What does one do on their birthday if on tour in Japan? Why, go to a film studio theme park and watch a live ninja show of course!
The studio is a real one, Toei, and is still making productions there, I think mainly for TV these days. But it’s a name I’ve been familiar with for years through yakuza and samurai movies so it was cool to go visit.
First stop inside was a twist on the fairground favourite, the-hit-something-with-this-thing-and-win-a-piece-of-crap stall. But instead of just throwing a ball at a target, at Toei you get to throw shurikens. Yes, ninja death stars as the British tabloids like to call em. Shurikens are illegal in the UK, classiffied as offenisve weapons. But in Japan you chuck em at a theme park. Love it. I was pretty good at throwing them (mispent youth and all) and won a prize. No, not a cheap stuffed toy with sharp wires sticking out but something that looked like a large cardboard fan. I was told it was to hit people on the head with. Marvellous.
Then, we arrived just in time for the live ninja show. A sit down affair that could have gone panto but did deliver the goods with good lighting, stirring music and enthusiastically sumersaulting ninjas and cackling, sword-wielding she-devils. In the pic below, at the front of the stage is a small trampoline they used for catapulting onto stage. They also did some classic falls from the balcony onto mats and ran through the audience.
There was a narrative going on and despite it being spoken in Japanese I could follow the basic gist – hero dude had to fight off low level ninjas, then their boss woman, then some more ninjas, then get to the evil Shogun. The demonic Shogun appeared on the balcony, head down, face covered in long grey locks, holding a staff and speaking in classic Japanese bad guy voice as lightening struck around him. He eventually came down to the front of the stage to deliver a monologue and then started spooking some people in the audience. He went up to one woman who was on her own and she was really scared and then just as he reached out to grab her he lifted his hair from his face, stood up straight, lights come on and he went into some Vegas style light entertainer mode!
Quite bizarre to see this evil Shogun suddenly bust out the Hi-where-you-from-folks? material. It went on a bit, no idea what was said but it was amusing when he introduced 3 tourist girls who had agreed to dress up as ninjas for the day. Those outfits looked fun, though the girls seemed a bit sheepish about it.
It ended with all the bad guys defeated and the hero going off into the sunset, though the spirit of the shogun hung about for one last cackle of course. Good effort by all the cast. Those ninjas were running about with swords and flying off the balcony coming perilously close to the public. They clearly haven’t read the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974.