Everyday Japan – Playground

Today, I rode my bike past this playground made up of a set of swings, a slide, and a few sets of bars. Though fairly well maintained with fresh paint, like 90% of other playgrounds like this around Tokyo, it was completely devoid of kids, even in the middle of Japanese school’s summer vacation.

It occurred to me that if I were a kid, the last thing I would want to do would to be out playing on a metal playground in the middle of summer. Besides the hot sticky summer air, metal play structures capture the heat of the sun and a swing that might be fun in the cool months would probably become a branding iron for your bottom in the summer.

Kids are out playing in the summer heat, but that play often involves sports (perhaps keeping in practice for the school team they participate in) or water play, which is exactly the sort of fun I would love to have in the summer. But for the most part, children are hiding away from the summer heat indoors.

To me, the average Japanese playground seems to be completely disconnected from the audience they are trying to reach: children. How can play areas be restructured to recapture the hearts of children and draw them out to play in the summer? Treehouses built in the protective shade of a grove of trees? Wooden forts with water cannons?

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Japan Photo: Hana Nobe No Sato

Today Jayne’s uncle took us to Hana Nobe No Sato near Katsuura, Chiba. While we used it as a beautiful place to view Japan’s summer flowers, it apparently is also a camp site with an outdoor onsen that people can camp at year round. They have many gorgeous flowers in the area, but the most abundant is the ajisai, or hydrangea, the symbol of Japanese summers.

Right now is past the prime season and the hydrangea are starting to die off, but the place is still extremely beautiful. The breeze off the nearby ocean helped sooth the 90 degree, 90% humidity weather we are having today.

Hana Nobe No Sato can be visited in all 4 seasons for different experiences. There are winter and spring blossoming cherry trees, ajisai for the summer months and maples for the autumn.