Sunday, January 16, 2011

Yu Kids Island in Aeon mall

On the top floor of the Aeon mall they have this amazing playground for kids in 2nd grade and younger. It has all sorts of inflatable moon bounce kinds of things that keep the young ones entertained for as long as the adults can stand it. It is a pretty fun place to go on a cold winter day. Our younger two could have stayed all day bounding from play area to play area
Here is the info:
500y per hour per child UNLESS you are a member in which case the price is the same but there is no time limit.
Membership is 1000Y BUT if you get a multiple use pass (available in 5 or 10) or one/three month pass then membership is free.
We got a five visit pass for 2000Y with the included membership. For each visit we can us two tickets for each child. (I guess we'll have to pay for one the third time we go.)
They have them all over Japan and apparently, even one in San Fransisco (though I can't find out any info about that one- whacha think sis?)
Aeon mall website
Company website (in English)
They have another branch inside the Kyoto Jusco Family Mall, west of the Saiin station on Shijo.

Sanjusangendo archery

Every year on the Sunday closest to the 15th there is an archery competition at Sanjusangendo- the temple of 1000 Kannon on Nana-jo south of Kiyomizu. This dates to the 1600's when the competition was to shoot the entire length of the temple. Nowadays you only have to hit a target half the length, still a difficult task from what I saw. Anyway, the event is from 9-3:30 and there are thousands of contestants who give it a try. The contestants are usually people who became 20 this last year and thus who celebrated coming-of-age on Seijin no hi. They appeared to be members of archery clubs from colleges across Japan. It was worth it just to see the kimono they had on (the same one's they wore for their coming of age ceremony earlier in the week I am sure), but the archery made it especially cool. Part way through they switched to a few rounds with really good archers and smaller targets. They still had difficulty, but hit the targets much more often than the 20 year olds before them. We only stayed for about an hour, but were glad to have seen it. It was crowded, but we were able to find a place to watch a little of it on the stands about midway across the field.
Also, FYI the entrance fee to the temple is free on this day and they have several stands for Tai-yaki, okonomiyaki, tako-yaki, sweets and so on for hungry kids.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Renting bikes with child seats in Kyoto

The kids grandparents came over new years and we had a lot of fun. When I was looking for bike rentals for them I found this place by the Eiden Demachiyanagi station that also had child seats on some of their bikes. Here is the website. By the way, it was also the cheapest place I found. 500Y per day, 2000Y per week, 2500Y for 2 weeks and 3000Y for a month.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Ramen

Our kids love ramen and pretty much all ramen places are the same in their eyes. Since ramen shops are pretty much ubiquitous this makes finding somewhere to eat pretty easy. Unlike the kids WE have some places that we prefer more than others- when we find places that stand out I'll post on them here. In the meantime, (on the suggestion of another Kyoto parent) here is a useful phrase to help order for kids: Negi nashi kudasai- no green onions please. (Nashi is a useful word to put after things the kids don't like- some of our kids don't like ketchup: so we use it a lot. "Kechappu nashi kudasai" "Sōsu nashi kudasai" etc.)

Here is an unusual place- Mamezen. It is "Kyoto style" ramen with soy milk broth,with yuba and plum as toppings. We saw it on Kyoto Foodie and gave it a try- very delicious. It worked well because we were the only ones there, but the small space might not work so great with other diners. The couple who run it are super nice and have a young child of their own, so they looked with understanding at the antics of ours. The other downside is that they open late: 7:30 and we usually prefer to eat about 5:30 or 6. Lunch would be great though. They do have a kid's set that was perfect for our 5 year old.

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Other all-you-can-eat places

After the post on Obanzai I thought I would post about other similar places. Some of which we have tried and others we haven't. As I said before, these are good because the kids can pick and choose.
1- Harvest in Porta (under the Kyoto train station)
We went here early on in our stay and really enjoyed it. It is about twice the food for about twice the price. They have a decent array of deserts too. Drinks cost extra and there aren't many choices (basically tea and coffee). Lunch: 1468Y (1888Y on weekends and holidays) Dinner: 1993Y Elementary school kids: 838Y Younger than elementary school: 523Y
They also have a slightly cheaper branch near Shijo Kawaramachi.

2- Hasegawa Obanzai on Sanjo: south side of the street just east of the post office and the Kyoto museum. Similar spread to Obanzai, perhaps a little harder with kids because it was a smaller space.
Lunch: 950Y Dinner: 1500Y

3- 808 Cafe in Aeon Mall south of the Kyoto station
We haven't tried this yet, but the huge selection of deserts (including a chocolate fountain) certainly caught the eye of the kids. We'll certainly give it a try one of these days.
Lunch: 1280Y Elementary school: 640Y under: 350Y
Dinner: 1580Y Elementary: 790Y under: 400Y

Update: We gave this a try as promised and it was great. The food is primarily vegetable based and a hit with the adults. They had chicken karage and curry that went over well with the kids, but the kids really liked the all you can eat ice cream and cakes after dinner. (We did make them eat one plate of food before hitting the deserts- what meanies!) Maybe the best of the bunch.

4- There is another up the road from the Randen (Arashiyama line) station in Arashiyama, but I know nothing about it.

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Obanzai

Obanzai is an all you can eat natural food (mostly vegetarian) place near Karasuma Oike. It is mostly home style "natural food" cooking. Unlike other all you can eat places we have been to, it doesn't have a huge array of dishes but I liked what we had there. It is nice that the kids can choose what they want and when they find something they like, they can eat a lot of it. We also went for lunch and it may be the case that they have more for dinner. I think we'd probably stick with lunch anyway. They have a single price for kids and adults, but they didn't charge us for the kids under elementary age.
Nitty gritty:
Lunch: 840Y on weekdays 1050Y weekends and holidays
Dinner: 2100Y (closed Wednesday evening)
It is three blocks west of the Karasuma Oike intersection and almost a block north (on the east side of Koromonotana Street). Basically go north after the Roukin bank with the rainbow on it. It is a little hard to find so just keep your eyes peeled on the East side of the street.
I think Obanzai must be in Lonely Planet or something because there were several foreigners there.
phone: 075-223-6623

Kid friendly restaurants in Kyoto: Buta Gorilla

I think I'll try to post a series on restaurants that we find to be kid friendly. The first is a neighborhood one: Buta-Gorilla or "Pig Gorilla," a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) place. This restaurant has a family set for either 3 "san nin" (2980Y) or 4 "yo nin" (3980Y). The 4 person family set was plenty big enough for us, and it includes several cutlets, a croquette, hot dogs, shrimp and all the miso soup and rice and cabbage you care to eat. The 3 person set was the same, but without the shrimp. B-G even has kids books based on Disney and Ghibli movies, crayons and pig-gorilla's to color while you wait. We have usually gone when it was pretty early, but there has always been seating.
Buta-Gorilla is just up the street from the Marutamachi-Shichihonmatsu intersection, easily accessed from any bus stopping at either Marutamachi-Shichihonmatsu or even Senbon-Marutamachi.
Phone: 075-812-7757

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Omiya Traffic Park

Today we went to the Omiya traffic park. It was a blast! It is a decently large go-cart track and playground. The playground is fun, but the real draw is the go-carts. The track goes around with real stop lights and pedestrian crossings etc., designed to teach about traffic safety.
The park is open everyday but Tuesday. The catch is that the go-carts only run on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays (including summer vacation). Individual tickets are 200Y for one person go-carts (for 3rd grade to Jr high) and 250Y for two person go-carts. Individual tickets are sold in the vending machines, but the window sells three ticket packets for each- 500Y for one person carts and 600Y for the two person go-carts. For the two person go-carts you need an adult and a child- two kids can't ride. We went through two packets of each and still got two more two person tickets for a final race around the track. It is pretty addicting. E said that he is now almost ready to drive after so much practice and I don't know that I have ever seen 3 year old S so happy.
Here is the link.
It is pretty far north, north of Kitaoji AND Kitayama streets and west of Omiya. The 46 bus goes right to it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year’s Eve: Kinkakuji in the snow and Joya no Kane

We had a very snowy New Year’s Eve and so we took the advice of a friend and went to see Kinkakuji in the snow. It really does take your breath away.
Our neighborhood:

That night, 9 year old E and I, along with visiting grandparents, went to ring out the old year with Joya no Kane. There are 108 sins in Buddhism and with each toll of the bell one sin is erased so after 108 you are cleared to start sinning again in the new year. We went to two places. One was a small temple just east of Shogoin. They served hot Amazake- sweet nonalcoholic sake with ginger. They started ringing at 10. Then we went to Kurodani temple a little further east. Kurodani is a major magnet for Joya no kane, though not as big as say Chionin. They have a nice large bell and a great view of the city. We got to Kurodani at about 10:40. There we waited in line to get a ticket (they started handing out enough for 108 tolls at 11) and then went into the big hall for some chanting by the monks. Then we all lined up at the bell to ring out the old year at about 11:45. It was fun to ring the bell and E really got a kick out of it. We tried to get some Toshikoshi soba (new years noodles) at a place near Heian shrine, but apparently it was closed, so we went for regular udon at the visitor’s center across from the shrine. We went to check out all the people at the shrine making the first visit of the new year, but didn’t brave the crowds to go all the way up to the front to pay our respects. We did however- brave the crowds at Kitano Tenmangu on the first. That was fun and the food was better too.

Osechi Ryori- Japanese New Year's Food

New Year’s Eve in Japan is celebrated by getting ready for the coming year. Major cleaning and cooking, basically everything you can do to make sure to start off the new year with a fresh start. This year I was thinking of ordering an Osechi ryori box (special New Year’s food- more on that later) but we decided to make our own after finding a pretty looking three tiered box at the Daiso 100 yen store. That meant that I had to start cooking the meal on the 30th and finished on the night of the 31st. We made a lot of things but got some at the store and the Nishiki market. This is what we made and what we bought- with links to some recipes in English.
Kuromame- black beans (From Savory Japan)
Kuri kinton- mashed sweet potatoes and chestnuts
Kohaku namasu- vinegared daikon and carrot
Iridori- simmered chicken and root vegetables
Ebi no sakamushi- sake cooked shrimp (from Japanese food section)
Kobumaki- rolled kelp
Nishin konbumaki-rolled kelp with herring
Kamaboko- fishcakes
Namafu- gluten – in this case in the shape of a flower
candied citrus
flower cut vinegared lotus root
Datemaki- egg roll
Tazukuri- simmered dried sardines
Tai no shioyaki- Salted Red Snapper
I didn’t bother with Kazunoko because no one in our family would eat them. As it was most of the Tazukuri went uneaten. I wanted to do Tataki gobo, but there wasn't time. There are by the way other good sites out there for osechi besides Savory Japan and Here are two others: shejapan and petit chef.

The Nishiki market is a really fun place to visit on New Year’s Eve, even more insane than usual. They had lots of the traditional new years foods on display and some decent discounts. Here is an image of an almost $240 salted red snapper. Some of the more interesting New Year's foods they had that I DIDN’T get were tiny octopi stuffed with quail eggs, fishcakes with rabbit designs, vegetables cut out in auspicious shapes, and of course the giant salted red snapper.