My overwhelming impression of today’s new park is that it is the most used park I’ve been to this month. A friend commented to me recently that Japanese people don’t bring their kids to play outdoors in January. I hadn’t given it much thought until then, but it really does seem to be true in a lot of areas. However, Kamihira park in Ageo City defies that theory as there were plenty of people making use of the park’s facilities.
Kamihira park has, what seems to be, a very popular tennis club. There is also a jogging course, not to mention the baseball pitch and stadium. All, but the latter were getting full usage today. I couldn’t believe the buzz in the park, I haven’t seen a park that busy since late November. The patrons were largely pensioners and mothers with young children. You often see retired people walking or playing gate ball in parks in Japan, but I have never seen so many of the older generation in one park at one time. And I haven’t seen so many young children in the playground since Autumn.
One of the pieces of playground equipment is a bucket crane truck. My son (3 years old) was in playground heaven! I think this may even be a contender for a coveted position on his top ten playground list.
Address: 16 Sugaya, Ageo, Saitama 362-0003
I couldn’t resist the corny title! As you may have guessed today’s play-a-day involved the zoo. We often go to a zoo near my house, but today we tried out the children’s zoo in Chikouzan park in Sayama.
What I like about this small zoo is you can feed some of the animals. For 100 yen you get a capsule of food. There are various feeding stations, but today we just did the sheep/goats, monkeys and ducks. The capsules costs can add up if you have a few kids, but unlike the Saitama Children’s zoo in Takasaka (which is an excellent zoo) the parking is free. The entrance to Sayama’s zoo is only 200 yen for adults and 50 yen for children of school going age.
There are other attractions in the park too. The park’s entry is free, as are the use of the playgrounds.
Nicknamed “Moomin House” the quirky building pictured is one of three buildings in this free, unique and imaginative theme park for children in Hanno City; Akebono Children’s Forest Park. Once you leave your shoes at the door (which we didn’t on our first visit, cringe) you’re free to roam the house and discover the nooks and crannies.There are 3 floors and a basement to explore. The upper floors have little beds and items laid out to make it look like someone lives there. There are doors, windows, cubby holes, secret spaces, stair cases and lots more to captivate the littlest of minds. The park is geared to children, but there are few safety measures in place, so I recommend you stay close to your kids as they climb in the main house. You might also want to watch your own head; I bumped mine a few times!
In the Facility Management building there is a large play area, pictured in the gallery (at the bottom), with handmade toys the kids can play with. The park is open until 5, but the playroom closes at 4. Occasionally, they have events on in this room. The management building houses the toilets, including one with a baby keep and changing area. You are requested to bring used nappies home with you.
The 3rd building is an information station and reading area with books and a seats (←picture on the left). There is a selection of books including some Moomin stories. They have some great encyclopedia type books about insects and beetles too. Behind this building is one of the nature trails and the route to the waterfall, as well as the tree house pictured below.
The park is quite hard to find and I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, so I’m calling it Saitama‘s best kept secret-toddler-friendly-location. However, in a couple of years it will not be so obscure as they are currently building a Moomin Amusement Park METSA, said to be complete by Spring 2018 and maybe even before. It is the first Moomin amusement park to be built outside Finland.
The current park is free in and suitable for rainy days. I noticed an unsightly air conditioning unit out the back of Moomin’s house, so I assuming they use it in the summer. There is a small shop at the edge of the car park, but they don’t sell much in the way of food. They do have ice-cream! There are vending machines halfway up the slope that leads to the park. Unless you have an all terrain buggy I suggest you leave your stroller in the car, especially if you plan to do any of the hikes or visit the waterfall. It is a lovely area to hike in though, but some of the hiking trails will be lost with the development of METSA.
For anime lovers, this park is used as the back drop in the second season, episode 20, of the anime Yama no susume, “Climb of Encouragement“. You can see the anime images compared with the real life scenery in this blog article here:
You can rent season 2 on Amazon video. This is an affiliate link**.
Approximately 20 minutes from both the Sayama-Hidaka and Iruma Interchanges of the Chuo expressway. The park is situated behind Hanno’s city public gym and hockey courts. There is a Cainz beside it which is probably the best landmark. They are on prefectural route 195; 9 kilometres from route 16 if you come of the Chuo Expressway at the Iruma Interchange. Prefectural road 195 also meets up with route 407 which is the road I took from Sakado. The road is quite busy and only one lane for a lot of the journey. The car park is in the grounds of Hanno’s Taiikukan.
To extend your playtime in Hanno, just across the road you can enjoy the playground in Asu Sports Park.
**As of June 9th 2017 Insaitama.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.jp