It’s summertime, the heat’s on and school’s out. Many will hit the road to one theme park or another. Visiting the thousands of theme parks in Japan can be a hit-and-miss experience, a little research or word-of-mouth recommendation might save you more than a few yen and yawns. Your regular thrills-and-spills amusement park is listed with just a website and/or phone number. I see no point in commenting on those unless it has a distinguishing facility such as a record-breaking roller-coaster. Theme parks that are asterisked have some educational value (one asterisk to minimum value, two for medium and three for good or excellent educational value)… hey, it’s up to you to get creative — combine it with a geography lesson or theme history unit. This list will be added to continuously, so check back here or post your comments and help us out here. If this list isn’t good enough for you, do also check out the School’s Out page that is at Education in Japan website. My sources: Kazoku-de-odekake Magazine (’06-’07, ed) plus online research. Also, Yuuenchi and Teema Parks website in Japanese only.
Arakawa Yuen, Tokyo
13-6 Chikko-hon-machi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
15 min walk from Tenjin Stn
Inside the shopping and entertainment complex built on the Hakata Wharf (“futoh” means “wharf”), is an 8 meter tall cuclindrical aquarium with about 500 fish from the local Genkai-nada Sea. There’s also a museum, a year round snowboard facility, the Hakata Port Tower that is free and a public market for local seaproduce.
Canal City Hakata
1-2 Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
Access: 10 min walk from Hakata Stn or Nakasu Kawabata subway Stn
City-like megacomplex built over an artificial canal, this is a shopping entertainment and buisness center designed by American architect Jon Jerde in mind. Part of the canal has been turned into a nature garden with plants, live fish and even fireflies. There’s a Sega amusement park, theater for musicals, Dancing Water fountain, Ramen Stadium (ramen from all over Japan for sampling) and of course, hotels, shopping and dining.
**Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, Tochigi 470-2, Karakura, Fujiwara-machi, Shioya-gun, Tochigi
Access: 2 hr from Asaka Stn to Kinugawa Onsen Stn by limited express on Tobu Line. 20 min by bus from Kinugawa Onsen Stn
Early 17th -18th century town replicated providing good ninja action fun, re-enactments of court life and a show featuring elegant oiran (high-class courtesans) … ooops not for kids.
1-1 Senri Banpakukouen, Suita-shi, Osaka
Access: Take the monorail to Banpaku Kinen Koen Stn.
More than 40 rides and attractions.
Fuji-Q High Land, Yamanashi-shi
5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi-shi
Access: Take the JR Chuo Honsen Line to Otsuki Stn (1 hr by tokkyu train) change to Fuji-Kyuko Line (50 mins). Or take Chuo Kosoku Bus, Fuji Goko Line (1 hr 40 mins) from Shinjuku STn W. exit. Phone: 055…
Amusement park located at the foot of Mt Fuji, the biggest roller coaster called Fujiyama has amazingly steep dives. “Dodonpa” is the world’s fastest (or so) it reaches speeds of 172 km/ph in just 1.8 seconds and “Cho Senritsumeikyu” is the longest haunted house in the world.
***Ghibili Museum (Mitaka-no-mori-jiburi-bijitsukan)
Though a fairly newly established museum, this has already become a veritable mecca capital for anime fans around the world… busloads of foreign tourists heading here daily, thanks to the fame of Miyazaki Hayao’s animation movies. The building which houses the museum is an architectural marvel and a delight in itself, with a Mediterranean feel to it, and within Renaissance timbered old-world chambers with secrets to be unraveled behind doors. A HUGE Tottoro greets the visitor behind the unused ticket window outside. Within the building, light filters through stained-glass windows contributing to the fantasy world within the building. Even individual toilets feature different stained-glass artwork. There is a gallery with hundreds of original hand-sketches to final frames for Ghibili movies and set-ups of the animation studio and explanations of how the industry works. Best visited having watched a few of the greatest Ghibili movies (Totoro, Sen-to-chihiro, etc, with your children, but you will be inspired to watch them if you haven’t. Not to be missed is a stroll on the rooftop that has a herb garden and sculptures of Ghibili anime characters. The half-hourly showings of short-films are a real treat too. For the kids, nekobus room is a must … pity the rationed time there to accommodate the crowds. Arrive early or you’ll regret not having enough time to see everything. An enchanting experience guaranteed! (You might want to combine and compare this with a Suginami Animation Museum visit on another day.)
*Huis Ten Bosch, Nagasaki
1-1 Huistenbosh-machi, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki
Access: 50 min by bus from Nagasaki Airport
A 17th century Dutch theme-park town with many replicas of Dutch landmarks set alognside canals and rick-lined streets.
***Kamogawa Sea World 1464-18 Higashi-cho, Kamogasahi-city, Chiba
Access: 5 mins from JR Awa-Kamogawa Stn / 2 hrs from Tokyo Stn by Ltd Express Wakashio.) by free shuttle bus.
A complete marine leisure centre with an aquarium famous for dolphin and killer whale shows and home to 11,000 animals of 800 species of creatures of the sea.
Kidzania is a scaled-down for kiddies’ virtual town with a collection of facilities and shops or hands-on job-experience theme park. 50 pavilions offer children a chance to work at a gas station, beauty salon, TV station, fire department, automobile maintenance shop, confectionary plant and others. Based on Mexico city’s big-hit theme park that opened in 1999. Kidzania is based on a recent trend of edu-tainment and is billed as “Japan’s First Facility For Children to Experience Various Professions Hands-on”; Admission is steep: Kids willl pay 3,000 yen and adults 2,000 yen so that your under-12 kids can try out jobs such as gas stand attendants, doctors, firemen, flight attendants, bankers, cellphone shopkeepers, etc. Kidzania Tokyo, which opened Oct. 5, 2006 is a 3-minute walk from Toyosu station on the Yurakucho subway line and Yurikamome Line. Open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-9p.m. Address: Urban Port LalaPort, Koto-ku 2-chome, Toyosu, Tokyo. Read more here.
Kitano-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe
Access: 20 min walk to North from Sannomiya Stn
More than 20 houses designed by foreign architects and built by Japanese tradesmen, these unique houses are open as museums, shops and cafes.
Kobe Water Science Museum
37-1, Kusudani-cho, Hyogo-ku, Kobe
Access: Get off at Kusudani-cho bus stop (from JR Sannomiya Stn)
German-style Renaissance building originally a treatment facility for Rokko Mountain water, it now houses a science museum dediated to the importance of water to earth and human daily lives. Attractions such as hybrid 3D Theater, a Water Circus and an Aquacutter.
Access: Korakuen STn (Marunouchi line), Phone: 03-…
*Kurashiki Tivoli Park, Okayama
12-1 Kotobukicho, Kurashiki-shi, Okayama
Access: 1 min walk fom JR Kurashiki Stn
The grounds have over 50,000 trees , 900,000 flowers and a replica of Tivoli Lake in Denmark.
*Kyoto Studio Park Toei, Kyoto Uzumasa Eigamura 10 Higashi-hachigaoka, Uzumasa, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Access: Bus #71, 72, 73 from JR Kyoto Stn
An actual working film set for historical movies and programmes, Eigamura opened as a them park for the pulic in 1975. You can trace the history of Japanese film industry and the careers of the great actors and actresses and directors of Japanese cinema.
Marble Village Rock Heart Castle
Access: Numata Stn (JR Joetsu line), 15 min by bus. Phone: 0279-63-2101
***Meiji-mura (Meiji Village), Aichi
1 Uchiyama, Inuyama-shi, Aichi
Access: 60 min by taxi / 20 min by bus (Inuyama) 30 min by train (Meitetsu-Nagoya); Train and bus (Nagoya Rail Road)
An open-air museum wiith 70 Meiji period buildings that have been brought here or rebuilt here. Meiji streetcars and locomotives run here.
Namco Nanja Town (Namuko-nanjyataen), Tokyo
Access: Higashi Ikebukuro Stn (Yurakucho Line), walk 5 min Phone: 03-5950-0765
The largest indoor built-in theme park in Japan, the park has 7 streets with different themes, featuring Little Hong Kong Street, for example.
(Sagamiko) Picnic Land, Kanagawa
Nasu Highland Park , hai.co.jp/
Kuroiso Stn (JRKeihin-Tohoku Line), 1 hr by bus
Niigata Russian Village (Niigata Rosha-mura), Niigata
Access: Niigata Stn. 20 min by bus Phone: 0250-63-111
Nikko Edo-Mura, Nikko
Access: Onsen Stn (Tobu-Kinugawa Line) 20 min by bus Phone: 0288-77-1777 .
Nikko Kinugawa (Western Mura)
Access: (Tobu-Kinugawa Line from Tobu-Asakusa Stn) / Kinugawa Onsen Stn., 20 min by bus Phone: 0288-21-8731 .
This is essentially a mock cowboy town with a few shows. Not recommended if you’re used to the real thing and to watching cowboy shows, but worth a visit if your kids have never seen a cowboy or western movie or if they are never likely to see one. Few Japanese kids have that exposure locally.
Nippon Land HOW Yuenchi
Access: Shuttle bus from Gotenba Stn (Gotenba Line), Mishima or Fuji stns (JR Tokaido Line) Phone: 0559-98-0636 .
Nishi-Sendai Highland, Sendai
Nitachikamine Koen, Ibaraki
Omochaoukoku (Toy Kingdom) in Karuizawa. In a natural setting, the park is literally a paradise for kids – land of toys, food, fun and games. Outdoor pools, joyrides in the amusement park, toy chamber rooms, activities like suikawari (watermelon hacking while blindfolded), kabuto/kuwagata-mushi-fighting rings in summer – while accommodated at the luxurious Hotel Green Plaza Karuizawa. This is the Japanese alternative to Disneyland.
Retro Trains (Hiroshima Electric Railway), Hiroshima
Featuring streetcars and electric trains that have been restored. Hiroshima is sometimes referred to as a living museum of electric trains and after the WWII some of the streetcar system were the first things to be restored.
Rusutsu Resort , Hokkaido
13 Aza-Izumikawa, Rusutsu-mura, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
Access: 2 hrs by bus from JR Sapporo Stn to Rusutsu
One of the largest resort and leisure facilities in Hokkaido – roller coasters, golf, canoeing, paragliding, and others. Skiing in winter.
Sapporo Factory, Hokkaido
N2 E4, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Access: City chuo bus 88 Factory line, from the south entrance of Sapporo Seibu dept store main bldg to Factory-mae. to 5 min walk from City Bus Center Subway Stn (Tozai Line).
A giant indoor entertainment complex built onto Japan’s first beer factory. OK maybe beer’s not a suitable topic for kids but the factory assembly line is. More than beer bottles, the glass atrium connected to the original red brick bldg complex has shopping malls, cinemas, galleries, day spa and hotel.
Sanrio Puroland 1-31 Ochiai, Tama-ku, Tokyo
Access: 30 mins from Shinjuku
Welcome to Sanrio Character-land – greetings by popular Sanrio characters at this indoor theme park featuring 7 attractions. Main events include the daily show with singing, dancing, acrobatic story that takes place 360 degrees around Puroland’s centerpiece – the magnificent “Friendship Tree”. And of course, your kids will want to shop at one of the largest Sanrio stores in Japan with just about everything Sanrio in production sold here. See this write-up online.
*Seagaia Ocean Dome, Miyazaki Hamayama, Yamasaki-cho, Miyazaki-shi, Miyazaki
Access: 25 min from Miyazaki Airport
Famed for the world’s largest indoor water park but there are also a zoo, hotels, convention centre, golf courses and tennis courts.
Seibu Yuenchi, Saitama
Access: Seibu-Yuenchi Stn (Seibu-Shinjuku Line) Saitama Prefecture Phone: 04-2922-1371
*Shima Parque Espana, Nagoya
Sakazaki, Isobe-cho, Shima-shi, Mie
Access: 1 hr 55 min from Nagoya Stn on Kintetsu Express Line
Spanish themepark a la Costa del Sol. Shows, parades and Spanish-flavored attractions.
Spa Resort Hawaiians , Fukushima
50, Warabi, Daira, Joban Fujiwara-machi, Iwaki city, Fukushima
Access: 15 mins shuttle bus from Yumoto Stn, JR Joban Line. 13 mins by Joban Kotsu local bus to “Hawaiians”
5 theme parks–Water ark, VIR, Spring Park, Edo Jowa Yoichi and Spa Garden PAREO.
*Space World, Fukuoka
4-1-1 Higashida, Yahatahigashi-ku, Kita-Kyushu-shi, Fukuoka
Access: 55 min by JR Line from Hakata Stn
Rides to space without leaving Earth!
*Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, Yokohama, Kanagawa
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku, Yokohama-shi, Kanawagawa
Access: 5 mins walk from JR Shin-Yokohama Stn
This museum is set up like a shita-machi(downtown) from old Japan plus you can relish ramen from all over Japan assuming you have a large stomach for it.
***Tobu World Square, Tochigi
209-1, Ohara, Fujihara-machi, Shioya-gun, Tochigi
Access: 2 hr by Tobu Super Express Train “SPACIA” frpm Asakusa Stn to Kinugawa-Onsen Stn from a 5 min bus
Fabulous (skilfully crafted) miniature replicas of Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, Mount Rushmore, including all 42 items of World Heritage registered by UNESCO.
Not on the list but Tokyo stn and the little trains and boats and airplanes that actually run – make a great outing for little tots too, they’ll run together with the vehicles. Take your world geography lesson to the theme park!
*Tokyo Disney Resort 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu-shi, Chiba
Access: 15 min from Tokyo Stn to JR Maihama Stn on JR Keiyo Line or JR Musashino Line about 50 mins by direct bus from Narita Airport
Everyone knows what Disney is about – Disney character themes, but not many know that Tokyo DisneySea is the better option offering both fun and educational too. Replica Venetian canals and Renaissance-themed creations, plus fantasy world and lots of creative as well as old-world transport vehicles.
Tokyo Joypolis 1-6-1 Daiba Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access:2 min walk from Odaiba Kaihin Park Stn (Tokyo Rinkai New Transportation “Yurikamome”)/ 5 min walk from Toko Teleport Stn (Rinkai Fuku Toshin Line)
The largest and most sophisticated of theme parks in Japan located in the entertainment hub of Decks Tokyo Beach, Odaiba, made to look like a city of the future and is full of 3D adventures. Lots of videogames from Sega promoted here too.
Tokyo Sesame Place, Tokyo
Access: Hachioji Stn (JR Chuo Line)/ Keio-Hachioji Stn (Keio Line) 30 min by bus Phone: 042-558-6511
Tokyo Summer Land, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo
Access: Hachioji Stn., then by bus to Summerland Phone: 042-558- 6511
One of the “hottest” or should I say “coolest” places to be for the locals – features with obstacles in the outdoor pool and the indoor and underground Water Adventure Dome is like a mysterious lit cavern. Adjacent is the Mutsugoro Animal Kingdom. Not cheap at 4,500 yen per adult and 2/3,000 yen per child.
Toshimaen Stn (Seibu-Ikebukuro Line) Phone: 03-…
*Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
21-33 Sakurajima, Konohana-ku, Osaka city
Access: 3 min walk from JR Universal City Stn
The magic of Hollywood without going to the US! Greetings by Snoopy, Shrek and Sesame Street characters in person!
2-8-1 Shinko, naka-ku, Yokohama
Access: 2 min walk from Minatomirai Stn
Straight-forward amusement park with rides, and a part of the Minato Mirai 21 skyline. No educational value whatsoever, just fun and thrill factor.
Hakkeijima, Kanazawa-ku, kanagawa
Access:Take the Seaside Line to Hakkeijima Stn
Japan’s first surf coaster that swings out over the sea and one of the largest aquariums in Japan with over 500 species and 100,000 sea creatures in all. Illuminated at night. Combine day trip to the aquarium with ocean theme unit for hands on learning.
Yomiuri Land (Yuenchi Rando), Tokyo
Access: To Yomiuri Land-mae Stn (Odakyu Line), by bus 10 mins or Keio-Yomiuri Land Stn. (Keio-Sagamihara Line from Chofu Stn) 6 min by Sky Road. Add: Tokyo-to, Inagi-shi, Yanoguchi 3294 Phone: 044-96… Attractions include giant gondola ferris wheel and various other rides, aquarium, sealion show, water amusement island (with cartoon characters in summer), 2 haunted houses, 1 mystery and 1 “bukkuri” surprise house. For more details in English see this link.
CAT AND DOG PARKS
There is a burgeoning interest in doggy and cat-themed parks corresponding to the declining birth rate and surging pet-shop numbers, so they are:
Fuji Subaru Doggyland Park, Kanagawa
Access: Kawaguchiko Stn (Fuji-Kyuko Line), 15 min by bus Phone: 0555-72-2239
Futako-Tmaagawaen Stn E.Exit (Tokyo-Shintamagawa/Oimachi lines), walk 3 min walk between Tokyu Store and Tokyu Hands then turn right and after 50 meters turn left.
Tsukuba Wan Wan Land
See also this page for write-ups and access info on Inutama and Nekoyama Parks.