On my way back to Atami after meeting the friendly capybara at Izu Shaboten Zoo, I couldn’t help but notice an advertisement on the train with a picture of illuminated capybara in a garden full of LED lights (much like the photo I took above). I was completely captivated by the image. What was this magical place with LSD visuals and sparkling wonder doing in rural Japan? Being the spontaneous adventurer that I am, I had to investigate!
With a quick Google search, I discovered that it was Izu Granbel Park, located adjacent to the capybara zoo I went to earlier that day. Fortunately the park was open until 9:30pm, so it made the perfect after party location for my trip. I immediately got off at the closest station and rode the Ito train line to Futo Station. On the way I bought a mini bottle of wine from the nearby Family Mart and walked 20 minutes to the park (because illuminations are way more fun to watch with alcohol).
What’s hilarious is that Google Maps directs you to the back entrance of the park (which was closed when I reached it) so I had to jump a small fence to get inside. However, my efforts of navigating a dark and solemn back road to reach my destination would be rewarded with a brilliant lightshow over a global atmosphere of twinkling bulbs:
I had definitely fell down the capybara hole and landed in some strange wonderland. When I walked through the back entrance, I was greeted by giant neon candies and an endless field of glowing flowers as far as the eye could see. Upon descending a hill in that area, a sea of radiant fish and a luminous backdrop of Mt. Fuji greeted me (only in Japan). When I turned to walk up towards the front entrance, I stumbled upon a garden of lollipops with capybara and red pandas frolicking in them. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a photo opportunity here with literally every step. This felt like something that I had made up in a dream because it was so bright and beautiful!
This was the best illumination I had ever seen in Japan. Previously I had visited Aichi’s Floral Oasis, but this park’s lightshows were much more elaborate. In addition to the global atmosphere of lights, they also had a mini zoo with gerbils and other small animals. In the summer there is a waterpark and various rides open too. Besides the LED (LSD?) capybaras, my favorite attractions were the Tunnel of Dreams and the unexpected dinosaur exhibit. There’s also a glowing pirate ship and pirates restaurant that is dog-friendly. If I had a dog, I would definitely bring them here!
This park really expanded my mind and put me in a good mood, so I would recommend it to everyone that visits Shizuoka! You’ll find that the illuminations outside of the city are much more fun to see, plus this is probably the only place in the world where you can see real capybaras bathe at hotsprings during the day and illuminated ones at night. A real fantasy come alive.
Address and Admission Price
Address: 1090 Futo, Itō, Shizuoka 413-0231
Entrance to the park is only 1300 yen (much cheaper than what I’ve paid to enter other illuminated parks).
If you are interested in reading more about capybara bathing in hotsprings, please see my Izu Shaboten Zoo article.