Samurai Tour in the Matrix ; Traditional Samurai Tour experience with a technological twist
A brand new place in Asakusa is offering the chance to wear traditional Japanese armor for a Samurai tour, while also using modern technology to enhance the picture taking experience. 20 cameras around the room are used to take a 360 degree video and picture of the freshly clad new samurai warriors.
“Be a Samurai in Asakusa”
For visitors of Tokyo, it has become a popular trend to dress up in summer Kimonos, called Yukata, while browsing the streets of Asakusa. Waza, a brand new etablissement in Asakusa is giving this trend a new and exciting twist.
Samurai armor, often featured in famous movies from Japan but also Hollywood, is rich with the culture of the old Japan. As lover of Samurai movies I did not want to miss this samurai dress-up experience and booked my appointment.
WAZA 和坐 Asakusa
Waza is located near the exit of A2 of Asakusa Station. Google maps will however pointed me to the knife shop next to Waza. I kept walking on and saw a traditional looking building with the big Japanese letters of WAZA 和坐.
Upon entering I was greeted by two friendly young asian girls. One of them, Dorothy became my companion for the experience. She is fluent in Japanese, English and Chinese, so I was glad I could speak English with her. Since Waza opened recently in July 2018, all the interior is sparkly clean and carries the comforting smell of new tatami straw mats.
Dorothy first ran me through the routine and asked me to sign a Health and Safety sheet. The authentic Japanese armor is very heavy, actually up to 20-25kg and quite expensive, so visitors are asked to not move too vigorously, in order to protect their health and the condition of the traditional armor.
What samurai do you want to be?
10 shiny pieces of Samurai armor are lined up all around in the main room and I really felt spoiled for choice. I am a rather indecisive person, so I was glad that Dorothy supplied me with her knowledge of Japanese samurai culture and armor. The more I asked her, the more she could tell me about family crests, meanings of the colors that were used and other details on the armor. One particular fact that surprised me, was that blue is seen as the color of victory, so the current Japanese Soccer team uses “Samurai Blue” as their color. When I spotted a heart on the armor, she told me that the heart symbol is seen as the eye of the boar, there to avert evil.
Every little piece of design on Japanese samurai armor has a meaning. I think it is part of the fun to ask about these details before deciding on a gear. Lovers of samurai culture will be happy that the staff can give them a plethora of extra information on the topic on request.
Dressing a fighter for war
I like dressing flashy daily, so I decided to go with the biggest and most impressive looking armor, with two massive horns on top. Next I was allowed to pick my “Tattsuke Hakama”, a Samurai’s undergarments. I have taken several dressing up experiences in Japan before, henceforth I was pleasantly surprised that all garments smelled of freshly washed linen.
Leaving the dressing room in my Samurai undergarments, the curtains in the samurai armor room were fully drawn and I sat down on a chair in the center. Pieces of the armor were lying out in front of me.
Dorothy and her colleague came and kneeled down near me, starting to help me get dressed. Like in the old days, when handmaid's had to help ladies into their dresses, I realized that probably even the mighty samurai needed help to get into their 20kg heavy gear. Starting from the legs, I was strapped into layer and layer of protective Japanese armor.
Cloth curtains with black calligraphy flowers and symbols were covering the walls. With the drawn curtains, the light became slightly dimmed. It almost made me feel like I was in some feudal lord’s camp, getting ready for battle. With every extra layer on my armor, I felt heavier yet more excited.
Once the body armor was completed, it was time for the main head piece that I had selected. Carefully the girls sat the 5 kilo heavy helmet on my head and I instantly felt two centimeters smaller, squished by the sheer weight of it. Straps on my chin helped fastening the helmet in place and I was finally transformed into a full mighty samurai!
There is something quite fascinating about wearing another culture’s traditional gear. Especially in the warrior clothes, despite their weight, I felt a lot stronger and heroic. Images of samurai movies came into my head and I couldn’t help but strike cool poses. 26 kilos heavier, I felt like I was ready to take on a sword battle. At the same time though, I could experience on my own body how samurai must have felt and moved in the old days. Due to the limitations, my movements became slower yet more powerful.
Samurai Tour in the Matrix
The 90s film “The Matrix” became popular by using an innovative camera method where several cameras all across the room would take one picture. Those pictures taken together created a fascinating 360 view of the fighting characters.
WAZA is using a similar technique to bring the samurai gear to life. 20 cameras are installed all across the room at several angles. One camera after another will take a picture and them put together, similar to the Matrix, and create a 360 video of one moment. This modern twist to the traditional dress up was what really fascinated me. Much more than just a picture, it is a real moment frozen in time to remember. Even I struggled deciding which pose would be the best as samurai and Dorothy brought me pictures from famous samurai movies to decide on the perfect pose. I even got a Japanese sword to hold. Everyone left the room and … CAMERA ACTION!
After the 360 picture was taken, I was free to take my own snaps. I could pose strong, silly or elegant and I totally got carried away, getting engulfed by my new personality as samurai. I even got real swords and Japanese fans to hold as accessories for my pictures.
After the battle
I took a final group picture with Dorothy and her colleague and afterwards both helped me out of my gear. I almost felt a bit sad I had to leave my gorgeous armor behind again. I had gotten attached to the feel and weight of it. Dorothy and I chatted while she removed the armor. At that point I already felt like I had become a lot closer to the girls. One thing that really impressed me is that so many languages are spoken at WAZA, so all the information I got was in fluent English and I could understand even difficult historical facts and terms. Apparently not only samurai loving tourists but even Chinese actors have visited WAZA already.
Changed back into my clothes, I received a free paper with more information about Samurai from WAZA and a code number to download the 360 picture from their “Samurai Style” App onto my phone.
Before leaving I asked Dorothy about WAZA. She said “I want visitors who come to Japan to enjoy the feeling of being a Samurai. It’s a way of enjoying Japanese Culture.”
Waza gives visitors a chance to feel Japanese culture on their own skin. The weight and movement in the armor can let you glimpse into the world of samurai in Japan. The 360 picture is a cool technological twist, that I could not have recreated with my smartphone and that will go down great with my friends online. I am glad I was brave and stepped into the Matrix and became a samurai for a day.
The staff at WAZA speaks many different languages and has in-depth knowledge about Samurai and their armor. That way visitors will not just wear the gear, but also know the meaning and culture behind it. The 360 picture gives the experience an exciting technological touch, that can not be recreated with a normal camera.
The lighting in the room is rather dim, and mainly comes from the ceiling, so taking pictures by yourself can be very challenging. Bring an extra light or a good camera for your own pictures or book the “walk outside” option. Also: Be there on time or you’ll lose out!
There will be up to 5 different staff members helping out, changing depending on the day. My train was late but I could change the appointment through the WOWU communication tool last minute from 13:00 to 15:00.
5 minutes from Asakusa station.
English, Japanese, French, Chinese, Cantonese, Korean
4 Time slots available: 10:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00. Experience lasts 60-80 minutes.
Maximum of 10 people can take the experience at the same time.
Because of armor size and weight, small children cannot take part in the experience. Generally 10 years or over are advised.
There is an option to wear the gear outside, against an extra fee. This would give you the chance to take pictures in the traditional surroundings of Asakusa.