Space Shuttle Playground

space shuttle playground

This kindergarten has a space shuttle climber on their roof.
There are other posts on cool Japanese playgrounds at:

Mito Kodokan

This Golden Week, I went to Mito, an interesting city that deserves to get a lot more visitors than it does. I’ve already written about Kairakuen garden, the city’s most well-known attraction, but there are also some other attractions that make this city a nice getaway spot if you live in Tokyo. This is called the Kodokan. It was an academy for the nobles of Ibaraki Prefecture,  and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a high school or university campus that was as beautiful as this one.


The school was founded in 1841 by the ninth feudal lord of Mito, Nariaki Tokugawa. Pupils studied the Chinese classics, warrior arts, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.


The building is filled with beautiful calligraphy and furniture from 19th century Japan. Unfortunately, most of the buildings burned down in a fire, but the front gate and the main hall have been preserved.


An English pamphlet is available.

The Kodokan is open from 9 to 4 every day of the year. Admission is only 190 yen ofr adults. Address: Mito-shi, Sannomaru 1-6-29. It’s seven minutes’ walk from the station. Tel. 029-231-4725

Cosplay Hooker

cosplay hooker

A costume play hooker coming out of an Ikebukuro love hotel. I was more than a little curious about what was in the suitcase.

Bonsai in Showa Kinen Koen

Bonsai plant in Showa Kinen Koen. Many of the plants in this lovely little bonsai garden are hundreds of years old and some are equisitely beautiful. There are also huge fields of flowers, a Japanese garden, and an incredible children’s playground. The children’s playground has giant, climbable dragon sculptures, rubber mountains for bouncing on, a water park, unicycle training area, and a “sea of mist”. The best time to see the flowers is late-April to early-May, but the park is enjoyable any time. It’s on the Chuo Line about 30 minutes from Shinjuku. Click here for the park’s website.web analytics

There are more posts related to bonsai at:

Sumo Mawashi Hanging Out to Dry


While I was riding around looking for the Oni slide, I came across this sumo stable out in the middle of nowhere. The white fabric on the fence is the wrestlers’ mawashi hung out to dry. It’s called the Sakaigawa-beya. Here’s their homepage and a photo of the wrestlers.

Kairakuen Garden

The city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture is just a couple hours on the local train north of Tokyo, it’s cheap, and there are some interesting sight-seeing spots in the city. I went there this Golden Week, and I’ve never had such an easy trip in this usually crowded holiday season. We hopped on the uncrowded Joban Line train from Ueno at around 9:00 AM, and two hours later we were at our destination, having spent just 1800 yen on transportation. Our hotel, just three minutes’ walk from the station was only 5000 yen for a double room, and if you didn’t have a calendar, you’d never know it was Golden Week because there were absolutely no crowds.

Mito is famous for it’s spectacular garden, Kairakuen, one of the three most famous in Japan. It’s most famous for its 3000 plum blossoms, which bloom in February and March, and that’s probably the only time the place gets at all crowded. The park has more than 100 varieties of plum trees. Check out Philbert Ono’s photo site for pictures of the park when the plum blossoms are in bloom.

Golden Week is nice too, because the azaleas are in bloom. There’s also a bamboo forest, which is a very relaxing place for a stroll, and a traditional building called the Kobuntei. Each room on the Kobuntei’s first floor has a different flower motif, so you pass through pine, peach, plum, azalea, cherry blossom, maple, bamboo, and chrysanthemum flower-themed rooms with attractive paintings on the sliding screens. Climb up the stairs and you’re treated to a view out over the garden and the nearby Lake Senba. There are photos of the various flower rooms on this Japanese website.

The name “Kairakuen” means “a garden to enjoy with people.” It was created relatively recently, in 1841, by the local lord Nariaki Tokugawa. It was built in conjunction with an academy for samurai called the Kodokan, and was meant to be a place for people to refresh themselves when they were tired from their studies. It was one of the first parks that was opened to the public, and was influential in spreading the idea that these places should be shared with the general populace.

I’ve been to Japan’s two other most famous landscape gardens, Kenrokuen in the city of Kanazawa, and Korakuen in Okayama. I’d say that Kenrokuen was the best because it was the most archetypal Japanese garden, with all the tea houses, ponds, bridges, and pine trees that you expect to see. Kairakuen and Korakuen were about equal.

Admission to the park is free, and the Kobuntei is just 190 yen. There’ll be more on Mito in my next post.





1-3-3 Tokiwa-cho, Mito-shi, Ibaraki
Admission: Free
190 yen (Koubun-tei)
Open throughout the year

Oni Slide


Here’s another incredibly cool Japanese playground. This monster is called an oni.
Here’s where it is on Google Maps:,139.764783&spn=0,359.997801&z=19&layer=c&cbll=35.813777,139.764757&panoid=13Q6uzCeS96H01eKeXwsPQ&cbp=12,174.76,,0,5

There are pics of some other really cool playgrounds in the following posts:

Taisho Matsuri


Man at the Taisho Matsuri in Yono Saitama, a procession of people dressed up in costumes from the 1920s. It’s held on the last Saturday of October every year at Yono station on the Keihin Tohoku line, about 30 minutes from Ueno. It’s quite a small festival, but well worth a visit if you live in Saitama. For more information, visit: