Thursday morning we woke up really early. We lounged around a bit, waiting for our designated breakfast time. Breakfast was kaiseki set menu, and very traditional Japanese. Rice, miso, grilled mackerel, pickles, tomagoyaki (omelette) and hojicha tea. I like Japanese breakfast, and this was very yummy. The yuzu juice accompaniment was particularly delicious. We then left our ryokan and jumped into our tiny car and drove down the very windy mountain. Our destination was Edo Wonderland, or Edo Mura in Japanese.
Edo is the original name for Tokyo, and the Edo Period is the time in Japanese history that was ruled by Shoguns, the Tokugawa clan. Tokugawa Ieyasu won the battle of Sekigahara and his family remained in power for more than two centuries. It was his grandson, Iemitsu, who closed Japan to foreigners. The Edo Period was 1603-1868, when the Samurai class were banned and the power in the country was restored to the Emperor.
Edo Wonderland is a large history theme park. I first saw it in a Japanese drama that I like and have wanted to go for several years. I was a little excited. Super Sake Boy was very tolerant. He is not a fan of dressing up, but was prepared to do whatever I wanted on this day. So….. we went first to the costume rental. This experience was interesting in itself. There was no handing over of a few shody garments. We were whisked into change rooms, and dressed, head to foot, by lovely women, crawling around on the floor, trussing us into our chosen attire. There were many choices of dress. Princess, Samurais, town’s people, merchants, farmers, oiran (like geisha), Shinsengumi (special police force) and even Halloween special costumes. What did we choose??? I had decided around 2 years before we got there. Super Sake Boy and I were dressed as RONIN. A ronin is an out of work, lordless samurai. During the Edo Period there were no wars and samurai, who had been retained by daimyo (lords) for protection were no longer financially viable. Many samurai became ronin, wondering the country, often drunk and biligerent, and still feared by many, with their swords and retained samurai status. I had a katana (sword) tucked into my hakama (cool samurai pants) and felt very much at home. Our only issue was that we were not sure if we couold go to the toilet. Neither of us were brave enough to try to work it out.
Edo Wonderland is a mix of experiences, such as the ninja house, shamisen playing, archery and other Edo past times. There were many places to eat. Lots of soba and yuba (a Nikko specialty- tofu skin) and places to drink sake and beer and lots of mochi and dango. (Glutinous rice desserts, that are not sweet, but very sticky). A large museum of technology from the Edo Period, a lot of which really surprised me. Some of the inventions were being crafted in Japan a hundred years or more before I would have guessed. There was a display about ninja food, nutrition and health. Again, this was interesting and surprising. The ninja of Iga were eating protein balls 300 years ago, or more. A jail and torture exhibition. Lots of crafts shops and performances. We saw the Oiran show. From Wikipedia-“Oiran were courtesans in Japan. The oiran were considered a type of yujo “woman of pleasure” or prostitute. However, they are distinguised from ordinary yujo in that they were entertainers, and many became celebrities even outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions often set trends and, because of this, cultural aspects of oiran traditions continue to be preserved”. This show was a bit slapstick, and in Japanese. So we understood a little of it, and despite the language barrier, it was still funny.
The other show we saw was the ninja show. There was little talking in this, but lots of acrobatics and lots of sword fighting. I really, really enjoyed this show. It was very cool. We had a very funny experience walking into the ninja theatre. We got there minutes before the show, and as we walked in lots of older, Japanese people started clapping. At first I thought we were late, but then we realised they were clapping us, and all saying “KAKOII”….. which means cool. One old man told me I looked beautiful It was pretty embarrassing. A group of school girls then decided they wanted to talk to us, in very limited English. It was very cute.
The staff at Edo Wonderland remain in character at all times. Every shop we walked past the staff would bow and greet us as “samurai-sama”. (Sama is like san only more respectful and formal). It was such a fun day. I am so glad we experienced it.
After the excitement of Edo Wooderland, it was back home to yet another kaiseki dinner. This one was a real struggle for Super Sake Boy, as it was a lot of fish. I discovered I like raw prawns, something I have avoided until now. We had a moderate serve of local Nikko sake, which was very delicious. We then went back to the room and Super Sake Boy passed out. I wrote, tooled around for a bit and then went to bed. A temple day in Nikko is bound to be a big day, and we wanted to squeeze a lot in….