Opening day for the new super hotspring in KUMAGAYA Saitama is drawing close. This is one to get excited about folks, because apart from being a state of the onsen, it has lots of extra services AND hammocks and a climbing wall! Please note, this onsen is not suitable to children under 7 years of age. Update September 1st: Opening day has been set for September 10th.
They use the word glamping in their public relation articles, which has me intrigued. However, I don’t think they offer glamorous camping, but rather are using the concept of glamping to offer an outdoor feel to their luxury hot springs.
Bivouac is just the latest offering from the hot spring chain Onsen Dojo, who take relaxation to the next level. There most famous of their hot springs is probably Cafe Utatane in Saitama’s Kita-ku. That has a hotel as well as many great extras including a lovely play area for kids. However, Bivouac is for adults or older children only.
The Bivouac hot springs are set to open for business early September, but the official date has not been released yet. They will open 23 hours a day from 10 am to 9 am. Entry to the onsen costs 1380 yen. There is free parking for 195 cars.
Written in November 2012, updated February 2015 and 2017.
Saiboku is often described as a food theme park, but for me that conjures up images of an amusement park… with sausages! Which it is not. I am not sure how to describe it: it kind of feels like an outdoor mall or maybe a themed village. Whatever way you want to describe it, there is no denying it is a fun day out for a family with young kids.
The brand name Saiboku is most famous for its award-winning ham and sausage meat. It is processed in a factory in this complex, the head office of Saiboku. Many of their products have received food awards over the years, even on an International level. The resort in Hidaka is as known for its onsen (hot springs) as it is for the selection of shops and eateries. There are a number of eateries on the premises mostly serving pork products, but there is also a vegetable shop and bakery, as well as a selection of fast or finger foods and desserts. On top of all that there is an adventure playground, pig sty, pitch and putt, garden, pond with carp fish and craft workshops. They often have temporary market stalls too, that sell anything from jewelry to clothes. The hot springs have further facilities, but that’s a post for another day!
The adventure playground is on the West side of the hot spring and it is free. The playground is actually quite small, with one big combination unit, but it is surprisingly engaging for children playing together up to about 8 years old. It might be less engaging for a child older than five there on his/her own. The likelihood of a child playing there on their own is quite small though, as even on the coldest winters weekday, there is always a couple of families knocking about. The play unit has a lot of climbing features and 2 wide bumpy slides. It is beside the pig pen; home to three popular pigs. There is a tunnel beside the pig sty that kids enjoy running through. This area also has some gazebos, one of which has a table. Both have benches. You can eat food in the gazebos. There is an array of drink vending machines beside the one with tables. There is no smoking in this area, but there is at least one smoking area in the complex.
One of the kid’s favourite eateries in the complex is the “Saiboku Cafeteria” as it sells ice-cream. They have two different types of ice-cream: soft cream and scooped ice-cream. The latter you can get on a cone or in a cup. They have vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, green tea and sweet potato flavour. On the weekends you get the ice-cream from a window on the outside of the building (pictured below) where they also sell popcorn. Can you spot the flying pig in the picture!?
The indoor section is quite small and not particularly exciting, but they have high chairs with safety straps in the indoor section of this cafeteria. I so rarely see safety straps on high chairs in Japan that they really stood out to me. They are like the Stokke stepped high chairs. They also have a hand basin with a step for children to use. In the special needs toilet beside the cafeteria they provide a child’s toilet seat that can be placed on top of the regular toilet seat. I found these little extras to be very convenient for my toddlers. They don’t have a family toilet like in so many places these days, but they do have a changing mat at the entrance to the women’s toilet. A man could use it too, without having to go right into the women’s toilets. There is a great outdoor seating area outside this cafeteria. It can be used to eat any food bought on Saiboku premises.
One of the places I like to buy a quick and cheerful lunch for the kids on a day out in Sayama is the bakery which is at the back of the meat shop. It isn’t huge, but there is a good selection. They sell nice sandwiches as well as a choice of baked breads. The pig shaped bread filled with chocolate is popular with children. My kids like the sausage roll on a stick.
According to Saiboku themselves their spare ribs are their best selling food. Google reviews confirms this! The spare ribs are sold in one of the many kiosk type eateries; the one nearest the vegetable shop. The building is currently undergoing renovations, but they are open for business. There is always a queue there, but on weekdays it isn’t too bad. On weekends the queue can be very long.
The award winning restaurant, which is near the playground, often has a queue at lunch time on the weekends too. Beside it is a food van with a funny name, Hareru Ya or Hallelujah, that sells crepes. The van’s bonnet is designed like a dog. Other eateries include window boothes that sell a variety of pork products such as katsu and skewered pork.
Saiboku has a point card system. Any adult can sign up for a card. It costs 200 yen for a new member, but they have days that the new membership fee is wavered. A card is valid for a year after your last purchase. You can earn points in the shops, restaurants and hot spring. For every 200 yen you spend (not including tax) you earn 1 point. Every Monday you can earn double points. You can also earn “eco points”; 2 points per visit, for not using a plastic bag when you purchase more than two items. If you collect over 500 points you get a 500 yen discount coupon. They occasionally have double points on other days too.
Saiboku also runs cooking and crafting events. They have special plans as well such as entry into the onsen, with a meal and 500 yen shopping ticket for a set price. They also sometimes organise tours that leave from Saiboku to do, for example, fruit picking. The onsen has live music performances a couple of times a month. Each month you can pick up a flyer with the month’s events at Saiboku, or you can check for information on their website (Japanese only):
It can be a little bit tricky to get there the first time, but if you’re using an up-to-date GPS it will guide you. Phone number in the Google Map below. The bus system seems to be very good and they have the times on their website.
From the Hidaka Interchange, facing Kawagoe, it takes about 5 minutes. Saiboku’s phone number 042-985-0869.
Train and bus
From the West exit of SAYAMA CITY station on the Seibu Shinjuku line take a bus to Saiboku onsen. It takes approximately 17 minutes.
From the West exit of TSURUGASHIMA on the Tobu Tojo line a bus to the terminal of the hotspring takes about 25 minutes.
UPDATE ON FEBRUARY 13TH 2015 – the onsens have been re-opened further to renovations after being closed early in 2013 due to bacteria in the water which killed two people.
Approximately a 5 minute drive from Saiboku is the Botanical Garden parking lot of CHIKOZAN PARK:
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 prâ¦
A one stop resort for accommodation, play, eating and HOT SPRINGS. It has night illumination most of the year. 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. They have a splash pool and outdoor swimming pool in summer. Please see separate blog on this resort with full details on all that is available. http://insaitama.com/shizuoka-gotemba-tokinosumika-family-resort/
Grinpa 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.
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.
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/
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.