Summer Festivals in Saitama July 14th – 20th 2016

What an absolutely fabulous selection of festivals on offer the first weekend of the summer school holidays. There is something for everyone in Saitama the weekend of July 16th to 20th. From the very traditional, history rich Japanese festivals, to a taste of Brazil in a Summer Carnival. From family friendly children processions to beer garden alcohol laden adult friendly festivals!  The choice is as extensive as it is diverse.

Below is a list of the some of the larger, more famous or well attended festivals you can enjoy this weekend, with links to more information in Japanese. Please note, that if there are any typhoons there maybe changes to the planned schedules and possibly cancellations, too.

Satte Festival

July 14th, 16th and 17th

The large lantern floats are one of the major attractions of this annual 4 day festival. You can see them this year on the evening of the 17th from about 6pm.  Over the 4 days there are different events happening around the exit of Tobu Nikko Line Satte Station.  More information here (May 2016 – online information for 2016 festival has not been updated yet).

 

Okegawa Gion Festival

July 15th and 16th

The Okegawa Gion Festival has about 400 festival stalls and attracts about 100,000 people over the 2 days of festivities. Both days the festival runs between 3pm and 9pm approximately. The festival is close to the East exit of JR Takasaki Line Okegawa station. More information here. 

Summer Carnival in Tsurugashima

July 16th

SUmmer Carnival tsurugashima
Image taken fom the Saitama Tourist Office

This colourful carnival, just a minute from Tsurugashima station, is quite different from the traditional festivals at this time of year, but just as fun and vivacious.  This event will take place even it is raining. Image taken from the Saitama’s Tourism Bureau.  More information from the Tsurugashima City Official website here .

Fukiage Festival

July 16th and 17th

From the Kounosu City Official website

This local festival in Kounosu is not as well-known or well attended as the Paper Lantern festival, but its a fun day out all the same. There is a portable shrine during the day and an illuminated float at night. You can also enjoy a beer garden. It is held near the Fukiage station on the JR Takasaki line. More information here.

Sugito Festival

July 16th  and 17th

Awaiting updated flyer from the official page.

2014 Flyer from the official website

Sugito is most famous for the Tobu Zoo and amusement park. The town really bands together for their annual festival. There is a fantastic line-up of events over the 2 day festival, including child friendly attractions, even a children’s parade. From the official website: More information here.

 

Honjo Festival

July 16th and 17th

From the Honjo Tourism website

This festival occurs every year on the 2 days preceding “umi no hi”, an annual holiday in Japan. It attracts about 40,000 people. There are 70 stalls. One of the unusual features of this festival is the 雨乞獅子“rain begging lions” or lion dancers performing rain dance; a very unique twist on a shishimai performance, which is most common at New Year. There is a children’s portable shrine procession and parade from 3.30pm on the Saturday, at the community plaza public space.

You can find more information and the schedule on the official website.

Yono Festival

July 16th and 17th

There are a couple of local festivals in Yono this weekend. You can get more information on the Saitama Tourism and International Relations Bureau website here.

Yoshikawa Summer Festival

July 16th and 17th

Awaiting for an updated flyer from the official website.

From the offical Yoshikawa website

This 400 year old festival is the pride of Yoshikawa city. It is quite different to other festivals in that it is spread out geographically and does not take place in one central location.  You can find out more on the official website here.

Kazo Festival

July 16th  and 17th

Image taken from Kazo City’s website

Mikoshi, portable shrines, floats with traditional music and masked dancers performing sacred dances. The official website:Kazo City festival

Sakado Festival

July 16th – 17th

It is not as big as some of the other summer festivals this weekend, but there is dance and parading floats. Please check out the official website for more detail on this local Sakado Festival.

Omiya Summer Festival

July 17th

Taken from Saitama Tourism and Internationl Relations Bureau (STIB)

The festival officially starts at 3pm, but the portable shrine progression will start around 5pm. It takes place to the south exit of Omiya station. This event will most likely NOT take place in the event of rain.

Information on the official website; Saitama Tourism and International Relations Bureau.

Kuki Lantern Festival / Tenno Festival

July 18th (also held on July 12th)

This festival celebrates local folklore and is famous throughout Japan. Huge floats of paper lanterns are carried through the town. From the official festival website: http://kuki.jpn.org/main/kankoukyoukai/maturi/

Chichibu Kawase Firework Festival

July 19th – 20th

Chichibu Kawase Festival

This festival is quite hard to get to, but people still come from far and wide to enjoy the cooler temperatures and the celebrations at the 2000 year old Chichibu shrine. It attracts about 40,000 people and there are about 300 stalls.  There are also fireworks on the 19th from 20.00. 1300 fireworks will be launched.

This is NOT the official website, but it has the most detail: http://navi.city.chichibu.lg.jp/p_festival/1273/

Kagohara Summer Festival

July 19th to 20th

From the official Kumagaya City website

Held on the 19th and 20th each year, even if they are weekdays. This festival in Kumagaya is much lesser known than the famous Kumagaya Uchiwa festival. It is held near Kagohara station. More information on the official site here.

ENJOY WHICHEVER FESTIVAL YOU ATTEND TO KICK OFF THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS, and be sure to let us know how you got on.

MORE FESTIVALS COMING FOR THIS SUMMER IN SAITAMA.

Peter Rabbit lodgings during Golden Week trip

A welcome sign in English "Welcome Friends Slowly Smiling"
A welcome sign in English “Welcome Friends Slowly Smiling”

For the last 7 years we’ve been going to a resort in Gotemba every Golden Week.  The resort has a choice of accommodation ranging from hotel rooms to self catering lodges. This year we stayed in the “slow house villa” area in a yurt or パオ (Pao) as they are called in Japanese.  The yurts in the complex are designed on a theme. Our room was one of the Peter Rabbit themed lodgings.

The Peter Rabbit influence may well have gone beyond the interior of the yurts, as the slow house villa area is reminiscent of a rabbit’s burrow. It was great fun for the kids to find their way around the maze like paths. Management makes good use out of the design too, laying out a scavenger hunt challenge of sorts for guests of the slow house villas. The kids followed clues to find letters which, when all were discovered, spelled out a word. On presenting the word to reception they got a prize of Peter Rabbit stickers. Another treat for guests of these particular lodgings is a fluffy bunny rabbit (soft toy) hidden in the room – if you find it, you get to bring it home. (You can also borrow teddy bears and soft toys from reception to keep in your room during your stay).

The view of the maze of Peter Rabbit lodgings taken from the Big Bang playground, with Mt Fuji in the background
The view of the burrow of Peter Rabbit lodgings, taken from the Big Bang playground, with Mt Fuji in the background

The yurt itself was also a great source of excitement for the kids. They aren’t the most practical, but between the Peter Rabbit paraphernalia and the spacious loft, it was a dream come true for the kids to stay there. They are also the lodgings closest to the big playground, which turned out very convenient for us. They have a hot spring in the villa area (one of many in the resort) and it is where the pet hotel is too. This is also the area with the resort’s badminton court, games room (billiards and table tennis), reception for some activities (such as fishing and segways) and where they have the magnificent night time water, illumination and projection mapping show.  The breakfast hall is a little bit far away, but it is a nice walk, with some great views of Mt Fuji.

While I enjoyed the novelty, I did think the room was quite dingy, dark and hard to regulate temperature. I did enjoy staying there and the kids certainly did, but once was enough for me. There are other accommodations within the resort that are more practical for big families and people with young children. My top two in the resort are the Blueberry Lodges and the Western/Eastern fusion room in the Tokinosumika hotel.  For anyone who is interested in more information about the resort it is linked below the photos from the playground.

The Resort

Information about accommodations and attractions: –
Shizuoka, Gotemba. Family resort with Accommodation, Hot springs, Dining, Shopping, Sports & Much much more

One of the hotels within the resort

Hotel Tokinosumika, Gotemba, Shizuoka

Lodges within the resort

Blueberry Lodge at Tokinosumika, Shizuoka (And Shaun the Sheep!)

Some of the attractions within the resort

 

 

Attractions in Tokyo that have FREE entry days during Golden Week

On Children’s Day, May 5th, most zoos, parks and museums throughout Japan are free in for children. Apart from that day, there are other days in Golden Week that some places offer free entry for all visitors. Here is a list of some of the places in the Tokyo area, with the free entry dates specified. These are free in for all visitors unless otherwise stated. The links provided are to the English webpages of official sites, with the exception of Yumenoshima park which is in Japanese.
**Copyright ©2016 Insaitama.com **

NHK Studio Park  NHKスタジオパーク

Free for the whole of Golden Week, April 29th to May 5th.
http://www.nhk.or.jp/studiopark/guide/pamphlet/stp_pamph_en.pdf

 

Showa Memorial Park  昭和記念公園

Free entry on April 29th, May 5th and May 15th for children under 16.
http://www.showakinen-koen.jp/html/english/

 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden  新宿御苑

Free entry on April 29th, May 4th and May 5th for children under 16.
http://www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/english/index.html

Inokashira Park

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.
http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/index.html

Tama Zoo

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.
http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/index.html

Ueno Zoo

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.
http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/index.html

Tokyo Sea Life Park

Free entry for all visitors on May 4th. Free entry for kids on May 5th.
http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/index.html

Gardens of the former residence of Iwasaki  旧岩崎邸庭園

Free entry on May 4th.
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-iwasaki/index.html

Gardens of the former residence of Furukawa 旧古河庭園

Free entry on May 4th.
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/outline.html

Kiyosumi Gardens  清澄庭園

Free entry on May 4th.
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kiyosumi/index.html

Yumenoshima Park  夢の島熱帯植物館

Free entry on May 4th.
(Japanese only) http://www.yumenoshima.jp/index.html

The Shiba Detached Palace Garden 旧芝離宮恩賜庭園

Free entry on May 4th.
http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-shiba/outline.html

Jindai Botanical Gardens  神代植物公園

Free entry on May 4th.
https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/park/detail_03.html#jindaibotanical

Mukojima Hyakka Flower Garden  向島百科園

Free entry May 4th.
https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/english/park/detail_07.html#mukojimahyakkaen

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Blossoms on Shingashi River | Kawagoe

http://www.kawagoehikawa.jp/

Kawagoe is just 31 minutes from Ikebukuro, Tokyo, on the Tobu Tojo line (jump to access from Tokyo).  It is a popular tourist town. One of Kawagoe’s most spectacular spots to enjoy “sakura” is out the back of Hikawa shrine, where the cherry blossoms line the Shingashi River. Until recent years it was mainly locals and off-the-beaten-track tourists who enjoyed its splendour, but nowadays the cherry blossom attract thousands of admirers. One of the reasons is you can get a photo of a paddle boat being steered down the river under the blossoms, by a man in a festival happi coat and a traditional sugegasa hat. The image above is an official photo from Hikawa Shrine’s Facebook page.

Currently, the boat ride isn’t accessible to the general public, but on April 2nd it will be from noon until 6pm. Tickets will be distributed, subject to availability, from in front of the Kita Kominkan on the far side of the bridge to the Hikawa shrine back entrance.

Here are some photos of the sakura I took on March 30th 2016.

And earlier in the week
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Information

Hikawa Shrine

Address:2-11-3 Miyashitamachi, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0052
URL: kawagoehikawa.jp

Access from Kawagoe Station

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop BusKoedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease. More information here: http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

Shingashi River and the free parking area:

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Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.

Access by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.

More on Hikawa Shrine on this blog:

Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine| Higashimatsuyama

Yakyu Inari Shrine is located in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama, just 1 hour and 10 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line.  It is one of many shrines to the God Inari. However, what makes it special is that its Chinese characters (“Yakyu” 箭弓) are pronounced the same as the Japanese for baseball (野球).  It has thus come to be known as the baseball shrine.

Photos from the official website:

Lots of baseball fans visit the shrine to pick up a baseball shaped amulet or write on a baseball prayer plaque (Ema 絵馬) to bring good favour to their own skills or to a baseball team they support. Even famous baseball players visit the shrine to pray for a good season. Another reason Japanese tourists visit Yakyu Shrine is to see the pine trees and in the spring to see the peony, azalia and wisteria that bloom around mid April. You can read more about the shrine and flowers in English in this tourist leaflet from Higashimatsuyama city: http://www.higashimatsuyama-kanko.com/SP_EN.pdf

Shrine in photos (access and general information below this gallery).

INFORMATION

Open all year round.

TEL: 0493-22-2104

URL: (Japanese only) http://www.yakyu-inari.jp/index.html

ACCESS: 5 minute walk from the west exit of Higashimatsuyama. Parking for 50 cars.

On Google maps:

Unique Mommy and Baby cafe | Hoppe, Kawagoe

Today’s adventure brought us to the newest “Oyaka” (Parent and child) cafe, HOPPE, in Kawagoe, which only opened last year (2015). In essence it is really a Mother and baby / toddler cafe and it is the only one of its kind that I have ever visited. It is like being in a friend’s living room… an immaculate modern living room with waiting staff and endless supplies of tea and soft drinks! In fact, the cafe is actually a converted apartment in a regular apartment block.

The front door is locked so you can’t just walk in, you need to be buzzed in.  It requires booking and it is only for women (except Sundays) and children up to three years old in the morning. In the afternoon older children are welcome with children up to 6 free up until the end of March. From April 1st the system is changing slightly and only children under 3 are free. You can book and pay for an hour or two or a whole day. (Please check the website linked for up-to-date prices). If you book for 2 hours you get “service”, as they call it in Japan, of very fresh and delicious bread. If you book for a whole day, you can come and go as you please. They have lunch, desserts and snacks that you can purchase too and it is very reasonably priced. Pasta lunch was only 350 yen. You can use electronic foot massages for free and they have magazines and mangas that you can read while there.  For the kids they have lovely wooden toys, a slide and swing for baby. They have bumbo and wooden chairs for the kids to sit in for eating, and a nursing area and a changing area. You can buy baby food.

It is a wonderful space for Moms with babies and toddlers. My 1 year old absolutely loved it. She normally takes a while to warm to a new place, but today she felt very comfortable very quickly and was soon enjoying the toys and equipment. One of the staff entertained her for a while so us adults could chat. I really enjoyed the space too and I love the concept behind it. If you read Japanese, you can find lots of great information, and even a discount, on the cafe’s blog: http://hoppe.babymilk.jp/wordpress/

**I have no affiliation to this company

【店内で楽しく記念撮影会!】 【店内ではシーズン毎に楽しいウォールアートをご用意】モーニング娘OG 石黒彩さんもご来店くださいました。こんな記念撮影も当店ならでは! 【お席はフリー 赤ちゃんの気の向くままどうぞ】 【一組様でもゆったり楽しめ

Source: 店内写真 |

Cherry Blossoms at Isanuma Park | Kawagoe

Isanuma park in Kawagoe is a popular spot to enjoy Hanami for locals. There are cherry blossoms along the river at the playground as well as cherry blossoms lining the street that separates the lake from the park. We have enjoyed hanami (picnic under the cherry blossom) along the river under the beautiful blooms. End of March and the first week of April is a good time to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy hanami in this park in Kawagoe.

 

Information

Address: 584 Numata, Isanuma, Kawagoe 〒350-0855 埼玉県川越市 大字伊佐沼字沼田町584

TEL: +81 49-222-1301

URL: http://www.city.kawagoe.saitama.jp/kurashi/sports_koen/koen/isanuma.html

 

Related articles on this blog:

ISANUMA PARK

KAWAGOE CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Saving Tip Saitama | Moteco FREE magazine with coupons, features, food…

MOTECO (8)

There are a number of free magazines in Saitama and most have a coupon or two, but MOTECO is one of the best with lots of great coupons as well as information. As they say themselves; “The book is full of coupon n jobs”.  There are literally dozens of pages of coupons divided by categories such as “gourmet”, “car life”, “beauty” and more. The magazine is in Japanese only, but with many pictures and URLs it may still be useful to non-Japanese speakers.

MOTECO (5)

The magazine is printed by region, so the coupons are relevant to that particular region. My local MOTECO is for the Kawagoe – Tokorozawa area, which includes Sakado and Higashi-matsuyama. The coupons are usually limited to the month of the issue, but there is an issue every month and often the coupons are repeated.  Most of the coupons are limited to the area for restaurants, beauticians, hairdressers, car services and other services and attractions in that general area. Even chain stores coupons are specific to the area, such as the current Subway coupons that stipulate only for use in Kawagoe and Wakaba branches.  Each month, they have a monthly half price feature for a specific restaurant or service.

As well as great coupons, they also have monthly features with information on events, news, cinema, leisure, weddings, restaurants and food.  The latter usually includes some seasonal recipes. This month’s leisure feature is a selection of places to enjoy “Ohanami”, cherry blossom viewing, in Saitama.

Feature on Cherry Blossoms in Moteco Free Magazine
Feature on Cherry Blossoms in Moteco Free Magazine

 

You can pick up your FREE copy of MOTECO in most Tsutaya and Welcia branches as well as some train stations and malls.  Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to this company in anyway!

 

 

Ikaho Green’s Farm | Gunma

Ikaho Green’s farm has a very good reputation and most people who go to it give it a good review. However, while I liked it and we really enjoyed ourselves, I found it to be more expensive than most farms in the Kita-Kanto (Northern area of Greater Tokyo).  The Sheepdog show is included in the price and that is something that you can’t see in many places. Plus, there are opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals that roam freely or are within arms reach. All things considered, it is a really fun family day out!


What can you do at Green Farm?

  • View a sheepdog and sheep shearing show, the largest of its kind in Japan.
  • Pet corner – costs 500 yen per person to spend sometime petting or holding rabbits.
  • Walk with sheep and goats – costs 500 yen per person for 15 minutes.
  • Milk the cows – costs 500 yen per person for one try.
  • Feed the calves – costs 500 yen per person for one bottle of feed.
  • Amusement park – 30 different activities and rides, each cost between 100 and 500 yen.
  • Ride on a horse drawn carriage – 800 yen for adults and students, 500 yen for preschoolers and below.

**Please check their website for up-to-date schedules for these events: http://www.greenbokujo.co.jp/do/

We visited on the 1st of May and there were still some late blooming cherry blossoms, yaezakura. The farm is very well maintained and is quite beautiful. It is suitable to children of all ages. It is quite hilly, but you can easily navigate between sections with a stroller. They have nappy changing and nursing room facilities for babies as well as child friendly toilets. There are places you can buy food and souveniers. The kids plate costs 750 yen, a Sundae costs 520 yen. You are allowed bring your own food into the farm. The sheepdog and sheep shearing show is toward the back of the farm and there is a camping site beside it (that needs to be booked in advance).  It was an interesting experience. The farmer is from New Zealand so he speaks in English quite a bit through the show. There is also a BBQ area, a museum and strawberry picking on the farm, all cost extra.

GENERAL INFORMATION

ENTRANCE COST

1200 yen for adults, 600 yen for children over 3, free for 2 and under. As per above, each event costs extra. **Between early January and the end of February entrance fee is half the price. Physically disabled and people over 65 are also half price (all year round).

 

OPENING HOURS

9am to 4pm. In the winter it opens at 10am. In January and February it is closed Monday through Thursday.

 

ACCESS

Roughly 2 hours from Tokyo and 90 minutes from Saitama. 8 kilometres from the Shibukawa Ikaho Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Free parking for up to 700 cars. 19 minute bus ride from Shibukawa Station, bus bound for Ikaho Hotsprings ”伊香保温泉”

Address: 2844-1 Kanai, Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture 377-0027
Telephone: 0279-24-5335

 


For up-to-date costs, event schedules and opening hours please do check the official URL.

URL (English): http://www.greenbokujo.co.jp/english/

Kamiya Park Play&Sports ground + Skateboarding | Kounosu

Ever wondered where you can skateboard legally and safely in Saitama? One place I know of is Kamiya Park in Kounosu, which has a designated skateboard park. This multi-use park has a number of sporting facilities, it even has a stadium. The best part: it also has a brand new playground and a wading river which are almost completed. Although, the park is still under construction you can use the playground freely.

The skateboarding area costs money, but for residents of Kounosu it is only 200 yen for school aged children and adults and 100 yen for preschoolers. For people who do not reside in Kounosu it costs 400 yen for adults and students and 200 yen for preschoolers. They have skateboards and helmets to rent for an additional charge. They have skateboard lessons available too. It is open from 8am all year round (except New Years holidays) until 4pm in the winter and until 6pm in the summer.  The official website for the skate park (Japanese only): http://kamiyaskatepark.com/

Other sporting facilities in the park include a stadium, baseball pitch, tennis courts, a soccer pitch, street basketball court and a multi-purpose ground. The baseball pitch, soccer pitch, multi-purpose ground and tennis courts need to be booked and there is a small fee. General facilities include a club house,  free parking, walking paths, a lawn, toilets,  vending machines, a wading river and a playground. The playground is beside the skate park and wading river.

The playground is suited to smaller children. There is something in the playground to engage my younger kids aged 5, 3 and 1. However, although my 6 year old enjoyed it the first and only time he has been, I am not sure he would find the playground as enjoyable a second time. It is best suited to preschoolers.

Information

Park Website: (Japanese only) http://www.kamiya-sk.ecnet.jp/index.html#
Skatepark Website: (Japanese only) http://kamiyaskatepark.com/

Access
Address: 707 Kamiya, Kounosu, Saitama 365-0027

LocalGuide showcasing the Greater Tokyo Area of Saitama

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