In the pink

By on March 6, 2008

Photo © Elena Derevstova

Located two stops by express train from Ikebukuro Station, Shakuji Koen in the northwest of Tokyo is rich in flora, fauna and history. It is also a gorgeous location for cherry blossom viewing and provides a wonderful day in nature for the family. When you exit Shakuji Koen station, check the map to get oriented. The park is a 10-min. walk from the station, past shopping streets and residential areas.

When you reach the park, the first thing you see is the long, tree-lined Sanpoji Pond, where in the springtime cherry blossoms dip right down into the water. You can reach out and touch the velvety petals. Visitors can enjoy the blossoms by paddleboat or rowboat, or simply by strolling along the pond. We chose a swan-shaped paddleboat, and after purchasing our ticket from the machine at the boathouse, we set off and enjoyed the views of the pond as far as the low bridges. To explore the far reaches of the pond, be sure to rent a rowboat, which can go under the bridges!

The park was part of the estate of the medieval Toshima clan. When Lord Toshima Tatsukune was certain of defeat in a 1477 battle, he is said to have put a golden saddle onto his horse and rode into the Sanpoji Pond. His daughter Teruhime followed him in. Her filial loyalty is celebrated every year in April at the Teruhime Festival.
We then explored the rest of the park, walking along the pond and stopping at viewpoints and swing sets along the way. Shakuji Koen is divided by a road, (with traffic lights for safe crossing), and after crossing the street we were in a whole new part of the park, with trails following streams and over bridges. Families were fishing or just relaxing amidst all the greenery. The best surprise came next—a spacious adventure playground. The playground is fun for all children, but it is terrific for older kids, with some challenging climbing structures resembling an obstacle course, and a fast zip line. If you forget to pack food, don’t worry—next to the playground is a snack shack selling ice cream and treats, and there is also a casual open-air Japanese restaurant serving hot foods.

When it was time to return home, we once again walked the length of the Sanpoji Pond, passing artists sketching, a soulful saxophone player lending his tunes to the ambience, joggers and walkers, and families sailing remote controlled boats on the lake. An ice cream machine rewards park-goers at the entrance/exit to the park, and provided fuel for the walk back to the station. The pace of the day seemed to slow down once we entered Shakuji Koen, and we vowed to return to enjoy the beauty of park in all the seasons.

There is a lot of walking here—strollers are definitely recommended for toddlers. If you are driving to the park, bring along small bikes for children. The streets from the station are full of family-friendly restaurants. Highly recommended is Loignon, an Italian restaurant that is a converted mansion located on the north shore overlooking Lake Shakuji. Look for the red brick building. A more casual meal option is soba at the straw thatched roof restaurant across from the parking lot.
Info Box

1-29 Shakujidai Nerima-ku. Closest Sta. Shakuji Koen on the Seibu Ikebukuro line. (Take the express train). Public parking available. Free park admission. Boat rental: ¥700/30 mins,
from 9:30am—5pm. (03) 3904-2945. http://parkandcats.hp.infoseek.co.jp/syakuzikouenseibuikebukurosen.html
(Japanese only).


Great Family Parks for Cherry Blossom Viewing

Sitting under cherry trees admiring the “fleeting beauty” of the blossoms may provide great entertainment for adults but for kids wanting more activities, these parks offer both beauty and playtime.

Inokashira Park: Boating, playgrounds, and small zoo.
Inokashira Koen Sta; Kichijoji Sta. (0422) 46-1100.

Senzoku Ike Park: Swan boats, playground, and
lakeside walk. Senzoku Ike Sta. (03) 3726-2427.

Koganei Park: Adventure playgrounds, and Tokyo
Tatemono-en Open Air Museum. Musashi Koganei Sta. or Hanakoganei Sta. (0423) 85-5611.

Ueno Park: Zoo, boating pond, and museums.
Ueno Sta. (03) 3828-5644.

Showa Kinen Park: Cycling course, imaginative
playgrounds, and boating pond. Nishi Tachikawa Sta.
or Tachikawa Sta. (042) 528-1751.

Gyosen Park: Japanese garden, playground,
and children’s zoo with petting zoo. Nishi Kasai Sta.
(03) 3687-3492.

For a full listing of parks, see Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association’s website. www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/index.html
 

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