Appreciation of nature is a core element of life in Japan, so much so that aspects of it may simply go unmentioned because they are considered a fact of life. Everybody talks about their hanami party in early spring but people may not necessarily mention visiting this place to see wisteria vines or that place to see hydrangeas. It is therefore not surprising for people that move to Japan to take years to discover all the times of the year when the locals take little day trips in order to visit a garden or shrine in which a particular plant is in bloom. I hope this article can help you plan.
Ikuta Ryokuchi is a park so extensive and with so much to see that visitors could spend the entire day here. A short walk from Mukogaoka Yuen Station, Ikuta Park is only 30 minutes away from Shinjuku on the Odakyu Line. Its Open Air Folk Museum, called Nihon Minka-en, offers visitors the opportunity to see traditional Japanese houses from all over the country and get a small taste of how people lived not so long ago.
Cheerful volunteers will offer fun facts about life in the old days and answer all your questions to the best of their ability. They will tell you that this or that house does indeed look very authentic because it was relocated here from wherever it used to stand. The effort that went into creating the Open Air Museum and the attention to detail is truly amazing. There is even a watermill here and a bamboo fountain making that characteristic sound meant to keep away deer.
Once you have had a chance to see everything within the Open Air Museum, you can head to “Mt. Hydrangea”, a small hill covered in hydrangea shrubs. Having just entered the rainy season and with spring behind us, this little corner of the park is refreshingly colourful. When the weather is nice some visitors choose to bring their lunch with them and have a little picnic while enjoying the view, while others are happy to sit in one of the benches and let themselves be surrounded by nature and the voices of children enjoying the vast open spaces. Groups of students can sometimes be seen trying to complete school assignments here, while families visit the Kawasaki Municipal Science Museum’s Planetarium, and amateur artists sit in quiet corners, painting Mt. Hydrangea in painstaking detail.
What is truly impressive about Ikuta Park, however, is the amount of things visitors can see here; the Firefly Field, the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, the Wild Bird Sanctuary are only some of the many attractions the park boasts. Some, like the Rose Garden are only open for short periods each year. Others are accessible year round but are certainly more attractive during certain times, like the Plum Tree Park. Ikuta is the perfect place to enjoy almost every single thing that the Japanese psyche has grown to love over centuries, from cherry blossoms to views of Mt. Fuji. Enjoy your visit and feel free to come back!
Access: take the express (急行) train on the Odakyu Odawara Line from Shinjuku or Yoyogi Uehara.
Cost: Admission fee is 500 yen for adults and 300 yen for high-school and university students. Ask for any discounts that may apply at the time of your visit. Kids up to secondary school-age and seniors are admitted free of charge. There is an extra charge for certain parts of the park, such as the Planetarium and the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art.
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/