Transform into Samurai and Ninja!Facilities for Foreigners Increasing in Kyoto
Programs to dress up in samurai or ninja costumes have been gaining popularity among foreign tourists visiting Kyoto. This is due to the growing need for experiential tourism and the programs' high rating on travel review websites. Facilities dedicated to the programs have opened one after another in Kyoto City and they are booming.
"Samurai Kembu Theater" was opened two years ago in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, to offer programs to experience and view the traditional performing art of "Kembu," or sword dances. Participants are dressed in "Haori," or a half-coat kimono, and "Hakama," or skirt-like trousers, and a master and staff instruct them in English in forms of sword dances and how to handle a sword. A man from the United State who visited the theater with his seven family members said with a smile, "We enjoyed learning authentic dance forms and the costumes."
The program offers a full-fledged orientation which also explains the history of samurai and samurai culture. Despite its price set at 7,000 yen an hour, it is so popular that up to 50 people participate each day. Ouga Magari, the theater's representative and master of SEIGA Kembu School, expressed confidence, saying, "The theater is highly appreciated because people can experience Japan's unique culture there."
"NINJA DOJO and STORE" in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto was founded last May by Izo Ichikawa, who is said to have learned ninja arts of Iga and Koka schools, in order to disseminate the ninja arts. It is a straw-matted dojo with a hidden revolving door and other gimmicks. In addition to "Shuriken," or ninja star, and blowgun experiences, there are courses to learn the meditation of "Kuji-in," or nine-syllable mantra, ninja walking and martial arts using swords and weapons.
It has seen approximately 3,600 visitors over the past year. Izo said, "People who want to learn seriously, including the history and philosophy, and the spiritual side visit here."
There are also market entrants from other areas seeking to grasp the business opportunities. HI-partners Inc., based in Kita Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, produces promotional materials, such as foreign-language editions of brochures and websites. In October, it opened an experiential house of Japanese culture, "Ninja-Do," near Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto. Its appeal is the experience in a remodeled old folk house. The house is open for visitors from a wide variety of countries and regions with provisions such as prayer mats for Muslims.
According to analysis by Kyoto Convention & Visitors Bureau in Nakagyo Ward, "In addition to the shift in travel style from sightseeing to experiential tourism, the rating on the review website 'TripAdvisor' has led to its popularity, as many foreign tourists use the website."
"Samurai Kembu Theater" and "NINJA DOJO and STORE" are ranked highly on "TripAdvisor" and many glowing reviews have been posted. It seems that the boom in SNS, or social networking services, has also contributed to the popularity of samurai and ninja experiences, partly due to the awesome look of the photos when they are posted.(translated by Galileo, Inc.)