Nicknamed “Moomin House” the quirky building pictured is one of three buildings in this free, unique and imaginative theme park for children in Hanno City; Akebono Children’s Forest Park. Once you leave your shoes at the door (which we didn’t on our first visit, cringe) you’re free to roam the house and discover the nooks and crannies.There are 3 floors and a basement to explore. The upper floors have little beds and items laid out to make it look like someone lives there. There are doors, windows, cubby holes, secret spaces, stair cases and lots more to captivate the littlest of minds. The park is geared to children, but there are few safety measures in place, so I recommend you stay close to your kids as they climb in the main house. You might also want to watch your own head; I bumped mine a few times!
In the Facility Management building there is a large play area, pictured in the gallery (at the bottom), with handmade toys the kids can play with. The park is open until 5, but the playroom closes at 4. Occasionally, they have events on in this room. The management building houses the toilets, including one with a baby keep and changing area. You are requested to bring used nappies home with you.
The 3rd building is an information station and reading area with books and a seats (←picture on the left). There is a selection of books including some Moomin stories. They have some great encyclopedia type books about insects and beetles too. Behind this building is one of the nature trails and the route to the waterfall, as well as the tree house pictured below.
The park is quite hard to find and I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, so I’m calling it Saitama‘s best kept secret-toddler-friendly-location. However, in a couple of years it will not be so obscure as they are currently building a Moomin Amusement Park METSA, said to be complete by Spring 2018 and maybe even before. It is the first Moomin amusement park to be built outside Finland.
The current park is free in and suitable for rainy days. I noticed an unsightly air conditioning unit out the back of Moomin’s house, so I assuming they use it in the summer. There is a small shop at the edge of the car park, but they don’t sell much in the way of food. They do have ice-cream! There are vending machines halfway up the slope that leads to the park. Unless you have an all terrain buggy I suggest you leave your stroller in the car, especially if you plan to do any of the hikes or visit the waterfall. It is a lovely area to hike in though, but some of the hiking trails will be lost with the development of METSA.
For anime lovers, this park is used as the back drop in the second season, episode 20, of the anime Yama no susume, “Climb of Encouragement“. You can see the anime images compared with the real life scenery in this blog article here:
Approximately 20 minutes from both the Sayama-Hidaka and Iruma Interchanges of the Chuo expressway. The park is situated behind Hanno’s city public gym and hockey courts. There is a Cainz beside it which is probably the best landmark. They are on prefectural route 195; 9 kilometres from route 16 if you come of the Chuo Expressway at the Iruma Interchange. Prefectural road 195 also meets up with route 407 which is the road I took from Sakado. The road is quite busy and only one lane for a lot of the journey. The car park is in the grounds of Hanno’s Taiikukan.
A 20 minute walk from Motokaji 元加治 Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro line.
To extend your playtime in Hanno, just across the road you can enjoy the playground in Asu Sports Park.