If you are in Tochigi Prefecture with kids and it's sweltering hot, freezing cold, or pouring rain, Mibu’s Toy Museum is a great place to go. Adults pay Y600, kids Y300 and little people under the age of three are free.
This summer, we were glad to have my son’s swimwear in the car when we dropped by the museum. During the summer months, the museum provides a large, shallow pool with some toys for children in its courtyard. Kids just change out in the open. I was glad I was wearing shorts so I could wade in and play referee when my son started fighting with another kid over a water gun.
Kids can also "swim" in a pool of colored balls in the "King and Queen Room" on the first floor. Parents are welcome to enter. Take your shoes off and place them on one of the shoe shelves that line the walls. The soft mats in this area make it a safe place for kids to climb, jump, slide and swing. A variety of obstacles are set up for that purpose, including net tunnels. I bumped into some friends here by chance but it was so hard to talk to them and easy to lose track of my son. This museum can be quite crowded on weekends. My son was so happy though I couldn’t get him to see the rest of the museum, only the paddling pool; when the closing song played on the PA system, he protested "but I want to play more!" I was able to leave him with my husband to check out other areas of the museum by myself.
Another room gives kids a chance to dress up and take home limited-edition, handmade Rika-chan dolls, only available at the museum. Later, checking the Museum’s website with the help of Google translate, I found these dolls are for sale along with accessories and clothes for Y1800; your child gets to choose their new Rika dolls’ hair color, make-up color, dress, hat, earrings, shoes and brush.
Do you have any broken toys at home? The museum offers a free toy hospital on the third Sunday afternoon of the month. Other areas have toys kids can play with. For example, they can build something out of lego or blocks, dress up, play board games or play house. For model and toy train lovers, there is an “N-gauge” 25-square meter railroad diorama and “HO-gauge” 37-square meter railroad diorama. One must be of junior high school age or older to apply to control the toy trains in this area. Reservations and fees apply so check the website, and contact the museum for details. The third floor of the museum has a padded room for crawling infants, and lots of windows with a view of the surrounding Wanpak Koen park land.
My family arrived at the museum just after lunch, around 1 PM. For those who want to make a day of it, hot dogs, curry, fried noodles, and ramen are available from a kiosk on the east side of the museum. The log house next to the museum, open on weekends, serves soba. Of course, if you opt for a visit on a fine day, bringing a picnic might work out best. Be sure to show your tickets when you re-enter the museum.
Diaper changing rooms, baby feeding spaces, vending machines with kid-friendly drinks, rental strollers, lockers and lots of benches for parents make this museum one of the top five destinations to go with children in Tochigi Prefecture. Another of the top five would be the adjacent Wanpak Koen, which you should check out first – it has a free indoor play area with slides, ball pool, sand and other amusements.
Mibu is known as "Toy Town" thanks to this museum and the Bandai Museum, and in reference to the town’s toy manufacturing history. Bandai Museum* is just seven minutes drive away, and Waku Waku Grandy Science Museum, just 15 minutes drive away. Just one of these fun child-centered destinations in a day is plenty; once you get there, your child will not want to leave.
If you must come by train, get off at Omocha-no-machi Station on the Tobu line; the museum is just a five-minute taxi ride away from there. Alternatively, you can ask for directions at the station, and opt for either a 30-minute walk, or 15 minutes bicycle ride (2.7 km).** Tobu Kuniya Station is just 2 km away but you may have a harder time finding a taxi or rental bicycle there.
* Bandai Museum is closer to Tobu's Omocha-no-mach Station than Mibu Toy Musuem.
** Rental bicycles at Omocha-no-machi east exit cost Y400 for adults and Y200 for children/day and require a Y1,000 refundable deposit (phone 0282-86-7550 for info).