Tokyo has Disneyland, Osaka has Universal Studios. Hiroshima prefecture has, well, Miroku no Sato.
Despite feeling somewhat like an abandoned theme park that people haven’t quite abandoned yet, Miroku no Sato (the name means Village of the Future Buddha) is a lot of fun, and a bargain to boot. It’s not the easiest place to access from Hiroshima city, but that may be part of what keeps the crowds down. And with plenty of rides and oddly enjoyable, run-down corners to explore, it’s well worth the effort, especially for families.
As you enter, the first thing you’ll find is the food and souvenir concession area. To the left, visible from the gate, are the Wave Swing, the kid-friendly “Imomushi-kun” roller coaster and the ubiquitous and pleasantly nauseating teacup ride. But for the main attractions, you’ll need to continue up the hill and through the second set of gates. On the way, be sure to stop by “Itsuka-kita Machi,” to the right of the path. A rambling tangle of passages takes you through recreated Showa-era classrooms, an entertainment district, a small museum dedicated to telephones and other fascinating piles of rescued treasures. There are snack and noodle shops, a collection of old cinema posters and an area where children can play with real, pre-iPhone games and toys. From the entrance, it may look like something you want to pass by without exploring. That would be a sad mistake.
Entering the main portion of the park, the scene is dominated by the Himalaya Coaster, with 800 meters of track, a steep drop and a multi-loop helix near the end. It’s a surprisingly respectable roller coaster to be standing out in the hills of eastern Hiroshima prefecture, a half hour’s drive from Fukuyama city. There’s also a large ferris wheel that offers wonderful views of the beautiful countryside, one of those swinging pirate ships (my favorite) and something called the “Giant Hammer,” with two cars on swing arms that go higher and higher until they finally turn a full 360 degrees, sometimes leaving the passengers screaming upside down and high in the air as the cars pause long enough to make you wonder if they’ll ever come down again.
A couple of years ago, the park splashed out for a new attraction that I really enjoyed, and would have absolutely loved as a child. It’s called Dino Park. Again, this looks like nothing at all from the entrance, but once you’re through, you’re on a long, rambling walk through the woods, only with electronic dinosaurs that snort and move their heads and tiny, useless arms as you approach. 42 in all, after a recent enhancement. The story that goes with it is a Jurassic Park style breakout, with you stumbling through the aftermath. It’s all pretty entertaining.
There are lots of other rides (GoKarts! Waterslide!), and many more things to try out. Some of the rides have age or height restrictions in place, but the nice thing is how careful the park has been to ensure that smaller children have plenty to enjoy, instead of spending the day either terrified or watching older siblings have a blast without them.
After you’re done, and you’ve bought enough souvenirs to satisfy the gate attendants and gain permission to leave, you may want a nice hot bath. And you can have one! Just outside the park (to the left as you exit the gate) is the Showa-no-yu onsen. I’ve been a number of times, and while it’s not worth a trip for its own sake, it’s a very nice little set-up, with more of the kind of nostalgia on display in the park’s Itsuka-kita Machi. And for what it’s worth, a local dairy sells yogurt drinks from a cold case near the check-in counter, and they’re the best I’ve ever had.
All in all, a very enjoyable and (whenever I’ve visited) crowd-free getaway, perfect for families looking for a day’s fun outside of Hiroshima city.
Getting there: Buses from JR Fukuyama Station run twice daily on weekdays and 4 times on weekends and holidays, but if you miss the bus (quite likely), it’s probably better to spring for a twenty minute taxi ride than to wait for the next one. Better yet, drive. By car, the park is about an hour and a half from downtown Hiroshima. Take the Fukuyama-nishi exit from the Sanyo Expressway (heading toward Hiroshima Airport), then drive another half hour to reach the park. With Google Maps or a navigation system, it’s easy to find. The address is 638-1, Fujiecho, Fukuyama-city, Hiroshima-prefecture 720-0543.
Hours: 10:00-17:00 most days, but occasionally the park is open a little earlier and closes a little later. Check the calendar on the website to be sure. On rainy days, the Himalaya Coaster and Classic Car convoy will be closed.
Price: First, the park is cash only, and there are no ATMs inside, so come prepared. There are several admission options, but the best by far is the “Free Pass,” which admits you everywhere and as often as you like (except Go Karts, Lucky Maze and Dino Park, which you can only visit once on the pass, alas, though you can always buy another single-trip ticket). The Free Pass is about 3000 yen (3200 for adults, 2900 for children), which may seem steep until you realize there are no 40 minute lines. Scarcely a five minute line. It’s definitely worth it.
Website (Japanese only, but good): https://www.mirokunosato.com/
photo courtesy of author