All five of us woke up early in the morning, got ready quickly and checked out of the hotel. With all our luggage, we took the local train to our adventure of the day, and the next leg of our south bound trip: Datte Jidaimura in Noboribetsu. This place is a historic theme park highlighting the Edo Period! Needless to say, everyone was super excited. I think Noushka was happy because it’s a theme park, I was excited about the ninjas and samurais, and Thalia, Ditha and Aina can’t wait to see how the Japanese lived back in the days.
When we arrived, we realized that the train station had an uncanny character. Although it was tiny, it was really cool and felt like a remnant of the 1980’s. The graphics on the signage, the vending machines, all the Oni (demon) references as well as a giant stuffed bear at the entrance. A complete crash of aesthetics, but uniquely capturing the Japan I remembered as a child.
Noboribetsu is also known for their jigoku, which literal translation means “boiling hell”. In this case, though, it means they have many natural hot spring (hot spring = boiling hell…. get it?). People from all over Japan goes to Noboribetsu to enjoy their hot spring or onsen. It looks like if the town is known for their Jigoku, they will have Oni hanging around as a mascot… Beppu was like that, too…
And now, about the bears… There was this huge guy in the entrance of the station. And this was not our first time seeing stuffed bear like this in Hokkaido. There were a few other ones we saw while we were in Otaru. They were standing at the entrance of some shops.
Apparently, apart from their very fresh seafood, Hokkaido is also known for bears. The Ussuri brown bears, one of the largest bears in the world. They are quite dangerous and have killed many people in Hokkaido. So if you are going hiking, you might wanna check if the area is infested with these brown bears (called Higuma up here). No, really.
Anyways, back at the Noboribetsu station, we beat family of Russian tourists to claim a couple of locker spaces for our luggage. The lockers were limited because some were (we thought) out of order since there were signs on them. But interestingly, as we found out on our way back, the station was actually installing new and bigger lockers on that same day – hence the “do not use” signs for some of the lockers. I guess, for towns that is packed with tourists, big lockers to store large-sized suitcases are very important.
Then we took a taxi to the Datte Jidaimura theme park.
Everything at the theme park was made to look like how it used to in the historic Edo period. The attendants all wore traditional clothes. The stores and restaurants look like those in the samurai movies. It was pretty amazing.
First things first, ninja blow darts:
And of course, pictures with the Ninja:
And with Daigoro doing his thing… (I’m a big fan of Lone Wolf and Cub):
Then okonomiyaki and yakisoba for lunch, along with some mochi… There was nothing special about the food there. They are mostly catered for kids, I think.
Then, we decided to take a family photo in traditional Japanese costumes. It was a bit pricy, but absolutely worth every cent. Because there weren’t many people around, the attendant even let us take photos as we were getting dressed up.
Walking around the park, there were plenty of awesome photo spots with all of the traditional architectures around us. It was like walking around in the samurai movie. Actually, other than the Traditional Japanese Costume Family Picture above, they also rent out traditional Japanese costumes like the ninja outfit, yukata, and other samurai outfits for visitors so that they can walk around in this park wearing those Edo-period clothing. It looked fun, but we have spent too much on the picture, we decided to skip this one.
Then we went into a building which appeared to be a traditional Japanese side show, a vintage Haunted House.Very amusing indeed! Let me explain a little bit about ghosts in Japan. Some of these ghosts and monsters would seem strange to foreigners, and not scary at all. But there are also others that are pretty scary, even for adults, like the Yuki Onna or the Okiku ghost for example. Thankfully (for Aina), since this amusement park is probably targeted for primary school kids, we only found the less scary ones. Inside, we found mechanically operated dioramas of these folklore and classical Japanese ghosts. And the story of each individual scene was told through audio, triggered by our movement along the passage. For example, there was one that told a story of a ghost that’s shaped like an old wooden umbrella with a single big eye and a human foot wearing a wooden geta (sandal). Or a little boy monk with a single big eye when he turns his head around. Further down the dark path, we found the lady with a snake-like long neck. Apparently, she became that way because she waited endlessly for her husband who never came home. There was also the tanuki, or Japanese raccoon dog, which is believed to have magical powers and can turn into objects and even humans. And at the end of the ghost tour, we were surprised by a water-squirting Kappa, the mischievous mythical creature that resembles a cross between a turtle and a frog.
We came out of the Haunted House just in time for the Oiran Show. Unfortunately, (fortunately for the others watching) I was selected to perform on stage as part of the show. I was quickly dressed up in kimono (again) and given a few basic instructions written on the back of a fan that I had to carry. I had no idea what I was doing, I was only to follow the lead of this character called Ippachi as the story unfolded around me. No trainings, no rehearsals. Thank god it was a comedy show because apart from a few broken English words from Ippachi, everybody spoke Japanese during the show. And I think I only understood about 10% of it. My terrible regurgitation of the Japanese words I was made to say, only made the audience burst into laughter. In the end, I got to drink sake in the show too. So it all worked out perfectly as planned!
And if you want to watch me in action, here it is:
After the Oiran Show, we went to watch the Ninja Show. There was a lot of acrobatics and the typical ninja trap-door and slight of hands theatrics.
It was ok, nothing much compared to my previous brilliant performance. Ha!
Moving on to the last part of the amusement park, we walked through a maze of tiny alleys between Japanese houses, as though we were in a little village. Inside these houses, there were life size dioramas of the traditional Japanese occupations. Like an umbrella maker, a tattoo artist and a fish monger. I have to say, the human characters in these dioramas were extremely well made, each with a distinctive facial feature and expression.
In the afternoon, after spending the day in Japan’s past, we headed back to the train station by bus. After retreiving our luggage, we were off to our next destination, Lake Toya!
The rest of the photos are in the Date Jidaimura 2015 photo album.
Other entries of this trip is at Hokkaido Trip Summer 2015.