Our latest addition to a long line of wildlife pets is Kaeru-kun. Kaeru (カエル) is the Japanese for frog, and that’s exactly what he is! It is a popular hobby of young children in rural Japan to find and catch all sorts of wildlife. They keep them in pet tanks which can be bought at home and/or gardening stores.
Kaeru-kun joins 4 pet crickets and 2 pet grasshoppers.
Thankfully, beetle season is over, but in the height of summer we had 12 beetles at one stage. This is one of the biggest beetles we had on my husband’s hand.
I am also grateful that zarigani fishing season is over. Zarigani is similar to a crayfish and they are abundant in rivers in the countryside. Here’s a zarigani the kids caught last summer. At least these monstrous things aren’t brought into the house, they release them back into the river after catching.
There are other insects and animals kids in Japan like to catch, but at the moment my son is most interested in crickets and grasshoppers. He spends much of his preschool day out in the fields with his teacher catching all sorts of things. Some they let go off, some they keep, some he passes on to his classmates. They are cheap pets, because the crickets eat cucumber and the grasshoppers eat grass. We have to research what to feed the frog and how to get our hands on it. If you are familiar with frogs a few tips would be most welcome!
This one is time-consuming, but it was worth it for the reaction of my kids to the finished product. They were so excited and delighted that I couldn’t get a good photo as they wouldn’t let the wreath out of their hands. I had planned for us to make three, but one was enough as I ended up doing most of the work! They lost interest as it was time-consuming, but they came back to it when it was time to put the finishing touches to the wreath.
We made the mini spider wreath using brown and orange wool, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes and part of a paper plate. I recycled material used for a previous craft, paper plate spider webs and bought both wool and pipe cleaners at the 100 yen store.
I cut a rim out of the discs I had cut out of the paper plates for the spider web craft. I wanted the wreath to be small as I knew the larger size would be too much for my 2-year-old, and has it turns out for my 4-year-old too. Simply wind the wool around the circular ring. It takes longer than I anticipated, even working with a small frame. We used two colours for a bit of fun.
The kids then added pipe cleaners by wrapping them around the spider, two each side to make 4 legs each side. You could glue or stick them, but I find with young children the easier the better. We added two eyes from a pack of 30 I bought for 100 yen at Meets, a 100 yen shop. 4-year-old cut an elastic band and I weaved it into a piece of wool I had intentionally left hanging around the spider’s bum! The next step would be to stick it to the front door,but be warned your kids might not let you get your hands on it again. Tonight our spider wreath is sleeping with our wildlife pets at the kid’s request!
This is a very easy activity that even babies can enjoy and you only need 2 things for it. The kids enjoyed this one more than yesterday’s paper plate threading craft. This one is particularly convenient for people who have cooked sticky rice warming in the rice cooker. I have seen this craft on other websites, but usually with glue as part of the preparation kit. For people in Japan you do not need glue for rice craft here as the rice itself acts as a glue. In fact, rice glue which is made from kneading rice, called sokui (続飯) in olden days, was the most common type of glue found in Japan for hundreds of years from the Nara period. During those times people stopped using hide glue, because butchering was prohibited with the introduction of Buddhism. Today rice glue is still used for many things due to its strong adhesive power.
You will need
Optional for more precision
A drawing compass
I used a pencil, compass and ruler to outline the cobweb for my children before they started sticking rice to it. The easiest way to draw the web is to draw a line from one corner of the paper to the other on both sides, so that you make an “x”. Then draw a straight line from the top middle of the paper to the bottom and from the left middle to the right, so that you make a plus sign. I had a drawing compass so I drew a big circle with that.
I then drew more circles within that circle as you can see in the example below. My 4-year-old and 2-year-old used this as a guide to where to place their rice; which is the next and last step – just place the rice on the web and it will stick! My 1-year-old joined in, granted it she didn’t stick to the lines, but she had great fun sticking rice to the paper… and eating a bit too! This is a safe activity for small children, but if you use the glue version it will not be suited to babies and younger toddlers.
While my kids were making their rice webs I tried the glue version using raw rice. It is more difficult and messier and I don’t think it is as suited to small children.
Just a note on the drawing compass; I got it in the 100 yen shop and was both surprised and delighted that I didn’t have to screw the pencil in like the ones I’ve used before! These come with a mechanical pencil built-in, with lead refills for the mechanical pencil.
In an attempt to pass on some of my Irish culture to my half-Japanese kids, we are making a Halloween craft every day of October. Today, we made two different patterns of spider webs from paper plates, both good for improving fine motor skills. We also did some spider rhymes and fingerplay. This is a follow on from yesterday’s paper spider craft. Halloween isn’t celebrated as much or in the same manner as at home in Ireland, but these particular crafts were inspired by a Japanese preschool activity I saw.
You will need;
A puncher (optional)
Thread or wool
For the simple version, you just need to cut triangles into the paper plate at different intervals. I taped one end of the thread to the back of the plate and let my preschooler and toddler just start weaving the thread around the indentations. These paper plates were recycled from another activity, hence the writing on them! I think wool would work better, but I had none to hand.
To challenge my 4-year-old a little more and keep him engrossed we used a slightly more difficult pattern, pictured below. I cut the centre out of the plate for him and then he enjoyed punching holes at intervals around the plate. He stuck the thread to the back of the plate and then proceeded to thread the holes and make a web. Thread is probably better for this one as the holes were quite small.
My one year old wanted to join in the fun, but she’s still too small for this particular craft, so while big brother and big sister made their webs, we did some fingerplay. All my kids enjoy “Incey Wincey Spider”. You can find the words and hand actions below. I took this from Five Little Monkeys, Over 50 Actionand Counting Rhymes by Zita Newcome.
We also did the “Little Miss Muffet” rhyme with the finger play actions from the same book, pictured below.
I couldn’t resist the corny title! As you may have guessed today’s play-a-day involved the zoo. We often go to a zoo near my house, but today we tried out the children’s zoo in Chikouzan park in Sayama.
What I like about this small zoo is you can feed some of the animals. For 100 yen you get a capsule of food. There are various feeding stations, but today we just did the sheep/goats, monkeys and ducks. The capsules costs can add up if you have a few kids, but unlike the Saitama Children’s zoo in Takasaka (which is an excellent zoo) the parking is free. The entrance to Sayama’s zoo is only 200 yen for adults and 50 yen for children of school going age.
There are other attractions in the park too. The park’s entry is free, as are the use of the playgrounds.
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¦
Isanuma Park’s athletic playground equipment is a great fun place to burn off some energy for the kids (and some calories for me!). What the Japanese call “athletic playgrounds” is what we call “adventure playgrounds” in Ireland. Isanuma’s playground is geared for 6 to 12 year olds, but I think kids from 3 up are well able for the challenge. And its a great challenge for adults too. You often find adults working out on the equipment when there are few kids around.
Despite its location beside an industrial park on one side and a marsh on the other, Isanuma Park is a popular place for families. It is not particularly big either with the main attraction being the athletic playground. In summer the splash pool and BBQ areas are popular too. You can read more about Isanuma Park in summer on this blog too.
Some of the equipment is pictured below. Other equipment they have that is not pictured include rock and other type of climbing walls, climbing nets, net tunnels, obstacle courses amongst others.
Parking is free and plentiful. On a weekend it is easy to get a parking spot on the road that runs along the side of the Industrial Park. It is quite hard to get a parking spot there on a weekday though. On a weekday I recommend the parking lot on the marsh side of the park.
Isanuma Park is one of the many places you can view Ageo fireworks from.
Written Oct 21, 2012. Jan 29, 2017 Toysrus on R254 closed its doors for good.
Since we brought our newborn home 3 weeks ago my husband has only had two full days off, this being the second full day. As he is self-employed in a rare skill he has to work whenever there are orders in. Which is a lot lately.
Given that he is off it would be nice to do something as a family, but everyone except me have head colds. Yes, baby has her second cold in less than 2 weeks; two colds in her 3 weeks and 5 days of life. Poor little thing. So much for having some immunity left over from the womb and so much for breastfed babies not getting as sick as often as bottle fed babies. Anyway, I needed to get some practical shopping done, so the only solution was to leave baby with Daddy. The two toddlers are also sick, but they are on the mend. They were delighted to hear that Mammy was bringing them to Toysrus. Our Toysrus is only 8 minutes away according to the timer in the car. (What a great function to have in a car, I use it all the time!) I usually save outings to Toysrus with the kids in tow to rainy days, but today isn’t a usual day. The weather is gorgeous though so we will go out to a park later in the afternoon.
Our local Babies-r-us has designated play areas with toys laid out for the kids to play with freely, but the Toys-r-us doesn’t have a set play area. The staff in Toysrus are much more laid back than staff of toy shops at home. They let children ride the bikes and the cars and play with the toys that don’t come in packaging. I didn’t actually take any photos today, but below are some photos of the kids playing that I’ve taken on previous trips to Toysrus.
The kids had a great time, the only thing is when I went to pay for the shopping my 3 year old wanted me to buy him something. I tell them before we go that we won’t be buying any toys, but it doesn’t stop my son from asking. He’s normally fine, but both he and his one year old sister have had tantrums in the past. They were on separate occasions, but they both did the same thing; lay tummy down on the floor and flailed their arms and legs! It doesn’t put me off going back though, they have loads of fun there and burn off loads of energy!
Among all the free stuff I got while staying at the hospital was a pampers box. The pampers box came with four nappies(diapers), a pack of wipes for delicate skin, a sample of baby washing detergent, information and coupons for nappies and baby goods at toys-r-us and akachan honpo.
Pampers is the most popular brand used by hospitals for newborn babies in Japan. They are also very popular among consumers even though there are cheaper alternatives available. You can buy pampers nappies in most baby and hardware stores. However, in my experience Nishimatsuya does not carry the brand. You can also buy Pampers nappies in Costco and other foreign retail stores. For the record, I actually have found Cainz to be the cheapest for Pampers nappies.
Like most of the nappies in Japan, Pampers come with a strip to indicate when the baby has urinated. If the strip turns from yellow to blue you know your baby needs a diaper change! I have tried other brands in Japan, but I have found Pampers to be the most absorbant and most comfortable at all ages.
When joining a baby shop’s point system you often get samples of nappies to try out. At my maternity hospital other than the sample we got during our stay I had also received samples at antenatal classes. These are really handy for the nappy bag for a trip out. Although, if your baby is anything like mine, they pee and poop all the time and you’ll need a nappy an hour!
Hakone Open Air Museum was the first of its kind in Japan and today it remains one of the most popular due to its harmonious balance of art and nature. The Museum is most known for its outdoor sculptures, but it also has a number of indoor museums with paintings, prints, ceramics and sculptures. One of the indoor museums houses their Picasso collection, which has more than 300 items.
What I love about this museum is that it is great for children, even toddlers. Below are some photos of the activities available to children;
The “Garden of Stars” is a life-size maze for all ages. You can watch from the top or go down into the maze and try it for yourself.
The “Woods of Nets” is a fun space for kids of all ages. The floor beneath the swings and the climbing maze of the nets is padded. There are low down entrances into the climbing maze, that even toddlers can climb into.
The “Curved Space – Diamond Structure” is another type of climbing space. Smaller children would need to be accompanied by older children or adults.
The “Symphonic Sculpture” is a tower in the centre of the museum. There are great views of the surrounding landscape from the top of the tower.
They loan out baby strollers and wheelchairs for free, subject to availability of course. They also have free lockers, for storing small items of luggage, available. There is a foot spa located beside the Gallery Cafe and Shop. There are two restaurants as well as two cafes. We ate in the “Bella Foresta” restaurant, which is an all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurant. There wasn’t a huge selection, but it was big enough to have something for everyone. There are at least six male and female bathrooms throughout the museum and three multi user toilets which have baby changing facilities.
The museum is open all year round from 9am to 5pm, last entry at 4.30pm. Children up to five years old can enter for free. For up to date entrance fees for older children and adults, please see their website. When we went in 2011 we accessed the museum by car and it was well sign posted and easy to find. The parking at that time was 500円 for the day. The museum is a two minute walk from Chokoku no Mori station on the Hakone Tozan Line. There is also a bus that goes from JR Odawara Station or Odakyu Hakone Yumoto Station to Ninotaira Iriguchi Station which is a five minute walk from the museum.
Address and contact details
Ninotaira, Hakone-Town, Kanagawa-Prefecture, 250-0493 Japan
Tel: 0460-82-1161 Fax: 0460-82-1169
Restaurant and shop information: 0460-82-1141 www.hakone-oam.or.jp