Moomin Park is a fun and unique park just 20 minutes from Yokota’s terminal gate! We spent an afternoon at the park in late March and had a wonderful hanami under the sakura trees. The park’s structures were created as replicas of a popular Finnish childrens book & TV series called the “Moomin’s”. The Moomin’s look akin to hippopotamuses and have adventures in Moominvalley. Although I had never heard of the series before we went to the park, I will definitely be checking it out.
There were several climbing structures, a large library (all books were in Japanese), a small bridge and babbling brook (perfect for wading) and best of all; a huge adobe three-story treehouse with plenty of places to hide and play. My children spent most of their time in the treehouse exploring the nooks and windows. There were surprises at every turn; perfect for little ones and big kids too. There is plenty of space to run around or have a picnic and bathrooms are located close by, next to a little store that sells Moomin merchandise. Entrance to the park is free, as is parking.
On our way out, we noticed a large playground just across the street from Moomin. We were pleasantly surprised to find several play areas, including a huge climbing structure that looked like a spiders web. The ground was covered in sand, making it a perfect place to bring sand toys. My son joined a sandcastle-making party and had a ball. This playground also had a large parking lot (in case Moomin’s is full), restrooms and nice shady areas. GPS: 35.830762, 139.344619. Phone: 042-972-7711. Address: 893-1 Azu, Hanno, Saitama Prefecture 357-0046, Japan. Webpage: http://www.city.hanno.saitama.jp/0000002658.html Hours: 9:00AM – 5:00PM (closed on Mondays and Public Holidays). Emily Gyimah, June 2014. Photos by Emily Gyimah & Sarah Straus 2014.
Tobuki Sports Park is located in Hachioji, an easy 10 km drive from Yokota. We decided to visit the park one Sunday in January, specifically for the skateboard park. The skateboard park touts itself as the largest public skate park in Japan, and it didn’t disappoint. We had to obtain a registration card at the park office (free) and then pay to enter the skating area (¥250-¥500/day, depending on age). We found out that children under junior high school age are required to be with a guardian (who must also skate), but one of the patrons there was kind enough to watch my son. All patrons must wear helmets and protective gear and BMX bikes and roller skates/blades are allowed as well. My son had a blast and we will definitely be going back (as soon as I find a skateboard and helmet for myself).
Tobuki Sports Park also has large baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and a climbing wall and structure. The skate park is the only area of the park that charges an entry fee. Unfortunately, there is no playground for younger kids, but there are ample grassy areas for playing and picnics. I saw a few vending machines, but no snack vendors.
After playing for a while, we decided to check out the onsen located at the entrance to the park. It was small and clean and had inside and outside bathing areas, as well as a restaurant. We spent most of our time in a bath that was infused with several different types of herbs. Entrance to the onsen was ¥700 for adults and ¥300 for children. Unlike most onsens, this facility does allow babies! – Emily Gyimah, February 2014.
The Tokyo Fire Museum, located in Shinjuku, is fun and free. We took our four-year-old son on a weekday with visiting relatives and practically had the place to ourselves. He really enjoyed trying on the costumes and playing in the firetrucks and rooftop helicopter. I enjoyed the museum itself, as it’s one of the few museums in Japan that I have been to that has information in English. Stars & Stripes ran an excellent article on the museum titled: Red-hot destination: Tokyo Fire Museum. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Mondays.
DIRECTIONS: Located at Yotsuya -Sanchome Station, Exit #2. – Emily Gyimah, February 2014.