Tokiwa Park in Ube City
Ube city offers an exceptionally beautiful park full of flowers, animals, a small temple and the Christmas Tokiwa Park Fantasia display! As you drive through this small city you don’t get a sense of there being such an enormous park right on the edge of it, but it is a majestic place indeed!
The park changes with the seasons, and is said to be especially beautiful during the spring season because of its amazing gardens, nature, and various bird species that fly back to the park once the warm weather returns. This is definitely a fantastic place for picnics, walks, exercise and a place to ease your mind when the cluster of city life starts to get too stressful. However, even if you visit the park during the winter season, like we did, you will have an abundance of things to see and do.
As soon as you pass the park’s entrance you will see the museum and exhibition hall where various art, anime, and music displays are held throughout the year. Although you can stroll through this building for free, each exhibition does have its own fees if you want to enter them. Inside this building is also a cute little cafe where you can grab a snack on your way, but there are other places within the park where you can enjoy a full lunch in the main park restaurant, or have a delicious ice cream and a cup of coffee in the second cafe located near the center of the park.
Tokiwa Park is surrounded by an enormous lake that is home to many bird species that will follow you around the edge of the lake expecting you to throw food. As cute as these birds are, please do refrain from throwing anything that isn’t specifically bird food at them. They aren’t actually hungry, they just really like company!
The lake will offer you a chilly wind during winter (so bring a warm hat), but it is a refreshing place to spend the hot summer days.
Tokiwa Park has roads for walking and jogging, large grass fields that would make a great place for a picnic, and many benches where you can rest and enjoy the beautiful nature around you.
There are many sculptures in the park, most of which are made by both local and international artists, and we were told that many of these sculptures are replaced with new ones throughout the year as new sculptors are given the chance to showcase their creations.
There are quite a few monkeys and capybaras that live in the park, but my favourite place was Pelican Island where we counted about twenty pelicans who live there. You cannot approach too close to them, but it is the perfect distance to marvel at the beauty of these animals without disturbing them.
There is a small shrine in the center of the park that is secluded on a small island, which you can reach by crossing a bridge. The atmosphere around this small shrine is very serene, and you will notice that people quiet their footsteps and lower their voice as soon as they cross the bridge.
The flower gardens are unnoticeable during the winter period, but come alive as soon as spring arrives. Come spring, there will be a great number of beautiful flower species to see, so don’t miss them if you visit the park in the hotter seasons.
After enjoying the beautiful nature of the park, we waited for night to fall so that we could see the Christmas lights at the Tokiwa Park Fantasia display. Artists compete every year with new light displays, most of which are in the shapes of animals or popular cartoon characters. Our favourite one was the Alice in Wonderland garden,which looked absolutely stunning at night time. There is also a big Ferris wheel that lights up, a merry-go-round and a small rollercoaster for children to have fun on.
Although the park was very quiet during the day, the atmosphere changed completely at night time, with many couples and families gathering to see the lights and to taste the delicious food at the many food carts that suddenly appeared as soon as the Sun went down. The delicious smells of traditional Japanese food and sweets made everyone in the park feel a lot warmer and cozier and were a welcome treat in the cold night air. There were also a few street performers and a few musicians who settled on a nearby bench and started playing their guitars.
If you are arriving at winter time, I would suggest that you come to the park at around 4 pm, which will give you plenty of time to explore the park during the day, and then you can slowly start to head over to the Fantasia display from about 6 pm onward.
Both Tokiwa Park and the Fantasia winter display are free to enter, although you will pay about 300 yen per ride if you decide to go on the Ferris wheel or the merry-go-round.
Parking will cost 200 - 500 yen for the whole day, but if you leave the parking lot and come back later, you will pay twice for the whole day parking fee as your old ticket will no longer count.