Life in Japan is generally quite modern and high tech. For example,
- toilets here have as many buttons and flashing lights as the Batmobile
- our bath tub doesn’t have a tap but instead we press a couple of buttons on a control unit on the wall and an exact amount of water (at the right temperature) is delivered to the tub in double quick time
- everyone in Japan has a rice cooker for cooking rice (boiling rice in a pan on the hob seems to be unheard of in Japan)
- many buildings have state of the art (double) intercom systems for letting visitors or takeaway guys into the building and
- sophisticated package delivery systems for those occasions when the recipient is not at home, namely the delivery person leaves your parcel in a big electronic postbox-type place. When you get home you input a code into the postbox and hey presto, out comes your package.
- Everywhere there seems to be vertical garages. You drive your car into the garage, get out of the car and a complicated robot system moves it to the nearest available space.
Regardless of this general high tech life, you can occasionally still find some old and knackered things in Japan.
We had heard about an old-fashioned amusement park near Osaka. A couple of days ago, during ‘Golden Week’ – one of the three big holiday periods in Japan – we made a trip there. You could compare Golden week to the summer half term in England during which only a masochist would take their children to Legoland. Perhaps inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey we did (somewhat sadistically) take the risk and took our kids to the amusement park.
The amusement park was located on top of Ikoma mountain, which is about a 20 min train journey outside of Osaka city centre. From Ikoma station, we took cable cars that run on the ground (instead of up in the air) to the top of the mountain.
These were no ordinary cable cars, but an approximation of a cat and a dog with sound effects; when the dog passed the cat it started barking and the cat started meowing. The kids could hardly contain themselves.
Ikoma was definitely something different! We learned it was about 85 years old, and by the look of it, many of the rides hadn’t changed much in that time.
Consequently, on a hot day like the one when we were there, the hydraulics of some of the rides needed a little DIY cooling down. Regardless of our retro surroundings, we decided to adopt modern health and safety standards and opted out of the overheated ride.
But overall the amusement park was great! And it was dead cheap. The daily pass (i.e. unlimited access to rides) for an adult was about 3200 JPY (£ 16, €20) although the rides were not really for adults, unless, you really hate those Viking boat-type rides and would prefer a ride that is really more like an oversized rocking chair instead of the let’s-see-what-you-had-for-lunch version.
The pedal-powered ride (pictures below) rose about 6 meters above street level. I think the health and safety features of these were also pre-WWII. But at least the cars had a hand brake so that you could slow your speed down, although, when your 3-year-old is in charge of the controls, having a brake is as useful as having a sunroof on a F1 car.
Talking about F1, have a look at this wannabe Kimi Räikkönen and his slightly aged co-driver below.
Some other Ikoma rides.
Even the games in the arcades were ancient. But in a good way! They were so cool!
The only not cool thing there was my husband, who obviously has the mental age of 18. He wanted to try the arm-wrestling machine, which he said he had used back in the 90s (when he was 18). I don’t know anything about cult arm-wrestling machines from the 1990s, as back then I was more interested in moonwalking into a club than spending time in arcades, but my husband’s obsession with the newly discovered love of his life (the arm wrestling machine) led to him googling to find out more about the machine only to find out that it had been banned in Japan back in the 90s after four men had broken their arms while arm wrestling the robot. But time seemed to stand still in Ikoma as the banned arm wrestling machine was alive and well, still attempting to break eager young (and slightly older) men’s arms.
In addition to the rides, Ikoma was great for the view. From the mountain you could pretty much see the whole Kansai area (and the smog covering it).
Even if my piss taking of the rides above might give you a different impression, we really had a great day. The kids loved the rides. I loved the retro feel of the place, the fact that it wasn’t busy and the fact that there were practically no tourists there (apart from us of course). And my husband… well, he loved the arm wresting machine.
We thought that Ikoma was old, but then yesterday we went to a children’s festival in the centre of Osaka. Check out the rides of the festival below. They were all manual!
You can’t but love the contrasts you find in Japan!