Oni (n) – Japanese demon/devil
When I first heard of “Oni Park,” an enormous play-scape and park that is wildly popular among little children, I was intrigued. Demon themed objects are usually not child friendly.
So when I heard about “Oni Park,” located inside of the Arimafuji Kinen Koen (有馬富士公園) in Sanda (三田) in the Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県), I expected it to be a normal, large park – with maybe one or two cute little Oni demon statues around the park.
Nope. Instead, it looked like this:
There was nothing little about it, which brings us to the first thing on my list of interesting things about the Oni Park
1. The main park of the park was, in fact, a giant Japanese Oni Demon head. The Oni head structure is complete with two hollow horns for people to climb inside and a ridiculously dangerous slide.
2. The ridiculously dangerous slide was really only bad for adults. All the children seemed to like it. Just… well, nus adults have a higher mass than children do. We go a lot faster. Two runs down that slide, and my back/butt was hurting for the next 48 hours.
3. There were six or seven really fun ways to get to the top of the Oni head and ride the ridiculously dangerous slide. They involved climbing through pipes (that I couldn’t fit in), climbing ladders (that I didn’t feel like doing), climbing an artificial rock sculpture (that wasn’t too bad), or just hiking up the dirt section of the head (which I always did).
The kids loved it, though.
However, as impressive and scary as the demon head structure was, it was not the “main” part of the park. The park had four areas: a sound scape, a concrete maze and sand-pit, the oni head slide and structure, and the Oni demon’s breakfast – a giant traditional Japanese breakfast themed area.
4. The sound-scape area. The sound scape area has drums, bells, sheets of metal, and an assortment of other things for children to bang on. They also had three large “clouds” – white squishy structures that you could run, bounce, or sleep on. I chose the latter, and woke up with a pretty nasty sunburn across my face.
For some reason, I always assume if it’s cold outside, you can’t get sunburn. Nope. My face is still red and itchy, two days later.
5. The only (direct) way to reach the Oni Head from the Sound-Scape was by climbing this rope fence. It was like boot camp. Every time I saw a child kind of teetering on the top, trying to get over, a small part of me freaked out a bit.
But then again, this is Japan, not America. If a kid did fall, they wouldn’t sue the park. So they were allowed to put up kind of “dangerous” obstacles for kids to play on.
I also saw several mothers made the trip over the rope fence, with arms full of purses and children’s coats, balancing on their short heeled boots. Japanese mothers are amazingly strong and have excellent balance.
6. The Japanese style breakfast playground was adorable. And dangerous.
7. You could climb inside of a fish and explore the tunnels inside. Or at least children could. I could theoretically fit inside the fish, but after sticking only my upper body inside, I got a bit claustrophobic. So I just sat on a giant slab of soft tofu until the kids were done playing inside the fish.
8. The bowl of Miso Soup was basically a parkor training area.
Actually, scratch that. This entire park would be an excellent place to practice parkor. For those of you who don’t know what parkor is… just check out this youtube video.
And these little kids were really great at it. I was so surprised.
9. This structure of trampolines and ropes was an accident waiting to happen. The kids were just bouncing around everywhere – occasionally running into walls.
While we were playing in the rope room, a mom accidentally dropped her keys. They fell underneath the ropes and we all worked together to get her keys back.
10. The fourth part of the park had a concrete maze, an enormous sandbox with tools, and several mosaic structures with windows that resembled a European shop.
11. Hands down, the white concrete maze was my favorite part of the park. It wasn’t a “fake” maze – by that I mean that it wasn’t a simple, little kids maze. It was complicated.
They had a sky bridge that went across the maze, so that parents could easily find their missing children.
The walls of the maze were a thick, white concrete a bit taller than I was. They had small doors that children (or desperate adults) could climb through, as well as a smattering of windows.
The girls and I started playing hide-and-seek. On several occasions, I would be crouching behind one of the walls when another little Japanese child would wander by, stop dead in their tracks (to be fair, foreigners really are not common in Sanda. And by “not common,” I mean “really rare.”), and just watch me until their mother came by and ushered them away with a little laugh and a “Oh, you’re playing hide-and-seek?”
12. The maze had the ability to change. There were several metal doors that could go in any of the three directions.
I thought that was pretty neat – if a child came to this park enough to learn the maze by heart, all it takes is one key and five minutes of an employee’s time to change the entire flow of the maze.
13. Despite the Oni Demon theme, everything was cute.
And, like I said before, Oni Demon Park was located to the side of an even bigger park (for adults) Arimafuji Kinen Koen (有馬富士公園), with nice hiking trails, bamboo mazes, picnic benches, and beautiful scenery.
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