In the outskirts of Sapporo, you will find one of the most unique city parks in Japan. Moerenuma Park provides a fascinating combination of art, architecture and nature.
Moerenuma Park offers things to do and see all year round. Enjoy a picnic surrounded by cherry blossom trees during spring, and go for a dip at the artificial beach during the muggy summer months. Come autumn, you can enjoy the vivid colours of foliage all over the park, and during winter Moerenuma is filled with kids and adults alike skiing down its many slopes or building yuki daruma (snowmen).
The first thing that greets the visitor when entering the park is the glass pyramid Hidamari, located near the main entrance. The structure stands several stories tall, and is an impressive mixture of glass and steel, with the interior being mainly made out of stone. Inside you will find a café and an event space, as well as a small museum dedicated to the mastermind of the park, Isamu Noguchi.
Noguchi was asked to turn this site into a city park by the local authorities in 1982. Up until then, it was a dumping site for non-burnable garbage. 23 years later, in 2005, this award-winning park was finally finished. Unfortunately, Noguchi himself never got a chance to experience it in person, as he passed away in 1988, shortly after finishing the planning of the park. The museum provides an interesting insight in the life and works of Noguchi, a man with a career spanning well over more than half a century.
Hidamari is also a very interesting structure in itself. The exterior is exclusively made out of glass and steel and the inside offers plenty of air and open spaces. The sunlight creates interesting patterns on the surfaces inside, shifting as the sun moves across the sky.
Go to the top of the building and you will find a small observation deck, complete with a pair of coin-operated binoculars, of course. The view from up there is by no means bad, but not as impressive as from the top of Mt. Moere.
Mt. Moere is an artificial “mountain” located smack in the middle of Moerenuma Park (to be honest, calling it a hill rather than a mountain would make more sense). At 62 meters it is the highest spot in the entire park, and from the peak you are treated to an impressive view of the surrounding area, with Sapporo and the mountains in the distance. During the winter months, it is full of people practicing their downhill skiing skills.
On the other side of the park, you will find “Play Mountain”, a child-friendly hill about half as high as Mt. Moere. One of the sides is lined with stairs made out of stone, akin to ancient Mayan pyramids. On the opposite side, there is a playground, also designed by Isamu Noguchi. He was said to have envisioned this mountain structure all the way back in the 1930’s.
Next to Play Mountain there is an impressive triangular structure dubbed “Tetra Mound”. From afar you will most likely first notice the straight lines that makes out this 13 meter high structure, but get closer and study it in detail, and you will notice a it’s texture, designed to reflect the light in a very interesting way.
Moerenuma Park is over 70 hectares in size. While it is definitely possible to walk around the park in a couple of hours, renting a bicycle from the stand next to the main entrance could also be a good idea.
Moerenuma Park is open every day, all year round and entrance is free, as is parking. If you are planning to come by public transport, things can get somewhat trickier. The fastest route from downtown Sapporo is to take the Tojo Line on the subway to Kanjodori-higashi station. From there, buses will take you to the park in about 20 minutes. If you prefer to take a cab from central Sapporo, expect a 30-minute ride at a cost of about 4000 yen.