Ninjas, Samurai, ghosts,


Back with Japan Rail for ninjas, samurai, 360 degree 3d, a ghost house, the old bamboo a riverside walk – but no ‘romantic railway’ or ukai fishing (fishing with cormorants).
The Toei Kyoto Studio Park Samurai warriors had just started the sword-fighting action as we arrived.
It was well appreciated by an audience of Japanese school kids, especially when four of them were recruited for a sword play lesson.
The ninja show was all action stuff that you see in the films and the scary bad guy decided he should have a photograph taken with me.
Hope this doesn’t mean I have to become a ninja or yakuza or something of that ilk.
The studio park is a bit like Universal Studios in the US with loads of stuff that marks out Japanese films and anime.
An added extra was a recreation of a classroom from the Edo period in Japan – a bit like the Victorian schoolrooms at the Black Country Living Museum or Ironbridge.
It was obviously good because they only let kids in.
The Ghost House walk through seemed pretty much a walking version of Ghost Trains in the UK with gruesome models dead or dying in all sorts of nasty ways.
That was until the actors dressed as ghouls and ghosts started to leap out on us and chase us through the dimly lit corridors.
Good stuff. As was the 360 degree ninja show in which screaming skulls tried to bite your head off and a forest of arrows flew at your face.
Fortunately three ninja superheroes were on hand to defeat the dragons, skull-headed spiders and flying death stars which seemed determined to shoot up your nose.
The madness of manga and the beautiful colours and cuteness of anime were well represented alongside a photographic and film archive of all the great and the good from Japan’s film history.
Next stop up the JR line was
Saga Arayishiyama – quite appropriate with the Respect for the Aged national holiday coming up on Monday.
The walk to the river took in a marvellous bamboo grove where the closely packed bamboo provided shade from the 34C heat.
It was not enough for one beastie who thought it would burrow into my leg.
I caught it in time and dragged him out for a squashing.
While cleaning up the ensuing blood and applying after bite a kind lady stopped and presented a couple of plasters to keep the blood at bay.
Yet another example of the polite thoughtfulness we have come across on a daily basis.
A pleasant riverside walk to the boats ended in disappointment as they all required you to kneel for an hour on tatami mats for the trip to see how cormorants are used to get fish out of the river.
Dodgy knees can just about cope with five-a-side three times a week but not that.
Back at the station we found the narrow gauge railway’s last trip down the river gorge did not exist – except on special days.
Refusing to be defeated we jumped on the next train to Kameoka in the hope that boats with seats would be available there.
As we puzzled out a route to the river a commuter being picked up by his wife swept us into their smart car and down to the river.
When they found out the boats were no longer going out they did a quick reverse ferret to the station in time for us to catch the next train back to Arayishiyama and a double check on the boats with seats across the river.
They weren’t being used so back to Kyoto – with a couple of beer breaks.
Here the 11th floor above the station is home to Tonkatsu Waku.
Deep fried breaded pork cutlet with similarly cooked giant prawn and creamed crab went well with finely shredded cabbage, miso soup, rice, Japanese pickles, mayo and sweet and spicy sauces.
Like the noodle bar the night before, where you had eggs in front of you to break into your noodle broth and mix, there was D-I-Y with Tonkatsu.
This time you were presented with sesame seeds and a mortar and pestle to grind them up.
Once the right grind has been achieved you pour over the sauce of your choice to dip your food into.
Another new cooking style. Delicious result again.
Trying not fall into the ‘best place in the world’ syndrome you can easily acquire while enjoying a very good holiday.
The Japanese – like any nation, community or group – have their fair share of the mad, bad and the sad.
The Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway years ago, the yakuza gangsters, dodgy and corrupt politicians, businessmen and bankers do not make for a Goldilocks society.
Yesterday the Tokyo High Court confirmed the death sentence on Tomohiro Kato.
The 29-year-old drove into a crowd near Akihabara station, Tokyo, and then started a stabbing spree which left seven dead and ten injured.
However, despite the horrors which can happen anywhere the Japanese seem to have the art of kindness to strangers off pat.
The absence of litter, yob behaviour and sloppiness in all areas of life stands out.
Thoughtfulness extends to all areas.
Red and yellow lines down steps at stations show where you should carry your luggage/bags to avoid tripping people.
Very fine cooling sprays of water at car/coach parks in tourist areas
are refreshing in the heat.
At a Buddhist temple with 1,000 Buddha statues a model of one of the
Buddhas and another of the temple building were provided for partially sighted or blind people to get a feel for the temple they were visiting.
Tomorrow it’s up in the hills to
Nara to see a giant Buddha.
Before that another clash with the devil on earth – shopping.
At least the Japanese department stores have lots of bloke-parking spaces on each floor.

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