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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Yume no Shima Koen Dream Island Park

夢の島公園

Yume no shima, Tokyo
Located in Tokyo's industrial Koto ward bordering Tokyo Harbor, Yume no Shima Koen is a splash of freshness in a landscape of gargantuan blank-faced warehouses between which runs an endless convoy of trucks and vans.

I had to go to the driver’s license center in Koto ward this morning, and took the opportunity to visit the park at the same time.

Yume no Shima began life as a landfill and dumping ground, but was rescued from this poor fate in 1972 when it was decided to make it into a park. It is now a verdant space covered mainly with eucalyptus trees and enjoyed by strollers, sketchers, picnickers, sunbathers, and anyone else seeking refuge from the bustle. Between the Park - reached by a bridge - and the mainland is a yacht marina.

Yume no shima
The most conspicuous feature of the park is the Yume no Shima Tropical Greenhouse Dome. Made up of three domes it features fern and forest in A Dome (complete with waterfall), an archetypal tropical village in B Dome, and the fauna of the Ogasawara islands, a tropical Pacific archipelago 1000km south-south-east of Tokyo (and officially part of Tokyo) in C Dome.

Being Japan, there is an Exhibition Hall full of interactive gadgets displaying the marvels of fauna, a Visual Hall for video-based education, and an Exhibition Hall that focuses on a succession of different themes. One of the most memorable exhibits for me was the carnivorous plant room: a small greenhouse full of insect-eating plants slowly and silently digesting the beetles, ants and others still visible if you peer into the elegant fluted bags that they dangle below them.

(Yume no Shima Tropical Greenhouse Dome is open 9.30am-4pm every day except Monday and between December 29th and January 3rd. Adults 200 yen, junior high students 100 yen, elementary school pupils, free. English pamphlet available.)
Yume no shima
Five minutes walk from the Dome is a rather less conspicuous institution, the Daigo Fururyu Maru Exhibition Hall, housing the fishing boat that was bombarded with lethal doses of radiation in 1954 when the US tested the hydrogen bomb ‘Bravo’ on Bikini Atoll - in spite of the ship being 60km outside the prohibited zone. Almost 1000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs, it destroyed the health of the crew - burning many of them horribly - and eventually ended many of their lives prematurely. The ship is therefore a symbol of the anti-nuclear testing movement. It is very impressively housed in an almost church-like structure and is accompanied by informative and often saddening displays.

(The Daigo Fururyu Maru Exhibition Hall is open 9.30am-4pm every day except Monday. Admission free. English pamphlet available for 100 yen.)

Yume no shima
The Park is also home to the massive, superbly equipped but amusingy named ‘BumB’(that's 'Ass' with a B on the end, for American users!), or, the Tokyo Sport and Cultural Center, with an arena, a futsal ground, heated pool and gym; performance and educational facilities; accommodation; and public spaces such as a restaurant, 'Youth Square' and Kids' Room.

Besides these the Park also boasts a huge multi-purpose colosseum as well as a baseball ground.

Yume no Shima Park is 10 minutes walk from Shin Kiba station on the JR Keiyo line or the Yurakucho subway line from Yurakucho. Also accessible from Toyocho station on the Tozai subway line by taking the bus from 'Toyocho' bus stop to 'Yume no Shima' bus stop. A 5-minute walk from the bus stop.

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