Summer Fun At Oji Water-Play Parks
Explore Tokyo's Hidden Outdoor Gems
Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo’s north ward. Known since the days of Edo as a place blessed with water, the area continues to delight visitors today with free water-play areas in clean, leafy parks. Here are three such parks worth visiting with the kids for some outdoor fun.
Otonashi Shinsui Koen
Cool in every sense of the word is Otonashi Shinsui park. Wedged between the busy Meiji Dori on one side and government buildings on the other, here the Shakujii River slips quietly along through a man-made gully in a beautiful world of its own.
The park is exquisitely crafted. At street level there are tree-lined promenades on each side of the gully. Wooden handrails and stone stairs lead down to the water. There’s a watermill, wooden decking and, overhead midway along, the reconstructed wooden Funakushi bridge. Looking at it, one feels they could slip back in time to when these riverbanks were grassy and this locale was featured in Ukiyoe woodblock prints. Back then, there were seven waterfalls in Oji, including Gongen no taki, which has been reconstructed here.
Otonashi Shinsui park was created in 1988, purging the river of the pollution it accumulated during the post-war development rush.
This spot makes the official list of Japan’s top 100 urban parks.
The park’s river is shallowest at the Oji station end and deepest at the opposite extreme, beneath Otonashi Bridge, but even there it doesn’t reach the knee. The huge boulders in the water there feel as if they have been added to help older kids create some fun.
The toilet block is at this end, as is a bicycle-parking space and a sloped path down to the river. With kids in tow, it’s a long way to the top, so organize your supplies before you head down.
Address: 1-chome, Oji Honmachi, Kita-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: The park is less than a minute from the Shinsui Koen exit of the JR Keihin Tohoku line Oji Station. If you use the Namboku subway line or Toden Arakawa line streetcar to get to Oji, go to the JR north exit and walk through to the opposite side of the station to find the Shinsui Koen exit. All of these stations are just a few minutes’ walk from the park.
Asukayama Koen is an actual mountain and has everything one is looking for in a park. Literally. At the top is a playground with swings, a huge sandpit, a lawn area and a towering castle-shaped slide complex. For train lovers, there’s a platform where they can watch locomotives speed by below, and there’s a steam engine on display, as well as an old streetcar from the Arakawa line, which still runs in this neighborhood, from Waseda to Asukayama Park and Oji and then onto Minowa-bashi.
The water-play area is on the middle section of the park and features a large fountain and a long, meandering stream.
The base of the fountain is about chest high and made of concrete set in a square shape.
The water gushes out from another raised level in the center of that. Although there are signs up warning that playing on top of the structure is dangerous, it’s an inevitable step for older children. There is plenty of fun to be had below, too, especially for little kids. Here, water coming off the square base makes a waterfall all the way around it. The water then flows across a flooring of smooth rocks and out to the inground edges of the fountain.
The stream runs along the inner edge of the water-play area. After arriving via a layered waterfall, the water flows slowly between and around smooth boulders before reaching a beach-like section with yet another waterfall. The area is well shaded by trees and has lots of space to spread your picnic rug. Although there is a small restaurant and one drink vending machine on the top level of the park, you’ll probably be happier if you bring your favorite food and drink supplies with you.
Address: 1-1-3 Oji, Kita-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: Take the Toden Arakawa line streetcar and get off at either the Asukayama Park stop or the Oji one. The JR Keihin Tohoku line and the Namboku subway line also stop at Oji. From the Oji side you can use the free Asuka Park Rail monorail to carry you up the hill and into the park. There’s a carpark at the opposite end of the park, near the Shibusawa Memorial Museum.
For a quiet water-play date with toddlers or kindergarteners, Takinogawa Park is a great choice. The relatively low riverbanks and generally flat layout of the area overall make it an easier place for the little ones to negotiate. Clean, spacious and well shaded by trees, the park is also a great spot for an afternoon nap. School kids will enjoy the adjacent playground and the extra-wide, sharp-drop slide that’s there.
Address: 2-chome, Nishigahara, Kita-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: Nearby train stations are the Namboku subway line’s Nishigahara stop, or Kaminakazato station on the JR Keihin Tohoku line. The Kita-ku Community Bus, or K Bus, runs between all three parks. The Flowers and Forest Tokyo Hospital stop is closest to Takinogawa Park.
All of these water-play features are scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through until September 22. Operation may be halted due to poor weather, restricted electricity supply or cleaning, though the latter should take only an hour or so.