Candies and Kids
A land full of chocolates and candies, little fountains, lazily flowing river, rainbow swings, hot baths, kids giggling and merrily splashing in water. No it’s not repeat NOT a Hans Andersen tale. Believe it or not there is one such place an hour and a half from center of Tokyo. It’s Summerland.
Nestled in the lap of the mountain ranges bordering western Tokyo, Summerland is the quintessential fairyland in Summer. As winter gives way to the brief rainy season, the buzz of the cicadas rising up from the marshes invite in summer. Awaken from its long slumber the Sun god arrives pretty soon. Summer means holidays in school, summer means splashing in the pools. And that means – no point for guessing – summerland.
Oh Summer to Ahh Summer
From Shinjuku JR rapid towards Mt Takao reaches Hachioji in about half an hour. From outside the station a bus leaves for Summerland every 10 minutes. Another thirty minutes journey. Last stop Summerland. You get the feeling of leaving the mega city and heading into the hinterlands as the road winds higher up into hills. Advertisements for onsens, dark green woods, winding hill roads transposes you into a holiday land even before you reach.
As the bus turns into the parking lot, the outlines of the big rides come into view. The tube rides look like joint octopus sitting with its tentacles spread. You get a choice of two types of tickets summerland watermark only or summerland plus it’s adjacent amusement park rides. For a day tripper like us the “Only” option was more than enough. For the true blue battle hardened amusement park aficionados, one would advise booking a room in the hotel within the complex. That way you can space out the experience into one night and two days.
Let see whats really in there. Past the ticket gates and the well stocked / well displayed / well highish priced beach merchandise, you step into Hawaii! An indoor one! Yes the very first experience zone in Summerland is Hawaii themed and is all indoor under a glass canopy. There are coconut trees, thatched roof huts, beach beds. There is wave pool that wakes up at specified times. There is a high ride starting from the Hawaiian mountain top and splashing down below at a side of the wave pool. While the adults enjoy by the beach side, youngsters have their own play area in the form of fruit garden. A water slide and water play area with ample opportunity to dunk in water. Slides in the shapes of bananas and pineapples. Talking about bananas/pineapples, there are food shacks by the beach where you get the Hawaiian food, along with the more tame takos and bentos. An onsen is also added for good measure.
If however summer swimming and indoors don’t go together well for you, head onto the outdoors. A pool with its own rotating musical water spray lets you cool down and get into the groove. Play beach ball, float on inflatables. This is the first outdoor pool so take your time , feel the breeze. Once conditioned get up and get onto the first ride right next to the pool. By the way seen Ninja movies? Good. Practiced some moves on the sly? Very good. You will need the skills to successfully ride this ride. Named monkey ride, it is a series of rubber floats shaped like logs floating in the water. You need to balance and cross over to the other side of the pool jumping from one log to the other. There is also a net hanging overhead to help you hold on and keep balance. Well that is in case you have enough balance to hold onto it in the first place Trust me it’s a good one to test your fitness.
The kids are well taken care of here. In the next ride past the monkey float they get to scale up a little mountain.
Water falls from the mountain over a cave into turquoise blue lagoon below. Young Tarzans are to cross the lagoon ( couple of feet in length, half a feet in depth) and from under the waterfall hitch onto a rope to get to the top. From the top a crag lets them slide down into the abyss below. Thankfully it’s all rubber, perfectly safe.
Next on the right, there is a river lovingly called the lazy river. A bridge crosses this river to an island. On the island there are all sort of toys for kids to enjoy, like water sprinklers to target and shoot at enemies, and a few more similar themes. There is also a smaller version of monkey float, suitable for the younger ones.
Up the lazy river
The lazy river is probably the main attraction in Summerland. It weaves into two double eight patterns joined in the middle, with a couple of islands in between. Warm water flows by pushing the river creatures along with it. And what a good time the creatures do have, floating on their inflatable boats/ Dolphins/ you name it as the water flows on. But its not altogether tame as one might think though. There are some thrill zones during this ride as well. There are the gushing waterfalls, the narrow canyons, and must mention the islands that host singing sirens! A la Odyssey style. Perfectly safe leisurely leisurely way to spend some time amongst the mountains under the blue sky.
By the side of the lazy river there is the octopus like water chute ride. Two riders can ride down via two parallel chutes, which curve differently in space but land into the same pool side by side. You can choose to start at the same time as your buddy and see who comes down first. There is another tube ride that is a little further, shorter, but allows two persons ride one boat together and swoosh down into a splash below.
Sounds kinda fun? Well there’s more. A ride takes you high up and then let’s you slide down in a way that you find yourself thrown open out of the tube at one point. You simply find yourself move up a side wall under the high velocity after coming down and falling out of the chute. Then Mother Earth takes care to see that you are soon pulled back down from your perch atop the wall and get to slide further down. Of course the fall is all calculated, as you would expect. But for a moment you might think we’ll is it how it was supposed to be ? You get the idea right? Then head for the next level up on adrenaline scale. Named decasla it’s the latest addition to the park and costs extra. Riders get into a boat, go up, then come down. So far so good but the fun is when the boat lands at an angle inside a conical funnel. It moves in a zigzag fashion through the funnel. Well it’s difficult to explain really. Let say you just go ahead and experience it – what do you think…..
Got any more energy left, or time in hand? Ticket valid for the adjacent “dry” rides? Enjoy. But we did not. Junior most of our Couchflyer family – Osh – did not qualify for several rides that had 140 cm height restriction. Besides as is expected any leisure park in Japan gets very crowded on weekends leading to long waiting times. The toll on younger ones make them exhausted towards the end of the day. So we did skip a few, even though we spet no less than eight hours!
Honestly, Summerland is one of several such water parks around Tokyo. But the combination of indoor plus outdoor options along with extra rides and in-premise hotel options make it the prime attraction for Tokyo residents in Summer. With fame comes rush though. So you might see pictures of a zillion people in a pool, with remarks liked- spot the water! Well it is a fine balance, like everything else in life. For us, we could spot the water, bathe, play, get drenched in it, and had a lot of fun along the way.