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 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. 🙂
The first time I went to Mt Takao with my 4 kids, they were all under 7 at the time. The youngest had just turned one. I did the trip sans husband, but thankfully with my best friend, Japanese food writer Fiona Uyema, and her 2 children. I had chosen to take Fiona there, who was visiting from Ireland, after reading a very good write up about the Autumn Leaves in the area. I was very glad we made the trip and was pleasantly surprised at how easy the trip was to manage, even with small children.
When we visited it was bang smack in the middle of prime Autumn Leaf season. I didn’t know it at the time, but the day we chose to go had been reported the previous evening as to be the best day to view the Autumn Leaves in their prime. I think half of Tokyo got in their cars and made the journey to witness the leaves in their prime. The area was extremely busy, we even had to queue to take the exit of the highway. However, it was worth it.
There are a number of different trails you can do, so you can plan according to your children’s ages. 599 Museum supplies good information in English on the trails. Despite being a mountain area, the top of Mt Takao is actually quite easy to navigate with a stroller / buggy. However, if you want to hike the mountain trail, a buggy / stroller is not advisable. Also, there are places at the top of the mountain that you will need to park your stroller if you want to explore further. The easiest way (and most fun for the kids) to get up the mountain is the cable car. Even if it is very crowded, they don’t ask you to fold up your buggy, or at least they didn’t ask me – they told me to leave it open. It maybe that they took pity on me trying to flock my herd, fold a buggy and hold a one year old simultaneously! For older children you can also use the chair lifts.
There are two things that I would point out as potential difficulties with small children. One is that as you are on top of a mountain with a steep decline on one side and limited barriers at the side of the pavement, it can be quite unnerving if the kids walk close to the edge. Obviously, I told them not to, but… well they’re kids, even if they do listen, they forget and they can’t quite sense danger like a Mother can. Two; you have to queue for everything if you go at one of the prime visiting times; tickets, trains, toilets, food… everything. On the way back down if you want to get the last cable car, which goes around 5.30 pm, you need to start queuing up to an hour in advance. Also, another thing to take note off is that it is a couple of degrees colder at 599 meters. When we visited in November we needed winter jackets as the sun started to go down.
There are also lots of eateries, power spots and view points near this station. Near the Takaosan cable car station at the top of the mountain is Kasumi, a popular spot with hikers for a quick bite to eat. They have 2 popular traditional type Japanese treats; Mifuku dango and Tenguyaki. Mifuku dango is a type of charcoaled dango, cooked in a circle around an open charcoal grill (pictured). One dango costs 310 yen. The Tenguyaki is a type of waffle with sweetened black soybean paste inside. A tengu is a legendary long nose goblin that is an intricate part of Japanese religion. One tenguyaki costs 140 yen. They sell ice-cream here too, including a Fly Honeysuckle flavoured ice-cream (pictured).
Takao-san is popular all year round, but it has boom periods which are mainly New Year’s, Cherry Blossom season, peak of summer (to escape the heat) and Autumn leaves season. Another thing that draws people to Mt Takao is that sometimes you can see Diamond Fuji from the Momiji viewing deck of Mt Takao, an opportunity is coming up this month in fact. Diamond Fuji is estimated to be viewable around 4.15 pm on December 17th and possibly a day or two either side of that.
ZOOM IN: NEW YEAR’S DAY
Regarding New Years, it is hard to believe, but people hike up Mt Takao (or take the cable car) on New Year’s eve or very early New Year’s morning in the dark and bitter cold. Accordingly, the cable car runs through the night. In fact the cable car runs from 8 am on December 31st until 6.30 pm on January 1st to accommodate the throes of visitors on one of the popular New Year’s pilgrimages in the Greater Tokyo area.
There are three main incentives to do this:
to see the first sunrise of the year, which is generally around 6.48 am
to see Mt Fuji for the first time in the year (weather permitting of course) and
to participate in Yakuo-in Temple‘s New Year welcoming rituals including “the festival to welcome the light”.
This temple also follows the traditional custom of gonging the Temples Gong 108 times to dispel evil. The Keio Takao San hot spring is open over New Year’s, but from January 1st to 3rd they charge an extra 200 yen, so 1,200 yen per person.
Mt Takao is very accessible by car from Saitama and Tokyo, if you are on the Ken-O expressway. From Tokyo it is quite convenient by train, but unfortunately from Saitama the train is a bit more tricky. By both car and train it takes less than an hour to get to Mt Takao from Tokyo. From Western Saitama it takes about an hour by car or train. The station you use to access Mt Takao is Takaosanguchi on the Keio Takao Line. On weekends and holidays two trains on the Toei Shinjuku Line also continue on to Takaosanguchi station. The exit on the Ken-O expressway is Takaosan. The Mt Takao cable car website has full information on how to access Mt Takao.
UPDATE MARCH 25TH: The 2017 March 26th will most likely be cancelled due to the expectation of SNOW!
Kawagoe is just 31 minutes from Ikebukuro, Tokyo, on the Tobu Tojo line (jump to access from Tokyo). It is a popular tourist town. One of Kawagoe’s most spectacular spots to enjoy “sakura” is out the back of Hikawa shrine, where the cherry blossoms line the Shingashi River. Until recent years it was mainly locals and off-the-beaten-track tourists who enjoyed its splendour, but nowadays the cherry blossom attract thousands of admirers. One of the reasons is you can get a photo of a paddle boat being steered down the river under the blossoms, by a man in a festival happi coat and a traditional sugegasa hat. The image above is an official photo from Hikawa Shrine’s Facebook page.
Currently, the boat ride isn’t accessible to the general public, but on April 2nd 2016 it will be from noon until 6pm (2017 the date is rumoured to be March 29th, was set for April 2nd and then changed to MARCH 26TH). Tickets will be distributed, subject to availability, from in front of the Kita Kominkan on the far side of the bridge to the Hikawa shrine back entrance. They are marked on a map I made below the access map.
Here are some photos of the sakura I took on March 30th 2016.
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 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
Shingashi River and the free parking area:
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.
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Isanuma park in Kawagoe is a popular spot to enjoy Hanami for locals.ãThere are cherry blossoms along the river at the playground as well as cherry blossoms lining the street that separates the lakâ¦
Isanuma park in Kawagoe is a popular spot to enjoy Hanami for locals. There are cherry blossoms along the river at the playground as well as cherry blossoms lining the street that separates the lake from the park. We have enjoyed hanami (picnic under the cherry blossom) along the river under the beautiful blooms. End of March and the first week of April is usually a good time to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy hanami in this park in Kawagoe.
Ikaho Green’s farm has a very good reputation and most people who go to it give it a good review. However, while I liked it and we really enjoyed ourselves, I found it to be more expensive than most farms in the Kita-Kanto (Northern area of Greater Tokyo). The Sheepdog show is included in the price and that is something that you can’t see in many places. Plus, there are opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the animals that roam freely or are within arms reach. All things considered, it is a really fun family day out!
What can you do at Green Farm?
View a sheepdog and sheep shearing show, the largest of its kind in Japan.
Pet corner – costs 500 yen per person to spend sometime petting or holding rabbits.
Walk with sheep and goats – costs 500 yen per person for 15 minutes.
Milk the cows – costs 500 yen per person for one try.
Feed the calves – costs 500 yen per person for one bottle of feed.
Amusement park – 30 different activities and rides, each cost between 100 and 500 yen.
Ride on a horse drawn carriage – 800 yen for adults and students, 500 yen for preschoolers and below.
**Please check their website for up-to-date schedules for these events: http://www.greenbokujo.co.jp/do/
We visited on the 1st of May and there were still some late blooming cherry blossoms, yaezakura. The farm is very well maintained and is quite beautiful. It is suitable to children of all ages. It is quite hilly, but you can easily navigate between sections with a stroller. They have nappy changing and nursing room facilities for babies as well as child friendly toilets. There are places you can buy food and souveniers. The kids plate costs 750 yen, a Sundae costs 520 yen. You are allowed bring your own food into the farm. The sheepdog and sheep shearing show is toward the back of the farm and there is a camping site beside it (that needs to be booked in advance). It was an interesting experience. The farmer is from New Zealand so he speaks in English quite a bit through the show. There is also a BBQ area, a museum and strawberry picking on the farm, all cost extra.
1200 yen for adults, 600 yen for children over 3, free for 2 and under. As per above, each event costs extra. **Between early January and the end of February entrance fee is half the price. Physically disabled and people over 65 are also half price (all year round).
9am to 4pm. In the winter it opens at 10am. In January and February it is closed Monday through Thursday.
Roughly 2 hours from Tokyo and 90 minutes from Saitama. 8 kilometres from the Shibukawa Ikaho Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Free parking for up to 700 cars. 19 minute bus ride from Shibukawa Station, bus bound for Ikaho Hotsprings ”伊香保温泉”
Shinrin park (also known as Musashi Kyuryo National Goverment Park) is vast, 304 hectares to be precise. To put that in perspective; 65 times the size of Tokyo Dome! There is an entrance fee for children over the age of 6 and parking is charged, but it is well worth the money as there are lots of things to do and see for people of all ages. They also host special events most weekends and during holidays, which often cost extra money.
Due to the size of the park there are different exits, each with their own parking lot. The adventure playground, giant ball play area and the musashi kids dome are close to each other and accessed from the West entrance. They are all walkable from the entrance and from each other. In the summer, there is a splash pool which is near the adventure playground. The West entrance adminisitration building at that entrance has a shop, seating area, nursing room, nappy changing area, microwave and toilets including a wheelchair accessible toilet. The “ponpoko mountain”, Japan’s largest trampoline, is at least a 20 minute walk away. That, the botanical gardens, restaurant and seasonal illumination are accessible from the Central Gate. The popular tree climbing event is close to this entrance too. The plum blossom and cherry blossom groves are closest to the South Entrance. The Dog Run is closest to the North Entrance.
The adventure playground has 23 different pieces of equipment, including the very popular pirates ship.
The Musashi Kids Dome is a colorful play area for kids of all ages. There are quirky slides, climbing chambers, a ball pool, spring rides and more.
Giant Ball play area
Giant balls are put out on a fine day. They are beside the Musashi Kids dome and close to the athletic / adventure playground. They are free to use.
Japan’s largest outdoor mountain trampoline is quite a walk from any entrance, but the central gate is probably the closest. Kids must be over 3 years old to play on the main trampoline, but they have a smaller one beside it that even smaller kids can play on.
The walk between entrances is quite long, so if you prefer to use an easier mode of transport, the park has some on offer. You can’t bring your own bikes into the park, but you can rent a bike. It is 410 yen to rent an adult bike or mamachari for 3 hours, 200 yen for children. They have designated cycling courses. The easiest is the park bus that goes between the gates of the park and stops at popular spots en route. It costs 210 yen for an adult per ride or you can buy a day pass for 400 yen. Small buggies / strollers are available to borrow for free. They have segway tours too, but you have to be over 16 to use them and must use them in a tour group.
During the summer there is a 2500m2 paddling and wading pool as well as mist and fountains. The water depth ranges from 5 to 30cm. You can enjoy as early as April and they run to mid October. They close the waterplay area some Tuesdays and Wednesdays for cleaning. They have lockers, but no changing rooms. Nappies (diapers) are allowed, but the pool type, water nappies, are not. There is a tuck shop beside the wading pools, that sells ice cream and kaki-kori.
This park is beautiful all year round, but especially during cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons.
There are many activities and attractions on offer all year round as well as seasonal attractions and events. During January the park closes the 3rd and 4th Monday. Opening hours are 9.30-17.30. The phone number is 0493-57-2111. Please visit their website, for further information in English about access and entrance and parking fees; http://www.shinrinkoen.jp/english/
Check the plum blossom and cherry blossom schedule and find some events in Shinrin Park in this schedule of events for Saitama.
The Japanese sougou 総合 is used to indicate a multi-purpose park and that is exactly what Hidaka Sougou park is.
The park is free in, with free parking. Here is some of the attractions it has to offer.
This playground was installed in March 2013, replacing a wooden athletic playground. Now it is a colourful combination equipment playground that suits children of many ages. There are climbing nets, monkey bars, balancing beams, slides, spring rides and sand pits. All, but the sand pits, displayed in photos hereafter.
This park boasts a 165 metre long “babbling brook” (せせらぎ水路） with a paddling pool at the base.
The wading river is protected by the trees, which afford shade during the hot summer.
Exercise Equipment & Flying Fox
There is also exercise equipment and a flying fox in the wooded area beside the playground.
Sporting facilities and club house
There are tennis courts, a baseball pitch, a soccer pitch and 400 metre running track, that can be used at a charge. The club house manages bookings. There is a shower room and toilets in the club house. The website and contact details are here: http://www.city.hidaka.lg.jp/6,998,24,105.html
Hanami / Cherry Blossom Viewing Picnic Area
Hidaka Sougou Park is a popular spot during Japanese Cherry Blossom season. There is a long line of trees alongside the river with dedicated space for setting up picnic mats under the trees.
The wooded area in Hidaka is ripe with wildlife during the summer. It is possible to catch beetles and stag beetles to keep as pets; a popular hobby of young Japanese children.
Kids love to collect acorns in Japan. This is one of many parks in Saitama, where you can find acorns.
There are toilets in the park, two of which are right beside the playground. There is a drinking fountain. There are changing rooms and showers in the Club House, which can be used at a price.
By Car: Off route 407, near Musashi Takahagi train station, right beside Hidaka Country Club.
By Train: 15 minute walk from Musashi Takahagi Station on the Kawagoe line.
A DAY OUT IN HIDAKA
There are other nice parks and play areas near this park in Hidaka. I recommend Chikozan Park in neighbouring Sayama, with a small zoo and fun playground, and Saiboku Ham, which has a free play area, plus you can pay to enjoy an onsen there. The Saiboku onsen was recently reopened after a big reform.
There are two main ways you can celebrate the blooming of cherry blossoms in Japan; hanami, which involves picnicking under a cherry tree, or a Sakura matsuri, literallycherry blossom festival. We enjoyed the latter at the famous Kitain temple in Kawagoe, yesterday. Each year the Sakura Matsuri is held in Kitain Temple around the end of March to early April.
The kids had some festival food.
After walking around the various buildings and areas within the temple grounds they enjoyed the small, but colorful playground.
I was captivated by the cherry blossoms. I would have loved to attempt taking some artistic shots, but with 4 kids in tow that was not a possibility.
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 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.
The festival lanterns hang, a promise of beautiful blooms to come. These paper lanterns are a common sight at festivals in Japan. Shiroyama park in Okegawa has hung these lanterns for the cherry blossoms, which are set to bloom any day now. It is a long practiced and much revered tradition to picnic under the cherry blossom trees in Japan.