Thursday, June 12, 2014

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What is the best children's playground in Tokyo? Asukayama Park (near Oji station)

How do you possibly judge the best playground in Tokyo? Is it based on the size of the swing or the colour of the equipment? Do you look at the number of see saws or the number of people using them? Is a sliding or spinning structure better than a hanging or climbing one? Or do you take a more scientific approach and multiply the potential for fun by the number of laughs and then divide it by the length of time spent at the location? 

Probably all of the above if you want to be precise about it. But I don't really and this post is a purely subjective account of what I think is the best and most amazing children's playground in Tokyo. But don't just take my word for it, here is a quote from a world renowned expert who has spent a greater percentage of his life assessing, researching and commenting on playgrounds than anyone I know, namely my four year old son, who said at the end of his first time at Asukayama Park, "Daddy, tonight I am going to dream about today". 

But what is it about Asukayama Park that would make a four year old say something like that? What actually is so good about it? 

I'm tempted to say just look at the photographs, but instead here are a few things our kids liked: 

  • an elephant slide as big or bigger than a real elephant; 
  • an old yellow tram and a train engine to climb on, sit in or run around; 
  • a three story high castle with slides from the top (or half way up for the slightly nervous kids or parents) 
  • the opportunity to play with other Japanese kids and yell out Konnichiwa every time they yell out 'Hah-roh'. 

And that's without mentioning the sand pit, the toddler slide, the swing set, or the chance to climb all over the random but colourful stone animals. 

Here are a few things that we (the parents) liked: 

  • the playground is in the middle of a fabulous park area with great vantage points and viewing areas; 
  • in winter the park was covered with unusual but colourful cabbages and other winter flowers; 
  • by Spring the park had some of the most beautiful late blooming cherry blossoms which should have made it the most popular Sakura hotspot around, but there were hardly any tourists there, let alone local Tokyoites

And that's without mentioning the vending machines, the baby change tables, or the three museums located within the park (including the fascinating Paper Museum that deals with nothing but the history of paper). 

Can I speak more highly of this park? Probably not, although have I told you how to get there? Well, it couldn't be easier, given that the Arakawa tram line snakes right around the park and stops next to it on either the south side or the north west side (and for 170 yen the tram line, while not as sexy as the subway, is worth a ride even if you don't stop at Asukayama park). Or if you get out at Oji station on the north side (a major JR station about 9 minutes from Ueno) you can catch a very small but fun funicular up to the top, which our four year old delightfully named as "the egg". It's free, so if you're with kids, a trip back down and up is not only possible, but also recommended. 

Have you been to Asukayama Park? What did you think? What other children's playgrounds are worth going to in Tokyo?


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