What happens to the sets of the fantastic old villages seen in samurai movies and dramas after the shooting has run its course? Apparently, in Yamagata they become a tourist attraction, and a surprisingly fun one at that!
Studio Sedic Open Set can be found on a small-ish patch of beautiful land in the far-reaches of Yamagata prefecture. It is gorgeous, but the winding roads make it a bit easy to get lost, even when you've found the entrance. We arrived during an early summer holiday weekend and found the place relatively deserted, due in some part to the overcast skies and threat of eventual rain.
The likelihood of our toddler causing a ruckus was high, but we charged ahead, eager to enjoy a pseudo-samurai-esque good time. Near the main gate, two small buildings sit astride the main road. We decided to enter the closest one where we found a massive taiko drum, the kind used in actual ancient towns to signal the townsfolk of major happenings, such as an attack or oncoming storm.
After we did our own signalling of the non-existent townsfolk, we returned to the main area to see about finding a bus. Sedic Open Stage is set up a little sporadically, probably to ensure enough distance between the village sets to appear more authentic. Because of this, most tourists take sightseeing buses connecting the points of interest.
Across from the main gate is the restaurant, offering a small menu of basic Japanese go-to food, such as curry and rice, ice cream, and ramen. From there, it's only a short walk to the main bus stop, and then you're on your way.
The drivers are very amiable, though English is in short supply. We lucked our way into an impromptu guided tour, courtesy of a very friendly young girl whose mother works on the premises. She showed us all the great sights for kids, including a giant room filled with old-fashioned toys.
It really was fun for the whole family. From here we walked through the rest of this village set then caught the bus to the next place.
One of the buildings in this area even allowed patrons to try their hand at using wooden katana-- on newspaper of course.
Some of the village sets also contained pictures of the cast, presumably from the final day of shooting, which lent an air of movie magic to the otherwise refreshingly rural setting.
Again, not much English, but the picture speaks for itself. Also, in this village set we found a (fake?) shrine.
There are a few really good interactive kid games, such as this massive cardboard box maze located in one of the "homes" on one of the village sets.
After touring each little village set, we found another bus stop and waited. The bus drivers were happy to relate any other points of interest on our way to the next stop. In the last village, we found the fanciest and most interactive of the sets, complete with a tiny wardrobe department.
Or you can ignore the whole costuming idea and pose as you are in the set rooms they have readily available for your photo op needs.
After this last village, we meandered back toward the entrance and enjoyed a short samurai-inspired costume play over lunch. Then it was time to say goodbye to our new friend and head out, but we will not soon forget the kindness of the people of Yamagata nor the great times we had at the Sedic Studios Open Set.