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Casey Hawkins

If you want to play with the locals, wander down to one of Japan’s inner-city parks or playgrounds. Given the nation’s people tend to be reserved and overly safety conscious, you’ll be surprised to see what constructions still exist and are utilized daily by families with young children. If you’ve ever watched a clip of a Japanese game show, perhaps you’re familiar with their quirky sense of humor and adoration for crazy recreational circuits and equipment. There’s everything from reflexology tracks, fake train stations and koala shaped pedalos.

Japanese Park

While living in Japan I regularly stumbled upon new parks and allowed my curiosity to get the better of me; I would abandon my plans and sensibility, morphing into a big kid to experience the joys of unregulated play.

I present you with some of the world’s best (and arguable child-friendly) parks and playgrounds situated around Japan. What they tend to lack in aesthetic beauty, they make up for in their ability to let children explore and play the way nature intended.

Tire Park in Nishirokugo, Tokyo

Tire Park in Japan

Tires of varying sizes function as play equipment, furniture and boundary markers, but best of all are the giant imaginative sculptures! You can sit at the foot of a robot, ride the tail of a dragon or crawl through the escape tunnel. The park even provides its patrons with loose tires to roll down a concrete slope; although you’re likely to witness both young and old opting to roll themselves down. I was most amazed by the way the park relies on patrons to play sensibly and pack the tires away at the end of each day.

Setagaya Park in Ikejiri, Tokyo

Setagaya Park

The playground in Setagaya could be mistaken as an area for the homeless; there are dodgily constructed wooden huts running along the boundary of the northern entrance. However, they are creations made and played in by local children who frequent the area. Visitors to the park are invited to use donated bits of junk to build fortresses and mansions for imaginary families to live in. Close by, children can run on a cloud-shaped ramp, shoot hoops, race electric cars around a circuit and create a masterpiece on one of the chalkboards. Despite looking like a ghetto, it’s definitely one to visit if the kids need to exude some energy.

Roller Slide at Nihondaira Zoo, Shizuoka

Roller Slide Park

Roller slides can be found in many parks across Japan, but the largest is situated inside Nihondaira Zoo. Starting at the top of a steep hill, it spirals and winds for an outstanding 427 yards! I recommend visiting here if you’re traveling through the region of Shizuoka and want to indulge the kids. Alternatively, big kids should opt for public parks such as Kannonzaki Park in Yokosuka as there’s a range of activities to suit the whole family. The roller slide at Kannozaki Park looks out onto a stunning natural setting, making the ride breath-taking for more than one reason. If you’re a thrill seeker, sit on your feet as you go down, as you’ll pick up great speed and save your bum from short-lived discomfort. 

Plane Spotting in Jonanjima Seaside Park, Tokyo

Plane Spotting in Jonanjima Seaside Park

Camp by the ocean and watch the planes take off at Jonanjima Park, close by Tokyo’s Haneda airport. Through day and night, listen for the dull rattle of the plane engine before casting your eyes upwards to marvel at their spectacular size and characteristics.

The L-shaped park and camp site provide visitors with plenty of space and nature, despite being situated in Tokyo’s industrial area. While you wait for the next plane to take to the runway, you can enjoy views of the commercial liners passing by or check out what the fisherman have managed to catch. Those looking to fill some time before heading to the airport should take advantage of the park’s serene seaside setting. There’s even a small skate park in the vicinity that is frequented by young locals.

Three top tips:

  1. Buy a picnic blanket from a 100 yen (roughly 80 cents) store before you go.
  2. It’s legal to consume alcohol in public in Japan, so if you’re heading to a park with friends, you might like to pick up some cheap drinks from a combini (Lawson, Family Mart or 7/11).
  3. If crowds don’t phase you, visit parks on the weekend. Interesting people tend to flock to parks and they usually have the time for a chat.  


Casey Hawkins grew up immersed in Australia’s sea, sun and surf culture. She first became a teacher because she was passionate about sharing ideas and experiences. Teaching has led her to explore some unique, remote locations and make friends with people from all walks of life. She is most passionate about learning and sharing their stories with others. Website: Nan’s Lucky Duck 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.