Showing posts with label hot spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hot spring. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2018

Japan 2017 | Capybara Onsen @ Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園のカピバラ温泉}

The highlight of our Japan trip last year for Lil Pumpkin was to Tokyo Disneyland, but for the boy {ok, and for me too haha!} it was definitely to see the kawaii capybaras at Saitama Children's Zoo!!

Standing about 60cm tall at the shoulder, 120cm in length and weighing around 2kg, capabaras are the world's largest rodents... and probably the only ones I find cute haha. The semi-aquatic animals are native to Central and South America and live near ponds, marshes, rivers etc. for food and to keep its dry skin healthy.

Fun Fact: Capybaras are so trainable that in Surinam a blind man once used a capybara as a guide animal.

In Japan, they are arguably the country's favourite animal and became wildly popular in recent years thanks to the cute cartoon character Kapibara-san {カピバラさん} that's known to carry its smaller siblings / friends on its head.

You can find Kapibara-san in most departmental stores and can buy his products ranging from stationary, to lunchboxes, socks, towels, snacks, cups, notebooks etc.

Most importantly though, just like the Japanese, they looooove to soak in the onsen during the cold winter months!! Best if there's yuzu added in so that they leave feeling clean and lemony-fresh!

Early 2017, a "capybara onsen competition" {yes, that's a thing!!} was held to promote the interest and popularity of the capybaras in Japan. The first animal to enter the onsen for the day was timed and the winner, Umi from Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi, actually stayed in the park's onsen for nearly 5 hours!!! 

One fine day, we decided to take a road trip from Tokyo to Saitama Children's Zoo to see the capybaras.

It takes about 1.5hrs via train and bus to get there.. so we literally spent 3hrs on the road just to see the cute animals.

BUT IT WAS WELL WORTH IT, I tell ya!! haha

Even if you're not there to see the capybaras {what's wrong with you..?? haha}, Saitama Children's Zoo is still an amazing zoo to visit and you should definitely make a day's trip there with the family if you can.

Located in Higashimatsuyama, there are over 230 species of animals spread out over a vast, forested hill and there is so much to explore and do.

Don't expect a super modern zoo with high-tech facilities as Saitama Children's Zoo is rather dated. However, the rustic features make it even more charming and it's so nice just to get out of the city and breathe in the crisp, fresh air while admiring the animals at this suburban zoo.

Other than the animal enclosures and petting areas, the gorgeous free space available gives rise to a number of playgrounds, Dinosaur Corner {about 20 "life-size" dinosaur statues}, "mini amusement park" with rides, outdoor waterplay area, and even a Children's Castle {100yen/entry} with a talking tree, indoor play area, library, bar pool, cinema room and slides!

Lil Pumpkin definitely enjoyed her visit there!!

There are also mini kiosks selling chicken karaage and crepes dotted around the zoo for a quick snack, and quaint Japanese restaurants selling food like udon, soba, fried rice, omu-rice etc. to satsify hungry tummies that need more filling meals.

We had katsu-don and curry katsu rice which were both pretty good.

One thing I really love about Saitama Children's Zoo is how close to nature we were.

Even though it was the beginning of winter, the autumn leaves were still in full force there and it was just gorgeous walking underneath all the fall foliage!

I wish we were better prepared for momiji-gari {紅葉狩り, autumn leaves viewing}... mmmm, perhaps should have brought a mat or some snacks for a picnic??!

Anyway, back to the capybaras.

Saitama Children's Zoo has seasonal attractions and lucky for us while we were there, it was time for their Annual Capybara Onsen that's held every day from 18 Nov 2017 to 31 Mar 2018, 2.30pm - 4pm!! Too cute!!

You feel happy just watching them waddle in and soak to their heart's content but if you want, you can also get up close and personal with them. For 500 yen, you can soak your feet with them in the onsen for 15 mins and also walk away with a limited edition towel & certificate as memorabilia for your unique experience! It takes place 2.30pm - 3.30pm {tickets start selling from 2.15pm} to the first 12 pax only and is not available on rainy days.

The capybara enclosure is pretty easy to find...

Just about 10 mins walk from the main entrance {refer to the map above, and see a bigger Saitama Children's Zoo map here} past the park water fountain feature and up a small slope on the left.

The whole zoo is pram-friendly and there's a zoo train {200yen/ ride or 300yen/day I think} that goes around but I reckon it's really nice to trek around the whole park, especially when the weather was as cool as that day as you can go through the boardwalks in the forest that takes you amongst the trees.

Ahhh... I wish I could just chillax like these capybaras now...

Saitama Children's Zoo {埼玉県こども動物自然公園}
554 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture {埼玉県東松山市岩殿554}
Opening hours: 9.30am - 5pm {last entry at 4pm}, 9.30am - 4.30pm {last entry at 3.30pm} for 15 Nov - 10 Feb
Closed on Mondays {except PHs} and 29 Dec - 1 Jan for New Year holidays
Entrance fee:  510 yen {adult}, 210 yen {child}
Tel: +81 0493 35 1234

Other things to do in Japan:

Useful info for Japan travel:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Go Local :: Singapore's Last Hot Spring @ Sembawang

Did you know that we have a natural hot spring in Singapore? In all my years of living here, I never realised we had one until very recently when I visited it with Lil Pumpkin and a few other friends. It's nothing like the onsens in Japan.. although it was used that way during the Japanese Occupation.

Sembawang Hot Spring {三巴旺溫泉} is the only natural hot spring on our main island. It was discovered in 1909 and thought to have healing powers. In its early days, the water was also bottled commercially by Fraser and Neave, under the brand name of "Seletaris". The Ministry of Defence {Mindef} acquired the land containing the hot spring for the expansion of the nearby Sembawang Air Base in the late 90s but through strong petition from the community, they conserved the hot spring and the public can still access it via a small side gate {shown above}.

You are constantly reminded that this is military ground, and no trespassing across the fences!! And no littering, hawking, pets, cycling or even washing of your clothes there too :P

As you enter, there's a marker with more information about the history of the hot spring. The brick building behind contains the original well. There's also an evil curse written in Chinese on the wall against anyone that vandalises the hot spring and its properties. Spoooky!! Wonder who wrote it there...

That round thing there is the original well. The source of the hot spring isn't exactly known, but it's somewhere in Bukit Timah. Pretty far away!

The hot spring water is slightly alkaline {due to the presence of minerals} and its sulphide content is three times that of tap water. Some people believe that spring water contains powerful medicinal properties that can treat ailments such as rheumatism, arthritis and cure skin conditions like acne and psoriasis.

Healing properties or not, it's also pretty popular with cyclists who go there at the end of their route to soak their tired legs... and eat eggs cooked with the steaming hot springs water #winalreadylor

Yes, they came prepared with raw eggs! I was pretty amused. Next time I go back, I'll bring my own eggs too haha. No need to go to Japan or Japanese restaurants to eat onsen tamago hahahaha.

There's 2 areas with taps to access the hot spring water. The hot spring water that flows out from this area is supposedly hotter since it's right under the hot sun. This is the one that's usually used to cook the eggs too :P

The other area is under the shade of the tree, so the hot spring water is supposedly slightly cooler... but no matter what, your kids should always be supervised near the pipes or as the hot spring water flows out at around 70°C and can still scald!

Lil Pumpkin was very eager to take off her shoes and try out the hot spring water too! Just some little splashes, not full-on soaking of the feet. Since she has eczema.. it might help :)

You don't have to worry about bringing your own basin or bucket, as there are quite a few left around for communal use. How thoughtful. There's a small caretaker hut at the corner. I like how the caretaker spruced it up with some welcoming plants at the entrance :) Didn't get a chance to talk to him but I guess you can try if you want to find out more about the history of the hot spring and how it has developed over the years.

Another hot spring apparently exists on Pulau Tekong, but that's not accessible to the public as the small island is used exclusively for military training. From what I've seen online, it seems that it may not be active or bubbling hot anymore so the one in Sembawang may very well be Singapore's last natural hot spring.

Sembawang Hot Spring
Within Chong Pang camp, off Gambas Ave near the junction of Sembawang Road & Gambas Ave
Free admission.
Open 7am - 7pm daily.

Read about the other fun activities we did with Lil Pumpkin or my list of Kid-Friendly places in Singapore.