There is a huge amount of things to do and places to go in Saitama, approximately 500 places are included on this blog. This is the master list of all the fun and interesting things you can do with children in Saitama. On the top menu there is a drop down box under the menu heading “Things to do and places to go in Saitama”. In this drop down box you can see the places of interest in Saitama further categorized under headings such as “Parks & Playgrounds”, “Play / Fun Centres” “Museums and Educational” and so forth.
We go out to eat a lot as a family, but with a newborn it can be challenging. Most of the aisles in restaurants in our part of Japan are too narrow for our Out and About buggy or our Gracodoublebuggy, meaning we have to carry the baby. There are restaurants with tatami floors where you can lie a baby beside you, as we have done in the past, but these come with other issues and concerns. We have eaten in some hotels that actually provide Moses baskets or some form of day bed, but for a casual meal out we prefer to go to a family restaurant. Therefore, dinner often involved hubby or I either taking turns holding the baby, or one of us wearing them in a baby carriertrying to coordinate hand to mouth without spilling too much food on the baby. That is until serendipity led us to a family restaurant with bassinets for newborns or babies who are not yet mobile. It only took to our fourth child to discover these convenient gems, but better late than never. This particular bassinet was enjoyed in the Bamiyan on route 406 in HigashiMatsuyama. Unfortunately, not every Bamiyan has them, as we discovered at the weekend when the kawagoe branch staff had no idea what we were talking about!
If there is a place you like to go to while dining with a small baby, please do share in the comments. ????
February was particularly dismal this year and rain is forecast for most of this first week of March, but by the end of this month these barren trees will be dressed in their finest spring wear. We will have one of many “hanami” under these spreading Cherry Blossom trees. Until then we will continue to enjoy the lesser known, but equally beautiful Ume or Japanese plum tree blooms.
If you are looking for ideas for where to enjoy hanami in Saitama, with young children, please take a look at the Cherry Blossom category on this blog. You will find information for some parks, such as Maruyama park and Kitamoto park, and other play areas such as Enomoto farm.
In this article: A full day of fun in one shopping center
Games and free play inAeon
Hours of fun at Kidzoona: one of Saitama’s best indoor play centers
Dog Therapy at P’s First!
UFO catchers and slot machines at Molly Fantasy Video Arcade
Cheap and cheerful in-store Ministop lunch
You could easily spend a full day hanging out on the 3rd floor of Aeon in the Nisshin area of Omiya – ask me how I know! We arrived at 10 am to go to the popular kids fun centre Kidzooona, but the queue to get in was longer than I’ve ever seen it, so we decided to play in Aeon first.
Right beside where you queue for Kidzooona there is a freeplay area for smaller children as well as game machines for older children. They have lots of sample toys out in this area as well as a large wooden train set (not pictured).
The games are popular with lower grades of elementary school aged children. They have a good range including games from some of the more popular TV cartoon’s games such as Yokai Watch, Pokemon and Dragonball.
The kids played for the full 3 of hours, after which we had our lunch on the Aeon side of Ministop. The Ministop has a seating area both in the Kidzooonaplay centre as well as in Aeon, beside the free play area. We sat on the Aeon side as our time was up in Kidzoona. It is advised to buy your lunch early from Ministop as they don’t have a huge quantity of their lunches and sometimes sell out. They have pre-made sandwiches, bento and noodles as well as a small selection of yoghurts, salads and snacks. You can also buy hot food; basically fast food such as chips (french fries).
After lunch the kids played in the Molly Fantasy video arcade corner to the left of Kidzoona (with Kidzoona at your back) and beside the toilets for Kidzoona.
Finally, we went to P’s Firstfor some free animal therapy! This is the only pet shop I know of in Saitama that allows you hold the dogs, even if you are not there to buy one. The cinema was planned, but the kids were too tired after hours of fun. It was home to bed for us!
The visit referred to in this article was on a Sunday, which is one of there busiest days. I have often brought the kids to Aeon in Omiya over holiday periods too, mainly spring break and during summer holidays. During those periods the play center Kidzoona is busier than a regular weekday, but it is not, in my experience, as busy as weekends. It is a nice day out for young children over the school holidays.
On this floor that has Kidzoona, Aeon play area, Molly fantasy video arcade and P’s First there are children’s toilets, regular toilets and a baby room. The other floors have almost everything you would need for personal and home shopping, such as food, clothes, shoes, pet goods, baby goods, home-ware and toiletries. The cinema is on the fourth floor.
There is a wheelchair accessible entrance and parking. Pets are welcome in part of the store. Some floors operate under different hours, but the main opening hours are 9 am to 10 pm. The grocery area opens earlier and runs later and Kidzoona opens later and finishes earlier. Parking is free and plentiful. The parking levels are different to the shop levels. If you park at level four in the car park it brings you into the 3rd floor of the shop, right beside P’s First.
Address: 2 Chome-574-1 Kushihikicho, Kita Ward, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture 331-0825
One of our first adventures this year (2015), brought us to the 100 caves of Yoshimi, a country designated historical site. The caves are tombs and there are actually 219 of them. They are the largest cluster of tombs of this type in the whole of Japan and have been nicknamed the Japanese Cappadocia. A description I must admit I find hyperbolic. It was our first time to visit the caves and an attraction of that type. I wasn’t sure how much the kids would enjoy it. Much to my delight, they were really eager to explore the terrain and the facilities on site.
Although Japan’s Cappadocia it is not, the area is worth a visit for its unusual landscape and the history. The tombs are a 1400 hundred year old burial mound. They are also home to an underground military factory site, built toward the end of World War II. Another point of interest of the site is that is home to a national natural treasure; hikarigogake. Hikarigogake is luminous moss, and a type of moss that is very precious in the region of Kanto (area around Tokyo) as one of the plants that grows naturally. It shines best from April to October and the darker it is the easier it is to see, so actually a rainy day or late afternoon might be the best time to witness this natural phenomenon.
The underground military factory site is on the ground floor in tunnels carved into the mountain. The kids thrilled in running around, and pretending to be super heroes fighting evil. (Yes, I know, the irony!) These huge caves were dug at the end of World War II for an underground airplane engine factory that never really realised. It had begun manufacturing airplane engine parts before the factory was complete, around July 1945, but when the war ended so did manufacturing and the factory was never completed. The biggest shame in it is that more than 10 of the designated national historic site’s “hyakuana” were lost in the construction.
The caves (/tombs) themselves were only excavated about 60 years before World War II by Tsuboi Shogoro. Thankfully, they have been pretty well preserved since the end of World War II. My kids really enjoy climbing the dozens of steps made to give better viewing of, and in some cases access to, the caves. The stairs are quite steep and there is a lot of them so I would advise you leave your buggy / stroller in the car. Or park it by one of the buildings in the courtyard as you can wheel a buggy through the bunkers. The accessible caves have low entrances and while some of them are difficult for adults to enter they are no problem for kids. My kids quite like playing house in them!
There are a couple of restaurants and shops within the site and there is also a museum (officially Reserve Cultural Property Center) and in the reception building they have an event space. The Reserve Cultural Property Center has some excavated items on display from the Jomon Period, but it is best known for its comma-shaped bead making class.
My kids like to play with the toys that they set out in this event space at the entrance. At New Years they have traditional New Year toys set out and during the year they have different types of toys for kids to play with.
They always have some toys and colouring pages and markers available for young children to play with. We have been to some of their festivals were they typically offer some sort of free craft. On special occasions they also put out some Jomon period clothes (cloth robe essentially) for people to try on and take a photo.
One thing to note: it is not the safest of places to bring more than 2 small children per adult. On our very first visit it was just me with my 4 and my youngest was still a newborn. I had her in a baby carrier and my 2 year old held my hand, but my then 3 year old and 5 year old ran ahead to climb the stairs to the top of the hill. They were okay, but an accident could easily happen as the hill is very steep and there are limited guard rails and the ones that do exist my kids would slip through! Also, in the summer and autumn they have a problem with killer hornets. All that said, it is still a place worth visiting!
You can partake of craft workshops on the grounds if you book in advance.
The afore mentioned play area in the main reception building is available all year round and included in the cover price to the site.
There are 2 restaurants, one of which is also a shop, and a rest area.
There are plenty of vending machines.
There are toilets and a changing mat.
The area is beautiful during cherry blossom (sakura) season.
They have a number of festivals during the year.
During festivals and on Saitama Day the entrance fee is waived.
Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week.
Cost: Free entry for children up to 6 years old. 200 yen for primary school aged children. 300 yen for children over 12 years old and adults. Free parking for up to 250 cars.
Address: 324 Kita Yoshimi, Yoshimi Town, Hiki District, Saitama
Access: Bus : from Tobu Tojo Line Higashimatsuyama station bound for 百吉見穴. Car: 5 km from Higashimatsuyama Interchange of the Kanestsu expressway, in the direction of Konosu.
MORE PHOTOS BELOW THE MAP ↓
Some more photos of the facilities and scenery hereafter.
For more information in English on the history of the caves, please take a look at Jojoebi designsdetailed blog post about them.
Post 4 in a series of posts about where you can view traditional Hina Matsuri Doll displays in Japan. These dolls may not be to the level of the Konosu Bikkuri Hina Matsuri pyramid displays, but they are pretty and come with their own history. They were taken at Nanbata Castle Park and Resource centre, a historical and cultural centre, park and heritage house in Fujimi City.
Nanbata Castle cultural park and heritage house is a free, but fun place to visit with kids. They leave out period toys for children to play with, such as stilts and koma spinning tops. The address is 568-1 Shimonanbata, Fujimi 354-0004. Telephone is 049-253-4664.
The park is also host to a musket shooting display and festival. You can read more here.
The doll festivalis celebrated on March 3rd, annually, for girl’s day in Japan. Each household with young girls display hina dolls from early February for the health and prosperity of their daughters. The dolls are also associated with marriage and there is a belief that if you display the dolls past March 3rd it will adversely effect your daughter’s future marriage potential. Traditionally dolls were tiered on platforms, but nowadays, the dolls are sold in cases. Most businesses and services, such as preschools and hospitals, display the traditional type tiered hina matsuri dolls from early February.
One of the largest displays of the traditional dolls, featuring Emperor, Empress and all the figures of the Imperial Court, as well as the ancient paraphernalia, is in Konosu, Saitama. The title of Konosu‘s famous girls day displays of dolls is very apt. Bikkuri Hina matsuriliterally means “surprising doll festival“. When I walked into where they were hosted in 2015, I literally let out a very audible “WOW!” The displays are indeed surprising and also very impressive, easy to access and free to view. They will be open to the public from February 17th.
The municipality of Konosu celebrated its 60 year anniversary in 2015, but the area has a long doll making history, dating back approximately 380 years. Coupled with the famous hina doll displays, this has earned Konosu the nickname of “Doll Town”. There are different sites in Konosu displaying the tiered dolls of an Imperial court and/or palace. In 2015, we visited the largest at the Konosu City Hall. In 2016 the display was moved to Elumi mall beside the station and that is the current location to view the displays annually.
According to the offical website, the Konosu prefectural doll’s pyramid display is the tallest hina matsuri dolls display in the whole of Japan. There are 31 platforms and it is 7 metres high. There is also a display outside in the courtyard, some in cut bamboo, as well as a large display on a staircase inside and you can view hina dolls throughout the lobby and hallways of the ground and 1st floor of the City Hall. (You can also view other displays in the mall beside the station and other locations, which may change each year.) Even the toilets of the city hall are marked with pictures of an Emperor for men and Empress for the lady’s toilet!
It is free to view the dolls. The main display opens to the public annually on February 17th. The new location at Elumi shopping mall beside the Kounosu train station (Takasaki line) is much easier to access as it is near the station: http://www.elumikonosu.com/
2015 information – there is also free parking for upto 200 cars. Konosu City Hall is an approximate 20 minute walk from JR Takasaki Line Konosu Train Station or you can get a bus bound for the Driving license Centre 免許センター行き. The address is Chuo1-1, Konosu City, Saitama 365-8601. The telephone number is 048-541-1321. Viewing is until the 7th of March from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Here some photos of the hina matsuri doll display at the maternity and paediatrician practise we attend in Fujimi City. These dolls of an Emperor and Empress are displayed from early February to Girls Day on March 3rd. For more information and easy crafts for young children to do with Hina Matsuri, please click here.
You can see displays for the doll’s festivals in many places throughout Japan at the moment. Here is one of the displays at my children’s preschool, shown with the 5 year old’s handmade origami paper Emperor and Empress dolls. For more information on and craft ideas for young children for the hina matsuri / dolls festival / girls day, please click here.
Not only is Kawagoe a tourist area, but it is great place for shopping. There are many high street retailers, discount stores, chain stores, retail outlets, brand names, novelty shops… and even some specialty stores, such as this Hello Kitty souvenir store. Kitty chan and / or cat fans, come one, come all!!
Isanuma Park has a lovely adventure playground suitable for primary school age children, but younger children can also enjoy much of the equipment. Last year they removed a piece of playground equipment at Kawagoe Isanuma Park and started work on replacing it. The new athletic playground equipment is now finished and available for play. It is in keeping with the other wooden playground equipment in the park.
You can find this balancing challenge beside the climbing wall.
They also renewed a piece of the balancing equipment behind the flying foxes.
The net tunnel, which was closed for repair last summer and autumn, is now fixed and open to the public again.
Parking: Parking is available on two sides of the park. The most convenient and largest is the parking lot opposite the lake. There is also parking along the west side industrial area and by the small hotel and tennis courts on the North West side of the park.
By Bus: Take a bus for Kawagoe Green Park and alight at Isanuma Bouken no Mori, approximately 5 minutes walk from bus stop.