One of the many things I love about life in Japan, is the multitude of free playgrounds, play centres and activities available to all children. Below is a photo of my son climbing at Kawagoe Kodomo No Shiro or Children’s castle, a free community play centre in Kawagoe. This free play centre also has a planetarium on it’s second floor which has a cover charge, but all other facilities at the centre are free.
There is a large open space on the first floor, where free baby and toddler classes are conducted. When there is not a class in action the kids can play with toys, but you have to request the staff get them out for you, unlike in other play centres where they are readily available. There is also a smaller playroom on the first floor suited to infants and toddlers. In this room the toys are laid out for you to use freely. There is a cot in this room for sleeping babies.
On both floors there are toilets designed for children and on the first floor there is a nappy changing unit in the special needs toilet. There is a lunch room on the second floor that can be used for those who’ve brought their own lunch between 12.00 noon and 1 pm. You need to clean up after yourself and bring home your own rubbish.
Like all jidokans and jido centres in Saitama, there are a handful of teachers on duty, who are there to keep the environment safe, run the classes and make sure that adults and children alike are respecting the rules of the jidokan. They are not there to mind your children, but they are usually very helpful and friendly. Some more than others!
This particular jidokan is not as nice or well equipped as many others in the surrounding cities, but the classes are great. Also, if you live in the area, its nice to have somewhere to hang out. I highly recommend these type of play centres in general and the free children’s play groups and classes they run.
The centre is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays. It is quite a distance from the nearest station, so a bus is advised. Parking is free. It is separated from the building itself, just a few metres, but you can walk in from the back which is safe from traffic.
Sayama Grape season starts next week opens this week (August 7th 2016), through to the middle of September. However, you can currently only buy directly from the vineyards and the picking season is a few weeks away yet.
Grape Picking Season General Information
Updated costs for 2016 are not yet available.
Adults: 600 yen
Primary school children: 500 yen
Kindergarten school children: 400 yen
Toddlers: 200 yen
☆It is a eat as you pick system, but you canpay extra to buy the grapes you pick to bring them home
There are five vineyards in Sayama that I am aware of, all in the vicinity of the Iriso station in Sayama, three of them are outlined below.
Peony Walk is a large mall in the city of Higashi Matsuyama. It’s nearest station is Takasaka, which is probably best known as the station for Saitama Children’s Zoo. Until the mall was built a few years ago, there wasn’t much in the area at all. Now there are a number of other stores and services popping up, as well as a huge number of housing developments.
There are a few free play areas in the mall. Apitawhich is split over two floors has a play area on each floor. There is one on the first floor beside the toy department of Apita. They provide free toys for the kids to play with at two small play stations, plus sample toys kids can play with in some of the aisles. There is also a permanent display of Tomica cars and Plarail trains. The other free play area is on the second floor, beside the baby and maternity area of the clothes department. It is a padded area with soft blocks suited to babies and toddlers. The Xebio Sportsand camping shop beside Apita also has a free play area. It is a fake tree with a counter around it and cubby holes with toys for the kids to play with. It also has two TV screens playing DVDs. The Libro Book store and Village Vanguard, also on the 2nd floor, both have some sample books and toys out for kids to play with for free. There is also a small playground outside in the overflow car park beside K’s Denki. In the extension outdoor mall “Life Garden” there is a Tsutaya with a play area with some sample toys and books for kids to play with, plus a screen showing Anpanman cartoons.
Apart from these free play areas, there is an amusement area, Sweets Fantasy Pacc’n Kids Park, on the 2nd floor. It has two sections; one with amusements and the other is a fun center suitable to toddlers. In the amusement area they have coin operated rides for children as well as UFO catchers, slot machines, purikura machines and other coin operated attractions. The rides for children cost between 100 and 200 yen. The fun center fees start at 300 yen for 20 minutes.
Peony Court on the 1st floor hosts a number of free and paid events suited to toddlers. This month, for example, they have a Euro Bungee Trampoline, a giant cardboard maze and a popular clown. For further information on events in Peony Walk and in Saitama in general, please have a look at the events section of this blog.
What I like about this local mall with a family feel is that it is easily accessible, with lots of free parking including wider car spots and priority parking for wheelchair users and lower mobility patrons as well as for pregnant women and those with small children. Inside the family friendliness continues with family toilets and rest areas, baby friendly shopping trolleys, free and paid play areas for toddlers, and an area in the food court with low tables and colourful decor for small children to eat in. There are also a number of other kid friendly eateries on the 1st floor. There are a number of places you can change a baby’s nappy as well as nursery rooms with a microwave and burco.
There is also a good selection of shops with baby or infant products and clothes. There is a bakery, Grano Grano, that sells allergen free bread. You can pick up international food and drink from the Kaldi Coffee Farm store. And there is a Karuizawa Farmer’s Market for delicious jams, preserves and sauces. The malls corridors and aisles are wide and it is easy to navigate with a stroller. However, on the 2nd floor one side of the mall is carpeted and it is more difficult to push a shopping trolley in that section. The signature shop of the mall is Apita. They are a reasonably priced department store with ladies, mens, kids, babies, maternity, funeral and business wear and shoes as well as baby goods on the 2nd floor. They also have a supermarket and toy store on the first floor.
The mall is only a kilometer from the Takasaka station and about six kilometers from the HigashiMatsuyama Interchange on the Kanetsu expressway. You can get a bus from Takasaka station for 100 en per adult and 50 yen per child, although walking is just as quick as the bus stops twice.