Trip Report: Akashi Park, Hekinan (Nagoya), Japan

My one-day five-park nine-roller coaster adventure in July ended at Akashi Park, a small park located down the peninsula from Nagoya. The weather all day threatened rain, but the clouds held strong as I moved from stop to stop. Akashi Park closes at 5 PM, and my train from Kariya arrived at the closest train station around 4:30 that afternoon.

The park is about 15 minutes from the station, though, so I pulled up Google Maps on my iPhone to help guide me there quickly and accurately. And soon after departing the station, the clouds began to spring little leaks.

I picked up the pace, but it was starting to actually rain when I reached the park and made my way over to the coaster. Thankfully, I was still able to get my ride in.
 Kid's Coaster Kujira Ku-Chan is just your everyday kids coaster, made by the same manufacturer as the kids coaster in Kariya. It's mild and short with a train that looks like a whale. But this was the best ride of the day, because it completed a difficult trip made only with public transportation, and the rain really came down as the train crested the lift hill.
 The park has a few other attractions, including a sky cycle and a Ferris wheel. The elephant sculpture in the lake squirts water from its trunk sometimes!
 The train and carousel. There isn't that much else in the area besides the park, but a giant hotel is located right next door.
The park has a bicycle area to practice street skills and a playground area as well.

Admission is free, and the amusement area is just a small part of a larger park which would be a great place to spend the day with the family or friends. All rides are just 100 yen each, and tickets can be bought at a window near the Ferris wheel. 

The park is open Tuesday through Sunday, March through October, 9:00-17:00 and 9:00-16:00 the rest of the year. Note that they take a lunch break 12:00-13:00 on weekdays, and the rides are closed over the New Years holidays.
There are bus options, but the easiest way to get to and from the park is walking from Kitashinkawa Station on the Meitetsu Mikawa Line. The easiest way from Nagoya involves transferring at Kariya Station.

Trip Report: Nagoya (Kariya) Kotsu jido yuen (Children's Traffic Park/Children's Transportation Park)

 Located a bit outside of Nagoya itself in the city of Kariya, Kotsu jido yuen is a fun little park with a few rides for kids. As the name implies, the theme of the park is transportation, including some go-kart and bicycling areas themed to city streets.
 You can play on the old streetcar or see the old steam engine, or bounce on the giant plastic mountain ball thing that didn't exist when I was a kid but if it did I would totally have played on it because it looks really awesome and fun and all I could play on as a kid was a lame jungle gym at the local school. [Run-on sentence intentional.]
 The amusement rides are located across the street, accessible by a bridge between the two areas. The flat rides are small and usual: a pirate ship, mini flume water ride, a carousel, a helicopter ride, and a cycle monorail with animal-themed cars. There's also a putt-putt golf course.
The one coaster at the park is Kids Coaster, a simple coaster made by a Japanese company that seems to specialize in this style of coaster.

All rides, including the coaster, are only 50 yen each. I can't believe how inexpensive it is, and admission to the park is free! Hours are 9:30-4:30, and it's closed on Wednesdays.

The park is a 20 to 30 minute train ride from Nagoya Station. Get off at Kariya Station and take the south exit. Turn left, walking down the main street which follows the tracks for about 10 minutes; the park is on the right.

Trip Report: Nagoya Sea Train Land

 Nagoya Sea Train Land isn't too tough to get to, but it's a small park and doesn't have much to offer. It's located in an area right by the water that has been trying to become a family day destination, with an aquarium, shopping mall, and a few other attractions in the neighborhood.

It's a small park, with mostly children's attractions. The gigantic Ferris wheel is the real money maker of the park, with the other rides seemingly added only to fill up the space. The wheel is so large and the park is so small, that if it was laid flat, the wheel probably would take up more area than the rest of the park!
 Zombie Panic looks to be a walk-through haunted house with some interactive element that measures your fear.
 The small carousel is, well, small. Legend of Salamander is a shooting game that could be fun.
 Behind the mechanical animals is a card maze game that is pretty common and apparently popular with children. There are a few other kids attractions and a game center. But I'm not here for that.
Family Coaster is a simple ride that scoots around a simple track. And the reason I visited. I was in and out of the park in less than 10 minutes!

Overall, this place is probably not worth the trip for anyone with children over the age of 5 or 6, though the Ferris wheel, shooting game, and Zombie Panic might be great attractions on a date along with some other area attractions.

Don't expect food here either, though a couple small stands had some quick treats. The mall just across the street has plenty of offerings in its food court and if I had more time I would have tried one of them. Admission is free, with rides ranging from 300 yen (including the coaster) to 700 yen (the Ferris wheel). The small coin-operated rides are cheaper. There is a free pass available (2200 yen for adults, 1200 yen for children) but there are a couple limitations.

Nagoya Sea Train Land has varied hours based on the day of the week and season, opening at 10:00 or 12:00, closing any time between 19:00 and 22:00; they also close some days. View the park's website (in Japanese) for details (here is the calendar with park hours).

Access is via the Meiko line to Nagoyako Station (the end of the line). Take Exit 3, and turn right at the corner. The park is straight ahead; the small mall will be on your left and the aquarium is to the left just after the mall.

Trip Report: Higashiyama Zoo (Amusement Park)

My second stop on my day of five parks in Nagoya was the Higashiyama Zoo. Higashiyama means east mountain, and the park is on a mountain east of the city, easily accessible via Nagoya's subway.

I wish I could say that this zoo was as exciting as the song in the video. You'll see...
 I arrived at the zoo around 1 PM, and it was manageable but there were decent crowds. Admission for children is free, so it's an easy place to take your kids on the weekend.
 There is a monorail, although I don't know where it really goes and it seems kind of old. I did see some people riding at one point.
 The amusement park area of the zoo is pretty close to the entrance, just head up the stairs.
 This fun house looked interesting, but I was on a mission and a budget. My only rides here would be the three coasters.
 The first coaster you reach is the first I've encountered of its kind, called Slope Shooter. It's a side friction coaster and instead of running on a track it travels along a path with guide walls to force it to turn (see the images below and the car above).
 There used to be many more of these rides, but only a few remain in operation today. It shouldn't be a big surprise, because their design requires a relatively tame layout and are low-capacity.
 This model was built in 1961 and is still going strong. The ride is casual but graceful.
At the top of the hill, Jet Coaster lives up to its name. It's a decent-sized coaster with a very uneventful layout. Photography of that coaster proved quite difficult from the park itself, as it is surrounded by other rides. I could have gotten some good images from the Ferris wheel, but as I said before, time and money were at stake. 
 There are plenty of flat rides here, great for kids to spend pocket change on.
 Following the park around to the left and down the hill, the last coaster is Bear Coaster (Kumasan Coaster), a simple kid's coaster built recently compared to the other two.
 The Ferris wheel had nicely themed gondolas. After finishing the rides, I took a quick walk around the zoo portion of the park. After the lively atmosphere of the rides section, the zoo displays were at times shocking.
 The animal selection in the areas nearest the rides (on the left side of the park, relative to the main entrance) is not exactly thrilling.
 A lot of people enjoyed watching the old giant tortoises wander around. At the back of the park, you have to climb over and back down the mountain. There's an observation tower (additional charge) up there too. The "right" side of the park has the big ticket wildlife.
 I'm never surprised when the animals are resting when I visit the zoo. Let's face it, they tend to be most active when I'm not there. But what surprised me was the size of the exhibits - tiny cages with bars and nothing really natural.
 This polar bear looked bored and possibly hungry. There was a brown bear nearby pacing back and forth near its door, and a wolf had been running back and forth along a trail it had worn in its cage.
 The penguins were cool, despite the warm temperatures. Apparently they have koalas though I didn't see them (photographs aren't allowed at that exhibit anyway).
 The giraffe exhibit seemed to get the most space at the zoo, oddly enough. I know the zoo has been open for quite some time, but I think it's time for them to do some serious upgrades or even relocate to a new facility to better accommodate the animals.

There is a botanical garden with lots of trails for walking at the back of the park.
The zoo is open 9:00-16:50 (closed Mondays and around New Years). Admission for adults is 500 yen, and free for children (junior high school and under).

Access is easiest via the Higashiyama Line. Get off at Higashiyama Koen Station (3 minute walk) for the zoo and rides, or Hoshigaoka Station (7 minute walk) for the gardens.

Trip Report: Enakyo Wonderland, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Ena isn't exactly a bustling area. Located along the Chuo Line, which takes the long way from Tokyo to Nagoya, it's most likely frequented by tourists moving between Nagoya and Matsumoto, which lies a bit north of the Chuo Line's route. There are plenty of smaller towns along the way as you wind through some mountains, and I'm sure there is a good amount to see along the way. My future trip plans include following this route to visit some old post towns - those interested in a few culture stops between Nagano and Nagoya can check out Kiso-Fukushima and Tsumago, fairly close together on the route through Gifu Prefecture.

Ena itself has a few sightseeing locations, namely Ena Gorge (Enakyo) and a modern portion of the Nakasendo trail (a restored version of the trail is accessible from Tsumago to Magome). Across the river from Enakyo is Enakyo Wonderland, an amusement park and garden.
 A bus from Ena (Hirakawa Wada Line - 蛭川和田線) will get you there in about 15-20 minutes, and on weekends seems to run about once an hour. Listen closely for the announcements; you can ring the bell while you're crossing the large river and you can see the Ferris wheel on the left side. Note that you'll see the wheel for quite some time so wait until you cross the large bridge!
 After you get off the bus, follow the road forward just a very short distance to the parking lot and entrance above. This part was a little confusing at first, because the entrance isn't visible from the bus stop and there are no signs.
 And then, you're there!
 You can follow the main path to the left, or cut down the stairs to the right. I went to the right first, toward the park's largest coaster.
 There are a few flat rides in this area, including most of the park's indoor attractions. You'll see most of these later on. First, it's time to get my first credit.
 Camel Coaster is under 100 feet tall, but has a decent bit of forces. It's not a signature ride, but it is a small step above most jet coasters in Japan.
  The height restriction sign was really cool, and then it's on to the ride I went.
 I didn't try any of the run-of-the-mill flat rides. If I was a child, I'd have fun. I liked the old tram that was abandoned in the middle of the park to be used as a seating area.
 Golf Cart: The Ride. I kid you not. Technically it's the "Romance Car" but you just drive around a track on a golf cart.
 The "left" side of the park has the Ferris wheel and a few other attractions; the park gets hilly over here, so there's a coaster on top of the game arcade building.
 Moving uphill a bit there's the Ferris wheel and a carousel.
 Fun House! This is one of those "spinning room" attractions that are much more popular here than in America.
 Jungle Coaster is a mild jet coaster with a chipmunk on front of the train. Popular with children, says the park's website. That's because it's quite tame.

 Every swan boat in Japan is apparently bad luck; I always hear stories that going on these with your girlfriend will cause your relationship to go sour. But the park's third coaster, Cycle Coaster, goes around this small man-made lake. Cycle Coaster is barely a coaster; it has a lift hill and I think the ride might be able to make it all the way around without any effort on the riders' part. But there are pedals to keep you moving above a slow crawl.
 Just after crossing the bridge on the bus, I saw some strange attraction that looked like a tourist trap. It turns out that it is now a second entrance to the park. At some time the two attractions were split, but on my visit you could freely travel between the two. This second area is a garden of sorts with a suspension bridge.
 The Ferris wheel may offer commanding views of the area, but I could see plenty from the suspension bridge and the other side.
 On the left is a view of the gorge and the long vehicular bridge that approaches the park; the right side shows the suspension bridge and Ferris wheel at the park.
 Near the entrance to this area of the park is a windmill. It faces the river.
 I wouldn't come to the garden on its own, but having missed my first bus due to difficulty in finding the park entrance, I enjoyed my stroll around the grounds. Heading back from this area's entrance toward the rides I found the clearing in the right-hand picture designed for children. There are even two basketball nets, though I guess you have to bring your own balls.
 Heading back up the hill involves a quick stop at a small shrine.
 There are two rocks with a narrow crevice in which sits the shrine.
 Back up in the rides area, I strolled past all the attractions lined up opposite Camel Coaster. There's the safari ride (shoot all the animals!) and a haunted house...
 An Egyptian fun house and a sound attraction follow. In the sound attraction, you put on a pair of headphones and they close the door and hit the lights so it's pitch black inside. Then, creepy sounds play through the headphones. If only the attraction did a bit more with other senses.
 It wasn't hot enough for the ice house, but these can be very refreshing on a blazing summer afternoon.
 There's a water park that seems to be much newer and is certainly well-kept, but they were still preparing it for the summer. It seems that Japanese water parks avoid opening until mid-July for some strange reason; it starts getting pretty hot in June, though the rainy season falls during that time of year, and school vacations don't start until July. Some water parks appear to be a complete waste of money on paper, being open only a couple months per year.
 The plaza in the area near the Ferris wheel and two smaller coasters houses a simple restaurant and a gift shop. I grabbed some quick food because I didn't want to miss the next bus back to the train station! The bus stop is on the opposite side of the road; follow the road back toward the bridge (don't cross the bridge!) and look for the bus shelter just after the stone thing you see below.
The park is open from early to July until late November. Hours vary by season though the park is open at least 9:30-17:00; closed Wednesdays except for Golden Week and mid-July through August. Access is via bus (see above) or taxi from Ena Station.

Park admission is 1100 yen (including the garden), pool admission is 1100 yen. Park admission plus a ride pass is 3200 yen, but it appears that this is for only 12 rides, not an all-day pass, Individual rides are 300 yen each.