|Looking up into the interior of the anthill.|
Friday, July 22, 2011
5th August, 2010 - After trips to two cemeteries, it was time to take a different path... to Takino Suzuran Kyuryu Kouen, or Hillside Park. This is without doubt one of the great places in Sapporo for children (and adults alike). It's about 23 km south of Sapporo Station, and definitely better to get there by car. However, if you've got the opportunity it's worth the trek, and just down the road from Takino Reien.
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Here's a helpful excerpt from the official site:
Now, this is a very hard park to describe... it's half childrens adventure park, half natural wonder-land - and I'm sure come winter it's a snow-scape delight... and even goes by the name Takino Snow World. It was early August however, and as hot as... well, as hot as Sapporo gets.
There a number of different "zones" within the park, that provide a huge variety that I can't hope to describe. And indeed the park may be too large to see all in one day... which is good for the next trip. The park opens out on to a beautiful lake area with waterfalls. No water restrictions here - and a good place to have a quick bite to eat.
And L-kun was already in "extreme energy zone"... running all over the place. And we hadn't even seen any of the children's area yet. Poor Okaasan... she didn't realise just how busy today was going to get at this stage.
The first area is a giant concrete slide section. Lots of slides of different steepness and length, and this was the first area where L-kun could really get down and play.
And indeed, he and Daddy just ran up the stairs and went for a slide. Watch out Mummy!... Here I come. Of course, Daddy wasn't being very observant. Otherwise, I would have noticed that all the other children were wearing helmets. A quick announcement over the PA let us know...
...All children have to wear helmets to ride on the slides (provided free, in a variety of sizes). This was the first time L-kun had worn a helmet. I have to admit that I think that the helmets were over-kill compared to the slides themselves. In Adelaide, we have some slides at St Kilda which made these look like a walk in the park. Japan is definitely more likely to over-protect than in Australia. But when in Rome.... or Sapporo.
There's another area just above the slides which is like a giant's playground. Lots of fun activities for the kids to do. And.. er... the adults. The good thing is that there's also plenty of vending machines to re-hydrate yourself during summer. I was starting to get hot already...
...And so was L-kun. Thankfully, we had also brought L-kun's bathers (for just such an occasion). There are a number of ponds and slow water slide areas that are favourites amongst the children. A good place to sit down and take a breather while the children play. Just expect to get a little wet.
One of the strangest areas (didn't take good photos here) was the ant-hill. You can see it in the background, behind the slides on the photo above. It's actually quite tall - but the surprise is on the inside. The anthill is hollow. You can either climb up and go for a slide down (about a two storey slide), or you climb down and down into the bowls of the earth. Actually, it's quite daunting looking down from the top. Not good for those of us that aren't good at heights.
The anthill contains a number of ants (including a very hard to find "Queen ant" which is great for the children to go for an ant-hunt. The other thing, the anthill leads to a series of underground tunnels and ante-chambers. I'm not sure what purpose these serve, but it's easy to become a little disoriented in there; saved only by strategically placed signs. Finally - the light of day!
And finally, you come to the great gem of Takino... the hill. I'm sure this hill used to be ski slope during winter, and I'm sure is the centre-point of the "Snow Land". In summer there is another attraction. Balls. Great Big Red Balls. Seriously. This is fun. These balls are huge, and that hill is high. The point. Push the balls up the hill, and let them roll down.... Are you ready L-kun?
Down they go.... and go.... and go....!
And of course, there's always Ojiichan to lend a helpful hand for L-kun. If by helpful I mean, running over L-kun. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt a bit.
Note: Running down hills with cameras is generally not considered a good thing to do. But a man gotta do what a man has gotta do!
Meanwhile L-kun and T-chan were getting jiggy with it on the giant fluffy eggs. The parks name, not ours. These are a different take on the trampoline idea. Fun by whatever name.
Now by this time it was actually getting pretty late in the afternoon, and we had just scraped the surface of things to do in the park. We took a break and went for a walk around the beautiful hillside zones.
As well as being a children's paradise - this is also a naturalists heaven (btw - I don't mean naturalist in the nudist sense... just in case that's your thing). I mean, there's lots of nature to enjoy... wherever the signs take you...
Around every corner there's something new to explore...
Whilst it wasn't Spring, there were still plenty of flowers around to enjoy...
Some of which were quite interesting... at least from a photographers perspective.
And it wasn't just me that was enjoying them... the dragonflies (tonbo) were loving them as well. I have to admit that I was never fond of dragonflies as a child. They always reminded me of giant wasps, and that tail just had to hold a horrible sting.... which of course they don't. Still, the things you fear as a child often colour your judgement as an adult.
I was therefore quite shocked to see my beautiful wife do the following thing. She taught me a trick... when you see a dragonfly, hold up your finger vertically... very still. And they will land on it. I laughed... yeah right. But it's true. Lo and behold... the dragonfly landed right on her finger. Just as she said.
You see, not only was I shocked that tonbo seemed to have this addiction to land on anything that stands up like a twig... but this twig was my wife's finger... the same wife that screams when she sees a spider >.< this big. Tonbo magic.
Not to be outdone... L-kun tried, and once again, like clock work, along came a dragonfly on queue. I even tried it... and again and again it happened. I'm still a little surprised to this day. Perhaps because there are so many dragonflies in Japan come late summer that you can try this... whereas they are rarer here in Australia at least. I just don't know if this behaviour is common elsewhere, and would love to find out...
Now, we'd had a full day by this time... and we'd covered perhaps less than 30% of the park. Along with the fun, there's lots of educational value to, with an information centre freely available. Indeed the whole day is incredibly cheap... park entry is only 400 yen for adults, and 80 yen for children. That's right. 80 yen. That's less than 1AUD. Car parking is about 400yen per car, so that makes this a very affordable day out.
If you come earlier, in July, there's also a good chance that you'll see the lavender fields as well. Alas we were too late for that. Still, it's a great place just to walk around and enjoy the scenery. I can't recommend this place enough... but just leave yourself plenty of time. It's huge.
This is my late submission for the J-Festa July Post! It's not quite about July, but by the time you read it, it will be just ready for early August.