Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks

Kids’ Imaginations Run Wild At Tokyo’s Adventure Playgrounds

Children love playing at so-called ‘mud parks’ where they have the rare freedom to create unique, ever-changing play spaces all of their own.

Unlike city parks with their tedious lists of rules, Tokyo’s adventure playgrounds are supervised, fenced-off plots of land where kids can play however they like. Wanna make a swing? Sure! Build a fort with a hammer and nails? Yes, you may. Cool off in a bucket of water? Absolutely!

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks

Adventure playgrounds got their start in pre-World War II Denmark when landscape architect, Carl Theodor Sørensen, noticed how much children loved playing with scrap at construction sites. His first ‘junk playground’ was built in 1943, and from there they spread across Europe to the UK where they were rebranded ‘adventure playgrounds’. When these parks came to Japan, they were called ‘play parks’ (プレーパーク) by the Japanese community and ‘mud parks’ by the international community. This video gives a look back at some of the history.

Play your own way

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks - Komazawa Harappa Play Park

Adventure playgrounds are simply more fun.

Free from the limitations of fixed play equipment, kids just find adventure playgrounds to be more enjoyable. Even adults comment on how relaxed they feel because of the vibe akin to day-camping. Although adventure parks have similar risks to camping, don’t let that put you off. Unlike conventional parks, adventure playgrounds are staffed with play-workers who are always on hand to ensure safety and to help—never to interfere—with the kids’ creative flow.

Summer is a great time of year to let your kids loose at an adventure playground—and the free entry just can’t be beat!

1. Nerima Kodomo no Mori

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks

A water-misting system rigged up in the overhead kiwi vines cools everyone down, even on the hottest of days! This shady playground is great for babies who crawl around on large picnic sheets below the trees, to toddlers who love making leaf ‘soup’ in the outdoor play kitchens, right up to big kids who build forts, paint playhouses, grow produce, and dig huge holes.

A 10-min walk from Hikawadai Station, the play leaders here are particularly friendly and activities scheduled year-round include the Summer Splash Festival, community gardening, Story Time, Fall Kiwi Harvest, and winter bonfire cookouts.

Savvy Tip: Bring bathing suits, rash guards, towels, and a change of clothes for all family members—muddy toddlers can get their parents dirty, too!

Location: 2-32-7 Hazawa, Nerima-ku
Tel: 03-5999-6200
Times to Play: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

2. Shibuya Haru no Ogawa Play Park

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks-Shibuya Haru no Ogawa Play Park

This playground is a five-minute walk from Yoyogi-Koen Station on the Chiyoda Line or Yoyogi Hachiman Station on the Odakyu Line. This is the perfect central location to gather with friends, with lots of nearby eateries to grab takeout if you forget lunch.

Woodworking, sliding down wooden ramps, roasting marshmallows on a shichirin (charcoal brazier), tree houses, and so much more to keep your kids busy with playwork all day long. And if you run out of a change of clothes, the playground has freecycle bins to grab hand-me-downs!

Savvy Tip: Wear plastic sandals or water shoes at the playground, and some sneakers to change into for the walk back to the station—your tired feet will thank you!

Location: 5-68-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku
Tel: 03-3481-9661
Times to Play: Fri to Wed, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Closed Thursdays)

3. Kodomo Yume Park

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo's Mud Parks - Kodomo Yume Park Kawasaki

Okay, so this one’s not in Tokyo but definitely worth the trip! Yume Park Kawasaki is a massive indoor/outdoor play space with creative outlets for children of all ages! Kids can plant, harvest, and cook their own vegetables, climb all sorts of trees and wooden structures, or dig out their own paddling pool. There are two indoor music studios where older children can form a band and practice for Kuji Rock, a kid-produced rock concert. And if your little ones aren’t in the mood for getting dirty, then head indoors to the infants’ room for story time and toys.

The park is only a five-minute walk from Tsudayama Station on the JR Nambu Line, which finally has a brand new elevator! Head west up behind the MaxValu supermarket to get to the playground entrance.

Savvy Tip: Bring a big water bottle in a cooler bag with an ice pack on top so you have cold drinks all day. You’ll be sweating a lot and losing tons of electrolytes, so don’t be shy about eating salty foods like umeboshi (pickled plums, great in onigiri).

Location: 5-30-1 Shimosakunobe, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa
Tel: 044-811-2001
Times to Play: Mon to Sun, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (Closed every 3rd Tuesday of the month)

4. Komazawa Harappa Play Park

Cooling Down at 5 of Tokyo’s Mud Parks - Komazawa Harappa Play Park

Next to Komazawa Ryokusen Park and one of the five mud parks in Setagaya Ward, Komazawa Harappa is lush with vegetation and full of charm. Local architects volunteer to help the kids make constructions out of disposable chopsticks and elastic bands. There is plenty of shade, and the water slides, outdoor grilling, and rope swings will keep your little monkeys busy for hours of self-directed play!

Savvy Tip: Bringing a baby? Most mud parks are wooded with lots of tree shade to protect infants from the beating sun. A stroller net will keep out the mosquitoes and don’t worry, you can easily park your stroller in an area where it won’t get dirty! You can use repellent patches which stick on baby’s clothing and once you feel comfortable applying repellent directly to the skin, try the Tenshi no Skin Vapor Mist containing picaridin—as effective as DEET but without the irritation.

Location: 3-3-21 Komazawa, Setagaya-ku
Tel: 03-3422-9455
Times to Play: Wed to Sun, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

5. Setagaya Play Park


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Another of the ward’s five mud parks, Setagaya Play Park occupies a corner of the wider park. There are plenty of wooden toys, tricycles, wagons, swings, tree houses, and the rest of the wider park to explore. A miniature steam train also runs next to the mud park on Wednesdays, weekends, and holidays.

Savvy Tip: Tokyo mud parks are community-run organizations that appreciate donated supplies. Ask if there’s anything you can bring; things like hand-me-down clothing, shoes, kitchen utensils, charcoal, and scrap wood can be very much appreciated.

Location: 1-5-27 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku
Tel: 03-3795-2160
Times to Play: Wed to Sun, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

So bring your family to a Tokyo mud park this summer and let your children figure out some vital lessons that they may never learn at school: fire is for roasting marshmallows but not for burning fingers, and a hammer is for hitting nails, not for hurting friends.

In a place where children are free to create whatever they like, you’ll be amazed to see what the next generation comes up with!

Want to find an adventure playground closer to you? Search using プレーパーク to check your local area.

Do you have a favorite Tokyo mud park? Tell us in the comments.

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