Visiting city parks in other countries always turn out to be a memorable exercise for me. It might be because I feel this constant sense of jealousy over these beautiful, well-maintained parks– something we don’t have over here in Manila.
Whenever I travel, I always notice the things I wish my home city possessed. But even though I want to say I wish we had parks as nice as Moerenuma Park, the heart of the matter is: not many people living in Manila practice the same amount of discipline and show the same amount of respect towards nature that the Japanese do. You want to know why Japan can still be so beautiful even through it’s modernity? It’s because they know that nature is just as important.
I think the Moerenuma Park is a great place to witness this high regard for nature by the Japanese. Even through the thick layer of snow blanketing the park, you can feel how much of Mother Earth is rooted here. The structures that have been built seem to co-exist with its surroundings rather than act like the hotshots of the park. In fact, most of them were built with the intention of further highlighting the beauty of nature.
Take for instance, the 3-story glass pyramid called the Hidamari. The reason why it’s made of glass all the way around is because this is supposed to be a place where you can sit and just stare at the lovely sight outside for as long as you want.
All sides of the Hidamari offer a different taste of Moerenuma Park, and you can even go to the top of the pyramid if you want. If I lived here in Sapporo, I think I would spend at least one day in here every season just to sit and watch the trees outside take shape, turn green, shed its orange leaves, only to sprout into colour again. On second thought, I’d bring my sketchpad. How lucky people in Sapporo are.
This park was designed by Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi with a vision of creating a unique space where people can come and enjoy the wonders of nature. He did a good job drawing up his plans, where he combined modern art with Japanese zen. It’s tragic that he didn’t live to see this park come to life, but no one can say this wasn’t an achievement. To think this area used to be a landfill!
Everything is possible with a little planning and a lot of willpower isn’t it?
The Hidamari also houses an information center, a gallery space dedicated to Noguchi, and some other basic amenities. The different attractions in the Moerenuma Park can be visited free of charge, but if you come here during winter without any equipment and are planning on some snow activities, you can visit the rental station. They have everything from boots and skis, to sleds.
Of course you can bring your own stuff and you won’t have to pay for anything at all. Not even parking I believe.
While the park has a 62-meter Mt. Moere for skiers, lots of kids and their parents flock to the smaller Play Mountain to have fun in the snow. As we made our way to the Snow Play Area, the anticipation started to build inside of me like it alway does when I’m about to try something for the very first time in my life.
Sledding, ladies and gentlemen.
I realize now how apt the name “Snow Play Area” is for this location. It sweeps you off your feet and drops you right back into your childhood days, where the most you worried about was getting enough play time. Oh to be a child again!
Am I the only one who sometimes forgets what it’s like to have fun the older I grow?
There were lots of dads sitting on sleds with their kids on their laps, and the dads would be pretending to shout in delight as they inched slowly down the hill. The kids were thrilled though, often throwing up their hands and laughing without a care in the world. And even if they fell into the snow on their way down, they’d be riddled with giggles and would roll around the pristine, powdery snow some more.
It was all quite sweet to watch. Kind of reminds me of how my Dad and I used to be when I was very little. 🙂
Even though most of the people who were playing here were children with their parents, no one in my party could care less. For the whole hour we were here, we turned back to being children too. There was no one in our group who wasn’t smiling the whole time we were here. As each of us took our turns on the sled, the thrilled whooping was like music to my ears!
I loved seeing all these happy expressions so I took a little time to take photos and videos of the others. But soon enough, Abi took hold of a sled by the rope and extended her arm in my direction. ‘It’s your turn!’
I walked up the hill, which was admittedly the most taxing endeavor in this whole sledding business. You should walk on the spots where there are already footprints, otherwise prepare to have your feet sink into inches of snow! As I sat on the sled and looked down at the slope before me, I was 10% nervous and 90% excited. The nervousness stemmed from the fact that I had no idea how this was going to go or how it was going to feel.
Will I get launched out of the sled? Will I end up rolling down the hill like a barrel?
These were thoughts that passed through my mind in a matter of seconds, because the moment I allowed myself to slide through the snow, I felt nothing but pure unadulterated exhilaration. I mean, is it not obvious on my face?
So I went up again. And again. And again. Each time I climbed up higher. Each time there was nothing but pure bliss at that feeling of speeding down the hill. My hair was blown back by the same wind that brushed my cheeks and kissed my nose. It. Was. Amazing.
I also want to thank Aoki-san for capturing my happiness in these photos. 🙂
Horribly enough, I became a little lazy during my last climb. As I write this post, the biggest regret I have is not going all the way up to the top and sliding down all the way to the bottom. The worst part is, I can imagine it and I can imagine how it would probably feel. This is my problem sometimes when I travel: I hesitate on doing something and end up regretting it when I get home.
But I think it’s safe to say, cutting through all this supposed regret is the memory of the pure joy I was able to feel in the three-four times that I slid down the Play Mountain. It has truly, truly been such a long time since I’ve felt that kind of pure happiness. Not even Disneyland could make me feel this way.
We have a working slogan for this whole Sapporo trip, and I do believe this was the moment when I realized how very appropriate it is: Sapporo Snow And Smile. I was living those words during this moment. To tell you honestly, I still remember it all very vividly.
This won’t be the last time I visit Moerenuma Park. That you can be sure of.
How to get here: From JR Sapporo Station, take the Toho Line to Kanjo dori Higashi (about 25 minutes, ), and then take the Chuo Bus No. 69 or No. 79 to Moerenuma koen higashigushi East Entrance (about 25 minutes, 210 yen).
You can learn more about Sapporo and the Moerenuma Park through their website!