05 January, 2018

Big park fun

Several weeks ago we looked at the Christmas break, a three-week holiday, and decided to include a big get-us-out-of-the-house outing after Christmas and NYE. The parks that our teenage-family can visit these days and have fun have decreased in number and increased in size (and distance from our house). One park we knew our boys could have fun in is called Shinrin Park. It is a large park an hour drive from our house and a bit of a blast from the past. We were introduced to the park by a friend I met when my 15 y.o. was at kindergarten! We've been here a handful of times, but  not since 2011 (with visiting Australian friends, who wrote a guest post that included a mention of the park here).
Location of the park from our city.
We decided that it would be even more fun to invite some other families with teenagers. Actually it's a good strategy for entertaining teenagers, invite their friends! That part of the expedition got a little out of control, but we ended up with three other families and nearly 20 people to enjoy the day with.

The flaw in the plan was that in order to get the most out of the day (it is such a large park that it takes a whole-day to enjoy it), we needed to leave early. Especially considering the temperatures these days. Once it hits mid-afternoon (around 3) temperatures start to dip and the sun goes down soon after 4.30. But actually the park shut at 4 anyway. So, in order to get there in time, we needed to get the nocturnal teenagers up for an 8.30 leave. They've been staying up really late recently and the early rise wasn't appreciated. I think one got about four hours sleep that night.

The main strategy for enjoying the park is to hire bikes in the park and ride between the various attractions. It has 17 km of riding paths, I rode 15 km of them.

Here are some photos from the day. In the northerly part of the park we found this dragon head.

And a lot of lights, unfortunately not so attractive at this time of the day (apparently these are accessible after dark, but we're not quite sure how as the park in general shut before dark).

Pretty cool looking dragon/Loch Ness?

A section of the bikeways. They are wide and smooth, great fun for riding on. But strangely the whole park is "ride on the right side"! Very odd for a country that drives on the left.

The view from the northerly part of the park.

This was the main attraction for the bigger kids (we had ten kids with us, ranging from 7 to 18 in age). Huge trampoline-hills. Unlike most of these sorts of attractions we've found in Japan, there is no age limit (so even I could jump on it). It was so funny that when I first hopped on I had comments from our kids: "I can't believe you're doing this!" But I've always loved trampolines and these are soooo much fun.

A fun place for wrestling. (No photo evidence, but I actually did a little bit of wrestling with our eldest too.)

Or balancing (these were the oldest and youngest of our kids).

 And more rumbling.

A bigger view. We ate lunch at the white dome place on the right. It was concreted and covered in artificial grass. The sun had warmed the concrete and proved to be a lovely place to sit. Thankfully this place was fairly protected. The day's temperature was around 10 degrees, which was okay if you were dressed warmly and kept moving (and stayed out of the sneaky breeze). One fun memory for me was sitting on the heaving trampoline with some of the kids and comparing how many layers we were wearing (one had two pairs of long johns!). We spent a few hours here.

Part of the walk into the trampoline mountains from the bike path. It would be fun to come back sometime without kids and hike around in the park away from the bike paths, especially in April or May when the temperatures are mild and spring is coming to life. There's so much of the park that we've never seen.

After the trampolines we went to the 24-part obstacle course. It is a little easy for our high schoolers, but still everyone found something fun to do.

Late in the day, the sun was disappearing. This pond had a thin layer of ice on some of its surface.

The other two mums who joined us, soldiering up another hill. Actually we were a little low of females. Nine boys, one girl, four dads, and three mums (though illness was why we didn't have four mums).

It was a fun day. We'd never been in winter and, while it isn't so pretty, it is much more doable. We've previously been in mid-summer and when the temperature is in the mid 30sC and humidity pushing into the 80s or 90s, it is hard to summons the energy to enjoy the whole park. Although there is a free water play feature that younger children really enjoy and make those conditions bearable.

It was also a great choice to invite friends. Most of us had more fun than we would have if we'd just gone as a single family unit.

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