A day in the Emperor’s park (Part 1)

After just a short train ride last week, Liam and I arrived at the entrance to Showa Kinen Park, a 402-acre national government park on the edge of Tachikawa. According to the park’s website, it was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Emperor Showa’s reign. I’d heard the park was nice and figured it would be a good way for Liam and me to spend a day.


I was right. The park had enough to keep us busy for several days. There was a sizable water park where Japanese families had set up small tents for the day and were busy splashing with their kids in the fountains and pools. (We skipped that part, which had a separate admission fee.) There was a lake with paddle boats. There were paths galore for bike riding and bikes to rent. There were areas to BBQ. There were concession areas selling soft serve and rice balls and noodle boxes.

For today’s post, I’ll focus on the kid-friendly aspects of the park. Shortly after we passed the water park, a train shuttle chugged past us and the conductor waved merrily. “Good morning!” he yelled. “Ohayou gozaimasu!” I shouted back. He grinned and responded with a friendly torrent of Japanese to which I could only smile and nod.


We soon found a normal playground — a climbing structures with slides and swings — just like we’d see at home. But, nearby, there was a warren of trampoline nets. Liam was game to try it but once I lifted him up, he was ready to come right back down.

Then things got interesting. We found a large, marshmallow-like mounded play area for kids to bounce on. Liam took off his shoes and jumped with glee for the next hour. Grown-ups aren’t allowed, but I took the liberty of testing the edge of one of the mounds. It was a rubbery surface that squished slightly under foot, perfect for springing up and down on.

Next, we found the dragon playground. (Never saw one of those in Ohio!) The giant dragon heads, decorated with mosaic tiles, opened their mouths wide enough to swallow big and small children. Several even had ladders and slides. My kid particularly enjoyed the dragon that roared when you stepped into his mouth.

Eventually, Liam tired of the dragons and we strolled on through a wooded path. Soon we found a cluster of wooden buildings. I thought one of them was a store but when we peeked through the door, we discovered it was a children’s play area. We slipped off our shoes and went inside. We stepped into a sweet, tree house-like room, complete with white twinkling lights, boxes of wooden toys and stuffed animals and a child-sized curvy table with tiny stools. I assume it’s a teaching area for school groups but appreciated that they keep it open for anyone to use. Liam certainly enjoyed discovering the toys inside.

I’ll leave us there for now, under the sloping eaves of the playhouse. My next post will walk us through the park’s formal Japanese garden, the mosaic plaza and under the cherry trees.