A Chilly Trip to Morikoro Park

Photo: Emran Kassim

A Chilly Trip to Morikoro Park

Mark Morinishi

A cold winter day in Nagoya may force some to stay inside under the warmth of the kotatsu, enjoy some anime and eat some Japanese hot pot. However I had more adventurous plans for the day and, accompanied with some friends, headed to the site of the 2005 World Fair located on the outskirts of Nagoya. The name of our destination is Morikoro Park, and to be honest I really didn’t know it existed before departing, but it exceeded all expectations I had.

We took the Higashiyama Subway line all the way to the final stop at Fujigaoka Station. After stopping by the grocery store to get some picnic snacks we cruised on the monorail the rest of the way. It was a fun experience using the Linimo Magnetic Levitation Monorail; somehow it felt more futuristic than the rest of Japan’s rail system.

After a couple stops we exited at Ai-Chikyuhaku-Kinen-Koen Station just as the green expanse of the park and forest jutted out from beneath us. After exiting the Monorail’s gates the interesting architecture proved challenging for us to make it to our first destination without getting distracted.

The first stop of the day was renting bikes and cycling around the designated cycling course. Bike and helmet rental became a whopping 200 yen, and soon we were off on the cycling road around the park. After weaving through the trees and getting views of the park below we stopped at a lookout for some snacks and refreshments. We could see the ferris wheel and other famous park amenities from our perch, but it was a little too cold to sit long enough to fully take in the view.

Sign pointing to Satsuki and Mei's house

Satsuki and Mei's house viewed from above

Next stop was a replica of Satsuki and Mei’s house, from the famous Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro. Unfortunately, tour tickets of the grounds were sold out but we were able to observe from the bike parking on the hill above and from outside of the gates. The detail was incredible, and it is a must-see for any Ghibli fan.

Next we followed the path from the house to a beautiful stream leading to a pond and Japanese style garden. There lied a traditional tea house overlooking the garden and lake. It was a great place to warm up with some macha and dessert. The elderly woman was delightful as she brought us our tea, snacks, and commemorative Totoro origami as a keepsake.

Outside Morikoro tea house

Inside Morikoro tea house

Tea and sweets at Morikoro tea house

We hopped back on our bikes after admiring the landscape architecture surrounding the lake (coming from someone with a degree in landscape architecture it was truly impressive). We finished our ride after passing huge jungle gyms and climbing facilities that closed minutes before. So we continued on our bike path until we completed the loop, returned our bikes and checked the first stop off the list.

Next up: Ice skating. We headed to the giant building and down the escalators to the entrance where we put our money (about 1,500 yen) into a machine giving us tickets for skate rentals. We gave our tickets to the helpful staff, laced up our skates, ditched our jackets and bags in the lockers and headed out to the rink for an hour of skating, falling, and good fun.

We exited the ice rink facility and headed back up towards the monorail station. The buildings were beautiful at night as well, lit up with colorful lights dancing around their exteriors. We stopped to take photos, admire the view of the park one more time and then made our journey back into the city.