Tag Archives: free but fun

Free climbing fun for kids at Kitamoto Children’s Centre | KITAMOTO

We’ve been spending a bit of time at the Kitamoto Children’s Centre this summer, as it is a great space for a bit of psychical activity as well as quiet play time. My older kids particularly love the climbing wall here, which is free to use once the kids are supervised.

This review was originally shared on City-Cost.com:


Kitamoto Children’s Centre is part of the relatively new Kitamoto City Hall. The facilities are public and free for anyone to use. You are required to sign into the children’s centre. There are quite a few rules that you are expected to follow and respect, more than any other children’s center I have ever been to. One standard rule they have is no eating or drinking outside the designated areas. But they also have a long list of non standard rules such as:

This play center require children to take their socks off to play. Some of the play zones within the center are specifically for children of a certain age and they are quite strict about limiting its use to that age group only. They are also quite strict about accompanying children under 8 at all times, so even if you have for example a 7 year old and a 3 year old, it is expected that they play in the same area at the same time. So while the facilities and equipment are excellent, for a family with more than 1 child the rules interfere with free play and for this reason I have given this location 4 rather than 5 stars.

The equipment they have makes up for their stringent rules. One of the more popular attractions is the climbing wall on the 3rd floor. They allow children of any age use it and they even have some climbing challenges marked out, just like they have in bouldering gyms. Beside the wall they have a zorb, which children of any age can use. The 3rd floor has a veranda with a selection of bikes and trikes. There are some push alongs indoors for children under 3.

Another popular attraction is the relatively large ball pool, with a slide into it. It is on the 2nd floor. This particular ball pool is only for the use of children under 7. They have a smaller ball pool on the 3rd floor for children of school going age. Beside the ball pool there is an open play area where they currently have kinetic sand. There is a play house in this area plus a selection of toys, including Lego and Magformers. The 0 to 3 year old zone is also on the 2nd floor. They have a nice selection of wooden toys. A lot of the toys and equipment in Kitamoto Children’s Centre are Bornelund.

Each floor has toilets and kids toilets with a changing mat. The 2nd floor has a rest room where you are allowed eat. There is a drinks vending machine on each floor. Parking is free and plentiful. They hold events. No information in English and no English spoken. Below the children’s centre, there is a children’s library.
Review – Kitamoto Children’s Centre in Japan. Kitamoto Children’s Centre is part of the relatively new Kitamoto City Hall. The facilities are public and free for anyone to use. You are required to sign into

Source: Place Review: Kitamoto Children’s Centre, Kitamoto-shi, Saitama | City-Cost

More articles on climbing:

Monolith bouldering gym in Kawagoe

Tree climbing in Shinrin Park

 

 

Kawagoe Station East Exit Children’s Centre | KAWAGOE

Kawagoe Eki Higashi Jidokan, or Kawagoe East Exit play center, is located on the 4th floor of a civic center for citizens, Kurasse.  Below it there is a library and above it there are meeting rooms and citizen services. On the 2nd floor there is also a rest area with vending machines. You are allowed eat here, but you are required to bring your rubbish home with you.

Anyone can use this play center and it is free to use. You just need to sign in on entering. They require your name and the name and age of your child, and the city or town you live in if you are from outside the Kawagoe area. The play center isn’t particularly big, but it has enough to entertain young children. There is a main hall with some play equipment including climbing boxes and a slide. They hold events here including an English language event three times a month. Beside the office of the children’s center there is a smaller room with quite a few toys including a play kitchen. There are a selection of books in the hall, including some English books. There are even more English books in the library below the play center. You need to make a membership card to borrow books. As it is a municipal library you can only borrow books if you are from Kawagoe or another town or city that has a mutual book lending agreement, such as Kawajima Town.

The staff are very helpful, but to the best of my knowledge none of them speak English. They have some pamphlets and information for living in Kawagoe, but they are all in Japanese only. They have clean and well kept toilets divided into ladies and men’s, and they also have a wheelchair accessible toilet that has a changing mat. There is an elevator and stairs you can take to each floor.

The centre is open from 9.30 am Wednesday to Monday, closing on Tuesdays except when its a public holiday. It is conveniently located within minutes walk of JR and Tobu Tojo line Kawagoe station. There is parking down a narrow alleyway beside the centre, but parking is charged. I previously drove an American car (Chrysler, Voyager) which was too big to turn into the car park! I have an 8 seater now too, but it is a Japanese model and therefore a bit narrower and it can navigate the turn no problem. The parking is quite expensive, but the nearby coin parking are even more expensive.

This is the play center where Saitama Tots English Playdates (STEPS) group met for the first year of play dates. And we still meet here from time to time. If you are eligible to become a member of STEPS you can find us on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/saitamasteps/

Abbreviated version originally appeared on City-cost.com: Place Review: Kawagoe Station East Exit Children’s Centre, Kawagoe-shi, Saitama | City-Cost

 

A fun and educational summer drive | Higashimatsuyama Hatoyama

This morning after a sudden change of plans, I decided it was time we check out one place on the summer wishlist: the JAXA earth observation centre. As we departed the house I had planned to just go to JAXA, but when the three girls (5, 3 and 1 years old) weren’t too enamoured with my choice, I improvised a day trip. The result, a pretty amazing summer drive with lots of fun for all, and educational to boot. Another bonus; it was pretty much free – the only cost (other than transport and food) was the parking and entry fee to the zoo. I adapted our actual route for this blog post, to make it more time savvy.

A. Start

Sakado Nishi Smart Interchange

↓11 minutes

B. Peace Museum of Saitama

Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama
Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama

I’ve known that the Peace Museum is there ever since I moved here, but I never made an effort to go see it. To be honest, it sounded boring. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find it is far from boring and a really fun place for kids set in beautiful surroundings. The main exhibit hall boasts a recreated school house and world war II bunker.  You can walk into both. They have traditional toys, colouring and the all important stamp rally in the reception area. They have a great observation tower too. They host events and show movies during summer vacation.

Hours: 9 am to 4.30 pm. Closed every Monday
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.saitama-peacemuseum.jp/publics/index/29/

↓10 minutes

C.  Jaxa Earth Observation Centre

Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Drive day trip higashi matsuyama hatoyama
Learning about countries with this interactive exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have preschoolers, I recommend skipping this point of interest, or just planning a half hour maximum at this location. I found it very interesting and my almost 7 year old enjoyed a couple of the exhibits, but it is best suited to older children. They have some interactive exhibits and plenty of visual exhibits. Some of the educational video clips have English subtitles and there are some bilingual brochures, but this JAXA is most suited to proficient Japanese speakers. You need to pull into the reception office as you enter the gate to sign in to the premises.


Hours:
10 am to 4.30 pm
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://global.jaxa.jp/about/centers/eoc/

↓9 minutes

D. Monomiyama Viewpoint

A steep climb up many steps is rewarded with amazing panoramic views. There is a park you can access from this point, or from the Peace Museum, but in summer it is just too hot. The free parking is shared with Shoboji Temple (Iwadono Kannon) on the Shoboji Temple side, so you don’t have to cross over the road if driving from Jaxa Earth Observation Centre.

Hours: The viewpoint is open 24 hours
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL:  http://www.higashimatsuyama-kanko.com/english/03.pdf

E. Shoboji Temple aka Iwadono Kannon

Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform
Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform

You walk through a cool tunnel to get to this hidden temple with the most amazing Gingko tree I have ever seen.  I did not know before I went that it is an acclaimed power spot, but I definitely sensed an atmosphere. There are great views from the bell platform of the temple. There are a couple of swings and some horizontal bars for kids to play with.

Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm in the summer, 8.30 am to 4 pm in the winter.
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.bandou.gr.jp/temple/saitama.php

↓6 minutes

F. Saitama Children’s Zoo

Splash pool at Saitama's Prefectural Children's zoo
Splash pool at Saitama’s Prefectural Children’s zoo

During the summer, the children’s zoo tends to be a degree or two cooler than surrounding areas, especially on a breezy day. Plus it has a great splash pool that the kids can cool down in. During the month of August they have a Night Zoo on 6 different dates, you can get that information here: CLICK HERE FOR SAITAMA EVENT LIST  For more general information please see the entry on this blog: Saitama Children’s Zoo

Hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm. Closed on Mondays except for national holidays
Charge: Adults 510 yen, Primary and Junior High school children 210 yen, Preschoolers and below FREE, Parking 600 yen for the day
URL: on this blog – Saitama Children’s Zoo
O
ffical (Japanese only): http://www.parks.or.jp/sczoo/

↓??

HOME with tired, but satisfied kids. 🙂

 

One thing to note is that there isn’t much in the way of food once you get into the mountain region. Therefore, if you are planning to do this drive or a variation of it, I recommend you bring a packed lunch / purchase something on the way or schedule to eat at the zoo.

Have you created or followed any Saitama day trip and / or drive routes you’d like to share? Input is always welcome. 🙂

 

Moomin theme park coming to Saitama.

For regular readers, you probably already know from my blog that Saitama has a free, small, Moomin-esque park in Hanno City.

“Moomin Valley”, Akebono Children’s Forest | HANNO

However, you may not yet have heard about the deal that has been signed to open an amusement park, METSA, at Lake Miyazawa in Hanno. This is set to be open for business as soon as Spring 2017. in before summer 2018. News was received at the start of 2017 that the completion of the park has been delayed and is now expected to be open for business sometime between Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018. It is being built adjacent to the current park, which will remain free. This will be the first Moomin themed park to be built outside of Finland.

Although, Hanno City borders Tokyo, it is not that easy to get to and it is quite rural. Here’s hoping they plan to improve infrastructure before the opening of the park. No doubt, the park will be a popular tourist attraction during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. There is quite a lot to do in Hanno City, for people of all ages and backgrounds. Outdoor activities include camping, BBQs, river related sports and activities, horse-riding and stay tuned for more! Another place of interest is their public library,  with its impressive wooden architecture.

Whenever I hear Finland mentioned, I automatically think of my blog buddy “Free but Fun” who maintains an excellent blog about things to do in Finland. As well as other free but fun ideas including crafts.  You can check that out here: https://freebutfun.wordpress.com/

Information for current free park

Address: 893-1 Azu, Hannō-shi, Saitama-ken 357-0046
URL: city.hanno.saitama.jp
Phone: 042-972-7711
Open: 9AM–5PM
Information in English on this blog:  Moomin Valley, Akebono Children’s Forest | HANNO

Affiliate link**: You can buy Moomin products on Amazon.jp:
http://amzn.to/2r5aII3

::As of June 9th 2017 Insaitama.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.jp

Sole ソーレ children’s play centre | HIGASHIMATSUYAMA

Named “Sole” as in the Italian for sun, this is one of the few state run jidokan (children’s centre) you have to pay into. Children are free essentially, but they charge for adults. It is 200 yen for an adult who does not reside in Higashimatsuyama, and 100 yen for those who do. You can pay for a block of 6 months for 1000 yen for a resident, 2000 yen for those from outside the city.

Koala room for babies. Some of the big toys. Small toys need to be put away after each use.
Koala room for babies. Some of the big toys. Small toys need to be put away after each use.

You need to make a member’s card the first time you visit and bring it with you each subsequent time.  The centre is mainly geared to preschoolers and unlike other jidokan, primary school children are not allowed enter and play without supervision.  

They have a “koala” room, that only children up to 1 year old can use.  The room has an area for changing nappies, making and storing bottles, nursing, some larger equipment for mobile babies and lots of toys. You need to put the toys away after each use.

Padded area on right. Glass floor through which you can see kids using the tunnel underneath.
Padded area on right. Glass floor through which you can see kids using the tunnel underneath.


The “kangaroo” room has paper craft, colouring and play dough. The “kuma” area has some books and tables, and a small padded area for babies. Part of the floor is glass so you can see the tunnel underneath that children love to play in. There is a sink there too for making bottles.

The main hall has slides, wooden play houses, soft blocks, a piano and an area off it with loads and loads of wooden toys.  There is a rest room and a room for eating in,   “Kirin” 1 and 2. They have separate toilets for babies, children and adults.

For what you get, it is certainly worth the money. The whole centre is wooden, with high ceilings and lots of light. The majority of toys in the main hall and in the koala room are wooden. They are educational toys. They hold special events each month, usually you don’t have to pay extra for them. One of the best we saw was a father and son juggling show, which was high on audience participation. Their birthday parties for kids who had a birthday in a given month are fun and make children feel special.  The staff are nice enough, but they are quite strict and not overly friendly.  Parking is free. The parking lot is shared with the community centre next door. The entrance is a bit tricky to find. It is a laneway between the community centre and a yakiniku restaurant. You then walk down a laneway to come in the back of the centre. See access map and further information below.

Juggling show
Juggling show

INFORMATION AND ACCESS

Hours: Friday to Wednesday (closed Thursdays) 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Costs: Outlined in the first paragraph
URL: http://www.comaam.jp/solemare/index.html
Phone: 0493-23-2231

Access:  
Approximately a 13 minute walk from Tobu Tojo Line Higashimatsuyama Station.
Approximately 2 minute drive from main route 407. Please see the Google My Map below. The red line is the parking entrance, the grey line is the walking route from the parking lot to the centre’s entrance.

Hidaka Sougou Park

The Japanese sougou 総合 is used to indicate a multi-purpose park and that is exactly what Hidaka Sougou park is.

The park is free in, with free parking.  Here is some of the attractions it has to offer.

Playground

This playground was installed in March 2013, replacing a wooden athletic playground.  Now it is a colourful combination equipment playground that suits children of many ages. There are climbing nets, monkey bars, balancing beams, slides, spring rides and sand pits.  All, but the sand pits, displayed in photos hereafter.

The playground in Hidaka Sougou Park
The playground in Hidaka Sougou Park

Waterplay

This park boasts a 165 metre long “babbling brook” (せせらぎ水路) with a paddling pool at the base.

Paddling pool available in the summer
Paddling pool available in the summer

The wading river is protected by the trees, which afford shade during the hot summer.

Exercise Equipment & Flying Fox

There is also exercise equipment and a flying fox in the wooded area beside the playground.

Sporting facilities and club house

There are tennis courts, a baseball pitch, a soccer pitch and 400 metre running track, that can be used at a charge. The club house manages bookings. There is a shower room and toilets in the club house.  The website and contact details are here: http://www.city.hidaka.lg.jp/6,998,24,105.html

Club house
Club house
Soccer Ground and 400 metre long running track
Soccer Ground and 400 metre long running track

Seasonal Activities

  • Hanami / Cherry Blossom Viewing Picnic Area

Hidaka Sougou Park is a popular spot during Japanese Cherry Blossom season. There is a long line of trees alongside the river with dedicated space for setting up picnic mats under the trees.

Hanami area
Hanami area
  • Bug Hunting

The wooded area in Hidaka is ripe with wildlife during the summer. It is possible to catch beetles and stag beetles to keep as pets; a popular hobby of young Japanese children.

The forest in Hidaka Sougou Park, ideal for bug hunting in the summer and acorns in the winter
The forest in Hidaka Sougou Park, ideal for bug hunting in the summer and acorns in the winter
  • Acorn Collecting

Kids love to collect acorns in Japan. This is one of many parks in Saitama, where you can find acorns.

Other facilities

There are toilets in the park, two of which are right beside the playground. There is a drinking fountain. There are changing rooms and showers in the Club House, which can be used at a price.

Access

URL: http://www.city.hidaka.lg.jp/6,998,24,105.html

Address: 1500 Takahagi, Hidaka City, Saitama

Phone: 042-985-7161

By Car: Off route 407, near Musashi Takahagi train station, right beside Hidaka Country Club.

By Train: 15 minute walk from Musashi Takahagi Station on the Kawagoe line.

A DAY OUT IN HIDAKA

There are other nice parks and play areas near this park in Hidaka. I recommend Chikozan Park in neighbouring Sayama, with a small zoo and fun playground, and Saiboku Ham, which has a free play area, plus you can pay to enjoy an onsen there. The Saiboku onsen was recently reopened after a big reform.

 

Saitama Municipal Youth Astronomical Museum

It’s spring break in Japan.  It is also end of school year.  Traffic tends to increase and queues lengthen, but there are still some hidden gems that evade the chaos. Saitama’s space museum, or officially the Saitama Municipal Youth Astronomical Museum, is one such place.

★Free entry for parents and children
★Parking is free
★Rainy day okay
★Suitable for all ages
★Special events
★Elevator
★Nappy / Diaper changing facilities
★Rest area

There is something for everyone at this space museum located on the old grounds of Urawa Reds (Saitama soccer team) at Komaba stadium. Children can learn about space and science through the various interactive and educational displays, play areas, reading area and special events available free of charge. There is also a planetarium that costs 510 yen per adult or 200 yen for students aged 4 and up.

Information and Access

Address: 2-3-45 Komaba, Urawa-city, Saitama, Japan
URL: http://www.kagakukan.urawa.saitama.jp/main.html
TEL:  048-881-1515
Cost: Free entry to the museum, **the planetarium is 510 yen per adult or 200 yen for students aged 4 and up
Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00
Holidays: Mondays except for public holidays. Closed for New Year from December 28th to January 4th.
Access:
By train – Take a bus from either Urawa or Kita Urawa stations for 「宇宙科学館入口」
By car – 15 minutes from Urawa Interchange



 

Great BBQ Spot in Shiroyama Park | OKEGAWA

We’ve been hanging out in Shiroyama park quite a lot recently. Thanks to the Family Walker magazine featuring the new piece of playground equipment (pictured) and suggesting it as a hanami location. We had visited a few times in the past, but it didn’t make an impression. It does now.Shiroyama park

The timing was convenient, too. The kids have taken turns bringing lurgy into the house;  Shiroyama has the perfect playground for sick days.  The playground (by the tennis courts, near the main parking area off route 12), isn’t too expansive, is in the sun, but surrounded by trees, and has a sandpit.  Another benefit for our family is that there is something for each of their ages.  5 year old likes the flying fox and climbing bars. 4 year old likes the see saw and climbing wall. 2 year old likes the seesaw and climbing net. 4 month likes the view. They all love the sandpit that has two sliding tunnels (last photo); something we haven’t seen anywhere else below.

Shiroyama park also has an adventure playground, a paddling pool, and hanami, picnic and BBQ areas.  The BBQ area is free to use, but you need to physically go into the park’s management area up to a day before to book a place. There is a cot in the toilet for the disabled for changing nappies, but to be honest the park’s toilets could do with an upgrade! DSCF3784

Information and Access

Phone: 048-786-5881

Shiroyama Park is an approximate 15 minute bus ride from Okegawa Station’s West exit. Take a bus for Kawagoe Station 川越駅 and alight at Kawataya shisho Bus Stop 川田谷支所.

By car it is 5 minutes from the Okegawa – Kitamoto interchange on the Ken-O Expressway. It takes one hour by car from Tokyo. Parking and all the facilities in Okegawa (excluding vending machines!) are free.

URLhttp://www.city.okegawa.lg.jp/shisetsu/55/251/p000694.html

Google Maps:

 

DSCF3790
 

DSCF3794

Hina Matsuri Displays. At a heritage house

Post 4 in a series of posts about where you can view traditional Hina Matsuri Doll displays in Japan.  These dolls may not be to the level of the Konosu Bikkuri Hina Matsuri pyramid displays, but they are  pretty and come with their own history.  They were taken at Nanbata Castle Park and Resource centre, a historical and cultural centre, park and heritage house in Fujimi City.

Fujimi Nanbata castle hina display

2009 018

Nanbata Castle cultural park and heritage house is a free, but fun place to visit with kids. They leave out period toys for children to play with, such as stilts and koma spinning tops. The address is 568-1 Shimonanbata, Fujimi 354-0004. Telephone is 049-253-4664.

The park is also host to a musket shooting display and festival. You can read more here.

New Year adventures. Kumagaya Sports Bunka park

There is a belief in Japan that how you spend your New Year’s is reflective of how your year will be. The New Year period lasts until the 7th of January. With that in mind, we spent those 7 days, the last of the kid’s holidays, out and about enjoying all this wonderful prefecture has to offer young kids.  It is representative of the variety of this prefecture, that even after 5 years of trying a different play location at least once a month, we can still find somewhere new to hang out near our home.

Playground equipment at Kumagaya sports bunka park
Playground equipment at Kumagaya sports bunka park

Kumagaya sports park is massive. It has all sort of pitches and sports areas, as well as a stadium and a dome arena. My guess is that the stadium and the dome arena will be used for the 2020 Tokyo olympics.  Near both the stadium and the dome is a playground, particularly suited to kindergarten and primary school age.  The park and its facilities are hosts to many events throughout the year.

Circular climbing frame
Circular climbing frame

Climbing frames
Climbing frames

The playground is located near the dome. Parking areas 4 and 6 are the closest, but they are still a fair distance away. We parallel parked along the small public road that runs along the side of the playground area. 5 year old and (then) 3 year old loved the circular climbing frame as well as the other climbing equipment. 2 year old was able for some of the climbing equipment, but she wasn’t able for the circular climbing frame. She enjoyed the sandbox.

Kumagaya is commutable from Tokyo. It is easily accessible by a direct train line from areas of Tokyo, such as Ueno on the Takasaki Line or Shinjuku on the Shonan Shinjuku Line. The park is an approximate 12 minute taxi ride from Kumagaya station.
ADDRESS: 300 Kamigawakami, Kumagaya-shi, Saitama-ken 360-0004
TEL: +81 48-526-2004

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