By Pete Martin
Although only open for a couple of months a year, the outdoor Family Pool can be a life saver during Hiroshima's long, hot and humid summer. Located in the heart of the city, it makes for a great place to let kids blow off steam, take a break during a day of sightseeing, or nurse a hangover from a night at a beer garden.
Open from the beginning of July to the end of August, the Central Park Family Pool is located next to the Green Arena prefectural gymnasium and Children's Museum, only a few minutes walk from the A-bomb Dome.
There are actually 3 pools within the park. A 50 meter pool which is generally divided into two 25 meter sections (depth 0.8-1.0m), a nagare pool which has a current that carries you along a 260m long channel that loops around the park (depth 1.1m), and shallow paddling pool (depth 25-40cm) with a slide suitable for small children.
This is not a place for serious swimming, and unless you get there right when the gates open (and even then there's no guarantee) you are unlikely to be able to do laps. Those looking for a swim workout during the summer, should head to Ushita on the Astram Line and use the excellent Big Wave 50m pool.
The place can get extremely busy on Sundays and during the Obon vacation, in the middle of August, when it is packed with sunbathers and water babies, however, arrive early or late in the day and it generally isn't too bad, and you avoid the brutal midday heat.
Bring a music player to drown out the almost constant drone of the bored lifeguards telling kids the multitude of things they're not allowed to do, through a megaphone mixed with the piped J-pop.The poolside areas offer a decent amount of shade, but again this can be at a premium at busy times. Much of the ground is covered with green astro-turf, not very natural, but takes the edge off the roasting tiled sections.
You will be expected to observe the Japanese tradition of a mandatory pool break every hour, when everyone is asked to get out of the water.
Swimming rings can be rented for ¥100 each and you can use the pumps to blow up your own inflatables free of charge. If you get hungry there are couple of places where you can get basic fare, French Fries, curry and rice, fried noodles etc as well as kaki-goori shaved ice and ice cream. Generally, for cooked food, you are expected to buy a food ticket from the vending machine and hand it to the person at the counter. There are also lots of drink vending machines around the park.
There are no restrictions on bringing in your own food, and although, in theory, no alcohol is allowed, you do see people surreptitious enjoying a beer or a chuhai or two (just keep it quite and don't overdo it).
In terms of safety, our feeling is that parents with small children should not rely on the the lifeguards round the pool. There are a lot of them and they seem to be watching, but we are not sure how much training they have. There are tragic fatalities here from time to time, especially when it gets very busy, so please keep and eye on your children.
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A total of 18 years in Japan and still loving it. Co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and publisher of the GetHiroshima Guide Map. Lapsed Ironman triathlete. Now trying to fit a passion for ultra distance trail running between raising two kids and occasional sessions in the DJ booths of Hiroshima.