Walking around Tokorozawa!
Hi! I am Matthew Komljenovic, I study at Saitama University and love to travel, and make friends.
Tokorozawa is a quiet residential precinct in western Saitama filled with greenery, farmland and relaxed, friendly people. Walking around Tokorozawa, it is very easy to see Japanese life outside of work and the strong contrast to the busy city of Tokyo. Tokorozawa is large, with many open spaces, no sky rise buildings and natural forestry surrounding Lake Sayama, and Lake Tama. For people that want to get some fresh air, but don’t feel like doing a hike or travelling too far, Tokorozawa just one hour from Tokyo, offers many interesting sights which can be accessed very easily with little or no cost.
Moomin Park, Akebono no Mori
For those that are into fantasy, fairy tales and the like, Akebono no Mori is a large themed recreational area for children in Tokorozawa, Saitama. The park is themed as Tove Jansson’s Moomin characters, a relatively famous Swiss comic book. The park is also featured in Yama no Susume, an anime based on mountaineering and sightseeing. The entirety of the park is Moomin themed starting from the grass patches, bridges, river ways and houses. Once entering the park, you truly feel like you’ve been transported to some fairy tale world. All of the Moomin constructions are unrestricted, meaning you can freely enter each building where there are very interesting artworks and furniture inside.
As this is a great place for children, many families from Saitama and Tokyo gather here with their children for a day trip. In other areas of the same park, there are tennis, baseball and soccer courts, BBQ areas and a very picturesque river with more leisure spots. At the Moomin park, if you walk towards the top, there is a nice hiking course with a great mountain peak view of the Tokorozawa area.
Admission fee Free
Opening Hours Everyday 9AM-5PM
Address 893-1 Azu, Hanno, Saitama Prefecture 357-0046
For the Ghibli fans that didn’t manage to get their hands on a Studio Ghibli Museum ticket, there are a few alternative ways to get your fix. One way, which is still not very well known, is to visit the real-life Totoro Forest. Located in West Tokorozawa, the Sayama Hills holds scenery identical to that of the forest setting in Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbour Totoro” the movie. Shortly after the movie was released, an environmental preservation movement bought some property with the help of donations from many, including Miyazaki himself. They named this “Totoro’s forest” and then named themselves the Totoro Fund. Since then, the Totoro Forest has been preserved, maintained and additions of forest land have been bought and added to the Trust Fund’s protection.
The forest is located around an hour from Ikebukuro Train Station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line. It is very easy to access, with multiple entrances to the park. Once in the park, there are many rivers, ponds and wooden structures you will walk past towards the centre. There are numerous hiking/walking courses, so it is easy to get lost. However there are many maps around the park, so it is easy to find your way back. The park is quite large and one can expect up to an hour to walk through the entire course. The park has a lot of rest areas in which you can sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Personally I loved the environment in the forest, but as it was winter, I thought it didn’t represent the scenery in the movie as much. I would recommend going in the summer if possible as it would be much bushier, green and vibrant.
Admission fee Free
Opening Hours 24 Hours
Address 〒359-1153 Saitama Prefecture, Tokorozawa, Kamiyamaguchi, 351
Official site http://www.totoro.or.jp/english.html
The forest isn’t the only thing to do there. Nearby there are a few temples and shrines which are interesting to visit. But more importantly, directly west of the forest, about a 5 minute walk away, is the Sayama Lake. The lake is incredibly beautiful as it is prohibited to boat or fish on the water. Many birdwatchers come to Sayama Lake to take pictures of the birds that nestle in the parts of the lake which are prohibited to people. There is a nice footpath and playground on the outskirts which can be used to get to Kurosuke’s House, a house themed as the one in the Totoro Movie.
If your still in the Tokorozawa area and have time to spare, another hidden gem is the Seibu Amusement Park. The park is not in the same league as Universal Studios or Disneyland, but for just a mere 800 yen, the value is pretty good. The rides aren’t exactly spectacular, and range from your classic merry-go-rounds to Ferris wheel, but that isn’t the reason most people come here. The real highlight is the illumination which lights up the park each night (no pun intended). The illumination makes is a special dating spot, or place to hang out with friends. There are special lit up walkways and courses for people to pass through. I highly recommend this place for those that need a place to take a special someone without a budget.
Admission Fee Normal Entrance: Free / Illumination : 1000yen
Opening Hours Fri-Mon: 10AM – 8.00PM
Address 2964 Yamaguchi, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama-ken 359-1145
Official site http://www.seibu-leisure.co.jp/