When we wrote about Samurai Studio earlier this month, we have to admit we were more than a little excited to head down and try it out ourselves. Hey, who doesn’t occasionally (or constantly) wish they could run around dressed in Japanese armor with a couple of swords strapped to their side?
Samurai Studio opened for its 10-day limited run today, and we were literally the first in line! In case you’re on the fence about going or just want to see what the process is like, you’ll want to check out our full report, complete with lots and lots of photos.
The dashing P.K. Sanjun from RocketNews24 Japan and I, the hairy Preston, went to try on medieval armor. We might make an odd-looking pair, but if it works for both of us, it’s guaranteed to work for anyone!
▼ P.K. praying that these photos will finally make him cool.
Though Samurai Studio will only be open for 10 days, they’re going all-in with this limited-time-only location. Newly opened businesses in Japan often receive flowers from neighboring stores, so it was no surprise to see these flowers in Samurai Studio’s window—that is until we noticed the names written on their respective cards. The two pictured below were from Sanada Yukimura and Naoe Kanetsugu, two famous samurai from the Warring States period! And you’ll never guess whose armor we’d chosen to wear today…
▼ If you said Sanada Yukimura and Naoe Kanetsugu, you get a cookie!
As soon as we headed inside, the delightful staff showed us the dressing room and began the process of getting us into the armor. There are four sets to choose from, so the hardest part may be deciding!
There is one important point to remember here if you have booked (or plan to book) an appointment: you are supposed to bring a V-neck T-shirt. We somehow managed to forget ours (blame will be assigned at a later date). Fortunately, the studio had some we could use, but let’s just say the armor is a bit warm and you’ll be glad you brought your own. After changing shirts (you’ll wear whatever pants you come in), the fun began and we pulled on the white kosode P.K. is wearing in the photo below.
Next, we put on some tabi, the Japanese toe socks, and the staff helped us into hakama, the pants you’ll often see samurai wearing in the movies. These were a bit different from what you might be imagining though, as they were made to be both super stylish and to go under the armor. Finally, the staff wrapped waraji, straw sandals, around our feet for us, as it was just about impossible for us to reach our feet by that point!
▼ Looking good now!
Next, it was time to start putting some of the armor on. We got shin guards, called suneate, and thigh guards, called haidate, to protect our legs from low blows. You never when a sneaky ninja might try to cut your legs off!
At this point, we’d been in the studio fewer than 10 minutes—the staff were startlingly fast while somehow still managing to answer all of our questions. From there, it was time to move to the upper body, and the staff helped us into the kote, basically sleeves without a shirt to call their own, which cover one’s shoulders, chest and arms.
And then it was time to finish everything up by putting on the top armor and helmets! While actual samurai armor is quite heavy, the armor at Samurai Studio is, fortunately, fairly light, being made of plastic. As you can probably imagine, though, plastic doesn’t exactly breathe well, so you’ll still be hot underneath all those layers. But at least you’ll be able to move relatively comfortably!
▼ Getting the helmet nice and snug
Now, with all our armor on and feeling far cooler than ever before in our lives, it was time to put the swords on and begin the photoshoot!
There are two plans for everyone to choose from at Samurai Studio: the 4,900-yen (about US$40) basic plan and the 32,000-yen (US$265) premium plan. The difference is all in the photos—with the basic plan, your photos will be taken by one of the members of staff and you’ll get to strike five poses, as well as two prints and the digital data for all the photos. With the premium plan, you’ll be photographed in 10 different poses by a professional photographer, as well as receiving an eight-page photo album in addition to the two prints and digital data. There are also optional items available, such as additional prints, a photo album for the basic plan and more, so you can customize your experience and the items you take home.
How are the photos? Well, check out the results below! We do want to note, though, that photos have been shrunk down from their full size for the purposes of posting online. The actual data files we received were 3,648 pixels by 5,472 pixels (or 5,472 pixels by 3,648 pixels, depending on the orientation), with plenty of sharp detail to see every single strand in the rope!
▼ One of the few times no one will pester you to smile for a photo!
▼ P.K. is ready to direct an army in battle!
▼ Or be the bad one in a samurai boy band?
▼ Well, maybe if he could stop grinning for five minutes!
▼ A photo taken with my phone. Did I mention how patient the staff are?
All together, we spent roughly 40 minutes getting dressed and taking photos. If it were only one person, they estimated it would take between 20 and 30 minutes—perfect for those who want to stop in while sightseeing in Asakusa!
However, if you want photos of your own, you’ll need to book an appointment, and it seems the studio is almost entirely booked up right now. The good news is they’re announcing cancellations on their Facebook page, so you’ll still have a chance to get photos of your own even if you haven’t made a reservation yet. If you see an opening, you can send the studio an email, as described in this Facebook post. It looks like they might have some openings next week, but they’re definitely limited, so be sure to contact the studio as soon as possible!
▼ You can view the photos before selecting your favorite for printing.
If you’re sad about missing your chance this time, take heart! The staff told us that this is just a test run—if things go well and they get enough custom, there’s a good chance we’ll see a permanent Samurai Studio in the future. Based on how much fun we had and how full their appointment book currently is, we’d say there’s a very good chance that’ll happen.
Address: 1-17-10 Asakusa Taito-ku. Tokyo at GALLERY KUJAKUDO
東京都台東区浅草1-17-10 GALLERY KUJAKUDO
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Open period: October 27 to November 5
All images © RocketNews24