Category Archives: MUSEUMS & EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES

A fun and educational summer drive | Higashimatsuyama Hatoyama

This morning after a sudden change of plans, I decided it was time we check out one place on the summer wishlist: the JAXA earth observation centre. As we departed the house I had planned to just go to JAXA, but when the three girls (5, 3 and 1 years old) weren’t too enamoured with my choice, I improvised a day trip. The result, a pretty amazing summer drive with lots of fun for all, and educational to boot. Another bonus; it was pretty much free – the only cost (other than transport and food) was the parking and entry fee to the zoo. I adapted our actual route for this blog post, to make it more time savvy.

A. Start

Sakado Nishi Smart Interchange

↓11 minutes

B. Peace Museum of Saitama

Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama
Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama

I’ve known that the Peace Museum is there ever since I moved here, but I never made an effort to go see it. To be honest, it sounded boring. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find it is far from boring and a really fun place for kids set in beautiful surroundings. The main exhibit hall boasts a recreated school house and world war II bunker.  You can walk into both. They have traditional toys, colouring and the all important stamp rally in the reception area. They have a great observation tower too. They host events and show movies during summer vacation.

Hours: 9 am to 4.30 pm. Closed every Monday
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.saitama-peacemuseum.jp/publics/index/29/

↓10 minutes

C.  Jaxa Earth Observation Centre

Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Drive day trip higashi matsuyama hatoyama
Learning about countries with this interactive exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have preschoolers, I recommend skipping this point of interest, or just planning a half hour maximum at this location. I found it very interesting and my almost 7 year old enjoyed a couple of the exhibits, but it is best suited to older children. They have some interactive exhibits and plenty of visual exhibits. Some of the educational video clips have English subtitles and there are some bilingual brochures, but this JAXA is most suited to proficient Japanese speakers. You need to pull into the reception office as you enter the gate to sign in to the premises.


Hours:
10 am to 4.30 pm
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://global.jaxa.jp/about/centers/eoc/

↓9 minutes

D. Monomiyama Viewpoint

A steep climb up many steps is rewarded with amazing panoramic views. There is a park you can access from this point, or from the Peace Museum, but in summer it is just too hot. The free parking is shared with Shoboji Temple (Iwadono Kannon) on the Shoboji Temple side, so you don’t have to cross over the road if driving from Jaxa Earth Observation Centre.

Hours: The viewpoint is open 24 hours
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL:  http://www.higashimatsuyama-kanko.com/english/03.pdf

E. Shoboji Temple aka Iwadono Kannon

Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform
Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform

You walk through a cool tunnel to get to this hidden temple with the most amazing Gingko tree I have ever seen.  I did not know before I went that it is an acclaimed power spot, but I definitely sensed an atmosphere. There are great views from the bell platform of the temple. There are a couple of swings and some horizontal bars for kids to play with.

Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm in the summer, 8.30 am to 4 pm in the winter.
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.bandou.gr.jp/temple/saitama.php

↓6 minutes

F. Saitama Children’s Zoo

Splash pool at Saitama's Prefectural Children's zoo
Splash pool at Saitama’s Prefectural Children’s zoo

During the summer, the children’s zoo tends to be a degree or two cooler than surrounding areas, especially on a breezy day. Plus it has a great splash pool that the kids can cool down in. During the month of August they have a Night Zoo on 6 different dates, you can get that information here: CLICK HERE FOR SAITAMA EVENT LIST  For more general information please see the entry on this blog: Saitama Children’s Zoo

Hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm. Closed on Mondays except for national holidays
Charge: Adults 510 yen, Primary and Junior High school children 210 yen, Preschoolers and below FREE, Parking 600 yen for the day
URL: on this blog – Saitama Children’s Zoo
O
ffical (Japanese only): http://www.parks.or.jp/sczoo/

↓??

HOME with tired, but satisfied kids. 🙂

 

One thing to note is that there isn’t much in the way of food once you get into the mountain region. Therefore, if you are planning to do this drive or a variation of it, I recommend you bring a packed lunch / purchase something on the way or schedule to eat at the zoo.

Have you created or followed any Saitama day trip and / or drive routes you’d like to share? Input is always welcome. 🙂

 

Special Takara Tomy summer event in Yokohama

Takara Tomy 1
FROM THE TAKARA TOMY WEBSITE http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/event/eventlist2/tomica2015-yokohama.html

This August the special Takara Tomica event is back by popular demand. It is being held at Pacifico Yokohama again. Not only can you see how the factory operates, but the kids can make cars and play with plarail.

Dates: August 11th to 21st.

Cost: Tickets bought on the day cost 1000 yen for junior high school age children and adults, 800 yen for kids. Children under 2 are free. As part of a special summer campaign “Minato Yokohama Yukata festival “, if you are dressed in Yukata you receive a 100yen discount on the price.
Time: You can enter anytime between 10am and 4pm.
Place and access in English – http://www.pacifico.co.jp/english/index.html

(Last year there was a 100yen discount for tickets bought in advance. The PHONE # for booking was: 03-5435-0604. MOnday to Friday. Its not open yet for this year. I will update when it is. )

The event has not yet been added to the site : http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/

You can see last year’s details here:

http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/event/eventlist2/tomica2015-yokohama.html

In English : Special Takara Tomy summer event in Yokohama

Takara Tomy 2
FROM THE TAKARA TOMY WEBSITE http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/event/eventlist2/tomica2015-yokohama.html
Takara Tomy 3
FROM THE TAKARA TOMY WEBSITE

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

2015 Autumn Leaves at Edo Castle remains| Kitain Temple

On the grounds of Kitain Temple there is a very special building, which is home to some important national treasures. The house protects the only remains of the Edo Castle living quarters, which was once located at the site of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The rooms where moved from the Edo Castle on the order of Shogun Iemitsu, including the room he was born in.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the castle was later destroyed by natural disasters.

The building is a museum of sorts, and you have to pay to enter. The ticket also grants you access to the 500 statues of Rakan. A bonus to the museum building is that the gardens are absolutely magnificent, particularly in Autumn. You can’t enter the gardens, but you can enjoy the view from the terrace of the historic house.  With just a smart phone as a camera, you can’t quite see the beautiful red bridge, but in person the view is truly breathtaking.  Red bridges have always been synonmous with Japan for me, but it is actually quite rare to see one. If you are in Kawagoe in Autumn, I would recommend paying in to see the gardens and the imperial rooms of the Edo castle.

For those with children, there is a small playground on the temple grounds and lots of places for the children to explore. There is also rest areas, a toilet, vending machines, a little restaurant and a small shop. To the best of my knowledge none of the toilets have nappy changing facilities, but nobody has ever taken exception to me changing babies on a bench or in their buggy! Visitors from home always enjoy a trip to Kitain, particularly when the leaves have changed colour in the first or second week of November.

 

Kitain Temple is less than an hour from Tokyo. It is a 20 minute walk from Kawagoe Station on the Tobu Tojo Line or 15 minutes from the Seibu Shinjuku Line HonKawagoe Station. You can also get a local bus from either of these stations. By car it is 20 minutes from either the Kawagoe Interchange of the Kanetsu Expressway or from the Kawajima Interchange of the Metropolitan Intercity (Ken-O) Expressway. Parking is available at 500 yen for the day. Car park closes at 16.00.

Access from Kawagoe Station

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 Bus

Koedo 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

Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and 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.

Access by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.

For more information about Kitain Temple and all it has to offer:

In English: http://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/english/

In Japanese: http://www.kawagoe.com/kitain/

On this blog in English:

http://insaitama.com/cherry-blossom-festival-at-kitain-temple/

http://insaitama.com/autumn-leaves-at-kitain-temple-kawagoe/

Kitain New Year’s event: Daruma market on January 3rd. 

Kitain Temple Daruma Festival | KAWAGOE

Mount Takao – TAKAO 599 MUSEUM & TAKAO HOTSPRING

This week’s Tokyo Thursday introduces the very popular mountain area of Takao. The mountain draws thousands each weekend, due to the scenery, the hiking trails, the monkeys, the accessibility and its proximity to Tokyo. I recommend it as a top spot to witness some of the resplendent autumn scenery in the Tokyo area. It is also a good place to enjoy hiking in the Tokyo area.  However, whenever possible, I suggest you avoid visiting on the weekends as it gets incredibly busy.

If you’ve been to Mt Takao recently, you’ll know that the train station had a make-over earlier in the year, and that there are some new attractions at 599 metres. The 2 new facilities have been kept fairly low key, but they are a wonderful addition to the area. In August, the 599 museum opened. It is a beautiful modern, minimalist building, fresh with lots of natural light and airy spaces.  Apart from the wonderful exhibitions it has lots of other things to offer, including a very comfortable space in the 599 cafe. For me as a parent I am very grateful for the play space they created . The museum is only 4 minutes from Takaosanguchi station.They have a very detailed, very enjoyable, informative website completely in English, take a tour for yourself to see all it has to offer:

http://www.takao599museum.jp/?lang=en


The other addition to the area of Mt Takao has only just been opened this past week.  The Takaosanguchi Onsen (Hotsprings) are now open for business and are running a campaign this week to mark the opening. The first 500 visitors (before November 8th) will receive a special commemorative present. They also have a special menu for this opening week. The onsen is open daily from 8am to 11pm. The off season price is 1000 yen for adults and 500 yen for children between 4 and 12 years old. During “kouyou” autumn leaves, Golden Week and other holidays the price is 1,200 yen for adults and 600 yen for children. This onsen is also right beside Takaosanguchi station.

Just two more reasons to visit Mount Takao in Hachioji, Tokyo, this Autumn. Of course, not that Mt Takao needs anymore reasons, given the spectacular scenery that draws millions every year. For more and full detailed information in English on Mt Takao please see the Mt Takao official website:

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/

Featured image from SONY JAPAN

http://www.sony.jp/otona/4k/k201411.html

Access – information from the official Takao 599 Museum


Source: About the museum | TAKAO 599 MUSEUM

Some more images from the Takao 599 Museum official site

 

 

Source: About the museum | TAKAO 599 MUSEUM

 


Libro Books in Lalaport; a fun space for young kids | FUJIMI

 

I love the kids space in the Libro Books in Lalaport, Fujimi. It is bright and colourful, with a high ceiling made from mirrors. There is a little archway entrance on one side, only big enough for small kids. They have comfy stools for parents to use, while the kids play with the decent selection of toys they have out. They stock Bornelund and other educational toys of which there is a generous amount of samples out for the kids to play with freely. They also have many sample books including interactive books for the kids to play with and try out.

They have a great selection of children’s books, even translated foreign authors. They even stock translated versions of a children’s author from my home country, Ireland. You don’t see Chris Haughton’s children’s books in many other places. They have a good selection of interactive books; books with songs, music and aural stories or books with physical activities such as driving a car or scanning shopping cards. They also have a great selection of activity books with pull out origami or crafts.  The bad news is that all of their children’s books and activity books, even the ones by foreign authors, are in Japanese only. Some of the games they sell do come with English instructions. In the adult section they have a fair selection of magazines covering all genres. The travel magazine section isn’t as extensive as other book shops I frequent.

The shop is located on the first floor of Lalaport Fujimi. Parking is shared with Lalaport and is free. The nearest car parks are six and seven, but you have to come in from the 2nd floor and get an elevator or escalator down a floor. The staff are pleasant and helpful, but I don’t think they speak English.

URL: http://www.libro.jp/shop/saitama/fujimi.php

Hours: 10 am to 9 pm

Address: LaLaport Fujimi, 1 Chome-1313 Yamamuro, Fujimi-shi, Saitama-ken 354-8560

Phone: 049-275-1090

Saitama Museum of Rivers | YORII

Saitama Museum of Rivers is located in Yorii town. It is home to the largest water mill in Japan. It has a number of facilities available under the general admission price including their main educational hall where children can learn about rivers in general as well as river dams, transport,
trivia, the role of rivers through history and specific information about the rivers in Saitama.  You can also pay extra to enjoy the “waku waku land“, water adventure park, or watch a film in their adventure theater, which is a virtual simulated theater.

 

Music Splash Pad

General admission gives you access to the museum itself (including outdoor displays and some events), the small aquarium on the lower ground floor, wading and splash pools and a unique music pad that jets water as you play with your feet. The museum runs a number of events and interactive displays as well as housing a library. The workshop room in the main display area often has free crafts for the kids to enjoy.

In the aquarium the children are free to touch and hold turtles. The water in the splash pool is only 5 cm high so suitable for small children.  They are allowed enter with nappies / diapers.  The splash pools are open from the last week in March until mid- November. There is plenty of green space to rest or set up a picnic. They added a climbing wall in the area in front of the turtle aquarium this year. There is a shop and restaurant on the premises. There are changing cubicles and lockers beside the free splash pool.

General admission is reasonable at 410
yen per adult and 200 yen for children over the age of 15. Young children and teenagers up to 15 years old are free in.

WAKU WAKU LAND
For an additional charge you can enjoy the water adventure park for one hour.  About half the equipment is on water, but the kids don’t necessarily have to get wet, but I do recommend you bring a spare pair of clothes.  It  costs 210 yen per adult, 100 yen per child from 4 to 15 years old. Children under 4 years old are free.  The times are fixed. There are 7 sessions during the summer at 9.30, 10.40, 11.50, 13.00, 14.10, 15.20 and 16.30.

Photo Gallery of some of the equipment in the water adventure playground.

For further information and up-to-date prices and schedules please see the official website –

URL: http://www.river-museum.jp/

For those coming by car the phone number for your Satnav is 048-581-733 or the address is 39 Kozono, Yorii Town, Saitama. It is 7 minutes from the Hanazono exit of the Kanetsu expressway.  Parking is 300 yen for the day.

Another interesting museum in the Kanto area centered around a water theme is the Tokyo Water Science Museum in Koto-ku. From “Best Living Japan”:

The Tokyo Water Science Museum – Free Hands-on Educational Fun!

The Tokyo Water Science Museum is a great FREE hands-on, educational museum – a great spot to take the kids on a hot, rainy or cold day. The museum takes

Source: bestlivingjapan.com/tokyo-water-science-museum/

Saitama Municipal Youth Astronomical Museum

It’s spring break in Japan.  It is also end of school year.  Traffic tends to increase and queues lengthen, but there are still some hidden gems that evade the chaos. Saitama’s space museum, or officially the Saitama Municipal Youth Astronomical Museum, is one such place.

★Free entry for parents and children
★Parking is free
★Rainy day okay
★Suitable for all ages
★Special events
★Elevator
★Nappy / Diaper changing facilities
★Rest area

There is something for everyone at this space museum located on the old grounds of Urawa Reds (Saitama soccer team) at Komaba stadium. Children can learn about space and science through the various interactive and educational displays, play areas, reading area and special events available free of charge. There is also a planetarium that costs 510 yen per adult or 200 yen for students aged 4 and up.

Information and Access

Address: 2-3-45 Komaba, Urawa-city, Saitama, Japan
URL: http://www.kagakukan.urawa.saitama.jp/main.html
TEL:  048-881-1515
Cost: Free entry to the museum, **the planetarium is 510 yen per adult or 200 yen for students aged 4 and up
Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00
Holidays: Mondays except for public holidays. Closed for New Year from December 28th to January 4th.
Access:
By train – Take a bus from either Urawa or Kita Urawa stations for 「宇宙科学館入口」
By car – 15 minutes from Urawa Interchange



 

The Railway Museum | SAITAMA CITY

On this the 50th anniversary of the Shinkansen (bullet train), I’d like to introduce one of Saitama’s top attractions.  Japan’s largest Railway Museum in Omiya,  鉄道博物館 is a really good place to visit with a mixed audience. There really is something for everyone, even if you aren’t “that into” trains. It is particularly a great place for a day out with young children, boys and girls, as there is plenty to do and see.  It is commutable from Tokyo, so it appeals to tourists and international families looking for something to do in the Kanto area with kids.


There is so much to say about the Railway museum, I just don’t have the time unfortunately, so this is more of a photo showcase. Please be sure to check out the website. One thing I would like to highlight is, that for those living in Saitama or Tokyo with young children who are into trains, it is really worth buying the annual pass.

URL: http://www.railway-museum.jp/
TEL: 048-651-0088
ACCESS:
By train: Take the New Shuttle from JR Omiya Station and get off at “Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station”. One-minute walk from “Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station”.
By car: 4km from Shintoshin exit of the Shuto Expressway. There are 280 parking spaces. It costs 500 yen to park for the day.
COST: 1000 yen for adults, 500 yen for school children, 200 yen for young children, free for children under 3. You can buy an annual pass, Teppa, for unlimited access and other benefits.
HOURS: 10am to 6pm, last entry 5.30pm. Closed every Tuesday and from December 29th to January 1st for holidays.

Kids / Play areas

TEPPAKU HIROBA
The ground floor has two outdoor areas. The Teppaku Hiroba can be accessed at the back of the history zone. There is also a “lunch train” there; a train that is a rest area, that you are allowed eat food in.

Shinkansen slide
Shinkansen slide
Back of shinkansen slide
Back of shinkansen slide
Train climbing frame
Train climbing frame
Shinkansen spring ride
Shinkansen spring ride
Passing trains
Passing trains

MINI TRAINS and MINI SHINKANSEN
The other outdoor area is to the left of the entrance zone. It boasts the popular mini trains that for 200 yen for upto 3 people, anyone over 6 years of age can operate themselves. You need to arrive early in the morning to book them. There is also a mini shinkansen that you can ride. It goes from outside the entrance zone to the libray and theatre.

Mini train that you can operate yourself
Mini train that you can operate yourself
Mini trains that can be operated by anyone over 6 years old
Mini trains that can be operated by anyone over 6 years old
Mini shinkansen
Mini shinkansen

LIBRARY, THEATRE and LEGO PLAY AREA
Past the mini trains is a fun area for smaller children, housing the library with books galore about trains. There is a great selection of English books. It also has a theatre which has a couple of showings of Thomas the Tank Engine episodes a day. There is a play area with blocks and a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine play station in this area too.

The library with a wall of children's English books about trains
A wall of children’s English books about trains
English books about trains
English books about trains
The Theatre which shows Thomas the Tank Engine episodes
Theatre shows Thomas the Tank Engine episodes
Lego / block play stations and a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine play area
Lego / block play stations and a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine play area

KIDS SPACE
The “kids space” is a play area for smaller children located in the entrance zone of the 2nd floor. It has rail track and trains for the kids to play with as well as a large plastic train for the kids to play in.

IMG_1625
Play rail and trains
Large play train
Large play train
Kids space
Kids space

OTHERS
There are learning zones on each floor where there are lots of interactive challenges and experiences for children and adults alike.

Remote controlled train, just one of the many activities in one of the learning zones
Remote controlled train, just one of the many activities in one of the learning zones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The history zone displays a number of period trains including steam trains. You can enter most of these trains to have a better look.

Trains in the history zone
Trains in the history zone
Inside a train
Inside a train

There is also a large model railway train city on display. It can be viewed from the “Kids space” or a special theatre.

Model train city
Model train city

There is also a panorama deck on the roof, a shinkansen viewing area on the 3rd floor, where you are allowed eat and there are some vending machines. There are a couple of restaurants within the complex. There are toilets on each floor. Some have nappy change facilities. It is well worth a visit, no matter your age, or interest in trains… I have run out of steam, if you’ll pardon the pun, but if you would like to see more information or photos, take a look at these great blog posts too:

ACCESS

The Tetsudo Hakubutsukan Station on the New Shuttle line is located right beside the museum. It is just one stop and a 3 minute train ride from Omiya station.

Parking is available, but charged.

Poppo Town, Railway Village in Gunma

Poppo Town in Annaka City
Poppo Town in Annaka City

To be quite frank I was a little disappointed with Poppo Town, a Railway Cultural Village in Gunma, but I had high expectations due to the excellence of the Saitama Railway Museum which we visit often. There is no comparison between the two. The Saitama Railway Museum is in a league of its own. So taking Poppo Town for what it is rather than comparing it to possibly the world’s greatest railway museum, it was a fun day out with enough to keep a preschooler, a toddler and a baby entertained.

D51 498 SL train
D51 498 SL train

Poppo Town is located in Annaka City near the Nagano border. The location is very scenic and there are other attractions in the area, the most famous being the steam locomotive (SL). The steam locomotive runs through the city and the terminal is beside poppo town. We could see train-spotters set up with their cameras all along the train route as we came off the highway. We didn’t know at the time they were waiting for the D51 498 that would arrive later that day and we were very lucky to serendipitously spot the infamous SL oursevles. The train was removed from an amusement park 2 years ago for repair and restoration and now runs for special occasions in the Annaka City area of Gunma.

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Within Poppo Town itself there are various amusement rides for children which cost extra to use. There are also some train experiences, such as a mini-SL and an English train that laps the town, that you can try out also for an extra cost. You can pay for a return ticket on a train that goes out of the theme park to a hot spring.  You can book to operate a real train on real tracks, this too costs extra. Some of the things you can do are for free, like try pulling a train with a rope or sitting behind the controls of a train. As most of the things cost extra it can add up to quite an expensive day. Also, in high season the train rides and simulators are often booked up by 10am. Another thing to note is there is little in the way of food so you might want to bring your own.

We had a fun day, but we’ve been, we’ve seen, we’ve tried and once was enough for us. The unexpected view of a real steam locomotive was probably the highlight of the day.

UPDATE 2016: Walker Magazine has listed Usui Touge Tetsudo Bunka Mura aka Poppo Town and the area of Annaka as a recommended spot to enjoy Autumn leaf foliage in the Kanto Area.


Poppo Town or Usui Touge Tetsudo Bunka Mura (碓氷峠鉄道文化むら)

URL: http://www.usuitouge.com/bunkamura/

Address: 407-16 Yokokawa, Matsuida Town, Annaka City, Gunma. Tel: 027-380-4163

Access: 2 minute walk from the Yokokawa Station on the JR Shinetsu line.

4 kilometres from the Matsuida – Myogi Interchange on the Joshin Etsu Expressway. Parking is free. 220 parking places.

Entrance fee is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children over 6, preschoolers, toddlers and babies free. Train rides and amusement rides cost extra. Sometimes you can pick up flyers with a discount coupon of 100 yen.