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minami kouen

There's a place in my heart for Minami Koen (South Park). I imagine it's every child's dream come true. Ok, ok - I don't want to deny that there has been considerable change in the likes and desires of the children of my day and those of today..........so I'll say it would have been my dream come true. Perhaps because it reminds me of the swings my grandfather would take me to behind the famous Luna Park in St. Kilda (Melbourne).

Minami Kouen really has everything. The rides; a lake where you'll see ducks, turtles and jumping fish; lovely pagodas I dream of sitting under one Sunday afernoon to read a novel or do some kanji study; tennis courts; a swimming pool; a baseball field; the ubiquitous jidouhanbaiki (automatic vending machines); as well as a kiosk selling everything you need for that impromptu picnic.

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The rides - rocket ships, the typical Victoriana merry go round, a (so-called) steam train , lots of others including a ferris wheel from which you can get a good idea of the Okazaki topography. If you're worried about safety - have no fear - you're locked in and only the windows behind you are open a few centimtres. It doesn't take you long to work out why they've provided 2 little fans in each capsule. At 100 Yen a ride, go on indulge yourself! And incase you're worried about appearing childish, you're spared that embarrassment as there are ticket machines. Besides, Disney land is just as popular with adults here as it is with children. I find the big furry animals irrestible too. I was quite taken by surprise the first time I saw them.

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I go there early in the mornings (the earliest time has been 6.00am) to do some serious walking. At that time you'll cross literally dozens of people taking their dogs for a walk. Infact, one day I'd like to take a photographic survey of the dogs and their owners. Okazaki is, afterall, the home of Wan Wan Doubutsuen (that's Japanese for "woof woof zoo" if you didn't know) - a zoo with all different breeds of dogs of course. Another place I'd like to go when I have the time. People are very friendly - and chirpy. I've felt so sleepy sometimes that I have to admit just saying ohayo gozaimasu has involved considerable effort.

The first time we (I always walk with a friend, at the moment it's Tania from Mexico who keeps me amused with endless stories about her various Latin romeos) went at 6-00 we noticed people gathering and there was the feeling that some sort of convention was going to take place. Well, I guess I could say there was and there is. Every morning. Every morning people meet and at a certain time the same recording is played to which the group does stretching exercises. Before you read any further , I want to stress most sincerely, that I think this is truly fantastic. However, and this is a little aside........ Have you noticed people nonchalantly doing neck rotations and stretches just about anywhere in Japan? I mean anywhere in public. On crowded trains, at pedestrian crossings, in restaurants ............. I have! Anyone who studies in the Aoi Hall will have witnessed out very own Kato san lifting his leg onto the handrail and doing leg stretches, oblivious to the people around him. Is it just me? Where I come from this would be the equivalent of brushing your teeth in public. Ooops! He does that too!

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this is the pool as you'll rarely see it -with few people- just before a cool change

As for the pool- the good news is that it is unbelievably cheap. 60 Yen will get you in for as long as you like and lockers cost 20 Yen. Unfortunately, the opening hours are very limited. 9.00 am until 5.15 pm. I have happily noticed there are loads of fathers enjoying having a splash with their children. There are no lanes for lap swimming so if you want to do some serious swimming go at opening time and even then you'll find yourself swimming an obstacle course with plastic sharks and the more menacing parents who insist on staying at the edge of the pool. There's longing in my Australian heart everytime I look at that invitingly empty pool early in the mornings.

Anyone for tennis? Not for me thanks but I do believe the excursions Declan has organized of late have been very popular. 500 Yen for an afternoon of tennis is a great deal, no doubt about that.

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