[19th in a series of posts about a recent trip to Japan]
We decided to explore Moerenuma Park, which was designed by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi and built on the grounds of what was a wastewater plant and dump. The entire park, with a circumference of about 4 kilometers, is considered a sculpture. It includes two hills, a glass pyramid, a “beach” (wading pool), sea fountain and playground.
Getting there took about an hour, between the short train ride on the Tohu subway line from the JR Station (which has English signage) and the longer bus ride (also marked in English as bound for Moerenuma Park). I thought it might be worth visiting for an hour or two, but we enjoyed it so much we stayed for three. I’d call it “low tech fun”: you climb the hills, enjoy the grass and forest plantings, and people watch.
At Thom’s urging, we rented bikes inexpensively and saddled up. Todd looked like all he needed was a clown nose, the bike was so small for his frame.
We quickly circuited the park on the pedestrian and bike path, then rounded it again on the outside delta levee (the park is surrounded by a river or moat, largely covered in weeds of some kind but of interest to two fishermen).
Most interesting was a fountain unlike any we’d ever seen. The “Sea Fountain” started out as a pretty standard fountain. The large basin exploded in feathery sprays, and a spout of water started growing and growing until it was several stories high. Eventually, we noticed that a smaller bowl just under the big spout was filling with water. What was that about? When the bowl became close to full, the spout started rotating, creating a wave form. Eventually, the wave form splashed to the outside collar of the bowl, and formed circular patterns around and around. If we had stayed for the entire 45 minute display (which we didn’t – it was hot and we were hungry), we would have seen openings on the sides of the large fountain perimeter shoot threads of water toward the large fountain as the feathery sprays provided a frame. Looks like it’s gorgeous at night, when the lights are colored. (For future reference, food choices are limited although vending machines for beverages are plentiful.)
Returning to the JR Station, Thom wanted to check out the Pokemon store. Asking directions from several of the sweet information girls (and one boy), we eventually found the Esta building. Pokemon, which died out in popularity in the U.S., is still a big thing in Japan. The entire floor of the Esta building was devoted to amusement centers and stores – one entire section was bright pink and obviously intended to entice girls.
That’s something I noticed: video games and arcades are an equal opportunity activity in Japan. There always seem to be sections with rides and games that are obviously targeted to girls, because they’re pink and “kawaii” (cute).
Heading back to the basement floor where we caught the elevator, Thom spotted a “taiyaki” booth, a cookie/Panini/sweet bean paste confection of which he has become fond. Pretty tasty! (P.S. Thom is a big fan of Mos Burger and there’s an outlet on the basement floor of the Esta Buildling – check it out!)
We also found a very good cheese shop. Cheese is a real delicacy in Japan, but it’s hard to find. We had purchased a couple of bottles of red wine in Kakunodate, but hadn’t gotten around to drinking them. So that evening, we enjoyed cheese and wine in the hotel room, then headed to the summer beer festival.
Next: A Night at Sapporo’s Beer Festival