When my family wants to go on a picnic, we go to Nakatsugawa City’s largest public multi-purpose green space, Nakatsugawa Park, about a 20 minute bus ride from Nakatsugawa station. It has everything for a half-day family outing; baseball diamonds, tennis courts, a track & field area, jogging tracks, skateboard & BMX bike park and children’s play equipment.
Nakatsugawa Park was built in the middle of an industrial park on the side of a hill. The first time I visited, I thought I had made a wrong turn. Even though the signs pointed to the park, I had to drive past manufacturing plants and other businesses to get there. But once I arrived it was worth it.
The park is on both sides of a road but the main area for families is on the east. The west side includes soccer fields, the city gymnasium, theater and the city baseball stadium called Yoake Mae (Before Sunrise) Stadium after for the book written by the Meiji Period writer and native son Shimazaki Toson.
The east side has tennis courts, baseball diamonds, jogging paths and most importantly a playground featuring my favorite slide to date. Yes, I admit it here. I am a child at heart and will not resist the chance to play on playground equipment. This roller slide is called “bobsled” and runs from mid-hill down to just above the parking lot with dips and tight curves just like a bobsled run. The most important thing to know about this slide is DO NOT SIT ON YOUR BOTTOM! It realy hurts. Bring a piece of cardboard to sit on; it helps you go faster and will save a visit to a tailor for your trousers.
Besides the wickedly fun roller slide, there are climbing and coordination equipment. The most extreme is a large climbing tower for children over 100cm tall. Standing about three stories tall, children (and children-at-heart) can climb the netted interior to the top and descend in a straight-shot tube slide to the bottom. I recommend climbing with the younger children and first-timers to make sure they can safely get to the top.
Most of the park is free but to use the baseball diamonds, tennis courts, track & field space or the gymnasium, special fees do apply.
On a sunny day, bring a picnic, claim a spot on the grassy space below the playground and take in the view of Nakatsugawa and northwest toward the Hida region.