I’ve been talking favourites on the Facebook page this week and today’s showcase is very much up there on the best of the best list. Indeed, Kids Spo-cha is actually my children’s favourite indoor play area in the whole of Saitama. I love it, because it is part of the regular Spo-cha so even adults can play. An added bonus is that even for a family of 6 it is cheap, if you avail of their special packages.

So what is Spo-cha?

Spo-cha is a sports and play centre area within some of the ROUND1 sports entertainment centres. ROUND1 is synonymous with bowling, but in fact even their most basic centres have a variety of actitivies on offer. Then there are branches with Spocha and a select few with Kids Spocha and some with a kids corner. Kids Spocha is a whole centre of fun for young children, within the regular spocha.  Spocha is available in about 46 branches of ROUND1, of which just over half have a kids spocha and another 16 have a kids corner throughout the whole of Japan. We are very lucky to have THREE Kids Spo-cha here in Saitama. Our nearest one is in AGEO, beside Hiratsuka park. It has 3 floors of sports and entertainment with relaxation areas. Some of the sports you can enjoy at Ageo’s Spo-cha include rollerblading, tennis, billiards, putter golf, archery, shooting, bubble soccer, batting practise, darts and rodeo, to name but a few. The play area for young children has an athletic zone with climbing slides, ball pools, tricycle track and yu-land cubic balloons, a dream bomber and even a karaoke room.  There is something for all my kids who are 6, 5, 3 and 1 years old.


The system seems confusing at first, but once you physically get there it all makes perfect sense. I recommend the 3 hour package for your first time. And the great news for anyone with a child aged between 2 and 6 years old is that they offer the whole family the same price of 680 yen per person for 3 hours.  If no-one in the family is aged between 2 and 6 the price is about 500 yen more per person, but they do have other special offers, some included below. Kids under 2 are free. Apart from all the sports and amusements you can enjoy without limit within the 3 hours, access to the relax rooms and a reading room are included. For an added fee you can get drink bar too and there is a restaurant there if you want to purchase food. You are also welcome to bring in your own food. They have lockers for storing your belongings.

More information in English including how the system works, is available on their website (linked Round1 English PDF). Some of their current special offers (January 2016):

Access: Free shuttle bus from the East exit of JR Takasaki Line Ageo Station.

For more information please see:

ROUND1 WEBSITE【ラウンドワン】スポッチャ|スポッチャ早朝割


#saitamawithkids #archery #shooting #rollerblading

Answers to “Where can I play archery in Japan?” “Where can I rollerblade in Japan?”

Saku Ski Garden Parada |Nagano

Saku Ski Parada Nagano (5)

Recently, we went skiing in Nagano. I use the term “skiing” as a general term for being in the snow, seen as very little skiing was actually accomplished. Plus, the snow was fake as at the time we were having a particulary warm winter. Regardless of the lack of real snow, or perhaps thanks to it, the kids had a blast. This is a good place to introduce young children to snow and/or skiing for the first time.


Parada kids park south slopesWe went to Saku Ski Garden Parada which is a day resort; there is no night skiing and there is no hotel attached to it. We stayed in Karuizawa on one of our visits and commuted from Saitama in less than 2 hours on our next visit. The resort says about 70% of their business is from families and that is the overall impression I got on our visits. There were kids of all ages enjoying the snow and plenty of younger kids in the designated snow play areas.

A round up of what I like about Saku Ski Parada;

  •  The resort has two parts – North and South. The South area is a Parking Area on the Joshin-etsu expressway meaning that, apart from being convenient, it is quite safe to travel to the South slopes even in the height of season. (In Japan the highways are well maintained and serviced even in the snow. However, I would recommend snow tyres even for commuting to the South slopes, which are right on the highway. For the North slopes snow tyres are essential. Please note, if there has been a heavy fall, there is a possibility that the highway will be closed.)
  • For people coming by train it is also quite convenient as there is a free shuttle bus that takes 10 minutes from Sakudaira Station, which is less than an hour from Omiya by bullet train. It makes Parada a popular spot for those on a day ski trip from Tokyo or Saitama. From Tokyo its only 90 minutes by train and bus.
  •  You can move between without restriction between the South and North slopes once you have paid into one. While the South slopes and amenities are literally right on the highway, the North, which has the better snow, is about 5 kilometres off the highway, through windy mountaineous roads.
  • Due to the spread of the areas the place is a good size and there aren’t a huge amount of lifts or courses; 7 of each.
  • On our first trip we went to the South, and our more recent visit was to the North. Thanks to the division of the resort, the North can be less populated as it is harder to get to. On the day we went, I thought it was busy, but my husband told me that was only a tenth of how busy it gets.
  •  We didn’t need to bring very much with us in terms of changes of clothes and we could hire boots and equipment there. We brought our own apparel and sleds. Clark’s winter lined boots sufficed for our 3 year old and 1 year old, as they were just playing in the snow, and we rented proper ski boots for 4 year old and 6 year old.
  • Food is quite reasonable for the type of place that it is. The pizzas are good value and are actually quite nice. They are made up fresh, so expect to wait about 20 to 3o minutes for a pizza order to be ready. The fast food counter is just that – fast! They also have a self service restaurant.
  • It is a very family friendly resort. They have rest areas and facilities for babies. We didn’t avail of it this time, but I like that there is a creche, where you can leave children while you ski. They children from as young as 6 months old.
  • Both North and South areas have a great kids play area. They can use sleds and tubing or just play in the snow. They also have bouncing castles. They have a mascot, which is a giant beetle, which comes around to meet the kids.
  • They have a snow escalutor in the kids play area.
  • They have lessons for kids from as young as 3 years old.
  • It is part of the family ski group; you could apply for a free lesson for a primary school aged child at the resort, but the closing date is gone for this year.
  • Overall I thought it was good value, even for a family of six. I did have discounts for lift passes and for the play area, but asides from that the costs are fairly standard for that area.

Address:  2681 Shimohirao, Saku, Nagano 385-0003

TEL: North Parada – 0267-68-5116, South Parada – 0267-67-8100

You can get up-to-date information on costs, snow, weather and more on the well maintained English webpage for the resort here:


Saku Ski Garden Parada ski resort in Saku City, Nagano, Japan – SnowJapan ski and snowboard resorts in Japan


#snowjapan #familyfriendly

Strawberry Picking with a play area | Sakado

2 Shimura (1)

2 Shimura (2)Today, we visited a greenhouse type strawberry picking farm in Sakado. This farm has been on my radar since I saw a small write-up about it in a Walker magazine. I was glad we went to check it out.  In previous years, we’ve picked our strawberries and ate them and headed home or onto another nearby location. Today, we spent the whole afternoon at the Shimura Strawberry Farm and Flower Fields. Half an hour was spent picking and eating the delicious strawberries, the rest was spent enjoying the free extra services of the fruit picking farm (gallery below). They have a number of different greenhouses. The reception is in “Dai Ichi”, where you take off your shoes and put on slippers. We picked in Dai Ni today, which is connected to the main greenhouse for ease of movement.

2 Shimura (3)Within “Dai 2” there are 3 different types of strawberries you can choose from. All were sweet and delicious. They use bees in the greenhouse for pollination, but they are not dangerous. The beds are raised making them easier to pick and less likely to have mold. My 1 year old was easily able to navigate the aisles and even pick her own strawberries. Like most greenhouses it was very warm; one good reason to pick in winter. Of all the strawberry picking greenhouse farms I have been to, I like this one the most. It was excellent value for money given that my kids enjoyed playing indoors and outdoors before and after picking. I could sip complimentary tea and green tea, available to all customers, while the kids played. Its location is good for anyone who drives as it is so close to the highway. It is on the Ken-o highway, Sakado exit, very close to the Tsurgashima Interchange for the Kanetsu expressway making it accessible not only to people in Saitama, but other areas of Kanto too. There isn’t much in the immediate area though (nearby attractions below), but they do have a fish farm next door and flower fields, the latter of which is free to anyone. We enjoyed a walk up the embankment. You can sometimes see swans and Tsuru, Japanese crane, in the surrounding rice paddies too; we were particularly lucky to see a whole flock of swans!


SEASON: January to

OPENING HOURS:  from 10am, generally Tuesday to Sunday

TEL: 080-5028-1062 phone between 8am and 6pm.

URL: http://www.shimura-nouen.com/index2.html

It is not possible to book, but you may want to ring in advance or check their website to make sure the farm is open to the public on the day you are going.

Public Toilets and Free Parking.


For 30 minutes all-you-can-eat:

Adults and children over 6 ¥1,400 2016 increased to 1800 yen.

Children aged 3 to 6 ¥1,200 2016 increased to 1400 yen.

2 year olds ¥400 2016 reduced to 200 yen.

Under 2 toddlers are free. Discounts are available for school groups of more than 10.

2017 information

Strawberry Picking season opens @ Shimura Strawberry Farm | SAKADO



Approximately 1 kilometre or 4 minutes by car from the Sakado exit of the Ken-O expressway.




For lists of places to strawberry pick in Japan, please scroll to the bottom of the article. For more information on the strawberry picking system in Japan and some farms in Kanto, please see: http://kajapan.org/places/strawberry-picking-in-kanto/


Sakado Jidokan – free children’s community centre with planetarium

Sakado Taoist Temple – A popular backdrop for cosplayers

Sakado Taoist Temple (3)  Sakado Taoist Temple (2)

Kawagoe “Little Edo” Tourist Town

Heisei no Mori park, with Japan’s largest rose tunnel

Heisei no mori park Kawajima


Meiji Sakado Factory Tour

Strawberry Picking Articles

Over the years, I have written quite a lot of articles about Strawberry Picking in Japan. It is not that we pick strawberries a lot, it is just that when I first researched strawberry picking in Saitama there was no information in English. I subsequently realised that there was limited information for the whole of the Kanto region and I wanted to fill the void.  Thus, I had found a niche and it has served me well… or rather, I have served it well!


Search terms:
This article will be of interest to people looking for a strawberry picking area with a play area. Other potential search terms will be something different in saitama, rainy day outing in saitama, things to do on a rainy day, keeping warm in winter, winter activities or winter outings with kids, ideas of things to do as a family, family outing from Tokyo, commutable from Tokyo, educational fun with kids, easy outings for children, things to do with children, fruit picking with children, things to do with children in Japan, strawberry picking Japan.


A new kid’s cafe in Saitama: Pomme Cafe, Ario in Ageo

**This post was initially posted on my blogger in September 2015.**

I remember desperately searching for an “oyako” (parent and child) restaurant when my eldest was a baby. I was utterly disappointed to find the nearest and possibly ONLY kid’s cafe in Saitama at that time was in Omiya. Not so close to where I live. Fast forward 6 years and there has been a steady rise in the number of “kid’s cafe” or “parent and child restaurants” throughout Saitama, some have even graced rural Saitama with their presence.

During “Silver Week”, a group of public holidays in September in honour of the silver community, my kids and I stumbled upon a new kid’s cafe in Ario in Ageo. Pomme Cafe.Cafe which is part of a larger chain of “Omurice” (rice omelette) restaurants. The cafe has been there since Ario opened its doors in 2013, but it was recently renovated and reformed into an “oyako” restaurant. It reopened it’s doors last Thursday, the 17th of September. It has a lovely play area, clean facilities, friendly staff and isn’t too expensive, but I will say that the menu is limited and is not the healthiest I’ve seen.

The small play area is just inside the door and is free for patrons to use. It has a slide, some soft building blocks, puzzles and books.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (1)


The basic rules of the “Kid’s corner” are displayed; ①take off your shoes, ②No running, ③Play nicely!

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (6)

The kid’s menu is basic with 5 dishes, but only 1 drink; Orange Juice. (They provide water for free). However, they also provide kid’s sized plates and bowls, for those that prefer to share a dish with their child.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (2)

Each kid’s meal comes with a free toy. They get to choose one from a selection of plastic toys, stickers and hair accessories.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (5)

My eldest ordered “Omu-rice” with chicken nuggets, fried shrimp a piece of lettuce and apple jelly.

Pomme Cafe Ario Ageo (4)

Despite the lack of healthy food, my overall impression was good. The bill for 3 kid’s plates and a “drink bar” (all you can drink, non-alcohol ) for me was just over 2000 yen, which is reasonable. The kids really enjoyed the play area and the atmosphere was very relaxed. It got very busy after we arrived and a queue formed out the door, but we never once felt rushed or pressured to hurry and move on. They have facilities to wash your hands and lots of children’s bumper seats and high chairs, adding to the convenience for people with kids. The staff are friendly and helpful.

You can find more information in Japanese on both Ario’s website and Pomme Cafe.Cafe’s websites. (Yes, there is two “cafe”s in the official name!!)


January 2nd Lucky Bags

Yesterday, I wrote about lucky bags and shared the places you could buy them today, January 1st. This article shares places that offer them from tomorrow the 2nd of January. Snippets from yesterday’s article explaining fukubukuro.

Lucky bags are a very popular New Year’s tradition. …福 fuku means luck and 袋 bukuro is a bag… It reminds me of a lucky dip in Ireland. ..some lucky bags are more famous than others. Shibuya 109 may possibly be the most famous. …Meanwhile in Saitama…well, hmmm, not sure we have anything to the level of Shibuya 109, but there are some good ones. …Be warned a lot of these lucky bags sell out within a day.

Please see the full article here: http://insaitama.com/new-years-day-in-saitama-lucky-bags/


Takashimaya close on New Year’s day and open for business on the 2nd each year. They have a huge range of lucky bags, but they are only available on January 2nd. Also, it is quite common for them to sell out of certain popular ones. You can find details of the contents of their lucky bags IN ENGLISH on their website. Takashimaya is a one minute walk from Omiya Station.

URL: http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/store/special/fukubukuro/en.html

MARUI, Omiya

Marui also closes on January 1st and opens on the 2nd from 10am.  They have lucky bags of popular brand goods. They will also have a separate sale to the lucky bags. Marui is right beside Omiya Station.  Other branches of Marui in Saitama that have fukubukuro are:

MARUI, Shiki


All three share the same website:

URL: http://www.0101.co.jp/index.html


Lumine is another of the big department stores that closes on January 1st, opening on the 2nd with sales and fukubukuro. They have a number of different type of lucky bags on different floors, some with mens clothes, others with women clothes, some with beauty products, others with cosmetics.  You can view their full catalogue for the 2016 lucky bags here: http://lumine.webcatalog.jp/fukubukuro/omiya/#page=1

URL: http://www.lumine.ne.jp/omiya/topics/topics_details.php?article_no=2436


Go on, treat yourself to one!! They’re usually great value for money and a bit of craic too. If there are any really good lucky bags you know of, please do share the information in the comments below. 🙂

Whatever you do this New Year, make it a good one. HAPPY NEW YEAR