All posts by L M N

Katsusehara Memorial Park: enclosed playground close to station | FUJIMI

Katsusehara Memorial park in Fujimi is a great park for hanami (cherry blossom picnic) and play dates with toddlers. It was one of my favourite parks for meeting my own friends for a good chat when all four of my kids were under six. The main reason is that the playground is enclosed by a colourful fence with heavy gates. The heavy gates afford an added safety for small children and allow adults to chat in peace without having to worry about children running off. It is a small park too, so you can keep an eye on children easier than in a large park.

There isn’t a lot in the playground, but just enough for smaller children. It is best suited to toddlers and preschoolers. Equipment in Katsusehara memorial park includes spring rides and a climbing/slide combo piece. There is a sandpit too, which is a big hit. There are sinks beside the sandpit to wash your hands and it also doubles as a drinking fountain with a sprout at the top of the basin. In a separate area of the small park there is a flying fox which is popular with older children. Beside that is a roller slide which is also popular with older children, younger ones too. There is a large open space in the park, which is in the middle of a residential area, which is always in use for football, soccer, throwing ball etc. The park is very well maintained and it is a popular place to picnic.

It is also a popular park for locals to celebrate cherry blossom season and enjoy “hanami”. We too enjoyed many a hanami here, with our last ever at that park in spring of 2016, as my eldest has now outgrown this park. It is a particularly good spot for hanami if you are on the Tobu Tojo line and have small children. There aren’t a huge amount of sakura (cherry blossom) trees, but enough to enjoy hanami and they are very pretty, some more mature than others. They typically bloom the very end of March and early April. Katsusehara Memorial Park is beside a cheap supermarket which sells bento boxes and onigiri which you can bring to the park and eat.

 

There is no official parking, some people park along the side of the road, but this is frowned upon. There is coin parking nearby. It is close to Tobu Tojo Line Fujimino station. It is open 24 hours. There are toilets in the park, right beside the enclosed playground.

A map of Sakura Cherry Blossom Locations | SAITAMA

A map of most of the key locations for hanami and / or sakura cherry blossom viewing in the Saitama area. Please click on the location for further information. If you have a blog post or photo of any location on the map (or indeed any location not on the map but in Saitama) that you would like added, please do feel free to contact me. I will add your photo and / or post and link it back to your website or blog. Also, if there is somewhere you feel should be added to this map and you are willing to share its location, please do leave a comment or contact me directly.

All the best for this beautiful spring and sakura season. 🙂

A cheap coffee and play date at McCafe and PlayLand | KAWAGOE

Last week the Kawagoe Kinome branch of McDonalds re-opened as a much better, classier, family friendly branch of McDonalds. The new branch has a McCafé by Barista and a Playland, McDonald’s hallmark free children’s play area.


The free children’s play area is in an enclosed sound proof family room on the 2nd floor, that has low tables with soft chairs for children as well as regular tables and chairs. There is an elevator to the 2nd floor so you can bring your stroller with you easily. The play area is small, basically climbing and a slide, but for an irregular visit it would provide entertainment for children aged between one and eight years old. They do request that only children in lower grades of elementary school and younger use this play area. The space is free to use if you have purchased food or drink from either the McDonalds or the McCafe.

The McCafe area is on the first floor beside the regular McDonalds. It has a good selection of hot drinks and doughnuts. You can bring your coffee and / or snack upstairs. Their selection is reasonably priced.

There are other services of interest in this branch also, such as free wifi and ports for charging devices. I also like that it is completely smoke free, even the car park. There is a smart drive through, as well as parking for about 20 cars. This branch is conveniently located on route 254 close to Kamifukuoka and minutes drive to Minami Furuya Station.


According to the McDonalds directory for Saitama, this branch is the only one with both a McCafe and a playland. There are other plenty other branches that have either a McCafe or a playland. There are quite a few Playland branches in Saitama including locations such as Ageo, Shiki, Tokorozawa, Kawaguchi, Koshigaya, Kumagaya, Honjo, Iwatsuki, Moroyama, Konosu, Ogawa and quite a few in Saitama City.  More about their playlands: http://www.mcdonalds.co.jp/family/playland/

Watching Sumo Practice | TOKYO

I have a number of guests coming to visit over the next couple of months. I usually travel to Tokyo with guests and / or to meet friends visiting from overseas. With next month’s visitors I will do the usual Asakusa trail, but this time I wanted to add on a trip to some Sumo stables, so I have been researching which would be best for our plans. I fixed on one in Oshiage. I wanted to share the information as I know many people are interested in finding some where that they can watch sumo wrestlers in training when there isn’t a tournament on.*

I have not been to this type of sumo stable yet, but when I worked in the Ibaraki Board of Education, I had the pleasure of visiting a Agricultural High School with a sumo club.  I was very blessed to have the pleasure of touring many parts of this high school, but the highlight was watching the students of the sumo club in training and practice.  The school is only one of a handful that have such a club. It is not possible for lay people to visit this club without a connection to the school and so I assumed it was the same for the stables in Tokyo. However, I was wrong and in recent years it has become very popular to watch sumo wrestlers training hard during practice.

For my upcoming tours, I have decided on Azumazeki stable in Oshiage as it fits nicely with a day tour of Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree. The stable is run by former wrestler Ushiomaru.  The sumo wrestlers train everyday there is not a tournament, and in the morning between 7 am and 10.30 am they open up the stables for public viewing. If their is a tournament somewhere outside of Tokyo the stables will not be open to the public on the days of those tournaments.  It is free and no reservation is required, however, if you have a group, they request you ring in advance.

They have three principle conditions and some other guidelines to entering the stable: ① you must wear a face mask, ② you must not talk and ③ no flash photography is allowed. And I should mention as it might not be obvious to visitors from outside of Japan: you are not allowed enter the ring nor stand on the markers of the ring. They also request that you turn off your phone and that you don’t bring food or drink into the stable. They do not discourage children, but as they have a rule of no sound, they request you are respectful of that. Finally, they request that you do not drive to the stables as they do not have a parking lot and as it would cause an inconvenience to neighbours.

 

From greenshinto.com

At the end of practice they plant what is called a “gohei”. A gohei is a small wooden staff with the white shinto paper adorning it. In the sumo stable they plant it in a pile of sand in the middle of the ring. They then sprinkle the ring and gohei with salt. This custom is carried out to purify the ring, but also to pray for the safety of the sumo wrestlers.

Information

Address: 4-6-4 Higashikomagata, Sumida, Ward, Tokyo

Phone: 03-3625-0033

Hours: 7 am to 10.30 am

Fee: FREE

Language: JAPANESE ONLY

Other stables: There are about another 40 or so stables you can visit in the area, but a lot of them require that you ring in advance. Arashio Stable does not require you ring in advance and they have an English webpage. However, they no longer allow people inside to watch; you have to watch through windows from outside.

Access

4 minute walk from Honjo-Azumabashi Station on  the Toei Asakusa Line.

11 minute walk from exit B2 of the Oshiage Station.

*If you are planning a trip to Japan in the hope of seeing a Sumo Tournament,  please note that Sumo Tournaments only happen during odd months, i.e the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 11 months of the year. The January, May and September tournaments are in Tokyo. The March tournament is in Osaka, the July tournament is in Aichi and the November tournament is in Fukuoka.

**Featured image is from Azumazeki Beya Stable’s Facebook page**

 

Saitama Snaps Showcase: “An Earthly Paradise” |CHICHIBU

Source ST Planner Yahoo Blog

Source: http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/stplanners/39944521.html

I am trying a new section on the blog to showcase beautiful areas of Saitama, that I just haven’t had and won’t have the time to visit in the near future. One of the places at the top of my “must visit at the end of March” list is Ouchizawa Hanamono No Sato, nicknamed by locals as “An earthly paradise”. It is famous within Saitama for the beautiful pink buds of the flower peaches, visible from end of March to early April.

The Saitama Prefectural Department of Industy and labor, Tourism Division, shared information last year. It includes information about other flora and fauna in the area too:

Information:

Location: Ouchizawa, Higashi Chichibu, Chichibu District

Expected viewing season: late March ~ early April

Number of blooms: About 5000

Access by public transport: Eagle Bus from either Ogawamachi Station or Yorii Station

Access by car: About 30 minutes from the Ranzan Ogawa Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway. Parking is free and there are about 30 spots.

Places to bring children to visit animals in Tokyo | GREATER TOKYO AREA

2017 version.
This is a master list of the zoos, farms, aquariums and other places with animals in the Tokyo area that are suited to children. You will also find a handful of locations that are actually outside Tokyo, but considered part of the Greater Tokyo area and renowned as places worth commuting to from Tokyo. This list is suited as a guide to both families living here and those traveling to Japan for a holiday. Each location is linked to either their official website or a webpage with further information. All locations are mapped on a Google My Map at the bottom of the article.

Zoos, Farms & Animal related

Animal Cafe

Aquariums

Sayama Municipal Museum and Kome To Cha Cafe | SAYAMA

View of Sayama Inariyama Park from Sayama Municipal museum

Sayama Municipal Museum, Saitama, is a city museum in Sayama Inari Yama Park on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.  They tend to host a lot of travelling exhibits suitable or designed for children. They have just closed the very excellent pop-up book exhibit and tomorrow the “Heros” exhibit will open. The Fairytales of Andersen will run concurrently for the first three weeks. In the past they have had a number of very successful and popular exhibits for children including a Licca Doll exhibit and a Cardboard Art and play exhibit.

Winding ramp to second floor from 1st floor circular hall

The ground floor circular hall is where they hold most of their travelling exhibits. You can walk up to the second floor from this hall up a winding ramp that circumferences the hall. On the 2nd floor they have a room with their permanent displays. They have an Akebono Elephant (Stegodon aurorae) bones on display in this section. These elephant fossils are said to be between 2 and 1.2 million years old. There are also displays depicting ancient Japan, including a replica of a Jomon period house. They have a tatami tea room in the museum too.

You can collect the museum’s seal for a Stamp rally or a keepsake

The museum is free in for children under 15 years old. High school and university students cost 100 yen and all other adults cost 150 yen. They often have flyers in the lobby with a discount ticket: 60 yen for students over fifteen years old and a 100 yen for adults. Like most of Saitama’s municipal or prefectural buildings, this museum has a museum seal that the kids can stamp onto the back of the museum’s brochure in the allocated space, or on to any piece of paper. This museum often participates in seasonal “stamp rally” run by the prefecture, whereby you collect the seal of a number of different participating bodies in return for a small prize. The museum is buggy / pushchair friendly and they have toilets. There is also a cafe beside the museum called Kome To Cha.

Kome To Cha Café / Restaurant

Kids Lunch at Kome to Cha

The café and restaurant is located beside the entrance to the museum. It is accessible from within the museum, but it also has its own door and an entrance from the park side too. The restaurant changed its name last year from Komorei to Kome To Cha, but it is still called the former by many.

Kakikori at Kome to Cha

The cafe is not particularly big, but it is comfortable and my favourite feature is the large floor to ceiling windows which afford a lovely view of the park. Most of the tables are positioned in such a way that they have a view of the park. Probably their most popular item is the kaki-kori, a typed of shaved ice dessert flavoured with syrup. They have ice-cream too. Their menu is quite limited, but I thought the food was rather nice. They have children’s meals too. They are a little on the small side, but easy for children to manage. The rice was served as rectangle shaped origami with nori on the underside and furikake sprinkled on top. I think the kids meals are best suited to younger children or children that don’t have a great appetite. My preschoolers and toddler really enjoyed their meals.

Opening hours:

The museum is open Tuesday to Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm. It is closed on Mondays.  Cafe / restaurant Kome To Cha is open from 10 am to 4.45 pm, Tuesday to Sundays. Closed Mondays and the fourth Friday of the month.

Address:

23-1 Inariyama, Sayama, Saitama

Access:

The museum is a 3 minute walk from the Inariyama kouen station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line or you can get a bus from the west exit of the Seibu Shinjuku Line Sayama City Station to Inariyama koen.

It is about a 15 minute from the Sayama Interchange of the Ken-o expressway or 20 minutes from the Kawagoe Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway.  The museum and the restaurant share parking and it is free. Spaces are quite limited in the car park beside the museum, so it is not uncommon to have to wait for a parking space to come free.  However, you can also use the park’s car park and walk over.

Phone:

For both museum and cafe: 04-2955-3804

URL:

sayama-city-museum.com

**Featured image is from the Cardboard Art Exhibit from 2014

In the area:

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/

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 pl…

Source: insaitama.com/wai-wai-park-aeon-sayama/

Aruzo Land: Free play center in a Real Estate Agency | HIGASHIMATSUYAMA

It was certainly a first for me to discover a free play center in a Real Estate Agency. Sure, lots of real estate agencies (plus car sales showrooms, dentists, phone shops…you name it), have play areas in Japan. But this is a full on PLAY CENTER, not just a play area. Please scroll down the bottom for information about the Real Estate Agency Matsubori.**

After reading about Aruzo Land online, I went to check it out with my youngest today. I chose today when my eldest was at primary school, as one of the stipulations of use is that children of school going age (over six years old) can’t use the play area. I wasn’t sure what to expect, the photos look great but sometimes photos can be misleading. Thankfully, they weren’t, nor were the raving reviews the play center gets online. I figured if something is too good to be true, it probably is, but I was wrong. I had fully expected to have to give my contact details and receive Aruzo  Net Real Estate information in the post or via email, in exchange for free access to a play center. But thankfully there is none of that. It is what it is; a play center that is entirely free to use with no strings attached.

The space is on the 2nd floor of the Matsubori Retail Agency. I went in the wrong door by mistake and the staff were very friendly and kind. One of them explained to me that it was the next door and up the stairs; she even escorted me all the way and told us to “have a nice time”. The man in the office beside the center was as equally nice and told us to “take your time and enjoy” and waved us in. You don’t have to write your name like you do in a jidokan (community play center), you just walk on in freely. You do need to take your shoes off beside the mats that mark the start of the play area.

The space is really large, open and airy. As you come in the front door there is a large air trampoline. Beside it on matted flooring there are three zorbs and large shapes for playing and / or building. To the left of this area is a spacious play room with a large play kitchen, a play shop, a kids sitting area, a beaded maze, a wooden car, a wooden train play table, a drawing table, books / magazines collection, small trampolines, a rocking horse, a variety of building toys and a wall of cogs. It is a very comfortable space and lots of room for kids to run around. The ceiling is even painted like the sky. There is a “high-lo” chair you can borrow for babies. It is in the hallway outside the play space where there is also a bench and vending machine. If you want to eat or drink this is where you do it as you can do neither in the play center. There are toilets and a nappy changing unit off this hallway.

I have mentioned that children over six can’t enter the play center and that you can’t eat in the center, but there are also two other rules or stipulations you must follow in using this center. One is that on busy days you only stay an hour so that other families can also have an opportunity to use this space. The other is that if you accidentally come to visit on a day that the center is closed and have paid to park in the coin parking that they will not reimburse your money. Both very fair rules really in my humble opinion.

I was torn between giving this play center four or five stars, but in fairness given that it is FREE and provided with no strings attached the company really do deserve the five stars. I know that it is genius marketing, but still – to provide an area with a such a decent FREE play center with no expectations from its users says a lot of good about this company. And the staff definitely reinforce this positive image. Also there is free wifi. So thank you Aruzo Net! However, why I contemplated taking a star away is twofold.  One, I do think children up until 8 years old would really enjoy this play center for a short play, and it is a pity that the cut off is 6 years old. Of course, I am thinking of my own family situation, but I genuinely think that children of 7 and 8 years old could play here happily for an hour and without being a danger to other children.  Two, if you come by car you have to use coin parking that costs 100 yen for 40 minutes, so essentially it is not entirely free. However,  I personally do not think this is a lot of money and I feel it is totally worth it. For me an hour and 20 minutes play for 3 children and myself works out at a very cheap 200 yen total.

Opening hours

The center is available Thursdays to Tuesdays, from 10 am to 4 pm. It is closed every Wednesday. They close another couple of days a month too. You will have to check online or ring in advance to find out when. For this month the dates of closure are Thursday the 16th of March and Saturday the 25th of March (2017).

Access

The Higashimatsuyama branch of Aruzo is located close to Tobu Tojo Line Higashimatsuyama Station. It is about an eight minute walk.

Edited to add: on a subsequent visit I noticed there is an elevator in the front lobby on the left hand side. I also noticed that some people had parked their buggies in the lobby and others parked their strollers in the entrance area of the play center.

MAP AT VERY BOTTOM OF ARTICLE.

Play Center URL: http://www.aruzo-navi.net/aruzoland/top.html

Phone number: 0493-81-3112


Aruzo Net / Matsubori Real Estate

Aruzo Net are a Real Estate Agency renting / letting apartments in Saitama with branches on the TOBU TOJO Line, TOBU OGOSE Line and TAKASAKI line.

Aruzo Land is in Higashimatsuyama and this branch has a Portuguese (for Brazilians) language page:
http://www.aruzo-navi.net/portugues/pt_top.html

This branch also has a Chinese language page:
http://www.aruzo-navi.net/chinese/chn_top.html

On the Tobu Tojo Line they have branches in Kawagoe, Kawagoe City, Kasumigaseki, Tsurugashima, Wakaba, Sakado, Kita-sakado, Takasaka, Higashimatsuyama, Shinrin Koen, Tsukinowa, Musashi Ranzan and Ogawamachi. On the Tobu Ogose Line they have offices in Ipponmatsu, Nishi-oya, Kawakado, Bushu Nagase, Higashi-moro, Bushu-karasawa and Ogose. On the Takasaki line they have branches in Omiya, Miyahara, Ageo, Kita-Ageo, Okegawa, Kitamoto, Konosu, Kita-konosu, Fukiage, Gyoda and Kumagaya. I can’t vouch for the condition of the apartments they rent or the value for money or anything to do with their Retail Agency, BUT I can say from the experience I have had with their staff in Higashi matsuyama and the cleanliness of the branch there, that it is a company I would consider should I ever find myself in need of a renting a property.

Their real estate website is: http://www.aruzo-navi.net/index.html

**I have no affiliation to this play center, Matsubori Real Estate Agency or its online sites, nor do I receive anything in return for this review. These are my personal honest opinions.

 

Must visit shop and foot spa cafe “Tsubaki No Kura” | KAWAGOE




Tsubaki no Kura is a Kura Dai-kukan (Traditional Japanese storehouse space) that has been transformed into a shop that sells Japanese condiments, souvenirs, textiles, sake, Power stones, shrine goods and has a FOOT SPA CAFE and displays art. It is one of my personal favourite spots in Kawagoe and always a stop off when I am bringing people on guided tours of the area.   I also like to stop into the cafe, detailed below the shop guide, even when I am on my own to bathe my feet as I enjoy a quiet drink.

This storehouse has one of the tallest heights of the Japanese warehouses in Kawagoe at nine meters high. You feel the impact as you enter the store where the front section is the original storehouse height. To add to the majesty there is some beautiful traditional Japanese art from Mr. Eiki Kimura on display in this front lobby area and you can see the red torii on the renovated second floor behind. Tsubaki no Kura is home to three unique stores and the reception for the outdoor foot spa cafe and zen garden.

Kura the Japanese for the traditional type Japanese warehouses. The tourist area of Kawagoe is famous for the amount of ancient warehouses they have. This particular warehouse is named after camellia “Tsubaki“.  It is a really unique, colourful and fun space to explore. The art, the indoor torii as well as a shinto tree add to the ambiance and colour.  There is such a mix of products and over hundred different types of souvenirs that you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring all the shop has to offer.

Tsubaki No Kura Shops

①Kaya sells a number of different type of modern Japanese souvenirs made from traditional Japanese textiles. The large textile banners you see in the shop with classic depictions of Japanese art by modern methods, are made by Kaya. They sell wash cloths, clothes, tapestry, purses, Japanese loincloths, rain covers, socks, even smart phone covers. And that is to name but a few of their original goods.

Official site: http://www.wa-kaya.jp/

Tsubaki Ya Shouten sells regional Japanese food stuff such as sauces and snacks. Both Kaya and Tsubaki Ya Shouten are on the first floor.

Iwakura is on the second floor. The shop is decorated with torii (red shrine gates) and there is a tree in the centre of a room presented like the sacred trees at shrines with white shinto paper adorning it. They also have a mini shrine and a place to tie fortunes, just like at a shrine. This floor sells power and precious stones as well as goods made from the same; mainly bracelets but some necklaces too. They have lacquered goods such as chopsticks and mirrors, small bags made in traditional Japanese fashion, and glass ware too.  There is a little theater down the back of the area with seats to watch educational videos.  There is  stairs from this seating area which leads to the back of the first floor where the reception for Tsubakiya is.

Official Site: http://www.iwakura-stone.jp/

 

 Tsubakiya Foot Spa Cafe

Tsubaki No Kura (11)

This is a great spot to take a break and “refresh”, as the Japanese say, while touring around Kawagoe. Enjoy a foot spa with your tea, coffee, soft drink or beer outside in a tranquil zen garden with beautiful Japanese parasols.  You can taste a speciality of Kawagoe, sweet potato, in the form of a light treat, or an original ginger ale made from kochi ginger. The beer is also the famous local Coedo beer.  They have cocktails too. The small cafe, seating only 8 people, is very popular so it is very common to queue to enjoy the experience and the view.

Average Price: from 400 yen for a beverage, from 680 yen for alcohol, from 350 yen for a snack

Tsubaki No Kura Contact and Hours

Phone Number: 049-227-7030

Official site (English available): http://tsubaki-kura.jp/

The main URL (above) has some English, but information in store and the websites for the individual shops within the warehouse are all in Japanese only.

Hours: 10 am to 7 pm on weekdays and until 8 pm on weekends

Tsubaki No Kura Access

This shop is on the main tourist strip and is serviced by tourist and public buses. There is no parking for the shop, but there are plenty of coin parking lots in Kawagoe.

Getting to Kawagoe from Tokyo / Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.
  • About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.
  • About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

From Kawagoe Station

If you are walking it takes about 20 minutes from Kawagoe Station and about 10 minutes from Hon-Kawagoe station. You can also take a bus:

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop BusKoedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease. More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

Niko Niko Garden Renewal Open in Festa | AGEO

Value Plaza Ageo is an old style department store and walking into it you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d gone through a time slip to the 1980s. It is a cold and stark building, both indoors and out. And first impressions would likely put you off. The same can be said of Festa (video arcade), where Niko Niko Garden is. All I can hope is that you won’t be turned off by the cheap and run down feel of the video arcade and walk to the back corner where the entrance to Niko Niko Garden is. You won’t regret it!

Niko Niko Garden was recently revamped and re-opened. It is a play / fun center for children from 0 to 8 years old. I was never in the old version, so I can’t comment on how much of an improvement there is, but I can say that the current play center is well worth a visit with small children. Not only do they have a decent selection of things to play with, it is also really good value. On a weekday you can play ALL day for 500 yen per child and 200 yen per adult.  On the weekend it is 800 yen per child and 200 yen per adult. There are very few places one adult and one child can play indoors all day (on the weekend) for just one note (1000 yen).  I use the term play for adults lightly: unlike nearby Spocha, there isn’t actually anything for adults to “play” with. However, there are things about Niko Niko Garden that will appeal to a parent or supervising adult…

The play area is all in one area, bar one corner you can see all of the play area from the seating area. The seating area has tables and zaibuton where you can chill while your kids play.  A lot of the play area is quite safe for anyone over two and is set up in such a way that a child can, in theory, play by themselves while you relax in the rest area. There is also one area that even a one year old can play with minimum supervision. In the seating area there is free coffee, tea and water you can help yourself to. You are allowed bring in your own food and eat it this area, but they don’t actually sell food. There is even a microwave so you can heat food. They do have a couple of vending machines: one with kids drinks, mainly anpanman juices. They are more reasonably priced than elsewhere at only 80 yen per juice. There is also a vending machine that sells soft drinks and  bottle / can coffee for about 130 yen per drink. There is a selection of magazines you can borrow in the seating area and they even have some free massage chairs for patron’s use. There is a TV on mute in this area.

Free lockers in rest area

For the kids they have:

  • a balloon room
  • 3 bouncy castles / inflated play area, 2 of which have climbing and slides
  • a large ball pool with a slide into it
  • a zorb
  • two play kitchen areas
  • play kitchen toys: food, crockery etc
  • two wooden table train sets
  • plarail
  • cars
  • kinetic sand corner
  • lego blocks
  • magnetic pieces for making ramps for balls to roll down
  • play houses
  • mechanical moving horses and zebras
  • push along rides
  • piano
  • toddler play stations
  • wooden bead mazes for toddlers

Apart from the play equipment and toys the fun center also organise a couple of events a day. Today they had an origami event where one of the staff taught the kids how to make various animals out of origami paper. You can join if you are interested and you don’t have to stay for the whole time, you can come and go as you please. The same goes for the fun center.

Information

System

You buy a ticket from a machine and then show it to a staff member at the desk. The machine has 4 options, only 3 of which are available on weekdays, as outlined in the costs below; the numbers circled ① to ④. At the counter you need to fill out a small form with your name and number and “agree” to their disclaimer. You are given a tag to wear around your neck that this card is placed into. The entry cover charge is for the whole day, but you can come and go as often or as little as you want.  When you leave the play center to take a break, but plan to go back in, you leave that name tag in a basket at the counter. You pick it up again when you are returning to the play center. When you are leaving for the day you hand the neck tag back to the reception desk.

After the counter you can open the little gate to go into the center. You take your shoes off here and put them in a shoe box. If you have a buggy / stroller with you, you leave it here. In the rest / sitting area there are free lockers you can use to store your valuables. They have no toilets in the facility so you do need to leave if you want to use the toilets. The nearest are beside the elevator in Value Plaza. There is one changing mat in the play center for babies and toddlers. If you didn’t bring lunch with you, you can either go out to eat or buy food in Value Plaza (or go further afield if you prefer) and bring it in to eat. There is a food court in Value Plaza and it is near the fun center.  It has a First Kitchen, a curry shop and a couple of other stores including one of only five Dipper Dan in Saitama! First Kitchen currently have a “one coin” lunch; a burger, chips and drink set for just 500 yen. They have a kids menu too and it comes with a “free” toy that kids pick from a (small) selection.

Hours and Cost

Niko Niko Garden is open seven days a week from 10 am to 7.30 pm. Last entry is 7 pm. Apart from the excellent value “free time” passes you can also pay for a ①twenty minute slot which costs 300 yen per child on weekdays or weekends. As per above, the ②free time passes are 500 yen per child on weekdays and 800 yen on weekends. On the weekends they have an ③additional package for one hour for 500 yen per child. ④For adults it is always 200 yen per adult, no matter what package you go for.

 

Access

Value Plaza is in the South East area of Ageo, off Route 51 and Nakasendo, on the border of the Omiya area in Kita-Ku, Saitama City.  The nearest landmark is Ageo Sports Park.  Niko Niko Garden isn’t on maps, but you should find Value Plaza no problem. It is on route 164, literally along the Takasaki Line train tracks. However, there isn’t actually a train station nearby. The nearest station is Ageo Station which is a good 25 minute walk away.

Phone: 048-772-7888

Address: 〒362-0034, 3 Chome-1 Atago, Ageo-shi, Saitama-ken 362-0034

Webpage: no official site, the site for Festa is: festa-web.com