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North to south, parks create adventures

By: Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2006-09-16

The weatherís cooling slightly, school is back in session, and weekend outings need to be something more than a trip to the beach.

Okinawaís parks are a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and best of all, many are close to the major central military installations. Parks and playgrounds offer relaxation and a chance for kids to vent their pent up energies while mom and dad sit back and enjoy the autumn scenery.

While some of the larger parks offer a wide variety of amenities, we recommend families pack the cooler with snacks and drinks, and toss some beach chairs and a blanket into the trunk, too. Rest rooms in most parks are Japanese style, except for handicap restrooms, which typically are western style toilets.

Wakamatsu Park, also known as Rollerslide Park, is not far from Camp Foster, and the ideal place for kids. The rustic kids toys include tire swings, a couple different style sliding boards, some swinging rings ala Tarzan, cargo climbing nets, and of course, the namesake rollerslides. The park is open daily 10am to 9pm.

There are picnic tables and a pavilion available, as well as tennis courts, a running track and soccer facilities. Pets are not allowed. Rest room facilities are readily available. To visit Wakamatsu Park, go out Camp Fosterís Legion Gate onto Highway Route 81. Travel past Restaurant China, then turn right onto the first street. It ends in a parking lot leading to
stairs to the park.

Not too far away from Camp Foster is another popular park, Okinawa Comprehensive Park. Itís not a park for a two-hour visit, so plan time to check out the running tracks, soccer fields, its gymnasiums and swimming pools, walking paths and more. There are three distinctly different playgrounds, plus fitness trails. Youíll even find a small pond where the kids can watchčand feedčthe fish. Dogs arenít allowed at this park, either.

To visit, take Route 81, following the street as it turns into Highway 329.

Comprehensive Park is clearly marked on the left, and there are lots of signs to guide you.

Araha Park, the Pirate ship Park, is in the Chatan area, not far from Camps Foster and Lester, and Kadena Air Base. Itís located at the seawall, and features a beach too. The playground is in kids form, built like a ship complete with nets, ropes, slides and swings. In addition to the ďBig KidsĒ ship, there is also a miniature version for the little folk. To reach Araha Park, go to Hamby Town San-A, then turn toward the seawall. You canít miss it.

Hopping to the north, two good places to visit in the Nago City area. Neo Park Okinawa, covering about 250,000 square meters, sits along Highway 58.

The other is Nago Central Park.

The Neo Park is divided into four unique theme zones keying on ecologies of four world areas: South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Give yourself plenty of time to wander through the Neo Park, studying the relationships of flora and fauna, exactly as they exist in the real world.

Itís a chance to appreciate the hundreds of bird species, not to mention tree and ground dwellers and water birds. All live in a natural habitat.

Youíll see tropical birds, like cranes and storks, soaring unrestricted, while flamingoes strut through the marshy waters. In the water, donít miss checking the giant catfish, the worldís largest fresh water fish. Neo Park is such a great place to go, youíll want to consider purchasing annual family passes, good for unlimited return visits.

Neo Park is on Highway 58 in Nago City, just past the Nago Bus Terminal.

Nago Central Park, in downtown Nago City, is an easy swing off Highway 58. Turn right onto Route 84, then make a left at the Orion Brewery traffic light. The brewery is on the right. At the next traffic signal, take another route and follow the road to the park.

The Nago Central Park is a place to simply relax, sit on the benches, and let the kids release even more energy. There are rollerslides and climbing nets, a teeter-totter, and swings.

Returning south on Highway 58, Iso Park is near Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Itís another good place for kids, with sturdy wooden jungle gyms and log bridges, swings, ladders, slides and more. Best of all, there are plenty of trees under which a blanket can be spread for a picnic.

Getting thereís relatively easy after passing MCAS Futenma on Highway 58. At the overpass, take the low road to the left, then turn left at the Arin Krin garlic restaurant. There will be a big red and white Meiji sign on the right, signaling time to turn right into the third driveway. Thatís the Iso Park parking lot.

Naminoue Park is the capital cityís contribution to relaxation. Situated next to the beach, with a breathtaking panorama of the East China Sea, itís a good place to chill after shopping and sightseeing the downtown area. The park has something for toddlers to middle schoolers, including climbing areas and a jungle gym, as well as swings.

Follow Highway 58 south into Naha City, then follow the blue and white signs for Naminoue Park or Naminoue Beach.
Nishizaki Athletic Field in Itoman, on the far southern end of Okinawa Island, is yet another great playground for the kids.

Itís also a pleasant get away drive, as it passes the airport. Nishizaki Athletic Field has a roller slide, teeter totter and merry-go-round for the little tykes, swings and nets, a unicycle, and plenty of open area for everything from soccer to
football, or even a bit of badminton.

Follow Highway 58 south through Naha, toward the airport. Follow signs to Highway 331, and stay left at the fork in the road. Continue until you see signs for the Route 82 intersection, then turn right. Once you pass Shinsui Park, youíll see Nishizaki Athletic Field on the right.

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