My parents-in-law bought a second home in Ito earlier this year and before my first couple of visits I asked a group of students about things to do on the Izu Peninsula. The first answer to come back was about this place which has a very intriguing name. It translates as banana crocodile gardens (below) and they are located close to Izu-Atagawa down towards the south of the peninsula.
However, when I left home on this particular day I actually had no intention of visiting these interestingly named gardens and neither did I even know that they were close to the particular station I had chosen to visit. I set out with the idea of visiting yet another quirky museum but when I arrived the Japan Mask History Museum was closed (I later found out that there is a phone number on the door and if you ring it the owner will open the place for you) so the opportunity to tick off Banana wani-en was there.
Banana Wani-en is not just strange in name but also for its layout as it is split into three sections with one of them being across the road and the other one is a short three minute bus ride away though I should add that there are very regular shuttle buses between the two sites!
Right, here’s the bit where I pad-out the article with some stories from my past vaguely relating to the matter in hand and then seamlessly shoehorn them in to the post as if it’s relevant in any way! A quick search of the word crocodile in the Tokyo Fox search bar reminds me that I’ve seen a few crocodiles in the jungles of Borneo on a morning river cruise, once ate crocodile at a Cameroon restaurant in Ikebukuro, have actually held a baby crocodile in the Philippines and have visited some of the ‘Crocodile Dundee‘ (1986) and ‘Crocodile Dundee II‘ (1988) filming locations in New York city and Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia. Wow, that’s a better collection of crocodile stories than I originally anticipated!
The souvenir shop was actually one of the highlights not that I bought anything! The banana shaped/coloured crocodiles (or are they alligators? I still don’t know what the difference is!) looked fantastic and there was all manner of crocodile (or alligator!) merchandise on sale. A cafe next door dealt with the banana side of things including ice cream and some other stuff which basically means that I can’t remember what else!
I didn’t need to wait more than a couple of minutes each time I wanted to use the shuttle bus and so I visited the branch garden featuring a large alligator pool which was more pleasing to see compared to the first place where the conditions seemed quite cramped.
This particular zone was the most interesting for me as ever since ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ (2008) came out, I have had a fondness for the Red Panda (I don’t like the name lesser panda) as I particularly liked the Master Shifu character. Yes, really!
There are many red pandas but it’s the one called “Nuts” which melts the hearts of many visitors as he has a handicapped leg caused by injury during his childhood but I was reliably informed that he is indeed very healthy nowadays. However, there are no pictures of him in this post!
It is this part of Banana Wani-en where some actual bananas are being grown along with papayas, mangoes and medicinal plants. Other things to see include flamingos and some incredibly large tortoises.
The shuttle bus dropped me off back at the Wani-en zone and opposite there is the botanical gardens which feature eight greenhouses of tropical plants with each house specialising in the likes of waterlilies, wild orchids, flowering trees and ferns. I only know this as I was given a very limited English guide to the gardens and after reading that description I decided to give that part a miss as I thought I should get back to the family having gone off on my own yet again!
How to get there: The Atagawa Tropical & Alligator Garden is actually the official name of Atagawa Banana Wani En and it’s located at 971-9 Naramoto, Higashiizu-cho, Kamo, Shizuoka Prefecture. It is just one minute walk from Izu-Atagawa station on the Izu Kyūkō Line and entrance costs 1500 yen.