Japan's Theme Parks
From the modern to the historical, Japan's Theme Parks offer a variety of activities.
For visitors and long-term residents alike who may be looking for an interesting-and uniquely Japanese-way to spend a day, a good choice is one of Japan`s theme parks. These places offer a range of attractions under one roof (unless they are outdoors of course), and have something for the whole family. There are too many to cover in detail in this article, but hopefully it will give an overview of what to look for.
The first is Sanrio Puroland, located about 30 minutes from Tokyo. Sanrio is the company behind the iconic Hello Kitty brand, and the feline star is the most prominent-though not the only-character. This park has the additional benefit of being indoors, so it is accessible in all weather. There are full day and half-day tours.
Puroland is very much family-oriented. There is a buffet restaurant with lots of kid-friendly foods and plenty of desserts, several gift shops with very reasonably priced goods. There is even a movie-filmed in `Lady Kitty House`,-which can be seen on youtube: www.puroland.jp/sanriotown/movie.html
Many people visit Nikko for the historical sights, and leave without visiting a very interesting historical recreation indeed-Nikko Edo Village. There is a shuttle bus which runs from Nikko station. This park is located in a hilly area, and water from a local spring is available for drinking and is used in the very delicious broth for ramen and udon noodles at the restaurants.
This park has a service which allows visitors to transform into an Edo period character themselves-a ninja, or oiran-also known as geisha. There are also live action performances. Some are more comedic and others focus around dramatically staged battles. For children there is a chance to try making various crafts of the era. There is a swordsmithing exhibit, which shows how Japan`s famous katanas are forged There are games of skill including archery and ninja throwing stars. There are also special events on Japanese holidays, such as the Hina Doll festival in March.
Going further afield, those residing or traveling in the Kyoto area can visit the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. Toei Studio makes many of the Jidaigeki (period dramas) and movies which Japan is known for. This park also offers a chance to rent a costume and become one of about 30 different characters. There is also a photo service to capture the experience. The restaurants and shops are themed around various Toei productions, and also feature local Kyoto dishes.
Finally, Meiji Village is located in Inuyama, about one hour from Nagoya. Over 60 Meiji era buildings have been preserved including the front entrance hall of Tokyo`s old Imperial Hotel. Some buildings have been converted to shops or cafes.
This park is located in a wooded area with lots of fresh air and sunshine. There is a bus which runs the length of the village, as well as a tram and steam locomotive. A minimum of half a day is recommended for this park.
Generally, theme parks do not keep late hours. Expect them to close by 5 or 6 p.m. and even earlier in the colder months. An early start will help ensure that nothing is missed.
Theme parks have lots to offer for individuals, groups or families. Choose a theme of interest and have fun!