Going barefoot - and body - in the park

Japan's tourist attractions are something else, says Ryan Levitt. In one, you can even go naked

Ever since that fateful day in 1853 when American Commodore Matthew Perry's "black ships" opened up Japan to the Western world, the Japanese have become expert at absorbing and perfecting important Western inventions.

Ever since that fateful day in 1853 when American Commodore Matthew Perry's "black ships" opened up Japan to the Western world, the Japanese have become expert at absorbing and perfecting important Western inventions.

However, there will always be a few things they will never be able to truly understand - specifically that most American of cultural destinations, the amusement park.

Still, the Japanese love their theme parks, even if rather clinically delivered climaxes are the goal - which, it has to be said, they achieve. Here are three of the best within easy reach of Tokyo:

Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Tokyo's first attempt at a world's first onsen (hot spa) theme park, Oedo Onsen Monogatari opened in 2003. This must be the only amusement park where visitors are expected to enjoy the facilities in the nude. Guests change into traditional yukatas (robes) to indulge in the pleasures of the indoor and outdoor pools, which are fed by a natural spring. There are separate men's and women's facilities and staff are more than willing to guide you through the process.

Modelled on the public bathhouses of the Edo period - which dated from the 17th to 19th centuries - the bathing areas aim to recreate the 53 stages on the famous Tokaido, the major thoroughfare between Tokyo and Kyoto during that time.

There is also a reconstruction of a street in the Yoshiwara district, the only officially sanctioned red-light area of the Edo period. Visitors can enjoy numerous snack bars, gift shops and sideshows.

Oedo Onsen Monogatari, 2-57 Omi, Koto-ku, Tokyo (00 81 3 5500 1126). Admission: adults Y2,700 (£14), children Y1,500 (£8). There is an extra charge after midnight of Y1,500 (£8). The complex is open from 11am to 9am the following day.

Fujikyu Highlands

Tokyo's best option for lovers of the "big scare", Fujikyu Highlands is home to the world's second-fastest roller-coaster, Dodonpa, which features a 90-degree drop and reaches 107mph.

And this is but one of the extensive collection of world-record-setting rides in this huge amusement park at the base of Mount Fuji. The lates is the world's longest walk-through haunted house, a bunker-style building that twists and turns inside to reveal various "patients" of the asylum for which the building was once used. Tasteful.

There are less frightening attractions for younger children in a family area, with cuddly characters and a water-park of fountains.

To cope with the high number of foreign tourists who visit Fujikyu, many of the staff speak passable English.

Fujikyu Highland, 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi-ken (00 81 555 23 2111). Park entry and all rides: adults Y4,500 (£23.70), children aged 12 to 17 years Y4,000 (£21), children aged three to 12 years Y3,300 (£17.40). Open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm, weekends 9am to 8pm.

Sanrio Puroland

Sanrio Puroland celebrates the famous Japanese cartoon character Hello, Kitty. Ten thousand visitors a year flock to the four-storey, candy-floss-coloured theme park in Tama City.

But if you don't speak Japanese, this can be a daunting place. It is principally a venue for children's entertainment and themed theatre, so you could find yourself at a loss trying to understand the performances.

It is probably better to treat this as an opportunity to stock up on coveted Hello, Kitty products - which even include food processors, televisions and toilet paper.

Sanrio Puroland, Tama City, Tokyo ( www.sanrio.co.jp/english). For entrance and all attractions except games: adults Y4,000 (£21), children aged 12-17 years Y3,700 (£19.50), children aged four-11 years Y3,000 (£15.80). Open on weekdays from 10am to 5pm, weekends 10am to 8pm.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

Ryan Levitt travelled to Tokyo with the assistance of the Japan National Tourist Office, Four Seasons Hotels, the Ginza Renaissance, and Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

Virgin Atlantic (08705 747747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) offers daily flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo from £645 return.

Where to stay

The Four Seasons Hotel Marunouchi (00 81 3 5222 7222; www.fourseasons.com) offers double rooms from Y52,000 (£262) per night, including breakfast.

The Renaissance Tokyo Hotel Ginza Tobu (00 81 3 3546 0111; www.marriott.com) offers double rooms from Y32,740 (£165) per night, room only.

Further information

Contact the Japan National Tourist Organisation.

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