If you are near the Odaiba area a great place to stop with the kiddos is The DiverCity Plaza. It was rainy and a little colder than we realized so while we were checking out some of the attractions in Odabia we decided to stop in the DiverCity Plaza. The favorite spot in this mall for our children was the Hello Kitty Japan store. Although there are many Hello Kitty stores around this one also has a few amenities that are sure to keep your kids entertained.
The store is a decent size and has a section for most of the Sanrio characters. We found pretty much everything here. From Twinkle Star Twin packs of tissues to Pompomourin makeup bags, this store has it covered. I was tempted to try out some of the face masks which were all around 300 Yen. Kids will really enjoy checking out the merchandise but most of the toys and stuffed animals are a bit pricey. Everything was really cute but so much Hello Kitty character merchandise is available in other stores in Tokyo that I was not willing to shell out money for Hello Kitty toys today! My two year old was just happy to walk around and check out all the colorful decorations and My eight year old chose a different souvenir from the Gundam Cafe located on the first floor outside (find out more about that here). This store is a great place for a high quality memorabilia to take back for a friend who loves Hello Kitty though.
Activities for the Kiddos:
For younger kids, and older selfie takers, the entrance to the store has a fun photo op set up. There is a Hello Kitty statue in the form of a Gundam like robot costume. The statue says Odaiba under and there is a basket of photo accessories. There were things like Hello Kitty bows and large glasses with eyelashes. All were pretty cute to make a free and memorable photo op on your phone.
Food and Beverages:
On the left entrance of the store you can grab a quick bite to eat at the Hello Kitty cafe. There were some small curry and rice meals, green tea ice creams, and a variety of tasty mochi flavors to try. The Mochi were around 210 yen each and they were really good. We tried a chocolate flavored mochi and a chestnut flavor. We thought that they were both tasty but liked the chestnut the best. The chocolate flavor is for the true chocolate lover and can be on the strong side if you are expecting a lighter typical mochi flavor.
The green tea and vanilla swirl ice cream in a cup was 300yen. This seemed to be a really reasonable price to us. Generally Ice cream and treats in Tokyo are very pricy and these were all larger than expected for what we paid.
Access for Strollers and Wheelchairs:
This store is easy to access with young children and there is plenty of room for strollers or wheelchairs. There are many elevators to the parking garages so transportation with a stroller is really easy here. The aisles in this mall are wide which makes navigating with kids and a crowd much easier. The tables and Chairs in the Hello Kitty store were fine for toddlers to site and thee would be room for a wheel chair.
If you are in the Odabia area DiverCity Plaza is worth checking out. This mall is one of the more baby and kid friendly places in our opinion due to the large aisles in this mall and easy access food courts and kids eating areas, as well as the abundance of baby changing rooms located near all restrooms. Enjoy!
Hello Kitty Japan, 〒135-0064 Tokyo, Koto, Aomi, 1 Chome−1−10, ダイバーシティ東京プラザ 2F DiverCity Tokyo Plaza
If you are taking the train the closest station to the DiverCity mall is the “Daiba Station” located on the Yurikamome line.
This weekend we ventured to the Ume Hanami at Mt. Fuji. Ume Hanami is just a fancy way to say Plum blossom viewing in Japanese! Since you can view Plum Blossoms for most of February into just the first couple of days of March our family decided to sneak in one last look before they are gone until next year. We decided to visit the Soga Bairin Orchard for the Odawara Ume Matsuri.
The great thing about the Soga Bairin Orchard located in Odawara was not only the fact that we were going to some more amazing plum blossoms, but that you can actually view around 35,000 plum trees! It is a complete working orchard that opens up during the blossom season to hold a festival but then closes to guests after the first weekend of March. This area is one of the largest in all of Japan for blossom viewing.
We were really excited because this Orchard also has a close up view of Mount Fuji right behind the plum orchard. I was really looking forward to all the great photos I was going to have of my kiddos in the plum orchard with Mt Fuji behind them but- it did not happen. We thought that the day was looking clear and that we were going to have perfect viewing. It was warm (for the first week of March), sunny, and only a few clouds were in the sky. Unfortunately, by the time we reached our destination clouds moved in over Fuji and disguised the entire mountain. So no Mt. Fuji viewing for us that day! If you decide to try out this orchard defiantly double check the weather and try to make it on a clear and sunny day to catch a great view of Fuji. It seems to also help if you go earlier in the day. We can see Fuji from our home and although it is small as we are a pretty far distance away we notice that in the early mornings it is usually most visible.
Getting to the Sago Bairin Orchard was not too problematic. We drove our car from Tokyo and arrived in a little over two hours and drove the toll free route with our GPS. So not only did we not pay for the drive in (a rare occurrence on a road trip in Japan!) but we also parked right in the orchard for free and the entry was free as well. A free day of activities is always a good day in my book!
**** If you want to take the train this is about a 10-15 minute walk from Shimosoga Station****
The parking was really easy. When you start to get about 5-10 minutes away from the orchard there are large pink banners that say UME MATSURI to encourage you from giving up and Turing around! 🙂 You will drive through a winding road up a mountain and the have an great view of the entire town below including the ocean meeting the mountains to the side. This part of the drive ended up being one of the highlights of the entire trip.
After curving down the mountain lookout road we ended up turning right onto a Main Street near the orchard. Then we turned into a small street with just a few houses. We initially thought that we were lost as we were literally squeezing down this small road and invading on the families there. We saw a few trees blooming but it just looked like a very small farm. We happened to see a couple orange cones and made a turn towards them. Then there was an enormous orchard tucked right behind the houses. We drove right up to the start of the trees and parked. There was plenty of parking and it was easy to get in and out.
There were bathrooms at the parking area. They were Port-a-potty style buuuuuut without seats. So port-a-john Japan style squatters. If you had to go you could stand on a step, face the back wall (hope you locked the door behind you well) and hold onto a handle on the wall to aid with your squatting balance. Then I advise you pray that you squatted down far enough otherwise you will have some wet Uggs when you leave… and Uggs show all water spots. FYI.
I am not sure if there were bathrooms anywhere else at the festival area as we were too preoccupied with checking out all the trees. However if you walk straight down the path from the parking lot all the way through to the other side of the orchard you will see the train station at the other end. You could find a bathroom there if you were really in need of something other than a porta potty. I would have down that had I know this was an option in the beginning.
Food, Drinks and Entertainment:
When you leave the parking lot you can just walk straight down a path to food vendors, a cafe, and a stage. This is where they have many of the festival performances and tea ceremonies. There is also a mini market type of area where the vendors are selling oranges and other vegetables and fruits. There were tables and chairs in this area to enjoy your snacks.
We also noticed that there was a separate large cafe with its own tables and chairs behind the stage area. I do not have information about what they had available because when we arrived this cafe was already closed (we arrived around 1pm). As our visit was the second to last day of the festival many things were already closed or packing up as we entered.
If you are looking for a more picnic type of atmosphere- which is popular for Hanami, I recommend turning right after walking down the main paling and the food stalls. There are raised picnic benches located in the middle of the trees. There were many families sitting with their picnic mats on the raised platforms and enjoying the blossoms. This area has some room for kids to wander about while you picnic as well in case they get bored of sitting before you get to finish your lunch. Is seems as if most families with younger children were in the Orchard area eating instead of seated at the tables. Mostly elderly patrons were in the main area with tables. This is not to say that you would not be welcome but just advice if you are with a large group or have young children who will not want to be seated for long periods.
Information During Your Visit:
There is a large map with information and trails marked in the main entrance of the trails. It has all information labeled in English as well as Japanese. You can view directions of multiple shrines located on the orchard grounds, however we did not get to visit these so I can not give any advice. We made it a quicker trip as we wanted to head to the beach after and did not want to run out of time.
Accessibility for Strollers and Wheelchairs:
We did take a stroller. I think taking a stroller is ok as the areas are wide enough. Just be aware that you will probably be leaving the main path and walking through the grass and all through the trees if you like so its a little more difficult to get through there but overall I think it is fine. We took an umbrella stroller so I would not recommend that. Take a full size stroller that is easy to get through rougher terrain. We actually saw several wheelchairs in use at the time we were there and they had no problems getting around the orchard and through the crowds. This is a really useful point as I find many places in Japan are just not very easily accessed in this type of situation.
A wheelchair would work on the path. It is wide and fairly well cared for. No major cracks or rough terrain. Just a few small hills. The path all the way to the parking would be ok for a wheel chair as well. The grassy area within the Orchard could be wheel chair friendly although some spots the ground was soft and probably would need extra assistance in pushing through these areas by a companion if there was a manual wheelchair and nothing motorized. The parking area would be adequate for parking a van with a lift on the back as it is pull in forward and there is single parking and no cars will park behind you. getting in and out of the side doors or a car could be problematic as the sides are tight. However this is nothing worse than normal Japanese spots. I think it is actually better as no one is parked behind you in any spot that we saw.
The orchard is big enough that if you do wish for privacy for feeding infants or need a quiet spot to settle a little one down you can probably find one. Just set out your picnic mat out under the trees and you probably won’t be bothered, as long as you are away from the main path. I did not see any type of private room or bathrooms located here.
Warning for Small Children:
Also I think it is worth mentioning there is an area of the orchard that is dangerous for kids. It is somewhat like a large area for water run off but it is deep and there are cement pillars over it with large gaps in between. This is large enough for a toddler to easily fall in. When we were near this area we had my toddler in the stroller so that we could walk father away from this and not have to worry about her wondering in due to curiosity. We simply redirected to another area of the orchard so she could play freely again. The orchard is huge so this should not deter you from visiting, just advice to steer clear of the drains.
I think that this Ume viewing spot is a must on a clear day. I would also advise going in late February. While we saw tons of great blossoms, I think the peak week was probably the previous week. We went the first weekend of March. Realistically we should have been there the previous week. We still saw all colors of blooms and all types, but most of the red blooms were already gone. It was really enjoyable as this was far less crowded than other areas we have visited for Hanami. Let’s not forget this is not only free but special needs accessible as well as family friendly that makes this a great plum viewing spot!
*Click here to visit the Odawara Ume Matsuri official site. You should visit the site before you go as the details can change yearly. The site is in Japanese but you can still view the dates and times.
This year was my family’s first official Plum Blossom Viewing experience in Tokyo. Although this is our third spring living here we have never gone anywhere just to specifically view the plum blossoms or “Ume” as they are called in Japan. We decided last minute on a Saturday morning to check out the Plum Blossoms at Hanegi Park.
When to Go:
The Plum Blossom festival was from February 11 until March 5th. From year to year the dates most likely fluctuate based on the weather but its safe to say you will be able to see plum blossoms all around the Kanto region throughout these two months.
We did not really plan our trip. We just knew that Hanegi Park was around an hour drive (without tolls) and has about 650 plum trees. I thought that sounded sufficient for Plum Blossom viewing with two children and no planning what so ever. I packed lunch boxes, we had an emergency diaper buying stop at our local Daiei grocery store, and we were off.
**If you prefer to take the train Hanegi Park is located in Setagaya; and just a short walk from the Umegaoka train station. **
Our family drove to the park. We crossed our fingers and prayed that we were going to find close parking. We also hoped that any parking would’t be only those tiny spots reserved for a mini car as we were taking our van. We mentally prepared ourselves that it was possible that we would spend our life savings on a parking spot for an hour of plum blossoms or that we wouldn’t find a place at all and would have to find an alternate plan of family fun in the Setagaya area!
It turned out super easy. There is a parking lot right at the back entrance of the park and it was only 200 yen for every 60 minutes. We arrived during prime time on a Saturday afternoon and there were still a few spots open in the lot. It was not a big parking lot by any means but we had no problems getting a regular sized van in and out of a spot.
Most people took the train or rode bikes to this park. There was a large area at the opposite side of the park with a large area for parking bicycles. If you do plan on biking to the park with your family entering on the opposite side from where the parking lot is would be much easier with children.
There is no fee to enter the park. This is awesome as most parks in Tokyo (the large ones at least) do charge an entrance fee. Sometimes there are fees for certain attractions at a park, but from what we could tell this park and all of the attractions were completely free.
Park experience and tips:
At first, we did not see any plum blossoms. Then we realized that we had to walk down a path and towards a large hill. The paths have covering to keep them from turning into complete mud as most of the area has no grass at all. Just dirt. Serisouly. The dirt was no problem on our visit as it had not rained in a while. There were plenty of people having picnics and sitting in the dirt just fine. I would not suggest coming here when it is the least bit rainy as it will be mud city – unless you come prepared with rain boots and a change of clothes for kids.
Watch your step with smaller kids as there are lots of uneven steps, stepping stones, and one large steep hill with make shift steps. It shouldn’t be a problem for most kids and adults but just a word of advice for those that are traveling and need a viewing spot that is more wheelchair or stroller friendly. This is not the best park for wheel chairs.
If you are viewing the plum blossoms with a baby I would suggest a baby carrier for this park. The paths are narrow and people will be walking in both directions on all of the paths. Most of the blossom viewing is on one steep hill with many steps. Forget the stroller at this place all together. We traveled with a two year old and she did all the steps just fine. The park is on the small side. Our two year old went all the way through the park and back without needing a stroller. The blossom area is not very large so going without a stroller should be ok if you are driving or biking.
Activities For Kids:
There is a large area that is a playground for kids. It has some log things to climb on, a child made river with a water spout for making a muddy river (they have tools and shovels so the kids can really get into the spirit of building with mud!), and another area with wall like structures that they can climb on and play games. The kids that we saw were completely covered in dirt with no shoes on and looked like they were all having a great time. I would suggest any family come with extra clothes for your journey home.
Feeding area for infants:
In the playground area there is also a wooden house structure for babies. Babies and mothers were sitting on the floor playing and visiting, while older kids were able to play safely away from the infants. This is also a good place for feeding infants.
Located right behind the infant house area and playground are bathrooms. Western style toilets are available. The bathrooms were small but were not bad and were very clean for the amount of kids and dirt at this park!
Snacks/Vendors and such:
The center of the park, near the plum blossom viewing area, there were vendors selling all kinds of flowers, small trees, and plants. They were all really beautiful and I would have loved to buy some for our balcony at home. I didn’t buy any. For the sake of the plants it is better that I buy fake!
We saw a couple of concession stands and a little shop with toys for kids. I am not sure of the prices as we avoided them! Before heading home we did stop at a food truck just beside the parking lot on our way out of the park. A lady was selling roasted potatoes. We had to get one because they smelled delicious. It was 200 yen for a small Japanese sweet potato and 400 yen for a large size potato. We bought the small size and all had a few bites.
Overall it was fun. I love going to the parks to check out the blossoms. However I would advise anyone that lives really far away to look for some place that is bigger if you are going to make a day of plum blossom viewing. With kids that want to play in the mud section you could stay here for hours and hours — but if you are only in search of plum blossom viewing the area for that is pretty limited.