Wai Wai Park @ Aeon | SAYAMA

In the food court of Aeon (formerly Carrefour) in Sayama they have a play area for children. If you haven’t been there in more than six months, you might remember a broken down excuse of a play center called Yu Kids Ai land. However, they reformed it last summer and re-opened it as Wai Wai Park on August 15th 2016.

It is very hard to believe that Wai Wai Park is part of Aeon Fantasy, the same company that brings you the incredible and top class child’s play center Kidzooona.  This branch of Wai Wai hasn’t got a patch on Kidzoona. And it is even smaller than the old Yu Kids Ai land, which when it was in its prime was actually a fairly decent play center. They just run it into the ground and in the last two to three years there was more broken play equipment than there was working ones. The new Wai Wai Park is up-to-date, functional, bright and colourful. It is just lacking equipment. Due to that, I really wouldn’t recommend it for a child older than three.

Basically it has: a balloon room, a ball pool, an inflated slide, merry-go-round swings, an electronic see-saw, turn tables and some make-believe toys. The latter is a few princess dresses, a kitchen and a tako-yaki cart. There are also a few other lose toys such as wooden cars, a pull along dog and a few other bit and pieces. The end. Yes, that is all they have. Instead of using the space that was there for the whole play center, they decided to use two thirds of it and use the other one third for coin operated rides and games for young children. So apart from there being less to play with, depending on what type of child you have, you could be facing tantrums when your kid wants to play with the coin operated machines even after playing in Wai Wai land. Thankfully, my youngest isn’t like that, but I would have had a hard time with one of my kids if they had been here at toddler age.  My youngest was also content just playing for the thirty minutes, which is the package, and didn’t mind leaving, but I think for some two year old children they might find the time too short.

Another thing that has changed, for the worse in my opinion, is you are no longer allowed sit outside and watch your child from the counter. It is hard to believe that just five short years ago, before it became dilapidated and well before Studio Cafe Zoo Adventure came along,  this was my go-to child center to get a break while the kids played. I could bring a Mr Donuts coffee and donut to the counter outside the play area and sit watching the kids play with a clear view. It was heavenly! Now you have to enter with them. I don’t mind that of course, you expect that in most places anyway, it is just that it is a shame this space no longer has that selling point.

I will be honest: I can’t figure out if this place is reasonably priced or not. It is 500 yen for 30 minutes, which at first sounded expensive to me considering the lack of equipment, especially in comparison to what you get for your money in other places. HOWEVER, you don’t have to pay for an adult. So essentially it was 500 yen for both of us.  In that way, I think it is probably fair and there is a lot worse ways you could spend your money, afore mentioned demon coin machines for one, where 500 yen lasts you 5 minutes. And therefore it is probably worth the 500 yen for a visit every now and then. Do be careful though: they don’t tell you when your time is up and if you go over your time they charge you a 100 yen for every additional 10 minutes.

Address: 1126-1 Kamiokutomi, Sayama-shi, Saitama-ken 350-1333

Phone: 070-3100-4537

URL: http://www.fantasy.co.jp/brand/kanto.html#saitama
For the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the area of Sayama may very well be a pre-games training camp host for RUGBY. The training camp grounds on offer are at Secom Rugby Field very near this play center and mall.

At the time of writing this, Google Maps still hasn’t updated the center to the new name and contact information, but the location is right:

 

Nearby Attractions:

 

Best of Saitama: Chikozan Park | SAYAMA

Multi-purpose park with Campsite, BBQ, Zoo, Fishing, Sport facilities, Athletic Playground, Multi-use Playground, Beautiful Flora and Fauna. Chikozan Park in Sayama is close to the controversial pr…

Source: insaitama.com/chikozan-park-sayama-saitama-best/

Cats Eye Play and Sports Centre | SAYAMA

Cats Eye play and sports centre is very like Spocha in Round 1, just not as classy or clean, and the limited number of staff leave a lot to be desired. There is a smell of stale smoke in the areas …

Source: insaitama.com/cats-eye-play-and-sports-centre-sayama/

Hatsuneya Garden Cafe【from Google Maps & City-Cost Reviews】 | KAWAGOE

Online Reviews of HATSUNEYA GARDEN CAFE written by yours truly! Sophisticated café suited to a date, a coffee with friends or some tranquil and relaxing alone time.

Local Guide Review on Google Maps:

​https://goo.gl/maps/nV8biizLBeu

And from City-Cost.com:

Chic cafe: A bit of piece and quiet in bustling Kawagoe

One hundred and fifty eight year old Hatsuneya Garden is best known to locals as a wedding hall, but it has a cafe and restaurant also. Both the cafe and restaurant only opened in recent years. The restaurant and the gardens are off limit to the public when there is a wedding on, but the coffee shop is open 7 days a week. You are free to enjoy the garden when there is no wedding on, but be warned – that is barely ever! I have yet to see the acclaimed gardens as every time I have been they have been in use by a private party.

What I like about most about this hidden gem off the main thoroughfare is that the surroundings are very tranquil. The cafe offers peace, serenity, comfort and chic. The menu is quite limited, but it is really only somewhere for a coffee and cake. They usually have about 3 or 4 desserts on offer. They only make a certain amount a day, so it is not uncommon for at least 1 choice to be sold out by early afternoon. The coffee is quite strong and most suited to regular coffee drinkers. They have tea and other beverages if coffee isn’t your thing. The other thing I really love about this cafe is its terrace. The views are particularly great, but there is a nice ambience. Smokers are welcome on the terrace, so if you want a smoke free indulgence I recommend sitting in the comfy seats indoors.

It opens from 11 am to 6 pm. There is parking for nine cars. It is approximately 6 minutes walk to the nearest bus stop. No wheelchair accessible entrance or toilets. Not ideal for children, but they don’t discourage them either.

Natural Cafe Sora | YOSHIMI

The standard of restaurants and cafes is so high in Japan, that it is hard to find a restaurant that makes a strong indelible impression on me. Often it is only the unforgivably bad or exceptionally good ones that stand out among the crowd. Today, I found one of the latter: I dare say it is my new FAVOURITE restaurant in the whole of Saitama.

I would love to give it the accolade of the best restaurant in Saitama, but, it is not perfect and there are a few notable things it is missing, which are mentioned below.  However, the positives far outweigh the negatives and the number of people there today, despite the VERY remote location, is sheer testament to the quality and service of this gem in rural Yoshimi.

Very Family and Child Friendly

Kids meal. The Curry dish on its own is available without pre-ordering, but if you want the set you need to order on the phone in advance. Photo courtesy of J. Tamura. Thank you very much JT <3

Natural Cafe Sora is divided into two parts. Downstairs the center area and the area on the right of the restaurant are dedicated to families and people with children. The left hand side and upstairs are allocated to singles or people with friends, maybe even some come on a date! The rooms upstairs can be booked for private gatherings. In the adult only side of the restaurant, divided from the family area by a wall with an indoor window, they have tables and counter seats. The counter along the window looks out into the garden.

The family area has two styles of seating; Western style with tables and chairs, and Japanese style low tables and you sit on the tatami floor. Both areas have tables that can be moved or removed, but generally speaking each area would fit three families. In the Western area they have high chairs and a high-lo chair for children and babies. In the Japanese area children can either sit on the floor or in bumbos.

They have a very nice children’s menu, but it requires booking. If you want one of their dishes with character faces you need to ring and book in advance. Without booking a child’s meal in advance the selection is a bit limited, but, unless you have allergies, you will find something on the menu for a child. You can also share what you are eating and they have an area with children’s bowls, plates, cups, spoons and forks that you can use freely.

The Japanese room is where the toys and books are, but you can bring toys to the table and play with them in the Western area. The selection is quite good and entertained my two year old for hours. There were older children there today too who were playing contently or reading what they had on offer. They also have handmade clothes, toys and trinkets for sale displayed in this area.  Outside they have a swing, tarzan rope, wooden stepping stones and small climbing unit with slide. The latter is suited to toddlers. There are also tricycles and push along rides that you can use freely.

Healthy fresh food

Most of the vegetables are farmed on the land. The lunch dishes come with a sizable portion of fresh colourful salad with at least 5 different types of vegetables. I had the burger dish today, which is a burger in a gratin dish with a great selection of vegetables covered in cheese and roasted. It was absolutely divine. You can choose to have rice or bread with your lunch dish. The bread came fresh out of the oven.  My youngest had the kid’s curry.  It is homemade with pumpkin, renkon, broccoli and carrots in the curry and it comes with sausages cut into animals.

 

The menu is in Japanese only, but when I mentioned to the staff that I hoped to come back with some English speaking friends, she said that if I booked she would make us up an English menu. ♥ To be honest, as they have photos in the menu and the staff are so patient and kind I told her it wouldn’t be necessary.

Kids meal that was booked in advance on the phone. Photo courtesy of J. Tamura. Thank you JT

One thing I should mention is that they do not fully cater to people with allergies. They are very helpful and accommodating though and are willing to accommodate some allergies, such as dairy or egg, but unfortunately not gluten intolerance. They did also say it is okay to bring food with you for a child who has allergies. The menu isn’t that extensive, but it is a nice selection. Lunch is served between 11 am and 2 pm, but there is some food you can get outside that period. They have a good selection of drinks too including 100% juice. You can just order a drink if you would prefer not to eat.

General Information

You take your shoes off in the porch and enter in your socks or bare feet. I didn’t notice any slippers, except in the bathroom where they have toilet slippers. The restroom area is very spacious with a toilet for men, one for women, a spare and a small toilet for children. The restaurant was very warm and had quite a cosy and comfortable feel to it. The decor is rustic with lots of natural wood and there is a very relaxed atmosphere.  They had some soft lullaby type music on in the background.

You can make reservations in advance, as late as the morning you wish to go too. The tatami room seems to be the most popular as that was fully booked out today. Although not entirely necessary, I do recommend that if you are going with children to book in advance and remember to book for the special children’s meals too.

There is seating outside that you can use all year round. The main section is on a dais and has a partial cover over it. There are also some benches and garden type furniture in the courtyard. The biggest thing the restaurant has going against it is that it is not wheelchair friendly. They do not have an entrance or a toilet for people with lower mobility or in wheelchairs.  Some of the tables outside could in theory be used by a person in a wheelchair, but the paving is a little uneven and so maybe not ideal. And the main seating area on the dais does not have a ramp up to it. On Google Maps somebody gave the restaurant only one star and I can’t help wondering, if this was the reason.

I do not know if there is any smoking allowed. I didn’t see any ashtrays outside and there was no smell of smoke in the restaurant.

Doll display up in Sora restaurant Yoshimi, for Girls Day on March 3rd

The restaurant really is in the middle of nowhere, but it is on a cycle course! There is no train line near it and the only landmark nearby is Yoshimi’s swan lake or a driving range. You drive up someone’s driveway to get to the restaurant and down a narrow road that turns into another driveway. You would be forgiven to think you have gone the wrong way! I did see a bus stop about a five minute walk away from the restaurant, but not a bus (or car for that matter!) in sight.

Opening hours: 11 am to 4 pm from Wednesday to Sunday, lunch is from 11 am to 2 pm.

Phone: 0493-54-5583

Address: 〒355-0156 Saitama-ken, Hiki-gun, Yoshimi-machi, Nagayatsu 759

URL: http://ameblo.jp/naturalcafe-sora/

Access by car

(Google Map at bottom of article).

  • 15 minutes drive from Tobu Tojo Line’s Higashimatsuyama station.
  • 20 minutes drive from JR Takasaki Line’s Konosu or Kumagaya stations.
  • 20 minutes drive from the Higashimatsuyama Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway.
  • 15 minutes drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-o expressway.

Free parking for about six cars right in front of the restaurant, plus an overflow car park for a further ten and three spots to the side of the restaurant for larger sized vehicles.

 

Natural Cafe Sora in rural Yoshimi is suited to all types of groups from individuals, to a group of friends, to families and maybe even a couple on a date! It is supposedly popular with cyclists and bikers. If you are a cyclist or biker or indeed you have a car and are within commutable distance, I really recommend it as a rest stop on a cycle or drive or for a nice family lunch or date with your kids 🙂

 

Other attractions in Yoshimi:

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

One of our first adventures this year, brought  us to the 100 caves of Yoshimi. The caves are tombs and there are actually 216 of them.  It was our first time to visit the caves and an attraction o…

Source: insaitama.com/100-caves-of-yoshimi-saitama/

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

When I first came to Japan it was as an exchange student with 6 of my friends from my University in Ireland. One of my friends famously said “If you’ve seen one temple, you’ve see…

Source: insaitama.com/iwamuro-kannon-yoshimi/

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

We hadn’t visited Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground for a while, so I was surprised to discover some of the kids’ favourite equipment in this park has been removed. They have put …

Source: insaitama.com/yoshimi-athletic-ground/

Flystation Japan opening soon | KOSHIGAYA

【Information Share】

A JAPAN FIRST in Koshigaya, Saitama.

The first ever flystation indoor skydiving center in Japan will open by the end of March 2017 in Koshigaya Saitama. Soon we will have the rare opportunity to experience flying without  jumping out of a plane! The center uses a vertical wind-tunnel for skydiving simulation of falling at about 200 kilometers per hour.

They provide all the necessary equipment such as suit and helmet and a trained instructor is in the room with you.  Children from four years of age are able to participate.  Prices are not yet known.

The center is being built within walking distance of Musashino line Koshigaya Laketown station.  They expect to have parking for about 40 cars. They will be open 9 am to 11 pm seven days a week.

URL: http://flystation.jp/
The featured photo for this post is from the official website.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flystationjp/

Other places of interest in Koshigaya:

URL UPDATED Shirakobato Water Park with Beach | KOSHIGAYA

Cafe Barbapapa @ Lake Town | KOSHIGAYA

 

Setsubun: catching beans for good luck at Kitain Temple | KAWAGOE

February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. People celebrate annually with traditional ceremonies in both homes and temples. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or bean throwing. A lot of families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple to do it with a crowd. Today, we did both.

When you carry out setsubun at home, the aim is to chase the ONI (ogres) away. It sounds like a metaphor for exorcism, but it is just a ritual to rid the house of evil and allow luck in for the coming year.  The oni represent evil and bad luck. We shout “Demons out, luck in” as we throw beans at an ogre, which is often the head of the household dressed up in traditional garb!  Most preschools and children community centers also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.  I’ve previously written about our experiences of chasing the demon away while celebrating Setsubun at home.

When celebrated at a temple,  temple staff and honoured guests throw beans into the crowds from a dais.  It is not unusual for the temples to also throw things other than beans. In some places they throw fortunes or amulets or money or a combination of these. Tokyo has some temples that are famous for sumo wrestlers and / or celebrities throwing money to the excited crowds. Most temples conduct rituals before the bean throwing ceremony.  Some temples also have a performance by Oni, Japanese ogres or demons. The oni in Japan usually have one or two horns and wear animal print shorts. They are most often depicted as being red, but the most famous setsubun festival in Kazo, Saitama has 3 oni; one red, one blue and one black. There are many temples that conduct setsubun and mamemaki ceremonies throughout Saitama. We went to one of the biggest; Kitain Temple in Kawagoe. This year was the kids first to participate in a ceremony of this type. They were dubious at first, but they quickly joined in on the commotion and were thrilled with their haul. They recounted the affair to their grandparents with great animation and excitement.

The video shows the dais. You can hear the emcee chanting. The last thing he says is "Fuku ha uchi" which invites luck and signifies the start of the bean throwing. I turned off the camera so I would have a chance to catch some of the goodies. :-)

One of the reasons I didn’t bring them to such a ceremony up until now was because I was worried that the crowds would be intimidating, even dangerous. However, I found today that people were quite careful of children for the most part, plus they made periodical announcements to watch out for small children.  We were able to secure a nice little spot right by the dais with a responsible crowd around us, during the bean throwing.  However, just before the ceremony ended the throwers accumulated on our end of the dais with huge boxes of goods (not beans) to throw, so there was a sudden surge in the crowd. That was a little frightening for my 2 year old, but she was okay in my arms. It was actually a wonderful feeling when there were dozens of little packets falling from the sky and enveloping us in a feeling of richness! However, the scramble to pick up the fallen packets was both surprising and amusing. The kind Ojiichan (older man) beside us suddenly became an oni himself as he whipped a packet from under my hand. Another stood on a packet so that my six year old couldn’t pick it up! The generous Obaachan (older woman) beside us who had passed us packets of beans was slipping unseen numbers of packets into her pockets and handbag. Despite those incidents we got a good hoard and the kindness of the Ojiichan and Obaachan returned as they complimented my kids on their stash and their devout participation. Much to my surprise I felt totally exhilarated after the whole experience.

    

Apart from the various ceremonies that were conducted there were other festivities to be enjoyed at Kitain today. They had some festival food stalls as well as some stalls selling flowers and plants, but what interested me most were the various stalls selling good luck charms, mainly Daruma and Manekineko. As we entered Kitain from the car park we stopped to look at the Daruma at the first stall. The very friendly, personable and informative owner told us many things about the goods he was selling. While we were there a man bought one of the giant daruma which would cost around 20,000 yen (approximately 200 Eur0). We were invited to join in the Sanbonjime to mark the occasion.  Sanbonjime is the custom of clapping your hands rhythmically 3 times for 3 claps and one final clap to signify fulfillment. They only do this type of Tejime (ceremonial rhythmic clapping) when they sell their biggest sized Daruma. Passersby stopped to observe and exclaim enthusiastically. It was a lovely thing to be invited to enjoy and I think we may have received some good karma from it!

I have always enjoyed Setsubun as much for what it represents as the fun and vivaciousness of the celebration.  Now that the kids are old enough to enjoy the bean throwing ceremonies at temples, it just adds to the whole experience.  It completes the day for them too, as the celebration in the house is over quite quickly. The preparation of the masks and the aftermath of thrown beans take exponentially longer than the bean throwing ceremony itself! The kids love making the masks, feasting on the ehomaki, the traditional sushi rolls or makizushi and throwing the beans and eating them. (They say that if you eat the same number of beans as your age you will have good health for the year. ) However, I think after today’s experience,  what they are most anticipating now is the bean throwing ceremony at Kitain Temple Kawagoe. 🙂

For more details on Kitain Temple including maps, access details and other seasonal information:
http://insaitama.com/autumn-leaves-at-edo-castle-remains-kitain-temple/


A fantastic detailed and informative video about Setsubun in CHICHIBU SHRINE:

 

Place Review: 3D latte Art Café Chocotea | SAKADO

Stylish café, Warm ambiance, Delicious food and 3D Latte art…

This is a more detailed version of the review of Cafe Chocotea I originally wrote for city-cost.com.

Everything about my experience at Café Chocotea today was positive and gratifying. From the minute I walked in, I got a really good vibe about the place. The decor is bright cozy rustic, the space is colourful and comfortable, the menu is very well thought out and appetising, the selection of coffee and drinks is impressive. The 3D latte art is worth every yenny.

The staff are very welcoming and the barista speaks perfect English. There are 3 menus, which take a little time to read, but the server will explain anything you are not sure about. You can order individual dishes of food, or opt for a lunch set, or just have a coffee or one of their famous 3D lattes. The lunch sets are a panini or an open sandwich with a choice of add-on sides. The scones are as good as at home in Ireland. The food is really good quality and healthy. They have a good choice of drinks. The 3D art takes about 20 minutes to make, but you get a service drink while you are waiting. The barista only makes a limited number of 3D latte art a day and usually restricts it to one per table. The other latte art, that is not 3D, has no restrictions. The soft drinks are served in larger glasses much like a fish bowl!

We got the table near the door which sits four, in 2 very comfortable leather 2 seater sofas. There are 2 two-seater tables beside that. All 3 of these seats have low tables and sitting room type chairs or sofas.  Up a step there is a large table which sits about six. They have a high chair for a baby / toddler in this section. They also have a workbench area for kids. If you have a child with you, they will provide children’s cutlery and crockery when you order food. The place is small, but very relaxed and quiet.  It is a good place to relax over a coffee and a book, but it also a nice place to enjoy a break with your child in tow. They have a selection of books and magazines for patrons to borrow, including some children’s books.

Added in February 2017
On a subsequent visit for a playgroup meeting there were 4 adults and 4 children. The owner was very accommodating to our various needs. We were able to relax and there was no pressure to leave the table. We were there for about three hours. I was very impressed with the level of service and kindness of the staff.

Stairs outside, beside car park, to toilet

The café is not wheelchair friendly and the toilet is outside and up a steep stairs, with no changing mat, but other than that there is nothing else you can fault about this local gem.

 

Access

The nearest station is Tobu Tojo Line’s Sakado station. It is about an 8 minute walk. Kita-Sakado station is also relatively close. It is about a 15 minute walk.

By car it is approximately 7 minutes from the Tsurugashima exit of the Kanetsu Expressway. There is free parking out the back of the café, down a narrow alley.

Original on City-Cost.com

Review – Café Chocotea in Japan. Everything about my experience at Café Chocotea today was positive and gratifying. From the minute I walked in, I got a really good vibe about the place. The d

Source: Place Review: Café Chocotea, Sakado-shi, Saitama | City-Cost