Kawagoe’s “Children’s Castle” free kids community play centre

Written on August 27th 2012

One of the many things I love about life in Japan, is the multitude of free playgrounds, play centres and activities available to all children.  Below is a photo of my son climbing at Kawagoe Kodomo No Shiro or Children’s castle, a free community play centre in Kawagoe.  This free play centre also has a planetarium on it’s second floor which has a cover charge, but all other facilities at the centre are free.

IMG_1571

There is a large open space on the first floor, where free baby and toddler classes are conducted.  When there is not a class in action the kids can play with toys, but you have to request the staff get them out for you, unlike in other play centres where they are readily available.  There is also a smaller playroom on the first floor suited to infants and toddlers. In this room the toys are laid out for you to use freely. There is a cot in this room for sleeping babies.

On both floors there are toilets designed for children and on the first floor there is a nappy changing unit in the special needs toilet. There is a lunch room on the second floor that can be used for those who’ve brought their own lunch between 12.00 noon and 1pm.  You need to clean up after yourself and bring home your own rubbish.

 

Like all jidokans and jido centres in Saitama, there are a handful of teachers  on duty, who are there to keep the environment safe, run the classes and make sure that adults and children alike are respecting the rules of the jidokan.  They are not their to mind your children, but they are usually very helpful and friendly.  Some more than others! Parking is free. It’s separated from the building itself, just a few metres, but you can walk in from the back which is safe from traffic.

This particular jidokan is not as nice or well equipped as many others in the surrounding cities, but the classes are great. Also, if you live in the area, its nice to have somewhere to hang out.  I highly recommend these type of play centres in general and the free children’s play groups and classes they run.

The centre is open from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm Tuesday to Sunday, closed on Mondays. It is quite a distance from the nearest station, so a bus is advised. There is free parking a little bit away with a ground beside it that you can park in on busy days.

Update 2016:
Review on City-cost.com:
https://www.city-cost.com/reviews/Mg6mw-Serves_its_purpose_but_lacking_oomph_Services_Support_Kawagoe_shi

Saitama Fruit. Grape picking in Sayama

Sayama Grape season starts next week opens this week (August 7th 2016), through to the middle of September. However, you can currently only buy directly from the vineyards and the picking season is a few weeks away yet.

Grape Picking Season General Information

Updated costs for 2016 are not yet available.

Adults: 600 yen

Primary school children: 500 yen

Kindergarten school children: 400 yen

Toddlers: 200 yen

It is a eat as you pick system, but you can pay extra to buy the grapes you pick to bring them home

There are five vineyards in Sayama that I am aware of, all in the vicinity of the Iriso station in Sayama, three of them are outlined below.

宮岡ぶどう園, Miyaoka Vineyard

Address: 1058 North Iriso, Phone: 04-2959-4949 URL: http://www.at-ml.jp/?in=59281/

Opening: 2016 August 7th until early October Hours: 9am to 6pm Closed Wednesdays

Access: 10 minute walk from the East exit of Iriso station on the Seibu Line

 

宮信観光ぶどう園, Miyashin Vineyard

RESERVATION REQUIRED

Telephone: 04-2959-4059, Website: http://www.miyashin.com/ (Japanese only)

Open:  You can buy from August 11th (2016), but picking season isn’t until September 1st. Closes on Mondays  Hours: 9am – 6pm, picking until 5pm

Access:  15 minute walk from Musashi Fujisawa Station on the Seibu Line, 18 minute walk from the West exit of Iriso station

This farm also offers Kiwi Fruit Picking.  2016 the season will start the same as the regular grapes on August 11th. You can pick large type grapes from September 1st.

宮俊ぶどう園, Miyatoshi Vineyard

Telephone: 04-2959-3651, Websitehttp://ktmhp.com/hp/budouen/1  (Japanese only)

Open:  2016 August 10th  Hours: 9am – 5pm

Access:  13 minute walk from Iriso station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line

Shizuoka, Numazu. Awa Island; toddler friendly marine park

Awashima (Awa Island) is on the North West coast of the Izu Peninsula. Is is a very small island and you can easily walk the perimeter in less than an hour.   The island is home to my toddler’s favourite aquarium, Awashima Marine Park, and an exclusive hotel that the Emperor has stayed in.  The island is open to anyone who pays to enter it, but the hotel facilities are only open to paying guests.  However, when we entered to inquire about costs and availability the staff were exceptionally friendly and professional.   Rates, incidentally, start at 60,000 yen per person per night, supposedly worth every yen for the waterfront view of Mount Fuji, but we decided to catch the last boat back to the Peninsula!

Awashima island used to be linked to Numazu by a ropeway.  The ropeway still exists, but it is not in operation.  So the only access to the island is by boat.  The boat ride is included in the 1,500 yen per adult admission cost to the marine park.  That’s 400 yen cheaper than the nearby Mito Sea Paradise, which frankly is not as toddler friendly and has less to offer than Awashima.  Both Mito Sea Paradise and Awashima are free to children up to 3 years old, but they both charge 500 yen for parking.

You can bring buggies and strollers on to the boat without having to fold them down, but you do need to take the children out of the buggy to do this.  The journey only takes a few minutes.  The island is buggy friendly and there are changing units in the toilets.  The island has one restaurant in the middle of the sea, overlooking the dolphins play area!  The staff on the island are very friendly and helpful. There are play areas on the island and opportunities for the kids to get up close and personal with some of the animals!

Awashima Island
Getting close to some of the park life!

Shizuoka, Gotemba. Family resort with Accommodation, Hot springs, Dining, Shopping, Sports & Much much more

The Tokinosumika Resort in Gotemba, Shizuoka

This post was first written in 2012 and has been updated on a number of occasions to reflect the changes in the resort, which is always modifying and upgrading.

Highlights

  • A wide variety of accommodation choices with babies and toddlers free
  • A number of different types of eateries, both Japanese and Western
  • Shopping
  • A selection of hot springs including ones that are toddler friendly
  • An abundance of sports facilities and sporting options. Some require booking in advance
  • Activities and Crafts for people of all ages
  • Games room
  • Playground with mountain trampoline, bouncing castles, carousel
  • Indoor play area with goldfish aquarium, projection mapping, wooden toys
  • Events such as seasonal illumination, travelling exhibitions and Gotemba Kogen Fireworks Display in August
  • A water, light and projection mapping show in the evenings
  • Swimming pool and paddling pool in the summer
  • Segways & bikes available for rent
  • A pet hotel
  • Coin Laundry and Vending Machines
  • A doctor and clinic on the grounds

The Tokinosumika resort is one of the few places I know in Japan that has a huge selection of things to do and see all available in the same complex.  It also has great views of Mt Fuji. It is an ideal location to travel with family.   It has plenty to do for a day out, and even more available to patrons of it’s accommodation, but please note there are charges for some facilities and activities. They are a very child friendly establishment with a huge selection of attractions some of which are listed below.  It is also pet friendly and has a pet hotel on the premises.  They have self catering accommodation as well as a choice of hotels.

View of Mt. Fuji from Hotel Tokinosumika western / eastern fusion room
View of Mt. Fuji from Hotel Tokinosumika western / eastern fusion room

The first  time we stayed in Tokinosumika, also known as Gotemba Kogen, was when I was pregnant with my eldest.  We had never heard of the resort; we just came across it by Providence when looking for somewhere to stay to break up a journey.  It was the best accidental find ever!  We arrived at night and the resort had quite a romantic feel thanks to the illuminations.  We chose not to have dinner included in our stay and thankfully were in time to try out some of the restaurants on site, which, due to the family friendly focus of the resort, close quite early.  We had a light dinner in the Grand Table followed by dessert in the Books and Cafe only a short walk away.  The Books and Cafe is home to an Art Aquarium since 2015. On subsequent visits we have dined in the hotels and in some of the other restaurants on site.  On each visit we have had our breakfast included and all the breakfast restaurants are buffet style.  If you opt to stay in the self catering Blueberry lodges (which have a cooker, microwave, and fridge) or Slow House villas  you can still avail of a buffet style breakfast in a delegated  breakfast hall.  The cheapest accommodation option within the resort are the tepees. The tepees have futons, but nothing else, and sleep up to 6 people. There are toilet and bathing facilities for people who stay in the tepees, and you can rent/buy necessities (e.g toothbrush, facecloth) from the reception.  (2015 Teepees no longer available for private hire). A list of the hotels and accommodation options are listed below.
Teepee at Tokinosumika

The initial highlight for me when we stumbled across this resort was the hotsprings.  On that first visit to the Gotemba Kogen Hotel in 2009 (update 2014 now divided into two hotels; Gotemba Kogen Bu Hotel and Hotel Brush Up) we visited the hot springs in the hotel.  These particular hot springs are only available to guests staying at the hotel, but there are other hot springs in the resort which are open to the general public.  The hot springs in the Gotemba Kogen Hotel are okay (they may have improved when the hotel split into 2), but not as nice as the springs in the neighbouring hotel Hotel Tokinosumika. The springs in this hotel are larger and are toddler friendly.  They have a number of relaxation services, such as massage and body care, that you can pay for as well as free relaxation rooms with TVs and reclining chairs.  There are other spas on the resort which we hope to try out on our next visit!

Art Aquarium at Tokinosumika
Art Aquarium at Tokinosumika

The list of activities available a the Tokinosumika resort is impressive.  On our first visit we enjoyed a travelling exhibition that was been shown at the Sakura Temple.  We walked through the nature trails enjoying the number of water features in the resort.  We visited the Giant Bell, observed some tennis games and soccer matches,  relaxed in the Wood and Tree Museum and stopped in to watch potters at work.  With the kids, as they were only toddlers, they were just happy to play outdoors and go for walks.  There are playgrounds and a playroom available for guests of the resort.  There are also a number of sports facilities available such as tennis, basketball and badminton courts.  They also have fishing, a mountain trampoline, some shops and in the summer you can use the outdoor pool.   You can rent segways or bikes.  You can pay to try your hand at pottery or pitch and putt or even ice skating.  They even have a doctor and clinic on the premises during certain times.  I’ve tried to summarise their facilities below.

Bhutan house standing behind the beach volleyball court, a tennis court and the fishing pool.
Bhutan house standing behind the beach volleyball court, a tennis court and the fishing pool.

Facilities & Sightseeing

Activities, Sports, Points of Interest, Nature

  • Big Bang Playground
  • Carousel / Merry go round (2016: part of playground)
  • Segways available for rent
  • Bikes available for rent
  • Pitch & Putt
  • Art aquarium (external site City-cost.com)
  • Fishing
  • Candle making
  • Pottery
  • Games room
  • Mountain trampoline (2016: now part of “BIG BANG” super playground)
  • Cooking class
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Outdoor swimming pool (Seasonal)
  • Paddling pool (Seasonal)
  • Swan lake skate rink (Seasonal)
  • Water features; rivers, waterfalls, fountains
  • Bell tower
  • Softball ground
  • Soccer pitch
  • Tennis Court
  • Badminton courts
  • Basketball court
  • 3D Theatre
  • Statue Mountain; home to 1800 buddhist statues
  • Wood & tree museum (2016 now part of the art museum)
  • Sakura temple which is used for shows and travelling exhibitions
  • Gardening shop
  • Night light, water and projection mapping show
One of the holes on the Pitch and Putt course
One of the holes on the Pitch and Putt course

Accommodation Options

  • Hotel Tokinosumika (Please click to be brought to more information)
  • Gotemba Kogen Bu
  • Hotel Brush Up
  • Blueberry Lodge (please click to be brought to more information)
  • Slowhouse Villa (please click to be brought to more information)
  • Tepee (please click to be brought to more information) 2015 not available for private hire
  • Bhutan House

For Pets

  • Pet Hotel
The Pet Hotel
The Pet Hotel

For further information on this hotel and all the hotels and self catering options in Tokinosumika please visit one of these websites below;
The Japanese website is http://www.tokinosumika.com/ and you can find detailed information in English here http://www.gotembakogenresort.jp/accommodations.html

For more information on what else is on offer in the Gotemba area please go here;
Page temporarily unavailable.

 

Related Articles

Shizuoka, Gotemba. Attractions

Gotemba is one of the four “5th station”s of Mt Fuji. The following attractions are either in Gotemba city or within commutable distance.

Attractions in Gotemba

Tokinosumika

A one stop shop for accommodation, play, eating and HOT SPRINGS. From November to March it boasts night illumination. It also houses the Kogen Brewery.  There is a water and projection mapping show set to music in the evening. Sports facilities include a tennis court, badminton courts, softball grounds, pitch & putt, soccer grounds and even an ice rink. Please see separate blog on this resort.  http://insaitama.com/shizuoka-gotemba-tokinosumika-family-resort/

Grinpa

Mt Fuji and ultramanGrinpa is an amusement park at the foot of Mt Fuji. It is most suited to children, but there are attractions for adults too.  The amusement park is known for its Sylvanian family themed area. It also has an Ultraman zone with giant statues, shop, restaurant and games dedicated to Japan’s most famous heroes.   Information in English can be found at their website, here.

Kodomo no Kuni

A massive and very reasonably priced adventure park with lots of activities to keep children of all ages entertained for a full day. Among the popular attractions are the canoe rides, waterplay area and crochet playground.   Further information, in Japanese only, can be found on their website here.

Japan’s largest outlet mall!

We didn’t know of it’s existence the first time we visited, which was probably just as well.  You can find all you need to know, in English, about Gotemba Premium Outlet here.

Fuji Safari Park

This amazing safari is only a half hour from Tokinosumika. It is very reasonably priced with kids three years old and under free. They have a petting zoo, a walking safari and other areas suited to small children. They are open 9 to 5pm and there night safari is open from 5.30 to 7.30pm. During Golden Week the park opens earlier. Their phone number is 055 998 1311. Further information in English:
https://www.city-cost.com/reviews/MAy8M-Driving_and_walking_safari_courses_PLUS_a_fantastic_petting_zoo_and_animal_village_Outdoor_Susono_shi

Gotemba Peace Park

A scenic park with beautiful views of Mt Fuji.  You can find a map to it here http://wikimapia.org/3728356/Gotemba-Peace-Park

Attractions for families with older children

Horse riding

There are numerous equestrian clubs in Gotemba.  There is one a 5 minute away from Gotemba station where you can do anything from beginner classes right up to courses to become a certified intsructor.  It is called Club New Season Gotemba. They have a separate “pony class” for 3 year olds through to 3rd grade primary school students.  There phone number is 0550 82 8520.  If you book in advance there is a 20% discount.

Snowtown Yeti

This ski resort opens in October, earlier than other ski resorts in most of Japan.
http://www.yeti-resort.com/en/

Otome Climbing Route

Said to be one of the best passes to view Mount Fuji.  The Otome climbing route can be found beside the Gotemba Municipal Hot Spring Resort;

Gotemba Municipal Hot Spring Resort

Open from 10am to 9pm.  500 yen for adults, 200 yen for elementary school children. Half day rate available.  Ten minutes from the Gotemba Interchange by car.  There is a free shuttle bus service available from the JR Gotemba station at specific times of the day. Parking available. Information in Japanese http://onsen.gotemba-otome.jp/

Komadakado Caves

Please note you will have to carry younger children, if they are not steady on their feet. I am glad I saw these caves, but I did find them overrated.  Please see their location on the tourist map here.

Fuji Speedway

Go Kart Racing 0550 78 1234

Sylvanian Family village at Grinpa, with Mt Fuji in the background
Sylvanian Family village at Grinpa, with Mt Fuji in the background

静岡県御殿場市の御殿場プレミアムアウトレット Gotemba Premium Outlets...

English: Fuji safari park 日本語: 富士サファリパーク 園内
Fuji safari park Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saitama. Kitamoto Children’s Park

My favourite park / playground to bring my toddlers to in the Hiki District of Saitama is Kitamoto Children’s ParkClick here to be brought to the Japanese official park website.  I love it,  because it has something for children of all ages.   I like that, in the summer, the playground suited to small children is in the shade and, in the winter, they have an indoor playroom for babies and toddlers.  My two year old loves the giant outdoor mountain trampoline and my one year old loves the swings you can sit in to with safety latch.

Features (please scroll down for photos);

  • Indoor playroom
  • Playground suitable for toddlers
  • Playground suitable for preschoolers
  • Playground suitable for older children
  • Giant outdoor mountain trampoline
  • 35 metre roller slide
  • Climbing wall
  • A water area (summer only)
  • A small zoo; two areas with animals including peacocks and monkeys
  • A stage with seating
  • A nature trail
  • Picnic area
  • Special events

Facilities;

  • A baby room for nappy changing and breast feeding
  • A family toilet with miniature toilet for children, a baby keep, a nappy changing area, a clothes changing area
  • Three separate ladies toilets with multiple cubicles
  • Two separate mens toilets with multiple cubicles
  • On site staff
  • A tuck shop on the weekends and holidays
  • Vending machines

ACCESS

70 minutes from Tokyo by car. Approximately 15 minutes from the Okegawa – Kitamoto Interchange on the Chuo expressway

Address: 3-225 Ishitoshuku, Kitamoto City, Saitama
Tel: 048-592-4050

Indoor playroom at Kitamoto Children’s Park
Family toilet
Climbing wall
Giant slide
Toddler playground
Toddler playground

Halloween parades in Japan

As Halloween has its origin in my home country, I have observed Halloween in Japan with interest! They don’t celebrate it like at home: there is no trick or treating or halloween night bonfires; but they do mark the event and celebrate it in different ways.

This year, for the first time since I came in 2000, I went to a Halloween Parade.  There were a number of parades over the weekend past, 25th & 26th October, but we met new friends at the one in Kawasaki.  Kawasaki is a city on the Tokyo side of Kanagawa, a 10 minute train ride from Tokyo JR’s Shinagawa train station.

The parade started at 2.30pm and supposedly had around 3,000 participants.  There were a lot of witches and pumpkin girls, but what’s halloween without them!   If you are looking for a Halloween costume idea for this Friday, you might be inspired by some of the below!:

For more on halloween in Japan:
Halloween goods at Daiso 100 yen store
Halloween winding down in Japan
For more Halloween costume ideas please see my post
September Scarecrow Showcase

Movie characters Halloween costumes

Japanese Jack Sparrow look-a-like

Japanese Jack Sparrow
Japanese Jack Sparrow

Battle Royale costume

Japanese Harry Potter

Dream girls:

Japanese 'Dream Girls'
Japanese

Trekkies?:

Clone Troopers from Star Wars

No parade in Japan would be complete without some Disney and Anime characters:

The Genie from Aladdin

Pokemon character? And Snow White one

Snow white two

Peter Pan
Peter Pan

Scary

Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween!

Some good ghosts

Original

Russian Nesting Dolls
Russian Nesting Dolls

 

Pumpkin Themed Halloween Costumes

Baby Pumpkin!
Baby Pumpkin!

Pumpkin Girls
Pumpkin Girls

Sexy pumpkin girls

Pumpkins

All photos taken at the Kawasaki Halloween Parade 2008

Musket shooting festival! 火縄銃祭

Japan is a country that really knows how to host and enjoy a festival.  Summer time is the main festival season, but you can enjoy festivals throughout the year.  In the summer, most cities will at least hold a firework festival and most also have some sort of flower or nature worshipping festival and other cultural festivals too.  I’ve been to a lot of festivals in my eight years, but today I thought I’d introduce you to one that isn’t mainstream and you may not even know it exists: the musket shooting festival!

The Musket shooting festival is held in different locations on different dates in Saitama.  Last year, 2007, we attended at the Nanbata Castle park.   As far as festivals go it is quite short, but the park itself is very interesting as it is a time-slip village.  The shooters parade through the crowd ceremoniously in their Samurai gear.  They position themselves in front of the crowds and shoot the muskets in to the air.  This is done a handful of times. Afterwards, the men in the warrior costumes, complete with Kabuto (warrior helmets), are available for photographs!

The address of the park is 568-1 Shimonanbata, Fujimi.  For more information on the park in Japanese: https://www.city.fujimi.saitama.jp/30shisetsu/11nanbadajyo/sisetu-gaiyou.html.

 

 

A typical Japanese home

One of the questions I get asked many times, as a European living in Japan, is what do I think of the  houses here. The houses in Japan are indeed very different from anything I grew up with or viewed in other Western countries.  My first experience of a Japanese house was when I first came to Japan in 2000 and did a homestay for three months.  After that I lived in a company dormitory, followed by a stint in a modern apartment, to 2 years living in a “bedsit” (Japanese style) and finally myself and my husband bought a 2nd hand house in 2006.

The apartments, bedsits and company dormitory were all also very different, but it is the house that significantly differs from the Western equivalent.   For one, as much of Japanese society is based on the concept of “inside” and “outside”, this is also reflected in the structure of their homes.  Upon entering the home you encounter the “genkan”, or the nearest equivalent in English, the porch.  The porch is constructed at just above ground level and to enter the house you have to step up about one foot into the hallway.

As you enter front door
As you enter our home; the genkan

 

 

Theporch
The genkan and hallway

As you can see in the above picture there are two pairs of slippers in the hallway.  The reason for this is that when you enter a home in Japan you remove your shoes in the genkan.  You don’t have to wear the slippers, but you should ALWAYS wear socks when visiting a Japanese person’s home.  It is considered rude and unmannerly to go bare feet in a Japanese house.  There is a place to store shoes in the genkan, in the above photo you can just see the dark wood corner of the unit, to the left of the slippers.  The door that is adjacent on the left leads in to our dining room:

The dining room before furnishing, with Japanese style computer desk for using while sitting on the floor.
The dining room before furnishing, with Japanese style computer desk for using while sitting on the floor.

 

This is the dining room before we furnished it.  You can see a Japanese style computer desk in this photo (right hand side).  This type of computer desk requires the user to sit on the floor to be at the right level to use the keyboard.  On the top of the unit you may be able to see our telephone which is also a fax machine.  It is the norm in Japan to have a multi-purpose phone / fax / copier.  The sitting room is to the right of this photo, were  you can see the sliding doors.  This photo was taken from the kitchen:

The Kitchen, before we did any work to it
The Kitchen, before we did any work to it

 

In my opinion, the kitchen is most different to a Western home’s kitchen.  In Japan, by and large people don’t use ovens.  The main reasons for this are the expense of an oven and the difference in diets.  Our “cooker”, like most Japanese cookers, is made up of a grill and two rings.  We also have a rice cooker, “toaster oven” (much smaller than a conventional oven) and microwave for preparing food.  The kitchens are also generally much smaller than in the West and they would not be the “hearth” of the home.

The other room which is significantly different to Western homes is the “bathroom”.  In Japan, unlike the West, the bath has a room all of its own!  The toilet and hand basin usually in a separate room to the bath.

The bath is also much deeper and most baths come with a built-in “heater” than can be used during your bath to reheat the water if it starts to go cold.

The bath
The bath

Off the bathroom, there is a “utility room” that is used for dressing as well as for laundry:

The utility room as it was when we first bought the house, we changed it completely.
The utility room as it was when we first bought the house, we changed it completely.

As you can see in this photo, the washing machine, on the left hand side, is top loading. It used to wash clothes in 20 minutes! We changed it shortly after moving in.  Another point of interest is that mainly the washing machines use cold water only.

The toilet is usually in a room of it’s own.  Most toilets have the hand basin built in to them, above the cistern.   Also, a lot of toilets have built in functions such as seat warming and a bidet.  The controls can be seen on our toilet below, your left of the photo:

The toilet with washlet; built in bidet function!
The toilet with washlet; built in bidet function!

 

The other room of interest to non-Japanese people is the “tatami” room.  A tatami is a straw mat.  A tatami room can be made up of a number of tatami mats and to this day it is still how many people count the size of their houses.  We have two tatami rooms in our house.  One on the ground floor and one on the first floor.  Both are six tatami size:

 

 

Tatami floor covering
Tatami floor covering
Tatami and Japanese style wardrobes
Tatami and Japanese style wardrobes

Lastly, what may be of interest is that Japanese people don’t have house alarms and while they have shutters on their windows and sliding doors this is for more of a practical safety function (from natural disasters) more than a security one.  If you have any questions about Japanese homes or would like to see more photos, please do not hesitate to ask me in a comment.

LocalGuide showcasing the Greater Tokyo Area of Saitama

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