Tag Archives: yoshimi with kids

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

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When I first came to Japan it was as an exchange student with 6 of my friends from my University in Ireland. One of my friends famously said “If you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all” and there is a truth in that. The magnificence of a temple doesn’t always lie in its appearance, but rather in the history and meaning behind a particular temple.  Many temples do look very like others and / or some are very plain and, frankly, quite disappointing to the naked eye, but on the flip side there are many that are both aesthetically pleasing and have a fascinating back story.  Then there are those that are different; that stand out for either their background or their architecture or both.  Iwamuro Kannon is, in my experience, one of those temples.

Located on the side of a cliff right by the side of the road, the temple is intricately positioned between two rock fronts. The ground floor of the temple is actually part of the cliff and the 88 stone statues, which are one appeal of the temple, are housed in caves within the rock. The stone statues are images of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The temple is dedicated to this “Goddess of Mercy”. The building of the temple is a beautiful wooden structure positioned on stilts. There is no door on the temple and you are free to climb the steep stairs to the first floor where you can look out over the Ichino River on the North End.  In Spring the Cherry blossoms along that river are stunning and draw quite a large amount of tourists.  On the South end you see the steep trail that leads to the site of Matsuyama Castle. The only remnant of the castle is the moat, but you can view a diorama of the castle in one of the museums in the nearby 100 Caves of Yoshimi. You can exit the temple onto the trail at the back of the temple.  On your right you will see a ladder leading to another Kannon. On the left a staircase has been dug into the incline, with a chain rope for support, so that you can climb up to and pass under the naturally formed passage that is shaped like a heart.

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Once upon a time Iwamuro kannon enjoyed many visitors as the 3rd stop (of 33), and only one in Yoshimi, on a pilgrimage of Kannon statues in the Hiki district. The Kannon are said to have 33 forms they use when helping sentient beings, thus the Hiki West Country pilgrimmage has 33 stops.  Nowadays, however, the temple is virtually abandoned, making it pleasingly tranquil. On the south side you are enveloped by nature, but the temple is quite literally on the side of the road on the North end. That road is mainly used to get to the 100 caves and as such isn’t used much in off season periods. The lack of visitors would imply that in recent years it does not enjoy much appreciation, fame or reverence, but it impressed me greatly. It is well worth a stop, in my personal opinion, if you are in the area.

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INFORMATION

Cost: FREE

Parking: Shared with the 100 caves of Yoshimi. FREE

Access:

By Public Transport

Just over an hour from Tokyo.

  • Bus from Tōbu Tōjō Line Higashimatsuyama station (from Ikebukuro) to “Hyakkuana-Iriguchi” 百穴入口
  • Or Bus from  JR Takasaki Line Konosu station (from Ueno) to “Hyakkuana-Iriguchi” 百穴入口 from Konosu Sta.

By Car
5 km from Higashimatsuyama Interchange of the Kanestsu expressway, in the direction of Konosu.

 


If you are interested in learning more about Kannon, there is a very informative and extensive knowledge based shared on:
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kannon.shtml

100 Caves Festival on Saitama Day | YOSHIMI

The 100 caves of Yoshimi will have a festival this coming Saitama Prefecture Day, November 14th. The unusual attraction in Yoshimi will be free in for the occasion. Usually it costs 300 yen per adult and children over 12 years old, and 200 yen for primary school aged children.

The caves are open from 8.30 am, but the festival will start at 10 am. Thirteen different mascots from surrounding cities and towns will visit from 11.30 am. The Gyoda Samurai Acting team will perform at 2 pm.  There is a mini “Enoden” train for kids to try and there will be crafts for older children. They have story telling from 10.30 am to 11.30 am.  The first 600 visitors will be able to participate in a stamp rally.  For a charge you can participate in Tree Climbing. They will have candy floss and other festival sweets on sale.

Access

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.

INFORMATION ON THE 100 CAVES OF YOSHIMI

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

Nearby Attractions

Playground and Roadside Station:
Playground at Ichigo no Sato, Yoshimi

Playground and Park:
Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

Baseball Shrine:
Yakyu Inari Shrine, the Baseball Shrine| Higashimatsuyama

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

We hadn’t visited Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground for a while, so I was surprised to discover some of the kids’ favourite equipment in this park has been removed. They have put in one new slide, but I am hoping that they are going to add even more new equipment.  This is what happened in Heisei No Mori park about 6 years ago; they removed an old wooden playground and replaced it with a colourful combination playground.

REMOVED EQUIPMENT

REMAINING EQUIPMENT

NEW EQUIPMENT

New slide in the cornered off playground

SEASONAL FACILITIES

In the summer the paddling pool and wading river in Yoshimi Athletic Grounds are quite nice, although I don’t think it is as well maintained as other parks.

Wading River (out of season) in Yoshimi Sports Park
Wading River (out of season) in Yoshimi Athletic Ground
Paddling pool (out of season) in Yoshimi Sports Park
Paddling pool (out of season) in Yoshimi Athletic Ground

For older children and adults there are some sports facilities, including the running track. For us the main incentive to visit Yoshimi has always been more about the wildlife than the playground equipment, so all was not lost today. We call Yoshimi Athletic Ground the “frog park”, because of the amount of frogs we have caught (and released) there.  We also regularly find praying mantis, grasshoppers, beetles… even a snake once. While 6yo searched for insects, 4yo and 3yo enjoyed picking up acorns and pine cones. This park is great for acorn collecting in particular. The pine cones were a bonus.

WILDLIFE!

Lots of wildlife in Yoshimi Sports Park
Lots of wildlife in Yoshimi Athletic Ground
Picking up acorns and pine cones in Yoshimi park
Picking up acorns and pine cones in Yoshimi Athletic Ground

While Yoshimi Athletic Ground might not be the best park around for small kids, it’s not too bad either. Another draw for us is that it is close to other points of interest, so we can make a day out of our visit to Yoshimi. Less than 5 minutes in the car is Ichigo No Sato, a  roadside station, that has a farmer’s market, stalls and booths, some of which are eateries, an Udon restaurant, a bakery and a lovely little playground. Between both parks is a strawberry picking area. And not far off you can enjoy the unusual 100 Caves of Yoshimi sightseeing spot, which is across the road from Iwamuro Kannon.

CONTACT

RESOURCES

 

More attractions in Yoshimi

Playground at Ichigo no Sato | Yoshimi

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

Strawberry Picking in Yoshimi, Saitama

 

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

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One of our first adventures this year, brought  us to the 100 caves of Yoshimi. The caves are tombs and there are actually 216 of them.  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.

World War II Bunkers
World War II Bunkers

What my young children enjoyed:
There are WWII bunkers (tunnels) on the ground floor, which the kids thrilled in running around, and pretending to be super heroes fighting evil. (Yes, I know, the irony!) They enthusiastically climbed the dozens of steps to the top of the hill into which the tombs are set.  They popped in and out of the caves that are accessible. They played with the toys set out in the community centre at the entrance.  They had traditional New Year toys set out as it was the first week in January. They always have some toys and colouring pages and markers available for young children to play with.

100 Caves of Yoshimi Blog (2)

I really enjoyed our morning there, too.  However, a note to parents,  it is not the safest of places to bring more than 2 small children per adult.  I had my then newborn 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.  Another thing to note for parents with small children; leave your buggy / stroller in the car as you can’t bring it up the hill or stairs or into the caves. You can wheel it through the bunkers though. All that said, it is still a place worth visiting!

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Information:

You can partake of craft workshops on the grounds.

There is a free play area in the main building.

There is a restaurant, shop and rest area.

There are vending machines.

There are toilets and a changing mat.

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.

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

Playground at Ichigo no Sato | Yoshimi

Ichigo no Sato is a “roadside station” in the prefecture of Saitama, North west of Tokyo. A roadside station is a type of rest and service area with a large parking area.

There are toilets and benches as well as a gift shop, a vegetable shop, a farmer’s market, a shop selling rice, a strawberry greenhouse, an udon restaurant and a coffee shop with rest area. There are also some eateries in log cabins along one walkway.  One of the popular products on sale is “Ichigo Nama Dorayaki”, which is like a type of strawberry filled pancake. There is an information stand with information for Yoshimi in the building behind the ice-cream van, it also provides a list of all strawberry picking greenhouses in the area. We go for the playground and the ice-cream!

 

Update November 2016

The roadside station has added some really fun and colourful equipment to the playground this year.

INFORMATION

Address: 1737 Kubota, Yoshimi, Saitama 355-0137

Phone: 0493-53-1530

Access: 7 kilometres from Kanetsu Expressway’s Higashimatsuyama Interchange.

Hours: Playground is open all year round, but shops are open 9 am to 5 pm, restaurants are open 11 am to 3 pm on weekdays and until 4 pm on weekends.

Other attractions in Yoshimi

Very near to this playground is a strawberry picking area:

Strawberry Picking in Yoshimi, Saitama

Other attractions a short drive away:

A park with 2 playgrounds

Yoshimi Town Friendship Athletic Ground

100 Caves of Yoshimi

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

Iwamuro Kannon

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

 

Strawberry Picking in Yoshimi, Saitama

FOR A LIST OF  KANTO AREA STRAWBERRY FARMS IN ENGLISH, BY CITY, WITH TELEPHONE NUMBER, URL AND SEASON DATES PLEASE SEE http://kajapan.org/places/strawberry-picking-in-kanto/

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Winter / Spring strawberry picking is popular for family and school outings in Japan from February through May. However, some of the winter strawberry green houses open for picking as early as mid December. Our local greenhouses, with public strawberry picking, open officially from next week. We got in ahead of the crowd and enjoyed a half hour of all-you-can-eat, pick your own, strawberries today in Yoshimi Town.

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Ichigo no Sato in Yoshimi Town is one of the better known strawberry picking areas in Saitama. Ichigo no Sato is a “roadside station” (道の駅) on prefectural route 27. “Ichigo” is the japanese for strawberry and this rest area was so named due to the abundance of strawberry fields in the area. The rest area has a very nice playground, fruit and vegetable shops and stalls, an udon restaurant, an ice-cream van, a cafe & bakery, and facilities for people on long journeys such as restrooms and changing rooms. There is a strawberry picking greenhouse right beside the roadside station, but that does not open for business until later in the month. They provide maps in each of the shops to direct you to other strawberry picking facilities in the vicinity;
Ichigo no sato area yoshimi

The price varies greatly between each strawberry picking farm, not only within Yoshimi, but surrounding areas too. Note, the price for strawberry picking in greenhouses changes as the weather warms, with December through March being more expensive than April and May. Logical when you think of the extra expense of keeping a greenhouse at the right temperature during the cold months. Speaking of which, greenhouses can often be uncomfortably warm and humid, especially if you are wearing heavy winter clothes.

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The greenhouse we chose, ①-1 on the map, offered 30 minutes all you can pick and eat strawberries for 600 yen for a child aged 3 and up to 6th grade elementary school and 1200 yen for anything older than that.  From April 1st, the prices come down to 500 yen for children and a 1000 yen for adults.  If you want to buy strawberries you’ve picked, but haven’t eaten it costs 100 yen per 100 gram.  30 minutes was plenty time with young children. The website is http://www.geocities.jp/i_ichigoen/d-annai.html#d-ryokin (Japanese only).  There is room for about 6 cars in front of the greenhouse and more were parallel parked on the road behind it. Their internet site says they have a toilet.

The prices, as well as contact details and webpages where applicable, of the strawberry farms on the above map can be seen in this photo below.

Ichigo no sato area farms and prices

Nearby Attractions include:

Playground at Ichigo no Sato | Yoshimi

100 Caves of Yoshimi, Saitama

Iwamuro Kannon | YOSHIMI

There are strawberry picking areas in the neighbouring town of Kawajima too. Most of those farms are still closed for business, but there is one open called Strawberry Hunt. These greenhouses also often 30 minute all-you-can-eat, but at the more expensive price of 1,600 yen for adults and 1,100 yen for children from January through May.  The address is 1072 Mushizuka, Kawajima Town.

Other areas in Saitama known for strawberry picking include Chichibu City, Ranzan, Yokoze and Kawajima Towns. Our favourite is in Sakado and that one has a play area too:

Strawberry Picking with a play area | Sakado

If you can read Japanese, you can find links to strawberry picking farms on the Saitama prefectural website.  For an overview of the fruit picking seasons,  Japan Guide has a good summary here.

FOR A LIST OF STRAWBERRY FARMS IN ENGLISH, WITH AREA, TELEPHONE NUMBER, URL AND SEASON DATES PLEASE SEE http://kajapan.org/places/strawberry-picking-in-kanto/