Roadside stations, are usually for people to stop and rest on long distance drives. The roadside station in Nishiyama Park, together with the park next to it is an attraction by itself. Just a fifteen minutes walk from JR Sabae Station, the park is so expansive that an entire day can be spent here. Initially built for residents as a relaxation area, residents themselves have expanded the park with various tree planting community efforts. Achieving recognition as one of Japan’s 100 historical parks in 2006, Nishiyama Park now has more than 50,000 azalea trees, 1,000 cherry blossom trees and 1,600 maple trees. With the variety of trees, the park is especially pretty in April, May and November when the respective trees bloom.
In the middle of the park, sits Nishiyama Zoo featuring a wide variety of animals. The highlight would definitely be the red pandas, running around freely in the outdoor and indoor playground areas. There is even an educational information center on the red pandas. Just down the hill, sits a huge free playground area, consisting of obstacle courses and climbing circuits for children. With plenty of open green spaces, picnics and sports are common during the weekends. If you walk through every facility in the park, it would take hours to completely explore the entire place.
Next to the park is a road station, and with every tourist attraction comes my favorite soft serve ice cream! Here, the speciality is no doubt the azalea soft serve in a light pink hue, and a favorite among many patrons as well. The restaurant serves the usual set meals with udon, soba, or rice. In the souvenir shop, cute red panda soft toys are featured near the entrance, enticing you to bring them home. The shop also stocks Sabae city’s freshly produced vegetables and other agricultural products. There is also an exhibition area showing 100 views from various places in Fukui prefecture. It is a good way to know more about the popular areas visited by local residents.
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I still clearly remember the day I first landed in Japan, and since then it has been my goal to set foot in all 47 prefectures. I try to look for less touristy areas, preferring the countryside to the city. I'm always amazed by the many Haagen Dazs and ice cream flavors available only in Japan.