I used to think I was an observant person, until my cousin sent me an article about manhole covers in Japan. I was in Japan more than 10 years when she sent me a the link about the ornate manhole covers here. My first instinct was that it must be in a part of Japan that I have never visited…
Then I started looking down
and sure enough each city’s manhole cover is different.
Often they are representative of the city. For example, I recently posted about the 100 caves of Yoshimi, which is the design of the manhole covers in the that city.
Some are in colour, but most are etched into the steel without colour.
Even the fire hydrant manhole covers have their own special images.
So if you plan to come to Japan, remember to look down! Not only will you see something unique to Japan, but you will also learn something about the area you are visiting. For those who have visited or live here; have / did you notice/d them!?
We’ve been hanging out in Shiroyama park quite a lot recently. Thanks to the Family Walker magazine featuring the new piece of playground equipment (pictured) and suggesting it as a hanami location. We had visited a few times in the past, but it didn’t make an impression. It does now.
The timing was convenient, too. The kids have taken turns bringing lurgy into the house; Shiroyama has the perfect playground for sick days. The playground (by the tennis courts, near the main parking area off route 12), isn’t too expansive, is in the sun, but surrounded by trees, and has a sandpit. Another benefit for our family is that there is something for each of their ages. 5 year old likes the flying fox and climbing bars. 4 year old likes the see saw and climbing wall. 2 year old likes the seesaw and climbing net. 4 month likes the view. They all love the sandpit that has two sliding tunnels (last photo); something we haven’t seen anywhere else.
Shiroyama park also has an adventure playground, a paddling pool, and hanami, picnic and BBQ areas. There is a cot in the toilet for the disabled for changing nappies, but to be honest the park’s toilets could do with an upgrade! It is five minutes by car from the Okegawa – Kitamoto interchange on the Chuo Expressway. It takes one hour by car from Tokyo. Parking and all the facilities in Okegawa (excluding vending machines!) are free. The park’s phone number is 048-786-5881.
A comment by the lovely And Three To Goon my “Thesearebrilliant” post , made me realize that Japan is not synonymous with being “family friendly “. Here in the Kantoplain* it definitely deserves that accolade. I have found living and travelling in Japan with young children to be very easy and efficient. Due to the number and standard of services and utilities provided for free in both public and private places, it is very easy to spend time out and about as a family, even with a newborn.
Pictured is one of many Babyrooms you can find in many locations throughout Japan. You can see the taps for washing your hands. Paper towels are provided for free. This particular room has two nursing booths, where you can feed your baby in private, if you wish to do so, by drawing over the curtain. If you are bottle feeding the note on the wall says that you can receive boiled water from the staff. Often these rooms have instant boiled water taps or a burco in them. I have found that the rooms are always spotless and well maintained.
I like that when we go out the door we know that wherever we end up there will, most likely, be some convenient family facilities available to us in our family friendly Japan. 😉
*Kantoplain is the area around and including Tokyo. It is made up of the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma and Saitama.
We go out to eat a lot as a family, but with a newborn it can be challenging. Most of the aisles in restaurants in our part of Japan are too narrow for our Out and About buggy or our Gracodoublebuggy, meaning we have to carry the baby. There are restaurants with tatami floors where you can lie a baby beside you, as we have done in the past, but these come with other issues and concerns. We have eaten in some hotels that actually provide Moses baskets or some form of day bed, but for a casual meal out we prefer to go to a family restaurant. Therefore, dinner often involved hubby or I either taking turns holding the baby, or one of us wearing them in a baby carriertrying to coordinate hand to mouth without spilling too much food on the baby. That is until serendipity led us to a family restaurant with bassinets for newborns or babies who are not yet mobile. It only took to our fourth child to discover these convenient gems, but better late than never. This particular bassinet was enjoyed in the Bamiyan on route 406 in HigashiMatsuyama. Unfortunately, not every Bamiyan has them, as we discovered at the weekend when the kawagoe branch staff had no idea what we were talking about!
If there is a place you like to go to while dining with a small baby, please do share in the comments. 👶
February was particularly dismal this year and rain is forecast for most of this first week of March, but by the end of this month these barren trees will be dressed in their finest spring wear. We will have one of many “hanami” under these spreading Cherry Blossom trees. Until then we will continue to enjoy the lesser known, but equally beautiful Ume or Japanese plum tree blooms.
If you are looking for ideas for where to enjoy hanami in Saitama, with young children, please take a look at the Cherry Blossom category on this blog. You will find information for some parks, such as Maruyama park and Kitamoto park, and other play areas such as Enomoto farm.
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.
For more information in English on the history of the caves, please take a look at Jojoebi designsdetailed blog post about them.
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.
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!
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.
Free entry for children up to JHS. 300 yen for adults.
Address: 324 Kita Yoshimi, Yoshimi Town, Hiki District, Saitama
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.