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Japan: Gunma/ Naganohara-machi (Karuizawa Toy Kingdom)

Naganohara-machi is a town located in the Agatsuma District of western Gunma Prefecture. It is just ninety-four miles from Tokyo and only an hour via the shinkansen so it is a popular destination during the sweltering summer months. The area is renowned for its rich natural surroundings and prized onsens (hot springs), including the Kusatsu Onsen which was named one of “Japan’s Best 100 Onsens” for 10 years in a row.

But aside from its natural beauty, Nagaonohara-machi is also a dream destination for the little ones. It is home to the Karuizawa Toy Kingdom. Although it is named Karuizawa Toy Kingdom, it is not located in Karuizawa, as that popular mountain resort town is located next door in Nagano Prefecture.

One look around the amusement park and you realize that the Kingdom of Toys pulls out all the stops to capture childhood dreams. There are ten air conditioned indoor playrooms filled with all sorts of toys both old and new school including dolls, trains, cars, Legos, all designed to engage a child’s imagination and encourage interaction with parents, siblings and other little ones visiting the park that day.

There are also plenty of outdoor activities to tire out the little adventurers. Taking advantage of the surrounding wilderness, the park has created a tree house, rope bridges, a climbing wall and up to twenty different activities to get the kids moving. There is an additional fee of ¥500 per person to take advantage of this area and children under the age of 2 are not permitted. When the kids get tired out, they can relax in one of the hammocks that are stretched out in between the trees or try their hand at one of the wood crafting classes. The crafting classes will teach them how to make a piggy bank or a photo frame. They will also be afforded the opportunity to fish for rainbow trout, make sand castles in the sandlot and splash around in a specially designed water park area.

The amusement park area includes a large Ferris Wheel, a Thomas the Tank train ride, racing go carts, a carousel, a dragon coaster, a trampoline area, a five-story castle jungle gym and many other rides that will excite and delight the kiddies and their parents. There is an additional charge ranging from ¥200 to ¥500 yen to ride these rides, however.

Like all amusement parks you will find a gift/souvenir shop and restaurants at the Karuizawa Toy Kingdom. There are all sorts of themed items including bento boxes, towels, key rings, snacks and toys. The restaurants are more like stalls serving up all sorts of goodies such as curry, donuts, fries, udon dishes, ramen, fried rice, omelets, soft-serve ice cream, caramel corn and Dippin’ Dots! The stalls do offer kid’s menus with items like children’s curry, omelets and lunch sets, decently priced from ¥300 to ¥1,000. There is a large covered food court area where you can enjoy your meals.

After lunch, you can sit down and enjoy one of the stage shows featuring various characters such as Anpanman. There are two performances, one at 11:00 AM and another at 2:00 PM.  Check the web page for detailed information regarding the stage shows as staging changes frequently.

The park is open from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM on weekdays and from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM on weekends and holidays. During Golden Week which runs from late April – early May, the park hours are from 9:00 AM –     5:00 PM. Please note that due to the severe winters in Gunma, the park does close from mid-November to mid-April.

Admission is ¥1,100 for adults and ¥800 for children. Discount tickets to the park can be purchased in advance at convenience stores such as 7– Eleven, Lawson, FamilyMart, Circle K Sunkus and Ministop. Discounted package deals are also available for hotel guests at the nearby Hotel Green Plaza Karuizawa.

Karuizawa Toy Kingdom is a great destination for families trying to escape the hot Tokyo summers and attempting to find activities that everyone can enjoy. With the convenience of the shinkansen, there is no reason why this destination should not be included on your travel itinerary.

 

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Hotel Green Plaza

Hotel Green Plaza

 

Web page:          http://www.omochaoukoku.com/karuizawa/

Address:              2277, Omaehosohara, Agatsuma-gun, Naganohara-machi 377-1512, Gunma Prefecture

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