Apologies in advance for the picture quality – apparently, one’s iPhone can only do so much. 🙂
Kichijoji is one of those Tokyo suburbs that gets a lot of press. And truthfully, much of it is deserved. With funky boutiques, a great food scene and the leafy escape of Inokashira Park, it’s the perfect day trip when the pace and crowds of Tokyo start to become a bit too much.
But if rain spoils your surburban exploration, grab the kids and head to Kichijoji 123. Granted this place is only suitable for 0-3 year olds (hence the name), but if your kids meet the criteria, this is a definite winner.
Kichijoji 123 is a neighborhood-run playgroup/collective. It’s not a tourist sight and it’s EXTREMELY hard to find. But when I finally steered my daughter’s stroller through the maze of streets to reach the front door, I was bowled over by what awaited us. The building is two stories, with a large outdoor playarea as well (complete with sandbox and riding toys). Inside on the first floor, we dropped our bags and shoes in a cubby and set off to explore the blocks, slides, puppets and play kitchen area. My daughter especially loved the shape blocks and the separate craft room, where drawers hold everything from crayons and paints to feathers and beads.
At noon, an unspoken bell saw most of the mothers head upstairs for lunch (a large cafeteria with lots of baby friendly seats is available for use – BYO food). We took advantage of the quiet time to play with a few of the more popular toys before heading upstairs ourselves. There, my daughter settled happily into the well-stocked book nook and hoarded the puzzles that were sitting around. I loved the insanely cute felt wall-hangings with velcro pieces that could be added or removed by little hands.
As expected, facilities were wonderful at Kichijoji 123. Ample feeding and changing areas and places to put dirty diapers were all provided. Complimentary tea was available for parents; the only downside was having to pack a lunch AND remember all utensils. The staff there are very friendly, though English is definitely not spoken. They will, however, hand you a paper explaining the rules in English and you might stumble across a mom or two who can help you out.
The only downside is getting there. Like I mentioned Kichijoji 123 is extremely difficult to find, and no one wants to be wandering the streets in 90+ degree weather with a toddler in tow. Here’s where I apologize profusely for the directions I wrote down being packed in a box somewhere in my new apartment in Kumamoto but rest assured, I will be back online more consistently soon and will be sure to post quality directions here.