The oft-visited Kamakura-Hakone stretch isn’t terribly child-friendly outside of the summer beach season. Kids get bored with temples and shrines, and wandering the omiyage streets of hot-spring towns gets pretty old, pretty fast. Luckily, there are a few spots that provide ample opportunity to play, and that will, with any luck, fill kids’ “play tanks” full enough to let the mums and dads enjoy what they came for without too many complaints from pint-sized companions.
Located between Hakone and Kamakura in the castle town (and Shinkansen station) of Odawara, Kodomo no Mori Koen Wanpaku Land is easily accessible by both car and Hakone Tozan bus. This expansive park isn’t too far from downtown Odawara (which is worth a visit for its castle and castle grounds — beautiful cherry blossoms in early spring, hydrangeas during the rainy season, and if memory serves, irises in May), though don’t expect to be able to walk.
Wanpaku Land is on the side of a hill, so be prepared for some steep inclines in the playing area, but for those lacking the ability or inclination to walk from spot to spot, there’s a road train, as well as a proper mini train, that make the rounds (though thanks to the park’s geography, they don’t visit each and every mini-park within the park).
The day we visited — a chilly, windy Sunday in February, a handful of food trucks were parked at various parks-within-the-park, serving a variety of hot and cold food. Vending machines with both snacks and drinks were on hand in rest areas.
The park also has some ponies, goats, sheep and pigs, with several pony-ride times open during the day. A taiken/workshop or two teach kids to make little knickknacks. At the entrance, a collection of kiddie rides offers some electronic fun for wee-er ones.
Our six-year-old had a blast, and judging by the expressions of sheer delight on the faces of the other kids, every other non-adult was also having the time of his or her life.
Please note that though entrance to the park is free, the train, road train, pony rides, kiddie rides and parking all require payment, though prices aren’t steep.
**Closed Mondays (unless Monday is a national holiday, in which case the park is open), the weekday after national holidays, and the end-of-year/new-year period**
**Information is accurate as of February 7, 2018. Please refer to the website (Japanese) for updated information before visiting.**