On December Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th , Santa Claus will visit Cocoon in Omiya, Saitama City. If you have over a 1000 yen worth of receipts for the day in question you can meet Santa and get a photo with him (with your own camera).
He will be in Cocoon 1 Cocoon Plaza from midday, Cocoon 2 Cocoon Hiroba from 1.30 pm, Cocoon 2 3rd floor Niwai Spot in front of Uniqlo from 3 pm. Each session he will meet the first 50 customers who qualify.
Contact, URL and access information in the details section below.
Cocoon City ‘s annual illumination was switched on at 5.30 pm on the 5th of November. You can see the night lights daily from 5 pm to 11 pm until February 14th. This year they also have a large display with 3,000,000 lights.
Time: 5 pm to 11 pm
Place: Selected areas of the Cocoon Mall at the east exit of the Saitama Shintoshin station Price: Free Parking: Open 9.00 – 1.00. 200 yen for 30 minutes, but if you have a Cocoon card or if you spend more than a 1000 yen in one shop you get one hour free parking. If you use the cinema you get 3 hours free parking. Address:4-263-1 Kishikicho, Omiya Ward, Saitama City Phone: 048-601-5050 Access: 1 minute walk from JR Saitama shintoshin Station, about an 8 minute walk from JR Kitayono Station
It is very common in my homeland of Ireland, for people to attend horse races during the winter holidays. Around where I lived it is the Leopardstown Races on St Stephen’s Day. Here in Japan, Christmas is not a main event, but New Years is like our Christmas. So when I saw an advert for horse races in Saitama over the New Year my attention peaked. My interest led me to research more and I found not only horse race information, but other type of New Years races that can be enjoyed during the holiday season. Whether you are looking for a unique place for a New Year’s date, or an alternative place for a ladies day out, or maybe a casual get together with work mates, or just a fun family day in Saitama, you might get an idea here. Each of the sports mentioned are ones that you can legally bet on in Japan and there are betting facilities at the venues.
Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Urawa Racecourse
About 30 minutes on a train from Tokyo and a 15 minute walk from Minami Urawa and Urawa stations lies a local Government race course. On race days, there is a free shuttle bus from East Exit of JR Minami-Urawa station. The entry fee to the grounds is only 100 yen. You can pay for a seat if you prefer with costs starting from 500 yen and Viewing boxes cost from 2000 yen. The paddock is close to the stands, so it is possible to see the thoroughbreds up close and personal. This was my experience at the Tokyo race course also. There are a row of shops where you can buy food and goods. Food is very reasonably priced. A popular keepsake is a tumbler of the Saitama mascot Kobaton in horseracing gear.
The race course is closed for New Year’s day, but they have races from January 6th to 8th (2016 dates) with their New Year Cup on the 7th. First races start at 9.40 in the morning.
There are lots of events annually at the Omiya Velodrome. Shortly into the new year they will be holding the popular Kurashige memorial cup races. This special memorial cup event will take place from January 16th to 19th (dates for 2016). THe Omiya race tracks are known for their added services, such as a stamp rally for kids, free sweets in the morning, a free drink at lunch and a free indoor playroom for young children. During this special event, they will have even more attractions for families to enjoy, such as an illusion show on the 16th and Saitama mascot Kobaton visiting on the 18th.
The boat race courses in Toda were designed and opened for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They still hold big races every year. From the 3rd of January (2016) you can enjoy the 46th annual (very roughly translated) “Saitama racers sports Japan competition” event. It is only a 100 yen into the stadium. Seating costs additional money. There are indoor and outdoor seats. You can buy food on the premises and they have a free children’s play area.
In researching this post, I found information in the 2016 January magazine print issue of “Tokyo Walker“. That issue also includes information on the Seibu Amusement Park velodrome which is beside the ski slopes in Seibu in Tokorozawa. They have races annually in January, this year the dates are January 27th to 29th 2016. There was also information on more boat races in Saitama including “Boat pier Kurihashi” and “Boat pier Okabe“. I had a great day out at the Tokyo horse races a few years ago, so I am definitely keen to try some of the local races here in Saitama. I am particularly interested in the boat races as these are not something you see very often in Ireland. I hope to have a report on one of them in the New Year! 🙂
Whatever you do over the New Year, have a great holiday season.
This weekend, October 10th to 12th, there is a British fair in Omiya, celebrating the Rugby World cup and all things British.
Entry is free. You can enjoy special events and stage performances, including bagpipe performance, and learn about rugby in the rugby booth. A former Japan rugby player is participating. There will be British food and drink, including Scotch whisky, on sale.
In this article: A full day of fun in one shopping center
Games and free play inAeon
Hours of fun at Kidzoona: one of Saitama’s best indoor play centers
Dog Therapy at P’s First!
UFO catchers and slot machines at Molly Fantasy Video Arcade
Cheap and cheerful in-store Ministop lunch
You could easily spend a full day hanging out on the 3rd floor of Aeon in the Nisshin area of Omiya – ask me how I know! We arrived at 10 am to go to the popular kids fun centre Kidzooona, but the queue to get in was longer than I’ve ever seen it, so we decided to play in Aeon first.
Right beside where you queue for Kidzooona there is a freeplay area for smaller children as well as game machines for older children. They have lots of sample toys out in this area as well as a large wooden train set (not pictured).
The games are popular with lower grades of elementary school aged children. They have a good range including games from some of the more popular TV cartoon’s games such as Yokai Watch, Pokemon and Dragonball.
The kids played for the full 3 of hours, after which we had our lunch on the Aeon side of Ministop. The Ministop has a seating area both in the Kidzooonaplay centre as well as in Aeon, beside the free play area. We sat on the Aeon side as our time was up in Kidzoona. It is advised to buy your lunch early from Ministop as they don’t have a huge quantity of their lunches and sometimes sell out. They have pre-made sandwiches, bento and noodles as well as a small selection of yoghurts, salads and snacks. You can also buy hot food; basically fast food such as chips (french fries).
After lunch the kids played in the Molly Fantasy video arcade corner to the left of Kidzoona (with Kidzoona at your back) and beside the toilets for Kidzoona.
Finally, we went to P’s Firstfor some free animal therapy! This is the only pet shop I know of in Saitama that allows you hold the dogs, even if you are not there to buy one. The cinema was planned, but the kids were too tired after hours of fun. It was home to bed for us!
The visit referred to in this article was on a Sunday, which is one of there busiest days. I have often brought the kids to Aeon in Omiya over holiday periods too, mainly spring break and during summer holidays. During those periods the play center Kidzoona is busier than a regular weekday, but it is not, in my experience, as busy as weekends. It is a nice day out for young children over the school holidays.
On this floor that has Kidzoona, Aeon play area, Molly fantasy video arcade and P’s First there are children’s toilets, regular toilets and a baby room. The other floors have almost everything you would need for personal and home shopping, such as food, clothes, shoes, pet goods, baby goods, home-ware and toiletries. The cinema is on the fourth floor.
There is a wheelchair accessible entrance and parking. Pets are welcome in part of the store. Some floors operate under different hours, but the main opening hours are 9 am to 10 pm. The grocery area opens earlier and runs later and Kidzoona opens later and finishes earlier. Parking is free and plentiful. The parking levels are different to the shop levels. If you park at level four in the car park it brings you into the 3rd floor of the shop, right beside P’s First.
Address: 2 Chome-574-1 Kushihikicho, Kita Ward, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture 331-0825
There are quite a few things to look forward to in the New Year in Saitama. For example, Kawagoe’s kodomo no shiro (children’s castle) will reopen for business on January 4th, after 2 months of renovations. The new LALAPORT in Fujimi City is on schedule to open March 31st. And rumour has it the work of expanding the railway museum in Omiya, to 1.5 its current size, will start later in the year. 🙂
Here’s hoping you have your own great news in 2015. Wishing you all the very best for the New Year.
On this the 50th anniversary of the Shinkansen (bullet train), I’d like to introduce one of Saitama’s top attractions. Japan’s largest Railway Museum in Omiya, 鉄道博物館 is a really good place to visit with a mixed audience. There really is something for everyone, even if you aren’t “that into” trains. It is particularly a great place for a day out with young children, boys and girls, as there is plenty to do and see. It is commutable from Tokyo, so it appeals to tourists and international families looking for something to do in the Kanto area with kids.
There is so much to say about the Railway museum, I just don’t have the time unfortunately, so this is more of a photo showcase. Please be sure to check out the website. One thing I would like to highlight is, that for those living in Saitama or Tokyo with young children who are into trains, it is really worth buying the annual pass.
URL: http://www.railway-museum.jp/ TEL: 048-651-0088 ACCESS: By train: Take the New Shuttle from JR Omiya Station and get off at “Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station”. One-minute walk from “Tetsudo-Hakubutsukan Station”. By car:4km from Shintoshin exit of the Shuto Expressway. There are 280 parking spaces. It costs 500 yen to park for the day. COST: 1000 yen for adults, 500 yen for school children, 200 yen for young children, free for children under 3. You can buy an annual pass, Teppa, for unlimited access and other benefits. HOURS: 10am to 6pm, last entry 5.30pm. Closed every Tuesday and from December 29th to January 1st for holidays.
Kids / Play areas
The ground floor has two outdoor areas. The Teppaku Hiroba can be accessed at the back of the history zone. There is also a “lunch train” there; a train that is a rest area, that you are allowed eat food in.
MINI TRAINS and MINI SHINKANSEN
The other outdoor area is to the left of the entrance zone. It boasts the popular mini trains that for 200 yen for upto 3 people, anyone over 6 years of age can operate themselves. You need to arrive early in the morning to book them. There is also a mini shinkansen that you can ride. It goes from outside the entrance zone to the libray and theatre.
LIBRARY, THEATRE and LEGO PLAY AREA
Past the mini trains is a fun area for smaller children, housing the library with books galore about trains. There is a great selection of English books. It also has a theatre which has a couple of showings of Thomas the Tank Engine episodes a day. There is a play area with blocks and a wooden Thomas the Tank Engine play station in this area too.
The “kids space” is a play area for smaller children located in the entrance zone of the 2nd floor. It has rail track and trains for the kids to play with as well as a large plastic train for the kids to play in.
There are learning zones on each floor where there are lots of interactive challenges and experiences for children and adults alike.
The history zone displays a number of period trains including steam trains. You can enter most of these trains to have a better look.
There is also a large model railway train city on display. It can be viewed from the “Kids space” or a special theatre.
There is also a panorama deck on the roof, a shinkansen viewing area on the 3rd floor, where you are allowed eat and there are some vending machines. There are a couple of restaurants within the complex. There are toilets on each floor. Some have nappy change facilities. It is well worth a visit, no matter your age, or interest in trains… I have run out of steam, if you’ll pardon the pun, but if you would like to see more information or photos, take a look at these great blog posts too:
Omiya park is the most famous park in the Omiya area, but in my humble opinion it is far from the best. The playground isn’t very good and it is located next to coin operated rides. The lesser known Mihashi Sougo Park, 三橋総合公園, is free to play in and has more for active children. It is also easier to navigate.
The park is conveniently located off route 17. It is has plenty of free parking. There is an indoor community pool within the park, as well as other indoor and outdoor sporting facilities. There are 2 playgrounds, a running / cycle track and plenty of open spaces for children to play in.
The main playground boasts lots of different athletic type playground equipment. The main attraction is the ship in the centre of the playground, with its tall and curvy slides. It has a number of different climbing options, as you can see in the photo below.
Other equipment in this playground encourages climbing skills, such as the monkey bars, climbing wall and ropes. There is also a net climbing attraction, which proves very popular, as you can see in the photo below.
There is good shade around the circumference of this playground, as there are lots of trees making it ideal for picnicking in the summer. And by mid afternoon the playground is mostly in the shade. There are also picnic tables dotted throughout the playground. There are vending machines that sell drinks and there is a van that sells pot noodles. 🙂 There are toilets beside the car park, the tennis court and in the sports facility opposite the swimming pool.
Near the tennis courts there is another, smaller playground suited to toddlers and smaller children. It has swings as well as the roller slide pictured.
Another attraction of this park, for my kids anyway, is the abundance of insects. Today, for example, my kids and their friends (who we brought to the park with us), caught over 20 grasshoppers, beetles and crickets. 🙂
Aeon Fantasy Kidzoona is an indoor play centre for children under twelve. Adults must accompany children. In my opinion it is best suited to younger children, such as toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 6. The centre has a variety of toys, equipment and make-believe play areas, with dress up costumes, for children to engage in creative play. There is one area restricted to babies and small toddlers, who are not yet walking. There is a convenience store located within the play centre. There is a baby room with a nursing area and changing facilities, but no toilets. To use a toilet you must leave the play area and need to obtain a re-entry pass first. Further information including address, access and price is below the photos.
Dress-up and Make Believe Exhibits
Young children will be creatively inspired by the great selection of pretend shops, restaurants and work places on offer. Each come with outfits for them to dress-up in. They can try, for example, a nurses outfit, a baker’s outfit, a fireman’s outfit, to name but a few.
The post office area allows children to deliver post at a number of little post boxes within the creative play area. They can also collect the post from these boxes and then sort them in the “sorting office”!
There is also an area with push along rides and construction site costumes and mini diggers.
As you come in the entrance there is a flat bouncing castle without walls, which is safe even for toddlers. There are a few zorbs close by. The exhibits on the lower part of this collage both have ball pools within the bouncing castle.
Areas for babies / toddlers
During busy periods the area below is restricted to babies and toddlers who are not yet walking.
The below area is for all ages, but it is a hit with toddlers as they can draw on anything and everything in this exhibit designated to free drawing.
Toys and Sandpit
Below is just a sample of the toys. There are many not pictured, including some musical instruments and building blocks.
All of the video games and rides in the amusement area are included in the price. For some you need to insert a special coin, which are readily available in big storage bins within the area.
There is a MiniStop shop on the premises, with seating areas beside it, one of which is Japanese style with zabutons for sitting at on low tables. These areas are dedicated eating areas; there are other seats throughout the play centre.
URL: http://www.fantasy.co.jp/brand/kidzooona.html Address: Aeon 3rd floor, 2-574-1 Kushihikicho, Kita Ward, Saitama Train access: 12 minutes on foot from JR Nisshin station, 10 minutes walk from Tetsudo hakubutsukan (Railway Museum) station Opening hours: 10am to 7pm Price: Please check the website for up to date details. One hour: (oosted in 2014) 600 yen for children, 300 yen for accompanying adult Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays): 1 day pack 990 yen for children over one; 490 yen for accompanying adult Weekends and public holidays: 3 hour pack 990 yen for children; 5 hour pack 1,290 yen for children (includes a small drink), 1,490 yen for adult
Other indoor play centres in Saitama featured on this blog:
Light Art Healing, Winter Illumination at Cocoon, Saitama Shintoshin
Dates: November 2nd 2013 to February 14th 2014 Hours: 17.00 – 24.00 Place: Selected areas of the Cocoon Mall at the east exit of the Saitama Shintoshin station Price: Free Parking: Open 9.00 – 1.00. 200 yen for 30 minutes, but if you have a Cocoon card or if you spend more than a 1000 yen in one shop you get one hour free parking. If you use the cinema you get 3 hours free parking. Address:4-267-2 Kishikicho, Omiya Ward, Saitama City Phone: 048-601-5050 Access: 1 minute walk from JR Saitama shintoshin Station, about an 8 minute walk from JR Kitayono Station