Samurai Sentai Shinkenger was the 2009 Super Sentai series. I was quite obsessed with this season as I loved the characters, cast, most unusual monsters, and historical plot. In my ongoing endeavours to visit places related to my entertainment interests when I travel, I did some research and found out that the filming location used for the Shiba Mansion was actually a real surviving historical site from the samurai era!
The first day of my 2015 Japan trip was extra long since my flight landed at ~6:00am and there was still a whole day ahead with no rest until afternoon at the earliest. Upon arrival, the first spot I visited was the Hotta House, one of many Samurai Houses in Sakura City, Chiba prefecture. It was relatively near Narita International Airport – as in both were out of the way and quite a distance from the Tokyo metropolis – so it was only logical to cross this off my list first thing.
After clearing customs, picking up my luggage from baggage claim, and renting a SIM card for my iPhone; I hopped onto the Keisei Narita Line at around 8:00am to make my way to Sakura Station. According to my pre-trip research, that was the closest train station and supposedly offered a free sightseeing bus that should take me to Hotta House and spare me a lot of walking. Alas, it seemed I was mistaken and there turned out to be no bus service of such kind. I ended up with no choice but to walk all the way to Hotta House, which should have taken around 20 minutes but I took it easy as it was still early – also got lost – and it ended up being almost an hour before I arrived. 🤦🏻♂️
To be honest, I had quite a scare for a moment – alone for the first time in a foreign country, lost geographically and in translation, in an area where there were not many people – so it wasn’t like I could just ask for directions – until, along the way, I encountered a kind elderly gentleman and asked him for directions.
All it took was a few key phrases I prepared myself with like どこですか？(Doko desu ka? / Where is it?) and, of course, a map I got from the train station for him to understand what I needed. It appeared he was also headed in the same direction as me so he guided me back onto the right track and pointed the remainder of the way before continuing on his way. This ojii-chan, whom I cannot thank enough, ended up being my hero as I don’t know how I would have managed to reach the Hotta House otherwise!
Normally, I’m good with directions but only in Japan do some places look totally different in real life versus on paper. There were many twists and turns that didn’t correspond to what was on my map as well as steep slopes or unwalkable terrain that made it impossible to go certain ways – not to mention, numerous dead ends.
It also looked like the Hotta House is nestled within an elderly living community or something as there were a lot of hospital-like apartment buildings within the vicinity, which may have been another reason I had a hard time finding it.
Hey, what’s that in the distance? 😲
I spy with my little Asian eyes… the Shiba Mansion gate! It’s where the Shinkengers rode out to battle the Gedoushu on their horses! 👀
With the instantly recognizable gate ahead of me, the feeling that I’m actually here at the Shiba Mansion is still sinking in! 😁
Despite the whole ordeal of getting there feeling like an eternity, it was still early when I arrived and the Hotta House was still not open for visitors. Opening time was 10:00am and I recall it was still probably around 9:00am when I arrived. There was a lady sweeping the front steps who looked like she worked there.
With no people around, I decided this was the best time to take out my tripod and snap a few photos of myself here and there with varying compositions – although there were a few early risers so I had to brave some awkward looks from a few elderly passersby during my photo shoot. 😑
When it was finally 10:00am, I noticed the doors were open so I went in and was greeted by two middle-aged housewives. They asked if I was a student to which I replied that I was a university student but left my student card back in Canada as I never expected I would need it in Japan – but truth be told, I had a feeling there was student pricing for admission. Without much fuss, they let me pay the ¥160 student admission and proceeded to show me around the place. 😅
Presumably, they were wondering what a foreigner would be doing here in the middle of nowhere of all places and asked if I had seen the Hotta House featured on “video” (pretty sure they meant TV show or film) somewhere. I told them I was a fan of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and they seemed extremely surprised that Super Sentai was known overseas, so I further explained to them that over in North America, Super Sentai gets adapted into Power Rangers. They had their “a-ha!” moment and proceeded to show me all the Shinkenger-related sights, including a set of six Shinkenger cast autographs on display near the reception area.
I have Tori Matsuzaka’s autograph in a photobook (only way I could get it considering how popular he became after Shinkenger) but I wish I could take them all home with me as souvenirs! 😩
Delving deeper inside the Hotta House.
This is a very familiar sight. Well of course, it’s familiar… it’s the “backyard” where the Shinkengers trained in with their kendo sticks!
One of the ladies helped me do a photoshoot here since this was pretty much my main attraction of the Hotta House. She snapped numerous photos for me going so far as to tell me where to sit and how to pose. Perfect. 😂👌🏻
In one of the photos, I posed as if I was playing with a little pet Shishi Origami like Takeru Shiba does in the show. The only thing that would’ve been more awesome was if I had brought my ShinkenRed jacket with me too! Wow, that would’ve been an epic cosplay shoot. Too bad I’m so obsessed with the cleanliness of my collectibles so that was out of the question. 😐
My stay only lasted about an hour or so before I saw pretty much everything of interest. All in all, 160 yen admission was truly well worth the experience and visit here considering they also provided me with one-on-one photography service and took many photos for me until I was satisfied.
One last photo at the gate before leaving, since I couldn’t set up my tripod in the middle of a parking lot with traffic earlier. After this, they bid farewell to Emperor-sama as he rode off into battle from the Shiba Mansion gates… 😂
I departed around 11:00am since I had to get to my hotel and rest for the afternoon. Another long trek of walking to a train station and getting lost along the way again. This time I asked a store owner where the train station was and he pointed me the way but had terrible English. To be polite, I just thanked him and moved along to ask another store owner along the way. The second was of help and had better English so I managed to find my way again.
Finally, at the train station and on the way to Tokyo!