Pool fever

By on June 30, 2008

The beginning of July reveals a Japanese cultural phenomenon that is hidden from us for most of the year. No arduous study is required to participate. Initiation into this activity requires merely a towel, a swimming costume and a clean bill of health against agoraphobia.

Pool season comes around like clockwork every year; the swimming kit is found, the plastic swim bags emblazoned with this year’s favourite characters are duly purchased. The local outdoor swimming pools roll back the blue tarps, turn the taps on and order extra quantities of chlorine. Gone are the normally fierce regulations of swim hats, limbering up exercises and no-smiling that usually accompanies pools in Japan. For two and a half months of the year Pool Fever takes over.

Central to Japan’s pool culture are the water amusement parks that spring to life, providing a summer sanctuary for everyone. Everyone here is the operative word! In the oppressive heat and the overbearing humidity it seems as though all of Tokyo’ s residents are there.From the mass of grey emerge lurid shorts, loud shirts and enough vinyl to do away with the eco bag phenomenon for a year or two, the once dull, lifeless concrete parks are transformed into a vibrant sea of color. Welcome to the Aquadrome!

Get there early, families come in time honored tradition at the crack of dawn to secure the best spot to place their towels. Visitors bring tents, wind breakers, picnic tables, you name it. If it folds and can spring into action with a ‘made in China’ label, chances are there will be one around you.

These parks offer a huge variety of pools and activities. Flowing pools allow you to float and be carried along in oversized tubes, water chutes send you cascading through hundreds of coiled meters of fiberglass tubing, wave pools lull you into thinking you could almost be at a real beach. Jets, wading pools and hoses keep the smal-lest ones amused until the wrinkled skin starts to set in.

Safety is of course always a major concern. Lifeguards are on duty but can be more concerned with their tan and muscle flexing. Always keep an eye on your crew, the wave pools have a tendency to have more bodies than liquid and they can be overwhelming. The chutes tend to be manned adequately and are heavily monitored with appropriate height restrictions. Cast all urban legends aside, all these parks are well organized but you can never be too cautious. Watch for collisions in the flowing pools, fists, feet, you name it everything can fly at you and always have a contingency plan if you get separated.

Despite the chaotic appearance and the deafening noise level an undercurrent of order remains. Miraculously, in true Japanese style a sense of harmony exists even on the busiest of days, allowing thousands of families to happily co-exist for the day just centimetres from each other.

The moment you and your family go through the turnstiles, the sense of euphoria explodes. Youngsters run to get changed (if they haven’t already got their costumes on already) and you know you have come to the right place. You might not be able to see the water but the children love it and the feeling is contagious.


Opening July 9th

Toshimaen has been cooling the crowds for years. One of the oldest and biggest of the water park’s conveniently located on the Oedo line. It offers the biggest selection of pools and slides around. Huge areas to lay down your towel–watch for the uneven surfaces and cracks though! Rental resort style poolside umbrellas and sun loungers are available along with evening fun at the adjoining amusement park.

Adult  ¥3,800. Child ¥2,300



Opening July 11th

Arrive by train and take the escalator up the hill (that’s right) to the park. Wai has great rides: a huge 4-man tube canyon ride and long chutes and ropeways. This year sees a new Anpan water area for the very young.

Adult  ¥2,800. Child ¥ 1,800.



Open all year

Go by car, the bus from the nearest  station can take a while. Facilities include an indoor wave pool and pirate ship whilst outdoor areas have amazing obstacle courses over the water guaranteed to give you rope burns and aching arms the following day.

Summer prices apply from July 1st.

Adult ¥3,500. Child ¥2,500. Infant ¥1,800.



Opening July 19th

Located in Showa Kinen Koen Memorial park. Rainbow pool has a huge shallow play area, chutes and a big wave pool, but the nice thing is everyone can just wander around in their swim gear through the rest of the park. Try renting a boat and having a BBQ.

Adult ¥2,200. Child ¥1,200. Infant ¥300.



Opening  July 18th

Tucked away past the shopping areas and next to the ship-shaped Maritime Museum in Odaiba, this large flowing pool is a great summer survival destination with easy car parking.

Adult ¥1,800. Child ¥900.



Opening July 1st

Everything you could wish for at a price that’s right. The Pool Garden has a jumbo pool, flying fish pool, flowing pool, water slide and “jabu-jabu” wading pool.

Adult ¥500. Child ¥200. Infant ¥100.


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