Enomoto Farm in Ageo is frequently mentioned in guide books to Saitama with small children, due to the selection of bikes and push along toys kids can play with for free. In more recent years, it also features in cycling magazines as a suitable place to rest and refresh on the Arakawa cycle course route. Its most famous acclaim is its delicious ice-cream, which has been featured on TV. Some say its the best south of Hokkaido!
Last March the Enomoto’s built a new ice-cream shop on their premises. They tore down the old shop and replaced it, so the shop does not take away space from the play and rest area. The new shop has more seating than the previous shop. At a guess it sits about 20 people. The picnic tables and toilets remain the same, as does the play area out by the BBQ pits. They have added a cycle course map and information spot in the rest area. I don’t which came first, the information or the cyclists, but nowadays there are more cyclists than kids!
(Written January 2015) February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or beanthrowing. Most families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple or shrine to do it with a crowd. In Tokyo, there are temples that have famous people, often sumo wrestlers, throwing the beans from a dias out to the excited crowd. Most preschools and children community centres also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.
The purpose of the festival is to rid your house of demons and welcome good luck for the coming year. Hence, we chant oni wa soto, fuku ha uchi “demons out, good luck in” as we throw beans out the door or at the head of the household who dresses up as a demon. To this end kids often make oni masks for the ceremony and/or for playing dress up. If you eat the same number of beans as your age it is believed you will have good health for the year. You can read more about the festival on the KA International Moms websitehttp://kajapan.org/general/setsubun-chasing-the-oni-away/ or on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun
Yesterday, in preparation for the festival next week, the kids and I talked about setsubun. 5 year old remembers it from the last 2 years and (just turned) 4 year old is learning about it in school. They make masks and holders for the roasted beans. We will make them at home too. We practised some origami to hold the mamemaki roasted beans, there’s a link below to make your own. The beans are easy to come by in Japan at this time of year. Many shops sell commercialised mini-packs of roasted beans or nuts some with flavours. I bought ours from a home delivery shopping service, Coop. We will make demon masks next week. I wanted to share some of the setsubun and mamemaki teaching, craft and activity resources available online. Whether you are living and/or teaching in Japan, or a Japanese living abroad, or just looking for something to do with the kids on February 3rd, you will find something fun among these free setsubun art and craft resources. Most of these ideas are most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.
Japanese Oni ; devils, demons, trolls or ogres
Japanese demons are depicted with 1 or 2 conical horns on their heads. They are often red in colour. They usually wear tiger skinned pants.
You can draw your own, or you can use the free print outs in the links below to make a mask for setsubun. There are a number of ways you can turn the free print outs or a hand drawn oni into masks. First colour (where necessary) the demon and cut it out. If you want to make a mask that covers the face you can stick a rectangular strip of paper to each ear and tape the open ends around an elastic band. For a “mask” that is worn above the face, as per photo in mamemaki section, you can simply stick the cut out to a head band or even a cap or make your own band out of paper.
Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half
Milk carton setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the most popular and easiest kid’s craft for mamemaki holders is cutting a milk carton in half, piercing a hole in each side and using pipe cleaners as a handle. In the right hand (your left!) of my son in the photo to the left.
Paper cup setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the more original mamemaki holders I saw was on Hiragana Mama’s blog; a decorated paper cup.
Origami mamemaki holders
This year we are using origami boxes. This origami box paper craft is one of my favourite practical uses of origami. You don’t need origami paper as this easy to make box uses rectangle shaped paper such as an A4 sheet of paper.
These are just some ideas and resources you can use to enjoy the Japanese February 3rd end of year festival by chasing away demons. You can read about our setsubun last year, 2014, here.
There is a belief in Japan that how you spend your New Year’s is reflective of how your year will be. The New Year period lasts until the 7th of January. With that in mind, we spent those 7 days, the last of the kid’s holidays, out and about enjoying all this wonderful prefecture has to offer young kids. It is representative of the variety of this prefecture, that even after 5 years of trying a different play location at least once a month, we can still find somewhere new to hang out near our home.
Kumagaya sports park is massive. It has all sort of pitches and sports areas, as well as a stadium and a dome arena. My guess is that the stadium and the dome arena will be used for the 2020 Tokyo olympics. Near both the stadium and the dome is a playground, particularly suited to kindergarten and primary school age. The park and its facilities are hosts to many events throughout the year.
The playground is located near the dome. Parking areas 4 and 6 are the closest, but they are still a fair distance away. We parallel parked along the small public road that runs along the side of the playground area. 5 year old and (then) 3 year old loved the circular climbing frame as well as the other climbing equipment. 2 year old was able for some of the climbing equipment, but she wasn’t able for the circular climbing frame. She enjoyed the sandbox.
Kumagaya is commutable from Tokyo. It is easily accessible by a direct train line from areas of Tokyo, such as Ueno on the Takasaki Line or Shinjuku on the Shonan Shinjuku Line. The park is an approximate 12 minute taxi ride from Kumagaya station.
ADDRESS: 300 Kamigawakami, Kumagaya-shi, Saitama-ken 360-0004
TEL: +81 48-526-2004