Held annually on the 31st of July, this fun and lively festival is ideal for kids as it has a “Children’s Summer Festival Space”. The children’s summer festival space is open to children over three years of age from 5.45 pm to 7.30 pm. Within that area, which holds up to 500 kids, there are children’s festival games such as hoop throwing, bowling, a quiz corner and more. They also have children’s much beloved kaki-kori (shaved ice). The main festival has parades, mikoshi (portable shrine), live music, dance including yosakoi as well as festival stalls and more.
Time: 5 pm to 9 pm Contact: Saitama Tourism and International Bureau 050-5541-8600 Location: Around the West Exit of Omiya Station Access: JR East, Tobu Railway and Saitama New Urban Transit OMIYA Station
Concealed in the back corner of the third floor of Cocoon 2 is a veritable preschooler’s paradise. Bornelund’s Kid-o-kid recently celebrated its one year anniversary. It still looks like it was only opened in the last few weeks. The equipment is very well kept, pristine, bright, colourful and educational to boot. It isn’t particularly large, but it is very well laid out. There is a wonderful selection of fun and clever play areas to challenge a growing mind and body. Great entertainment for children younger than school going age guaranteed!
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As a huge fan of Bornelund toys and a regular customer of their Maruhiro branch, I was so excited when I heard Kid-O-Kid was opening last year. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and I love bringing my two year old there even though it is an hour from our house. The atmosphere is soothing with a very relaxed ambiance and the equipment is diverse and ingenious (click on photo for description / details);
However, I haven’t brought my older children there, because there
really isn’t much to entertain a child older than six for more than half an hour. Children up to 12 years old can enter, but I don’t think children of school going age would find the center engaging enough. I know that with my 7 year old and 6 year old girl they find the much larger Kidzooona‘s play equipment less riveting in the last two years, but at least it has a game corner that they will happily play in while their younger siblings use the more physically challenging equipment. And seen as I am comparing; Kid-o-kid only has a small dress up area called “Play Stage” whereas Kidzooona has a great choice of make-believe play with costumes. What it does have that my 7 year old boy would enjoy is a mechanical building area and both he and his 6 year old sister would also enjoy the trampolines, zorbs and climbing wall.
Another thing it is missing is a rest or seating area. They have a couple of vending machines with two miserly seats in front of them. You are not allowed eat in the center either. I like that in Niko Niko Garden and Kids Spocha in Ageo you can bring in your lunch and eat it in the rest area that also has free tea, coffee and water. Kidzoona also has a rest area with a Mini Stop convenience store selling a selection of bento and sandwiches as well as some hot food. However, Kid-o-Kid in Saitama Shintoshin has a “parent room” and “milk bar” (facilities for parents with babies) in their “baby garden”; an area for children under 18 months old. You can change nappies in that area, but please note that Kid-o-kid does not have toilets so it is advisable to visit the rest rooms before you enter the center.
All that being said, it is very much high on my list of Saitama’s best, not quite top ten but not far off it either! If we lived closer I would invest in the monthly pass (prices outlined below), but it is a little too far and not ideally suited to my two older children to justify more than an occasional visit. It is certainly very popular with locals and there is always a long line of folded up buggies in the stroller storage area on weekdays. I have no hesitation in recommending this as a place to visit with a child younger than six, especially if you are in the area. I would advise visiting on a weekday though as although it is popular and busy, it never feels packed and there is less chance of you being turned away for the center being at capacity.
Open 10 am to 7 pm with last entry at 6.30 pm, seven days a week.
It costs 600 yen for children and 500 yen for adults for a half hour of play. For every ten minutes you go over your time you are charged a 100 yen per child. They do not charge extra for an adult in this situation. If you have a Bornelund or Kid-o-kid point card you get a 100 yen off the child’s admission fee. Children from the age of 6 months are charged.
On weekdays they have two different packages you can avail of for a full day of play. The one day free pass costs 1,700 yen for an adult and one child. The weekday free pass is basically a month’s pass, that can be used on weekdays only. It costs 4,400 yen for one adult and one child, and 3,700 yen for every subsequent child. It is interchangeable among family members. You need to have a Bornelund or Kid-o-kid member card if you want to buy the weekday free pass. Please note, they have a limit on the number of passes they sell daily / monthly and you cannot purchase them on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday.
You can also buy a book of entry tickets for 5000 yen that allows a child (only) enter eleven times, saving you 500 yen, if you have either or the afore mentioned point / member’s cards.
If you sign up for a Kid-O-Kid point card, which costs 100 yen a year, you can earn point each time you visit. You can then exchange points for play time. For 2000 points up to three children can get 30 minutes free play time; 3,200 points allows an hour free play time for up to three children; and 4500 points can be exchanged for a book of tickets. If you visit on your child’s birthday they gift you a half hour free play time, if you are entering on the half hour package.
Other Bornelund in Saitama
Kid-o-Kid in Saitama Shintoshin is the only Bornelund play center of this type in Saitama. There are however other Bornelund stores, some of which have free play areas. Maruhiro in Kawagoe has a decent sized Bornelund store and they have lots of sample toys out for the kids to play with. Tsutaya in Honjo has a small Bornelund corner. There are Bornelund shops in Isetan Urawa, Sougo Omiya and Lake Town Outlet. The latter has a play center called a Tot Garden, another signature play area of Bornelund. They are typically smaller than a Kid-O-Kid and they are limited to children under school going age (under seven years old).
Approximately a seven minute walk from JR Keihin Tohoku, Takasaki and Utsunomiya Line’s Saitama Shintoshin Station.
Located very close to the Saitama Shintoshin exit of the Metropolitan Expressway Saitama Shintoshin Route. Cocoon 2 has parking on its roof as well as in an adjacent car park, Cocoon City parking number 3. Parking is charged at 200 yen per 30 minutes. However, if you spend between a 1000 and 2000 yen in Cocoon city on the same day you get one hour free parking, or two hours free for over 2000 yen. You get three hours free if you are using the cinema.
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On May 5th the Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore in Omiya (Saitama City) have a Children’s Museum Festival for Children’s Day. Children can play with old and traditional toys as well as dress up in period costumes. The museum is free in for children on this day.
Access: 5 minute walk from Tobu Urban Line’s Omiya Kouen Station
Open: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. Closed on Mondays
Cost: 300 yen for adults, usually 150 yen for children but the children’s fee is waived during Golden Week.
See grey box below for map, contact, time and more details ↓.
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: