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Snow may cover the landscape outside the Kenji World complex at Morioka, Japan, but inside it's always summer.

Snow may cover the landscape outside the Kenji World complex at Morioka, Japan, but inside it's always summer. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

Snow may cover the landscape outside the Kenji World complex at Morioka, Japan, but inside it's always summer.

Snow may cover the landscape outside the Kenji World complex at Morioka, Japan, but inside it's always summer. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

Terraced waterfalls and a kiddie pool, in foreground, provide calmer water fun for youngsters at Kenji World water park.

Terraced waterfalls and a kiddie pool, in foreground, provide calmer water fun for youngsters at Kenji World water park. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

A wave-making machine at Kenji World can produce waves as high as four feet.

A wave-making machine at Kenji World can produce waves as high as four feet. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

Airmen 1st Class Mychael Johnson and a friend, Airman 1st Class Zenetra Thigpen, splash into a pool after riding through a waterslide at Kenji World. Both are assigned to the 373rd Intelligence Squadron, at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Airmen 1st Class Mychael Johnson and a friend, Airman 1st Class Zenetra Thigpen, splash into a pool after riding through a waterslide at Kenji World. Both are assigned to the 373rd Intelligence Squadron, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

Swimmers prepare to pass through a waterfall as they enjoy Kenji World's circulating river of water that encompasses the entire second floor of the indoor swimming attraction.

Swimmers prepare to pass through a waterfall as they enjoy Kenji World's circulating river of water that encompasses the entire second floor of the indoor swimming attraction. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

MORIOKA, Japan — It’s always summertime just three hours south of snow-covered Misawa Air Base where artificial palm trees, water slides and a wave-making machine await visitors at Kenji World.

Enclosed in a cavernous climate-controlled building, the water park is a virtual Mecca to the swim set in frigid northern Japan, drawing 250,000 visitors annually.

Opened in 1995, Kenji World’s centerpiece is its indoor pool holding 1,500 cubic tons of water.

A wave generator creates waves ranging from shin-height to as tall as 4 feet suitable for some pretty decent boogie board rides.

Five water slides, three for tubers and two for rides on the seat of your trunks, terminate in separate pools. One- and two-person tubes with handholds are provided.

Youngsters can cavort in shallow wading pools, or try their daring on 5-foot-long waterslides in a terraced corner of the park.

On the second floor terrace is a 12-foot-wide moving river of water that passes through tunnels, strobe lights and water sprays while circumnavigating the wave pool. It takes a leisurely 10 minutes to make one revolution.

Hidden away in passageways surrounding the main pool are bubbling warm spas including ones with plastic goldfish that kids just love.

For a nominal fee, you can wrap yourself in hot towels and get a massage in the aesthetic room.

Uki-uki is a Hawaiian-theme restaurant offering entrees at reasonable prices, and if you forget to bring a bathing suit, racks of rental swimsuits can be found on the second-floor lobby. Prices begin at 200 yen (about $1.75).

Boogie boards and youngster-size swim rings can also be rented.

Kenji World’s temperate waters and summer-like climate agreed with several Misawa troops who came on a bus sponsored by the base’s Four Seasons travel center.

“I’m from San Bernardino, Calif., and I love getting into the water” said Airman 1st Class Mychael Johnson swimming with a friend, Airman 1st Class Zenetra Thigpen. Both are assigned to Misawa’s 373rd Intelligence Squadron.

Johnson said he came to Kenji World by luck. He won tickets in a contest at the base.

Misawa’s Four Seasons travel office sponsors bus tours to the attraction throughout the year. Cost is $40 for adults that include bus transportation and all-day admission to Kenji World. Call Four Seasons at 226-3555 to find out when the next trip is scheduled.

If you go to Kenji World on your own, weekday admission is 2,000 yen (or about $17.39) for adults, and (or about $10.43) for children ages 3-12. Fees are slightly higher on weekends.

Fees include locker space for valuables and access to shower rooms with complimentary shampoo, body soap and hair dryers. A Japanese-style onsen, or hot bath, is also on the premises and costs 600 yen (or $5.22).

Kenji World is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Last entry is 8 p.m. daily.

If you go ...

Getting there: Take the Michinoku Expressway south from Misawa, which merges with the Tohoku Expressway, and get off at the Morioka interchange.

Tolls are steep: 3,650 yen (or about $31.74) each way.

Head west on Route 46 towards Akita for 9 miles, then turn left at the Lawson’s store on the right side of the highway.

Look for the Kenji World sign which is 4 miles from the water park. Total mileage is 117 miles each way.

Admission: There’s ample parking at the attraction. If you go to Kenji World on your own, weekday admission is 2,000 yen (or about $17.39) for adults, and about $10.43 for children ages 3-12. Fees are slightly higher on weekends.

What you get: Fees include locker space for valuables and access to shower rooms with complimentary shampoo, body soap and hair dryers.

A Japanese-style onsen, or hot bath, is also on the premises. It costs 600 yen (or $5.22).

When to go: Kenji World is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Last entry is 8 p.m. daily.

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