Category Archives: Tobu Tojo Line

Katsusehara Memorial Park: enclosed playground close to station | FUJIMI

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening hours

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

Access

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

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

MAP AT VERY BOTTOM OF ARTICLE.

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

Phone number: 0493-81-3112


Aruzo Net / Matsubori Real Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Naritasan Temple (& Rilakkuma amulets) | KAWAGOE

Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin Temple is a branch of the Naritasan Shinsoji Buddhist Temple of Narita, Chiba. It has a very interesting, but complex history with many layers of detail.  The founder Ishikawa Tomegoro, with the financial backing of wealthy locals, restored what was previously the ruined Hongyoin Temple to be the first branch of Narita’s Shinsoji Temple.  

The story goes that Ishikawa, a farmer, lost his eyesight and tried to commit suicide. When he was unsuccessful after three attempts he believed it was sign from the Gods and entered the Buddhist priesthood. He regained his sight and the temple is now a popular place to pray for poor eyesight and general eye health. After touring all round Japan he finally settled in Kawagoe at a Shinto Shrine (Hachiman Shrine) where a temple to the Fudo Myo-o, the Wisdom King Acala , a protective Deity, had been established.  That Acala Temple was then moved to what today is the Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin.  Unfortunately there is very little comprehensive information in English to direct you to, but there is a little on the Kawagoe Koedo Naritasan page.

The Kawagoe branch of Naritasan Shinsoji Temple is represented by the Ofuda-sama, the common name for Fudo Myo-o, at the North Gate.  The North Gate is the one to right of the main building as you face it. It is beside a turtle pond.

Here you will find a statue with lots of baby paraphernalia laid to the God and to Jizo for Mizuko, literally water baby, which are babies that have passed away. Jizo are the most venerated bodhisattva in Japan, are believed to be a the equivalent of a patron saint, in Christian beliefs, of dead children.

You can write a prayer plaque for 500 yen to leave for the soul of a passed away child. The temple also offer other services for a lost child, miscarriage or abortion.

There are many other statues and prayer points on the temple grounds.  Including an area to worship Ebisuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Kawagoe. There is a popular 6 kilometre pilgrimmage of the seven temples of which each worship one of the seven lucky Gods. They even have an area where you can get your God stamp for that temple! Naritasan is the 4th stop on the pilgrimage. Ebisuten is the God of purity of unselfishness and the symbol of good luck and happiness. The temple sell Ebisuten Ema, which are votive prayer plaques, that you can write your prayer or request on and hang from a designated prayer plaque area.

The temple sell a number of other Ema, prayer plaques, and omamori, a type of amulet / talisman. One of the more popular ema is that for eyesight, due to the background of Ishikawa and his regained sight. To me a Japanese omamori is a hybrid of an amulet and talisman. From my understanding, an omamori has both the protective power of an amulet and the good luck of a talisman. Naritasan is most famous for their traffic safety omamori. Currently, they are receiving attention for their Rilakkuma omamori. Rilakkuma which means relaxed bear in Japanese, is a popular fictional character and its merchandise is very popular. These amulets / talisman also seem to be very popular although 200 yen more expensive than most at 700 yen a piece.

Despite its interesting background and the amount of prayer spots in the temple, Naritasan is not as well known as its neighbouring temple of Kitain. Kitain is one of Kawagoe’s most famous and popular tourist spots. It is also a station on the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage.  Perhaps in modern society Kawagoe Naritasan is actually most famous for its antique and flea market which is held on the grounds of the temple on the 28th of every month.  It is said to be one of the best antique and flea markets in the Kanto area and always draws crowds.

Access

On Foot

  • 13 minute walk from the Seibu Shinjuku Line Honkawagoe Station
  • 22 minute walk from the JR Kawagoe Line and the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe station
  • 17 minute walk from the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe-shi station

By Bus

You can take a bus from both Kawagoe and HonKawagoe for Minami Furuya station (南古谷駅行き)and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus from Tobu Tojo and JR lines Kawagoe station and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop
「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus  from Tobu Tojo Line and JR LIne Kawagoe station and Hon Kawagoe stations to Kitain Temple 「喜多院バス停」 . It is about a 2 minute walk from that bus stop.

By Car

  • 15 minute drive from Kawagoe Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway.
  • 20 minute drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-O Expressway.
  • Free Parking for about 20 cars

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.

Kawagoe Access from Tokyo 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.

Links

Kawagoe Naritasan Official Site:
http://www.kawagoe-naritasan.net/

Information in English:
http://www.koedo.or.jp/foreign/english/llak/217.html

Naritasan Temple, Chiba, official site:
http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/

Kitain Temple:
Cherry blossom festival at Kitain Temple

Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage of Kawagoe:
http://www.kawagoe.com/7fukujin/m/en/

Tobu Koedo Loop Bus:
http://www.tobu-bus.com/pc/area/koedo.html

Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

Last day of summer food treats, dentist and cat cafe | KAWAGOE

The kids are fairly exhausted after seven weeks of play dates, play centres, day trips, weekends away, special treats and seasonal activities. For their last day of holidays I wanted to treat them without physically exerting them, before the older three go back to school and preschool tomorrow. So rather than a play centre or physical activity, I settled on treating them to food pleasures and their first visit to a cat cafe. We had a dentist visit slotted in between too, but that proved to be quite a pleasure for them with the play area and toy to take home.

In this article:

  • Clean Bread Bakery Kawagoe Raku Raku Bakery
  • Family and child friendly Lion Dentist
  • Rescue Cat Cafe Neko Katsu
  • Retro American Diner MDT Cafe and Dining

*All mapped on a Google MyMap at the bottom of the article.

KAWAGOE RAKU RAKU BAKERY

Our first stop after a leisurely walk through the always pleasurable Sweet Street (Candy Alley / Kashi Yokocho) was at the Raku Raku Bakery for a spot of light lunch before the dentist. This bakery is known far and wide for its homemade clean bread and flour based food. Raku Raku bread, cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies are made from 100% Hokkaido wheat flour. They don’t use any artificial additives, colouring or preservatives. They provide allergy information and have some bread and pastries that are dairy free. An excerpt from City-Cost reviews;

They have a fantastic selection of flour-based food baked in an oven and even have some dairy free goods, which are quite hard to come by in this area of Saitama. They have lots of fruit and vegetable flavoured breads and cakes. My kids particularly enjoy the melon pan and sweet potato bread. Most of their business is take out by locals and tourists, but you can eat your take out on site in the small garden at the side of the bakery. The garden has some wooden tables and chairs and is protected from the sun by groves and sun umbrellas. During this hot season they have a mist spray that cools the entrance to the bakery and the seating area, too. You can help yourself to complementary tea or coffee from self service machines. They are just little cups, but the coffee is quite good. If you prefer sitting in to eat, they have just opened a sandwich deli on the opposite side of the laneway. For purchases exceeding one thousand yen, you can receive a 10% discount with a Saitama Mama and Papas card. There is a little bit of English available in store.

Lion Dentist

The reason my kids enjoyed this dentist so much from my Lion Dental Clinic review on City-Cost.com

It is located within minutes walk of the West exit of Kawagoe station. There are free parking spaces for up to 15 cars. They have a kids play area. Kids also get a toy on leaving the dentists. One of the dental booths can fit a buggy or stroller. The booths are bright and colourful and have flatscreen TVs which plays cartoons for kids, news programmes for adults. If you need any work done, you can get it done then and there, or you can make an appointment for another day. They do implants. They have equipment for taking scans. Every patient can receive fluorine coating for free. They are open until 8.30 pm. I have saved the best for last: the dentists and dental nurses are very skilled, very patient and thorough, and some of them speak English. One has international accreditation. My 3 year old was terrified of going to the dentist and wouldn’t open her mouth at first. I was suitably impressed by her dentist’s patience and technique. She even said after, she wants to go again.

 

Neko Katsu

If only I had a video of my 22 month old child’s reaction when she entered this cafe. It was classic. She squealed with delight and danced on her toes. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have any pets at home, but want to give their kids an experience with animals or animal therapy. An excerpt from my Neko Katsu City-Cost Review;

There were more cats than I had expected and they all seemed quite placid. Because they are rescued cats they do ask that you don’t force a cuddle with them. If the cat is in the mood for a cuddle then it is fine to hold them. They have some toys that cats enjoy that you can use to play with the cats. The room is quite basic with only one or two seats and a few poufs, but it is not a cafe in the typical sense. You do get a drink included with the charge. Due to the fact that it is a cat cafe they are bottled drinks or juice packets. You help yourself from a decent selection in a fridge. Children under twelve are half price. They have a decent stamp card, one stamp per visit and if you get 5 stamps you get an hour free. You can actually adopt a cat if you become attached to one.

MDT Cafe and Dining

We finished the day with an ice-cream sundae for the kids and a latte art for me,  in a 1950s style American diner. It looked like a nice place for drinks with a couple of friends. Unfortunately, due to its size it wouldn’t be suited for a big group. An excerpt from my MDT City-Cost review:

The rock and roll music adds to the ambience. I quite enjoyed listening to half the Grease film album and classics such as Footloose, Johnny Be Good, Shake Rattle and Roll to name, but a few.  The menu is mixed. The billboard outside says that it is a taco rice cafe. They offer a lunch menu, a cafe menu and a night time menu. They have a good selection of beer, including locally brewed Coedo Beer and some foreign beer such as Heineken. We went for a Ice-cream sundae to share, and boy am I glad we were sharing; it was huge. Myself and 2.5 kids (the 1 year old didn’t eat much) struggle to finish the delicous Berry Sundae we ordered. I also ordered a latte art. They have a selection of latte flavours and I think you can also get art on other coffee based beverages. I was very touched, by the picture the Barista drew for me. He drew my 3 girls on the coffee around the words “Welcome” with today’s date. A small, but very touching gesture. They do plate art for birthdays. Within the shop there are lots of collectible toys.

The kids were on a high coming home, but not too tired thankfully. They agreed they want to go back to all the places we visited today… including the dentists! For hours and average costs, please visit the City-Cost.com articles linked.

How did you spend your last day of summer holidays? Please do share in the comments below.

Kawagoe Station East Exit Children’s Centre | KAWAGOE

Kawagoe Eki Higashi Jidokan, or Kawagoe East Exit play center, is located on the 4th floor of a civic center for citizens, Kurasse.  Below it there is a library and above it there are meeting rooms and citizen services. On the 2nd floor there is also a rest area with vending machines. You are allowed eat here, but you are required to bring your rubbish home with you.

Anyone can use this play center and it is free to use. You just need to sign in on entering. They require your name and the name and age of your child, and the city or town you live in if you are from outside the Kawagoe area. The play center isn’t particularly big, but it has enough to entertain young children. There is a main hall with some play equipment including climbing boxes and a slide. They hold events here including an English language event three times a month. Beside the office of the children’s center there is a smaller room with quite a few toys including a play kitchen. There are a selection of books in the hall, including some English books. There are even more English books in the library below the play center. You need to make a membership card to borrow books. As it is a municipal library you can only borrow books if you are from Kawagoe or another town or city that has a mutual book lending agreement, such as Kawajima Town.

The staff are very helpful, but to the best of my knowledge none of them speak English. They have some pamphlets and information for living in Kawagoe, but they are all in Japanese only. They have clean and well kept toilets divided into ladies and men’s, and they also have a wheelchair accessible toilet that has a changing mat. There is an elevator and stairs you can take to each floor.

The centre is open from 9.30 am Wednesday to Monday, closing on Tuesdays except when its a public holiday. It is conveniently located within minutes walk of JR and Tobu Tojo line Kawagoe station. There is parking down a narrow alleyway beside the centre, but parking is charged. I previously drove an American car (Chrysler, Voyager) which was too big to turn into the car park! I have an 8 seater now too, but it is a Japanese model and therefore a bit narrower and it can navigate the turn no problem. The parking is quite expensive, but the nearby coin parking are even more expensive.

This is the play center where Saitama Tots English Playdates (STEPS) group met for the first year of play dates. And we still meet here from time to time. If you are eligible to become a member of STEPS you can find us on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/saitamasteps/

Abbreviated version originally appeared on City-cost.com: Place Review: Kawagoe Station East Exit Children’s Centre, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama | City-Cost

 

Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine| Higashimatsuyama

Yakyu Inari Shrine is located in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama, just 1 hour and 10 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line.  It is one of many shrines to the God Inari. However, what makes it special is that its Chinese characters (“Yakyu” 箭弓) are pronounced the same as the Japanese for baseball (野球).  It has thus come to be known as the baseball shrine.

Photos from the official website:

Lots of baseball fans visit the shrine to pick up a baseball shaped amulet or write on a baseball prayer plaque (Ema 絵馬) to bring good favour to their own skills or to a baseball team they support. Even famous baseball players visit the shrine to pray for a good season. Another reason Japanese tourists visit Yakyu Shrine is to see the pine trees and in the spring to see the peony, azalia and wisteria that bloom around mid April. You can read more about the shrine and flowers in English in this tourist leaflet from Higashimatsuyama city: http://www.higashimatsuyama-kanko.com/SP_EN.pdf

Shrine in photos (access and general information below this gallery).

INFORMATION

Open all year round.

TEL: 0493-22-2104

URL: (Japanese only) http://www.yakyu-inari.jp/index.html

ACCESS: 5 minute walk from the west exit of Higashimatsuyama. Parking for 50 cars.

On Google maps:

Sole ソーレ children’s play centre | HIGASHIMATSUYAMA

Named “Sole” as in the Italian for sun, this is one of the few state run jidokan (children’s centre) you have to pay into. Children are free essentially, but they charge for adults. It is 200 yen for an adult who does not reside in Higashimatsuyama, and 100 yen for those who do. You can pay for a block of 6 months for 1000 yen for a resident, 2000 yen for those from outside the city.

Koala room for babies. Some of the big toys. Small toys need to be put away after each use.
Koala room for babies. Some of the big toys. Small toys need to be put away after each use.

You need to make a member’s card the first time you visit and bring it with you each subsequent time.  The centre is mainly geared to preschoolers and unlike other jidokan, primary school children are not allowed enter and play without supervision.  

They have a “koala” room, that only children up to 1 year old can use.  The room has an area for changing nappies, making and storing bottles, nursing, some larger equipment for mobile babies and lots of toys. You need to put the toys away after each use.

Padded area on right. Glass floor through which you can see kids using the tunnel underneath.
Padded area on right. Glass floor through which you can see kids using the tunnel underneath.


The “kangaroo” room has paper craft, colouring and play dough. The “kuma” area has some books and tables, and a small padded area for babies. Part of the floor is glass so you can see the tunnel underneath that children love to play in. There is a sink there too for making bottles.

The main hall has slides, wooden play houses, soft blocks, a piano and an area off it with loads and loads of wooden toys.  There is a rest room and a room for eating in,   “Kirin” 1 and 2. They have separate toilets for babies, children and adults.

For what you get, it is certainly worth the money. The whole centre is wooden, with high ceilings and lots of light. The majority of toys in the main hall and in the koala room are wooden. They are educational toys. They hold special events each month, usually you don’t have to pay extra for them. One of the best we saw was a father and son juggling show, which was high on audience participation. Their birthday parties for kids who had a birthday in a given month are fun and make children feel special.  The staff are nice enough, but they are quite strict and not overly friendly.  Parking is free. The parking lot is shared with the community centre next door. The entrance is a bit tricky to find. It is a laneway between the community centre and a yakiniku restaurant. You then walk down a laneway to come in the back of the centre. See access map and further information below.

Juggling show
Juggling show

INFORMATION AND ACCESS

Hours: Friday to Wednesday (closed Thursdays) 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Costs: Outlined in the first paragraph
URL: http://www.comaam.jp/solemare/index.html
Phone: 0493-23-2231

Access:  
Approximately a 13 minute walk from Tobu Tojo Line Higashimatsuyama Station.
Approximately 2 minute drive from main route 407. Please see the Google My Map below. The red line is the parking entrance, the grey line is the walking route from the parking lot to the centre’s entrance.

Luminous Moss, Military Factory and 100 Caves of Yoshimi | YOSHIMI

100 caves of yoshimi (5)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.

Sakura on Moss

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.

World War II Bunkers
Underground Military Factory Site

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.

100 Caves of Yoshimi Blog (2)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!

Traditional Toys at 100 Caves

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.

Colouring pages at 100 Caves

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.

Beware of Susumebachi sign

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!

100 Caves of Yoshimi Blog (1)

Information:

  • 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

Tel: 0493-54-4541

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 designs detailed blog post about them.

Nearby Attractions:

Iwamuro Kannon

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

Ichigo No Sato, Yoshimi

Playground at Ichigo no Sato | Yoshimi

Strawberry Picking, Yoshimi

Strawberry Picking in Yoshimi, Saitama

The Baseball Shrine, Higashimatsuyama

Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine| Higashimatsuyama

Park and Playground, Yoshimi Friendship Athletic Park

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

Santa is back

The Wakaba Walk Santa statue is taking his pride of place in the main courtyard again this year.  By sitting on Santa’s lap the Christmas tree behind him lights up.

1-Dec 3 2013 (4)

Wakaba Walk is a mall in Sakado, a minutes walk from the Wakaba Station on the Tobu Tojo Line. It is a small mall, with 56 shops.  Well known stores include Yaoko, Daiso and Akachan Honpo.  There are a few restaurants, a food court, “Halos Garden” amusement / kids centre and a cinema.  Parking is free for the first two hours. You can get a ticket validated for a further free hour when you purchase more than 1000 yen in one shop. Cinema goers can enjoy free parking for up to 4 hours. The parking lot is open until 1am.

紅葉 Autumn leaves at Mizohata Park, Sakado

I tried a new park today. It’s a bit of a hobby of mine to find new places to bring the kids, can you tell!? The park is Mizohata Park in Sakado, only a 2 minute walk from Kitasakado station and quite close to the Sakado Jidokan (free children’s community centre).  It’s a small park; basically a playground and green open space cum baseball field. It has toilets, but what park in Japan doesn’t? It also has free parking, about 20 spaces.

The playground has a unique piece of playground equipment; a flying-fox-coaster. That’s my made up name for it, not sure if it has an official name. It’s a flying fox that goes around and up and down, reminded me of a rollercoaster… take a look at the photo “flying fox” in the gallery! It also has a very basic little maze, visible in the first and second photo in the gallery, with fun play areas in it such as a tunnel, a little house and a slide. There are lots of speaking tube toys; where tubing connects sound horns and other speaking boxes to allow voices to travel to separate points. There are 3 slides, two built like animals and one is a roller slide, 4 swings, a sandpit and 4 spring animals/ vehicles.

Most of the leaves have fallen as you can tell in the photos, but as you can see there was some nice foliage left in parts.