Tag Archives: value for money

Niko Niko Garden Renewal Open in Festa | AGEO

Value Plaza Ageo is an old style department store and walking into it you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d gone through a time slip to the 1980s. It is a cold and stark building, both indoors and out. And first impressions would likely put you off. The same can be said of Festa (video arcade), where Niko Niko Garden is. All I can hope is that you won’t be turned off by the cheap and run down feel of the video arcade and walk to the back corner where the entrance to Niko Niko Garden is. You won’t regret it!

Niko Niko Garden was recently revamped and re-opened. It is a play / fun center for children from 0 to 8 years old. I was never in the old version, so I can’t comment on how much of an improvement there is, but I can say that the current play center is well worth a visit with small children. Not only do they have a decent selection of things to play with, it is also really good value. On a weekday you can play ALL day for 500 yen per child and 200 yen per adult.  On the weekend it is 800 yen per child and 200 yen per adult. There are very few places one adult and one child can play indoors all day (on the weekend) for just one note (1000 yen).  I use the term play for adults lightly: unlike nearby Spocha, there isn’t actually anything for adults to “play” with. However, there are things about Niko Niko Garden that will appeal to a parent or supervising adult…

The play area is all in one area, bar one corner you can see all of the play area from the seating area. The seating area has tables and zaibuton where you can chill while your kids play.  A lot of the play area is quite safe for anyone over two and is set up in such a way that a child can, in theory, play by themselves while you relax in the rest area. There is also one area that even a one year old can play with minimum supervision. In the seating area there is free coffee, tea and water you can help yourself to. You are allowed bring in your own food and eat it this area, but they don’t actually sell food. There is even a microwave so you can heat food. They do have a couple of vending machines: one with kids drinks, mainly anpanman juices. They are more reasonably priced than elsewhere at only 80 yen per juice. There is also a vending machine that sells soft drinks and  bottle / can coffee for about 130 yen per drink. There is a selection of magazines you can borrow in the seating area and they even have some free massage chairs for patron’s use. There is a TV on mute in this area.

Free lockers in rest area

For the kids they have:

  • a balloon room
  • 3 bouncy castles / inflated play area, 2 of which have climbing and slides
  • a large ball pool with a slide into it
  • a zorb
  • two play kitchen areas
  • play kitchen toys: food, crockery etc
  • two wooden table train sets
  • plarail
  • cars
  • kinetic sand corner
  • lego blocks
  • magnetic pieces for making ramps for balls to roll down
  • play houses
  • mechanical moving horses and zebras
  • push along rides
  • piano
  • toddler play stations
  • wooden bead mazes for toddlers

Apart from the play equipment and toys the fun center also organise a couple of events a day. Today they had an origami event where one of the staff taught the kids how to make various animals out of origami paper. You can join if you are interested and you don’t have to stay for the whole time, you can come and go as you please. The same goes for the fun center.

Information

System

You buy a ticket from a machine and then show it to a staff member at the desk. The machine has 4 options, only 3 of which are available on weekdays, as outlined in the costs below; the numbers circled ① to ④. At the counter you need to fill out a small form with your name and number and “agree” to their disclaimer. You are given a tag to wear around your neck that this card is placed into. The entry cover charge is for the whole day, but you can come and go as often or as little as you want.  When you leave the play center to take a break, but plan to go back in, you leave that name tag in a basket at the counter. You pick it up again when you are returning to the play center. When you are leaving for the day you hand the neck tag back to the reception desk.

After the counter you can open the little gate to go into the center. You take your shoes off here and put them in a shoe box. If you have a buggy / stroller with you, you leave it here. In the rest / sitting area there are free lockers you can use to store your valuables. They have no toilets in the facility so you do need to leave if you want to use the toilets. The nearest are beside the elevator in Value Plaza. There is one changing mat in the play center for babies and toddlers. If you didn’t bring lunch with you, you can either go out to eat or buy food in Value Plaza (or go further afield if you prefer) and bring it in to eat. There is a food court in Value Plaza and it is near the fun center.  It has a First Kitchen, a curry shop and a couple of other stores including one of only five Dipper Dan in Saitama! First Kitchen currently have a “one coin” lunch; a burger, chips and drink set for just 500 yen. They have a kids menu too and it comes with a “free” toy that kids pick from a (small) selection.

Hours and Cost

Niko Niko Garden is open seven days a week from 10 am to 7.30 pm. Last entry is 7 pm. Apart from the excellent value “free time” passes you can also pay for a ①twenty minute slot which costs 300 yen per child on weekdays or weekends. As per above, the ②free time passes are 500 yen per child on weekdays and 800 yen on weekends. On the weekends they have an ③additional package for one hour for 500 yen per child. ④For adults it is always 200 yen per adult, no matter what package you go for.

 

Access

Value Plaza is in the South East area of Ageo, off Route 51 and Nakasendo, on the border of the Omiya area in Kita-Ku, Saitama City.  The nearest landmark is Ageo Sports Park.  Niko Niko Garden isn’t on maps, but you should find Value Plaza no problem. It is on route 164, literally along the Takasaki Line train tracks. However, there isn’t actually a train station nearby. The nearest station is Ageo Station which is a good 25 minute walk away.

Phone: 048-772-7888

Address: 〒362-0034, 3 Chome-1 Atago, Ageo-shi, Saitama-ken 362-0034

Webpage: no official site, the site for Festa is: festa-web.com

A fun and educational summer drive | Higashimatsuyama Hatoyama

This morning after a sudden change of plans, I decided it was time we check out one place on the summer wishlist: the JAXA earth observation centre. As we departed the house I had planned to just go to JAXA, but when the three girls (5, 3 and 1 years old) weren’t too enamoured with my choice, I improvised a day trip. The result, a pretty amazing summer drive with lots of fun for all, and educational to boot. Another bonus; it was pretty much free – the only cost (other than transport and food) was the parking and entry fee to the zoo. I adapted our actual route for this blog post, to make it more time savvy.

A. Start

Sakado Nishi Smart Interchange

↓11 minutes

B. Peace Museum of Saitama

Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama
Looking for Tokyo Skytree which on a fine day is view-able from the Observation Tower of the Peace Museum of Saitama

I’ve known that the Peace Museum is there ever since I moved here, but I never made an effort to go see it. To be honest, it sounded boring. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find it is far from boring and a really fun place for kids set in beautiful surroundings. The main exhibit hall boasts a recreated school house and world war II bunker.  You can walk into both. They have traditional toys, colouring and the all important stamp rally in the reception area. They have a great observation tower too. They host events and show movies during summer vacation.

Hours: 9 am to 4.30 pm. Closed every Monday
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.saitama-peacemuseum.jp/publics/index/29/

↓10 minutes

C.  Jaxa Earth Observation Centre

Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Looking for our house on a giant floor map of Japan!
Drive day trip higashi matsuyama hatoyama
Learning about countries with this interactive exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have preschoolers, I recommend skipping this point of interest, or just planning a half hour maximum at this location. I found it very interesting and my almost 7 year old enjoyed a couple of the exhibits, but it is best suited to older children. They have some interactive exhibits and plenty of visual exhibits. Some of the educational video clips have English subtitles and there are some bilingual brochures, but this JAXA is most suited to proficient Japanese speakers. You need to pull into the reception office as you enter the gate to sign in to the premises.


Hours:
10 am to 4.30 pm
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://global.jaxa.jp/about/centers/eoc/

↓9 minutes

D. Monomiyama Viewpoint

A steep climb up many steps is rewarded with amazing panoramic views. There is a park you can access from this point, or from the Peace Museum, but in summer it is just too hot. The free parking is shared with Shoboji Temple (Iwadono Kannon) on the Shoboji Temple side, so you don’t have to cross over the road if driving from Jaxa Earth Observation Centre.

Hours: The viewpoint is open 24 hours
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL:  http://www.higashimatsuyama-kanko.com/english/03.pdf

E. Shoboji Temple aka Iwadono Kannon

Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform
Ringing the bell at Iwadono Kannon, Spectacular view from the bell platform

You walk through a cool tunnel to get to this hidden temple with the most amazing Gingko tree I have ever seen.  I did not know before I went that it is an acclaimed power spot, but I definitely sensed an atmosphere. There are great views from the bell platform of the temple. There are a couple of swings and some horizontal bars for kids to play with.

Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm in the summer, 8.30 am to 4 pm in the winter.
Charge: FREE access and free parking
URL: http://www.bandou.gr.jp/temple/saitama.php

↓6 minutes

F. Saitama Children’s Zoo

Splash pool at Saitama's Prefectural Children's zoo
Splash pool at Saitama’s Prefectural Children’s zoo

During the summer, the children’s zoo tends to be a degree or two cooler than surrounding areas, especially on a breezy day. Plus it has a great splash pool that the kids can cool down in. During the month of August they have a Night Zoo on 6 different dates, you can get that information here: CLICK HERE FOR SAITAMA EVENT LIST  For more general information please see the entry on this blog: Saitama Children’s Zoo

Hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm. Closed on Mondays except for national holidays
Charge: Adults 510 yen, Primary and Junior High school children 210 yen, Preschoolers and below FREE, Parking 600 yen for the day
URL: on this blog – Saitama Children’s Zoo
O
ffical (Japanese only): http://www.parks.or.jp/sczoo/

↓??

HOME with tired, but satisfied kids. 🙂

 

One thing to note is that there isn’t much in the way of food once you get into the mountain region. Therefore, if you are planning to do this drive or a variation of it, I recommend you bring a packed lunch / purchase something on the way or schedule to eat at the zoo.

Have you created or followed any Saitama day trip and / or drive routes you’d like to share? Input is always welcome. 🙂

 

Luminous Moss, Military Factory and 100 Caves of Yoshimi | YOSHIMI

100 caves of yoshimi (5)One of our first adventures this year (2015), brought  us to the 100 caves of Yoshimi, a country designated historical site. The caves are tombs and there are actually 219 of them.  They are the largest cluster of tombs of this type in the whole of Japan and have been nicknamed the Japanese Cappadocia. A description I must admit I find hyperbolic. It was our first time to visit the caves and an attraction of that type. I wasn’t sure how much the kids would enjoy it. Much to my delight, they were really eager to explore the terrain and the facilities on site.

Sakura on Moss

Although Japan’s Cappadocia it is not, the area is worth a visit for its unusual landscape and the history.  The tombs are a 1400 hundred year old burial mound. They are also home to an underground military factory site, built toward the end of World War II. Another point of interest of the site is that is home to a national natural treasure; hikarigogake. Hikarigogake is luminous moss, and a type of moss that is very precious in the region of Kanto (area around Tokyo) as one of the plants that  grows naturally.  It shines best from April to October and the darker it is the easier it is to see, so actually a rainy day or late afternoon might be the best time to witness this natural phenomenon.

World War II Bunkers
Underground Military Factory Site

The underground military factory site is on the ground floor in tunnels carved into the mountain. The kids thrilled in running around, and pretending to be super heroes fighting evil. (Yes, I know, the irony!) These huge caves were dug at the end of World War II for an underground airplane engine factory that never really realised. It had begun manufacturing airplane engine parts before the factory was complete, around July 1945, but when the war ended so did manufacturing and the factory was never completed. The biggest shame in it is that more than 10 of the designated national historic site’s  “hyakuana” were lost in the construction.

100 Caves of Yoshimi Blog (2)The caves (/tombs) themselves were only excavated about 60 years before World War II by Tsuboi Shogoro. Thankfully, they have been pretty well preserved since the end of World War II. My kids really enjoy climbing the dozens of steps made to give better viewing of, and in some cases access to, the caves.   The stairs are quite steep and there is a lot of them so I would advise you leave your buggy / stroller in the car. Or park it by one of the buildings in the courtyard as you can wheel a buggy through the bunkers. The accessible caves have low entrances and while some of them are difficult for adults to enter they are no problem for kids. My kids quite like playing house in them!

Traditional Toys at 100 Caves

There are a couple of restaurants and shops within the site and there is also a museum (officially Reserve Cultural Property Center) and in the reception building they have an event space. The Reserve Cultural Property Center has some excavated items on display from the Jomon Period, but it is best known for its comma-shaped bead making class.
My kids like to play with the toys that they set out in this event space at the entrance.  At New Years they have traditional New Year toys set out and during the year they have different types of toys for kids to play with.

Colouring pages at 100 Caves

They always have some toys and colouring pages and markers available for young children to play with. We have been to some of their festivals were they typically offer some sort of free craft. On special occasions they also put out some Jomon period clothes (cloth robe essentially) for people to try on and take a photo.

Beware of Susumebachi sign

One thing to note:  it is not the safest of places to bring more than 2 small children per adult.  On our very first visit it was just me with my 4 and my youngest was still a newborn. I had her in a baby carrier and my 2 year old held my hand, but my then 3 year old and 5 year old ran ahead to climb the stairs to the top of the hill. They were okay, but an accident could easily happen as the hill is very steep and there are limited guard rails and the ones that do exist my kids would slip through! Also, in the summer and autumn they have a problem with killer hornets.  All that said, it is still a place worth visiting!

100 Caves of Yoshimi Blog (1)

Information:

  • You can partake of craft workshops on the grounds if you book in advance.
  • The afore mentioned play area in the main reception building is available all year round and included in the cover price to the site.
  • There are 2 restaurants, one of which is also a shop, and a rest area.
  • There are plenty of vending machines.
  • There are toilets and a changing mat.
  • The area is beautiful during cherry blossom (sakura) season.
  • They have a number of festivals during the year.
  • During festivals and on Saitama Day the entrance fee is waived.

Hours: 8.30 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week.

Cost: Free entry for children up to 6 years old. 200 yen for primary school aged children. 300 yen for children over 12 years old and adults.  Free parking for up to 250 cars.

Address: 324 Kita Yoshimi, Yoshimi Town, Hiki District, Saitama

Tel: 0493-54-4541

Access:
Bus : from Tobu Tojo Line Higashimatsuyama station bound for 百吉見穴.
Car: 5 km from Higashimatsuyama Interchange of the Kanestsu expressway, in the direction of Konosu.

MORE PHOTOS BELOW THE MAP ↓

Some more photos of the facilities and scenery hereafter.

For more information in English on the history of the caves, please take a look at Jojoebi designs detailed blog post about them.

Nearby Attractions:

Iwamuro Kannon

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

Ichigo No Sato, Yoshimi

Playground at Ichigo no Sato | Yoshimi

Strawberry Picking, Yoshimi

Strawberry Picking in Yoshimi, Saitama

The Baseball Shrine, Higashimatsuyama

Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine| Higashimatsuyama

Park and Playground, Yoshimi Friendship Athletic Park

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground