Cardboard Art Exhibition / Play attractions at Sayama Municipal Museum

    Sayama Municipal Museum, Saitama, is currently holding a “Cardboard Art” 「ダンボールアート] exhibition, until the end of August. Children under 15 years old are free in. High school and university students cost 100 yen and all other adults cost 150 yen. There is a flyer in the lobby with a discount ticket: 60 yen for students over 15 / 100 yen for adults.
    Address: 23-1 Inariyama, Sayama, Saitama
    Access: The museum is a 3 minute walk from the Inariyama kouen station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line or you can get a bus from the west exit of the Seibu Shinjuku Line Sayama City Station to Inariyama koen.
    15 minutes from Hidaka Interchange. Free Parking.
    Phone: 04-2955-3804

    There is a cafe on the grounds. It is buggy / pushchair friendly.

Posted in BY TRAIN OR SUBWAY LINE, Play a day, Sayama, Things to do in Saitama | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Saitama’s #1 free children’s centre? Ageo Kodomo-no-Shiro

Saitama has a large number of superb free children’s (community/ play) centres, called jidokan or jido centre “jidose” (児童館・児童センター). Many mothers agree that Ageo’s kodomo-no-shiro, “children’s castle”, is among the best. In terms of size, equipment and diversity, I would personally rank it as number 1. My children go regularly and they have never tired of it. There is plenty of play equipment, toys and games as well as various rooms including a library, a gym hall and a workshop. Each floor has a rest area with vending machines and toilets. There is a dedicated baby room on the ground floor with free guidance on scheduled days. Also on the ground floor there is a play area restricted to babies and toddlers two and under. There is a large space outside to play as well as a playground in the adjacent park.

Ageo’s Kodomo no Shiro, Children’s Castle in Photos

As you come in from reception the ground floor boasts lots of climbing equipment and slides.

Tree house slide More climbing and slides Climbing frame and train play equipment

Off to the right of this is a rest area where there are vending machines and bathrooms, including a family bathroom. There is also a space to play games that you can borrow from reception.
Games area One of the many games you can borrow Family bathroom

The baby room with consultancy is located beside the game and rest area. The baby and toddler play room is at the back of the ground floor on the left handside.

Baby and toddler play room For crawlers in the baby play room Baby and toddler room slide

Also, on the ground floor is a gym hall (not pictured) and the exit to the open space and sandpit. From the car park you can see an outdoor playground, but you need to go out of the community centre to access it.
Sandpit outside Public playground at the car park

One of the rooms upstairs changes toys periodically. For example, one week they might have “mamagoto” (playing house) toys, another they might have baskets of blocks and foam jigsaw.
Toys for playing house Boxes of blocks at Ageo kodomo no shiro Dinosaur blocks at Ageo kodomo no shiro

There are other rooms including a library and a workshop upstairs that are not pictured.



ADDRESS: Japan, 〒362-0047 埼玉県上尾市今泉272
272 Imaizumi, Ageo City, Saitama 362-0047

PHONE NUMBER: 048-783-0888

ACCESS: Located near the Ario in Ageo. Free parking.  By public transport; you can get a bus from JR Takasaki line West exit for 西上尾第二団地 (Nishi Ageo dai ni danchi) and alight at the “Kodomo no shiro mae” bus stop.

Posted in Ageo, Takasaki Line, Things to do in Saitama | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Playground at Ichigo no Sato, Yoshimi

Ichigo no Sato is a “roadside station” in the prefecture of Saitama, North west of Tokyo. It provides parking for all sizes of vehicle. There are toilets and benches as well as a gift shop, a vegetable shop, a farmer’s market, a strawberry greenhouse, an udon restaurant and a coffee shop with rest area. There is also an information stand which provides a list of all strawberry picking greenhouses in the area, among other information. We go for the playground and the ice-cream!

Posted in Things to do in Saitama, Yoshimi | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Paddling / Splash Pools in Saitama

Splash pool at Saitama's Prefectural Children's zoo

Splash pool at Saitama’s Prefectural Children’s zoo

Paddling or splash pools are a great way to cool down in the summer heat. Saitama has quite a few pools on offer throughout the prefecture. Below is a list of some of the more popular ones. They will all be open from July 1st, but some of them are already in operation.

If you have any you would like to add, please do share in the comment section below the post. Thank you! :-)

Kamihira Park – Free. No shade.

Maruyama Park – Free. Shaded.
General Information in English

Water Park Shirayama – Free.

West Jonuma Park

Saitama’s Prefectural Children’s Zoo

Wakaizumi Exercise Park

Ina Memorial Park

Isanuma Park – OPEN. Free. Shaded.
General Information in English

Heisei No Mori Park – Free. Shaded.

Kitamoto Children’s Park – Free. Shaded at certain times of the day.
General Information in English

Kumagaya Sports Culture Park

Shinrin Park. Entrance fee. Shaded at certain times of the day.
Some information in English

Tsuragashima Exercise Park

The River Museum – OPEN. Entrance fee. Shaded areas.

Yoshimi Park – Free. Shaded.

Posted in Paddling Pool, Things to do in Saitama | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blueberry Lodge at Tokinosumika, Shizuoka (And Shaun the Sheep!)


13-PIC_3140On our most recent visit to Tokinosumika we tried the self catering option, for the first time, in the Blueberry Lodges. I was very reassured by the friendly feel of the lodge area at the back of Tokinosumika resort. Probably augmented by the “Welcome Friends” sign in English as we approached reception!

The reception area is for both the Blueberry Lodges and the Slow House Villas. It is also the reception area for the Ringo no Yu onsen (hot spring) and for renting bikes. There is a small shop in the reception that sells some drinks and snacks. There are 2 computers there, connected to the Internet, for patron’s use.


Like so many places in Japan, the Blueberry Lodges have something small, but special to offer. You can ask at reception to borrow life-size stuffed toys of the characters Bitzer and Shaun, from the British stop motion animation “Shaun the Sheep“! Shaun the Sheep is aired on Japan’s national educational channel “E-TV” on Saturday mornings, so my children are familiar with the characters and were delighted to find them in reception.


The lodges are quite big. They have a kitchen/dining area, a living room / bedroom in the form of a tatami room (futons are stored during the day and taken out at night), and a Western style bedroom with 2 semi-double beds. There is also a toilet, a bath/shower room and a vanity area with sink and storage. Each lodge has either a balcony or a patio.  The kitchen area has a hob, a sink, a microwave, a kettle and a fridge. YOU NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN UTENSILS AND COOKING IMPLEMENTS.

10-Blueberry Lodge

The are 4 lodges to a unit. My one complaint is that the walls and floors are quite thin so you can hear your neighbours. However, I also think we were unfortunate on our first night, that the people in the lodge above us were particularly noisy. On subsequent nights we had different neighbours and we rarely heard a thing. The lodges are so named due to the blueberries that grow on the trellis in the courtyard.  Within the central courtyard there is a rest area and some vending machines that sell drinks and ice-cream.

For more information on the resort of Tokinosumika please see the blog post or visit the official website (Japanese only).








Posted in Shizuoka, Travel | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Web Resources for Planning a Family Holiday to Japan

Are you planning a trip to Japan? One of my favourite bloggers wrote a fantastic list of web resources she used for her last trip earlier this year. Please click on the link;

Web Resources we used when Planning our Family Holiday to Japan.

Posted in Blog buddies | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Tabletop learning games for preschoolers -reviewed and ISO suggestions

I grew up in a family that sat down together every Saturday night to play board / dice / tile / card games. It was a lovely tradition and I have very fond memories of that family time. Naturally, I wanted to introduce this family tradition to my own children. When my son had just turned three a very generous friend passed down some English language and universal games suitable for small children, that her own children had outgrown. We started playing as a family every Saturday night. They enjoyed it so much that I have since found time to slot it into our daily routine. After dinner, one of the kid’s chores is to clear and clean the table, before I sit down with them to play a game. On evenings my husband is home early, he joins in to.

Below is some of the learning games my 4, 3 and 1 year old enjoy courtesy of afore mentioned extremely kind and generous friend, or that I have bought online. I would like to add to the collection.  English language and Western style games for toddlers and preschoolers are not that readily available here in Japan, but the Japanese Amazon website has some (at a much higher price than in Ireland!). has a particularly good choice of Orchard Toys toys and games, which happen to be our favourite to date. My Mom has also volunteered to pick me up a couple, that I can’t get here…. if I could only figure out which ones to get!  I’d love to hear what board or card games you like to play with your kids, please share your suggestions.

What tabletop games do/did you play with preschool age children? 


Here are some of the ones my preschoolers and toddler enjoy:
(disclaimer each of these games have small parts; toddlers, babies and children with oral fixation will need strict supervision).

Greedy Gorilla from Orchard Toys

The game comes with 1 greedy gorilla, 4 playing boards like menus with 24 matching healthy food cards and 8 junk food cards. If you place batteries in the gorilla it burps as you feed the gorilla the unhealthy food cards.  The recommended age for this is from 4 years old, but I can tell you my children have been enjoying this from much younger.  My 20 month old delights in feeding the gorilla, which due to its frequent use is slightly broken and burps for every food card you give it! Apart from playing the standard way, as a bilingual family, I like to use this game and its pieces for additional English learning activities. We use the food cards for naming and identifying, grouping and counting, and the menus for vocabulary reinforcement and reading practise.

The game helps develop 

  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Positive perceptions of healthy eating

Shopping List by Orchard Toys

The Shopping List game comes with four shopping lists, four shopping trolleys and food cards. The object of the game is to match the cards to your shopping list and place them in your trolley. Just like with the Greedy Gorilla game, I have found this game very useful for additional learning activities. For example, in an alternative version I get the children to fill the cart with food they like by asking me, the shopkeeper, “Can I have X please?”.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Farm Dominoes by Tobar

Farm Animal Dominoes by Tobar

The classic game of dominoes needs no introduction, but these wooden farm animal dominoes are a great version for young learners.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Hand/ Eye Co-ordination
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Recognition
  • Concentration
  • Observation
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and Losing

Honey Bee Tree Game by Early Learning Centre (ELC)

The recommended age for this game is from 3 years, but again my toddler has enjoyed this even from 6 months old. The object of the game is to remove the leaves on the tree, without letting the bees fall. The player with the most bees at the end, loses.

The game is GREAT for

  • Hand/eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Problem Solving

It also develops core skills such as

  • Concentration
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Zingo by Thinkfun

There are many versions of Zingo. The one we are enjoying now is the Sight Words version.

This really fun version of the classic game bingo is a big hit with all three of my kids. The game comes with 72 sight word cards, 6 double sided bingo cards and a zinger. One year old loves the Zinger which dispenses the cards and has a slot to re-insert them. It keeps her entertained for longer than any other toy in the house. Like the Orchard Toys above, this game has many different uses, for example, I use the sight word cards to make sentences with my 4 year old.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Sight word recognition
  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Phew! That took much longer than expected. They are the main learning games we are enjoying right now.  Other games we enjoy together include

  • Card games such as snap,
  • Memory card games such as Thomas Memory Match Game,
  • Peppa Pig Jumbolina,
  • Classic board games such as ludo,
  • Pavillion’s Farm Bingo,
  • Spotty Dogs by Orchard Toys
  • and some Japanese tabletop games too.





Posted in Babies, Montessori / Kindergarten, Parenting, Play a day, Toddlers | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments