I’ve lived in or near Tokyo for most of my adult life, and until yesterday I never knew that one could swim outdoors in a 50-meter pool just a stone’s throw from Tokyo Tower. This city is full of surprises.
For a swimmer accustomed to doing laps indoors, it a glorious change to set off across a 50-meter pool under bright blue skies while the bubbles your arms create with each forward stroke dance before your eyes like tumbling jewels in the ever-changing sunlight.
That last line may seem a bit overwrought to some readers, but serious swimmers will know what I’m talking about.
At the time of my visit to the Aqua Field pool, near Shiba Koen Station on the Mita subway line, two wide lanes were set aside for lap swimming. The rest of the pool was a vast open area for general frolicking.
The pool, whose adjustable floor was set to a uniform depth of one meter, is fenced in and surrounded by shrubbery. One could easily miss it while walking past in the street, but within the enclosure there is a tremendous feeling of openness, with views of several tall buildings, including Tokyo Tower, framed against the surrounding sky. There is also a large raised terrace with even better views (including Zojoji temple nearby and the Izumi Garden Tower in the distance), with plenty of tables and chairs where one can relax and dry off in the breeze.
Unfortunately, the Aqua Field pool is near the end of its season. Sept. 15 is the last swimming day. After that, the pool will close for a couple of weeks to undergo a transition into a futsal field, which is how it will remain until next summer. You can see photos of Aqua Field in both its summer Aqua and winter Field forms at the official website here.
I wasn’t able to photograph the pool myself because there were signs everywhere forbidding it. (The photo at the top of this post was taken from a public street outside.) There were also signs everywhere reminding tattooed swimmers to keep their skin art covered up. Unfortunately, these are common prohibitions at public swimming pools here. But one rule that was not on the books was the usual Japanese requirement for everyone to wear a swim cap. Feeling the water flow through my hair was another refreshing change from the usual Japanese pool experience.
The only aspect of Aqua Field that left anything to be desired was the locker room. It was cramped and crowded, and the floors were thoroughly wet even in areas that should have been mostly dry. There was an insufficient supply of benches or seats, meaning there was no dry spot to put anything down. For visitors who are simply changing into shorts and a T-shirt before heading on their way, this is not a huge problem. But if you want to swim before work or on your lunch break, getting changed back into business clothing becomes an elaborate chore. (But that won’t stop me from visiting again next summer — or maybe tomorrow.)
Adult admission to Aqua Field is 400 yen for two hours, plus 200 yen for each additional hour. Hold on to the ticket you get on the way in, since its time will be checked on your way out. To reach Aqua Field, use Exit A3 of Shiba Koen subway station, turn left at the top of the stairs, and walk a short distance down a tree-lined path to find the entrance on your left.