Tag Archives: Japan

Priya the magical dog, killer hornets and stone grilled food |Kawagoe

I was living in the Kawagoe area many years before I stumbled upon a curious little shop off the beaten track, which has intrigued and enthralled me ever since. The name of the shop is as ambiguous as the products and services they offer. The kanji over the door 浪漫 can be called “Roman“, the Japanese version of Romantic, but nowhere on their webpages is this name used. So I call it Kasumi, which is the most common name I can find associated to the shop.

Kasumi Kawagoe Honey shop and Priya magical dog (2)

Kasumi (or Kasumi Flower) seems to have originally been set up as a management shop for some of the rickshaws in the area. However, one of the many signs over its door says its a “stone grill” restaurant. This indeed seems to be one of their better trades, serving hungry customers, but here’s the curious bit, its stone grilled… curry?? Just another conundrum of this unique and mysterious shop near the tourist area of Kawagoe.

Kasumi Kawagoe Honey shop and Priya magical dog (3)

 

One of their key products is honey and I have to say its about the best I’ve ever tasted. The beekeeper seems to be the owner of the shop, he is certainly the key character there.  He is a formidable and charismatic man, albeit slightly egocentric, but he reminds me of the Moore Street traders.  He delights in talking and prides himself on his produce. He has excellent English so he can explain quite a lot about beekeeping and the killer hornets he displays in jars at the front of the shop. He is also the owner of the famous healing dog Priya.

Famous dog in Kawagoe "Priya", said to have magical powers!
Famous dog in Kawagoe “Priya”, said to have magical powers!

Priya is said to have healing and magical powers. In exactly what way I do not know. The signs above and outside the shop brag of the Goddess Dog of Good Luck Priya. Inside the shop, cum restaurant cum rickshaw depot, they sell Priya goods and amulets.  If you buy lunch or purchase honey you get to have your photo taken with Priya. There are a number of photos of Priya with famous people and she has been on the TV and in the media a number of times. All I can say for sure is that she is a very lovely and placid dog. I can’t attest to her powers. She does fascinate me though, they way she sits up in the chair almost regally, perfectly poised and ready for a souvenir photo.

All in all, Kasumi (aka Roman Ishiyaki aka Kawagoe Jiryokuya) is worth a visit if you enjoy bantering with shopkeepers, like something a bit quirky, want to try stone grilled curry or delicious honey, are fascinated by killer hornets and/or want to meet a (maybe) magical dog!

KASUMI / ROMAN ISHIYAKI / KAWAGOE JIRYOKUYA

HOURS: 11am to 5pm. Please note that while they don’t have an official day off, they tend to take days here and there. Especially after a busy weekend. There are quite a lot of shops like that in Kawagoe.

TEL: 049-225-1015 (Shop)

WEB:

Shop:
kasumiflower.co.jp

Priya the magical dog: http://www.kasumiflower.co.jp/priya/index.html

Rickshaw company Kawagoe Jiryokuya: http://www.kasumiflower.co.jp/jinrikiya/index.html

Beekeeping and honey: http://www.kasumiflower.co.jp/honey/index.html

Hanasaki Water Park | Kazo

Facility Map of Hanasaki Park
We have only been to Hanasaki Water Park once, due to the distance from our house, but it made quite an impression on me. It isn’t a huge park, but there is a lot to do in the relatively small area. So much so, I recommend it as one of those parks that it is worth a journey to, even just once. That is, if you are in Saitama!

POOLS AND BIKES

There are two main attractions of this park. One is the water park, which is available from mid July to end of August. It has a number of different pools, including one for kids, and a Jacuzzi . You can also rent floats, pool beds and a boat for a separate charge. The other main attraction is the bike hire which includes some pretty unusual and fun bikes. The bikes are charged by the hour for the number of people that can ride them. They have quirky bikes for one, tandems for two (of course!), even a car bike, for want of a better description. Its a bike in the shape of a car, or maybe a car that you cycle! Oh…maybe we call them pedal cars – please comment if you know the answer! Whatever you call it; its great fun. The kids loved this the most.




ATTRACTIONS GALORE!

The park has a lot to offer other than the most popular attractions. The playground has a great big combination piece of equipment. Beside it there are some spring rides and small slides suited to small children. They also have stepping stones, climbing rungs, a little house and other pieces of equipment. There is a large gasebo beside the play area with benches and a couple of tables. Nearby is a wading river that opens early June. The BBQ area can be used during that time too. There is also a scenic river on the far side of the park lined with magnificent conifer (meta sequoia) trees. There is a walkway beside with a wooden path over a type of lotus pond, with other beautiful scenery in different seasons.  There is a lake with pedal AND swan boats for hire. The pools are used as fishing ponds out of season (don’t want to think about that too much!).  The battery cars in the pool area are accessible most of the year. They have putter golf and sports grounds. There is a small flower garden maze and a wide open grass area.  There is even a restaurant, but it closes during off season.  You can find up-to-date costs for each activity on the website, which is linked below.

So you see, it is a park worth visiting at some point, even out of summer season.  If you do plan to go during the summer, please see the up-to-date charges on the website, linked below. The park also recommends that you arrive early to get a parking spot, particularly on Saturdays when the park is at its busiest.

INFORMATION

**Please note that some of the services are not available on Mondays, except during the 6 weeks of summer holidays**

Bicycle costs at Hanasaki Park
Costs to hire the bikes, Putter Golf and Table Tennis at Hanasaki Water Park in 2015

Please see the website for up-to-date costs.

Address: 1722 Mizubuka, Kazo, Saitama

Tel: 0480-65-7155

URL: http://www.parks.or.jp/kazohanasaki/about.html (Japanese only)

Access

Train: About a 15 minute walk from Tobu Isesaki Line Hanasaki Station

Car: Approximately 3 kilometers from Kazo Interchange of the ken-o expressway.
Parking: Free out of pool season, but once the pool opens it costs 820 yen for the day. Spaces for up to 1,200 cars. Between April and September the car park is open from 8am to 6.30pm. From October to March it closes at 5.30pm.




Peter Rabbit lodgings during Golden Week trip

A welcome sign in English "Welcome Friends Slowly Smiling"
A welcome sign in English “Welcome Friends Slowly Smiling”

For the last 7 years we’ve been going to a resort in Gotemba every Golden Week.  The resort has a choice of accommodation ranging from hotel rooms to self catering lodges. This year we stayed in the “slow house villa” area in a yurt or パオ (Pao) as they are called in Japanese.  The yurts in the complex are designed on a theme. Our room was one of the Peter Rabbit themed lodgings.

The Peter Rabbit influence may well have gone beyond the interior of the yurts, as the slow house villa area is reminiscent of a rabbit’s burrow. It was great fun for the kids to find their way around the maze like paths. Management makes good use out of the design too, laying out a scavenger hunt challenge of sorts for guests of the slow house villas. The kids followed clues to find letters which, when all were discovered, spelled out a word. On presenting the word to reception they got a prize of Peter Rabbit stickers. Another treat for guests of these particular lodgings is a fluffy bunny rabbit (soft toy) hidden in the room – if you find it, you get to bring it home. (You can also borrow teddy bears and soft toys from reception to keep in your room during your stay).

The view of the maze of Peter Rabbit lodgings taken from the Big Bang playground, with Mt Fuji in the background
The view of the burrow of Peter Rabbit lodgings, taken from the Big Bang playground, with Mt Fuji in the background

The yurt itself was also a great source of excitement for the kids. They aren’t the most practical, but between the Peter Rabbit paraphernalia and the spacious loft, it was a dream come true for the kids to stay there. They are also the lodgings closest to the big playground, which turned out very convenient for us. They have a hot spring in the villa area (one of many in the resort) and it is where the pet hotel is too. This is also the area with the resort’s badminton court, games room (billiards and table tennis), reception for some activities (such as fishing and segways) and where they have the magnificent night time water, illumination and projection mapping show.  The breakfast hall is a little bit far away, but it is a nice walk, with some great views of Mt Fuji.

While I enjoyed the novelty, I did think the room was quite dingy, dark and hard to regulate temperature. I did enjoy staying there and the kids certainly did, but once was enough for me. There are other accommodations within the resort that are more practical for big families and people with young children. My top two in the resort are the Blueberry Lodges and the Western/Eastern fusion room in the Tokinosumika hotel.  For anyone who is interested in more information about the resort it is linked below the photos from the playground.

The Resort

Information about accommodations and attractions: –
Shizuoka, Gotemba. Family resort with Accommodation, Hot springs, Dining, Shopping, Sports & Much much more

One of the hotels within the resort

Hotel Tokinosumika, Gotemba, Shizuoka

Lodges within the resort

Blueberry Lodge at Tokinosumika, Shizuoka (And Shaun the Sheep!)

Some of the attractions within the resort

 

 

Make your own POCKY at Free Factory Tour | Glico Pia East

Glico Pia East Factory Tour Pocky (13)Chances are, if you live in Saitama, you have heard about the famous Glico Pia East factory tour, aka the Pocky tour. It remains top of the list of free factory tours in Saitama and one of the best for the whole Kanto region (Greater Tokyo area). Due to its popularity, it is still necessary to book in advance, but the good news is that the wait has been reduced from a year to a few months. We were able to get a booking 4 months in advance.

 

It was on my wish list since it opened its doors in 2012, but I was advised to wait until the kids were in primary school to go. In 2015, I just couldn’t wait any longer so I booked it for the whole family. At the time the kids were 5, 4, 2 and o! Much to my delight, everyone, myself included, enjoyed the tour much more than we thought we would. The tour is 70 minutes long and includes a brief video, museum tour, tour of 2 lines of products and an interactive quiz game in a futuristic gaming room. In fact, the whole tour building has a futuristic feel.



Apart from the short video at the start, the kids were completely intrigued by the tour. In the museum they have a display of 1,500 mini toys that used to be given with one of their products. They also have an old-fashioned vending machine, which my son was chosen to try out with an old 5 yen coin that is no longer in circulation. In that area of the museum they have the brand symbol of the running man, synonymous with “that” billboard in Osaka which is somewhat of a tourist attraction these days! The beautifully presented tour guides explain each element in detail and allocate time for taking photos. There are some parts of the tour where photos are not allowed, which they inform you of. The tour is in Japanese, but the whole tour is quite visual so I would not say it is essential to completely understand the language. (Japanese is required to book the tour).  After the museum tour you move onto the factory element, where they show you two different line productions of Glico products. Following that you are led to the gaming room, where pairs sit at a table with buzzers of different colours representing different answers in an a, b or c type interactive game. The kids really loved that.

After the interactive quiz the free part of the tour is over. You can, however, pay 500 yen per person to enjoy decorating your own giant Pocky. It is important to note that on a very busy day they limit the number of people who can do the make-your-own-Pocky. It is decided at the very start of the tour who gets to do it.  They prioritise primary school students in higher grades. We were very lucky that our 5, 4 and 2 year old were able to participate on the day we went. They absolutely loved decorating their own giant-sized Pocky and it was definitely the highlight of the morning for them.  You are given a box to place your Pocky to take home and a bag of goodies with Glico products and inflatable Pocky!

Glico Pia East Factory Tour Pocky (2)

The factory is less than an hour from Tokyo and thanks to the extension of the Ken-O expressway, the factory is very accessible from other prefectures in Kanto too.  It is just 2 kilometres from the Okegawa-Kano exit of the Ken-O expressway. By public transport you can take a 12 minute bus ride bound for Glico Pia East from Kitamoto Station on the JR Takasaki line.

INFORMATION

OPEN: Saturday to Thursday (closed on Fridays)

TOUR TIMES: 9.30, 11.00, 12.30, 14.00

BOOKING: 048-593-8811 or online:

URL: https://www.glico.com/jp/enjoy/experience/glicopiaeast

ADDRESS: 〒364-0013 Saitama Prefecture, Kitamoto, 中丸9丁目55

 

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Night Illumination at COCOON CITY, Saitama-Shintoshin

NaBloPoMo_2015It used to be that you would have to travel into Tokyo to get some night light action, but nowadays even the smallest of prefectures have some winter illumination for all to enjoy. The displays run for up to 4 months and are really quite spectacular. It has been a great way to encourage people to get out and about even during the coldest months.  It also lifts people’s spirits and instils a little bit of light, warmth and magic throughout the dark cold months.

In Saitama where we live,  we are spoilt for choice this year. I have already featured some of the winter illumination currently running. This week I will show some of the other ones scheduled to start, such as this one in Cocoon City.  Cocoon City is unsual too, in that they have a switch on event, which is one thing that is lacking in some of the winter illumination in other parts of Saitama. This year Cocoon City’s illumination is scheduled to be switched on by the popular actor and model Mokomichi Hayami (pictured below), on November 7th at 5pm. The 3,000,000 lights turn on will be conducted in Cocoon 2 at the Cocoon Hiroba. The illumination will then run daily from 5pm to 11pm until February 14th.

4.24

Katakura have used imaging to show how the “Let’s celebrate Cocoon City” Illumination will look like this year.

Cocoon 1, Cocoon Plaza
Cocoon Plaza imaging

Cocoon 2, Cocoon Hiroba
Cocoon Hiroba imaging

Cocoon 3, Keyaki Walk, In front of Parkside Building and Hanamizuki Walk
Cocoon 3 imaging

I hope to make it around all the winter illumination in Saitama this year. I have already spent a magical night in Shinrin Park with the kids. More on that later this week.  Do you have winter / night illumination in your part of the world? Please do share in the comments.

 

[金]グランドオープン!エリア最大級のショッピング空間。訪れるたびに、驚きがある街「コクーンシティ」がはじまっています。

Source: イベント&ニュース|コクーンシティ[COCOON CITY Saitama-Shintoshin]

Koedo Kurari Character Festival Halloween event

This Saturday from 11am there is a “character festival” in Kawagoe Kurari, a small shopping area with food and souvenirs housed in three former sake breweries.  You can meet mascots and characters from the Kawagoe area, including Kawagoe city’s main mascot Tokimo, a sweet potato clock. There will be an opportunity to get your photo taken with the mascot.

Children who come in Halloween Costume will receive candy. There are other events and surprises planned for the day. It runs until 4pm. It will not take place, if it is raining.

Kawagoe Kurari is in walking distance of Hon Kawagoe and Kawagoe station. Their website (Japanese only) is http://www.machikawa.co.jp/  This event hosts information on a facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/小江戸蔵里キャラクター祭り-Reborn-346947485490475/photos/


We recently met Tokimo at another event:Meeting Tokimo

Seibu Amusement Park Winter Illumination

This year Seibu Yuuenchi is in the top four largest winter illuminations list for the Greater Tokyo area.  Around 3,000,000 lights are used for this year’s ensemble, even the merry-go-round is lit up with 12 different colours. The illumination display opened just yesterday in the Tokorozawa based amusement park, only 30 minutes from Tokyo. You can view a sneak peek on this video ↓

This year’s illumination is a collaboration with Sachiko Kobayashi, who is a famous Japanese style singer, some call the Queen of Enka. ↓

The illumination begins daily at 17.15 until mid-January when the time changes to 17.30. The display is running until the 10th of April 2016. It costs 900 yen per adult on a weekday and 1,100 yen on the weekend and special dates. Children aged 3 to 12 are 500 yen. Children under 3 are free.   (More details in Japanese on their offical webpage, see below ).

Address: 2964 Yamaguchi, Tokorozawa, Saitama
Phone: 04-2922-1371
URL: http://www.seibuen-yuuenchi.jp/illumi-ju/index.html

Access:  Train: Minutes walk from Seibu Yuuenchi station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line.  Car: 10 kilometres from the Iruma Interchange of the Ken-o highway.

 

 

西武園ゆうえんち「イルミージュ(イルミネーション)」についてのご案内。都内近郊のお子さまと一緒に遊べるゆうえんちは西武園ゆうえんちへ、春は桜!、夏はプールと花火・ビアガーデン! 冬は雪の王国やフィッシングランド!さまざまなイベントをご用意してお待ちしております。Roughly translated: Information about Seibu Amusement Park Illuminage (Illumination) . Summer there is  pool, fireworks and a beer garden, Spring there is cherrry blossom; all within the suburbs. We have lots of events waiting for you.

Source: イルミージュ(イルミネーション) | 西武園ゆうえんち

Shinrin Park, Namegawa

Shinrin park (also known as Musashi Kyuryo National Goverment Park) is vast, 304 hectares to be precise. To put that in perspective; 65 times the size of Tokyo Dome! There is an entrance fee for children over the age of 6 and parking is charged, but it is well worth the money as there are lots of things to do and see for people of all ages. They also host special events most weekends and during holidays, which often cost extra money.

Due to the size of the park there are different exits, each with their own parking lot. The adventure playground, giant ball play area and the musashi kids dome are close to each other and accessed from the West entrance. They are all walkable from the entrance and from each other. In the summer, there is a splash pool which is near the adventure playground. The West entrance adminisitration building at that entrance has a shop, seating area, nursing room, nappy changing area, microwave and toilets including a wheelchair accessible toilet. The “ponpoko mountain”, Japan’s largest trampoline, is at least a 20 minute walk away. That, the botanical gardens, restaurant and seasonal illumination are accessible from the Central Gate. The popular tree climbing event is close to this entrance too.  The plum blossom and cherry blossom groves are closest to the South Entrance. The Dog Run is closest to the North Entrance.

Adventure playground
Adventure playground

The adventure playground has 23 different pieces of equipment,  including the very popular pirates ship.

Musashi Kids Dome
Musashi Kids Dome

The Musashi Kids Dome is a colorful play area for kids of all ages. There are quirky slides, climbing chambers, a ball pool, spring rides and more.

Giant Ball play area

Giant Ball play area

Giant balls are put out on a fine day. They are beside the Musashi Kids dome and close to the athletic / adventure playground. They are free to use.

Ponpoko Mountain
Ponpoko Mountain

Japan’s largest outdoor mountain trampoline is quite a walk from any entrance, but the central gate is probably the closest. Kids must be over 3 years old to play on the main trampoline, but they have a smaller one beside it that even smaller kids can play on.

The walk between entrances is quite long, so if you prefer to use an easier mode of transport, the park has some on offer. You can’t bring your own bikes into the park, but you can rent a bike. It is 410 yen to rent an adult bike or mamachari for 3 hours, 200 yen for children. They have designated cycling courses.  The easiest is the park bus that goes between the gates of the park and stops at popular spots en route. It costs 210 yen for an adult per ride or you can buy a day pass for 400 yen.  Small buggies / strollers are available to borrow for free. They have segway tours too, but you have to be over 16 to use them and must use them in a tour group.

Bikes for hire
Bikes for hire
Park Bus
Park Bus
Segways
Segways

During the summer there is a 2500m2 paddling and wading pool as well as mist and fountains. The water depth ranges from 5 to 30cm.  You can enjoy as early as April and they run to mid October. They close the waterplay area some Tuesdays and Wednesdays for cleaning. They have lockers, but no changing rooms. Nappies (diapers) are allowed, but the pool type, water nappies, are not. There is a tuck shop beside the wading pools, that sells ice cream and kaki-kori.

This park is beautiful all year round, but especially during cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons.

There are many activities and attractions on offer all year round as well as seasonal attractions and events. During January the park closes the 3rd and 4th Monday. Opening hours are 9.30-17.30. The phone number is 0493-57-2111. Please visit their website, for further information in English about access and entrance and parking fees; http://www.shinrinkoen.jp/english/

 

Check the plum blossom and cherry blossom schedule and find some events in Shinrin Park in this schedule of events for Saitama.

 


 

“Books and Cafe” at Tokinosumika, Gotemba

From the website www.tokinosumika.com
From the website www.tokinosumika.com

 BRIEF UPDATE 2016: “Books and cafe” has undergone some changes and it is no longer free in. More details to come in the coming days.

There is a lovely cafe in the Tokinosumika resort, aptly called “Books & Cafe”! It’s one of my favourite spaces actually, due to the ambience and wooden structure. It’s a nice place to relax over a coffee and a book. Now I enjoy it on our annual visits as it is also an interesting space for children. There is a wooden ball pool that babies and toddlers enjoy as well as wooden toys for toddlers and young children. There are books too for people of all ages. The cafe and the book area are slightly separate, so you can hang out in the “books” part without eating. They’ve a great selection of photo books as well as a good selection of kids books. There are seats, benches and cubby holes in the book area.
URL: http://www.tokinosumika.com/restaurant/bookscafe.php
Opening hours: 10.00-19.00

More information on the Tokinosumika resort:
http://insaitama.com/?s=tokinosumika

Detailed information on Tokinosumika on this blog: http://insaitama.com/shizuoka-gotemba-tokinosumika-family-resort/

Parks with Waterplay in the Greater Tokyo Area | K-A International Mothers in Japan

My latest contribution to the KA Japan website; kajapan.org. A round of parks where the kidlets can play with water in the Greater Tokyo Area, which includes Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

via Parks with Water Play in the Greater Tokyo Area | K-A International Mothers in Japan.

PREVIEW:

Summer has started and the heat is already on! Thankfully, there is a huge selection of parks with water play areas in the Greater Tokyo Area to help us cool down.

Water play includes such things as spray pads, spray pools, paddling pools, wading rivers, splash pools, spray grounds, lazy rivers or other recreational water environments. It does not include swimming or bathing pools.

The Greater Tokyo Area refers to the metropolis of Tokyo and its surrounding highly populated prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama.

Parks with water play are introduced by area, quoted by KA Mother who introduced or recommended them, with some additional information added.

TOKYO

Amy N recommended some wonderful parks with waterplay, suitable to young children:

Hikarigaoka Koen; Exit A3 of “Hikarigaoka (end of Oedo line). Fountain is open year-round! The park itself is huge and has an excellent playground (10 min walk from the fountain). There is a kiosk near the fountain that sells ice cream and other treats.”
URL: http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index023.html
This park was also featured in our cherry blossom viewing round-up article. You will find further information and access details in that article.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK TO READ MORE: http://kajapan.org/general/parks-with-water-play-in-the-greater-tokyo-area/