Miroku-no-sato: Hiroshima's Futuristic Budda Village Amusement Park
If you are living or visiting the Hiroshima area with your family, or have an interest in old-style Japanese amusement parks, head over to Fukuyama city and Hiroshima's only amusement park, Miroku-no-sato. The name can be translated as "Futuristic Buddha’s Village" which seems like a rather unusual albeit cool amusement park name. The name actually seems to derive from the foundation’s religious affiliations.
Since this park is located in the middle of the countryside, it is easiest to get to by car, although there are infrequent bus services available from Fukuyama train station. It is located about an hour’s drive from Hiroshima and I found it fairly easy to navigate using Google maps on my phone. I was actually quite skeptical when the directions kept telling us to take small farm roads, but suddenly the ferris wheel bursts into view.
The facility originally opened in 1989 and could honestly do with a facelift, but it is a cheap, fun, family day out without major crowds. Winter is an especially good time to visit as you can stay until dark and enjoy the park’s illuminations display between the beginning of November through to the second week of January. In 2015-6: 11/7/2015-1/11/2016. In the hot summer months, there are swimming pools and water play attractions.
For entry to the park, it’s easiest to get the “free pass” for around 3,000 yen with entry to all of the rides, or the “smile pass” for a few hundred yen cheaper. Elementary school age kids gets a few hundred yen discount on entry. Alternatively, you can buy the entry pass (under 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for kids) and pay along the way for the rides and attractions. It may be easier to get the free pass if you have a few hours to enjoy the park. There is also the evening pass and night pass available at a discount if you enter after 5:30 pm when the illuminations are turned on during the winter period.
The “back-in-time” retro area called “Itsuka-kita-michi” of the park is fun to wander around to see old Japanese products, film sets and game-booths, noodle shops, bars and restaurants. This was actually our favorite area of the park and something you will never find in an international chain amusement park. It was also the best area to grab decent food- Japanese udon, ramen, soba, dango, ramen, takoyaki among other dishes are available here from retro-style shops. The main areas of the park have typical amusement park foods: ice-creams, curry & rice, pasta & pizza, burgers and fries.
The Retro-zone has traditional looking game booths, toy shops and a great "Dagashi-ya" candy & trinket shop that the adult visitors around us were especially impressed with. There are walk through museums full of old film set props, retro bars, cafes and a small city center inside one of the buildings. There are lots of industrial relics and Japanese nostalgia to view such as posters of celebrities of the past, old appliances like rice-cookers, cameras and school supplies which adults might find interesting. Interestingly, many of these things on display can still be seen in use in many old neighborhoods in Japan.
Although it may be chilly, the bonus of a visit in winter is being able to enjoy the evening illuminations (turned on at 5:30pm). There are some areas which are only open in the warmer months for water play. I think there is enough to keep you interested no matter what time of year you visit.
Find updated event information in English about Miruku-no-sato and detailed information about pricing and how to get there on GetHiroshima.com: http://gethiroshima.com/
Or check out the official Miruku-no-sato website for details in Japanese: http://www.mirokunosato.com/
Getting to Miruku-no-sato:
30 minutes by bus from JR Fukuyama station (twice daily on weekdays and 4 times a day on Weekends/Holidays) Or 15 minutes by bus from JR Matsunaga station & less than 10 minutes walk from the bus stop. 25 minutes by car from Fukuyama-nishi exit on the Sanyo Expressway, just over an hour’s drive from Hiroshima city onramp of the Sanyo expressway (head toward the Hiroshima airport and take the Fukuyama-nishi exit).
Hot-spring and Japanese Language College
In addition to the amusement park, the Miroku-no-sato foundation also has a hot-spring, accommodation and even a Japanese language college.
Next to the park, there is a hot-spring at Miroku-no-sato that looks like it offers a nice outdoor and indoor bath separated by gender. From 10am - 5pm Adult entry is 1,000 and kids (elementary age and younger) is 500 yen. From 5pm to 9pm it is a little cheaper for adults. Hot-springs are a fantastic element of Japanese culture to enjoy when visiting or living in Japan. When entering hot springs in Japan, however, make sure to follow the etiquette rules including covering up any tattoos before entering based on a lingering bias against body ink. A clearly explained hot-spring etiquette guide is available at Onsen Japan: http://www.onsenjapan.net/onsenbasics.php
Overnight stay packages are available at the neighboring Tsuneishi hotels for less than 7,000 per night per adult and under 5,000 yen per night per child- all stays usually include breakfast and park entry tickets. You can see special package deals on the Miruku-no-sato website (JP), or visit the Tsuneishi accommodation and facilities website (JP).
Japanese Language College:
Of interest to anyone hoping to study Japanese language and culture full-time, there is an affiliated Miruku-no-sato foundation college located nearby to study Japanese language and culture. This facility offers full-time 18 month or two year Japanese language and culture classes for students hoping to enter Japanese universities. There is an entrance exam for placement, but once accepted, students will be eligible for student visas for Japan. Miruku-no-sato Japanese Language School of International Culture Institute: http://www.miroku-jls.com/english/ (information in English/Chinese/Japanese available).