Got nothing to do on weekends? Do your kids keep bugging you to take them somewhere? Then the renewed Warpstation Edo could be the perfect place for you and your family, friends, and guests!! For those who've never heard of it, it's a historical theme park located in Ina, the town adjacent to the southern part of Tsukuba, which is only about 30 minutes from the Tsukuba Center Bus Terminal area.
Warpstation Edo is like "Edo Wonderland" in Nikko and the "Eigamura" (movie studio park) in Kyoto, but the size of its operation is much smaller that its counterparts. As its name suggests, the park is based on the culture and history of the Edo Period, which is from 1603 to 1867 A.D. Many TV dramas and major films such as Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi" were shot there. The film sets have already been taken down, but there's one set that's always open to the public when it's not being used for a certain drama or film. When I visited the park in July, a group of people, probably amateurs, happened to be there filming something while the other visitors were walking around the set. You can see the posters and photographs of movies and TV dramas filmed there in the Exhibition Hall inside the Park.
Among other attractions in Warpstation Edo are the House of Sounds, where visitors can experience the sounds from everyday life in Edo, and the House of Ukiyo-e, where a brief history of Ukiyo-e (a kind of traditional art) is on display. Most of the exhibits require a lot of reading of explanation signs and can be very difficult, but the Erekitaru Tanken Kan, or the House of Electric Barrel Adventure, is pure entertainment for anyone. It's an 8-minute ride in the motif of a submarine created by a famous inventor of the Edo Period, Gennai Hiraga, and costs only 100 yen per person. Kids love it, but please note that holding your kids on your lap will not be allowed because the ride gets very bouncy. It was a nice surprise to see that ride back in operation, because I couldn't get on it during my last visit since it was and had been out of order for quite some time.
The Warpstation Edo has been struggling financially since its opening in the Spring of 2000, as it had filed for court protection back in 2002. So closing down of some attractions (again!) is just one of the latest actions taken by the Park to keep it in business. I was very disappointed to learn that the short Japanese historical play by a small troupe of local actors in the re-created traditional shibai-goya, (or a playhouse) was another attraction that's been cut.
The changes made to the Warpstation Edo weren't necessarily for the better, but I daresay that reducing its admissions was the best thing the Warpstation Edo has ever done! They used to charge a whopping 1400 yen per adult and 700 yen per child, and so I paid 1400 yen just to get in and additional 300 yen to enter each attraction (and there were about 5 of them!) when I visited the Park for the first time last year. Besides, I had to multiply that amount by 2, since I didn't go there alone. I later told my friends that I ended up spending more money than I did at Disneyland! Well, the new admission fees, starting this April, are 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for kids up to the age of 9th graders. You can get group rates by printing out a coupon off the website, and if you are a member of JAF (Japanese Automobile Federation), you get even better discounts by showing your membership card at the ticket counter!
A new round of changes that the Park has made seems to be working, because there were quite a few visitors, including a bunch of "cosplay" girls! The Warpstation Edo now hosts several "cosplay" events a year, so it's becoming a popular spot for those who enjoy dressing up in anime or other famous figures and for those who love taking pictures of "cosplayers." It's a big change considering that I only saw a handful of visitors on a weather/picture-perfect Saturday afternoon last year. The next cosplay festival will be on Sunday, September 11, or please check their website for the latest events.
The Park also has quizzes for kids posted in various attractions now. The kids are to hunt for quizzes and write down the answers on paper they get at the ticket counter. What's even more fun is that kids will receive a prize or two when they turn in their answer sheet! I felt that the renewed Warpstation.
Edo has become more family-oriented, not to mention it becoming more accessible budget-wise. I think this would be a nice place to stroll around or have a picnic, like many people already do in places like the Tsukuba Botanical Garden and the Expo Center.
The Warpstation Edo is open from 9:30AM to 5PM during the summer season, which is from April to October and to 4PM during the winter, and it's closed on Mondays. It's very easy to get there from Tsukuba. From Route 354, turn left (south) at the intersection of Route 354 and Route 19, a.k.a. Science Odori and you pretty much just need to stay on that road! Route 19 will branch off from the road you are on, but don't make a turn anywhere. You'll soon get to the Higashi Itabashi intersection, and you'll see Warpstation Edo's big sign. Just keep going straight, and you'll see the Park after turning left when you hit the T intersection. Their website is http://www.wsedo.co.jp.
If you have time, Itabashi Fudoin, a prefecturally designated cultural property, would be a nice place to stop by on the way. Turn left, if you are on your way back to Tsukuba, at the Higashi Itabashi intersection, and you'll see a three-storied pagoda in a few minutes. You won't miss it!