Santome Group Environmental and Educational Factory Tour (Plant tour)
After 8.5 years of touring the many attractions of Saitama prefecture, it is always refreshing to find something different that engages all the family. I previously wrote how the Santome village was our favourite find of 2017 for just that reason. And so far, for 2018 our best experience to date was booking the free plant tour in Santome.
Santome is located in Miyoshi town in Iruma ward of Saitama. However, part of the land is actually in Tokorozawa and the location is close to both Kawagoe and Fujimino. It is the brain child of Ishizaka group who operate a number of business lines, but the purpose of Santome village is to promote local production and consumption, forest conservation and environmental education. It is the latter that is on offer when you take the plant factory tour.
Ishizaka group have built on the foundations of the Satoyama principle introduced by feudal lord Yanasigawa Yoshiyasu in the greater Kawagoe area. Yanasigawa instructed and educated locals in agricultural ways that combined and promoted harmony between nature and the way of agriculture and forestry. They combine this way of life with the management style known as Shitsurai. Shitsurai focuses on building and maintaining strong relationships with the local community. It also promotes ties within the community and omotenashi add ons of services for the community within the community. Omotenashi, often misinterpreted as hospitality, is actually more about wholeheartedly entertaining and providing for customers.
The facilities in Santome are part of the Satoyama – Shitsurai – Omotenashi policies of Ishizaka group. And the environmental and educational tour of the plant is one of the many examples and services provided as part of those policies. The plant at Santome is a waste separating and recycling plant of houses. They believe in “Nothing To Waste”, the core of their philosophy. And so they take an old house and quite literally separate all the bits to be recycled into something new. Wood into wood chips, concrete into gravel and so forth. At the plant you can see exactly how they accomplish this.
A trained guide greets you at the meeting point in the newly built reception center. S/he will give you a run down of the company and the tour before guiding you to the plant where you follow the tour route stopping at various points along the way for more detailed information from the guide. The tour is completely in Japanese, but even with limited Japanese the plant is quite visual so you can get the gist. However, if you do understand Japanese it is even more fascinating as they divulge the intricacies of their business.
The tour finishes up at the mini steam train terminus in the play area of the Santome Konjaku Mura. The village has been open for ten years, but its has evolved greatly since 2014 and last year was the big “renewal open” of sorts with the new building and additional eateries and play area.
I took the tour with my 8, 7, 5 and 3 year old children. There were two other families with young children, including one baby, in our group. However, please note that you can not use strollers in the plant as there are a lot of stairs and no elevator. In our group, there was also another family with older children, as well as three middle aged friends and two business people. All of them seemed to enjoy the tour as much as we did. We all got chatting to each other as the tour progressed. Between the initial waiting period and the tour, the plant part of our day took about 70 minutes, but we played in the village and the museum (separate post to come!) before and after and spent a full day at the resort.
A lot of the tour is indoors with only a small part outdoors. As such, the tour can be taken at anytime of the year, although in heavy rain you would want to prepare accordingly. We went during Spring Break and it was just the right climate. I would imagine that it is quite hot in summer, so it may not be an ideal to do during summer holidays if you are not good with the humidity.
The tour is currently offered two days a month, typically one week day and a Saturday. However, during summer holidays they have extra tours and special summer homework events for elementary school aged kids .
For the rest of the year – the tour is usually scheduled for 1 pm with meeting time 10 minutes before that. You need to book in advance online or by phone. The phone number for booking the factory tour is 049-259-6565. If you book online (site here), as I did, they send you an email after you enter your details on the booking form. You need to reply to that email in order to secure your place. In that email you put how many people will be in your party and whether or not you will come by car.
Some of the attractions (in photos) in Santome Village:
The educational factory tour as such does not cost money, but you pay into Santome village. It is extremely reasonable at 500 yen per adult. Children are free. On weekends you also have to pay for parking which is 500 yen per car. You are given a large sticker to put on your clothes to indicate you have paid in, then you can move freely between all the parts of the village. The price also includes a ticket for one adult and two children on the mini train. You can buy more tickets at the mini train station as required. For more on the village and the system, please do see the separate blog post on the play area with athletic playground, tree houses, mini train and more: Santome Part 1 – Something different in Saitama: tree houses, athletic playground, reading room, mini trains and more at Santome .
The Ishizaka educational factory tour may not be for everyone, but even if you are not that interested in factory or plant tours, the Santome village is a fun and quirky place to visit. My kids and I did enjoy the tour as we are quite into factory tours and off the beaten track attractions! It was very educational for the children and we all learned a lot on the day. It was actually quite fascinating to see how they separate waste and see it upcycled to reusable raw materials. The tour guide was particularly nice and I also enjoyed a bit of a break as my 4 kids marched behind her for most of the tour!
Santome Ishizaka Educational Factory tour / Plant tour Access
You can get a bus from Fujimino Station on the Tobu Tojo line at the west exit rotary, for 「くぬぎの森交流プラザ」. It takes about 30 minutes to the plant. The timetable for the bus: http://santome-community.com/access/ (Japanese only).
By car the plant is about 20 minutes on route 463 from the Tokorozawa Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway. For your car navi: 「三芳町上富1589-2」or phone number「049-259-1177」.