Right now, AB has Mondays off work. Which means, while everyone else is drudging their way through the Monday blues, we get to have an extra family day. It feels like an extra, just because it is a Monday, but in truth he works Saturdays instead. We spend it by sleeping. A lot. Even 6 month old LA is with the program; yesterday she took a 3 hour nap after breakfast. No complaints there; we made it a family 3 hour nap.
Then, after the sleeping, we take the chance to check out some cool places in Tokyo, minus the Saturday crowds.
The other week we went to Showa Kinen park, a place that is definitely worth a visit at any time of year.
Showa Kinen park was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Emperor Showa’s reign (Kinen means “commemoration” or “remembrance” in Japanese). It is a short walk from Tachikawa station and is right next to IKEA. We wisely resisted the temptation to enter the blackhole that is IKEA, holding out against its power to drain both the cash in our wallets and the number of hours left in the day. Another time, perhaps.
We walked through the outer park area and paid the 400 yen fee to enter the inner park. There is so much to see at Showa Kinen Park, so rather than give a play-by-play, I’ll just describe a few of the ways that it exemplifies many things I love about Japan.
It is huge
Firstly, like Tokyo itself, it is huge. I remember attending the Tachikawa Fireworks festival a couple of years ago and being so frustrated at how far we had to work to get to the main area to meet our friends. We were running incredibly late and fighting a massive crowd and hunger pains to get there. On this day, however, I was able to appreciate the park’s open vastness. When you live in Tokyo, it is wonderful to be in a place where there is an ample supply of green to lay down on, trees to find shade in and the ability to see sky without intrusion from tall buildings. It always amazes me that Tokyo is able to fit in both bustling metropolis, the size of which is beyond my comprehensibilities, and several expansive parks, beautiful gardens and river/harbourside areas that offer sweet serenity in perfect contrast.
I love Japanese soft cream. I guess in NZ we call it a soft serve or a frosty boy? In Japan, no matter where you go, you can find soft cream in a whole host of flavours based on the speciality of the region. In Nikko, famous for its yuba, you can get yuba flavoured soft cream. That’s tofu skin flavoured ice-cream. Sounds enticing right? In Kyoto, matcha (green tea) soft cream is popular. I’ve also seen pumpkin, sweet potato and black sesame.
Anyway, you’d be surprised. Somehow, they manage to get all the flavours to work, and it is always delicious, soft and, well, delectably creamy.
The soft cream at the shop in Tachikawa park, I have to say, was one of the best I have ever tried, hence I decided it was worth mentioning as a highlight of our visit there. That is really saying something, given the plethora of amazing facilities the place has to offer.
One thing Japan does well, (or well overdoes, some might say), are seasonal events. Much pride is taken in the fact that Japan boasts 4 distinct seasons, with each season bringing specific foods, tastes, scenery and events to enjoy. We have the fireworks festivals in summer, illumination in winter, flower viewing in spring and the changing of the leaves in autumn, with many other seasonal-specific customs in between.
Showa Kinen park hosts finely-crafted events for every season. On this occasion, we were able to enjoy the “festival of flowers”. The following pictures are worth (many) thousands of my clumsy words.
On perusing the list of facilities on offer, I felt like Showa Kinen park is trying really hard to outdo every other attraction in Tokyo. This is no small feat; one of the fun aspects of visiting Tokyo is discovering the incredibly modern and sometimes completely superfluous facilities on offer. Showa Kinen Park offers bicycle rental, purpose-built bicycle trails, row- and pedal- boat hire, BBQ areas (booking is necessary but free) with BBQ equipment rental and playing areas (with equipment rental) exclusively provided for several games and sports including petanque, lawn bowls, horseshoe throwing and basketball.
In addition there are some pretty unique and fun sounding features for kids. We didn’t get to check most of those out (see “it’s huge” above) but they include a “Children’s Forest”, “Forest House” and “Misty Forest” in which a fog is released every 15 minutes for kids to play in and experience “the world of fairytales” as the website suggests, and a giant bouncy dome thing.
Like many other parks in Tokyo, there is also a Japanese and other specially themed garden areas.
As for the “superfluous”, we weren’t too sure what to think of this outdoor escalator found close to one of the main entrances, the purpose of which was, we gathered, to enable people to avoid walking up the short slope residing next to it. Perhaps, given the size of the place, they didn’t want anyone to get tired out just walking into the main park?
Baby rest area and stroller rental
Ok, so this should really go into the above paragraph, but I felt it deserved one all on its own.
Baby rest area.
Baby stroller rental.
These are the building blocks that make visiting Tokyo a dream for families with young children. At many places in Tokyo, you can find strollers available for use. And, more excitingly in my opinion, are the wonderful, well-thought out baby nursing rooms that have, in recent years, become a somewhat of a feature in most modern malls and shopping areas. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have chosen venues for outings with friends, not based on culinary or cultural attractions, but based on the reputation and availability of the baby nursing rooms. I’m just waiting for an app ranking nursing rooms across Tokyo to be released. I’m sure it won’t be too far away.
Anyway, this was my first time to encounter a public park boasting such amazing baby nursing rooms. I was amazed. I wonder how many countries in the world have public parks with purpose-built little huts equipped with private feeding rooms, change tables, microwaves and other thoughtful facilities just for families of young children.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. For a whole host of new reasons since I became a Mum, I love this place.