Red and pink poppies swayed gently in the breeze for as far as I could see. The bright crimson against the brilliant green stems and leaves were a stunning sight. This alone made the visit worthwhile.
But there is plenty more to see in Showa Kinen Park, a fabulous park in Tachikawa with 163 hectares of space to be explored including forest glades, flower gardens, a Japanese garden, lawns and a boating lake. There is space for barbecues, games, cycling and jogging or to quietly study plants or watch for birds. The park is easily accessible from Tokyo – about 40 minutes on the Chuo Line or Yokohama via the Nambu line — 70 minutes.
The park was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Emperor Showa’s (Emperor Hirohito) reign. It comprises a large area so it is well worth picking up a map at the entrance and considering which areas you particularly want to visit. There are restaurants, cafes, food kiosks, toilets and drink machines at regular intervals, and if you get tired you can always hop on the toy train, several of which rattle round the park.
Arriving by JR train at Tachikawa Station, it is a few minutes walk to the first section of the park. This is the Green Cultural Zone and has free access. Here is the Emperor Showa Memorial Museum and an open green space that many families were using the day we visited.
Crossing a bridge you arrive at the Tachikawa Gate. There is a large car park and the entrance ticket machines. Just inside the gates is a café and bicycle rental and a splendid view along a tree lined canal with a large fountain at the end.
Walking on from the fountain you reach the waterfowl lake. The day we visited the birds were not much in evidence but plenty of people were out pedalling boats around. Close to the waterfowl lake is an area of swimming pools known as Rainbow Pool. Entrance to this area is not included in the park entrance fee and they are only open in summer.
Beyond the lake is a small herb garden with the planting in raised beds and the greenery contrasting nicely with the brick walls and paths. You can explore and smell those herbs and fragrant plants that you’ve never seen before.
More or less in the centre of the park is a large open grassy area. Some big trees provide shade and many families make use of it for picnicking and playing games. Various food stalls are situated nearby but most people appeared to bring their own food.
The Japanese garden has a pond in the middle with a bridge and stepping-stones. Fish and turtles swim in the water and Japanese style buildings offer a place to rest and enjoy the tranquillity. There is a Japanese tearoom for those who want to try the tea.
Near to the Japanese gardens is a small area, fenced off, which houses the National Museum of Bonsai. Here you can see gardeners working on the bonsai trees and they are happy to explain the process and show off the different types of bonsai there. The oldest tree is estimated to be 300 years old and many others are over a hundred years old.
A group of buildings called Komorebi Village have been built to recreate an old farm village. There are thatched houses with a raised family living area and outer areas for storage of farm implements and silk cultivation. A storehouse, a water wheel and small fields of rice, tea and wheat (according to season) recreate a working farm environment.
A raised hill with criss-crossing pathways near to Komorebi Village is Glade Hill, a forested rise with shady trees. Adjacent to Glade Hill is Flower Hill, which provided the spectacular display of poppies when we visited in early May.
Showa Kinen Park is well known for plum blossoms, cherry blossoms and the ginkgo trees. In autumn the many maples present a brilliant colour display and in spring the hundreds of tulips blooming attract many visitors. We spent some four hours wandering around and did not fully explore all the areas of the park. It is definitely worth a whole day visit. A faster way to travel around is to hire bikes at one of the entrance gates or make use of the toy train. But perhaps it is more enjoyable just to slowly wander and stop and stare at whatever catches your eye. Check out more on their website.
Address: 3173, Midori-Cho, Tachikawa City, Tokyo, 190-8558, Japan
March 1- October 31 9.30am - 5.00pm
November 1 – February end 9.30am - 4.30 pm
Closed – Dec 31 and Jan 1 and 4th Monday in February and following day
adults 410 yen
children 80 yen