Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Visiting Japan's first theme park : Spa Resort Hawaiians

Iwaki, the city where we live, was once a popular coal mining town. The Joban coalfield was Japan’s biggest source of coal between 1870s-1960s and this was the reason Iwaki developed into an industrial town. The Joban railway line was also built for coal haulage. After the WW II, oil became the predominant source of energy which led to the closure of the coal fields Iwaki’s coal mining history is commemorated by the Iwaki City Coal and Fossil Museum. The abundant hot springs in Iwaki’s Yumoto region which were previously troublesome for the coal miners, were instead developed to form the Joban Hawaiian Centre with a Hawaiian theme. 

The Joban Hawaiian centre was inaugurated on 15th January 1966 and holds the distinction of being Japan’s first theme park. In 1990, the Joban Hawaiian centre was renamed Spa Resort Hawaiians. The resort remains Iwaki’s most visited attraction till today.

The current resort is divided into 5 sections :Water Park, Spa garden Pareo, Spring Park, Edo Jawa Yoichi and Vir Port. 

Water Park is the main area comprising indoor pools and water slides for all ages. 

Wai Wai Ohana is a children’s play area. 

The three main water slides : Wonder Black, Wonder River and Wonder Horn are also located in the Water Park. 

Separate tickets need to be purchased for the Water slides. Also located in the water park is the beach theater, a dance stage where various performances and shows are held at regular intervals. The temperature is maintained at 28 deg C all year round. 

Spa Garden Pareo is an outdoor water park area with outdoor pools, Jacuzzi and saunas .

Spring Park is a hot spring area with the water being sourced from the Yumoto onsen. One area features  warm indoor pools where both men and women can bathe in swim suits in common pools. This area is designed with a southern European theme.

The other area has gender separated indoor baths where swim suits are not allowed. 

Edo Jawa Yoichi  area is built in typical Japanese onsen style reminiscent of the Edo period. The hot spring bath here is gender separated and is said to be the  largest single outdoor bath in Japan.

In Vir Port guests can experience Hawaiian dance lessons or aqua exercises. One can also get massages or aesthetic salon services in this areas for additional cost.   

The resort’s most famous attraction is a Hawaiian dance performance by its Dance troupe, “Hula Girl”. At the time of the opening of the resort, the management decided to create it’s own troupe rather than inviting an outside troupe. Initially 18 employee’s daughters were trained to perform the hula dance. The 2006 critically acclaimed film “Hula Girl” was based on the founding of the resort. The Grand Polynesian Show in the evening is the highlight of a visit to the resort. 


This show features dances and music from various Polynesian cultures- Maoris of New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, and Samoa. Guests and children can also dance on stage with the Hula girls for a few minutes during the show. 

Accomodation is available at Hotel Hawaiians and Monolith Tower located in the resort complex.

The resort attracts people from all over Japan and can be crowded in peak summer. The resort was crowded on the day of our visit on a Sunday in July. The three rides Wonder River, Wonder Horn and Wonder River had long queues.  

The resort was damaged in the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and had to be partially closed down for some time. After repairs and renovation, the resort was reopened on 8th February 2012. In the aftermath of the disaster, the complex provided shelter to evacuees from the nearby town of Hirono. During the period the resort was closed, the Hula girl troupe travelled across Japan and performed road shows at about 100 locations which included temporary shelters for quake and tsunami evacuees.

Address: 50, Warabidaira, Joban Fujiwara-machi, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture

Phone: 0246-43-3191

Admission fees: 3150 yen (Adult) ; ( Rates may vary on weekdays, peak period and  
                       according to age)

Water park fees: Water slides and rides are separately charged and not included in the   
                           admission ticket. Check website for more details.

Parking: Ample Free parking available

Free shuttle buses operate from the Iwaki Yumoto station.

Timings: 9:30-22:30 ( Varies on weekend and as per season)

Website: ( Japanese only)