Ageo fireworks are one of the 10 largest firework displays in Saitama. Approximately 10,000 fireworks will be launched, including “shakudama” 尺玉 which are the largest sized shells. There are starmines as well as fireworks with celebratory messages for birthdays, marriage and good results in tests. These fireworks attract about 160,000 spectators. There are about 50 festival stalls.
The fireworks are launched near Riverside Phoenix Golf course, which is a 15 minute bus ride from JR Takasaki Line, Ageo Station. Queries to Ageo Tourist Board at 048-775-5917. You can also view the fireworks from Maruyama Park and Enomoto Farm. The farm usually closes at 5pm, but stays open until 9pm on the day of the fireworks. Parking is usually free at Enomoto Farm, but due to the increasing popularity as a place to view the fireworks there maybe changes this year.
Value Plaza Ageo is an old style department store and walking into it you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d gone through a time slip to the 1980s. It is a cold and stark building, both indoors and out. And first impressions would likely put you off. The same can be said of Festa (video arcade), where Niko Niko Garden is. All I can hope is that you won’t be turned off by the cheap and run down feel of the video arcade and walk to the back corner where the entrance to Niko Niko Garden is. You won’t regret it!
Niko Niko Garden was recently revamped and re-opened. It is a play / fun center for children from 0 to 8 years old. I was never in the old version, so I can’t comment on how much of an improvement there is, but I can say that the current play center is well worth a visit with small children. Not only do they have a decent selection of things to play with, it is also really good value. On a weekday you can play ALL day for 500 yen per child and 200 yen per adult. On the weekend it is 800 yen per child and 200 yen per adult. There are very few places one adult and one child can play indoors all day (on the weekend) for just one note (1000 yen). I use the term play for adults lightly: unlike nearby Spocha, there isn’t actually anything for adults to “play” with. However, there are things about Niko Niko Garden that will appeal to a parent or supervising adult…
The play area is all in one area, bar one corner you can see all of the play area from the seating area. The seating area has tables and zaibuton where you can chill while your kids play. A lot of the play area is quite safe for anyone over two and is set up in such a way that a child can, in theory, play by themselves while you relax in the rest area. There is also one area that even a one year old can play with minimum supervision. In the seating area there is free coffee, tea and water you can help yourself to. You are allowed bring in your own food and eat it this area, but they don’t actually sell food. There is even a microwave so you can heat food. They do have a couple of vending machines: one with kids drinks, mainly anpanman juices. They are more reasonably priced than elsewhere at only 80 yen per juice. There is also a vending machine that sells soft drinks and bottle / can coffee for about 130 yen per drink. There is a selection of magazines you can borrow in the seating area and they even have some free massage chairs for patron’s use. There is a TV on mute in this area.
For the kids they have:
a balloon room
3 bouncy castles / inflated play area, 2 of which have climbing and slides
a large ball pool with a slide into it
two play kitchen areas
play kitchen toys: food, crockery etc
two wooden table train sets
kinetic sand corner
magnetic pieces for making ramps for balls to roll down
mechanical moving horses and zebras
push along rides
toddler play stations
wooden bead mazes for toddlers
Apart from the play equipment and toys the fun center also organise a couple of events a day. Today they had an origami event where one of the staff taught the kids how to make various animals out of origami paper. You can join if you are interested and you don’t have to stay for the whole time, you can come and go as you please. The same goes for the fun center.
You buy a ticket from a machine and then show it to a staff member at the desk. The machine has 4 options, only 3 of which are available on weekdays, as outlined in the costs below; the numbers circled ① to ④. At the counter you need to fill out a small form with your name and number and “agree” to their disclaimer. You are given a tag to wear around your neck that this card is placed into. The entry cover charge is for the whole day, but you can come and go as often or as little as you want. When you leave the play center to take a break, but plan to go back in, you leave that name tag in a basket at the counter. You pick it up again when you are returning to the play center. When you are leaving for the day you hand the neck tag back to the reception desk.
After the counter you can open the little gate to go into the center. You take your shoes off here and put them in a shoe box. If you have a buggy / stroller with you, you leave it here. In the rest / sitting area there are free lockers you can use to store your valuables. They have no toilets in the facility so you do need to leave if you want to use the toilets. The nearest are beside the elevator in Value Plaza. There is one changing mat in the play center for babies and toddlers. If you didn’t bring lunch with you, you can either go out to eat or buy food in Value Plaza (or go further afield if you prefer) and bring it in to eat. There is a food court in Value Plaza and it is near the fun center. It has a First Kitchen, a curry shop and a couple of other stores including one of only five Dipper Dan in Saitama! First Kitchen currently have a “one coin” lunch; a burger, chips and drink set for just 500 yen. They have a kids menu too and it comes with a “free” toy that kids pick from a (small) selection.
Hours and Cost
Niko Niko Garden is open seven days a week from 10 am to 7.30 pm. Last entry is 7 pm. Apart from the excellent value “free time” passes you can also pay for a ①twenty minute slot which costs 300 yen per child on weekdays or weekends. As per above, the ②free time passes are 500 yen per child on weekdays and 800 yen on weekends. On the weekends they have an ③additional package for one hour for 500 yen per child. ④For adults it is always 200 yen per adult, no matter what package you go for.
Value Plaza is in the South East area of Ageo, off Route 51 and Nakasendo, on the border of the Omiya area in Kita-Ku, Saitama City. The nearest landmark is Ageo Sports Park. Niko Niko Garden isn’t on maps, but you should find Value Plaza no problem. It is on route 164, literally along the Takasaki Line train tracks. However, there isn’t actually a train station nearby. The nearest station is Ageo Station which is a good 25 minute walk away.
This Saturday one of the many summer water parks opening their doors for the summer season is the prefectural water park: Saitama Suijo Koen. The pools will be open daily until August 31st.
From 9 am on Saturday July 16th. They close at 6 pm until the 16th of August and 5 pm until August 31st.
510 yen for adults, 210 yen for primary and JHS students, children under 6 are free. They have a family pass for 2 adults and 2 school age children for 1230 yen.
Take a bus bound for “Ageo Undo Kouen” (上尾運動公園) from JR Takasaki Line’s Ageo Station.
Parking for 1000 cars, which costs 820 yen for the day. (Also see Google Maps at the bottom of post)
Sat nav/GPS: phone number 048-773-6711
Pools include(but are not limited to) a wave pool, a pool with 6 sliders and a 40 to 60 cm depth children’s pool with 2 slides. Infants and toddlers still in nappies are allowed with a water nappy / diaper.
There is a food corner. They have events on weekdays.
I’ve been talking favourites on the Facebook page this week and today’s showcase is very much up there on the best of the best list. Indeed, Kids Spo-chais actually my children’s favourite indoor play area in the whole of Saitama. I love it, because it is part of the regular Spo-cha so even adults can play. An added bonus is that even for a family of 6 it is cheap, if you avail of their special packages.
So what is Spo-cha?
Spo-chais a sports and play centre area within some of the ROUND1 sports entertainment centres. ROUND1 is synonymous with bowling, but in fact even their most basic centres have a variety of actitivies on offer. Then there are branches with Spo–chaand a select few with Kids Spo–chaand some with a kids corner. Kids Spo–chais a whole centre of fun for young children, within the regular spo–cha. Spo–chais available in about 46 branches of ROUND1, of which just over half have a kids spocha and another 16 have a kids corner throughout the whole of Japan. We are very lucky to have THREE Kids Spo-chahere in Saitama. Our nearest one is in AGEO, beside Hiratsuka park. It has 3 floors of sports and entertainment with relaxation areas. Some of the sports you can enjoy at Ageo’s Spo-cha include rollerblading, tennis, billiards, putter golf, archery, shooting, bubble soccer, batting practise, darts and rodeo, to name but a few. The play area for young children has an athletic zone with climbing slides, ball pools, tricycle track and yu-land cubic balloons, a dream bomber and even a karaoke room. There is something for all my kids who are 6, 5, 3 and 1 years old.
The system seems confusing at first, but once you physically get there it all makes perfect sense. I recommend the 3 hour package for your first time. And the great news for anyone with a child aged between 2 and 6 years old is that they offer the whole family the same price of 680 yen per person for 3 hours. If no-one in the family is aged between 2 and 6 the price is about 500 yen more per person, but they do have other special offers, some included below. Kids under 2 are free. Apart from all the sports and amusements you can enjoy without limit within the 3 hours, access to the relax rooms and a reading room are included. For an added fee you can get drink bar too and there is a restaurant there if you want to purchase food. You are also welcome to bring in your own food. They have lockers for storing your belongings.
**This post was initially posted on my blogger in September 2015.**
I remember desperately searching for an “oyako” (parent and child) restaurant when my eldest was a baby. I was utterly disappointed to find the nearest and possibly ONLY kid’s cafe in Saitama at that time was in Omiya. Not so close to where I live. Fast forward 6 years and there has been a steady rise in the number of “kid’s cafe” or “parent and child restaurants” throughout Saitama, some have even graced rural Saitama with their presence.
During “Silver Week”, a group of public holidays in September in honour of the silver community, my kids and I stumbled upon a new kid’s cafe in Ario in Ageo. Pomme Cafe.Cafe which is part of a larger chain of “Omurice” (rice omelette) restaurants. The cafe has been there since Ario opened its doors in 2013, but it was recently renovated and reformed into an “oyako” restaurant. It reopened it’s doors last Thursday, the 17th of September. It has a lovely play area, clean facilities, friendly staff and isn’t too expensive, but I will say that the menu is limited and is not the healthiest I’ve seen.
The small play area is just inside the door and is free for patrons to use. It has a slide, some soft building blocks, puzzles and books.
The basic rules of the “Kid’s corner” are displayed; ①take off your shoes, ②No running, ③Play nicely!
The kid’s menu is basic with 5 dishes, but only 1 drink; Orange Juice. (They provide water for free). However, they also provide kid’s sized plates and bowls, for those that prefer to share a dish with their child.
Each kid’s meal comes with a free toy. They get to choose one from a selection of plastic toys, stickers and hair accessories.
My eldest ordered “Omu-rice” with chicken nuggets, fried shrimp a piece of lettuce and apple jelly.
Despite the lack of healthy food, my overall impression was good. The bill for 3 kid’s plates and a “drink bar” (all you can drink, non-alcohol ) for me was just over 2000 yen, which is reasonable. The kids really enjoyed the play area and the atmosphere was very relaxed. It got very busy after we arrived and a queue formed out the door, but we never once felt rushed or pressured to hurry and move on. They have facilities to wash your hands and lots of children’s bumper seats and high chairs, adding to the convenience for people with kids. The staff are friendly and helpful.
A new Halloween event in Ageo. The Ageo mascots Ari-kun and Rio-chan will dress up in costume and put on an Halloween performance. Come in fancy dress and parade with them. There are three parades on the day; midday, 2pm and 4pm. Ario events tend to draw crowds, so arrive early to avoid disappoint. The gathering point is at the outdoor event stage, out the side of the Homac Store. There will be spot giveaways of sweets to 20 lucky participants.
Enomoto Farm in Ageo is frequently mentioned in guide books to Saitama with small children, due to the selection of bikes and push along toys kids can play with for free. In more recent years, it also features in cycling magazines as a suitable place to rest and refresh on the Arakawa cycle course route. Its most famous acclaim is its delicious ice-cream, which has been featured on TV. Some say its the best south of Hokkaido!
Last March the Enomoto’s built a new ice-cream shop on their premises. They tore down the old shop and replaced it, so the shop does not take away space from the play and rest area. The new shop has more seating than the previous shop. At a guess it sits about 20 people. The picnic tables and toilets remain the same, as does the play area out by the BBQ pits. They have added a cycle course map and information spot in the rest area. I don’t which came first, the information or the cyclists, but nowadays there are more cyclists than kids!
Saitama has a large number of superb free children’s (community/ play) centres, called jidokan or jido centre “jidose” (児童館・児童センター）. Many mothers agree that Ageo’s kodomo-no-shiro, “children’s castle”, is among the best. In terms of size, equipment and diversity, I would personally rank it as number 1. My children go regularly and they have never tired of it. There is plenty of play equipment, toys and games as well as various rooms including a library, a gym hall and a workshop. Each floor has a rest area with vending machines and toilets. There is a dedicated baby room on the ground floor with free guidance on scheduled days. Also on the ground floor there is a play area restricted to babies and toddlers two and under. There is a large space outside to play as well as a playground in the adjacent park.
Ageo’s Kodomo no Shiro, Children’s Castle in Photos
As you come in from reception the ground floor boasts lots of climbing equipment and slides.
Off to the right of this is a rest area where there are vending machines and bathrooms, including a family bathroom. There is also a space to play games that you can borrow from reception.
The baby room with consultancy is located beside the game and rest area. The baby and toddler play room is at the back of the ground floor on the left handside.
Also, on the ground floor is a gym hall (not pictured) and the exit to the open space and sandpit. From the car park you can see an outdoor playground, but you need to go out of the community centre to access it.
One of the rooms upstairs changes toys periodically. For example, one week they might have “mamagoto” (playing house) toys, another they might have baskets of blocks and foam jigsaw.
There are other rooms including a library and a workshop upstairs that are not pictured.
ADDRESS: Japan, 〒362-0047 埼玉県上尾市今泉272
272 Imaizumi, Ageo City, Saitama 362-0047
PHONE NUMBER: 048-783-0888
ACCESS: Located near the Ario in Ageo. Free parking. By public transport; you can get a bus from JR Takasaki line West exit for 西上尾第二団地 (Nishi Ageo dai ni danchi) and alight at the “Kodomo no shiro mae” bus stop.
I finally found what I was looking for; the perfect autumnal scenery. Bonus was it was while playing at one of our favourite parks, Maruyama Park in Ageo. The view is quite spectacular. If you live near Saitama and enjoy taking photos, I highly recommend it as a place to shoot those brilliant reds associated with Japanese autumn. I am not a photographer, nor do I pretend to be, so I did the best I could to take photos of the beautiful foliage with 3 children hanging off me, waiting to go to the playground!