For thousands of years, access to the Jedi Temple was restricted to Jedi, Republic officials and invading Sith. After the most recent restoration, a fresh approach to public relations has opened the grounds to the general public. While most areas of the complex are still off limits, the large Jedi Temple Guest Center features a museum, a gift shop, a bookstore, and The Youngling Zone with its extremely popular Jedi Trials Cave experience (mezzanine level). Dwarf+Giant took a little trip to Coruscant to check out this tourist-trap-we’d-be-glad-to-fall-into, especially curious, of course, as to what their bookstore had to offer. We also sat down with Master Jedi K’Orfan, who answered a few questions for us. Here’s our trip.
You approach and enter the temple right up thru the famous main entrance, up broad steps flanked by colossal statues of past Jedi. Once inside, the only direction you can go without special permission is towards the Guest Center, so you cannot get lost. While waiting in line, you can gaze upon the inaccessible vastness of the Main Hall, with its intimidating pillars and broad, perfectly smooth walkways and stairs. The robes – my god, the robes – it’s like everyone just got out of the shower. Nearly every species from across the galaxy is represented (except Toydarians, of course) and you remember that this is, at its heart, a monastery.
The Guest Center is given a sizable portion of this corner of the Temple (at least at this level), plus a good chunk of the Mezzanine. There’s the museum – which we didn’t have time for, but you have to see those things in person anyway. It’s mostly old lightsabers and, you guessed it, robes. The problem with the Jedi museum is that typically Jedi do not have personal possessions, so you’ll never find, like, Yoda’s comb or Mace Windu’s wallet, plus, every time the Sith took over, they pretty much destroyed everything. Jedi are not big on attachment, and museums are society’s hoarding. I mean, they’re great, but you know.
Next to the museum is the gift shop, which is about the least cheesy gift shop I’ve ever been in. It is minimalist in the extreme, reflecting, again, the Jedi philosophy on attachment. They sell coffee mugs with the Jedi logo, lightsaber kits, mini-lightsabers, 1 single t-shirt style (with “Do or Do Not” printed on it), a few pieces of well-made Jedi accoutrement (robes, helmets) and Lego kits. That’s it. It may sound like a lot, but think about it: zero plush toys, keychains, pens, baseball caps, statuettes, posters, only one style of mug or shirt – it’s pretty odd compared to most gift shops. Of course, some of the most important Jedi paraphernalia can be found in the bookstore – as one might expect.
The lightsaber kit comes with all the pieces – except the crystal, which you, of course, must find yourself. The instructions for assembly are not a step-by-step procedure, but the frustratingly simple directive to “use The Force” to assemble your saber. Apparently, it’s the only way to actually build a lightsaber. Yeah. Save the receipt for that one. The very small, functional mini-lightsabers are for use as pocket knives or letter openers or… something. I would not put one in my pocket for anything.
During our stop in the Gift Shop, there were no fewer than three accidents caused by guests smashing into display cases while wearing Jedi helmets with the blast shields down. There are warning signs about this everywhere. Everyone thinks they’re a Jedi.
The Jedi Temple is known for its library, and it has a bookstore annex, called the Book Nook, inside the Guest Center. They have many exclusive items, including a special limited edition print run of all the old popular legends from the so-called “EU” – again, only available here (or we would certainly carry a few) – the main feature of which is holographic illustrations. The stories are the same, though – all that classic adventure, intrigue and tragedy, very inspiring stuff. Surprising that they would endorse so many tales that portray the Jedi in sometimes very unflattering ways, but I suppose that speaks to the integrity of the Order.
They have on display the original Jedi handbook which was reprinted by Becker & Mayer (and called The Jedi Path) a few years back. It’s pretty amazing to see this piece of Jedi history with the actual signatures and notes from legends famous and infamous.
Speaking of which, another Guest Center exclusive is a special series of kids’ titles based on the imagined Jedi adventures of all the younglings slaughtered by Anakin Skywalker shortly after he became Darth Vader, with titles like Mrutah Saves Obi Wan and J’Say Gets His First Apprentice. More like J’Say gets bisected by an evil traitor, if you ask me – it seems in bad taste. I suppose the famous saying from Master Yoda emblazoned on the display stand explains the thinking: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who join The Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.” Even if they’re kindergarteners? These Jedi are different.
By far the most unique section of the Guest Center is the Youngling Zone. This area is designed for kids, and includes an arcade, a pizza/taco stand, an area for birthday parties, an interactive learning center – with holographic projections of various parts of the galaxy, a Galactic Flora-Fauna hands-on lab, etc.- and a fun, totally safe, saber-fight challenge, and most importantly, something you’ll find upstairs.
At The Last Bookstore, we have a labyrinth on our second level, and, of course, our ever popular fire pole. Here at the Jedi Temple, at the mezzanine level, there’s something broadly similar – though a lot more elaborate – called the Jedi Trials Cave. It was built by Looovjovbachuk and Jeeepnapriebev the famous Wookie designers (and Jedis – which is rare for Wookies, on account of their particularly strong family bonds – blame Life Day). The Jedi Trials Cave is only for kids, and completely free of charge to explore, though few kids are able to complete its full challenge. This is not where the actual Jedi trials take place, of course, but it does feature simulations of the trials, though radically toned down for age and experience; the real Trials are harrowing and occasionally deadly. The experience is built around Jedi principles, and requires some connection with The Force, physical difficulties and steady nerves to complete successfully. For example, at one point, the participant encounters a sort of manifestation of their own genuine fear – somehow manifested from their subconscious and projected or – actually, I’m not sure how exactly it’s done, but it’s apparently different for every kid. They have the option to simply escape, and if they do so, it will appear to them that they have survived a harrowing adventure. Good for them. Most kids will find one of the many early exits in this manner, and be none the wiser. The kids who actually confront that fearful image, on the other hand, will move past it to the next level. The parents of those who actually make it to the end in this manner, will be approached by a Jedi Master before they leave the Temple premises. Conversations are had; arrangements are sometimes made. Our labyrinth is not at that level yet, but who knows – maybe some day. I tried really hard to do a walk thru of the Caves, but at some point, I just… lost interest, and decided I needed pizza instead. Huh. That’s weird. I distinctly remember asking one of the Jedi at the attraction if I could check it out, and then… I can’t remember specifically why I changed my mind. The pizza was great though. Anyhow, if you bring a kid to the Temple, you absolutely must let them go thru the Jedi Trials Cave. Only one kid seemed to have any trouble with it while I was there, but a Jedi healer was Johnny-on-the-spot, and the kid was laughing within minutes. And the Order is going to cover the cost of the prosthetic hand.
Jedi Master K’Orfan whose responsibilities include oversight of the Guest Center, sat down with us for a few minutes:
LBS: How long has the Jedi Temple been on Coruscant and how long has it been open to the public, thru this Guest Center?
Master K’Orfan: In its various forms, not all of which would be recognizable as the center of the Jedi Order, the Temple goes back 5000 years. After the most recent restoration, it was decided, in reflecting on the events preceding the rise of Empire, that being more open to the public would serve several purposes. On one hand, it could be a counterbalance to the type of propaganda Palpatine used in his usurpation of the Republic. It’s hard to imagine the Jedi as secret conspirators if your child had her birthday party in our Guest Center. Secondly, and most importantly, it keeps us in touch with folks in a more direct way. It’s dangerous to isolate yourself from the people you claim to serve. So, this gives us an informal way to sort of mingle or interact with folks we might not otherwise come into direct contact with, unless they were getting themselves into some kind of trouble.
LBS: And it is a way to identify force-sensitive Younglings? I mean, in this case, you don’t have to go out and look for them; they are literally coming to you.
Master K’Orfan: That, too.
LBS: In the Jedi Trials Cave upstairs, you somehow project a child’s personal fears – I’m not sure that’s a totally accurate way of putting it – but what is that? Holocrons? Mind-reading? Do you just ask the parents ahead of time?
Master K’Orfan: That’s not something we actually control or deliberately do. In ways I cannot possibly explain to someone not deeply connected to The Force, those… experiences actually come out of the child. The Temple was originally built on a rich Force nexus. That source is still very powerful, and it is… involved with much of our work here. Not wanting to be cagey here, but that’s honestly about as well as I can explain it.
LBS: Are there any plans to make those special edition EU novels available abroad?
Master K’Orfan: No. We’re not interested in making money off those. A lot of our guests come here in hopes of becoming a Jedi. The fact is, it’s not for everyone. If that’s the only reason you visit, you will likely walk away very disappointed. To mitigate that disappointment, we make sure we have some exclusive experiences and merchandise that will help those folks feel like their trip was not a waste of time. And we make sure our merchandise is either extremely authentic or completely practical. We’re not just trying to squeeze a few extra credits out of your billfold. In fact, all proceeds go towards the clone orphan retraining facility in the Covenentas Prime district.
LBS: Wow. You folks do things differently around here. One last question, are there any new plans in the works for the Guest Center?
Master K’Orfan: Absolutely. We’re taking out the arcade and replacing it with a flight experience simulator. Younglings will be able to pilot a small craft thru an asteroid field and perhaps encounter a few other surprises. Also, we’re adding comics and vinyl to the Book Nook.
LBS: Ha – that’s funny. Did you get that idea from us?
Master K’Orfan: It was our idea first.
LBS: …it was your idea first. This is an extraordinary place. Thanks very much for your time.
Master K’Orfan: Not at all. May the Fourth be with you.
LBS: …you mean the Force.
Master K’Orfan: That’s what I said.
LBS: …that’s what you said. Thank you again.
This was a really great trip, and it would be even better with some kids in tow. If you’re going to Coruscant, you have to make a stop at the Jedi Temple. Coruscant has a lot to offer, anyway – so just go ahead and make it your next vacation destination. If your kid is Force-sensitive, it’s even an economical option, as you need one less return ticket.
Happy Star Wars Day, and remember, the Force will be with you. Always.