After some recent revisions to my plans, I realized this was my last full day in Kyoto. What’s a gal to do? One of my friends had this place saved in their Kyoto list. When I looked it up and saw a giant Eva, I had to go. So…
- Steps taken: 12,928
- Money spent: 18975円 | $140.42 USD
Table of contents
- Toei Kyoto Theme Park
- Dashing home
- Chanko-nabe pre-sumo tournament
- Surprise shopping
Toei Kyoto Theme Park
I took a late-morning bus that went directly from my area in Shimogyo ward to Ukyo ward, about 40 minutes. I had booked a ticket online that morning – I realized as the payment was being processed that it was for the next day, and I panicked, trying to cancel the transaction. I shouldn’t have been surprised: in my growing experience with ticket buying in Japan, same-day tickets online are typically not a thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop the transaction, but fortunately, when I looked at the email confirmation, I noticed that the ticket wasn’t actually for any particular day. Score! I hoped… As I approached the entrance, I saw the modest line of mostly families with kids for same-day physical tickets, and I hoped my theory for my advanced online ticket was true – indeed, it was! I easily bypassed the ticket line and walked in with my online ticket; I didn’t waste 2237円 after all, though it wouldn’t have been the worst thing to need another ticket.
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The first thing I saw walking into the theme park was a group of life-size Kamen Rider statues, staring at me in the face with their large insect helmet eyes. Even though I wasn’t a fan myself of the series, I thought they were so cool and brought out the kid in me. Farther ahead was an entire exhibit of Kamen Rider heroes, villains, and vehicles. Kids of all ages 🙂 were taking pictures of and with them. I snapped a lot of pictures myself and immediately sent them to my friend, who is a big fan of the series. I wished he were with me!
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Cheesy, kiddy, fun everything
After the exhibit was a Kamen Rider store, along with a modest collection of random anime figures and posters. I explored both, found a Kamen Rider gift for my friend, gave him and my partner a call, and then moved to the outdoor area of the theme park.
It was a hot and sunny spring day in Kyoto, and while there was a good crowd making a lively atmosphere, I would not call it crowded. The kids in the park were having a great time running around doing silly things. I had never been to a theme park like this before.
This first outdoor area was a gigantic replica of old towns in Japan. The overall effect was impressive, though going inside each building left much to be desired in terms of detail. Nonetheless, I enjoyed its kid-proofness and enoughness. The environment encouraged folks to cosplay in kimono, ninja, samurai, or other fun traditional Japanese outfits that you could rent in another part of the park to fully immerse themselves. There was even a small stream with those iconic Japanese red bridges going over them, koi swimming peacefully underneath.
In another part of this area was a replica of an old sea merchant town, and in the middle was a big square of water… where, every five minutes, a sea monster would pop its head out and roar! Even though the effect was incredibly cheesy, I got scared!
I then walked into a separate indoor area that had a ton of movie posters and information on various Japanese actors from history. There was also a small section on American, Korean, and Chinese film history. It felt like a permanent exhibit that was constructed 30 years ago and had never been updated 😆 but it was neat to wander through.
Close to the movie exhibit was another indoor section devoted to generic souvenirs for Japan, Kyoto, or various anime and video games. What I was most excited about was a specific section to Neon Genesis Evangelion, probably because of the Eva Kyoto Base stationed here, I got myself a carabiner and snuck in a picture of this really cool Asuka-styled samurai sword. I watched another pair of customers draw from a lottery and get the coolest, rarest prize of the day, which was a big Eva unit model. I was happy for them! And glad I didn’t get it since that would take up so much luggage space.
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The worst best food I’ve had in Japan
The theme park had a lot of food that kids would like – ice cream, traditional Japanese comfort food like curry, croquette, and tempura, along with Western french fries, hot dogs, etc. Many of these were from food stands or small restaurants, and a few were from some, in my opinion, very loosely-related Evangelion-themed cafes.
I got pretty hungry at 1 p.m., so I got myself some fries and a croquette for 1,210円, then an ice cream cone for dessert at ４５０円. It was the worst food I’ve had in Japan, but I loved it. The fries and croquette were lukewarm, and the ice cream was somehow really bland! But I enjoyed eating this kiddie food, surrounded by kids having a fun day at this low-key theme park.
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Giant Eva Unit 01
In a separate outdoor area from the old town stuff were some of the special attractions you had to pay extra to experience, or else get an added unlimited use pass on top of your base admission ticket. It seemed most of them were catered towards young kids only, but the one that attracted the “older” kids like me was the big Eva Unit 01! I actually didn’t know what the line was for going up the Eva – I assumed it was a ride. The first part had almost no line – a staff person takes a picture of you several feet in front of the Eva, then hands you an Eva-themed business card with a QR code on it. I later realized this code was tied to the picture that was taken of me, and it was the key to the rest of my experience with the giant Eva. I was informed to then go along this path into the Eva itself, where I found a much longer line that would supposedly taken 30 minutes to get through. I didn’t mind, I was in no rush, and I was just hyper happy being in such a cool yet simple Eva-themed environment. Along the walls were simple interactive activities that either involved you scanning with your phone and QR code, or little trivia questions about the anime series.
When I got to the top, I figured out that the line was to have your picture taken in the Eva pilot seat. Before the automatic camera goes off, you experience a maybe 30-second voiceover (and video? I forget) of Eva characters asking if you’re ready and then having your Eva launch with you as the pilot. By the time I realized what was happening, I forgot to take off my N95 mask and sunglasses! So unfortunately my picture in the pilot seat had me with those on. Was that wait worth it? Probably not, haha, but I would’ve regretted not doing it, and this was the whole reason I was at Toei theme park in the first place!
After that very quick experience, I walked down the metal steps to the ground floor – and on the way, I scanned my QR code into a machine that told me my Eva pilot compatibility score. It was a pretty paltry 30%.... But later on, a friend told me that meant I must be too emotionally stable :) so I’ll take that.
At the very bottom were some neat sculptures of a few famous Eva angel adversaries, along with a headbust of Unit 01. Beyond that was the last photo opportunity tied with your QR code, which involves you standing on and in the Eva’s palm of their hand.
I went to the photo booth to look at and purchase my print photos. They were 2500円 for everything, including some neat digital border designs and a kitschy photo album I could put them in (though I ended up throwing that out).
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Ninja laser experience
After this, it was already about 3 p.m. I wandered around the rest of the park, checking to see if I missed anything. I noticed that there were two shows playing at various times – one was some funny ninja show and the other I don’t remember. I tried to catch one of them but lost track of time while exploring. I also found some other extra-pay experiences, like a fun house where you could take silly instagrammable pictures. I opted out of that since it didn’t seem worth it for me.
Just outside the movie exhibit was a laser ninja experience thing where you could pay 500円 to go through some silly ninja-like obstacles and climax with a (in my opinion) really hard laser puzzle. Laser lines were scattered in a room as a booby trap, like in those movies – and you had to avoid the lasers to cover some colored light circles on the walls. There was a group of one adult and three kids ahead of me who succeeded! And me, alone, a grown adult, I utterly failed. But it was fun enough!
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It was a bit past 4 p.m. when I finally exited the park. Things were starting to shut down anyway as the park closed at 5 p.m. I waited for my bus back to my area, though it was unusually late – at least 15 minutes. I was almost two blocks away, walking towards a train station as an alternative way back, when I saw the bus coming! I sprinted back to the bus stop, and I gratefully noticed the bus driver waited for me to arrive and get on. It was unfortunately quite full (which made sense since it was late), and I had to stand for a somewhat grueling 40+ minutes on this crowded bus when I was already tired from the theme park and last-minute sprint.
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Chanko-nabe pre-sumo tournament
I originally tried to get into the famous KichiKichi Omurice restaurant, especially since today was my last day alone in Kyoto, but unsurprisingly when I arrived at around 5:45 p.m., there was a sign that said they were full for the whole night. I looked up alternative food options in the area. I found a sushi place that was supposed to be good, so I started walking in that direction. But on the way, I came across this chanko-nabe restaurant…. It caught my eye as I knew chanko-nabe was the meal that rikishi (often translated as “sumo wrestlers”, but supposedly Japanese folks don’t like “wrestler” as a translation, I will just use rikishi) eat before sumo tournaments. And… tomorrow my plan was to go to the opening day of the Osaka Spring Grand Sumo Tournament! I verified on Google that this restaurant had good reviews, and I bravely walked in. It seemed they were hesitant to let me in because they already had reservations for other tables, but they allowed me. (I’ve been lucky in many other similar cases as a solo diner who speaks some Japanese.) As the waitress was preparing my chanko-nabe, I told her of my interest in it because of the tournament tomorrow, and she politely acknowledged my statement.
I felt a little embarrassed, yet quietly and slowly ate through my rather large meal – it is for rikishi, after all! It was the only meal in Japan so far that I haven’t finished… Part of it was it was just too much in volume for me to finish, and part of it was I didn’t like the dark chicken meat. 🙁
As I was eating, I read about how chanko-nabe is full of protein – animal and plant – and traditionally does not contain anything from animals with four legs, as it’s considered bad luck. You instead want animals with two legs, like chicken, because a rikishi wins matches by strongly planting themself on two feet. This explained all the chicken, tofu, and bean sprout protein I was struggling to fit into my belly.
As I sheepishly asked for the bill, ashamed that I couldn’t finish everything, and walked out of the restaurant, the owner (or owner’s wife) told me she hoped I enjoyed the tournament tomorrow. I was happy to know my little story actually mattered to them! And they didn’t seem to take it against me that I couldn’t finish a rikishi’s meal, heh. I later learned the restaurant was owned by a former rikishi.
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Done with buses for the day, I decided to walk back to my hostel. On the way my eye caught a several-story shopping building with Pokemon, Snoopy, Sumikkogurashi, and Rilakkuma stores! I bought something from each store...
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See the rest of my posts about Japan 2023.