Most of the playgrounds in Kyoto look like they have been neglected since the 1950s. They usually consist of a decrepit see-saw, a sand box (which is really just a ring of concrete filled with the same pebbly sand as the rest of the playground), and a pair of low chin-up bars. Sometimes a bulky slide, which is made of concrete. This appalled me when I first saw it, but I soon discovered the trough part is polished like a terrazzo floor and is surprisingly slippery. Still, the paint is always chipping, and usually reveals several generations of paint underneath, and even despite the paint, the overall look is dingy, dusty, and sort of creepy.
"This is a sad playground, isn't it?" the kids will say, parroting my initial response upon seeing not just one weedy little lot, but dozens. All.
No, not all!
It turns out the city has poured all its playground resources* accumulated since the mid-20th century into two giant parks, one in the north of Kyoto, at Takaragaike, and the other in south, near the new Aquarium in Umekoji Park.
*This is pure speculation on my part, I have no actual facts to back me up.
The playground at Takaragaike has a brilliant little maze, about 30 square feet of concrete passages, punctuated with tunnels, portals, and stairs. It's the first place we go, and the place we play the longest. Also the best place to play Minotaur, if geeking out on Greek mythology's your thing.
I think all the running and hiding is fostering some bad behavior, though, because while chasing the kids through narrow passageways with lots of hiding places is endlessly amusing in a primary-colored labyrinth, doing the same thing at home to wrangle them before bedtime makes me want to claw my eyeballs out. There's a Greek myth for that, too, right?