Saturday, February 3, 2018

Kinowan Koen Adventure (repost)

On Saturday, we decided to ride the bus the one hour from Tenmonkan out to the Hirakawa Zoo at the south end of Kagoshima City. It's only 440 yen ($4 USD) one way, so it's not that expensive for a day trip, but at $8 a day, it's not something I want to do 3-4 times a week. The weather was almost perfect, with temps in the low 50's, and it was a nice day. When we got there, the parking lot was empty, the entrance gates were closed, and the metal shades were pulled down at the ticket windows. I kept looking around for a notice somewhere, but I couldn't find anything, and the bus driver didn't say anything to us when we got out, either. We started walking to the lot exit to go down the hill, and there at the entrance to the parking lot was a big sign saying that the zoo was closed from Dec. 29th to Jan. 2nd. There was no mention of this on the zoo's main webpage (at least, not anywhere blatantly obvious).

Our bus pulled out of the lot without the driver even looking in our direction. A couple cars came up, stopped at the big sign, and the drivers and passengers talked with each other about what to do next. I decided I'd go down the hill to the next bus stop, since the next bus wouldn't arrive until after 3:30 PM. The amusement park behind the zoo was also closed, but a block farther down the hill is Kinko Bay Park, which is more of a flower garden and play area, with something of a rocket launch pad vibe (the Tanegashima rocket center belongs to Kagoshima Prefecture). And Kinko Bay Park is open all-year, and doesn't cost money to get inside.

The park is fairly big, and there's a 4.5 km (3 mile) hiking route that goes around it and up into the hills before returning  to the street running along the train line going north-south a couple blocks to the east. There's a shrine along the route, plus a couple memorials and a water fall. I assume the hilly parts are steep because the sign showing the route map suggests it's a 2.5 hour hike. I may have to come back sometime this week to check it out. Anyway, the park hosts a dish that's part of the Very Long Baseline Interferometry observatory network. The guest center was closed, so I don't know if this is an operating dish, or just window dressing. I'll find out at some point.

It's a fairly large park, and has a big play area for the children. Along with the rockets, there's monsters.

And a slides and ladders area that you'll probably not find in the U.S. There's lots of weird surfaces for kids to run on and potentially trip over and scuff themselves up on. What used to be a normal part of growing up in America.

The thing is, there's a lot about Japan that keeps striking me as belonging to text adventure games. You never know what you're going to find when you turn a corner, and a lot of that is tucked out of sight. Take for example this exercise obstacle course. You have to go to the SE corner of the children's play area and kind of follow an unmarked trail up into the woods on the side of the hill. The only hints that there's something in there are the rocket at the top of the hill, a bit of a thinning of the trees at the trail entrance, and the fact that occasionally one of the Japanese families with kids will disappear a few feet into the tree line.

There are 20 stations, and some of them are easier than others. They're all designed for kids between 5 and 15 or so, and some of them, like the box tunnel here, are too small for adults.

You have to crawl around, under and over the wood beams, and someone like me would never get past the first 6 feet of tunnel.

You really need to have a spotter, because the wood and ropes can get slick with condensation in the shaded places like this, and there are a number of obstacles that I think that if I slipped off of them would result in a twisted or broken ankle. Although, yes, I really wish I was younger so that I could do the entire course.

This one, you're supposed to crawl through the circle hoops in the middle of the ropes.

You get points based on how much of the obstacle you can complete, which represent the calories you're burning off.

You're supposed to traverse this one hanging upside down. Another reason for wanting a spotter - to keep you from hitting head first if your hands slip. It'd be great rock climbing training, though...

This is the first one that got me to thinking about how likely I'd be to hurt myself if my shoes slipped.

Again, great climbing practice.

But, a bit cramped for adults.

It looks easy enough...

But, I'll hold off a bit longer.

This one doesn't look anything like the preceding picture. I'm thinking that several of the obstacles have been damaged, dismantled or otherwise decommissioned for the winter. The thing is, there's no sign saying not to do this one anyway.

The zip line is obviously out of commission, though.

You can see the route is slowly working its way up the hill. The zipline is visible in the background.

I wonder about the people that designed these things...

You're supposed to have gotten a score card before you began the course. If you have over 20 points at this stage, you've burned somewhere around 250 calories, which is maybe 28 grams of fat. This is equivalent to playing tennis for 1 hour. It's what you get from one bowl of soba and one egg, or one hot dog.

And you're not done yet.

Again, who comes up with this stuff? Drill sergeants?

Make a good Dragon Quest mini-game, though.

What's ridiculous is that it's taking me longer to process the photos and write up this blog entry than it did to walk up the hill and take the pictures.

Ok, let's see if you've been paying attention. Have you noticed that up to this obstacle there has been space alongside the trail for parents to walk next to their kids and spot them? And that this space lets the parents get past the obstacles without having to crawl over them themselves? And that there's no such space beside the gravity dish here? This thing is almost 6 feet deep, and has a wooden floor at the bottom. You're supposed to run around the top edge of the dish fast enough that you reach the other side before going into a downward spiral. If you get to the bottom, there is a knotted rope that you can pull yourself up and out with, but it's on this side of the dish. Meaning that if you fail to get across, when you climb back out you have to try again. And if your shoes are slippery, you may fall and skin yourself up. I didn't want to wait until one of the other families showed up to spot me, so I did what any reasonable coward would do. I cheated. I held on to the rope barrier at the top and walked around the rim that way.

Last one.

Again, not without a spotter, and really good shoes.

Finally, the top of the hill. It's still a decent hike up if you walk fast and don't rest. Notice that at the bottom left corner of the photo, those are adults.

The view of the bay from the top of the hill. It's a beautiful day, but the air is humid. You can't see the volcano through the mist. (It should be at the left of the photo.) Before you look at the next photo, what do you think that thing is in the bay in the middle of the photo? Fishing boat buoy lines? Rope walls for a fish farm?

Solar panels. It's a solar farm.

And a little farther out is what I guess is a wet dock for ship inspections.

Observation deck at the very top of the hill. The sign indicates there's a wheelchair access, but I didn't see that myself. That would have made the climb up a whole lot easier.

Curving around the top of the hill, looking down at the array dish, people have brought their own sleds for grass sliding. Not that they're very good at it...

Looking out at the closed amusement park. The zoo is just to the lower right of the Ferris wheel. I could hear the monkeys and seals from where I was standing. They were very loud.

Then, out of the park and to the bus stop. The next bus arrived a few minutes later, and an hour after that we were back at Tenmonkan. It was just at 5 PM, so we went to an okonomiyaki restaurant (one of the few things open on the 30th, not including Mos Burger) for an early dinner. After that, a bit of walking in the Terukuni shrine area, a nightcap at the Royal Host family restaurant, and then back home. Then I did more reading of Proof before crashing at 2:30 AM. It was a nice day.

No comments: