Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plarail & Tomica Exhibition in Osaka

The most famous toys for boys in Japan would be the model train, Plarail, and the model car, Tomica, both manufactured under the leading toy company Takara Tomy. Once or twice a year they would hold an expo at ATC in Osaka to display their latest toys.

Entrance fee is 900yen for adults, 700yen for elementary school children, free for kids below 2 years old. Tickets can get be purchased cheaper by 200yen if you buy from ticketing services at convenient stores such as 7-11 or Lawson prior to the day of the expo. Each adult or child ticket is entitled to a free gift of model train/car. They would normally give you four choices of models so if you're going as family you can each get different ones.What I like most about their events is that they would distribute a Lost Child patch for kids in case they wander off on their own.

Children wearing red, light reflecting Lost Child patch on their shirts bearing their name, age and which city they are from

The event hall is separated into several areas but overall, the expo is not that big so it would take you less than 2 hours to finish the whole thing.

Exhibition Space:

Part of the Plarail exhibition
 You get to try out their new line of tracks/accessories. 

Games: You need to buy special coupons to play games. Expect to queue for up to an hour for each game.

Fishing game where you get to keep the cars you manage to fish out
This is where you had to queue the longest. For 600yen you get to make your own customized model where you get to choose which color, parts you want for your car or train. They even do quality checks for your model to make sure they would run properly

Market place: Their toys are sold at normal price here. No discount is given. So personally, I would recommend getting Plarail/Tomica toys at Yodabashi Camera instead where they are much cheaper and you'll get store credit as well. However, there are some limited edition models that are only sold at the expo so those are worth buying. 

Rest/Cafeteria area: They have kids lunch set served on train or car plates which are really cute. But the ATC has various other restaurants so you have other options for a meal

Expect a huge crowd for this event so it's a bit hard to move around with a baby stroller. Plus, there is no nursing room at the ATC and they only have one toilet equipped with changing table.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Snow fun at Snow Land, Biwako Valley

Of all the public attractions I've been to in Kansai so far, I must say Biwako Valley's child-friendliness should receive 5-star rating. If you're from a tropical country like I do, AND having to bring along 2 small children, what you want to look for in a winter experience is not to ski or snowboard (let's face it, there's a slim chance that you could master ski/snowboarding in a short amount of time to truly enjoy the sport) but rather a place where you can simply play in thick snow and go sledding with the kids. Biwako Valley is the perfect place for just that. Here's the link to an e-brochure of Biwako Valley (in Japanese)

Source: Biwako Valley

As far as I am aware, this is the only snow attraction in Kansai that has a children play area. A HUGE children play area that provides enough fun even for adults. They carefully separate the place to include snowman/snow ball playing area, a carousel and sledding area complete with an escalator. Shovels, snow ball making tools, sledges and toboggans are provided enough for everyone so you don't have to bring your own. The entrance to their Snow Land costs 500yen per person and free for kids below 3 years old.

Their restaurant is reasonably priced for a public attraction such as this but we brought our own snacks and eat at a rest area provided near the Snow Land. The rest area has a space for people to lie down where they even installed a hot carpet but you might have to come very early to book a spot. Lockers are available but being a penny-pinching gaijin that we are (:p), we just put our bags on top of the lockers instead and our stuff were still safe from theft.

Based on the reviews I've read, Biwako Valley is rather pricey compared to other ski areas in Japan. But for clean toilets installed with seat warmers and washlets, I really don't mind paying the extra. Moreover, all toilet areas are equipped with changing tables and they even provide a nursing room at the rest area. The place is well known for its great view as it looks over Lake Biwa.

Biwako Valley is easily accessible by public transport. Take the Kosei Line (湖西線) to Shiga Station (志賀駅). An then take the Keihan Kojak Bus straight to Biwako Valley. If you're coming by car, a per-entrance fee of 1000yen is charged for parking. Shuttle bus is available to take you from the parking lot to the ropeway/cable car station. You can print out this coupon from their site to get 300yen off on their round-trip ropeway ride. The coupon can be used for up to 5 people. Normal price is 1800yen for adults, 900 yen for elementary school children, and 500yen for preschoolers.