Kawajima is a little known town in the larger district of Hiki. It has become slightly more recognised in recent years as one of the newer exits on the Ken-o Expressway. However, it has quite a bit more to offer, including Japan’s longest rose tunnel, which is in a nice park very close to the play centre featured in this post. And thanks to the current Mayor it is expected to become even less obscure within a couple of years.
The new community play center is one of the initiatives of the current Mayor Ishijima. I have had the pleasure of meeting the quietly formidable Mayor who has made significant changes to many of the town’s administrative policies resulting in a better quality of life for anyone who lives in the town. For example, thanks to Mayor Ishijima the town offers families with three or more children free preschool and creche for a third plus child and the second child gets half price. It is just one of the many financial plans the Mayor has implemented to make it a more appealing town to live in.
Kawamin House was originally the town’s only public preschool. It closed down a few years ago and underwent a two year reformation and reopened this year as a children’s community and health center. The health center is only open on Thursdays, the day the community play center closes. They are actually two separate parts of the same building, but they only open one when the other is closed.
The inside of Kawamin House has lots of natural wood, with plenty of natural light afforded from the high presence of windows and there is great circulation throughout the building. There is something very relaxing about the building itself. Add to that the very kind and helpful staff and you have the right combination for a relaxing environment for both parent and child. They have an abundance of classes and interactive activities for children, or you can just play with the center’s equipment.
There is a lovely baby and toddler area on the ground floor (hexagon shaped photos). And their lunch room has great distractions for small kids so parents can eat in peace. On the upper floor apart from a big hall to run around in with some engaging toys, there is a small but nice library room.
The one thing I would say that it has going against it is they don’t actually have a lot of toys, especially for older children. There are a few things in the big hall upstairs, but not enough for a gang of kids on a rainy day. However, as they offer lots of activities and there is lots of room to run about it is still a good place to visit with children of varying ages. Especially on a dry day when children of all ages can make use of the vast play space outdoors. The playground has lots to offer to keep children active and amused and they are still adding attractions. The most recent addition is a climbing (bouldering) wall beside the large (and sheltered) sand pit.
The outside play area is a big draw for my family of four kids aged between two and seven years old. It is the only children’s center that I have been to, to date, that has a big focus on outdoor play. Even Kodomo no Shiro in Ageo, which is one of the best free play centers in Saitama, doesn’t have much to offer outdoors apart from space and a sand pit. (Although there is a playground next door). Kawamin House has slides, swings, various climbing frames including monkey bars, a climbing / bouldering wall, tunnels, slopes, tree house, balancing beams, horizontal bars, paddling pool, sand pit and goal posts.
My two youngest daughter’s particularly love the play kitchen in Kawamin House. They actually have the exact same one in Soyuu Himitsu no Mori in Mallage (Kuki) and also in Konosu’s Kid’s Park in Elumi. Here’s the sponsored bit! This Toy Kitchen is by Step2 and is available on Amazon.co.jp. They sell a number of different kitchens and the prices vary by type and by distributor.
Insaitama.com uses Amazon Affiliation Programme as a way to contribute to the costs of self-hosting a website. I do not get a yennie for you clicking on this link, but if you go on to purchase something on Amazon through this link I get a very (tinchy winchy) small percentage of the sale.
By public transport Kawamin House is a bit difficult to access. You have to get a bus from Wakaba station on the Tobu Tojo line. It is a new bus, only started this year, and goes very infrequently. The terminus is the “Yakuba” 川島役場 and you get off at Yatsuho elementary school.
By car it is very convenient: only minutes from the Kawajima exit of the Ken-o expressway, off route 254.