Tucked away in between Omotsando and Shibuya is a castle. Not a real one and nothing compared to the historical value of Himeji or Osaka castles, but one just as majestic, just as amazing, and way more fun, particularly if you are between 2 and 10 years old. It is known as Kodomo no shiro - Children's castle.
We discovered this place from a random tip from another parent at a small local playground when we were told quite prophetically "If rain, go to Children castle. Boy and girl love it".
I say prophetically, because the next day it poured down, so we googled "Children's castle Tokyo", found the location and set off, with rain jackets and umbrellas in hand.
We had been able to work out from our extensive research (namely 5 minutes on the Internet), that Children's castle appeared to be some type of inside playground. But little did we realise what it actually was, and little did we realise how completely overwhelmed we would be from the moment we entered until the moment we left (or should I say kicked out at the end of the day at closing time). We were overwhelmed by the activities, the equipment, the friendly staff, the volunteers and the amount of fun we had inside.
The purpose of the Castle (as described by them) is to "offer a place where children can develop healthy, happy, energetic, sound minds and body". Sounds pretty good to me. But wait there's more: "To meet these goals, the Castle endeavours to provide artistic, athletic, healthy, inventive, imaginative and cultural opportunities that challenge and encourage the individual potentials in each child".
While I accept that perhaps the target market is for slightly younger kids, (older kids or teenagers would probably prefer the Ghibli Musuem or the gaming centres and electronic worlds found on or around Odaiba), our 4 year old and 2 year old absolutely loved it. So much so that from that day onwards, our four year old would often wake up in the morning and say "Daddy, it looks a bit cloudy don't you think. Perhaps we should go to Children's castle" (we told him we could only go back if it was raining).
Here are some of the things our kids loved about it:
- Waku waku rando (Waku Waku land);
- a huge piece of playground equipment / climbing gym complete with stairs, slides, tyre ladders, tubes, robe bridges and more;
- The Fine Arts studio (craft area) where you could draw, colour in, cut, glue, make origami style squirrels, crocodiles, fruits and rabbits, or even paint on the walls!;
- the lego and duplo area (our four year old son);
- the play kitchen area with plastic food to serve up (our two year old daughter).
This is without even mentioning the music lobby, the book area, table soccer, bowling lanes, swimming pool and gym (open on weekends and public holidays), the 30 metre long hopscotch, mini snooker table, the soft toys, wooden block area, kid's museum or video library where you can watch one of the thousands DVDs they have in individual private cubicles (both Japanese and English DVDs available - Anpanman, Thomas, Disney etc). There was even a padded play area with soft toys reserved for babies and crawlers.
Here are some of the things we (as parents) loved about it:
- the music concerts which were on a few times a day;
- the rooftop area where the kids rode bicyles, tricycles, handcycles, played ball games all while we were enjoying the vista across Tokyo;
- the fact that every time we went there our kids left exhausted despite the fact they had been inside most of the day;
My final summary is this:
If you have kids under 10 years old you should go there.
If you have kids under 10 years old, and it is raining you should definitely go there.
If you have kids under 10 years old, and it is raining, and you don't have any other plans, then you should copy the address below, stop reading this and get on the Tokyo metro straight away.
Have you been there? We would love to hear from you and find out what you thought of it.
English address - 5-53-1 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001
Japanese address - 東京都渋谷区神宮前5-53-1 v
Opening hours: Tues – Fri, 12:30-5:30pm (this can change so check out their calendar) Sat, Sun & Holidays, 10am-5:30pm Closed on Monday (closed on Tuesday if Monday is a public holiday).