Category Archives: Fireworks and Festivals

Fun shopping and Festival Hotspot: Maruhiro | KAWAGOE

In this article: the low down on Maruhiro – free play, roof top Ferris wheel and rides, video arcade, family facilities, kid friendly restaurant, cute animal shaped desserts, tax free shopping, special information for attending the Kawagoe Festivals with kids, and Lapland Santa! The post contains external (affiliate) links to Amazon.co.jp marked by **.

Maruhiro in Kawagoe, a prestigious department store on the main shopping street Crea Mall, is surprisingly enjoyable for small children. There are two main reasons; the fun center on the roof and the play area in the toy store. There are other factors which contribute to its suitability for a half day out for families, outlined below. Plus it is a key spot to consider if you are attending any of the larger Kawagoe Festivals with kids.

The toy store of Maruhiro is located on the 6th floor. They have a Bornelund in the toy store area, which sells beautiful wooden educational toys**(External link to Amazon.co.jp). They are also a distributor of the fantastic British board games giant Orchard Toys, my personal favourite toy brand for children under six. Orchard toys** on Amazon.co.jp (affiliate link).

There is a Sanrio shop here. This branch of Sanrio sells mainly bento goods and trinkets. They have some Hello Kitty toys and one rail of clothes. Bornelund, Sanrio and the general toy store have play areas with sample toys out for kids to enjoy. Each shelving area also has some toys you can try too. They have everything from arts and crafts to zoo animals.  My girls enjoy the musical instruments such as mini piano as well as the dolls houses and play kitchens. My son loves to build with the magformers and similar building kids. Bornelund toys are a bit on the pricey side, but they are extremely high quality and educational to boot. The toys in the play area are about the same as most toy stores, maybe a little more expensive than they are in Toysrus. They have a good range considering that the toy area isn’t that big.

Off one side of this toy area, between Bornelund and Sanrio there is a comfortable baby and toddler room. It has seats and tables, a couple of highchairs, a microwave and hot water dispenser. Basically, everything you would need (bar the food and cutlery) to feed a small child. There are nappy changing mats here too and a nursing area. There are general toilets beside this room for both men and women, and a toilet for wheelchair users. The toilets in the women’s have “baby-keeps”, like a highchair except built into the wall, to hold baby while you use the facilities!

Also, on this floor are some restaurants. They are all fairly mediocre and some more popular than others. Two worth mentioning are: Olive House as one to avoid, and Gin Yuba for their super value kids meal. The latter, Gin Yuba, offers Kyoto Cuisine presented in the Teishoku form; Japanese style set meals. It is named after its main staple; Yuba, a product made from soybeans. The selection on the lunch menu is quite decent. They don’t have English menus, but there are good photos on the Japanese menus so you can order easily from them. You can also see their full menu on their website. The Guru Navi Japan Restaurant Guide site offers reservation support in English for this restaurant. Currently, their kids meal is half price. Only 250 yen for a fairly healthy and filling meal served on a shinkansen plate. It comes with a drink and you can chose one toy from a small selection. The regular lunches come with a complimentary serving of tea and they provide water for free too. When you order the lunch the main part is served to you at the table and you are given a rectangle shaped tray with 3 sections so that you can help yourself to 3 side dishes of your choice from a selection on a table near the door. Another reason I like this restaurant when I have the kids with me is because you can get a private room and it is Japanese style. So you don’t need any high chairs, the kids can sit on the floor and they can relax in their own private space.

Conveniently located the floor above is the video arcade and mini amusement park, Wanpaku Land, with a rooftop Ferris Wheel! I will warn you: the rooftop amusement area doesn’t look much. Maruhiro is continuously upgrading and improving their facilities and interior design. However, I don’t think they’ve touched the roof, where Wanpaku Land is, since it opened almost 70 years ago. The amusement area on the roof may have had a few licks of paint over the years, but it looks very dated in spite of it. There are a few fun elements to the amusement area, especially for toddlers and to lesser extent preschoolers.

The Ferris wheel is small, but it is safe and takes just the right length of time to rotate for a small child. There are some great views from the carriage, although as it is completely caged it is hard to get a good photo of Kawagoe from the sky. The ferris wheel is free for children under six and if you pick up a voucher at one of the cash registers on the 6th floor an adult can ride it for just 100 yen. There is a small roller coaster for small children on beside the Ferris wheel. Again it is free for children under six. It costs 300 yen for adults which is a bit of a rip off, but the view is worth it. There are other rides in the area of the roof too. There is a small video arcade type section inside with games, rides, UFO catchers and slot machines for kids. The area is free to enter, but you need to pay for each machine. The games and rides inside are reasonably priced. They have some Anpanman and Yokai Watch games. And a UFO catcher that dispenses Poo shaped teddies! Beside this area there is a pet shop, not a particularly nice one if I am to be honest.

For foreigners visiting Kawagoe to do some shopping or long termers in Japan who like point cards another area of interest is the fourth floor. Here they have a large customer service area that handles tax back claims and applications for point cards. At Christmas time, the fifth floor is where you want to go to visit the real Santa from Lapland.  If you would like to buy some food and / or food gifts, chocolates, alcohol or other food / drink speciality items, the basement is where you will find a choice of delectable delights. My kids love the owl shaped cakes by JuchHeim Die Meister.

Finally, I want to mention Maruhiro as a key point to visit if you are coming to the Kawagoe festivals with kids. Particularly, the mammoth Autumn Kawagoe Festival. We have been attending the festival for years and have found their toy Kujibiki to be about the best of all the Kujibiki stalls throughout the festival. Kujibiki is a type of lottery used in festivals. There are a number of ways it is played; the end result is the same – a piece of paper reveals what, if anything, you have won. Usually the paper has a number or symbol on it that is matched to a group of toys with the same number or symbol. You then get to pick what you would like out of the selection. We have never won at the Maruhiro lottery and it doesn’t matter, because… No matter what you draw in the toy lottery at Maruhiro you get a really good present to take away. It is well worth the money (if you want to play the game) because the gifts are the nicest I have seen as a booby prize for a lottery draw. Due to this reason though, it is always crowded. It is good fun to watch while you queue. Another reason this is a good spot to stop by with kids during the festival is that they turn the car park, at the back of the department store, into an amusement area. They have bouncy castles and other attractions. There is also a rest area here.

Parking for Maruhiro is charged, but if you spend over a 1,000 yen you get an hour free. If you spend over 10,000 you get three hours free.  The store opens from 10 am to 7 pm seven days a week, except for the days that Maruhiro takes off. You will need to check the Maruhiro schedule for the up-to-date information as it is not a fixed schedule. The closest station is Seibu Shinjuku Line’s Hon-Kawagoe station. JR and Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe station are within walking distance too. There are shopping carts suitable for babies and toddlers and you can also borrow a buggy / stroller. They have wheelchairs to borrow too.  Most of the toilets are between floor and so not suited to those with buggies / strollers or in a wheelchair. They have a wheelchair friendly toilet on the 1st floor and on the 6th floor. There are annexes to Maruhiro with lots of different shops and facilities too.

**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

Chichibu Night Festival | CHICHIBU

At 2.02 am today, December 1st 2016 the Chichibu Night Festival, specifically the traditional music and performances of the festival, along with 32 festivals in Japan were confirmed and recorded as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Congratulations CHICHIBU. 🙂

Japanese people seem to have an magnanimous love of the number three. One of the ways this manifests itself is in the numerous compilations of top threes that are famous within the country. There are the three gardens of Japan, the three views of Japan, the three night views of Japan, the big three festivals, the big three fireworks and so on and so forth. Chichibu Night Festival also makes it on to a top three list or more accurately a “greatest” list. It is one of Japan’s three greatest Hikiyama (pull-float) festivals in Japan, together with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Takayama Matsuri in Gifu prefecture.



KASABOKO from Chichibu Navi page
KASABOKO from Chichibu Navi page
YATAI from Chichibu's Navi Page
YATAI from Chichibu’s Navi Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The floats of this 300 year old festival, which are very different to the better known Mikoshi (portable shrine), 奉奏are on wheels and are drawn by a rope, by bearers clad in traditional festival clothes.  There are a number of different floats classified as Kasaboko or Yatai. Both are floats with beautifully carved ornate roofs. There are two main differences between them.  The first is that the Kasaboko have an appendage on the roof, which remind me of Yorishiro, the white paper decorations you see around trees at shinto shrines. The Yatai does not have this decoration. The second is that the Yatai have room for performers to sit and play music and / or dance, which Kasaboko do hot have. They floats are pulled around the town on both days of the festival:

On the 2nd the floats will be pulled from Chichibu shrine from about 12 noon first to Miyakawa then Moto Machi, Naka Machi and finally Kami Machi at approximately 4 pm. During this time you can watch the floats being turned and danced around the street. The yatai will have live traditional music and you can witness traditional dance. From 10 am to 3 pm you can see traditional performances in Chichibu Shrine. From 4 to 6 pm there is taiko drums and other traditional music performances around Seibu Chichibu station. Fireworks are from 7 to 8 pm.

On the 3rd the you can see the kasaboko and yatai all around the city from 9 am to midnight. The yatai will be pulled with traditional dancers performing in the float, from just before 10 am on the same route as the 2nd: from Chichibu shrine to Miyakawa then Moto Machi, Naka Machi and finally Kami Machi which will be around 1 pm. Chichibu shrine will have music and traditional performances from 10 am to 3 pm. You can see a Yatai Shibai, stage performance, from 11 am to 2 pm in Naka machi near the kaijyou 会場. Oneri (Kabuki Douchuu) a type of acting performance will be held between 2.30 and 3.30 pm moving from around the Chichibu shrine area right down to Yao Department store.  From 10 am to 7 pm there are live taiko drum and other traditional music performances around Seibu Chichibu station and Chichibu Tetsudo station. The fireworks are from 7.30 to around 10 pm.

INFORMATION

Cost: FREE

Dates / Hours: Every year on December 2nd from 10 am to about 8 pm and December 3rd from 9 am to midnight.

URL: http://chichibuji.gr.jp/

TEL: to Chichibu Tourism at 0494-25-5209

ACCESS

From the Chichibu Tourism English webpage

BY CAR

  • Use National highway No. 140 from Kanetsu Expressway flower garden I.C.; in Chichibu-shi (from flower garden IC approximately 35km)
  • Use National highway No. 299 from Kanetsu Expressway Kawagoe I.C. or Tsurugashima I.C.; in Chichibu-shi
  • From Kawagoe, Iruma at National highway No. 299 via Shomaru tunnel in Chichibu-shi (from Hanno approximately 40km)
  • From Yamanashi side via National highway No. 140 wild goose slope tunnel in Chichibu-shi

BY TRAIN

Trains are usually very scarce in the evening in Chichibu, but each train line puts on extra trains for this special occasion. Usually the last train leaves around 10.20 pm. Please do check for up-to-date information on train times.

  • Getting off at SEIBU Railway Seibu-Chichibu Station (limited express from Ikebukuro approximately 80 minutes)
    To SEIBU Railway homepage
  • To each Chichibu-Railway Wado Kuroya, Onohara, Chichibu, Ohanabatake, Kagemori, Urayamaguchi, Bushunakagawa, Bushuhino, Shiroku, Mitsumineguchi nearest station (from Kumagaya to Chichibu approximately 70 minutes)
    To Chichibu-Railway homepage

Even more detailed access information here:
http://navi.city.chichibu.lg.jp.e.qg.hp.transer.com/access/

Fireworks and Festivals on August 7th in SAITAMA

August 7th festivals fireworks

You can view a clickable version of the above image on the Event Calendar for Saitama. Simply click on the event name for more information and an external link with full details.

The Tsurugashima once-every-four-year event Suneori Amagoi features on this blog here: Award Winning, Intangible Asset Suneori Amagoi;, Rain Praying Festival | TSURUGASHIMA

 

Fireworks and Festivals In Saitama August 6th 2016

This weekend we are once again spoiled for choice with the quantity and variety of festivals and fireworks being held in various locations in Saitama. Here is a small sample of the festivals and fireworks on offer on SATURDAY the 6th of August. We have everything from super size fireworks to smaller local affairs. From mammoth crowd-drawing festivals to traditional lower key ritual celebrations.  Wherever you go, do plan for crowds, heat and fun galore!

Todabashi Fireworks





Todabashi fireworks are one of the biggest in Saitama. Approximately 12,000 fireworks are launched including starmines and shakudama. The displays are set to music. They normally have fireworks that explode into the face of a famous character. Last year, it was some Yokai Watch characters. The fireworks are launched near Toda’s race course with prime viewing along the riverside. You can walk from Toda Park station. The Itabashi Fireworks are held in conjunction with Todabashi. They estimate 52,000 spectators view on the Itabashi side and 42,000 on the Toda side. You can reserve a viewing spot at a price on the official website (below).  Queries to  Todabashi Firework Committee at 048-431-0206

Time: 7 to 8.30 pm
Access: Approximately a 20 minute walk from Takasaki Line JR Toda Koen station
URL:  www.todabashi-hanabi.jp.

 Sayama City Irumagawa Tanabata Festival & Fireworks

From the official website http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/mainevent/tanabata/




Listed in the top 3 Tanabata (Star) festivals for the whole of Kanto, this two day festival draws approximately 130,000 people annually. The city displays 140 tanabata decorations such as streamers and other paper decorations. There are about 300 stalls at the festival offering food, drink or traditional games such as the beloved “fishing” game, where you get to keep any fish you catch with a small net.They will also have some fireworks on the night of the 6th.

Time: 11 am to 9.30 pm, fireworks from 7.30 pm
Access: Minutes walk from Seibu Shinjuku Line Sayama shi station
URL: http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/mainevent/tanabata/

 

Sai-ka-sai Festival and Fireworks (in Asaka)

From the official website: http://saikasai.com/

Due to all this festival has to offer, plus its proximity to Tokyo, as well as the central location near Asaka station, this 3 day festival is one of the biggest of Saitama summer festivals. It attracts about 650,000 people and it gets great reviews from local and regular attendees.  On the 2nd night, this year the 6th of August, about 9000 fireworks are launched from 19.15 and there are 300+ stalls offering festival  food and/or activities. They open a stadium before the fireworks so it is possible for everyone to get somewhere to sit and enjoy the show.

T
ime: The festival is from about noon and the fireworks from 19.15
Access: 5 minute walk from Tobu Tojo Line Asaka Station
URL: information in English at the official website: http://saikasai.com/wp-content/pdf/saikasai_en.pdf . Japanese information here: http://saikasai.com/

 

 Yorii Tamayodo Suitenguusai Fireworks and Festival






Behold the spectacular setting of lantern floats with the magnificent backdrop of fireworks in this traditional festival that attracts about 70,000 people. There are about 5000 fireworks launched including the Niagara type and starmines.  You can buy festival food and drinks as there are about 80 stalls in the main viewing area.  There is parking for up to 2000 cars, some of which is free, but you would want to arrive early to secure a place.  It can be quite muddy, so appropriate footwear is advised.

Time: 7 to 9 pm
Access: About a 15 minute walk from Hachiko Line Yorii Station, 5 kms from Hanazono Interchange
URL: http://yorii-kanko.jp/tamayodo.html

Seibu Yuenchi Fireworks and Festival

The Seibu Amusement park fireworks and special celebrations start this month of August. Most weekends you can enjoy a firework show as a paying customer of the amusement park. The beer garden is a popular spot for a good view. You can also see the fireworks from some nearby locations around the park! Although the shows are usually only 20 minutes each, they are very popular and the park can be very crowded during August.

Time: from approximately 7.45 pm
Access: 5 minute walk from Seibu Tamako Line Seibu Yuenchi Station and Seibu Line Seibuen Station.
URL: http://www.seibuen-yuuenchi.jp/

 

Soka Fireworks

Soka locals volunteer and band together to bring you this small, but popular fireworks in Soka Park. About 5000 fireworks, including starmines, are launched between 19.00 and 21.00. Last year about 80,000 people attended. Queries to the voluntary team at 048-922-0151.

Time: 7 pm to 9pm, Opening ceremony at 6 pm
Access: 30 minute walk from JR Koshigaya Laketown Station or take a bus from Tobu Line Matsubara Danchi station
URL:  http://www.city.soka.saitama.jp/cont/s1401/a16/PAGE000000000000030153.html

Menuma Festival in Kumagaya

This child friendly festival has lots of traditional activities and festival food for people of all ages. Last year, apart from music and performances there was a bazaar and Flea market as well as kid’s show and Jyankan competition.

Time: 1 pm to 9 pm
Access: Asahi bus from Kumagaya station, but there is also free parking for 50 cars
URL:  http://www.city.kumagaya.lg.jp/kanko/matsuri/menumamaturi.html

Hanno Fireworks

A small display of fireworks set to the background of trees. These fireworks are popular with local families. Last year about 5000 people spectated near the Iruma River.   Queries to Hanno’s Tourist Board at 042-974-7900.

Time: From about 7.30pm
Access: About a 15 minute walk from Hanno Station
URL: http://www.city.hanno.saitama.jp/0000001569.html

Furutonegawa Floating Lantern Festival

Between 200 and 300 floating lanterns are sent down Furutonegawa river, including Japan’s largest lantern, during this traditional festival in Sugito Town.  There are stage performances over the weekend. Last year the Hanabi were on the Saturday, please note this year they are on the Sunday.

Time: 6 to 9 pm on the Saturday
Access: 2 minute walk from the East exit of the Tobu Dobutsu Koen station
URL: http://www.town.sugito.lg.jp/doc_lib/1/15080/2016%E6%B5%81%E7%81%AF%E3%81%BE%E3%81%A4%E3%82%8A%E3%83%9D%E3%82%B9%E3%82%BF%E3%83%BC.pdf



Also near the Tobu Doubutsu Koen Station is

Fireworks Illusion

From the Tobu Zoo official website

This event will not be carried out in the event of rain. There will be 4 firework displays in total in the Tobu Zoo over the month of August. 2000 fireworks, including starmines and the niagra type, are launched There is usually about 10 festival stalls.

Time: from 7.30pm
Access: About a 10 minute walk from Tobu Skytree Line Tobu Doubutsu Kouen Station
URL: http://www.tobuzoo.com/event/details/1118/

Apart from the fireworks and festivals on Saturday the 7th, there are also a number of special events on in Saitama. One of our picks is the night zoo at Saitama Children’s Zoo which is only open for 6 nights in August. You can see the dates and more events on the insaitama calendar.





A preview of Festivals on Sunday the 7th…

Suneori Amagoi Rain praying (Dragon) Festival

From Saitama's official tourism website http://www.sainokuni-kanko.jp/eng/
From Saitama’s official tourism website http://www.sainokuni-kanko.jp/eng/

Please see full  information here:
Award Winning, Intangible Asset Suneori Amagoi Rain Praying Festival | TSURUGASHIMA

Tatara Festival and Fireworks | KAWAGUCHI
Information to follow

Award Winning, Intangible Asset “Suneori Amagoi”, Rain Praying Festival | TSURUGASHIMA

The Suneori Amagoi Rain Praying Festival, which started in 1781, has been awarded a number of cultural and festival accolades. The awards include the prestigious and coveted city designated intangible folk cultural asset and equally distinguished grand prize for the best hometown events, both awarded by the Japanese Government. In recent years, the festival is only conducted once every four years due to a decline in the number of farmers. The next one is this coming Sunday August 7th 2016 from 1 pm and will be carried out regardless of weather conditions.

 

Suneoriamagoi, From the Tsurugashima City Official Website


The festival involves 300 men carrying a 36 metre long 3 ton giant dragon God made of bamboo and straw 2 kilometres to a lake in Tsurugashima’s Kandachiga pond, where the ritual for rain is conducted. The 300 dragon bearers wear traditional Japanese happi coats. The dragon is made from scratch for each festival, as at the end of the rain ritual in the pond, the dragon is destroyed to incite the God’s anger to evoke thunderstorms, hence rain. You can read more about the history and meaning of this unique festival in detail, in English, on the Tsurugashima City website. The Saitama Tourism website, Sai-no-kuni Kanko, anticipates 30,000 people will attend this coming Sunday.  Coinciding with this rare and fascinating festival is an International Exchange Fair at Wakaba Station, the station you use to get to Suneori Amagoi Festival, from 10 am to 8 pm on Sunday.

From the official Saitama Prefecture Tourism website http://www.sainokuni-kanko.jp/eng/
From the official Saitama Prefecture Tourism website http://www.sainokuni-kanko.jp/eng/

 

Suneori Amagoi Festival Information

Time: 1 pm to 5 pm
Where: Area from Shirahige Shrine to Kandachiga Pond, Tsurugashima City, Saitama
Access: Approximately 43 minutes from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo. 15 minute walk from Tobu Tojo Line Wakaba Station. See maps and access photos below

If you can’t make the festival this year, don’t worry – you can watch it live on http://www.ustream.tv/channnel/tsurugashimacity-tv

The next festival after August 7th 2016 will luckily coincide with the 2020 Olympics. The festival is usually held on the 1st Sunday of August, but due to the olympics there maybe changes. I will update nearer the time. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Golf Events are being held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in the nearby city of Kawagoe. If golf contestants or spectators want to enjoy a quintessential yet extraordinary Japanese festival this is one to bookmark for your trip to Japan. More on Golf In Saitama: Golf in Japan :: Courses in Saitama

If you understand Japanese, here is a video about the festival and its background. Below that is a nice piece with English subtitles.





ACCESS

Access guide to Tsurugashima from the Tsurugashima Official Website:

From the official Tsurugashima website

On Google Maps

 

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JULY Festivals and Fireworks 2016 | KANTO (TOKYO)

Kanto is the area around Tokyo, comprising Saitama, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma.  This is a calendar displaying festivals and fireworks in this area for the month of July. Click on the event for more information including time and place, and a link to either the official website or to a webpage with more information in English. I recommend you view as AGENDA.

GOOGLE VERSION