The girls loved this place in Tokyo--the Jido Kaikan or the Tokyo Municipal Children's Hall. There are five floors of fun for them, but since we only had a couple of hours left before it closed at 5 pm, we stayed on the fourth level which had the arts and crafts stations and the music room.
one of the projects they made
Everything here is in Japanese but we were able to figure out what needed to be done by just looking at the very clear step-by-step visuals.
In this floor, there were lots of craft stations, each prepared with materials for different projects. The staff was on hand to teach the kids how to create more complicated projects.
Being artistic and creative like, ahem, their mom (okay, and also their dad) they really liked hanging out here and I had to drag them out of the fourth floor to continue exploring other areas. There are science and computer games in another floor, woodworking areas, ride-on toys for smaller kids, and on the roof-top, yet another playground.
It seems that there is only one Jido Kaikan in Tokyo, although other areas have what they call Jido kans, or "children's halls"--none of them are as big as the Jido kaikan. I saw a lot of moms here, chatting with each other while their kids played, so it's also a moms' gathering area.
This can easily be a whole afternoon affair. You can probably bring the kids here in the morning and they'd find something that will keep them excited for many hours.
Between floors, there are eating areas with tables and chairs. I think there are a couple of restaurants in the building but they were closed when we were there. There are a few vending machines with drinks and ice-cream. The best thing about the the Jido Kaikan is it's absolutely FREE! It's a state funded and run establishment open to all children.
Getting here is easy; we took the subway from our hotel to the Shibuya station, then walked a couple of blocks until we found it. After the place closed and we were walking back to the Shibuya station, we passed by what looked like a cooking studio.
The women were having a cooking lesson! A quick thought passed-- If I had planned better, I could have brought the kids earlier to the Jido kaikan, left them with the hubby, and then taken a cooking lesson (ok, ambitious travel planning, I know). I'm sure that the cooking class was all in Japanese, but I'm sure I could've just watched and learned, just like in the Jido kaikan.
At least I have a smattering of a plan, for the next Tokyo trip.
Tokyo-to Jido kaikan 1-18-24 Shibuya -ku, Shibuya, Tokyo