• Travel Spots

Let’s Go Retro / Local Amusement Park Brings Joy to Generations Since the Taisho Era

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Ferris wheel has been a symbol of the park for about 70 years at Arakawa Amusement Park. The current one has been in use since last year and is about 40 meters high.

The first Ferris wheel at Arakawa Amusement Park went into service about 70 years ago and has been a symbol of the park ever since. I’ve seen a monochrome photo that shows the small original Ferris wheel with only nine gondolas. After being taken down and rebuilt bigger several times, the iconic ride now stands about 40 meters high. If its privately operated period is included, the history of the only municipally-run amusement park in Tokyo’s 23 wards dates back to the Taisho era (1912-1926).

Opened in 1922, the amusement park had facilities such as an entertainment hall and a bathhouse in its early years, according to information from the time. The park was closed during the war and was temporarily transformed into an anti-aircraft gun platform for the army. However, a movement to rebuild the amusement park after the war led to its reopening in 1950 under the management of the ward government. Since then, the park has been creating fond memories for local children.

Courtesy of the Arakawa Ward Office
A ride modeled after a jet was popular in the 1950s.

The park underwent a major renovation over a period of 3½ years, starting in 2018 due to its age. Reopened in April 2022, the park retains the atmosphere of the Taisho and Showa (1926-1989) eras, thanks to facilities such as a gate that looks like it’s made of bricks and garden lights modeled after gas lamps.

What makes it distinctive from other amusement parks in the nation is its offering of classic rides, including one modeled after a tiny locomotive that has been in use since the Showa period. Additionally, there is a roller coaster intended especially for families, touted as “the slowest roller coaster in Japan,” even though the majority of other amusement parks provide a variety of thrilling rides.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A miniature locomotive ride that has always been popular among children

“I came here with my parents about 30 years ago, and today, three generations of us came together,” said Yuichi Yamaku, 35, of Adachi Ward, Tokyo, standing in front of the carousel.

His 7-year-old daughter, Nanami, said, “The roller coaster wasn’t scary. I got on 10 times!”

This is such a precious place where grandparents and grandchildren can have fun together and share happy moments.

At the park, a 6000 class Toden Arakawa Line train car, which was in service from the Showa to Heisei (1989-2019) eras, also evoked my nostalgia. Nicknamed Ikkyu-san, meaning one light bulb because the train car has only one light on its front, the car was retired about 20 years ago and is now used as a cafe, featuring the retrospective mood of the Showa era in its interior.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A streetcar that worked for about 50 years. It’s now used as a cafe.

“We want to make the park a comfortable and enjoyable place for everyone,” said park manager Nobuki Endo.

I share the same feelings and hope that the park continues to be loved by all.

***

Arakawa Amusement Park

Address: 6-35-11 Nishiogu, Arakawa Ward, Tokyo

Access: About a 3-minute walk from Arakawa-Yuenchimae Station on the Toden Arakawa Line.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open until 8 p.m. on night operation days). Closed on Tuesdays.

Fees: ¥800 for adults; ¥400 for junior high school students and those at 65 or older; ¥200 for elementary school students; free for preschool children.