One of our shared house-mates had been talking about visiting the “pyramid” park. It sure sounded interesting to visit a park with pyramids. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a “pyramid” park. I envisioned some kitschy kids park with a large colourful pastel playground consisting of pyramids. Sure. Why not? So we had planned to go out there one afternoon after our language classes were done.
We had secured a couple bicycles from another shared house for our afternoon trip to the park. The park was apparently pretty far. With the bicycles ready to go, we set out for the “pyramid” park. However, we forgot to check what the name of the park was in Japanese. Oops.
So we rode out to the northeast of the city. Our house mate knew the general direction of the park, but he couldn’t quite remember exactly how far out the park was. We kept riding north past the freeway and we started to even pass farmland. We were out pretty far from the city limits.
Finally, though, we started to see a tall, pyramidal hill show up on the horizon. That was our destination. Now just where was the entrance exactly? I think we could have entered the park from the south side, but we ended up going to the north side. We locked up our bikes at the northwest entrance to the park.
We crossed over a body of water that I thought was a river that surrounded the park. However, reading now, I now know that this water is the Moere Marsh, or moerenuma. Ah. Now I know how the park got its name. This wide marsh surrounds three sides of the park. You could hear a few birds calling out as they flew overhead across the marsh.
Moerenuma Park was designed by Isamu Noguchi. [Details about the park can be found on Wikipedia or the official Sapporo Parks website.] The park is one giant art gallery. Even the design of the park was carefully planned. It looks each stand of trees was planted in a specific pattern. It’s like the whole park is a sculpture itself.
The first monument in the park that we stumbled across was the Tetra Mound. This large triangular monument is made of three large steel beams. In the middle of the steel pyramid is a grass mound. I couldn’t resist running up the mound to see what things looked like from atop the mound. Around the base of the steel beams are small pools of water. There are also large flood lights at each base. This sculpture must look impressive when lit up at night.
Next, we tackled the giant steps of Play Mountain just beside the Tetra Mound. I figure people can probably sit on these steps and watch a performance below at the Music Shell. The steps were pretty big. It was actually easier to walk on the grassy part rather than take the steps.
The Music Shell is a very interesting structure in the middle of the park. The whole park is specifically manicured in a certain fashion. Every tree seems to have been meticulously put in place behind the Music Shell. I envision concerts taking place on warm evenings with Sapporians sitting on the steps enjoying the performance.
We descended the back side of Play Mountain via this gentle sloping pathway. It was way easier to go up and down the mini man-made mountain from this side.
One of the main goals of our house mate was to reach the glass pyramid, or the Hidamari Building. As you can see from this side, the building isn’t a complete pyramid. The building housed a gallery explaining the development of the park and a little souvenir and snack shop for people to take a respite during a visit to the park.
From the rooftop of the Hidamari, we could take in the view south towards the city. We could make out the giant silver Sapporo Dome which is way far towards the south edge of the city. We could also see the JR Tower, Sapporo’s tallest building. JR Tower basically marks the centre of the city.
After Hidamari, we set our sights upon Mt. Moere. We ascended the peak via a winding pathway starting from the east side of the mountain. It wound through tall grass before reaching the apex.
The very top of this man-made mountain was completely flat and offered a 360 degree view in all directions. It was like a tiny plaza at the peak. There was a plaque of sorts that marked the very top and centre of Mt. Moere. A map was on the plaque marking Mt. Moere’s position in relation to other peaks in the region. Again, one could see all the buildings that made up Sapporo.
A little to my dismay on the north side was a very long set of stairs. Stairs with railings seemed to be the last thing I expected to see on the side of a mountain. However, Mt. Moere is man-made after all. So it shouldn’t have surprised me. After Mt. Moere, we wandered the gigantic park some more, but the sun was starting to set in the west. We made our long trek back to our bicycles by the northwest entrance to the park.
Overall, Moerenuma Park is very impressive. To me, it screams of modernist design and man’s imprint on the environment. It is a carefully sculpted and manicured park. The vast grass fields and large monuments almost give a sense of emptiness that I would not expect to experience in a park. Moerenuma Park is beautiful in its own way, but it is certainly not Nature’s nature. Everyone will have their own opinion on the park. Mine just turns out to be an odd mixture of enjoyment and emptiness.