On April 1, 1911, an airplane took off from Japanese soil for the first time ever, a seminal moment that marked the start of what would become a thriving industry in the country. And the first runway was made in Tokorozawa, from which innovation in Japanese aviation was forged. After U.S. occupation and its eventual return to the Japanese, the airbase was converted to a public park, known today as the Tokorozawa Kōkū Kinenkōen, where visitors are able to stroll around the massive space while admiring its scenery and rich history.
And of course, while slightly hard to see, the original runway is still there to be admired.
There are countless activities on offer in the park. For those with children—expect to see hoards of families—there are numerous playgrounds, as well as a stream that runs through the park during the summer, which can be splashed around in. The park is also a sporting paradise, replete with distance-marked running paths, tennis courts, soccer fields, and a baseball pitch, where high school games occasionally take place. There’s also an amphitheater for live performances.
The park is also a pet paradise, as your furry friends have free range to enter the park and roam across its extensive fields.
And of course, Tokorozawa is a must-visit for aviation fanatics. In addition to having the first runway in Japan, the park is also home to the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum, where visitors can find several antique airplanes on display, alongside a number of interactive exhibits. The museum also boasts a 200-seat iMax theater, with different educational films rotating every few weeks.
1-13 Namiki, Tokorozawa. Nearest station: Kokukoen. www.parks.or.jp/tokorozawa-kokuu/
Tokorozawa Aviation Museum. Open Tue-Sun, 9:30am-5pm. ¥260-820.