Feb 16, 2018
Family life in Japan: Play centers
What I will miss most about Japan whenever (if ever) we move home is the abundance of things to do. Not least, with four small children; play centers. I love the play centers in Japan. The choice of play centers is one of the many benefits of raising kids in Japan, even if only for a short time. Thanks to the great variation of play centers, children can try a multitude of activities, often for free or at least a reasonable price.
There are all different types of play centers. We like to explore them all, but I have a particular fascination with the play and amusement centers you pay into. Back in the day, when I was a secondary school student, I worked in a play center in Ireland. It's maybe why they interest me so much here in Japan. The one I worked in was one of only a handful in Dublin at the time. These days there are a few more in Dublin, but nothing like the quantity, or indeed quality, you find in Japan.
Almost every town and city in Japan has some sort of play center. Ironically, the town we live in only opened one last year, so for the first nine years of living here we had no choice but to travel if we wanted to find a play center. Thanks to that we really learnt to spread our wings early on. A lot of towns, and maybe some cities, may only have a community run free center, but almost everyone in the Greater Tokyo area is within commutable distance of a fancy play area. One of our favourites in Tokyo is the highly acclaimed Asobono. Here in Saitama we have dozens of privately run play centers you pay to enter. Sixty-four to be precise!
In my experience, most of the play centers are located in shopping centers. Occasionally you will find a play center that stands alone or is in an unlikely location; two that come to mind in Saitama are in a real estate agency and a hot springs respectively. A lot of the play centers charge by a particular time slot: 10 or 15 minutes seem to be the most common. Most of them have special packages you can avail of too. Some charge for adults, others only charge for children. Others again allow children in free until a certain age. For some you need to register as a member, for others there is no need. You will find restaurants in some, seating areas in a lot, and on the flip side there are some that don't allow food or drink. For the most part I have found that on site toilets are rare: you usually have to use the facilities in the shopping center where the play center is.
Wherever you are in Japan, if you are here with children or if you have children visiting from home, I really recommend you try out a play center in your area. A google search should pull up some in your area, and of course, you will find loads in the review section of City-Cost!
All images from Namco Asobi Park in Ageo, Saitama.
Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.
Definitely one of the best things about raising kids here! They are such a saving grace on days where it's too hot or too cold to be outside!
@genkidesu I love how much choice there is. I hope someday Ireland will catch up and offer diverse play centers, but I won't hold my breath!