Tokyo's top 5 water parks
Time to strip off, cool down and escape the grind with a day at one of these capital pools
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that’ll get you.”
I never understood what that really meant until I came to Japan and experienced its obnoxiously sticky summers -- 35 C and over, plus full-bore humidity for weeks at a time. Ugh.
For many Tokyoites and visitors, this means one of two things: either spend the majority of the day in an air-conditioned bubble or do your best to make sure you’re near some heat-deflecting water.
If you do manage to escape the office or the broiling tourist trail, the real fun lies at the big water parks in suburban Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures.
Here are five of our favorite temples dedicated to H2O for those days when lesser pursuits don’t have a prayer.
Unusually, this enormous, watery theme park is open most of the year, aside from December through February.
Like many such parks, the opening hours change almost weekly, as do last-entry times, so checking the website before visiting is essential.
The pool area is split into an outdoor and an indoor section, making it a good place to take the kids, even on rainy days.
Inside the glass-topped Adventure Dome is a large wave pool, a phalanx of waterslides, a hot tub and an onsen hot spring that’s recommended as a popular “date spot” (swimwear required, unfortunately).
Outside, visitors can get their thrills on yet more waterslides big and small, float on tubes down a lazy river (ubiquitous in Japanese water parks) and cool off under several manmade waterfalls.
The park also has sections for amusement rides and outdoor pursuits such as golf and tennis.
Tokyo Summerland, 600 Shiraiwa, Kamiyotsugi, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo; +81 (0) 42 558 6511; hours vary; admission ¥1,000-¥4,500 (US$13-$59); www.summerland.co.jp
Water Amusement Island
Attached to the popular amusement park Yomiuri Land, this water park has five pools and three waterslides, including one that visitors ride down on tubes.
In addition to a large swimming pool and an Anpanman-themed kids’ pool, there’s also a five-meter-deep diving pool, a wave pool and a slow-moving river pool.
Special events throughout the summer include music shows and performances by (male, really) synchronized-swimming groups, in case the attractions themselves don’t provide sufficient entertainment.
For a full day of outdoor action, it’s fun to work up a sweat first by riding the park’s many roller coasters, getting dizzy on spinning rides and driving go-karts, all before heading to the water area for a dip.
Water Amusement Island, 4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi-shi, Tokyo; +81 (0) 44 966 1111; hours vary; admission ¥1,800-¥4,500; www.yomiuriland.co.jp
The clued-in suits behind Toshimaen have obviously realized the flaw in business plans for amusement parks that are open for only part of the year.
This place has attractions for every season, including an outdoor ice-skating rink in winter.
But from late June through early September, the draw is clearly the water park. Six different pools of various sizes and types mean the park doesn’t overcrowd as quickly as some others.
The Hydropolis section provides plenty of thrills, with waterslides named such odd things as Bodyride Mountain and Thrill Slide Tower.
Other unusual attractions include swimming with a robotic dolphin and a water slide that visitors ride in a boat before landing with a splash in the pool.
Toshimaen, 3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo; +81 (0) 3 3990 8800; hours vary; admission ¥1,800-¥4,300; www.toshimaen.co.jp
Tobu Super Pool
Part of Tobu Zoo’s self-styled “hybrid leisure land,” Tobu Super Pool’s location means you can mix wet-and-wild fun with sightings of animals such as lions, tapirs, penguins and rare white tigers.
And for good measure, there’s also an assortment of giant roller coasters and other rides to ensure visitors are never bored with plain old menageries.
The centerpiece of the water park is a wave pool with giant jets that spew water high into the air and in the direction of bathers. Naturally, there’s also the requisite lazy river and a mess of waterslides.
Tobu is particularly family friendly, with a large kids’ area, plenty of shallow pools and a slow waterslide designed to be ridden by parents together with their children.
Also popular is a giant bucket that refills with water every five minutes before dumping it on the squealing kids gathered below.
Tobu Super Pool, 110 Suka, Miyashiro-machi, Minami Saitama-gun, Saitama; +81 (0) 480 93 1200; hours vary; admission ¥1,000-¥2,000; www.tobuzoo.com
Edogawa Pool Garden
The budget-friendly option for Tokyo area water parks comes courtesy of the local Edogawa Ward administration.
Most city wards have outdoor public pools that open in the summer but this one puts the rest to shame with its sheer scale.
And it’s cheap too. In July and August, Edogawa residents (outsiders welcome too) flock to the Pool Garden to get a break from the heat, without breaking the bank.
While two large pools, a kiddy pool and a meandering river can’t hope to rival the others in this list, they, plus two straight, humble water slides, simply can’t be topped in terms of value for money.
Edogawa Pool Garden, 8-17-1 Nishi-Kasai, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo; +81 (0) 3 3687 1721; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; admission ¥100-¥500; www.pool-garden.com