Aqua Palette is just one of the major sports facilities at Matsuyama’s Central Park, home to a pool, a baseball stadium, tennis courts, athletics stadium, bicycle race course, and a dramatic martial arts hall, all on a semi-Olympic scale. Aqua Palette is housed in a very attractive building with a steeply sloping roof and windows on all sides. The white-painted steel girders create an airy feeling throughout. Between the pools are planters with real trees and shrubs, including beautifully flowering camellias, Ehime’s symbol plant, and hibiscus, reminiscent of Okinawa.
Indoors, there’s a 50 m pool with lanes for serious swimming, a large ‘health’ pool with massage jets, a jacuzzi and walking areas, a kid’s pool, and an oval flowing pool. There are similar pools outside too, with the flowing pool connected to the one indoors. There’s also a decent-sized water slide with plenty of turns (height 12 m, length 100 m).
Finding a swimming pool in Japancan be difficult. Most belong to private sports clubs, and public pools tend to be small and crowded. But for individuals or families looking for an occasional swim, Aqua Palette serves the purpose very well. Cheap at 250 yen for an hour, or 500 yen for two hours per adult, the facilities are extensive and well-maintained. I was surprised to find full body driers that eliminated the need for a bath towel, and even a little spin dryer for swimming costumes that solves the usual ‘wet cossie in a bag’ problem. The terrace overlooking the pool offers a range of snacks and light meals, from sausages to curry ‘n rice. There are polite young staff everywhere in bright orange polo shirts, so nobody is going to drown, and horseplay will be discouraged. Even in my 40s, I like a little horseplay at a pool, but I felt inhibited by the staff presence. Perhaps it’s for the best.
For those who care about such things, Aqua Palette was designed to be environmentally responsible, as well as healthy. Heating and cooling uses waste heat from garbage incineration, and lighting is provided by natural sunlight and solar panels. The water is sterilized by electrolysis, so there’s no chlorine smell or allergic reactions. Overflow water and rainwater are also filtered and purified for various uses.
So as you float around in gentle circles or thrash up and down the lanes as your inclination takes you, you can gaze on a camellia and reflect that you and it are both at one with nature.