JAXA earth observation center and a drive in the Hiki hills

JAXA Earth Observation Center is located in Hatoyama Town in the Hiki District of Saitama Prefecture. The town is probably the most famous place in Hatoyama, apart from the golf courses! To be upfront: my kids were too young the time we visited, so we ended up spending less than an hour. In case you find yourself in the same boat, I’ve included nearby attractions in this post. Moreover, JAXA is located close to the Iwadono area of Higashimatsuyama. Both are in the “Hiki hills” and the area is a lovely place for a drive. Particularly in summer where its a little cooler than the flatlands of Saitama.

On the day we visited in the summer of 2016, I had planned to just go to JAXA. My son was 6 at the time and he was the only that was “into it”. My three girls at the time were 5, 3 and 1 years old. They weren’t too enamored with my choice, so 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 drive

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. Furthermore, they have a great observation tower too. In addition, they host events and show movies during summer vacation.

↓10 minutes drive

C.  Jaxa Earth Observation Centre

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
    • Please note that JAXA has been closed since February 2020 and will remain closed until July 2021. Also, even after that time you are required to make an advance booking, on account of the Coronavirus.
  • Charge: FREE access and free parking
  • Official English web page

↓9 minutes drive

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.

↓2 minute walk

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.

↓6 minutes drive

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 on the event calendar. 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
  • Official website
  • More information in English

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. There is a lovely bakery with a natural garden close to the turn for the steep road that leads up to JAXA. You can get take out breads or sit indoors or in the beautiful garden.

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

JAXA earth observation center and a drive in the Hiki hills
Fun and Educational day out in Saitama

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