Must visit shop and foot spa cafe “Tsubaki No Kura” | KAWAGOE




Tsubaki no Kura is a Kura Dai-kukan (Traditional Japanese storehouse space) that has been transformed into a shop that sells Japanese condiments, souvenirs, textiles, sake, Power stones, shrine goods and has a FOOT SPA CAFE and displays art. It is one of my personal favourite spots in Kawagoe and always a stop off when I am bringing people on guided tours of the area.   I also like to stop into the cafe, detailed below the shop guide, even when I am on my own to bathe my feet as I enjoy a quiet drink.

This storehouse has one of the tallest heights of the Japanese warehouses in Kawagoe at nine meters high. You feel the impact as you enter the store where the front section is the original storehouse height. To add to the majesty there is some beautiful traditional Japanese art from Mr. Eiki Kimura on display in this front lobby area and you can see the red torii on the renovated second floor behind. Tsubaki no Kura is home to three unique stores and the reception for the outdoor foot spa cafe and zen garden.

Kura the Japanese for the traditional type Japanese warehouses. The tourist area of Kawagoe is famous for the amount of ancient warehouses they have. This particular warehouse is named after camellia “Tsubaki“.  It is a really unique, colourful and fun space to explore. The art, the indoor torii as well as a shinto tree add to the ambiance and colour.  There is such a mix of products and over hundred different types of souvenirs that you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring all the shop has to offer.

Tsubaki No Kura Shops

①Kaya sells a number of different type of modern Japanese souvenirs made from traditional Japanese textiles. The large textile banners you see in the shop with classic depictions of Japanese art by modern methods, are made by Kaya. They sell wash cloths, clothes, tapestry, purses, Japanese loincloths, rain covers, socks, even smart phone covers. And that is to name but a few of their original goods.

Official site: http://www.wa-kaya.jp/

Tsubaki Ya Shouten sells regional Japanese food stuff such as sauces and snacks. Both Kaya and Tsubaki Ya Shouten are on the first floor.

Iwakura is on the second floor. The shop is decorated with torii (red shrine gates) and there is a tree in the centre of a room presented like the sacred trees at shrines with white shinto paper adorning it. They also have a mini shrine and a place to tie fortunes, just like at a shrine. This floor sells power and precious stones as well as goods made from the same; mainly bracelets but some necklaces too. They have lacquered goods such as chopsticks and mirrors, small bags made in traditional Japanese fashion, and glass ware too.  There is a little theater down the back of the area with seats to watch educational videos.  There is  stairs from this seating area which leads to the back of the first floor where the reception for Tsubakiya is.

Official Site: http://www.iwakura-stone.jp/

 

 Tsubakiya Foot Spa Cafe

Tsubaki No Kura (11)

This is a great spot to take a break and “refresh”, as the Japanese say, while touring around Kawagoe. Enjoy a foot spa with your tea, coffee, soft drink or beer outside in a tranquil zen garden with beautiful Japanese parasols.  You can taste a speciality of Kawagoe, sweet potato, in the form of a light treat, or an original ginger ale made from kochi ginger. The beer is also the famous local Coedo beer.  They have cocktails too. The small cafe, seating only 8 people, is very popular so it is very common to queue to enjoy the experience and the view.

Average Price: from 400 yen for a beverage, from 680 yen for alcohol, from 350 yen for a snack

Tsubaki No Kura Contact and Hours

Phone Number: 049-227-7030

Official site (English available): http://tsubaki-kura.jp/

The main URL (above) has some English, but information in store and the websites for the individual shops within the warehouse are all in Japanese only.

Hours: 10 am to 7 pm on weekdays and until 8 pm on weekends

Tsubaki No Kura Access

This shop is on the main tourist strip and is serviced by tourist and public buses. There is no parking for the shop, but there are plenty of coin parking lots in Kawagoe.

Getting to Kawagoe from Tokyo / 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.
  • About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.
  • About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

From Kawagoe Station

If you are walking it takes about 20 minutes from Kawagoe Station and about 10 minutes from Hon-Kawagoe station. You can also take a bus:

Koedo Kawagoe bus one day pass allows you unlimited travel on the Koedo Kawagoe buses. It costs 300 yen. In the bus they have a monitor with sightseeing information.  Some tourist places give discounts on souvenirs or entrance tickets to people with a one day pass.
Koedo Kawagoe Loop BusKoedo Meguri (Loop) Bus from Kawagoe station. You can buy a one day pass that allows you unlimited travel on the Meguri Bus. It stops at 16 different locations. 104 different shops, offer discount services such as souvenirs, food, and entrance fees to facilities for holders of this day pass. There are announcements in English and Chinese as well as Japanese so foreigners can feel at ease. More information here:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

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!

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. They are also a distributor of the fantastic British board games giant Orchard Toys, my personal favourite toy brand for children under six. 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.

Wai Wai Park @ Aeon | SAYAMA

In the food court of Aeon (formerly Carrefour) in Sayama they have a play area for children. If you haven’t been there in more than six months, you might remember a broken down excuse of a play center called Yu Kids Ai land. However, they reformed it last summer and re-opened it as Wai Wai Park on August 15th 2016.

It is very hard to believe that Wai Wai Park is part of Aeon Fantasy, the same company that brings you the incredible and top class child’s play center Kidzooona.  This branch of Wai Wai hasn’t got a patch on Kidzoona. And it is even smaller than the old Yu Kids Ai land, which when it was in its prime was actually a fairly decent play center. They just run it into the ground and in the last two to three years there was more broken play equipment than there was working ones. The new Wai Wai Park is up-to-date, functional, bright and colourful. It is just lacking equipment. Due to that, I really wouldn’t recommend it for a child older than three.

Basically it has: a balloon room, a ball pool, an inflated slide, merry-go-round swings, an electronic see-saw, turn tables and some make-believe toys. The latter is a few princess dresses, a kitchen and a tako-yaki cart. There are also a few other lose toys such as wooden cars, a pull along dog and a few other bit and pieces. The end. Yes, that is all they have. Instead of using the space that was there for the whole play center, they decided to use two thirds of it and use the other one third for coin operated rides and games for young children. So apart from there being less to play with, depending on what type of child you have, you could be facing tantrums when your kid wants to play with the coin operated machines even after playing in Wai Wai land. Thankfully, my youngest isn’t like that, but I would have had a hard time with one of my kids if they had been here at toddler age.  My youngest was also content just playing for the thirty minutes, which is the package, and didn’t mind leaving, but I think for some two year old children they might find the time too short.

Another thing that has changed, for the worse in my opinion, is you are no longer allowed sit outside and watch your child from the counter. It is hard to believe that just five short years ago, before it became dilapidated and well before Studio Cafe Zoo Adventure came along,  this was my go-to child center to get a break while the kids played. I could bring a Mr Donuts coffee and donut to the counter outside the play area and sit watching the kids play with a clear view. It was heavenly! Now you have to enter with them. I don’t mind that of course, you expect that in most places anyway, it is just that it is a shame this space no longer has that selling point.

I will be honest: I can’t figure out if this place is reasonably priced or not. It is 500 yen for 30 minutes, which at first sounded expensive to me considering the lack of equipment, especially in comparison to what you get for your money in other places. HOWEVER, you don’t have to pay for an adult. So essentially it was 500 yen for both of us.  In that way, I think it is probably fair and there is a lot worse ways you could spend your money, afore mentioned demon coin machines for one, where 500 yen lasts you 5 minutes. And therefore it is probably worth the 500 yen for a visit every now and then. Do be careful though: they don’t tell you when your time is up and if you go over your time they charge you a 100 yen for every additional 10 minutes.

Address: 1126-1 Kamiokutomi, Sayama-shi, Saitama-ken 350-1333

Phone: 070-3100-4537

URL: http://www.fantasy.co.jp/brand/kanto.html#saitama
For the Tokyo 2020 Olympics the area of Sayama may very well be a pre-games training camp host for RUGBY. The training camp grounds on offer are at Secom Rugby Field very near this play center and mall.

At the time of writing this, Google Maps still hasn’t updated the center to the new name and contact information, but the location is right:

 

Nearby Attractions:

 

Best of Saitama: Chikozan Park | SAYAMA

Multi-purpose park with Campsite, BBQ, Zoo, Fishing, Sport facilities, Athletic Playground, Multi-use Playground, Beautiful Flora and Fauna. Chikozan Park in Sayama is close to the controversial pr…

Source: insaitama.com/chikozan-park-sayama-saitama-best/

Cats Eye Play and Sports Centre | SAYAMA

Cats Eye play and sports centre is very like Spocha in Round 1, just not as classy or clean, and the limited number of staff leave a lot to be desired. There is a smell of stale smoke in the areas …

Source: insaitama.com/cats-eye-play-and-sports-centre-sayama/

Hatsuneya Garden Cafe【from Google Maps & City-Cost Reviews】 | KAWAGOE

Online Reviews of HATSUNEYA GARDEN CAFE written by yours truly! Sophisticated café suited to a date, a coffee with friends or some tranquil and relaxing alone time.

Local Guide Review on Google Maps:

​https://goo.gl/maps/nV8biizLBeu

And from City-Cost.com:

Chic cafe: A bit of piece and quiet in bustling Kawagoe

One hundred and fifty eight year old Hatsuneya Garden is best known to locals as a wedding hall, but it has a cafe and restaurant also. Both the cafe and restaurant only opened in recent years. The restaurant and the gardens are off limit to the public when there is a wedding on, but the coffee shop is open 7 days a week. You are free to enjoy the garden when there is no wedding on, but be warned – that is barely ever! I have yet to see the acclaimed gardens as every time I have been they have been in use by a private party.

What I like about most about this hidden gem off the main thoroughfare is that the surroundings are very tranquil. The cafe offers peace, serenity, comfort and chic. The menu is quite limited, but it is really only somewhere for a coffee and cake. They usually have about 3 or 4 desserts on offer. They only make a certain amount a day, so it is not uncommon for at least 1 choice to be sold out by early afternoon. The coffee is quite strong and most suited to regular coffee drinkers. They have tea and other beverages if coffee isn’t your thing. The other thing I really love about this cafe is its terrace. The views are particularly great, but there is a nice ambience. Smokers are welcome on the terrace, so if you want a smoke free indulgence I recommend sitting in the comfy seats indoors.

It opens from 11 am to 6 pm. There is parking for nine cars. It is approximately 6 minutes walk to the nearest bus stop. No wheelchair accessible entrance or toilets. Not ideal for children, but they don’t discourage them either.

Natural Cafe Sora | YOSHIMI

The standard of restaurants and cafes is so high in Japan, that it is hard to find a restaurant that makes a strong indelible impression on me. Often it is only the unforgivably bad or exceptionally good ones that stand out among the crowd. Today, I found one of the latter: I dare say it is my new FAVOURITE restaurant in the whole of Saitama.

I would love to give it the accolade of the best restaurant in Saitama, but, it is not perfect and there are a few notable things it is missing, which are mentioned below.  However, the positives far outweigh the negatives and the number of people there today, despite the VERY remote location, is sheer testament to the quality and service of this gem in rural Yoshimi.

Very Family and Child Friendly

Kids meal. The Curry dish on its own is available without pre-ordering, but if you want the set you need to order on the phone in advance. Photo courtesy of J. Tamura. Thank you very much JT <3

Natural Cafe Sora is divided into two parts. Downstairs the center area and the area on the right of the restaurant are dedicated to families and people with children. The left hand side and upstairs are allocated to singles or people with friends, maybe even some come on a date! The rooms upstairs can be booked for private gatherings. In the adult only side of the restaurant, divided from the family area by a wall with an indoor window, they have tables and counter seats. The counter along the window looks out into the garden.

The family area has two styles of seating; Western style with tables and chairs, and Japanese style low tables and you sit on the tatami floor. Both areas have tables that can be moved or removed, but generally speaking each area would fit three families. In the Western area they have high chairs and a high-lo chair for children and babies. In the Japanese area children can either sit on the floor or in bumbos.

They have a very nice children’s menu, but it requires booking. If you want one of their dishes with character faces you need to ring and book in advance. Without booking a child’s meal in advance the selection is a bit limited, but, unless you have allergies, you will find something on the menu for a child. You can also share what you are eating and they have an area with children’s bowls, plates, cups, spoons and forks that you can use freely.

The Japanese room is where the toys and books are, but you can bring toys to the table and play with them in the Western area. The selection is quite good and entertained my two year old for hours. There were older children there today too who were playing contently or reading what they had on offer. They also have handmade clothes, toys and trinkets for sale displayed in this area.  Outside they have a swing, tarzan rope, wooden stepping stones and small climbing unit with slide. The latter is suited to toddlers. There are also tricycles and push along rides that you can use freely.

Healthy fresh food

Most of the vegetables are farmed on the land. The lunch dishes come with a sizable portion of fresh colourful salad with at least 5 different types of vegetables. I had the burger dish today, which is a burger in a gratin dish with a great selection of vegetables covered in cheese and roasted. It was absolutely divine. You can choose to have rice or bread with your lunch dish. The bread came fresh out of the oven.  My youngest had the kid’s curry.  It is homemade with pumpkin, renkon, broccoli and carrots in the curry and it comes with sausages cut into animals.

 

The menu is in Japanese only, but when I mentioned to the staff that I hoped to come back with some English speaking friends, she said that if I booked she would make us up an English menu. ♥ To be honest, as they have photos in the menu and the staff are so patient and kind I told her it wouldn’t be necessary.

Kids meal that was booked in advance on the phone. Photo courtesy of J. Tamura. Thank you JT

One thing I should mention is that they do not fully cater to people with allergies. They are very helpful and accommodating though and are willing to accommodate some allergies, such as dairy or egg, but unfortunately not gluten intolerance. They did also say it is okay to bring food with you for a child who has allergies. The menu isn’t that extensive, but it is a nice selection. Lunch is served between 11 am and 2 pm, but there is some food you can get outside that period. They have a good selection of drinks too including 100% juice. You can just order a drink if you would prefer not to eat.

General Information

You take your shoes off in the porch and enter in your socks or bare feet. I didn’t notice any slippers, except in the bathroom where they have toilet slippers. The restroom area is very spacious with a toilet for men, one for women, a spare and a small toilet for children. The restaurant was very warm and had quite a cosy and comfortable feel to it. The decor is rustic with lots of natural wood and there is a very relaxed atmosphere.  They had some soft lullaby type music on in the background.

You can make reservations in advance, as late as the morning you wish to go too. The tatami room seems to be the most popular as that was fully booked out today. Although not entirely necessary, I do recommend that if you are going with children to book in advance and remember to book for the special children’s meals too.

There is seating outside that you can use all year round. The main section is on a dais and has a partial cover over it. There are also some benches and garden type furniture in the courtyard. The biggest thing the restaurant has going against it is that it is not wheelchair friendly. They do not have an entrance or a toilet for people with lower mobility or in wheelchairs.  Some of the tables outside could in theory be used by a person in a wheelchair, but the paving is a little uneven and so maybe not ideal. And the main seating area on the dais does not have a ramp up to it. On Google Maps somebody gave the restaurant only one star and I can’t help wondering, if this was the reason.

I do not know if there is any smoking allowed. I didn’t see any ashtrays outside and there was no smell of smoke in the restaurant.

Doll display up in Sora restaurant Yoshimi, for Girls Day on March 3rd

The restaurant really is in the middle of nowhere, but it is on a cycle course! There is no train line near it and the only landmark nearby is Yoshimi’s swan lake or a driving range. You drive up someone’s driveway to get to the restaurant and down a narrow road that turns into another driveway. You would be forgiven to think you have gone the wrong way! I did see a bus stop about a five minute walk away from the restaurant, but not a bus (or car for that matter!) in sight.

Opening hours: 11 am to 4 pm from Wednesday to Sunday, lunch is from 11 am to 2 pm.

Phone: 0493-54-5583

Address: 〒355-0156 Saitama-ken, Hiki-gun, Yoshimi-machi, Nagayatsu 759

URL: http://ameblo.jp/naturalcafe-sora/

Access by car

(Google Map at bottom of article).

  • 15 minutes drive from Tobu Tojo Line’s Higashimatsuyama station.
  • 20 minutes drive from JR Takasaki Line’s Konosu or Kumagaya stations.
  • 20 minutes drive from the Higashimatsuyama Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway.
  • 15 minutes drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-o expressway.

Free parking for about six cars right in front of the restaurant, plus an overflow car park for a further ten and three spots to the side of the restaurant for larger sized vehicles.

 

Natural Cafe Sora in rural Yoshimi is suited to all types of groups from individuals, to a group of friends, to families and maybe even a couple on a date! It is supposedly popular with cyclists and bikers. If you are a cyclist or biker or indeed you have a car and are within commutable distance, I really recommend it as a rest stop on a cycle or drive or for a nice family lunch or date with your kids 🙂

 

Other attractions in Yoshimi:

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

One of our first adventures this year, brought  us to the 100 caves of Yoshimi. The caves are tombs and there are actually 216 of them.  It was our first time to visit the caves and an attraction o…

Source: insaitama.com/100-caves-of-yoshimi-saitama/

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

When I first came to Japan it was as an exchange student with 6 of my friends from my University in Ireland. One of my friends famously said “If you’ve seen one temple, you’ve see…

Source: insaitama.com/iwamuro-kannon-yoshimi/

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

We hadn’t visited Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground for a while, so I was surprised to discover some of the kids’ favourite equipment in this park has been removed. They have put …

Source: insaitama.com/yoshimi-athletic-ground/

Setsubun: catching beans for good luck at Kitain Temple | KAWAGOE

February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. People celebrate annually with traditional ceremonies in both homes and temples. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or bean throwing. A lot of families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple to do it with a crowd. Today, we did both.

When you carry out setsubun at home, the aim is to chase the ONI (ogres) away. It sounds like a metaphor for exorcism, but it is just a ritual to rid the house of evil and allow luck in for the coming year.  The oni represent evil and bad luck. We shout “Demons out, luck in” as we throw beans at an ogre, which is often the head of the household dressed up in traditional garb!  Most preschools and children community centers also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.  I’ve previously written about our experiences of chasing the demon away while celebrating Setsubun at home.

When celebrated at a temple,  temple staff and honoured guests throw beans into the crowds from a dais.  It is not unusual for the temples to also throw things other than beans. In some places they throw fortunes or amulets or money or a combination of these. Tokyo has some temples that are famous for sumo wrestlers and / or celebrities throwing money to the excited crowds. Most temples conduct rituals before the bean throwing ceremony.  Some temples also have a performance by Oni, Japanese ogres or demons. The oni in Japan usually have one or two horns and wear animal print shorts. They are most often depicted as being red, but the most famous setsubun festival in Kazo, Saitama has 3 oni; one red, one blue and one black. There are many temples that conduct setsubun and mamemaki ceremonies throughout Saitama. We went to one of the biggest; Kitain Temple in Kawagoe. This year was the kids first to participate in a ceremony of this type. They were dubious at first, but they quickly joined in on the commotion and were thrilled with their haul. They recounted the affair to their grandparents with great animation and excitement.

The video shows the dais. You can hear the emcee chanting. The last thing he says is "Fuku ha uchi" which invites luck and signifies the start of the bean throwing. I turned off the camera so I would have a chance to catch some of the goodies. :-)

One of the reasons I didn’t bring them to such a ceremony up until now was because I was worried that the crowds would be intimidating, even dangerous. However, I found today that people were quite careful of children for the most part, plus they made periodical announcements to watch out for small children.  We were able to secure a nice little spot right by the dais with a responsible crowd around us, during the bean throwing.  However, just before the ceremony ended the throwers accumulated on our end of the dais with huge boxes of goods (not beans) to throw, so there was a sudden surge in the crowd. That was a little frightening for my 2 year old, but she was okay in my arms. It was actually a wonderful feeling when there were dozens of little packets falling from the sky and enveloping us in a feeling of richness! However, the scramble to pick up the fallen packets was both surprising and amusing. The kind Ojiichan (older man) beside us suddenly became an oni himself as he whipped a packet from under my hand. Another stood on a packet so that my six year old couldn’t pick it up! The generous Obaachan (older woman) beside us who had passed us packets of beans was slipping unseen numbers of packets into her pockets and handbag. Despite those incidents we got a good hoard and the kindness of the Ojiichan and Obaachan returned as they complimented my kids on their stash and their devout participation. Much to my surprise I felt totally exhilarated after the whole experience.

    

Apart from the various ceremonies that were conducted there were other festivities to be enjoyed at Kitain today. They had some festival food stalls as well as some stalls selling flowers and plants, but what interested me most were the various stalls selling good luck charms, mainly Daruma and Manekineko. As we entered Kitain from the car park we stopped to look at the Daruma at the first stall. The very friendly, personable and informative owner told us many things about the goods he was selling. While we were there a man bought one of the giant daruma which would cost around 20,000 yen (approximately 200 Eur0). We were invited to join in the Sanbonjime to mark the occasion.  Sanbonjime is the custom of clapping your hands rhythmically 3 times for 3 claps and one final clap to signify fulfillment. They only do this type of Tejime (ceremonial rhythmic clapping) when they sell their biggest sized Daruma. Passersby stopped to observe and exclaim enthusiastically. It was a lovely thing to be invited to enjoy and I think we may have received some good karma from it!

I have always enjoyed Setsubun as much for what it represents as the fun and vivaciousness of the celebration.  Now that the kids are old enough to enjoy the bean throwing ceremonies at temples, it just adds to the whole experience.  It completes the day for them too, as the celebration in the house is over quite quickly. The preparation of the masks and the aftermath of thrown beans take exponentially longer than the bean throwing ceremony itself! The kids love making the masks, feasting on the ehomaki, the traditional sushi rolls or makizushi and throwing the beans and eating them. (They say that if you eat the same number of beans as your age you will have good health for the year. ) However, I think after today’s experience,  what they are most anticipating now is the bean throwing ceremony at Kitain Temple Kawagoe. 🙂

For more details on Kitain Temple including maps, access details and other seasonal information:
http://insaitama.com/autumn-leaves-at-edo-castle-remains-kitain-temple/


A fantastic detailed and informative video about Setsubun in CHICHIBU SHRINE:

 

Place Review: 3D latte Art Café Chocotea | SAKADO

Stylish café, Warm ambiance, Delicious food and 3D Latte art…

This is a more detailed version of the review of Cafe Chocotea I originally wrote for city-cost.com.

Everything about my experience at Café Chocotea today was positive and gratifying. From the minute I walked in, I got a really good vibe about the place. The decor is bright cozy rustic, the space is colourful and comfortable, the menu is very well thought out and appetising, the selection of coffee and drinks is impressive. The 3D latte art is worth every yenny.

The staff are very welcoming and the barista speaks perfect English. There are 3 menus, which take a little time to read, but the server will explain anything you are not sure about. You can order individual dishes of food, or opt for a lunch set, or just have a coffee or one of their famous 3D lattes. The lunch sets are a panini or an open sandwich with a choice of add-on sides. The scones are as good as at home in Ireland. The food is really good quality and healthy. They have a good choice of drinks. The 3D art takes about 20 minutes to make, but you get a service drink while you are waiting. The barista only makes a limited number of 3D latte art a day and usually restricts it to one per table. The other latte art, that is not 3D, has no restrictions. The soft drinks are served in larger glasses much like a fish bowl!

We got the table near the door which sits four, in 2 very comfortable leather 2 seater sofas. There are 2 two-seater tables beside that. All 3 of these seats have low tables and sitting room type chairs or sofas.  Up a step there is a large table which sits about six. They have a high chair for a baby / toddler in this section. They also have a workbench area for kids. If you have a child with you, they will provide children’s cutlery and crockery when you order food. The place is small, but very relaxed and quiet.  It is a good place to relax over a coffee and a book, but it also a nice place to enjoy a break with your child in tow. They have a selection of books and magazines for patrons to borrow, including some children’s books.

Added in February 2017
On a subsequent visit for a playgroup meeting there were 4 adults and 4 children. The owner was very accommodating to our various needs. We were able to relax and there was no pressure to leave the table. We were there for about three hours. I was very impressed with the level of service and kindness of the staff.

Stairs outside, beside car park, to toilet

The café is not wheelchair friendly and the toilet is outside and up a steep stairs, with no changing mat, but other than that there is nothing else you can fault about this local gem.

 

Access

The nearest station is Tobu Tojo Line’s Sakado station. It is about an 8 minute walk. Kita-Sakado station is also relatively close. It is about a 15 minute walk.

By car it is approximately 7 minutes from the Tsurugashima exit of the Kanetsu Expressway. There is free parking out the back of the café, down a narrow alley.

Original on City-Cost.com

Review – Café Chocotea in Japan. Everything about my experience at Café Chocotea today was positive and gratifying. From the minute I walked in, I got a really good vibe about the place. The d

Source: Place Review: Café Chocotea, Sakado-shi, Saitama | City-Cost

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

10 Winter Play Spots in Saitama, commutable from Tokyo

With the dry and sunny weather, January is a great month to be out and about in Saitama. The choice of winter-only activities is an added incentive to don some winter woollies and head out into the cold. We may not have much (if any) snowfall, but you can still ski and play in snow in the Tokorozawa / Sayama area of Saitama.  We have a great selection of ice-rinks throughout the prefecture including one natural rink in rural Saitama. There is also a selection of indoor activities such as sport centres, heated pools and strawberry greenhouses to warm you up on even the coldest of days. Below is a pick of 10 indoor and outdoor locations, where you can either embrace or escape the cold this winter in Saitama.

1. Kasa skate rink

This is the only natural skate rink I know of in Saitama. Local volunteers band together to turn the natural ice pool into a suitable skate rink. However, as it is natural ice extra precaution is advised. You can borrow skates, guards and helmets at the rink.

Access: Bus from JR Hachiko Line Ogawamachi Station or Ogose Station to Shohoji 「正法寺」 . The rink is a five minute walk from the bus stop.

Free parking for up to 40 cars.

Address: Nishidaira, Tokigawa machi, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0364. Telephone: 0493-67-0853

Hours: Open 9 am to 4 pm weekends and holidays only, while the ice is frozen, typically until early February.

Cost: 500 yen for high school students and adults, 200 yen for children. Skate rental is also 500 yen for high school students and adults, 200 yen for children.

2. Numakage Ice Rink

The 50 metre pool in Numakage park is transformed into an ice rink in the winter. The rink opens late on weekends. If you just want to observe people skating you can enter the rink area for free.  There are other facilities of interest in the park such as an indoor pool and yoga and pilate classes.

Access: 10 minute walk from JR Saikyo Line Musashi Urawa station.

Free parking for up to 150 cars.

Address: 2-7-35 Numakage, Minami Ku, Saitama City, Saitama 336-0027. Telephone: 048-861-9955

Hours: Open 9 am to 6 pm on weekends and until 8.50 pm on weekends and public holidays until February 19th.

Cost: 640 yen for adults, 310 yen for primary and high school students, children under 7 are free. Skate rental costs 360 yen per person.

3. Saitama Ice Arena Winter Only Illuminated Rink

The Saitama Ice Arena is open all year round, but for weekends during the winter months they also have a sub rink that is illuminated at night. The main rink is an olympic sized rink. They have all the necessary safety gear available for children; you can borrow helmets for free.

Access: On Fridays, weekends and public holidays there is a shuttle bus from the east exit of the JR Takasaki Line Ageo station. It costs 200 yen for adults and a 100 yen for children. 20 minute walk from New Shuttle line’s Haraichi and Shonan stations.

Free parking for up to 70 cars.

Address: 4-386 Hinode, Ageo City, Saitama 362-0032

Hours: 10 am to 6 pm for the regular rink, the illuminated rink is open 6 pm to 8 pm on weekends, Fridays and public holidays for the months of December, January and February only.

Cost: 1100 yen for adults and high school students, 600 yen for children. Skates cost 500 yen to rent.

4. Lake Town Koshigaya Ice Rink

The huge outlet of Lake Town in Koshigaya have a seasonal outdoor ice-rink during the winter months in the “Sora no Hiroba”. From the 9th of January it is only available on weekends and public holidays.

Access: About a 7 minute walk from Musashino Line Koshigaya Lake Town Station.

Approximately 6 kilometres from the Misato Interchange on Joban Expressway. Approximately 7 kilometres from the Soka Interchange of the Tokyo Gaikan Expressway. Parking for 2200 cars. The first 5 hours are free and after that 100 yen for 30 minutes.

Address: Laketown Koshigaya, Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture 343-0828 Japan. 

Hours: 11 am to 7 pm on weekends and public holidays.

Cost: 500 yen for 30 minutes for anyone over 13 years old.
300 yen for 30 minutes for children between 4 and 12 years old.
600 yen for parent and child pair ticket.
Skate rental 400 yen per person.

Lake Town Outlet Skate Rink | KOSHIGAYA

5. Seibu Snow Kingdom

The Snow Kingdom in Seibu Amusement park will run until March 5th this year. Kids can enjoy sliding down the snow on snow tubes, sledges and / or giant inflated slides. They also have buckets and spades for digging tunnels or striders for use on the snow. There is also a ice skating rink in the amusement park.

Access: 5 minute walk from Seibu Tamako Line Seibu Yuenchi Station and Seibu Line Seibuen Station.

12 kilometres from Tokorozawa Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway. Parking for 1200 cars (1300 yen per day).

Address: 2964 Yamaguchi, Tokorozawa City, Saitama 359-1145. Telephone:  042-922-1371.

Hours: The schedule varies a lot, but generally speaking it is open Fridays to Mondays and is generally closed Wednesdays and Thursdays. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm.  Please check the official website to make sure the snow park is open the day you hope to go: http://www.seibuen-yuuenchi.jp/guide/snow/

Cost: If you hold an entry ticket to Seibu Amusement Park the Snow Kingdom costs 800 yen for adults and children over 12, and 500 yen for children from 3 years old to 12 years old as well as seniors (over 60). If you have a “free pass” ticket it is 500 yen for over 12s and 300 yen for children and seniors.

Snow Kingdom @ Seibu Amusement Park | Tokorozawa

6. Sayama Ski Resort

This indoor artificial snow resort is the only one of its kind in Saitama. They don’t have any special play attractions for children, but they do have ski lessons for children and parents on a Saturday. They also have individual lessons and a ski school.

Access: 3 minute walk from Seibu Ikebukuro Line and Seibu Yamaguchi Lines Seibu Kyujomae station.

10 KM from Iruma Interchange on the Ken-O expressway following route 463 on to route 55. Parking for up to 700 cars. Costs 1200 yen per day.

Address: 2167 Kamiyamaguchi, Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture 359-1153, Japan. Telephone: (04)2922-1384

Hours: 10 am to 9 pm on weekdays and open from 10 am to 9 pm and then again from 10 pm until 6 am for night skiing on weekends.

Cost: Ski lift for adults is 4,100 yen, 3,300 yen for high school students, and free for primary and preschool aged children.  90 minute lessons with ski lift included for a parent and child cost 6,800 yen.

Sayama Ski Resort | SAYAMA

7. Waku Waku Dome

Waku waku Dome is a health centre in Asaka City. They have a number of indoor heated pools including a shallow pool with slide for children. The centre also has a play room with rest area for small children.

Access: 15 minute walk from Tobu Tojo LIne Asakadai Station and JR Musashino Line Kita Asaka station.

Free parking for up to 200 cars.

Address: 27 Hamasaki, Asaka-shi, Saitama-ken 351-0033

Hours: 9 am to 10 pm

Cost: For residents of Asaka 2 hours in use of the pool costs 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for students. For non-residents it is 800 yen for adults and 400 yen for students. Use of the pool is free for children under 7 years old.

8. Kasukabe Yumoto Onsen

There are many onsen throughout Saitama, but some are more child friendly than others. Yumoto onsen in Kasukabe has a nice area for children with an elephant and dinosaur slide into the hot spring.  There is also a pool in the resort and you can take yoga as well as enjoy a number of different relaxation services such as a hot stone sauna.

Access: Free shuttle bus from  Tobu Skyliner Sengendai station and Tobu Urban Park Noda line Toyohara station.

Free parking for up to 1000 cars.

Address: 66-1 Shimoōmashi Shinden, Kasukabe-shi, Saitama-ken 344-0036

Hours: 10 am to 8.30 am (22.5 hours), the pool is open until 7 pm.

Cost: Weekdays are 1340 yen for adults and 620 yen for children between 3 and 12 years old. On weekends it is 1750 yen for adults and 720 yen for children between 3 and 12 years old.  Entry is free for children under 3.

9. Shimura Strawberry Farm

Strawberry greenhouses are a great place to warm up during winter. The temperatures are usually above 20 degrees and it is lovely and humid making a nice change from the dryness outdoors.  This strawberry farm is one of my favourites, because of the little but engaging play area indoors and some fun features outdoors as well as complimentary hot drinks.

Access: Approximately 1 kilometre or 4 minutes by car from the Sakado exit of the Ken-O expressway.

Address: 102 Konuma, Sakado, Saitama 350-0202. Telephone: 080-5028-1062 between 8 am and 6 pm.

Hours: From 10 am, generally Tuesday to Sunday, from January 2nd until end of April or early May.

Cost: This year the cost is 1800 yen for adults and children over 6, children between 3 and 6 years old are 1400 yen,  2 year old children are 200 yen. You can also buy punnets of strawberries. One punnet costs 600 yen.

Strawberry Picking with a play area | Sakado

 

10. Spocha

Spocha is Saitama’s largest indoor sports and play centre. It is a great centre to enjoy all year round, but on the coldest of days what better way to warm up than with some indoor physical activity. There are over 70 sports and games you can enjoy in Spocha from Archery to Zorbing and everything in between.

Access: Free shuttle bus from the East exit of JR Takasaki Line Ageo Station.

Address: 917-1 Hiratsuka, Ageo-shi, Saitama-ken 362-0011

Hours: Monday 9 am to 6 am (open 21 hours), Tuesday to Thursday 10 am to 6 am, Friday to Sunday 24 hours to 6 am on the Monday morning.

Cost: Different packages available starting at 540 yen for preschoolers and 1,720 yen for adults. Costs include access to all >70 activities, games and sports.

For more detail please see:

【Spo-cha】|Ageo

 

Between the weather, New Year festivities and seasonal activities, January is actually one of my favourite months in Japan.  The locations and activities listed above are only a small sample of what Saitama has to offer in winter. We also have some stunning winter scenery that can only be witnessed in the first six weeks of the year, such as the Misotsuchi Icicles in Chichibu and the Ashigakubo Icicles in Yokoze. The latter were only discovered 3 years ago, but have already risen to national acclaim due to their stunning beauty, particularly when illuminated at  night.  Saitama may not be top of the list for places to visit in winter in Japan, but we do have a good choice of activities, events and winter scenery to enjoy.

Where do you like to visit and what activities do you enjoy during Winter?

 

 

New Year Countdown Events Japan 2016/7 | Tokyo

New Year’s has become a popular time for overseas visitors to visit Japan and yet there is very little New Year event information available in English online.  I have tried to bridge that gap by sharing information of events I know of in the Greater Tokyo area. However, as I have personally NOT been to most of these events, I do recommend you research further before choosing which event to go to.  (*The Johnny’s countdown party in Tokyo Dome is near impossible to get tickets for, so there is no information for that popular event on this page.)

TOKYO

IKEBUKURO, Nanja Countdown Party 2016/7

A very popular countdown event is in Nanja Town, Sunshine City. The event will take place from opening hours on the 31st and Namja Town will remain open until 5 am on the 1st.  They will have a special New Year’s menu available. Entry is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children 4 years old or over. Access: 8 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station.

URL: http://www.namco.co.jp/tp/ You can also get live updates from their Twitter, if you read Japanese: Namja Town Twitter feed.

IKEBUKURO, Sky Circus Sunshine 60 2017 Countdown Special

This special event in Sky Circus will start at 9 pm and finish around 1 am. The tickets are 2500 yen if purchased on the day, but 200 yen cheaper if you purchase in advance. Children under 4 years old are free. They will have live performances and you can experience some of their Virtual Reality machines for free.

Event URLhttp://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/information/i589.html?_ga=1.191116780.793316131.1465351784

ROPPONGI, 2016 Year-end Funk Party

The Year-end Funk party will be held at Billboard live at Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace.  It includes 2 performances by the Bar-keys. The 1st performance is from 6.30 pm, the 2nd from 10.30 pm.  Tickets start from 8,000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Roppongi Station.

Event Url: http://www.billboard-live.com/pg/shop/show/index.php?mode=detail1&event=10224&shop=1

SHIBUYA, Womb presents New Year Countdown to 2017

The event at the popular nightclub Womb starts from 9 pm to 4.30 am. Every year there is an Internationally acclaimed DJ running the show. Ticket prices vary, details are on their website.

URL: http://womb.co.jp/

 

ASAKUSA, Countdown event in Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

The park will open for this special event from 9 pm on the 31st to 2 am on the 1st. Last year it cost 1000 yen per person from 2 years old up. This year the cost has increased considerably. It is cheaper to buy in advance. Please see the linked website for more details. Not all of the park will be open, but there will be certain areas open and stage events. The ticket includes unlimited access to 9 rides, which include the merry-go-round, Little Star and Helicopter rides.

URL: Hanayashiki Countdown official webpage (Japanese only)

JOYPOLIS, Countdown Party 2016/7

This lively event runs from 11.15 pm on New Year’s Eve.  They have live music and comedic performances. Entry into Joypolis before the event is 800 yen for adults and 300 yen for children of school going age, but you have to pay extra for the New Year’s eve events. Tickets are already on sale. You can also buy on the day. Each ticket grants different access. Their system is a little convoluted, but basically a ticket costs around 3000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Odaiba station. More details on the official site;

URL: Joypolis Countdown Event (Japanese only)

 

EDOGAWA, Kasai Rinkai Park Ferris Wheel Countdown

KasaiThe event is free, but you have to pay 700 yen to ride the ferris wheel. There will be live entertainment.  It opens from 11 pm to 0.30 am on the 1st.

URL: Kasai Ferris Wheel homepage

 

SUMIDA, 2016/7 Countdown at Higashi Shirahige Park

The riverside area has a long running year-end event and more recently illumination with lanterns, too. It is a free event. It starts 15 minutes before midnight.  Illumination starts at 5 pm and on New Years is on until 6 am on New Year’s day.  Queries to 03-3619-8888.

TOKYO BAY, Countdown Cruising, New Year’s Eve 2016/7

For adults, there are two different cruises you can enjoy on New Year’s eve in Tokyo Bay. Both provide a meal, a glass of champagne plus another free drink and music. The buffet course cruise costs 13,500 yen per person and leaves Tokyo Bay at 22.50 returning to land at 1.20 am. The Classic cruise costs 14,500 yen and leaves at 22.30, returning at 1.10 am New Year’s Day. You can book from 10 am to 7.30 pm on 03-3798-8101.  You can find more information in Japanese on their website. You can also book a cruise to see the first sunrise of 2017. It departs the bay at 5.50 am.

URL: New Year Cruising 2017

 

AGEHA, Ageha Countdown 2017

**This one is not suited to children**.  Ageha is a famous dance club venue in Shin Kiba. It has a great New Year’s event, from 9 pm to sunrise. You need to buy a ticket in advance. Tickets are already on sale and will be until the 29th of December. It is 4,980 yen per person. There’s lot of little events on during the night, including a Ageha shrine and the traditional food of soba.  The phone number is 03-5534-2525.

URL: Ageha Countdown 2017

GINZA, Hooters Countdown Party

This one is for adults. Every year the Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku branches of Hooters throw Countdown parties. This year the Ginza branch’s theme is dance music from the ’70s to the ’90s. It runs from 11 pm to 3 am. Tickets are 3,500 yen for men, 3,000 yen for women, but if you buy them in advance they are 500 yen cheaper.

URL: http://www.hooters.co.jp/news/3063/

 

CHIBA

MAKUHARI Messe, Countdown Japan 16/17

Makuhari Messe hold a mammoth Countdown event for the 4 days leading up to New Year’s. On New Year’s Eve the event run from 3 pm to 5 am. There are a huge amount of live performances and performance artists. It costs 11,500 yen for one day or you can pay extra for access for 2 days or more. Access: 5 minute walk from Kaihin Makuhari Station.

URL: http://countdownjapan.jp/

IKSPIARI, Countdown Live 2017

The free area beside Tokyo Disney resort will host a live countdown in the Celebration Plaza on the 2nd floor. The live music starts from 6 pm.  A concurrent event is the very popular sale of fukubukuro, lucky bags, from midnight. Restaurants are open until 1 am and shops until 3 am.  On New Year’s day they will have shishimai performances at 12 midday, 2 pm and 4 pm.

URL: Official Ikspiari New Year 2017

KANAGAWA

HAKKEJIMA SEA PARADISE, Happy Island Countdown

Hakkejima Sea Paradise’s New Year celebrations start at 7 pm on New Year’s eve and run all night, usually until around 8 am. You can even witness 2017’s first sunrise over Boso Peninsula at around 6.50 am. There will be live music and comedian performances throughout the New Year celebrations.  Fireworks synchronised to music will see out the old year and welcome in the new one.  This popular countdown event has been running since about 2000 and draws crowds.  You can already purchase tickets online. The prices vary according to packages, more on their website:

URL: Happy Island Countdown 2017
Information about Hakkejima Sea Paradise in English: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/

YOKOHAMA Hard Rock Cafe Count Down

Dance in the New Year with the staff of the Hard Rock Café. Starts from 11.30 pm to 3 am. Entry is free, but you have to pay for food and drink.

Event URL: http://hardrockjapan.com/event/5601/

 

YOKOSUKA Countdown 2017

From 6 pm to 1 am on New Year’s day you can enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Yokosuka as thousands celebrate in Verny Park, close to Yokosuka station.  Two of the highlights of the night are the navy ships covered in lights and the fireworks show at midnight. Queries to the Yokosuka City Tourism Association 046-825-1080. *This event may not take place if there is bad weather.*

URL: https://www.cocoyoko.net/event/countdown.html



 

YAMANASHI

FUJIQ HIGHLAND, Countdown live

You can attend the event if you buy an entry ticket for the amusement park on the 31st. Last year, if you bought the pass after 5 pm, it gives you access until 8 pm on the 1st. They had a decent line up of comedians and TV “talents” for the main stage last year, but this year’s information hasn’t been finalised. There are usually fireworks around midnight. For those attending the FujiQ New Year party you can usually enjoy ice-skating all through the night for free. Hopefully, this year’s information will be released soon.

URL: FujiQ Highland Countdown Live

Information about FujiQ in English: FujiQ Official English website

 

Please note that some of these events will be dependent on weather, so if it is a rainy or stormy day on the 31st please do check the homepages or ring the numbers provided to see if the events will go ahead.

This is just some of the special events on for New Year’s Eve 2016/2017. There are other types of events you can enjoy, too. For example  there is the Japan only event of buying Daruma.  A lot of Japanese people go to a shrine or temple to welcome the New Year. My pick for the Greater Tokyo area is the Yakuouin Temple on Mt Takao. However, it is cold, dark and crowded. So why do people go? Three very big reasons; the first sunrise AND the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for 2017 and age old New Year traditional ceremonies. Mt Takao cable car runs from 8a m on New Years Eve right through to 6 pm on New Year’s Day.

For even more suggestions of great ways/places to spend New Year’s Eve, please see the comprehensive list with details on Timeout.  

LocalGuide showcasing the Greater Tokyo Area of Saitama

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