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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Gray city's parks green escapes

Staff writer

No plans for the Golden Week holidays? Spending a relaxing day in a park under blue skies may be just the ticket for weary urbanites.

News photo
A mother and daughter stroll in a field of yellow and orange poppies at Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa, western Tokyo. REIJI YOSHIDA PHOTO

The season is blessed with beautiful flowers and fresh green leaves, and Tokyo has many large parks rich in nature despite its concrete-jungle image.

For a relaxing outing, consider the following parts in the metropolis.

Showa Kinen Park in the western Tokyo suburb of Tachikawa is probably one of the best in the metropolis.

The vast park has almost everything you can think of for families to enjoy on a sunny day -- vast green fields, trees, ponds, flowers, rental bicycles and boats, barbecue facilities, a bird sanctuary and even a putting green.

"Right now, poppies are in full bloom. It's the best season to see them," a park official said, adding that there are about 1 million yellow and orange poppies in the park.

The 1.8-million-sq.-meter park opened in 1975 to commemorate 50 years of the reign of the late Emperor Showa. The park is 38 times as large as Tokyo Dome.

The park is located near the JR Ome Line's Nishi-Tachikawa Station, whose exit is next to the park. It is open from 9:30 a.m to 5 p.m. and admission is 400 yen.

Kasai Rinkai Park in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward is another one with various amusement spots.

The park, facing Tokyo Bay, has a popular aquarium with 75,000 sea creatures. Particularly famous is a huge tank containing 2,200 tons of water and a school of tuna.

The park has a big Ferris wheel and a bird sanctuary with many observation spots. Though swimming is not allowed, walking along a long artificial sandy beach in the park is also enjoyable.

Admission is free, and it is located near Kasai Rinkai Koen Station on the JR Keiyo Line.

Koganei Park, located about 1 km north of Musashi-Koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line, is also blessed with greenery, including a forest.

Located in the park is the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum. Restored or moved to the museum compound are old cultural assets built in Tokyo between the Edo Period and the Showa Era.

Among them are an "izakaya" bar/restaurant from 1856, the residence of the late Prime Minister Korekiyo Takahashi, built in 1902, a photo studio from 1937 and a soy sauce shop from 1933.

A public bath constructed in 1929 and other buildings are used as image models for the Oscar-winning animation movie "Sen To Chihiro No Kami Kakushi" ("Spirited Away") by director Hayao Miyazaki. His animation company, Studio Ghibli, is also located nearby.

Thanks to the movie, the museum became well-known, said Fumiyo Hayakawa, an official of the museum. "The number of visitors increased to 360,000 in 2003 from 272,000 the previous year," she said.

On May 4 and 5, the museum will host a traditional toy-making event, in which visitors will also have a chance to play with their creations, she said. To get to the park, take a bus from Musashi-Koganei Station or Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo Line. The park is free. But the museum charges an admission of 400 yen and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Rinshi No Mori Park in Meguro Ward is a 10-minute walk from Musashi Koyama Station on the Tokyu Meguro Line, Mita subway line and Nanboku subway line.

The 120,800-sq.-meter park first opened in 1900. The park has 6,732 tall trees, many of whose trunks have a circumference of 3 meters.

Now the red blossoms of horse chestnuts are coming out.

Mizumoto Park in Katsushika Ward is a huge riverside park, with fishing spots, trees, flowers and athletic equipment. It is 10 minutes by bus from Kanamachi Station on the JR Joban Line.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Shinjuku Ward is a large, well-known space boasting 20,000 trees in the heart of Shinjuku. Located just outside Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station on the Marunouchi subway line, the park is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is 200 yen.

Jindai Botanical Park in Chofu, western Tokyo, is a botanical garden with 100,000 trees of some 4,500 varieties. The park's 30 sections include gardens for roses, azaleas and "ume" Japanese apricot trees. Areas around the park also offer good strolling venues, with many "soba" (buckwheat) noodle shops.

To reach the park, take a bus from either Tsutsujigaoka Station or Chofu Station on the Keio Line, or from Mitaka Station or Kichijoji Station on the JR Chuo Line.

The park is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during Golden Week and admission is 500 yen.

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