On previous visits, I hadn`t paid attention to Kacho-Yukan because my purpose had always been to enjoy time outdoors in Igashira Park. The park is in Moka,Tochigi Prefecture and is immense (when a Canadian says that you can believe it!), with a lake, bicycle rentals, a woodland obstacle course (first grade kids and older), winter trout fishing (stocked pond), rental rowboats, cafeteria, bird watching, a plant nursery, a spectacular rose garden, and 10,000 Person Water Park (summer vacation). Did I miss anything?
A Moka City local told me that Kacho-Yukan is one of her favorite places to take her grandchildren. Kacho-Yukan is an older greenhouse like building in Igashira Park, next to a parking area, a flower/plant vendor and food court. I was not expecting much, despite the grandmother`s endorsement. Entrance is Y410 for adults and Y300 for kids. We took it slow, chatting at reception, and examining the sausage fruits and other natural objects displayed. Then we ventured through the glass doors into a jungle paradise. At first, we followed the glass wall and looked up at the tree tops. A pair of toukans roasted overhead. Fresh sausage fruits hung from the vines. Sausage fruit …. am I really writing about that? According to Wikipedia, the fruit can be made into a cure for various ailments, or can be made into beer.
We looked down into a jungle, and soon descended to ground level to the base of a gushing waterfall. After completing the quiz questions there, we left the tropical zone through a curtain of plastic chains and soon found a giant iguana with some turtles in an enclosure. Further along, caged love birds and other pretty birds greeted us. Then we moved through another door into what I can only describe as fairyland, with butterflies everywhere. We paused from our chat, and stood there for a moment enraptured; the space was quiet except for the flutter of tiny wings.
If I ever have a day off, to myself, again, especially in the cold months, I might like to take a good book and read and hang out with the butterflies, imagining I have escaped to a tropical paradise. We handed our quizzes to the receptionist. We had one mistake, nonetheless, she offered us a prize of a butterfly wing or some delicate colorful feathers from a tropical bird, labeled and in a ziplock bag – a perfect bookmark. I wonder if they ever give out sausage fruit…
Igashira Park is 16 kilometers southeast of Utsunomiya Station, about a 30 minute drive, mostly following Route 123. I don`t recommend accessing the park by bus unless the weather is fine, you are energetic and are going to make a day of it. From the bus-stop, the park entrance is about 30 minutes on foot. Keep in mind that within the almost 100 hectare park itself requires a lot of walking unless you rent a bicycle.