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

(2015) 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

Nogeyama Zoo | Free Yokohama

There is a really great free zoo in Yokohama near Hinodecho Station. Despite being free it is a decent sized zoo with a great selection of animals. The thing I liked best about it is that they have designed it in such a way that during visiting hours the animals are up close and visible even to the smallest of children.  Saitama has a number of free zoos too, but it is much larger with a better choice of animals than both the free and low cost zoo areas here (Kitamoto, Maruyama, Omiya, Chikozan).

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The place was crowded understandably, and according to Google reviews, even on a weekday it is quite busy. The zoo has been around a long time and was the first zoo in Japan to enjoy success in housing a number of foreign animals including leopards, sloth bear and lemurs. They still have the latter (lemurs) but currently there are no sloth bears or leopards. They do have other bears, and a lion and tiger. You can see them up close and personal. They have a fantastic petting area where you can meet, touch and hold a variety of small animals such as mice, guinea pigs, chickens and snakes. Beside that area they have a few penguins with low barriers for easy viewing. They currently have a good selection of monkeys. The red pandas are supposedly the most popular especially at feeding time. In total there are about 1500 animals of 100 different species. They have a list of all animals on their website.

 

 
The zoo is quite hilly, but there are ramps that people with strollers can use. I sometimes had to go around a longer way due to the buggy, but I didn’t find it hard to navigate and it was only a minor problem. There are plenty of toilets, one of which is a family toilet with a child’s toilet, urinal, changing area and regular toilet. There are rest areas and drink and food vending machines. There are some fun areas within the zoo for kids, such as the old train that is turned into a rest area or the old polar bear enclosure which kids can explore.

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INFORMATION

Opening hours: 9.30am to 4pm. CLOSED ON MONDAYS

URL: http://www2.nogeyama-zoo.org/
English: http://www2.nogeyama-zoo.org/english/

Address: 63-10 Oimatsu Cho, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 220-0032
Tel: 045-231-1307

Access: About 10 minutes walk from Hinodecho Station on the Keikyu line or about 15 minutes walk from Sakuragi cho on the JR Negishi Line.

Saitama Children’s Zoo | HIGASHIMATSUYAMA

The Saitama Children’s Zoo in Takasaka, Higashimatsuyama, is fantastic value for money and one of the best days out for children in Saitama prefecture.  The zoo is spread over a large area and there is so much to do, see and experience, that you would definitely need to allocate a full day for a trip to this zoo. Apart from the animals, they have a large athletic playground beside a smaller playground, a Beatrix Potter museum with a small playground, a dinosaur corner, a small amusement area with battery cars and rides, a splash pool in the summer and there is an indoor play area with a climbing area outside (please see Children’s Castle below).   Throughout the zoo they have photo props, interactive educational corners with quizzes and challenges for the kids, as well as plenty of rest areas, toilets and places that sell food.

Highlights

Petting area

In the petting area the children have an opportunity to get up close and personal with farm and domestic animals. Three times a day at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm they bring out guinea pigs and rabbits for the children to hold and pet.  Sometimes they have baby chicks or snakes, too. When the hour long session is over they have an animal parade where the guinea pigs walk down a long bridge back to their home. Outside of petting hour there is still an opportunity to get to close to farm animals as you can walk freely among pigs, goats and ducks. They provide brushes so you can brush down the animals and there are pooper-scoopers so that the kids can sweep up the animal’s poop. This is all included in the entrance price to the zoo.

 

Other Experiences

  • Next to the petting area is the cows. At 11am, 1pm and 2.30pm it is possible to try milking the cows under the supervision of the zoo staff. It is included in the price.
  • Passed the cows there is the penguin area which is relatively new. For 300 yen you can feed the penguins, but they limit the number to 30 people a day. You can buy a ticket from 30 minutes before the feeding times which are 10.15am and 1.30pm.
  • For 200 yen children over the age of 4 can ride a pony in the paddock beside the stables, which is close to the main entrance of the zoo. This experience is possible between 10.30 and 11.30 am and again between 1 and 3pm.  For adults the price is 300 yen.
  • On weekends it is possible to feed the goats between 2.30 and 3.15pm, it costs 100 yen for a cup of feed.
  • On weekends it is possible to feed the ponies between 3.15 and 3.45pm, it costs 100 yen for a cup of feed.
  • On the first Sunday of the month they have a class about animals from 2.30pm.
  • Every month on the 2nd Sunday you can try your hand at butter making for just 200 yen. You need to book in advance.
  • Every month on the 3rd Sunday they have an “Enrichment day”. Each time they discuss a different animal in detail.
  • Every Saturday they have a craft class.
  • On weekends they have tours of the giraffe’s paddock.
  • On the 2nd Saturday of each month they have story time; please see the “Children’s Castle” below.
  • Zoo train which costs 200 yen to ride once or 300 yen to use throughout the day.

Seasonal attractions

One thing I really love about this zoo is that even though we go quite a lot, there is always something different to try. Throughout the year the classes mentioned above as well as the special events change quite frequently. It is best to check the website for up-to-date information and a full list of what’s on offer. Here are some of the more regular seasonal attractions:

  • Capybara onsen – Winter
    • 2016 the Capybara onsen will start from November 19th until the end of March 2017. The first 12 people there at 14.30 will be able to get up close and personal and dip your feet in a foot onsen. On December 18th they will be giving gifts to the animals.
  • Australian animal Fair – Spring
  • Sheep shearing – Spring
  • Cherry blossoms – Spring
  • Splash pool – Summer
  • Night zoo – Summer
  • Autumn leaves – Autumn
  • New Year cards photo opportunity – Autumn / Winter

2016 Capybara Onsen, Art Festival and Gift giving day information:

Capybara Onsen @ Saitama Children’s Zoo | HIGASHIMATSUYAMA

 

Children’s castle

For an extra 100 yen the kids can enjoy an indoor play area with a library room and talking tree. On the 1st floor they have a special tree that tells stories and plays music. Behind that is a ball pool with boats on top of the balls. Beside that is a cinema room with educational videos. There is a climbing tunnel from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor and also a ramp that is wide enough for a wheelchair and strollers. The kids can take a slide back from from the mezzanine to the first floor. On the 2nd floor there is a padded play area with wooden toys and building toys. There is a snake slide and frog cave in the padded area too. Beside it is the library room.  Here is where they have the story time once a month.

General Information

Hours: 9.30am to 5pm except winter when it closes at 4.30pm. Costs: 510 yen for adults, 210 yen for children between 6 and 15. Free for children under 6. CLOSED ON MONDAYS all year round (except national holidays) and on Tuesdays too during the month of January.
Parking: For 800 cars, costs 600 yen per day. At weekends during peak season, there is an overflow car park. There are also some unofficial parking areas beside the overflow car park that open on busy days and cost 500 yen a day.

TEL: 0493-35-1234

URL: http://www.parks.or.jp/sczoo/index.html

Access: 554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama 355-0065

Make your own POCKY at Free Factory Tour | Glico Pia East

Glico Pia East Factory Tour Pocky (13)Chances are, if you live in Saitama, you have heard about the famous Glico Pia East factory tour, aka the Pocky tour. It remains top of the list of free factory tours in Saitama (2015, down to #2 in 2017) and one of the best for the whole Kanto region (Greater Tokyo area). Due to its popularity, it is still necessary to book in advance, but the good news is that the wait has been reduced from a year to a few months. We were able to get a booking 4 months in advance.

 

It was on my wish list since it opened its doors in 2012, but I was advised to wait until the kids were in primary school to go. In 2015, I just couldn’t wait any longer so I booked it for the whole family. At the time the kids were 5, 4, 2 and 0! (We visited again during Spring Break 2017). Much to my delight, everyone, myself included, enjoyed the tour much more than we thought we would. The tour is 70 minutes long and includes a brief video, museum tour, tour of 2 lines of products and an interactive quiz game in a futuristic gaming room. In fact, the whole tour building has a futuristic feel.



Apart from the short video at the start, the kids were completely intrigued by the tour. In the museum they have a display of 1,500 mini toys that used to be given with one of their products. They also have an old-fashioned vending machine, which my son was chosen to try out with an old 5 yen coin that is no longer in circulation. In that area of the museum they have the brand symbol of the running man, synonymous with “that” billboard in Osaka which is somewhat of a tourist attraction these days! The beautifully presented tour guides explain each element in detail and allocate time for taking photos. There are some parts of the tour where photos are not allowed, which they inform you of. The tour is in Japanese, but the whole tour is quite visual so I would not say it is essential to completely understand the language. (Japanese is required to book the tour).  After the museum tour you move onto the factory element, where they show you two different line productions of Glico products. Following that you are led to the gaming room, where pairs sit at a table with buzzers of different colours representing different answers in an a, b or c type interactive game. The kids really loved that.

After the interactive quiz the free part of the tour is over. You can, however, pay 500 yen per person to enjoy decorating your own giant Pocky. It is important to note that on a very busy day they limit the number of people who can do the make-your-own-Pocky. It is decided at the very start of the tour who gets to do it.  They prioritise primary school students in higher grades. We were very lucky that our 5, 4 and 2 year old were able to participate on the day we went. They absolutely loved decorating their own giant-sized Pocky and it was definitely the highlight of the morning for them.  You are given a box to place your Pocky to take home and a bag of goodies with Glico products and inflatable Pocky (picture below Pocky Ad)!

You can buy giant Pocky on Amazon. This is an Amazon affiliate link, which means if you buy Pocky through this link I will get a (very very small) percentage of the purchase, which will be used to contribute to the cost of self-hosting. :-)
 

Glico Pia East Factory Tour Pocky (2)

The factory is less than an hour from Tokyo and thanks to the extension of the Ken-O expressway, the factory is very accessible from other prefectures in Kanto too.  It is just 2 kilometres from the Okegawa-Kano exit of the Ken-O expressway. By public transport you can take a 12 minute bus ride bound for Glico Pia East from Kitamoto Station on the JR Takasaki line.

 

INFORMATION

OPEN: Saturday to Thursday (closed on Fridays)

TOUR TIMES: 9.30, 11.00, 12.30, 14.00

BOOKING: 048-593-8811 or online:

URL: https://www.glico.com/jp/enjoy/experience/glicopiaeast

ADDRESS: 〒364-0013 Saitama Prefecture, Kitamoto, 中丸9丁目55

 

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

Easter in Saitama | Saitama Children’s zoo

Easter at Saitama Childrens zoo (4)My first Easter in Japan in 2001 the only place we could buy Easter eggs was on an American base. Last year, 2015, I could buy them in a local shop. This year they are even selling plastic eggs in the Daiso 100 yen shop. Like many of the Western holidays with marketing value, Japan has embraced the commercialism of Easter, without the customs and traditions. However, when my eldest was a baby, I happened upon one place with an Easter feel relatively close to us in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama. It became our custom to celebrate Easter there with the kids.

Peter Rabbit and Easter Egg

Saitama Children’s zoo has a Beatrix Potter museum, which you pay extra to view. However, beside it there is a small Peter Rabbit playground, which doesn’t cost extra. There isn’t much equipment in it, but the garden is nice and they have some Peter Rabbit statues and there is also a squirrel run. At Easter, they decorate the small play area with a basket of eggs in the treehouse slide and large Easter eggs beside the statues. With the rabbits and the eggs, and the baby chicks and rabbits you can visit nearby in the petting zoo, this became our favourite place to have Easter in our own way. The Peter Rabbit playground is kind of tucked out of view and with so much else to do in Saitama children’s zoo, it’s never really that busy. We’ve been able to have a few Easter egg hunts in that playground. The area isn’t too large and there are lots of places to hide eggs.Easter at Saitama Childrens Zoo (2)

In previous years, the children’s zoo actually had official egg hunts, and Peter Rabbit and friends popped in to help out. Unfortunately, they seem to have dropped that annual event in more recent years. There are some other places that usually host Easter events in Saitama, but they aren’t scheduled yet for 2016. I will add them to the calendar when the dates have been confirmed: http://insaitama.com/events/ . There are already events scheduled in many parts of Tokyo, a Google search in Japanese will bring them up, but Disneyland is probably still the best place to enjoy a more authentic type Easter holiday in the Kanto area.
Do you celebrate Easter? Where is your favourite place and what do you do?

Easter at Saitama Childrens zoo (3)INFORMATION

URL: http://www.parks.or.jp/sczoo/

PHONE: 0493-35-1234 

ADDRESS:  554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture 355-0065

HOURS: 9.30am to 5pm March to October, to 4.30pm from November 15th to February 10th. CLOSED ON MONDAYS 

COSTS:  Children free until primary school grade 1. Please see website for up-to-date costs.

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