Tag Archives: something different

Su Lab, the Kendama Cafe and Shop | KAWAGOE

Kendama for sale in SU LAB Kawagoe

I was ecstatic in the fleeting belief that I had made a really special new “find” today. My bubble was soon burst, when a quick search revealed that it wasn’t as much a new find rather than the good fortune to stumble upon a well established and celebrated speciality café. But while I may not be “breaking news” it still is one to get excited about, if you haven’t already heard about it.  I am not sure whether to call it a theme cafe or a sports cafe or maybe even a shop with a cafe in it. Whatever you want to call it, Sulab, the Kendama Cafe in Kawagoe, certainly is a fun and unique space that will appeal to people of all ages, especially those into the kendama street sport.

3 out of 4 my kids in front of the wall of kendama you can borrow to play with.

For those that are into the (somewhat) traditional Japanese toy, this cafe is probably already on their radar. Sulab not only sell Kendama, they make them too. And the brand name is famous worldwide.  According to some articles I read online, people come from all over the world to visit the small shop and cafe in Kawagoe. The pockmarks on the floor are testament to the throngs of people who’ve paved the shop’s floor.  The wall of kendama for sale had noticeable empty spaces where beautiful handmade kendama had a transient place, before swiftly finding a new home.

Wall of kendama you can borrow to play with

Apart from the wall with kendama for sale, there is a wall of kendama you can borrow to play with in the cafe. They also have a large box of kendama for playing, outside on a picnic table.In order to play with the kendama you just have to buy a drink. They have kendama for left handed as well as right handed people. For a group of adults visiting everyone must buy a drink, but for a family you can just buy a couple of drinks if you aren’t staying too long. In fact, they say for the first visit you don’t have to buy anything at all. It was quite busy when we visited so I didn’t feel comfortable not ordering anything so I got a coffee for myself and a soft drink for the kids to share. Please note that there aren’t many places to sit, most of the space is used for playing. There are only three two-seater tables and three seats at a counter. Apart from that there are shelves to hold drinks for those who are standing and playing. Outside there are two seats and one picnic table with benches. Considering you get to play indefinitely the drinks are quite reasonable; 500 yen for the first non-alcholic drink for an adult, 650 yen for alcohol and 350 yen for a child’s drink. Any subsequent drink you buy is cheaper. They have quite a good choice of drinks considering the type of place it is. Their food is very limited, basically just toast or a toasted sandwich. 

The customers in the cafe were such a mixed bag. There were other families like us, as well as a father and teenage son pair, two adult friends, plus a number of older grade primary school boys and girls, and a couple of kids who seemed to be middle school age. I wasn’t sure how my younger kids would like it, but they really enjoyed it too. The two year old sat with me while I had my coffee, but she did play with a Doraemon motif kendama for quite sometime. The four year old, six year old and seven year old, played the whole time we were there. The six year old was quite taken with the kendama painted like Hello Kitty. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Two of them helped my kids learn some new tricks on the kendama while I relaxed over my coffee. My seven year old son in particular learned quite a few new tricks and graded up in the short time we were there. The other Mother there was very friendly and all too happy to small talk with me. The older kids looked out for the younger kids. It struck me that this would be a really good place for short term visitors to Japan with children to introduce their kids to Japanese children their own age and enjoy each other’s company in the universal language of play!

Kendama painted as Hello Kitty (Kitty-chan) in SU LAB kendama cafe in Kawagoe

After reading a number of articles online about the shop, it would seem that it is always busy. They organise tournaments and demo classes and even have English language events from time to time. I know my kids enjoyed it more than I had expected and we’ve already planned a trip back to play in the near future. I may even go with some girlfriends at night sometime and enjoy a few bevvies: it might improve my own skills which are currently severely lacking! Whether you are living in Kawagoe or visiting it, I can recommend this cafe / shop as “somewhere different” to visit and enjoy a traditional Japanese toy in a friendly and congenial environment.

History of Kendama

I subsequently found this interesting blog post on the history of kendama on another WordPress site:
https://ikendama.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/first-blog-post/

Information and Access

Opening hours: Friday to Wednesday (closed Thursday) from 11 am to 9 pm.

There is one unisex toilet. There is an ashtray outside. No parking, but there is a space for bikes outside the shop.

Contacts:

Tel: 049-214-4276

Sulab, website and online shop

http://sulab.theshop.jp/

You can buy non-branded Kendama on Amazon at this affiliated link**:

Kendama on Amazon (affiliated link)

 

Sulab on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/SULabphotostudio/

Sulab on Twitter

https://twitter.com/su_lab_studio

SU LAB is only a few minutes walk from JR Kawagoe Station, Tobu Tojo Kawagoe Station and Seibu Shinjuku Hon-Kawagoe Station.

From Ikebukuro it is only 31 minutes to Kawagoe on the Tobu Tojo Line. You can also get to Kawagoe direct from Shinjuku and Akabane in about 45 minutes.

Route and prices for getting to SU LAB in Kawagoe from Ikebukuro, Akabane and Shinjuku in Tokyo. From Hyperdia.com:

From Omiya it only takes 22 minutes to get to Kawagoe on the JR Kawagoe line. Fare and route from Hyperdia.com:

 

Insaitama.com as of June 9th 2017 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.jp

14th Annual Fukaya Flower Festival and Open Garden | FUKAYA

This flower and open garden festival is being held in many different locations throughout Fukaya and each location has different events planned. Some of the locations include Fukaya Garden City, Fukaya Joshi Park and Fukaya flower road to name but a few. There are lots of craft and hands on workshops as well as live stage performances and of course flower events, including, but not limited to, bonsai displays and gardening classes. They also have events for children.

Please see the grey box for map, contact and the event’s official webpage.

Tree climbing in Saitama

2015

“Treeing” is the term the Japanese have coined for the sport of climbing trees with ropes and harnesses.  This Autumn a few parks across Kanto are offering the experience with trained and experienced tree climbers from the Tree Master Climbing Academy. In Saitama, the national park Shinrin in Namegawa and the prefectural park Kuki Shobu conduct(ed) classes for adults, and kids over four years old.

We tried out the classes in Shinrin Park with some friends last weekend. Six year old went quite high and confessed it was quite scary when he got to the higher branches, but he really enjoyed it and is looking forward to going again. Four year old didn’t get that high, but she also thoroughly enjoyed it.  She had no problem going up, but found it more difficult to come down.

The classes are an hour long. First you get geared up. Then there is an explanation of the equipment and how to climb up and come back down.  To be honest, listening to the explanation it sounded quite complicated, but once you start executing it you catch on. An hour was just the right length for the four year olds who were getting tired towards the end.

The Kuki Shobu park sessions, which were only 700 yen, are finished for this year. Shinrin has three more days of multiple sessions scheduled for November 14th (Saitama Day) , December 12th and (added in 2016) March 12th. The classes at Shinrin park are 1,000 yen per person and you also have to pay the park entry fee and parking costs. The classes are held near the central gate of the park. You need to book in advance. The number is 0493-57-2111. (Update 2016, booking for March 12th class opens on March 2nd.)  More information about the park is available on their English language webpage: http://www.shinrinkoen.jp/english/  More information on the Tree Master Climbing Academy is available in Japanese: http://treemaster.jp/

In Chiba the Tokyo German Village has two dates for treeing scheduled; November 7th and December 5th.

 

Styrofoam Art in Kawagoe

Kawagoe is a very popular tourist area in Saitama, about 30 minutes by train from Ikebukuro station in Tokyo. There is a lot to do in the tourist area of Kawagoe and a wealth of information about it on the web.  However, I want to introduce a little known fact about the art in the popular tourist area.  Around the area of “kashiya yokocho“, literally meaning sweet (candy) alley, there are a number of giant and life size animal replicas. They are all made out of styrofoam!

The artist, Yajima Kimio, retired early from his Kawagoe City Hall position, to indulge in his passion. I, for one, am glad he did. The displays change over time, so you never know when a new one will appear or an old one will be moved. Most of his work is displayed in Kawagoe, but you can also find some of his work in other parts of Saitama.

I got some of his work this past weekend. I realise after reading his blog tonight, I missed a few pieces. A good incentive, not that I need one, to go back to Kawagoe sooner rather than later. You can find Mr Yajima’s blog here: http://homepage3.nifty.com/kerokero2009/index.html
You can see some more of his work on this (unrelated) blog here: http://tokyoern.blogspot.jp/2014/06/a-walk-around-koedo-kawagoe-part-2.html

Sweet Street:

“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/

Graffiti In Japan

One thing you rarely see in Japan is graffiti.   I have seen it only a handful of times in my 14 years in Japan. Today, was one of those rare days.  In Kofu.,, Yamanashi prefecture.



Mamas Club Theater at Toho Cinemas, Lalaport | FUJIMI

Another first that the new Lalaport has brought for West Saitama, is that of a “Mamas’ Club Theatre”. Twice a month on the 3rd floor of Lalaport, Fujimi, in the Toho Cinemas, they have a special baby and toddler friendly showing of a movie. The movie is shown at 9.30am in their biggest theatre, screen 1, with lights on and volume down. Babies and parents are allowed to talk, cry, sing along and just chill out and enjoy a movie in the big screen.  This service was started in Tokyo a few years ago. Here is the Japan Times article about it at that time: Babies at the cinema need not be a recipe for disaster | The Japan Times

This coming Thursday the Mamas’ Club Theatre in Lalaport, Fujimi, presents Cinderella. You cannot book in advance for this service. Tickets can be purchased that morning. Parking areas 6 and 7, which are the Kawagoe side of route 254, are beside the cinema. If you park on the 4th floor of either of those lots, you can just walk down a ramp into the 3rd floor of Lalaport. Please be aware that until 10 in the morning you can only access the cinema on the Kawagoe end and the area around Yaoko on the Fujimi end.

Please see Toho Cinemas homepage for up to date prices and information on what is showing. http://www.tohotheater.jp/service/mamas_club_theater/

Steam Locomotive Cafe in Lalaport | FUJIMI

One of the many fun and unique attractions of Lalaport in Fujimi is the Steam Locomotive Cafe on the 3rd floor. The cafe, which is also a train shop, features a number of different model railway towns and a plarail display. You can enjoy the displays as you eat your lunch or have a coffee (see the video at the bottom).

2015051313250001On weekdays, the children’s plate (800 yen in 2015) comes on a bullet train plate, as pictured below. They also have a “Nori Tetsu Meat” dish served with a train made out of seaweed. That comes with a half cooked egg though, so if you are buying for a child you might want to request they fully cook the egg! They have a bullet train cake on the menu too. They provide bumper chairs, and crockery and cutlery for children. You help yourself to water. They don’t have toilets in the cafe itself, but you can use Lalaport’s toilets, 2 of which are close by.

Lifelike model railway town
Lifelike model railway town

The Steam Locomotive Cafe is open daily from 10am to 9pm, last order for food is 8pm and for drinks it is 8.30pm. The nearest parking is probably car park lot number 2 or 3. The latter is outdoors. All parking in Lalaport is free. TEL: 049-257-6801

For more information in Japanese you can visit their official page here:http://popondetta.com/blog/cat83/steam_locomotive_with.html

2015051313130000

Realistic model railway town
Realistic model railway town
Very detailed model railway town
Very detailed model railway town


Team Lab Islands | Lalaport Fujimi

Little Miss 2 year old chases the turtle she coloured, in an aquarium of children’s art, in the first picture below ⬇. This is a sketch aquarium where children colour pictures of sea life that are then scanned and projected onto a wall display. It is a virtual sea where the fish the kids coloured in can swim. Just one of the unique activities in the Fujimi Lalaport branch of Team Lab Islands, which is paving the way in modern children’s fun centres. They use projection and other technology to engage the minds of little ones.

Sketch Aquarium

My 2 year olds favourite was the virtual stepping stone path you create yourself on a touch screen panel. You can choose which shapes and colours to make your stepping stones. When you are finished creating your stepping stones it is projected onto a simulated river and the kids have great fun walking on their own creations.

Team lab stepping stone touch screen

Team lab stepping stones

 

The most physical activity is the Illuminated Ball Orchestra, where kids push along large balls that change colour and make music.

Team Lab

Other activities include tabletop touch screen panels where kids can make their own railroads. Another wall simulates various images according to movement. You can touch images to make them move or grow in size. When we were last there it was animals. There isn’t a huge selection, but what they have really engages the children and time flies by for them. More information and images available on their website.

URL: http://island.team-lab.com/event/lalaportfujimi/

Phone: 049-257-5662

Opening hours: 10am t0 6pm, last entry 5.30pm

Cost: Children under 2 are free. 30 minute 500 yen (2015). “Free pass” which can be used all day, you can come and go, 1200 yen (2015). Please see the website for up-to-date information.

Parking: Lalaport parking for 4600 carspaces. FREE. Parking lots 6 and 7 third floor are close.

For information in English about the Team Lab products (not all of the products on this website are at Fujimi):

https://www.team-lab.net/products/

Japan’s 1st Lego School and Store

The Lego Store

Japan’s 1st lego school, an after school education programme, opened in Lalaport, Fujimi, last month.

The “school” runs a number of different programmes, by age group. A lesson costs 3,000 yen.

Next door is the lego store.  The lego store sells lego sets as well as individual pieces by a pick and mix option. There are two small play tables and a wall area that kids can use and play with lego for free.

More information is available on their website: http://www.legoschool.jp/locations/fujimi/access.php

The lego store Wall lego play area Pick and mix