We all know Japan is a country full of wonder, but did you know there was a castle dedicated to discovering it? The Wonder Castle in Yokote’s Furusato-mura entertainment complex may be tailored for children, but as I found out, a group of university students can have just as much fun. Furusato-mura is an entertainment facility with an art museum, planetarium, traditional craft shopping, restaurants and more. It is free to enter and walk around. Attractions are paid for separately, though it is often better to purchase a multiple attraction pass to save money and make your stay more memorable. I have been to Furusato-mura several times because I can’t help but returning to the best attraction of them all: the Wonder Castle.
Inside the facility, the castle is easy to get to with a walk down through the shopping arcade and courtyard, or pay a little extra to arrive in style via a choo-choo train car. As you enter and pay your admission (500 yen or less if you are a student/senior/toddler), you first see a children’s play area. The first floor is full of places to climb and jump, swim in the ball pits, or plummet down what must be the fastest slide in Japan. Parents may give you a nasty glance if you try to play on equipment designed for children; however, the “Namahage Free Fall” slide is open to all ages (and included with the price of admission). If you want to ride it, sometimes you will need to tell a staff member if no one is up there. With a burlap sack you ride a slick-surfaced cliff. This slide is so steep that more than a few of the children and even college students retreated from the might of the Namahage when they saw how high up they were. If you want some attention, scream when sliding down and all the parents will greet you with laughs at the bottom. For the real treats of the Wonder Castle though, you must go up, up, up!
Several floors of optical illusions provide the perfect play land and some of the best photo opportunities of Japan. I recommend taking an elevator to the top floor and working your way down so you won’t need to climb stairs. You’ll be tired enough posing for pictures every few steps. Lying on the floor can turn you into a tasty meal. Standing on one side of a room shrinks you, but then why has your friend on the other side become a giant? Another area has all your clothes glow in the dark. Immediately after that, the floors are painted to look like the sky. It seems like one step and you can fall forever. There is no need to know Japanese here because everything is self explanatory: find an interesting illusion and become part of it! You can easily spend more than an hour in just the Wonder Castle alone. It is great for a rainy day, plus the dark clouds will add to the mystery.