in front of it and did “the pose” (true DBZ fans will know what I mean), the computer would sense where your hands were and shoot lasers on the screen. It was way cooler in person than in my lame description, I assure you!

The animation museum was also pretty neat. Aside from hundreds of posters and figurines, there were also many animation cells on display and also a little video showing the process of animation.

Finally, the last thing we did in the studio park was visit a little Art Museum where they had reproductions of some very famous ukiyo-e prints on display. Even if you’re not familiar with ukiyo-e (wood block prints, or the direct translation, “pictures of the floating world”), you’ll probably recognize some of the images below!

The museum was pretty great and had a lot of famous pieces, as well as a video on display showing a master going through the process of creating a woodblock print. I was totally geeking out over this stuff – I love Japanese prints.

Well, after the conclusion of our Studio Park adventures, Dylan, Aki and I decided to sneak out and eat at a little place outside of the park, since food inside was way too expensive. It ended up paying off, and I had some seriously delicious curry udon for lunch.

Well, although this post has been very long – the day didn’t end there! Look forward to the next post, with afternoon adventures in Arashiyama with a big groups of CLS friends. 🙂

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