I have read the name "Yukari no Mori" in all kinds of documents related to Tsukuba, but until quite recently, I didn't really have a sense of what it was. I decided to take a trip up there on Sunday to see what all the fuss is about.
Yukari no Mori is a nature centre that has a variety of facilities for people who want to commun with the elements. There are barbecue facilities, camping grounds, and some treehouses. There is a little pond that has a little bridge for kids to play on and a big adult jungle gym area where you can test out your infantry skills. There is also a grandstand area, but it was rather unfortunately occupied by about 10 people who were holding a private party with impossibly loud dance music. That didn't really fit in with the rest of the park, and kind of ruined the atmosphere.
It is possible to stay overnight at Yukari no Mori in a lodge called "Akamatsu". I didn't get a chance to see inside, but it describes itself as a Canadian lodge. I am from Canada, but I don't think I have ever been to a Canadian lodge. I am very interested to find out one day what classifies as a Canadian lodge. Perhaps it is like a cottage?
Ed's Note: AT Reader Michael Chulay writes: Just read your article on visiting Yukari no Mori. First of all, thanks for the article; it was fun to hear about this place again. And second, I believe the name "Canadian lodge" comes from the fact the residences were built to house Canadian visitors who participated in the 1985 Japan Expo held nearby. I was there, myself, a few months later as part of a winter language camp.
These facilities were all kind of par-for-the-course -- meaning that they did what they were supposed to do -- but I was surprisingly impressed with the Insect Museum. It was a bit unfortunate that I visited this museum after my hyper-fun day at the prefectural nature museum on Saturday, but this little museum helds its own. There is a wide range of beetles and butterflies on the first floor, each painstakingly labeled in handwriting. Some of the butterflies were akin to works of art. On the lower level, there was a case that included some awfully scary bugs and a big spider. (I couldn't take a picture of any of these because I was afraid that they would show up on my "random pictures" screensaver on day and freak me out). The upper level housed a small book collection and an area for watching videos or holding small seminars. The museum also allowed people to take out some of the videos (one per family). Video subjects include fireflies, bees, beetles, and other insect. (I suspect the videos are only available in Japanese.)
It was a rather cold day, so I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked wandering around the park, but I was finally able to get a sense of this place. I would say that Yukari no Mori is a good place to bring kids who are able to run around and entertain themselves, or kids who would enjoy looking at the museum, and it is also a good place to have an outdoor barbecue. I'm not sure about the accommodations situation, but if you know of someone who is looking for a more rustic experience, this might be the place to recommend. The park is not really great for just going for a walk or a jog, but it is good for these kinds of specific activities.
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